Pac-12 is unpredictable, with a hint of scandal
Things you didn’t expect to see in the Pac-12:
An officiating episode that went beyond incompetence and into the realm of scandal. You won’t see a more blatant targeting episode than the helmet-to-helmet hit delivered by Washington State’s Logan Tago to USC quarterback JT Daniels last week. Somehow it was ruled a roughing-the-passer violation, and after the replay booth and the Pac-12 command center agreed it was a targeting foul, a third party — Woodie Dixon, the conference’s general counsel who oversees the refereeing — got it overturned. It’s baffling that Dixon even had a say, and as distasteful as it sounds (did he have some sort of personal agenda?), that becomes the perception. The conference is widely implicated in the ongoing federal investigation into college basketball, and it’s fair to wonder if Commissioner Larry Scott can hold his job.
Chip Kelly bringing the UCLA Bruins into Berkeley on Saturday with an 0-5 record. Maybe it’s not a big shock to 49ers fans, but there was a time when Kelly could do no wrong. Racking up a 46-7 record over four years at Oregon (2009-2012), he didn’t take a single disturbing loss. All seven came against top-tier teams, including in a Rose Bowl and a national championship game.
Stanford coach David Shaw having to defend his poundthe-ball philosophy. It’s not that people have it wrong; the Cardinal’s offensive line isn’t up to its standards. But running back Bryce Love hasn’t been fully healthy all season, and with opponents building early leads, Shaw has turned to a mostly impressive passing attack. Stanford will win its next two games, against Arizona State and Washington State. If Love takes the field at full speed in the Nov. 3 showdown at Washington, certain truths will be told — one way or the other.
The conference’s most exciting player is a sophomore wide receiver at Colorado. Laviska Shenault leads the nation in receiving yards per game (141) and has scored 10 touchdowns. A chiseled athlete who set records in the Buffs’ weight room (squatting 500 pounds), Shenault has been used as a receiver, tight end, running back and quarterback (in the Wildcat set). Colorado is the story of the South Division with a 5-0 record built against paltry opposition, and now comes a serious test at USC on Saturday night.
The Giants aren’t the only National League West team in the midst of upheaval. Arizona is looking at a massive teardown that could involve Zack Greinke and/or Paul Goldschmidt being traded. In a terribly depressing move, the Diamondbacks are installing artificial turf at Chase Field for next season. Colorado, summarily dismissed by Milwaukee in the Division Series, could lose Nolan Arenado to free agency after next season and will consider the risk of trading one of the game’s greatest players . ... Players have been ridiculing umpire Angel Hernandez for years, with plenty of video evidence exposing his dubious calls. The Yankees’ CC Sabathia didn’t hold back after Game 4 of the Division Series, saying, “He’s bad. He’s always bad. He’s a bad umpire. I don’t understand why he’s doing these games.” Good point. Umpires working postseason games should be the ones held in the highest regard, and those under legitimate scrutiny should be relegated to the minors . ... From St. Mary’s to the NLCS: Corbin Burnes, one of Milwaukee’s most valued relievers, had an All-America junior season in 2016 and helped the Gaels make their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Brewers drafted him in the fourth round that year . ... Likely to happen this season, as the Cal women’s basketball team takes a run at the conference title: Kristine Anigwe throwing down a dunk. A three-time all-Pac-12 selection, the 6-foot-4 Anigwe told the collegesportsmaven website, “I’m dunking easily (in practice). It would be very cool, very cool (to dunk in a game) because no one has done it at Cal.”
A New York Times headline read, “Is your college football team in the wrong league?” In the case of Colorado and Utah, yes. Nothing against those schools, but the Pac-10 was a perfect setup, allowing all teams to face other all season. It’s all crazy and imbalanced now, to the point where (among other examples) USC doesn’t play Washington or Oregon this year. That just can’t happen . ... Soccer fans have suffered with TNT gaining rights to Champions League games and scheduled to show 100 fewer games (146-46) than Fox aired last season. When DirecTV and Comcast dropped the beIN channel, fans lost the chance to watch Barcelona and Real Madrid (among others) on a regular basis. Tip: Check the weekend listings on Univision, the Spanish-language network fully devoted to the sport . ... How many body blows can the San Antonio Spurs withstand? Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have departed. Point guard Dejounte Murray and top rookie Lonnie Walker have been lost to knee surgery. And now Derrick White, a potential starter at the point, is out 6-8 weeks with a heel injury. Typically fresh perspective from coach Gregg Popovich: “There’s so much junk in the world, I think you’re better off if you look at the cup as half full. I’d just say that drafting Tim Duncan was probably all the luck we deserved for a long time.”
Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Bruce_Jenkins1
Could Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott be in danger of losing his job?