Up North and Down South with the Pac-12
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clay Helton is back for another shot at restoring Southern California to an annual spot among college football’s national title contenders. The fact that Helton has received a half-dozen chances to accomplish this task is still the subject of immense angst in many corners of the Trojans’ huge fan base. But the indefatigably optimistic head coach believes No. 15 USC can build on its strong record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with a campaign that will put it right back where he has said the school belongs since he got the job six years ago.
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State coach Nick Rolovich says he intends to follow a new state mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all those working at the state’s colleges and universities, including coaches. Rolovich had said previously that he was not going to get the vaccine for personal reasons and did not explicitly say Thursday that he would receive a shot, only that he would follow the state mandate. The mandate announced by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also covers public, charter and private school teachers and staff. It allows for religious or medical exemptions but does not allow for a weekly testing alternative, and those who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 risk losing their jobs.
(AP) — A turbulent 2020 helped prepare Anthony Brown for taking over at Oregon this season. Brown is a sixth-year senior and the Ducks’ presumed starting quarterback and he suggested that he and the team are stronger after enduring a pandemic-shortened season made rougher by delays and cancellations. Oregon heads into the season at No. 11 and is the highest-ranked team among the five Pac-12 schools that made The Associated Press Top 25. Oregon went 4-3 overall and 3-2 last season. The Ducks open this season hosting Fresno State on Sept. 4.
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's first season under Jimmy Lake came to an abrupt and disappointing end when a COVID-19 outbreak cost the Huskies a chance to play in the Pac-12 championship game. The Huskies are seeking some redemption after that unfulfilling conclusion and have a talented team capable of being contenders for the Pac-12 title. Dylan Morris is back as the starting quarterback. The Huskies return their entire offensive line, and the secondary is again a strength. The schedule also falls in Washington's favor. Following a Week 2 showdown at Michigan, all of Washington's toughest matchups take place in Seattle.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Herm Edwards is off to a successful start in his first stint as a college coach, turning Arizona State into a Pac-12 contender. The No. 25 Sun Devils are loaded with talented returning players this season, have one of the conference’s best quarterbacks and have put themselves in position to possibly win a Pac-12 South championship, and maybe more. Arizona State is under an NCAA investigation for potential recruiting violations but has its most talented roster in years, maybe since the 1996 Rose Bowl team. Arizona State opens the season with home games against Southern Utah and UNLV.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah could finally have all the right pieces in place this season to add a true passing threat to its traditionally run-heavy offense. The 24th-ranked Utes are flush with experience and talent at wide receiver and tight end. led by Britain Covey and Brant Kuithe. Covey has led Utah in receiving yards during three of his previous four seasons on the roster while Kuithe finished first in total receptions last season. A potent passing game would flip the script from earlier seasons where Utah relied on a physical running game and tough defense to grind out victories. Utah opens the season hosting Weber State on Sept. 2.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The UCLA Bruins showed improvement last year even though they were just 3-4. The expectation this season is that they can notch their first winning season since 2015. Seven or more wins is also what coach Chip Kelly might need to save his job. Kelly came to Westwood with much fanfare in December 2017 but is 10-21 in three seasons. Athletic director Martin Jarmond is beginning his second year and Kelly will have only one year remaining on his contract at the end of this season. The Burins open the season hosting Hawaii on Aug. 28.
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The California Golden Bears enter the 2021 season excited to show off what they hope will be a much more dynamic offense with respected longtime NFL coordinator Bill Musgrave and veteran quarterback Chase Garbers. The Bears managed to play only four games last season, with one canceled as they arrived at the stadium and another scheduled on short notice. The results predictably weren’t very good with Cal winning just one game and scoring 20.3 points per game. That should change this season after a full spring practice and offseason.