Six need-to-knows for Week Two in Pac-12 football …
1. One off, five on (for now).
The Arizona State-Cal game has been canceled because of COVID-19 cases and contact tracing issues within the ASU program.
The list of positives includes coach Herm Edwards.
(We wish him the best.)
In a stunning turn of events, Cal received the necessary clearance from the City of Berkeley to have players released from quarantine — the Bears would have been able to play.
In fact, they still might.
If another game is canceled, Cal could play the team not impacted by the virus.
As of this writing, the games that appear to be in greatest jeopardy are Utah-UCLA and Washington-Oregon State.
The Beavers reported several cases on Thursday, and the Utes have been deep in COVID hell for more than a week.
The conference is waiting for the results of the latest testing.
If either game is canceled, we could see Cal play Washington or UCLA — likely on Sunday to allow time for the road team’s equipment truck to reach its necessary destination.
It’s not basketball. You can’t ship 12 uniforms using same-day service. Football is a mammoth operation.
And the situation is highly fluid, as it will be most Fridays throughout the season.
2. Apology from the conference.
Early this morning, the Pac-12 issued an apology to Stanford and an unnamed player for a testing mistake that prevented him from playing in the season opener at Oregon.
That player, per Hotline sources, was quarterback Davis Mills.
That’s right: A testing error stripped Stanford of its starting quarterback in the season opener against the defending champs.
Here’s the statement from the conference:
“During Pac-12 game day testing this past Saturday, there were testing protocol errors with respect to a Stanford student-athlete who tested positive for COVID-19 … Upon return to campus, Stanford, in communication with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee, administered a daily PCR diagnostic testing cadence that has consistently shown that the student-athlete does not have COVID-19 and is thus cleared to resume practice and competition … We apologize to the Stanford football team and its supporters, and especially to the student-athletes who were held out of the game as a result of the testing protocol errors. We are working with our game day testing partner to ensure this type of error does not occur in the future.”
We expect Mills to play Saturday against Colorado.
3. FOX, all day and night
The conference has an unprecedented TV exposure opportunity on Saturday, with a triple-header on FOX that includes the first-ever 7:30 p.m. PT kickoff on the over-the-air network.
The Utah-UCLA game, which was pushed back from tonight, will air in the west coast primetime window (if it gets played).
How many sets of eyes could tune in?
The Hotline researched TV viewership data from Oct. 24 and 31 — we skipped last Saturday because the election wrecked college football — to estimate the number of homes likely to watch Pac-12 football this weekend on FOX.
(All times Pacific; data taken from sportsmediawatch)
As you scan the numbers, keep in mind that only seven Pac-12 games generated a 2.0 rating or better in all of the 2019 season.
FOX at 12:30 p.m.
This week: USC at Arizona
Oct. 24 comparison: Iowa State-Oklahoma State drew a 1.6 rating and 2.81 million viewers (FOX)
Oct. 31 comparison: Texas-Oklahoma State drew a 2.3 rating and 4.04 million viewers (FOX)
FOX at 4 p.m.
This week: Oregon at Washington State
Oct. 24 comparison: Michigan-Minnesota drew a 2.7 rating and 5.12 million viewers (ABC)
Oct. 31 comparison: Oklahoma-Texas Tech drew a 1.2 rating and 2.1 million viewers (FOX)
FOX at 7:30 p.m.
This week: Utah at UCLA
Oct. 24 comparison: Texas State-BYU drew a 0.44 rating and 716,000 viewers (ESPN)
Oct. 31 comparison: Nevada-UNLV on FS1 drew a 0.16 rating and 293,000 viewers (FS1)
(Note: Last week’s Oregon State-Washington State night game on FS1 had 594,000 viewers.)
There is no true comp for the late window on broadcast television, because FOX and ABC don’t typically show college football at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
But it’s a prime opportunity for the conference to not only generate eyes on the product but also to craft strategy for the next round of media rights negotiations.
Who knows: Maybe we’ll see a handful of 7:30 p.m. kickoffs on broadcast television starting in 2024.
4. New QB calculation
Four teams are scheduled to play for the first time, and three have new (or semi-new) starting quarterbacks.
Washington is expected to pick Kevin Thomson, a graduate transfer from Sacramento State, but we could see Dylan Morris, Ethan Garbers or Jacob Sirmon.
Utah will use either Jake Bentley (graduate, South Carolina) or Cameron Rising (undergrad, Texas) … or both.
And Arizona will trot out sophomore Grant Gunnell, who started three games last season but takes over the No. 1 job from Khalil Tate.
5. Debut on the Lake.
It has been 347 days since Jimmy Lake was named Washington’s head coach.
During that time, the Huskies have had zero spring practices, one quarterback competition and four season openers scheduled.
Whether they finally take the field Saturday night remains to be determined, but we know this:
With a victory in his first game — whenever that comes — Lake would become just the fourth of 12 UW coaches hired since World War II to win his debut.
Here are the results for the previous 11:
Howard Odell: lost to Minnesota 21-0
John Cherberg: lost to Colorado 21-20
Darrell Royal: beat Idaho 53-21
Jim Owens: tied Colorado 6-6
Don James: lost at Arizona State 35-12
Jim Lambright: beat Stanford 31-14
Rick Neuheisel: lost at BYU 35-28.
Keith Gilbertson: lost at Ohio State 28-9
Tyrone Willingham: lost to Air Force 20-17
Steve Sarkisian: lost to LSU 31-23
Chris Petersen: won at Hawaii, 17-16.
6. Time for an encore.
We were impressed with the work done by two of the three new head coaches.
Colorado’s Karl Dorrell beat his alma mater, UCLA, 48-42, while Washington State’s Nick Rolovich used the run-and-shoot to slice-and-dice Oregon State 38-28.
One game makes a debut, but not a season — not even a shortened season.
Are the Buffaloes and Cougars legitimate contenders in any way, shape or form?
We’ll find out much more about both this week, as WSU hosts Oregon and Colorado visits Stanford, which should have Mills in the lineup.