Pac Tracks: "Off" Weeks and "Mechanics Error" Lead to Communication Breakdowns

Chris Dufresne

These were the top two, right-rail headlines on ESPN’s College Football Home page Monday morning.

“AP poll: LSU No.1 in landslide.”

“Pac-12 suspends ref for penalty on wrong team.”

And to think people ripped yours truly on unsocial media for suggesting the Pac 12, despite improvement on the football front, was still losing the national shouting match.

A few troglodytes from Troll-ville actually went as far to suggest I didn’t realize Oregon and Utah did not play on Saturday.

How soon we forget what Bobby Knight once said: “Rankman has forgotten more about college football than all you people combined are ever going to know.”

That’s right, Utah and Oregon dweebs, after 25 years of covering Pac 12 football, I forgot to look at last week’s schedule.

My larger point was proven around Monday's Pac 12 water-cooler: talk about the Refs.

Deep in the heart of a playoff hunt, for once in a long while, the league still hasn't grabbed the big megaphone.

From where I watched on college football Saturday, there was very little discussion of Pac 12 football. Other than former Utah Coach Urban Meyer dispassionately saying he would rank the Utes in his top 5.

It didn’t help the league that Oregon and Utah had off weeks…duh. It also didn’t help that Washington played Friday night and USC played on TV opposite of LSU at Alabama. Who do you think won that ratings war?

Or, that other key games were on Pac Net, available mostly to truckers with HAM setups.

My point was Pac 12 football, because of its lack of a Righteous Gemstones pulpit network, still has a hard time delivering its talking points.

The second CBS analyst Gary Danielson knew Alabama was going to lose to Alabama he started promoting the Crimson Tide for the fourth playoff spot.

Here's a stat, from SportSource Analytics, that I heard no one on television mention. It notes that Oregon's opponents have a 58% winning percentage this year. That's the highest for all undefeated and one-loss schools.

Imagine if that stat was blasted on something as powerful as the Big Ten or SEC networks?

Instead, the lead Pac 12 headline on ESPN.com was another colossal officiating blunder.

This one was a doozy that came with a Pac 12 headline memo headline from Pluto:

“Pac 12 Acknowledges Mechanics Error in Washington State-Cal Game.”

Mechanics error? Did someone clip a fuel line? Did anyone think to call AAA’s 24-hour emergency number?

“Mechanics Error” doesn’t sound like a football problem—it sounds like a potential class-action suit.

Thank goodness this boner occurred in a relatively harmless WSU-Cal game and not in next month’s Pac 12 likely title featuring Oregon and Utah.

What happened: In the third quarter, an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty was called on No. 15 for Washington State on a Cougar kickoff return to midfield. The refs backed WSU back to its own 8-yard line. A play was snapped before officials realized the penalty was on No. 15 for CAL. That should have given Washington State the ball on the CAL 35.

Oops. Would it make it worse to know Wazzu lost? The Pac-12 memo released Sunday as part of its new “transparency” campaign explained the “mechanics and communication were incorrect in assessing the penalty to Washington State instead of Cal.”

This “mechanical” must have really been bad because the referee was suspended for one game while the rest of the crew was “downgraded.”

If that’s anything like being relegated in English Premier soccer this Pac 12 crew may be shipped to the Ohio Valley Conference.

The fact this call negatively impacted the Pac 12 school coached by Mike Leach is only perfect, given a series of irate Leach texts last year on "targeting" helped expose a national officiating scandal and spurned (allegedly) reforms.

Is it working? Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott recently confessed to reporters, “I can tell you there are a significant number of mistakes every week.”

Nature obviously abhorred the vacuum of Oregon and Utah being off. But don’t take my word for thinking Pac football got lost in the weeds—I’ve only been doing this professionally for about 40 years.

Refocus your troll guns on Oregon columnist John Canzano. That guy probably didn't even know UCLA was off last week.

What Canzano wrote: "If you’re a Pac-12 fan, you have to be nauseated that the conversation on a Monday in November is again about officiating. The other Power Five Conferences are focused on jockeying for a College Football Playoff berth. The Pac-12 is busy embarrassing itself with another officiating error."

Anyone know a good mechanic?

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Chris Dufresne

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