Over two days at the Hollywood and Highland Hotel, Pac-12 players and coaches roamed the Ray-Dolby Ballroom and answered questions from the media. Here's what we learned.
The Pac-12 is committed to excellence
On Wednesday, Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, addressed the media, and in his statement, focused on one key phrase: "Pac-12 excellence." When talking about practices, games, school, and the like, Scott kept coming back to his promise of excellence, a promise he intends to keep moving forward. As a conference, Scott wants to show the world a "collective excellence and leadership," by working with players, coaches, fans, officials, etc. to better serve the needs of the conference at-large. "In the Pac-12 and at our universities, our focus is on achieving excellence across the board. That means on the field, in courts, in the classroom, and beyond. No other conference exemplifies this excellence more than the Pac-12. "
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This is a player driven conference
Unlike conferences like the SEC and Big 10 where coaches take centerstage, the Pac-12 is known for its players. Sure, names like Mike Leach and Jim Mora are big, but their players give the conference life. During the time I spent interviewing players from various Pac-12 institutions, I found that they each had their own personality and freedom in every answer. Players never shyed away from questions or seemed haunted by a coaches scorning. In an enviornment like this, it may be easy for coaches to control players answers, but it is clear: the players are real people.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Sam Darnold vs. Josh Rosen is not as big a deal as you think
Two Heisman Trophy candiates, two potential first-overall picks, two quarterbacks at USC and UCLA, possibly the biggest rivalry (aside from OSU/Michigan) in all of college football; Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold. Even with all of the hype these two are getting, this cross-town QB competition isn't THAT big of a deal. Isn't football a team sport anyways? When speaking with Darnold about his rivarly with Rosen and UCLA, he told me "I don't think about it." And when I asked if it fueled his game, he calmly and simply answered: "No." Even though Rosen was not in attendance, he has shared the Darnold nonchalantness about the rivalry.
This is the best the Pac-12 has been in a while
To be short, every team in the Pac-12 has huge potential. With six head coaches with five years or less of experience, they now have had time to recruit their own players and establish their own systems. With a slew of the best athletes in the world at each school, the competition at the top of the Pac-12 will be tough. USC, Washington, Colorado, and Stanford are all coming off 10+ win seasons, new Oregon coach Willie Taggart has proven he can turn programs around, and Justin Wilcox at Cal will bring his stifling defensive scheme. From top to bottom, the Pac-12 conference is a threat, and don't be surprised if you see two Pac-12 teams in the College Football Playoff.