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Utah loses controversial, but fitting, Pac-12 title game

Insta-reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field …

(Bowl projections were published earlier today.)

1. Inevitable ending.

You could see this conclusion coming for one month, two weeks, five days and 23 hours — from the publication of the Yahoo story that undermined public trust in Pac-12 officiating to the controversial end of the conference title game.

For many, the lasting image of the 2018 regular season won’t be Washington celebrating the Rose Bowl berth but, rather, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham angrily voicing his displeasure with the officials, who didn’t call pass interference on what looked to be pass interference on Utah’s final play.

Whittingham was livid.

“Wouldn’t you be?” he said later. “Did you see the same thing I saw? I don’t know how I can say anything without getting fined, but I’m used to it.”

The Hotline’s view is that 1) pass interference should have been called but 2) it was a bang-bang play in real time and falls within the realm of reasonable misses by the officiating crew.

It was, in other words, not egregious.

(And we’ve seen plenty of egregious over the years.)

But because of the stakes (Rose Bowl) and the circumstances (Utah’s last chance), and especially because of the backdrop of third-party interference and the loss of faith in the process, the situation resonates deeper with the public.

Add the lack of touchdowns and the sparse crowd and the whole shebang Friday night was an all-too-appropriate conclusion to a regular season that began with Washington’s loss to Auburn, included a series of non-conference shellackings, the officiating scandal and early playoff elimination.

2. Washington State’s case.

The Cougars got the result they needed Saturday to remain in contention for a New Year’s Six berth, with Ohio State beating Northwestern to ensure the Big Ten only sends two to the NY6.

The Big 12 is problematic, however, because Oklahoma made a strong case for the playoff and would, if elevated, create a spot (in the Sugar Bowl) for Texas, which would jump WSU in the process.

Will the selection committee reassess the Cougars’ resume in comparison to the three-loss teams currently blocking WSU from the at-large pool?

Might the committee downgrade Penn State after Pittsburgh, which counts as the Nittany Lions’ best win, was dismantled by Clemson?

Might the committee feel a bit of pressure from the Cougars’ public lobbying?

Will it take another look at Florida’s poor non-conference schedule?

Could Stanford, now 8-4, count as an additional quality win?

We don’t expect it, but nor would we dismiss the possibility.

Seeing WSU in the New Year’s Six on Sunday morning would be merely a mild surprise, not a shock.

And the conference sure could use some good news.

3. Washington State’s tweet.

Make that: Washington State’s president’s tweet.

In the aftermath of the terrific series on the state of the conference by the Oregonian’s John Canzano, we got this tweet from WSU boss Kirk Schulz:

“I have read all of the articles – and I am sure most of my colleague Presidents have as well. As Presidents – we will certainly be discussing many of these issues. However, just because we don’t tweet about these conversations doesn’t mean we aren’t having them. #GoCougs”

We’ll take care not to read too much into Schulz’s tweet, although the fact that he’s paying attention is a victory unto itself for Pac-12 fans hoping for more presidential oversight of conference operations.

We should also remind readers of commissioner Larry Scott’s comment on the series, specifically the issue of conference expenditures.

“We’re confident, and I know our members are confident, that we operate very efficiently and that we are aligned in our strategy going forward. We know where we’re going. We’re very confident with who we are. Our presidents measure success, our ADs measure success, and we measure success, and that’s what matters.”

The Hotline would add one morsel to the topic: The group of presidents that picked Scott nine years ago, and approved so much of the structure we see today, has experienced significant turnover.

Five new presidents/chancellors have been hired in the past three years. They entered a conference with frustration percolating at the campus level. The guess here is that more oversight is quietly put in place over time.

4. Colorado makes it move … maybe?

If published reports are to be believed, Colorado will soon hire Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as the program’s fourth coach this decade.

We’ll delay a full assessment until it’s official, because coaching hires can often go sideways just when they appear to be done deals.

But if true, Tucker would become the third coach in the South with a defensive background, joining Utah’s Whittingham and ASU’s Herm Edwards.

In the North, by contrast, Cal’s Justin Wilcox is the only HC from the defensive side.

And like Wilcox, Tucker learned under some of the best, having played for Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin and coached under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart.

It would be a shrewd hire by the Buffs.

5. Winning by losing.

It was easy to miss, because there was a fair amount of drama unfolding elsewhere late this afternoon, but Stanford nearly pulled a stunner on the hardwood.

The Cardinal, which has bad losses to Florida, UNC and Wisconsin and no quality wins, led second-ranked Kansas in the final seconds in Lawrence.

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