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    Pac-12 football: Our 15 bold predictions for the second half of an epic season
    • October 19, 2023

    Earlier this week, the Hotline offered our midseason review, a look at the best and worst of the Pac-12 at the halfway point of fall like no other.

    Now, let’s cast an eye to what should be a riveting stretch run.

    The conference has six ranked teams, three Heisman Trophy contenders, a handful of playoff hopefuls and loads of high-profile games on the schedule.

    Presenting our predictions for the second half, in rough chronological order.

    1. Utah quarterback Cam Rising doesn’t set foot on the field this season due to a prolonged recovery from knee surgery. But in their ongoing attempt to keep opponents guessing, the Utes release blurry drone footage of what appears to be Rising in full uniform, working with the first team. Closer inspection reveals it’s actually 305-pound backup right guard Falcon Kaumatule wearing No. 7 and a knee brace. Even without Rising, the Utes win nine games in one of Kyle Whittingham’s finest coaching jobs.

    2. Oregon State and Washington State settle their lawsuit against the Pac-12 before the preliminary injunction hearing in Whitman County, Wash., on Nov. 14. The plaintiffs and defendants agree to a bifurcated governance structure in which an independent arbiter determines which issues impact all 12 schools and which affect only the ‘Pac-2.’ The source of the arbiter’s unlikely success? He’s equally disliked by both sides of the dispute. His name: Larry Scott.

    3. On Nov. 12, the day after USC allows 52 points in a loss at Oregon, coach Lincoln Riley relents to public pressure and dismisses defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

    4. A week later, the Trojans hold UCLA to 49 points in a narrow victory in front of 73,286 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Riley is hailed as a genius by USC fans.

    5. That same day, Stanford beats Cal 12-11 in front of 17,328 fans at Stanford Stadium. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips is informed of the outcome while accompanying the Stanford volleyball team on its trip to USC and UCLA.

    6. Oregon State beats Washington in an overtime thriller, aided by a favorable fourth-down spot that draws UW’s ire but is not overturned by the instant replay booth. However, the Beavers fall one game short of a berth in the conference championship because of an earlier loss to Arizona.

    7. ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ broadcasts from Eugene on the morning of the USC-Oregon game. The guest picker: Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few. The 1987 Oregon graduate picks the Ducks to win, then uses the occasion to announce Gonzaga will join the Big 12.

    8. Washington State’s Jake Dickert doesn’t leave Pullman to become the next coach at Michigan State as the Cougars’ second-half skid undermines his candidacy.

    9. Washington’s Kalen DeBoer receives a new contract that doubles his salary, to about $8 million annually, to prevent him from becoming the next coach at Michigan State. “I didn’t want to do it,” UW president Ana Mari Cauce says, “but I wanted to keep my job.”

    10. The Pac-12 issues a public mea culpa for an egregious officiating decision. We don’t know the specifics of the gaffe or which team will be victimized — Washington State is a good bet — but the conference doesn’t make it through the season without a display of utter incompetence. The only question is whether there’s a second. And a third.

    11. Arizona State goes winless in conference play for the first time since joining the Pac-12 in 1978 as the injuries and postseason ban are too great to overcome. When the season ends, the NCAA slaps the Sun Devils with minor penalties for recruiting violations and calls the administration’s self-imposed sanctions excessive. “Bowl bans are so pre-COVID. We don’t do that stuff anymore.”

    12. Arizona clinches a bowl berth for the first time since 2017 behind freshman quarterback Noah Fifita. The Big 12 promptly rescinds its membership invitation and explains that the Wildcats joined the conference under false pretenses, having claimed to be a basketball school.

    13. Colorado misses the postseason despite the 3-0 start and spending a month at the center of the sport. CU fans everywhere rejoice as the late-season collapse makes coach Deion Sanders less attractive for openings across college football, the NFL and the Biden Administration.

    14. Commissioner George Kliavkoff refuses to hold a news conference prior to the Pac-12 championship game, continuing a stretch of radio silence that began with the collapse of the conference on Aug. 4. Nobody cares.

    15. One-loss Washington defeats one-loss Oregon in the conference title game and reaches the College Football Playoff, with the Ducks accepting a Fiesta Bowl invitation as the consolation prize. The Huskies’ victory is made possible when Oregon, leading by six points in the final minute, attempts to convert fourth-and-17 from its own 20. The off-tackle run fails, and UW scores the winning touchdown.

    Enjoy the stretch run, everyone.

    *** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to [email protected] or call 408-920-5716

    *** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

    *** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

    ​ Orange County Register