While the conference's first title game was a borderline travesty, this year's could have the makings of a de facto national semifinal, a play-in to the BCS title game. If Oregon and USC win their respective divisions, as expected, the conference title game will also be a rematch of a piquant rivalry. Oregon visits the L.A. Coliseum on Nov. 3 in what could be a matchup of top five teams.
The Ducks have won the conference three years running, and coach Chip Kelly continues to hold his own in recruiting battles with Lane Kiffin. Kelly threw a scare into Duck Nation last January when he nearly went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Late in the game, Kelly opted out, echoing Barkley's caveat about "unfinished business." Now one of them is likely to be the person most responsible for preventing the other from finishing his business.
Kelly's appeal—aside from his winning, his rapid-fire elocution and his wise-guy persona—is that his teams have so much flair. His playbook synthesizes an array of zone reads, play-action and, when needed, straight power, all executed at a tempo that often leaves opposing defensive linemen bent over, hands on knees, in some cases rasping to Oregon's hogs, "Slow down." Not a chance.
THE BIGGEST REASON THE PAC-12 IS BLOWING UP IS THAT Kelly isn't the only against-the-grain innovator. Not long after he was hired, Scott alarmed some of the conference's fans by making a run at nearly half the teams in the Big 12 and burbling about his desire to "super-serve fans in a hyper-local way."
What the commish was talking about became clearer at Pac-12 media days. Those on hand expected the announcement of a Pac-12 network, which would have meant keeping up with the Joneses—in this case, Scott's Big Ten counterpart Jim Delany, the brains behind the hugely successful Big Ten Network. But instead of one network, Scott established seven: the Pac-12 Network, and the Pac-12 Networks: six dedicated channels, one for each of six areas pairing two conference schools. Pac-12 Arizona comprises Arizona and Arizona State; Pac-12 Mountain is Colorado and Utah ... and so forth. The regionals will carry some national football and basketball games, plus Olympic sports.
Scott, say colleagues, is tethered to his iPad: He envisions a world in which fans watch Pac-12 Networks on their laptops, smartphones and tablets. That's where Ooyala comes in. The online video company specializes in delivering, as it says, "personalized, interactive and customizable video experiences for fans on the web, tablets, smartphones and connected TVs."
What it means is that if you're flying from L.A. to Singapore with a connection in Hong Kong, and you're bummed because your daughter's a libero on the Cal volleyball team and you're missing the match, you can get a code from your cable provider, punch it into your phone and watch while sitting at the gate.
Just as it's going to be fun seeing what Leach, Rodriguez, Graham and Mora can do in their new league, and just as it'll be most interesting to see how Oregon's Nov. 3 trip to the Coliseum unfolds, it's intriguing to think about what Scott will do next.
Thank goodness for unfinished business.