Hotline newsletter: Blackouts loom for two key games, update on equity plans, Air Raid in the NFL, Tua vs. Justin and more

The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from Sept. 27, has been made available in archived form.

Darkness In The Center Of Town

We interrupt the production of news, analysis and commentary on the Hotline for a Public Service Announcement.

Unless something changes in the next 24 hours, the Pac-12’s marquee Saturday games will be unavailable to a significant swath of the college football audience.

Fox and Dish Network are immersed in a carriage dispute, which means any game on FOX and FS1 this weekend — college football or the NFL — will be blacked out on both Dish and its streaming service, Sling, in many markets nationwide.

(Details are available in this USA Today article.)

USC-Washington is on FOX at 12:30, while Utah-Washington State is on FS1 at 7:30.

If the blackout remains in effect, as many as 10 million Dish subscribers and another 2.5 million Sling subscribers — those are national, not west coast, numbers — could be out of luck.

The 2.5 million Sling subscribers includes the Hotline.

(I had U-verse, until it dropped the Pac-12 Networks after the football season. At that point, I signed up with Sling. The experience thus far has been so-so.)

Unless there’s a breakthrough, some of us won’t see either duel.

And please note: That could impact the Hotline’s coverage, especially with regard to WSU-Utah.

My work schedule is such that a sports bar isn’t an option on Saturday nights. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Hopefully, there will be a resolution by Saturday at 12:29 p.m. — Jon Wilner.

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Hot off the Hotline

• Significant news with regard to the Pac-12’s media strategy: The presidents and chancellors have decided not to partner with a private equity firm to generate an infusion of cash for the schools (in exchange for an ownership stake in the media rights). However, the conference could still take on a strategic partner in the tech or media space, commissioner Larry Scott told the Hotline.

• How have Pac-12 road teams fared on Friday night? Here’s the answer: They’ve gotten wiped out. We took a deep dive into the results — not only straight-up but also how the road teams have performed against the spread — in this week’s picks column. The package includes the weekly mini-podcast with handicapper Raphael Esparza.

• ICYMI: Utah has added a marquee home-and-home series to its future schedules: Hello, Florida. The Wednesday newsletter provided a roundup of all Pac-12 matchups with the SEC through 2030. Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form.

Support the Hotline: Several Hotline articles will remain free each month (as will the newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe. I’ve secured a rate of 16 cents per day for a full year or — introductory offer alert! — just 99 cents for the first month, with the option to cancel anytime. Click here. And thanks for your loyalty.

Huddle Up

(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)

• Per the Arizona Republic: 11 of Arizona State’s 16 regular-season games under Herm Edwards have been decided by seven points or fewer. We expect another close game tonight in Berkeley.

• From Cal’s perspective: The big season won’t materialize unless the Bears focus on the small things.

• Quarterback Kedon Slovis has been ruled out for USC this weekend in Seattle, meaning Matt Fink will make his first road start. And if Fink gets hurt, the Trojans will turn to walk-on Brandon Perdue, a converted safety. The doomsday plan.

• Stanford has never lost to Oregon State under David Shaw (although it has come close several times). That winning streak could come to an end if the Cardinal doesn’t ramp up its aerial game.

• Demetric Felton has been a revelation for UCLA and emerged as one of the most dynamic players in the conference.

• The key stat for Khalil Tate and the Wildcats? It’s not passing yards; it’s passing attempts.

• Washington State’s defense has not improved statistically from September to November in recent seasons, which doesn’t bode well for this version of the Cougars.

• Utah’s secondary knows it needs to improve — put safety Julian Blackmon at the top of the list — or the Air Raid will carve up the Utes.

• Oregon is spending the off week attempting to fix its running game, which isn’t as efficient as perhaps it should be. “We’re out of sync a little bit,” Mario Cristobal said.

• Washington tailback Sean McGrew packs a punch for his 186 pounds.

• Colorado coach Mel Tucker views the ‘Miracle at Michigan’ as a reason for optimism, writes the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla.

Recruiting Trail

• Oregon State landed coveted transfer Devon Williams — or did it? The former USC receiver (and 4-star recruit) was added to Oregon State’s roster this week, then went home to Los Angeles, creating some uncertainty. Could Oregon somehow swoop in and steal Williams?

Legal Affairs

• Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told USA Today this week that he would stop scheduling California teams (starting in 2023) if the Fair Pay for Play Act becomes law. The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel takes on Smith, NCAA president Mark Emmert and anyone else clinging to the notion that the law would significantly harm college football. “Every time college administrators fear that some fundamental change to the way they do things is going to ruin sports as we know it, they instead adapt to it. What once seemed impossible quickly becomes normal. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen with name, image and likeness.”

• What should we make of the NCAA’s aggressive pursuit of Georgia Tech and Kansas? What might those cases tell us about pending sanctions for USC and Arizona in the basketball corruption scandal? The Yahoo team tried to make sense of the NCAA’s approach while noting that schools involved continue to recruit at a high level. “The come-and-get-us strategy of the schools has essentially been crafted based on history, a hedge on NCAA Enforcement and the Committee on Infractions living down to their checkered results catching cheaters. It took the feds launching an investigation — based on the questionable premise of recruiting payoffs being a crime — to force this attempted cleanup of college basketball into action.”

Choice Reads

• Justin or Tua? Tua or Justin? The debate over which player should be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft will run through the spring. Yahoo’s Pete Thamel polled a slew of scouts and analysts about Herbert and Tagovailoa. The results were split. Said one former NFL executive: “If I had to give the edge to one right now, it’d be Herbert because of his build. But I could change my mind this afternoon.” Fascinating insight.

• Terrific story (concept and execution) from the Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson, who recounts Washington State’s collapse against UCLA from the perspective of 13 fans who witnessed the blown 32-point lead: “(My) heart was ripped out by the Cougars. It just felt like everything was in shambles.”

• Anyone noticed how many Air Raid quarterbacks are starting in the NFL? There’s Murray and Minshew, Goff and Falk, Mahomes and Mayfield. USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer did, and he spoke to Air Raid masters, including Mike Leach, about it. “I don’t care about impressing the NFL, because I’m selfishly working on behalf of our team trying to get first downs with what we have here. I don’t care if that helps somebody in the NFL. That’s the NFL’s problem, not mine. I just do my day job.” Here’s the story of a system resetting its own ceiling.

Looking Ahead

What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:

• Full load of content planned for the weekend, with Saturday Night Five in its usual window, plus the Best of the Week column and my AP top-25 ballot. (Depending on developments tonight in Berkeley, we might slip an additional column onto the Hotline offerings.)

• Starting Monday, we’ll have a multi-part Hotline look at Larry Scott’s decade at the helm.

• And please note: If the Hotline obtains the TV selection order for Oct. 12 sometime this weekend, we’ll pass it along. The picks themselves should be announced Monday morning unless Fox or ESPN makes use of a six-day options.

The next newsletter is scheduled for Monday. Enjoy it? Please forward this email to friends (sign up here). If you don’t, or have other feedback, let me know:

*** 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.


Hotline newsletter: Blackouts loom for two key games, update on equity plans, Air Raid in the NFL, Tua vs. Justin and more