Quick, someone check to make sure Sonny Dykes’ house is still standing.
The California coach’s assessment of the Pac-12 might raise the ire of those with a more southern- colored view of national college football supremacy.
“Personally, I think it’s as good of a league as there is. I’ll probably get my house fire-bombed or whatever by saying that, but I do,” Dykes said on Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches’ teleconference. “I just think the league, from top to bottom, is as solid as anyone in the country.”
This is Dykes’ first season as a head coach in the Pac-12, but he’s been here before. It was still the Pac-10 when Arizona hired Dykes as its offensive coordinator in 2007, and he coached there three years before accepting the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech.
Dykes liked the conference then, and he likes it more now.
“I was surprised by how deep the league was four years ago,” Dykes said. “And I think the league has done nothing but significantly improve since then.”
Saturday’s results lend some verification to that belief. It was a big day for the Pac-12, headlined by UCLA’s 41-21 comeback thumping of then-No. 23 Nebraska in Lincoln, then capped with Arizona State’s wild, controversial 32-30 victory over then-No. 20 Wisconsin.
Oregon solidified its status as the nation’s No. 2 team with a 59-14 whipping of visiting Tennessee. Washington moved to No. 17 in the AP poll with a 34-24 win over Illinois, totaling 615 yards of offense in the process. USC bounced back with an impressive offensive day in a win over Boston College, and Stanford, Washington State and Arizona each handled weaker foes with ease.
“You better come to play every week in our conference,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “There’s no question about it. I don’t know how anybody doesn’t look at our conference from top to bottom and says anything but every single week is a battle. I don’t know if you can say that about every conference.”
Four Pac-12 teams rank in the nation’s top 10 in total offense – including Dykes’ Cal team, which is the only one in the conference with a record below .500 after losses to Northwestern and Ohio State – and six rank in the top 30. Six Pac-12 teams also rank in the nation’s top 21 in scoring offense.
But the focus shouldn’t necessarily be at the top. Washington State’s upset two weeks ago of USC is evidence of that.
“You judge a league on the strength of the teams in the middle and in the lower half of the league,” Dykes said. “There’s a reason why really good teams in this league have lost in-conference football games. It’s because it’s a very, very competitive league, and I think that sometimes maybe gets forgotten as everybody sits down and starts to consider these things.”
ASU, Graham moving on
Todd Graham can’t be convinced that Arizona State didn’t deserve to beat Wisconsin.
The ASU coach didn’t want to speculate about whether end-of-game replay rules should be modified to ensure that kind of wild finish doesn’t happen again. And he certainly doesn’t think the Sun Devils got away with any kind of theft, not even after the Pac-12 admitted its officials erred in allowing an ASU player to cover a dead ball as the remaining seconds ticked away, preventing the Badgers from snapping the ball to set up a potential game-winning field goal.
Graham was asked to clarify a statement he made after the game about the better team having won.
“We had 32 first downs, they had 15,” Graham said, also noting Wisconsin ran 30 fewer plays. “We did not play well. We made a lot of mistakes in the kicking game, things like that. I just felt like what I meant by that statement was, the way our guys battled and overcame all of the things we overcame, I felt like our guys were very deserving to win the game.”
And: “You look at the statistics, I don’t think we stole anything.”
ASU doesn’t have time to dwell on it, anyway, with a trip to No. 5 Stanford on tap this weekend. Graham called the Cardinal “one of the best-coached teams that I’ve watched on film.”
Shaw returned praise by noting the Sun Devils’ Top 25 ranking, then suggesting that ASU might even be worthy of the top 15.