Pac-12 schedule needs to improve

first_imgAfter a vicious September, the Trojan football team was treated to a much friendlier October. Whether it was an easier schedule, a change at quarterback, a blitzing defense or a combination of all of these factors, the Trojans took care of business throughout this month. The Trojans’ schedule this month was definitely an advantage compared to Cal’s, which draws attention to a larger problem within the Pac-12.They did what they had to do, which was beat inferior teams. The victory against Cal followed a familiar script, albeit with an improved rushing attack. It is hard to tell whether or not sophomore running backs Ronald Jones II and Aca’Cedric Ware have found their groove, or if Cal’s run defense was just abysmal. More than anything else, redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold continues to add a new dimension to his game every week. Although he overthrew junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster early on a deep ball, he was significantly more accurate on deep throws than in his previous start against Arizona. His rapport not just with Smith-Schuster, but with receivers sophomore Deontay Burnett and senior Darreus Rogers and tight end redshirt freshman Daniel Imatorbhebhe improves each week.If he has one flaw that needs extra attention, especially before Washington, it is his penchant for fumbling. While the turnovers do hurt the momentum of the game, it is Darnold’s exciting style of play that has gotten the Trojans this far. Whatever Darnold gives up with his fumbles, he more than compensates for by extending drives with his feet and improvisational skills. After four straight victories, I think an occasional fumble is a fairly small price to pay for the masterpieces he orchestrates with his unique brand of quarterbacking.Other than Darnold’s continued ascent and the brilliance of other skill position players like Rogers and junior three-way player Adoree’ Jackson, the Trojans’ performance offered more of the same. This welcomed consistency left plenty of time to notice an inexcusable error by the Pac-12 conference.It is great for USC to win, and I am confident they would have still run through Cal if the Golden Bears were fresh, but there was no need for the Pac-12 to schedule Cal on a Thursday night against a team coming off a bye. This time it favored the Trojans, but luck has a way of reverting back to the mean, and one day commissioner Larry Scott’s disregard for player safety and welfare will haunt the Trojans. With less time to rest and prepare for their next game, the chance of injury increases.Thursday night was another example of the Pac-12’s, and by extension the NCAA’s, hypocrisy regarding the well-being of student athletes. The only reason Cal was in this predicament was because of the TV deal struck by Scott with ESPN and FOX a few years ago. While a landmark deal was great for the conference as a whole, the TV deal didn’t exactly do the Trojans any favors.The TV money is great for Washington State up in Pullman and Oregon State in Corvallis, but USC is a marquee program whose brand recognition generates way more revenue for the conference than they receive in an equally distributed share. That is why watching the Trojans on Thursday was so frustrating; because the roles could have been just as easily reversed.It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point though, as neither the NCAA nor the Pac-12 care about anything other than TV and sponsorship money. This is the same NCAA that unjustly leveled crippling sanctions on the Trojans. Disregarding the blatant bias in that ruling, the sanctions put the health of USC players at risk in the 2013 season when they fielded an NFL-sized roster for certain games.This is the same Pac-12 that didn’t defend USC against the sanctions once Oregon and Stanford became the primary brands of the conference. It’s also the same conference that has engineered technological innovation to allow the widely recognized eager Utah and Colorado fan bases in Shanghai, China to watch the Utes and Buffaloes on the Pac-12 network, but cannot strike a deal with Direct TV. Time and time again, the Pac-12 and NCAA have let down players and teams by focusing solely on their TV deals. This time it didn’t cost USC, and actually helped them. However, much like the NCAA sanctions unfairly penalized the Trojans, inequity ultimately affects every team.It would behoove the powers that be at USC and other major conference power brands to flex their might and force some changes from Larry Scott and company for scheduling games as well as the next TV deals and beyond. Or else in a few years USC might have a potential playoff trip ruined by a scheduling commitment beyond the team’s control. Jake Davidson is a senior majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.last_img

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