If Washington State's Mike Leach is not chosen Pac-12 Coach of the Year, it's because he has more bitter adversaries than appreciative friends among his coaching contemporaries.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti recently said he pleads the fifth when asked in an interview with KEZI 9 News about whether he likes Leach (via CollegeSpun.com). The Pac-12 coaches, who vote for who wins the conference's coach of the year, will have nothing to say if Washington State's coach gets passed over by David Shaw, Todd Graham, Jim Mora or Ed Orgeron.
Aliotti was fined $5,000 by the Pac-12 for criticizing Leach for passing late in Oregon's 62-38 rout of Washington State on Oct. 19 (via OregonLive.com).
The reality is Leach, a non-conformist when it comes to coaching protocol, can coach his team how he sees fit as long as it's within the rules. He can supposedly phone a conference commissioner during a game. He can say his players have fat girlfriends or that they played like corpses because that's Leach. That's his style.
Leach's mannerisms are working at Washington State. The Cougars (6-5) are bowl eligible for the first time since 2003. They have the most victories in a season since 2006.
The Cougars outplayed and soundly defeated Arizona a week before the Wildcats routed Oregon at Arizona Stadium. Leach's team has defeated USC, and it came a touchdown away from beating Auburn on the road.
He deserves to be Pac-12 Coach of the Year instead of Shaw, Graham, Mora and Orgeron.
Mora told the media this week that he voted for Orgeron to be coach of the year, despite Orgeron's interim status, because Orgeron has injected life back into USC's program (via CBSSports.com).
The vote can be construed as a way for Mora to promote Orgeron to become the permanent USC coach. Mora and his Pac-12 coaching brethren would rather coach against Orgeron on a yearly basis than Kevin Sumlin, for example, so why not publicly endorse the USC interim coach for coach of the year?
Orgeron is coaching a roster loaded with high school All-Americans whereas Leach is coaching players overlooked by major programs. Orgeron is a breath of fresh air for the Trojans, after they were suffocated by Lane Kiffin. Washington State has endeared itself to Leach's style from Day One.
The Cougars beat the Trojans for the first time in 13 years in Los Angeles with Orgeron part of Kiffin's staff. Pac-12 coaches should not play the political game and do what's right: Vote Leach for coach of the year.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Stanford (9-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12): Stanford should learn the words to Arizona's fight song "Bear Down". The Cardinal clinched the Pac-12 North title because of Arizona's upset victory over Oregon last week. Now the Cardinal are hoping the Wildcats can beat ASU to ensure them of home field in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 7. The Cardinal have won 14 straight home games and are 3-2 on the road this season. Last week: No. 2. Postseason prediction: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State.
2. Arizona State (8-2, 6-1): An important element of ASU's game with Arizona will be the Sun Devils' defense against the run. All-American Ka'Deem Carey comes to town after rushing for at least 119 yards in his last 14 games. The Sun Devils are 19th nationally against the run, allowing 123.4 yards per game. Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker is the Pac-12's top rushing quarterback. The Sun Devils want to force Denker to throw. The first half should dictate whether or not that will happen. Last week: No. 3. Postseason prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Texas.
3. Oregon (9-2, 6-2): The Ducks have suffered two Pac-12 losses for the first time since 2008. Oregon's run of four straight BCS bowl games is likely over as well, with the Ducks instead likely heading to the Holiday Bowl. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich will stop any of his players from saying they don't want to play in that bowl. Don't mess with the Rose Bowl Gods again. Last week: No. 1. Postseason prediction: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas Tech.
4. USC (9-3, 6-2): Cody Kessler, a sophomore, continues to make the strides of a quarterback who could lead the Trojans back to prominence. He has completed 73 percent of his passes in the last four games. He already is 17th on USC's career passing chart (197 completions). He also is tied for 17th on USC's season passing list (197 completions) and is 19th on USC's season total offense chart (2,366 yards). Last week: No. 5. Postseason prediction: Las Vegas Bowl vs. San Diego State.
5. UCLA (8-3, 5-3): UCLA has not won at the L.A. Coliseum since 1997, a 31-24 victory in front of 91,350. It was the seventh win of an eight-year win streak, which remains the longest in the rivalry by either team. USC has responded to win 12 of the last 14 meetings. Here's hoping Mora tries another defensive player in an unfamiliar spot, such as he has done with linebacker Myles Jack at running back and cornerback Ishmael Adams as punt returner. Last week: No. 4. Postseason prediction: Sun Bowl vs. Boston College.
6. Washington (7-4, 4-4): When the goal comes down to getting a coach his eighth victory in a season for the first time, the season that was once so promising is a disappointment for the Huskies. Steve Sarkisian is trying to win more than seven games in a season in his fifth year. The Huskies are struggling to achieve that mark despite starting 4-0. Last week: No. 7. Postseason prediction: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State.
7. Washington State (6-5, 4-4): The once lifeless Cougars have defeated USC and Arizona, a couple of teams in the national headlines this week because of their recent success. The Cougars had two interceptions returned for a touchdown in the first quarter against Utah last week. They are tied for first in the Pac-12 with Arizona and ASU with four interceptions returned for a touchdown. Last week: No. 8. Postseason prediction: Little Caesars Bowl vs. Ball State.
8. Arizona (7-4, 4-4): Rich Rodriguez wants to change recent history against his rivals. He is 0-5 in his last five games against traditional rivals. He lost his last game against Pitt as West Virginia's coach. He was 0-3 against Ohio State at Michigan. And he lost his first game against ASU as Arizona's coach last year. Last week: No. 9. Postseason prediction: Fight Hunger Bowl vs. BYU.
9. Oregon State (6-5, 4-4): What happened to the glory days of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks? Their success and a six-game winning streak was against suspect competition. Oregon State has lost four consecutive games with the latest defeat a 69-27 rout by Washington in its home finale, the most points ever allowed by the Beavers. Now they must play at Oregon, a team smarting from its blowout loss at Arizona last week. Mike Riley sadly ends the year with a five-game losing streak without a bowl. Last week: No. 6. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
10. Utah (4-7, 1-7): The last time Utah failed to go to a bowl game in consecutive seasons was 1997 and 1998. The Utes at least finished 6-5 and 7-4 in those years. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, the coach with the hottest seat in the league, has this in his favor: A sweep of the in-state opponents, including a win at bowl-bound BYU, and the upset over Pac-12 North champion Stanford. But the Utes have yet to win after that upset of the Cardinal on Oct. 12. Last week: No. 10. Postseason: No bowl game.
11. Colorado (4-7, 1-7): Colorado might be at the cellar of the standings but the Buffaloes are no longer downtrodden. Colorado has four wins this season, which matches the number for the program in the last two years combined. If the Buffaloes can beat Utah to close out the season, it would match its most victories since 2007 with five. Two conference wins would also equal the most for CU since 2007. Last Week: No. 11. Postseason: No bowl game.
12. California (1-11, 0-9): Cal reported that players on its two-deep chart missed 138 games this season because of injury. The San Jose Mercury News reported that injuries caused starters to miss 73 games. First-year coach Sonny Dykes can't use the same excuse next season. Last Week: No. 12. Postseason: No bowl game.
Please check out Javier Morales' blog at TucsonCitizen.com.
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