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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
100-days checklist: Pac-12

By Ted Miller

Here are five things the Pac-12, its players and its teams need to focus on with 100 days until the 2013 season begins.

1. Oregon needs to put the NCAA in its rearview mirror: Oregon and former coach Chip Kelly appeared before the NCAA's committee on infractions (COI) on April 20 (it was incorrectly reported that the meeting happened a day earlier). That means the odds are good the Ducks will know their fate before the beginning of the season. Moreover, the odds are favorable that the Ducks won't lose their 2013 postseason. That's nice for the program, considering Oregon is again a top national title contender, and the pressure is on new coach Mark Helfrich to make sure it stays that way. Getting the Willie Lyles matter resolved will make for one fewer distraction for the Ducks to claim they haven't even noticed.

2. New QBs are sometimes crowned in the offseason: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon State and USC still have wide-open QB competitions. While coaches can't watch offseason workouts, players are gathering on a near-daily basis for conditioning and 7-on-7 work. That means aspirants for starting jobs are working with their teammates, the guys they need to win over to the notion of their stepping into cockpit of the offense. How a QB carries himself matters. How he leads these "voluntary" sessions matters. And a QB sure as heck can substantially improve between May and August. Just look at Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, who went from worst to first in the Sun Devils' 2012 QB race after spring practices.

3. Larry Scott & Co. need to send an SOS: Off-field issues are big-time this offseason. The college football powers are setting up a new four-team playoff to begin in 2014, and the Pac-12's interests are simple: Strength of schedule. The selection committee must create an unforgiving system that demands tough scheduling or functionally disqualifies teams that willfully play weak schedules. First off, there needs to be an agreement on conference scheduling. Every conference participating in the new playoff needs to play the same number of conference games, either eight or nine. If that proves unworkable, which it shouldn't, then the conferences that choose to play eight conference games should be required to play two nonconference games against AQ conference foes. This would fall under the title of "Standing up to the SEC."

4. Get bigger, stronger, faster, and do so without getting hurt: Injuries are the biggest drag in college football. Summer injuries are even worse because they: (1) Happen without full-go contact; (2) Are more likely to take a big or entire bite out of the season, depending on how late in the offseason they occur. Still, players need to work. The offseason can be physically transformative, particularly for younger players. A guy can put on 10 to 15 pounds. Or lose them. Quickness can be boosted and a power-clean total can rise. The best-conditioned team may not always win, but at least it knows it did all it could when the final whistle blows. So: Lots of sweat but no knee injuries.

5. Stay out of trouble: All work and no play makes Pac-12 players dull boys. These guys need to have fun. They deserve it. And the Pac-12 blog is no prude. But, golly, fellas, stay on the right side of the law. If you drink, you cannot drive. Period. No matter how annoying that guy is being at the bar/beach/party, you cannot punch him. Be wary of social entanglements that seem just a bit too eager. If something is not yours, don't take it. While it's entertaining to watch the Hulk smash things, it's not the same with you. Yes, have fun. Just don't be stupid and hurt yourself and your team with your poor decision-making.