5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Pac-12’s iffy future, shrinking college football access

Oregon wide receiver Traeshon Holden (5) celebrates a touchdown against Hawaii with quarterback Ty Thompson (13) and offensive lineman Iapani Laloulu (72) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

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Fab 4 picks

Well, here we are again, whether Phil is betting football this fall or not.

And to be honest, there are two of my favorite plays in quite a while on the board this weekend.

There are a lot of intriguing games this weekend. Oregon goes to the House that Deion is building. Kiffin faces Saban. Notre Dame can go a long way to punching it's ticket to the playoff when THE Ohio State visits.

Like Joe Dumars would implore Mahorn and Rodman, let's get to picking.

FSU minus-2.5 over Clemson. Yes, FSU is a road favorite. And yes, if it feels pretty strange for the fighting Dabos to be an underdog, that's because this is just the second time Clemson has been catching points in a regular-season game since 2016. FSU is at least a TD better than that anemic Clemson offense.

Arkansas-LSU over 54.5. For my money, the two best QBs in the SEC beat Saturday night in Red Stick. I know Arkansas stumbled last week but man 17 feels like a lot of points to give KJ Jefferson and Co.

Utah minus-4.5 over UCLA. Kyle Wittingham may be my favorite coach in college football. And he may be one of the best. Now add in UCLA's freshman QB is making his first road start against the aggressive and physically imposing Utes. Yes, please.

USC-Arizona State over 61.5. USC is going to half a hundred on almost everyone it plays. That offense is that good and Caleb Williams is that dynamic.

Auburn plus-7.5 over Texas A&M. It's bad mojo, I know. Heck, I got picks against Clemson and on Auburn in the same column. We're doomed. I blame Mickelson. I would rather back down the W Road than back Jimbo Fisher laying more than a TD to Hugh Freeze. And if the Aggies start slowly, the pressure and anxiety in College Station will be palatable.

Notre Dame plus-3.5 against THE Ohio State. Clemson and Notre Dame catching points at home this weekend feels surreal. But the Irish have a bona fide dude at QB in Sam Hartman who has been in college football long enough he probably has a pretty good Lou Holtz impression. This really feels like the wrong team is favored, you know.

Last week's picks: 3-2 against the spread (60%)

This season: 10-9-3 against the spread (52.6%)

More college football

It appears the currently in-shambles Pac-12 is leaving no stone unturned moving forward.

The league has fiddled while rival power five conferences has pillaged the Pac-12s top-tier programs.

And it's made even more painful since the league may be the best top-to-bottom conference in college football this season with USC, Washington and Oregon each having a Heisman contending QB and legit playoff chances.

And that's not a slight at Utah or Colorado or Oregon State or any of the other teams enjoying a fast start to 2023.

But barring some serious reversals, Oregon State and Washington State are the only Pac-12 teams planning on staying in 2024, Hey, the Pac-2 has a nice ring to it.

YahooSports reported earlier this week that the Pac-12 could partner with the Mountain West and use some form of the relegation model that is used in most European soccer leagues.

Football, meet futbol.

Not sure they could make it feasible and stay among the ranks of the Power Five, but something has to be crafted because the Pac-2 simply won't work either.

More college football from out west

This story may not interest you as much as it did me, but it's kind of important.

USC suspended the access of one of the beat reporters for two weeks for violating reporting protocols.

The suspended reporter wrote about one of the Trojans players talking with another USC player about being nervous speaking to the media. The detail was the lead to the story and had a comment from the player's father, who laughed about his son's nervousness when speaking.

USC does not allow any details to be written about other than the things that happen in designated media access times and locations.

The players' exchange happened next to the podium moments before the allotted time.


Access in college football has never been more limited with set times and very small windows for beat writers to actually watch practice.

Plus, with more and more media members working for sites in college football that are subscriber-based — and no college football fan wants his subscription fee to fund GoDawgs.com or TigersUnlimited or whatever publishing a huge story that could cause the program NCAA issues or be damaging in the eyes of recruits — that access is only going to continue to shrink.

This and that

— The Bears had a really cruddy Wednesday.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall's weekly picks column.

— Braves played. Braves lost. So it goes.

— The Rams traded Cam Akers to Minnesota. Thought Akers was going to be a much bigger star to be honest.

— San Francisco plays the New York Giants tonight, and the Giants are extremely short-handed with stars Saquan Barkley and tackle Andrew Thomas among those listed as out. The 49ers are good.

Today's questions

It's an anything goes Thursday, so fire away. And remember the mailbag.

I'll start with which of the above picks do you like the best? Which do you like the least?

Also, should USC have suspended that reporter?

As for today, Sept. 21, let's review.

Green Day released "American Idiot" on this day in 2004.

Some truly great folks celebrate birthdays today. Bill Murray is 73. Larry Hagman would have been 92. Faith Hill is 56. Stephen King is 76.

Some iconic TV programs debuted on this day too, as "Perry Mason" premiered in 1957 and the first Monday Night Football game was played on this day in 1970.

Rushmore of most memorable Monday Night Football moments. Go and remember the mailbag.