Pac-12 preview: Assessing the TV ratings, Heisman Trophy update, de Laura returns to UW and more

Five need-to-knows in the Pac-12 in Week Seven …

1. The ratings game

The Pac-12 has produced a better-than-expected start with four teams ranked in the current AP top-25 poll, five averaging at least 40 points per game and seven holding records of 4-2 or better.

Is there a correlation between on-field success and a victory at the negotiating table, where Pac-12 executives are attempting to hammer out a new media rights contract and stabilize the conference?

We’re skeptical about the existence of a direct link.

The valuation assigned to Pac-12 media rights over the life of a contract by potential media partners doesn’t shift with the results of each passing Saturday or the TV ratings that are reported a few days later.

But in the event that an indirect, subjective connection exists, the 2022 season is producing a slew of positive ratings data.

Last year, the Pac-12 was involved in 12 regular-season games that generated at least 2 million viewers, five of which were non-conference matchups.

It already has cleared the 2 million threshold nine times this season with seven weeks remaining, according to data published by SportsMediaWatch.com.

In fact, the conference could equal its 2021 total over the next two Saturdays if the Stanford-Notre Dame, USC-Utah and UCLA-Oregon games generate 2 million viewers.

And if they don’t, there are a slew of premium matchups awaiting in November, including USC-UCLA, Oregon-Washington, Utah-Oregon, Washington-Washington State and USC-Notre Dame.

Unless something goes wrong — very, very wrong — the Pac-12 will easily surpass the total number of 2-million-viewer games in 2021.

2. The deets on the data

As is often the case, non-conference matchups account for a high percentage of the most-watched games during the first half of the season.

Here are the nine games that have drawn at least 2 million viewers, per Sports Media Watch:

Oregon-Georgia: 6.2 million

WSU-Wisconsin: 3.92 million

USC-Stanford: 2.96 million

Utah-Florida: 2.95 million

Cal-Notre Dame: 2.91 million

MSU-Washington: 2.79 million

Utah-UCLA: 2.65 million

BYU-Oregon: 2.58 million

Oregon-WSU: 2.27 million

Of note: Only two of the nine involve the Los Angeles schools, which are scheduled to join the Big Ten in 2024.

Lastly, we compiled the number of times over the past season-and-a-half that each Pac-12 team has been involved in a matchup that generated at least 2 million viewers:

Oregon: 10

Washington: 3

UCLA: 3

Stanford: 3

Utah: 3

WSU: 3

Colorado: 2

USC: 2

Cal: 1

It’s a good reminder that the Pac-12 isn’t wholly dependent on USC and UCLA to drive ratings.

3. Heisman Watch

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is gaining Heisman Trophy support with each passing week.

He’s running third in the latest Heisman straw poll published by The Athletic while USC quarterback Caleb Williams is fifth.

Bleacher Report’s rankings list Thompson-Robinson and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix on the second tier of contenders, which is dubbed “Solidly in the Race.” The same analysis has Williams on the top tier (and fourth overall).

As for the Heisman odds, Williams is currently 10/1 to win the trophy with Thompson Robinson at 16/1, according to BetMGM.

The Bruins are idle this week and visit Oregon on Oct. 22.

4. Scene of the plant

Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura returns to familiar but hostile territory in one of the most interesting matchups this weekend.

The last time he set foot in Husky Stadium, de Laura led Washington State to victory in the Apple Cup, then infuriated the home team (and fans) by planting WSU’s flag in the turf.

De Laura’s stat line that day was impressive. He completed 27-of-32 passes for 245 yards and didn’t commit a turnover in the 40-13 win.

The Huskies haven’t forgotten.

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“I’m definitely not going to take that lightly,” safety Alex Cook told 247Sports. “I don’t think anybody else on the team is going to take that lightly, the guys that were on the team and we’re going to make sure that guys who weren’t on that team knows what’s going to happen on Saturday.

“I’m not talking about dirty shots or anything like that, I’m talking about, there’s going to be a different vibe and different intensity.”

5. Notes and nuggets …

— Washington State visits Oregon State with an eight-game series winning streak. In half of those matchups, WSU’s victory margin was double digits.

— Cal is seeking its first win at Colorado since 2011.

— USC has lost six consecutive games to ranked opponents entering its showdown against No. 20 Utah. The Trojans’ last win of that nature was against the Utes in 2019.

— Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III is tied for the national lead in interceptions with five.

— Arizona’s Jacob Cowing is the only Power Five receiver ranked in the top five nationally in receptions and receiving yards per game.

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