Good news from Phil, not so for Pac-12

Pundit Steele likes the Trojans' chances but TV $$$ don't much like the Pac-12.

Just got our first chance to sit down with the entire 352-page Phil Steele College Football Preview and all we can say is USC fans better hope Phil's record as college football's most accurate preview holds for 2015. He likes the Trojans in lots of ways.

Here are some of them:

*** USC projects to the No. 4 spot in Phil's Power Poll, reflecting where he thinks the Trojans will finish, and that puts them in the CFB Playoffs with Ohio State, TCU and Alabama, and facing No 1 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Eve. USC fans could handle that Rose Bowl East, we're thinking.

*** In his Top 40 Power Poll, reflecting how talented Phil thinks teams are, not where they'll finish, he has USC No. 3, behind Ohio State and TCU and ahead of Alabama. We'll take either.

*** In 2014, Phil ranked USC's schedule as the 11th toughest in the nation. This fall, he says the Trojans will play the nation's second toughest schedule behind only Alabama. Better get 'em ready, Sark. It seems to be a consistent theme this summer.

Then in one of the features Phil usually gets right, thanks to all the research he obviously does, there are these national position group rankings for USC. Here they are:

*** QUARTERBACKS -- NO. 2: USC is behind only Ohio State's trio. But the interesting take here is how Phil says not only is Cody Kessler "a Heisman frontrunner" but he thinks Max Browne will be "a Heisman leader" next year.

*** RUNNING BACKS -- NO. 13: USC is third in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and UCLA but Phil lists all five candidates here for the Trojans.

*** RECEIVERS -- NO. 11: Despite losing two of the top three, in Nelson and Buck, USC has 11 athletes here Phil ranked in the top 10 of their position coming out of high school or JC.

*** OFFENSIVE LINE -- No. 2: Behind only Michigan State, the combination of depth, experience and an average talent number in the top 10 coming out of high school has the Trojans this high. Rest of the Top 10 is Georgia, Ohio State, Arkansas, Baylor, TCU, Stanford, Alabama and UCLA.

*** DEFENSIVE LINE -- No. 13: As we've noted this summer, and Phil seems to agree, the Trojans are deeper, bigger and even without BLW, have five players ranked No. 8 or better by Phil coming out of high school.

*** LINEBACKERS -- NO. 1: Yep, that's right. And that's even without going into the freshmen by name, Phil thinks the return of of Lamar Dawson and Jabari Ruffin with a double digit-deep roster including nine players ranked in his top 16 led by Su'a Cravens is the nation's best. Could be right.

*** DEFENSIVE BACKS -- NO. 5: The Trojans were a disappointing No. 24 last year but with Adoree Jackson being compared to Charles Woodson, and with eight players who grew up after being ranked from Nos. 1-16.

*** SPECIAL TEAMS -- NO. 48: Phil ranks only 48 here so the Trojans are last on the list. We're thinking if AJ gets enough returns, it won't matter how the kickers do, they'll move up.

Dollars don't add up for Pac-12

There's a Clay Travis column on Fox Sports now that points to what he calls an "ESPN bubble" with his claim that the network has lost 7.2 million subscribers the last four years. Interesting. But not what should matter most right now to USC and Pac-12 people right now.

Here are the numbers that should really disturb anyone who cares about the Pac-12. In putting everything into context, Travis lists the top 15 sports cable networks in terms of expenses to subscribers, cost per subscription and total annual revenue from those subscriptions according to the data provided by media data source SNL Kagan.

Despite the loss of subscribers, something that has happened across the board in the cable industry recently, a now belt-tightening ESPN with 94.5 million homes at a cost of $6.61 a month -- nearly $5 a month more than the next closest network -- is still way out in front producing $7.8 billion in subscriber revenue annually. Next is the NFL Network down at $1.18 billion.

But it's the three college networks we care about. The independent wholly-owned Pac-12 Network at No. 15 overall with 12.3 million homes at a cost of $.39 each produces $57.6 million in annual revenue. That's small potatoes compared to the year-old SEC Network and the longer-established Big Ten Network.

The SEC, which has partnered with ESPN, gets $.66 a home across 69.1 million homes -- more than five times the Pac-12's reach -- for revenues of $547.3 million -- almost 10 times the Pac-12's.

The Big Ten, which partners with Fox, gets the same $ .39 a home the Pac-12 does, but is in 62 million homes, again five times the Pac-12's reach, for revenues of $290.2 million, also five times what the Pac-12 produces.

So the obvious question: With this sort of disparity among the top three of the Power Five conferences, can the Pac-12 keep up? If so, how? Doesn't that kind of revenue disparity add up over a decade or so?

We're not exactly sure whether Commissioner Larry Scott has the answer here. Responding for the Pac-12, Vice-president for Public Affairs Erik Hardenbergh said: "We don't comment on revenue numbers or projections and did not provide that info to Clay. On the bigger question you raise, our focus is on making the smartest decisions to position our universities to be successful in the long run. With full distribution, we are confident that the ownership model is right for our universities, providing strong, sustainable revenue while maintaining control and options going forward."

We know Scott has talked about "apples and oranges" comparisons since the Pac-12 totally owns its network and will have the benefits going forward of other sorts of opportunities the others won't. We wish we understood a bit better exactly how that's supposed to work and when it's supposed to kick in.

Here's the complete list, 1-15:

1. ESPN $6.61 x 94.5 million homes = $7.5 billion

2. NFL Network $1.31 x 73.6 million homes = $1.16 billion

3. FS1 .99 x 91.2 million homes = $1.08 billion

4. ESPN2 .83 x 94.5 million hiomes = $941.2 million

5. SEC Network .66 x 69.1 million homes = $547.3 million

6. Golf Channel .35 x 79.4 million homes = $332.2 million

7. NBC Sports Network .30 x 83.1 million homes = $299 million

8. Big Ten Network .39 x 62 million homes = $290.2 million

9. MLB Network .26 x 71.3 million homes = $222.5 million

10. FS2 .28 x 64 million homes = $215 million

11. NBA TV .29 x 57.2 million homes = $199 million

12. ESPNU .22 x 74.9 million homes = $198 million

13. CBS Sports Network .26 x 61 million homes = $190.3 million

14. NHL Network .32 x 37.4 million homes = $143.6 million

15. Pac 12 Network .39 x 12.3 million homes = $57.6 million

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