Oregon Ducks: Utah Utes
- Arizona receiver Trey Griffey is earning his shot.
- The Sun Devils made a run at Myles Jack in recruiting, now they have to prepare for him on both sides of the ball.
- Cal is addressing its academic flaws with student-athletes.
- A pair of Colorado linemen will play their final home game against USC.
- Ducks keying in on ways to stop Ka'Deem Carey.
- Oregon State defensive end Dylan Wynn is getting reps at fullback.
- A complete Stanford breakdown of all you need to know for Big Game week.
- ASU's defense poses a stiff test for UCLA's offense.
- Ed Orgeron could add coach of the year to his resume.
- Adam Schulz is having a strong week of practice.
- Bishop Sankey is continuing a record-setting pace.
- Practice conditions are getting chilly in Pullman.
- Athlon offers up its Week 13 storylines and predictions.
Oregon is the Rose Bowl favorite: For the first time all year, Oregon seems destined for the Rose Bowl -- the game, not just the stadium. The Ducks were pegged for the national title game before losing to Stanford last week, which figured to have shipped them to a BCS bowl elsewhere. But after USC’s upset win over the Cardinal, Oregon again stands to host the Pac-12 championship game, which will send the winner to the Rose Bowl.
WSU a bowl threat: Needing two wins with three games to go, Washington State snapped a three-game losing streak at Arizona to take a big step toward returning to the postseason for the first time since 2003. The 24-17 win marked the team’s most important victory since taking down the Trojans at the Coliseum on Sept. 7 and is arguably -- considering the circumstances -- the team’s most complete win of the season. Utah’s trip to Pullman next week will essentially serve as a semifinal game for each team’s postseason hopes. If WSU loses, it still has the Apple Cup the following week, but Cougars fans would like nothing more than to lock up bowl eligibility at Martin Stadium. Will students delay the start of their Thanksgiving break to remain in town?
Injuries unearth strength for UCLA: A week ago, the Bruins’ desperate need for help at running back led coach Jim Mora to call on freshman linebacker Myles Jack, who responded with 120 yards on six carries. Mora played coy throughout the week as to the chances that Jack would be back with the offense, but it became obvious early in UCLA’s 41-31 win against Washington that the former Bellevue (Wash.) High two-way star’s performance earned a bigger role. Four touchdowns later, it’ll be hard to justify leaving Jack on the sideline when UCLA has the ball if/when the health situation improves in the backfield.
Cal is conference’s worst: Someone had to win. Someone had to snap a double-digit conference losing streak. Not only did Colorado pull it off, it turned it into a lopsided affair, winning 41-24. With only Stanford remaining, Cal is all but assured to become the 19th team since the Pac-8 was formed in 1968 to finish conference play without a win. One of those teams was Cal in 2001, which led to the dismissal of Tom Holmoe and the hiring of Jeff Tedford. Tedford, of course, was replaced by Sonny Dykes this season.
Another step back for Washington: Since peaking at No. 15 in the AP poll after its 4-0 start, Washington has failed to meet expectations. The first big blow was the 53-24 loss to Arizona State, and Friday’s loss to UCLA again stamped the Huskies as a third-tier program in the conference. Next week’s trip to Corvallis will be another benchmark test for the Huskies before they try to reclaim the Apple Cup on Nov. 29. If the UW athletic department is looking for a positive byproduct of the recent 2-4 stretch, it’s that the Sarkisian-for-USC campaign has died down significantly.
Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State: Halliday completed 36 of 53 passes for 319 yards, none more important than a 25-yard strike to Isiah Myers for a touchdown with 2:15 left. The score stood as the game-winner as WSU improved to 5-5 -- one game shy of bowl eligibility.
Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA: After running for four touchdowns in the Bruins’ 41-31 win against UCLA, Jack maintained he’s “still defense all the way.” Could have fooled us. Jack became the first UCLA player since Maurice Jones-Drew to pull off the feat and is now tied with Jordan James for second on the team with five rushing scores despite playing offense in just two games.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Carey cracked the 100-yard mark for the 13th straight game, running for 132 yards on 26 carries and a score. The Doak Walker Award semifinalist came into the game No. 2 in the nation, averaging 152.6 yards per game.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: Richardson caught 11 passes for 140 yards and broke the school’s single-season receiving record in the process. He surpassed the record previously held by Charles E. Johnson and sits at 1,201 receiving yards on the year.
Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State: Grice ran for 118 yards on 24 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ win against Oregon State. ASU remains in control in the Pac-12 South with an important showdown with UCLA looming next week.
Andre Heidari, K, USC: Heidari’s day didn’t start too well when he missed the PAT following USC’s first touchdown of the game. But he redeemed himself with a 47-yard field goal in the final minute to lift USC over No. 4 Stanford, 20-17.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford: Stanford’s loss won’t fall on Gaffney’s shoulders. The senior carried 24 times for 158 yards and a pair of scores, including a highlight-reel quality 35-yarder in the first quarter.
Not a minute had gone by after USC kicker Andre Heidari slayed No. 4 Stanford with a 47-yard field goal before Oregon backup quarterback Jeff Lockie took to Twitter.
“FIGHT ON!!!!!!” he wrote.
A week after the Ducks' Pac-12 title hopes were seemingly dashed, Heidari’s kick vaulted them right back into the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 North and back on course for the Rose Bowl. Oregon needs to pull off what Washington State did Saturday -- win at Arizona -- then beat Oregon State at home to host its second conference title game in three seasons.
The Ducks played a game Saturday, too, but their eventual rout of Utah served merely as an appetizer for the day’s marquee game. Especially in Eugene.
While the Ducks’ payoff on Saturday is healthy bounty, it’s important not to understate what it meant at USC, where the Trojans ended their longest losing streak to Stanford in the series’ 88-year history (four games), kept their own conference title hopes alive and further cemented interim coach Ed Orgeron as a suitable long-term option.
The campus’ love affair with Orgeron is in full bloom. When you deliver opportunities to rush the field, that tends to be the case.
Stanford would know, too. A year ago it was Stanford students rushing the field after the Cardinal’s win against then-No. 2 USC. Last week, they were back on the grass at Stanford Stadium following the now-less-relevant victory against Oregon.
That jubilation was short-lived.
With the loss to USC, Stanford’s run of three straight trips to BCS bowls is in serious jeopardy. A loss to Oregon and a win against USC would have left the Cardinal on track for the Rose Bowl, but flipping those results could leave them on the outside looking in now that the winner of the Pac-12 title game will head to Pasadena. The Big Game figures to be a cakewalk next week against Cal, but the regular-season finale against Notre Dame could still carry some weight as Stanford looks for a BCS at-large berth.
As Oregon cheered for USC this week, the Trojans will do the same next week for rival UCLA. The Bruins, whose only losses this year came on the road to Oregon and Stanford, are set to host Arizona State in a game that could create a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 South with a UCLA win. If that were to happen, USC would be in position to steal the division on the regular season’s final day, needing a win against UCLA and an Arizona win over Arizona State.
A dream scenario for USC, sure, but the fact that it still exists nearly two months after Lane Kiffin’s dismissal speaks volumes.
For Arizona State, the next two weeks are more are more simple. Win at UCLA, go the Pac-12 championship. If the Sun Devils lose, they still can take the division with a victory over Arizona the following week, coupled with a USC win against UCLA.
UCLA needs nothing shy of wins against Arizona State and USC to take the division.
If Oregon and USC were the day’s big winners, then Washington State and Colorado are next in line.
The Cougars’ 24-17 win at Arizona keeps their once-faint hopes for bowl berth alive. Since beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl, WSU students haven’t had good reason to stay in Pullman for the start of Thanksgiving break. This week, that’s not the case.
Utah plays at Martin Stadium next Saturday in a game pivotal for both teams’ bowl hopes. For Utah, a victories is essential. It needs wins against WSU and Colorado to go bowling. The Cougars have another opportunity the following week at Washington, but if they can lock up bowl eligibility against Utah, it’ll make for a much less stressful lead-up to the Apple Cup.
And let us not forget the Game of the Weak.
While at San Jose State last year, current Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre ended Sonny Dykes’ tenure at Louisiana Tech with a loss. On Saturday, he again topped Dykes and Cal, meaning the Bears' first season without Jeff Tedford will likely end the same way it did in 2001 -- the season before he was hired -- without a conference win.
- Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and Washington State outside linebackers coach Paul Volero share a long history together, writes Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star.
- Arizona State receiver Richard Smith is emerging into a playmaker, writes Tyler Lockman of FoxSportsArizona.com.
- Cal vs. Colorado will be a battle of woeful defenses, writes Jeff Faraudo of the Bay Area News Group.
- Colorado kicker Will Oliver is confident despite recent woes, writes Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera.
- Ten things to know about Oregon vs. Utah, from CSN Northwest.
- Nearly two years have past since the death of Fred Thompson, but Oregon State safety Ryan Murphy keeps his friend close to his heart, writes Kevin Hampton of the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
- Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren had never been part of a game in which his team had as much success on third-and-short as the Cardinal did against Oregon, writes Andy Drukarev of CardinalSportsReport.com.
- UCLA coach Jim Mora is calling for a blackout Friday night at the Rose Bowl.
- Kicker Andy Phillips has developed into a weapon for Utah, writes Alex Markham of UteZone.com.
- After taking a lot of the blame for last year's loss to Stanford, USC's Cyrus Hobbi turned the experience into a solo performance for his theatre class. It helped him move on, writes Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
- Washington coach Steve Sarkisian is, again, facing the biggest game of his career, writes Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times.
- Washington State safety Deone Bucannon will go down as an all-time great for the Cougars, writes Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman-Review.
- Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey was named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, writes Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star.
- Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong feels he's at full strength following an ankle problem, writes Jeff Metcalfe of azcentral.com.
- Cal coach Sonny Dykes will keep his distance from Ralphie when the Bears travel to Colorado, writes Jeff Faraudo of the Bay Area News Group.
- Oregon has no plans to use linebacker Rodney Hardrick on offense, writes Ryan Thorburn of the Eugene Register-Guard.
- Oregon State has reason to be worried about ASU defensive lineman Will Sutton, writes Kevin Hampton of the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
- Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery's mom brought 17 foster children into their home as he grew up and the impact was profound, writes Elliott Almond of the Bay Area News Group.
- UCLA linebacker Myles Jack's performance playing both ways is a rarity in college football, writes Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News.
- USC safety Josh Shaw was a surprise scratch from practice Wednesday.
- Washington quarterback Keith Price is adding to his legacy as his career winds down with the Huskies, writes Adam Jude of the Seattle Times.
- Washington State is feeling a sense of urgency needing two wins in the final three games to become bowl eligible, writes Chris Shaw of the Daily Evergreen.
Eastern Washington beat Oregon State, which beat Utah. Therefore, the mighty Eagles would beat Utah, so it says. Now, maybe that's true, maybe it isn't, but the elementary logic used to reach that conclusion is by no means definitive.
Therefore nothing, really, except: "I guess psychologically that could be a little bit of a positive," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday in advance of Saturday's trip to Autzen Stadium to play No. 6 Oregon.
Utah's 27-21 win over Stanford last month gives credibility to a team that might not have it otherwise. For Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, that game overshadows the fact that it is the Utes' only conference win.
"We need to know nothing more than they beat Stanford and did a great job in that game," Helfrich said.
Since then, Utah has dropped three straight, matching the second-longest losing streak in Whittingham's tenure.
"We've been able to stand toe to toe with the best teams in the Pac-12, but nobody cares about being close," Whittingham said. "Obviously Stanford was a big win, but we've struggled a little bit since then."
A date with Oregon doesn't figure to help right the ship, especially as the Ducks look to bounce back following their crushing loss to Stanford last week. Oregon hasn't lost consecutive games during a season since 2007, when Chip Kelly was in his first year as the school's offensive coordinator. In the two previous seasons, Oregon has responded to its three losses with wins by an average of 33.7 points.
Other than the extra prep time due to last week's Thursday game, Helfrich said it's been business as usual in Eugene.
"Just like in a win, you evaluate, hey why did this work? Why did this not work?" he said. "Maybe it was luck, maybe it was scheme, maybe it was our execution? How can we coach this better?"
The only major change Helfrich made public was the fact that the platoon at kicker between senior Alejandro Maldonado and true freshman Matt Wogan is over. Wogan handled all the place-kicking duties against Stanford and will continue to do so moving forward.
Wogan connected on his only field-goal attempt of the season, a 38-yarder against Tennessee, and has been good on 30-of-31 extra points. Maldonado was 3-for-5 on field goals and 29-of-30 on extra points but admitted publicly he's struggled with confidence.
“It comes down to nothing more, nothing less, than we think [Wogan] gives us the best chance to make a kick," Helfrich said. “He’s done a better job."
- Arizona State coach Todd Graham has high praise for Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks as the Sun Devils prepare for the Beavers.
- Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour interviewed, then passed on then San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre before hiring Sonny Dykes in December. A few days later, MacIntyre ended up at Colorado, where Cal travels to this week. Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group revisits Barbour's decision.
- Colorado is looking to rectify its problem with missed tackles as it prepares for Cal, writes John Henderson of the Denver Post.
- The story of how a skiing accident and subsequent rehab on campus at Washington played a role in guiding UCLA coach Jim Mora back to the college game from Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune.
- USC receiver Marqise Lee needs to pick up the pace to become the school's all-time receptions leader, writes Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News.
- Oregon coach Mark Helfrich touches on many topics including the readiness of backup quarterback Jeff Lockie in his weekly press conference, provided by the Oregonian.
- Oregon State is expected to see the return of tight ends Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith this week, both of whom have been out for the last month with injuries, writes Kevin Hampton of the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
- If Stanford coach David Shaw was the college football czar, he would implement an eight-team playoff system, writes Tom Fitzgerald of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Utah is in the midst of the second-longest losing streak of coach Kyle Whittingham's tenure, but the coach remains firm in his stance that the Utes are headed in the right direction, writes Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune.
- What would a win against Arizona do for the Washington State program? The impact would be far-reaching, writes Howie Stalwick of Cougfan.com.
The Pac-12 has answered a number of questions on the field this season, staking its claim as one of the top two conferences in the country. But as the recruiting cycle ramps up -- with fewer than three months remaining until signing day -- here are 10 significant questions with answers that could shape the Pac-12 come February 5.
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- The Arizona defense eyeballs UCLA QB Brett Hundley.
- Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle is catching fewer passes, in large part because the offense around him is better.
- News and notes for California in advance of USC game.
- Colorado's true freshman LB Addison Gillam is having a record-setting season.
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota doesn't have time for pain. There are plenty of regrets for the Ducks.
- Oregon State needs a young WR to step up.
- Stanford just ground down Oregon. The revenge of the nerds was complete.
- UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy is starting to reach his potential.
- USC might be eyeballing Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
- Utah will need to slow down Arizona State RB Marion Grice.
- Washington's offense needs to pick up the pace.
- Washington State has signed a running back.
The game of the year in the Pac-12 is finally here, as recruits will tune in Thursday night to watch Stanford host Oregon (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). The UCLA Bruins proved that the offensive line recruiting magic from last year's class is still alive and well. Official visitors will be on hand at Utah and Cal. And fans of Arizona State and Oregon could get a glimpse of the future during a high-stakes high school clash on Saturday.
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It's game day in Pullman, where the Cougars are looking to stay above .500 and get within one game of bowl eligibility, writes Chris Shaw of the Daily Evergreen.
Arizona State players insist playing on the road is no big deal, but the Sun Devils are looking for their first road win of the season at Washington State, writes Doug Haller of azcentral.com.
UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone isn't feeling the love after the offense struggled against Stanford and Oregon, writes Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Another former Oregon player wrote a letter expressing his displeasure with his school's fan base, shared by the Oregonian's John Canzano.
Stanford finding success with best 11 approach on special teams, writes Vihan Lakshman of the Stanford Daily.
Washington is tasked with replacing receiver Kasen Williams' production with the veteran receiver out for the season, writes Percy Allen of the Seattle Times.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion talks about wearing orange uniforms and facing USC in an interview with the Oregonian.
Arizona is seeking athletically gifted high school seniors. Another requirement? They must love football, writes Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star.
Utah running back Kelvin York is looking to break out of his frustrating season, writes Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Previews and predictions for the week's slate of four games from Athlon Sports.