Florida State still No. 1 in AP poll

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28

Florida State stays at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll after a second straight comeback victory, but support for the Seminoles is waning.

Jameis Winston returned from a one-game benching to lead Florida State past North Carolina State 56-41. The Seminoles trailed 24-7 in the first quarter.

Florida State received 27 first-place votes, seven fewer than last week, from the media panel Sunday. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama both had 13 first-place votes. No. 4 Oklahoma drew the remaining seven first-place votes.

"You're always concerned, but we can't control the polls," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. "All we gotta do is keep winning. Polls are for the polls and voters. If we keep winning and doing what we do, we'll be fine."

There was little movement throughout the rankings, with the first seven teams holding their spots. That could change next week when six games match ranked teams, including three SEC games.

(Read full post)

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28

Drawing conclusions from Week 5

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27

Florida State vs. NC StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

No. 1 Florida State 56, NC State 41

Florida State survived a furious upset bid by NC State, as Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns to help FSU rally from 17 points down.

No. 6 Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)

Kenny Hill rallied Texas A&M past the surging Razorbacks, throwing three touchdown passes during the fourth quarter and overtime before the Aggies made a game-ending defensive stop.

No. 11 UCLA 62, No. 15 Arizona State 27

Brett Hundley threw for 355 yards on Thursday night as UCLA had 582 yards of total offense and scored the most points in the 55-year history of Sun Devil Stadium.

Top-five teams watching, waiting

(Read full post)


With No. 5 DT Shy Tuttle committed, recruiting reporters Erik McKinney, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down which colleges are still in contention for the other top defensive tackles.

Fathers and sons in football: Pac-12 North

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
Hardy Nickerson Jr. and Hardy Nickerson Sr.Gerome Wright/Bishop O'Dowd AthleticsHardy Nickerson Jr. played high school football for his father, former Green Bay Packers LB Hardy Nickerson Sr.
Football runs in the family in the Pac-12.

Rick Neuheisel was a proud father watching his son, Jerry, lead UCLA to victory against Texas two weeks ago. But he's not the only accomplished former player watching his son play for a Pac-12 team. The Pac-12 blog highlights a father-son football relationship on each Pac-12 team. First up: the North.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson Jr., Hardy Nickerson Sr.

Hardy Nickerson Jr. was 8 years old when he made his organized football debut, and like many kids that age it came in a jamboree. That’s pretty much where the similarities between him and every other football-playing kid have to stop because Nickerson’s debut was so much more than a Saturday afternoon at a local high school.

His team played its first game at Lambeau Field, during halftime of a Monday Night Football game, with John Madden broadcasting the action. Young Hardy’s dad wasn’t with the other parents, though. He was with his Green Bay Packers teammates.

“It was a great first football experience,” said Nickerson Jr., now a linebacker at Cal.

That season also served as the final NFL season for his father, who was named to five Pro Bowls in a 16-year career. That came after a storied career at Cal, where he still ranks No. 2 in tackles. After his retirement, Nickerson held various coaching and broadcasting jobs before taking over as the head football coach at Bishop O’Dowd High in Oakland before his son’s junior season.

“It was very fun playing for him,” Nickerson Jr. said. “He’s very passionate about football and got all my teammates to buy in. He always told us the most important things were effort, toughness and enthusiasm.”

Nickerson left the high school game following the 2013 season and just over a month later, Lovie Smith hired him to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebackers coach. -- Kyle Bonagura

Oregon: Jake and Joe Pisarcik

Oregon redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jake Pisarcik spends most of his days protecting future NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota.

But growing up, it was a former NFL quarterback who spent his time protecting a Pisarcik. His father, Joe, an eight-year NFL veteran.

“I was playing a different position from him, but he was there to support me,” Pisarcik said. “It’s cool because talking to him and getting advice from him growing up.”

Jake doesn’t regularly go to his dad for advice, but when he does, he said he takes it to heart. And that advice could be gold this season the Ducks’ look for consistency on their offensive line after losing three tackles to injury in the span of a month and a half.

“Keep working hard,” Jake said of his dad’s advice. “Have a short memory. When you mess up one, you have to keep plugging away.” -- Chantel Jennings

Oregon State: Luke and Jack Del Rio

Saturday night will feature an interesting pulling at the heartstrings for Jack Del Rio. At halftime of the Oregon State-USC game, he’ll stand on the field and be honored for his accomplishments and contributions to Trojans football and baseball.

[+] EnlargeLuke Del Rio, Jack Del Rio
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSJack Del Rio will be inducted into the USC Hall of Fame Saturday as his son Luke's Oregon State team plays the Trojans.
But during the first half and then during the second half, he’ll spend his time cheering on his son, Oregon State backup quarterback Luke Del Rio, as the Beavers attempt to take down USC in Los Angeles, where they haven’t won since 1960.

“He’s a Beaver fan in and out,” Luke said. “It’s nice to be recognized like he’s being recognized. But he told me he’s wearing neutral colors, ‘I’ll be rooting for you guys.’ He keeps up with USC but this weekend he’s rooting for the Beavers.”

Though Jack coached in the NFL all through Luke’s childhood, he never actually coached Luke in football (he did in baseball). Instead, Luke said the impact his father’s coaching career had on his playing career was more about the experiences he had as a kid.

“Looking back on it I see how fortunate I was. On the weekends I got to travel to the games with my dad and stay in the hotel where he was staying and go to the games. It was a real cool opportunity. ... Of course, being on the sidelines growing up of the NFL games, I kind of took that for granted because I didn’t realize how rare it was.” -- Chantel Jennings

Stanford: Ed and Christian McCaffrey

Three-time Super Bowl champion Ed McCaffrey is retired from football, but Autumn weekends are busier than they were during his playing career.

Friday is usually the day to see sons Luke (eighth grade) and Dylan (high school) play in the Denver area. Saturday requires Ed and his wife, Lisa, to split duties, as eldest son Max McCaffrey suits up as a receiver for Duke, while Christian McCaffrey is now a freshman following in his dad’s footsteps at Stanford.

[+] EnlargeChristian McCaffrey
Courtesy of Lisa McCafferyStanford RB Christian McCaffrey with is mother, Lisa, and father, former Denver Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey.
As the Denver Broncos' radio analyst, McCaffrey typically must jet from wherever Christian or Max play Saturday to wherever Peyton Manning is on Sunday.

But then there are moments — like the time last month when Christian scored a 52-yard touchdown on the very first touch of his college career — that make it all worth every penny of jet fuel.

“A touchdown on his very first play?” Ed still seems amazed. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that.”

Ed’s former teammate is a beneficiary: Christian’s coach is David Shaw, who played alongside Ed as a Cardinal wide receiver in the early 1990s. -- David Lombardi

Washington: Keith and Kendyl Taylor

Holidays and family gatherings in the Taylor household get a little intense. There’s Kendyl, a sophomore who has one touchdown and four receptions for Washington this season, his older brother Kerry, who played at Arizona State and is now on the Jaguars’ practice squad. There’s their father, Keith, who played at Illinois and then in the NFL for nine years and their uncle John, who a three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler.

It’s intense, and the trash talk flies. Bowling, beach volleyball, any activity -- it’s all competitive.

The experience has given Kendyl a fountain of knowledge in which to tap. He can go to his dad, who played safety in the pros, to get his thoughts on routes and coverages. But typically, he goes to Kerry, who finished his career at ASU in 2010.

“He’s one step ahead [of me],” Kendyl said. “He has been through these shoes more recently.”

Kendyl has been able to see only some of his dad’s highlights from Illinois (“With VHS, they’re hard to go back and find,” Kendyl admitted), though the conversation came up earlier this year as Kendyl’s Huskies prepared for the Illini in Week 3.

And in a one-on-one matchup between the current college WR and his dad, during his prime at Illinois?

“Obviously, he would say he would win, I would say I would win,” Kendyl said. “Unfortunately, we can’t compete at our primes but it definitely would be interesting.” -- Chantel Jennings

Washington State: Peyton and Scott Pelluer

Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer has one of the most interesting distinctions in all of college football: He’s a fourth-generation WSU football player. No, really. His father, Scott, played linebacker for WSU from 1977-80 before a five-year NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. His grandfather, John, was an end for the Cougars from 1953-55 and his great grandfather, Carl Gustafson, was a flanker for the team from 1925-27.

So with all that history, Pelluer was basically groomed to become a Coug, himself, right? Well, not quite.

“My dad coached at [Washington] for two stints so I grew up, basically, a Husky -- running around the facility over there,” Pelluer said. “Honestly, I had more Husky gear in my closet than Cougar gear when I committed.”

In fact, none of Pelluer’s three older siblings went to WSU and his older brother Cooper played football for the Huskies. But once Pelluer realized he was going to get a shot to play college football, he took a visit to Pullman and made the realization he wanted to keep the family tradition alive.

“Once I took my official visit, I realized this was a special place,” Pelluer said. “My dad would have supported me wherever I went, but I thought it would do them [father, grandfather, great grandfather] justice if I came here to play and became a fourth-generation Coug.”

A redshirt freshman, Pelluer has six tackles this season. -- Kyle Bonagura
Now that Chip Kelly is no longer his problem, Stanford coach David Shaw is more than happy to discuss the former Oregon coach. In fact, he took it a step further.

"Chip Kelly is one of my favorite subjects because he is so much more simplistic than we all think that he is," Shaw said. "I think he’s cagey. I think he’s very wily. He’s very confident in what he believes in, but it’s not willy-nilly. It’s very calculated."

Shaw saw it up close for six seasons. He became the Stanford offensive coordinator on Jim Harbaugh’s first staff in 2007 -- the same year Kelly landed at Oregon in the same capacity -- and matched wits as head coaches in 2011 and 2012. By the time Kelly made the jump to the NFL following the 2012 season, Shaw was a believer -- convinced Kelly’s system would work on Sundays.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesChip Kelly will match wits with another former Pac-12 coach, Jim Harbaugh, when Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles face Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
"That’s the thing that Chip and I both said before he left," Shaw said. "Their mentality at Oregon -- and now at Philadelphia -- was really not that different than our mentality [at Stanford], which is to run the ball and use whatever people are trying to do to take away the run to add to our passing game."

"It’s going to look very complicated, but it’s really not."

Now in his second year as the coach of the Eagles, Kelly returns to the Bay Area this weekend to renew a coaching matchup with Harbaugh and the 49ers. The last time Kelly and Harbaugh coached against each other, the Ducks came back from down 21-3 to win 52-31 and hand Stanford its only loss of the 2010 season. Coincidentally, LaMichael James, who ran for 257 yards and three touchdowns in that game for Oregon, was released by the 49ers on Sept. 8.

Both Shaw and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said this week that it's tough for either of them to root for specific teams because of all their former players scattered among NFL rosters, but Helfrich admitted he makes one exception.

"I've said it before, that's how much I like Chip Kelly, I've been a lifelong Cowboys fan and now I'm an Eagles fan," he said. "So, I'll be excited to root for them if we can."

Much like how the 49ers invested a second-round pick in James during Harbaugh’s first draft, the Eagles did the same with former Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in Kelly's first. A Bay Area native, Ertz called Shaw this week to ask if he would be making it to Levi's Stadium for the game -- but because Sunday will also be the first full day for Stanford’s Notre Dame prep, Shaw said best-case scenario is that he would make it out for pregame warm-ups before getting back to the office.

Kelly’s connection with the 49ers' staff is more than just an adversarial one. After leaving Stanford to become the offensive coordinator with the 49ers prior to the 2011 season, Greg Roman traveled to Eugene to spend time with Kelly on the Oregon campus.

"I’d heard so much about that nice facility they had up there and I had lot of respect for Chip and what he had done competing with him for a couple years," Roman said. "Got to get up there to visit with him and meet with him, talk ball. He’s a football guy."

And during Kelly’s final season at Oregon in 2012, he took advantage of an opening in the schedule to make an in-season return visit to the 49ers’ headquarters in Santa Clara to meet with Roman and Harbaugh.

"Two guys I have great, great respect for," Kelly said. "Two really good football coaches."

Between Harbaugh, Kelly and former USC coach Pete Carroll with the Seahawks, the NFC turned into somewhat of a playground for former Pac-10/12 coaches last year. The trio combined to go 35-13 during the regular season, and after the Seahawks' demolition of Denver in the Super Bowl, it was clear San Francisco, was the league's second-best team.

Now the question that's begging to be asked: Who's next?
Alabama, FSU, UF, Maryland and Oregon fans are going to have to wait on five-star DE Byron Cowart. Plus, Oregon State has made recruiting in LA a priority, so that’s why a good showing against the Trojans on Saturday is important.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
It's 8:15, and that's the time that it's always been;
We got your message on the radio, conditions normal and you're coming home.

Leading off

We've got football tonight. And it's a big one. UCLA travels to Tempe, Arizona, in a Pac-12 South showdown that recent history suggests is going to be a thriller. Much of the news the last week and a half has centered around the quarterbacks, and rightfully so. Arizona State has already declared Taylor Kelly out for this game, paving the way for Mike Bercovici. UCLA coach Jim Mora says it will likely go up to kickoff before determining if his quarterback, Brett Hundley, is going to play. Here are a few stories about the matchup tonight.

Five questions about UCLA heading into the game.

Doug Haller gives us a tale of the tape breakdown.

Chris Foster takes a look at some of the key matchups. Writes Foster:
So far, Arizona State has lacked the dominant defense it had a year ago. But UCLA has not provided a protective bubble for its quarterbacks. The Bruins are giving up four sacks per game. Only four teams in the Football Bowl Division are allowing more. The cost has been more than a loss of yardage. Hundley was scrambling against Texas when he was injured.

If Hundley does play, keep in mind that ASU sacked him nine times last season. The Sun Devils, however, aren't having the same success at pressuring the QB as they did when they had Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. ASU is tied for ninth in the league with six sacks. UCLA is last with three.

Power rankings

The Pac-12 blog releases its power rankings on Sundays. Other folks like to let things digest a few extra days before ranking the league. Here are a few of the power rankings that went out Wednesday.
Not necessarily rankings. But Bud Withers of the Seattle Times tries to make sense of the Pac-12 so far this season. To which I say, good luck, sir.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

How are you getting to the game tonight? Might I suggest this:

The Bears had a surprise visitor at practice yesterday. Skittles not pictured.

#4Pac: Team with most complete effort?

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
Your humble #4Pac welcomes you to another installment of what will be a regular feature on the Pac-12 blog. Here's how it works: We take one question or one topic, or maybe it's some other really cool format that we haven't even thought of yet, and all contribute our thoughts.

Have a suggestion for something we should address in a future #4Pac roundtable? Go ahead and send it to our mailbag.

Today, we're identifying which team has put together the most complete performance through four quarters of play.

[+] EnlargeConnor Cook
AP Photo/Chris PietschOregon recovered from one bad quarter against Michigan State and achieved the only result that matters.
Ted Miller/@TedMillerRK: I remember former Oregon coach Chip Kelly being befuddled by the media when, after another 40-point victory, reporters would ask about a, say, six-minute span in the second quarter when the running game didn't work. "It's a four-quarter game," he'd say with his trademark smirk.

The ultimate goal isn't about putting together a four-quarter game, it's about winning. And when you win against an undeniably good team, it doesn't matter if you didn't look like a finely-tuned machine for four entire quarters.

So, yes, Oregon lost the second quarter to Michigan State 24-10 and looked flummoxed while doing so. But it won the other three quarters 36-3 and, most important, the actual game 46-27.

It was by far the best and most complete performance of the season by any Pac-12 team, mostly because it was against an A-list foe, as the Spartans are the Big Ten champions and may not lose again this season. You, in fact, could make a case that Oregon was more impressive because it completely reversed course in the second half and dominated the action. That means the Ducks were effective physically and mentally, not allowing a quarter of sputtering deter them from the ultimate goal.

Which is winning.

Kyle Bonagura/@BonaguraESPN: First, let's acknowledge that teams aren't supposed to play complete games in September. Those types of performances are double-rainbow rare -- it's starting even to look like a triple rainbow! -- and usually come in games with a significant talent discrepancy. That was certainly the case when Stanford beat Army 35-0, but the Cardinal's performance was as close to complete as there has been from a Pac-12 team against an FBS opponent.

(Insert your own joke about how Army "might as well be a FCS school" here.)

Let's start with the Stanford offense, which scored at least one touchdown in each quarter. Quarterback Kevin Hogan was 20 for 28 for 216 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. Passing game? Check. On the ground, Stanford combined to run for 199 yards on 32 carries (6.2 yards per carry). Running game? Check. Defensively, the scoreboard says all you need you know, but Army -- which scored 47 points the week before -- managed just 3.5 yards per carry and a total of nine passing yards. And while the special teams played a minimal role, punter Ben Rhyne did his job too -- he put all four of his punts inside the 20. Hard to be much more complete than that.

[+] EnlargeTravis Wilson
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioUtah's dominant win came on the road over a Big Ten opponent -- Michigan.
Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell: First things first: Did you win your game? Because in the end, "scoreboard" is really the only thing that matters.

I'm picking Utah's win over Michigan. It was a dominant performance in two of the three phases. The Utes allowed just three points defensively (we're not going to saddle them with the pick-six) and the special teams was outstanding, producing 19 points on Kaelin Clay's punt return and four Andy Phillips field goals.

Offensively, it wasn't earth-shattering. But in the rainy conditions they endured in Ann Arbor, without Travis Wilson for a quarter, Utah was good enough to produce 286 yards of offense and get Phillips in position to do his thing.

Let's be honest. Michigan ain't what it used to be. But there isn't a coach in the country who wouldn't want some of Brady Hoke's five-star talent. And for the Utes to go on the road to the heart of Big Ten country and dominate in 2.5 phases of the game is a solid step forward for the program. Utah's road woes the last couple of years have been well-documented. So not only did they play a "complete" football game, they also did it on the road against a Power-5 team.

Chantel Jennings/@ChantelJennings: This answer is probably going to be unpopular, but I believe the most complete performance has come in a loss this season: Washington State against Oregon.

Yes, Wazzu lost, 38-31, but if that pass interference call is made in the fourth quarter, I don't know if it ends the same way. Plus, it seems unfair to shortchange the Cougars for what was a spectacular performance because of the inability of a ref to blow his whistle.

Behind a stout offensive line that has been playing its best in Mike Leach's tenure, quarterback Connor Halliday completed 43 of 63 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. On top of that, he targeted All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu ... in the end zone. Nine players caught passes for the Cougars and two running backs rushed the ball (which in a Leach offense is a minor miracle). Defensively, Wazzu's pass rush got after Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota. He might be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat or walk on a tight rope over New York City, but was I the only one wjp thought the Washington State front seven was in his head? And though the Cougars didn't pick him off, they did hold the Ducks to just five third-down conversions on 12 attempts.

The two major blemishes are obviously the two lost fumbles. But outside of that, it was about as complete performance as Washington State could hope for. Yes, it was a loss. But if Dior Mathis doesn't hug River Cracraft on that pass, I truly believe this game turns out differently.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you.

Leading off

Depth chart Wednesday is upon us. There are two byes this week -- Arizona and Oregon -- so we'll wait until next week to update theirs. But here they are for the other nine teams (remember, UCLA doesn't do a depth chart). As always, I've added some notes and thoughts after.
Some notes: Heisman check in

Heismanpundit.com released its latest straw poll. And while others from the Pac-12 have faded, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has strengthened his spot as the front-runner.

Here's the latest results from the weekly poll, which includes 10 Heisman voters.
  1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 24 (6)
  2. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama — 12 (2)
  3. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 9 (2)
  4. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M — 4
  5. (tie) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska — 3
    Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State — 3
  6. 7. (tie) Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina — 2
    Taysom Hill, QB, BYU — 2
    James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh — 1

Mariota also has a comfortable lead in the ESPN.com poll. So far this season, he has accounted for 16 touchdowns (13 passing) and he's completing 74 percent of his throws with zero interceptions.

However, he wasn't the only quarterback who stood out Saturday night. One Heisman voter makes a case for Connor Halliday's consideration.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Locker room videos are always awesome. This one is no exception.

Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.


Pac-12 QB Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
The Pac-12 typically has great quarterbacks and good depth at the position, but the 2014 season is particularly stacked behind center. With a few All-American candidates and early NFL draft picks, it’s almost difficult to keep up with who’s doing what to which secondary.

No worries. We’ve got you covered. Each week, we will provide you a top-five ranking of the Pac-12 QBs.

Now, it won’t always be a 1 to 5 ranking according to the expected pecking order at season’s end or NFL draft lists. It will react heavily to the preceding week. And we’ll try to spread some love.

Honorable mention: Travis Wilson, Utah: Statistically, Wilson didn’t blow anybody away at Michigan (14-of-20, 172 yards), but that’s because he didn’t play the entire game. An ugly, neck-contorting fall in the second quarter made viewers grimace, but Wilson returned to lead a critical Utes’ touchdown drive in the third quarter. His gutsiness alone deserves mention, but the efficiency of Utah’s offense after Wilson’s return to the lineup is what really stood out Saturday.

Inactive Week 4: Kevin Hogan, Stanford; Cody Kessler, USC; Taylor Kelly, ASU; Brett Hundley/Jerry Neuheisel, UCLA

To see last week’s rankings, click here.

Pac-12 Weekend Wrap: Sept. 23

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23


Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney breaks down the top weekend storylines from the Pac-12.

Brock Huard's QB Rankings

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23


ESPN Insider Brock Huard gives a sneak peak at some QBs that have surprised him this season, and whether or not we're seeing a repeat of the 1997 QB race between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

Drive Through: Heisman Race

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23


A quarter of the season is in the books. Who are the leading candidates for the Heisman? Prim Siripipat and Adam Rittenberg look at the field of candidates.

#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 23 

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
For today’s lunch break, the continued impressive recruiting mind of the Tennessee Volunteers coaching staff takes center stage, plus the latest on Under Armour All-America Game defensive back Micah Abernathy.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


Who Is The Heisman Front Runner?
Heather Dinich looks at whether or not Marcus Mariota or Todd Gurley is leading the Heisman race.


Thursday, 10/2
Saturday, 10/4