During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

The wide receivers are up on Thursday.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Josh Huff, Daryle Hawkins, Chad Delaney, Blake Stanton

Lost production: 89 catches, 1,510 yards, 15 touchdowns

Who’s back in 2014: Junior Bralon Addison*, redshirt senior Keanon Lowe, redshirt sophomore Chance Allen, redshirt junior B.J. Kelley, redshirt freshman Devon Allen, redshirt sophomore Dwayne Stanford, redshirt freshman Darren Carrington, senior Johnathan Loyd, redshirt sophomore Chris Tewhill, redshirt sophomore Austin Daich, redshirt senior Jeff Stolzenburg, incoming freshman Jalen Brown

* Questionable whether Addison will return for the 2014 season due to injury

Statistics of returning players: 85 catches, 1,234 yards, 11 touchdowns

Outlook: The Addison injury certainly doesn’t help anything (typically no injury does), because without his production the returning stats really are 24 catches, 344 yards and four touchdowns. Pretty meh.

Luckily, the wide receivers looked like they had quite a bit of potential during the spring game. Nine wide receivers caught passes, and Devon Allen was certainly the headliner of the day with his two touchdown receptions. Some of the younger players -- Carrington and Chance Allen -- showed potential too, though quarterback Marcus Mariota likely has the most established chemistry (in this group) with Lowe.

This will continue to be one of the biggest question marks heading in to the 2014 season because, as I’ve said before, Mariota’s Heisman campaign is only going to be as good as those on the receiving end of his passes. Look for Devon Allen to have a big season, for Lowe to be the most consistent player and for the receiving corps as a whole to be one of the youngest contributing position groups in recent history for the Ducks.

Other spring position reviews:
The Pac-12’s quarterback talent this season is pretty ridiculous and leading the pack could very well be Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. This week we’re taking a look at some of the statistics from the best conference quarterbacks and next on the list is the Ducks signal-caller.

As in 2013, much of Oregon’s 2014 fate will likely rest on Mariota’s shoulders. Now, it’s not completely on him. There’s plenty of talent around him and it’s a very good team. But he has the ability to take the Ducks from good to great, giving them an excellent chance at a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Mariota's knee injury obviously affected him and the Ducks, but maybe not as much as it initially seemed.
It was the same talk as last year and as the 2013 season went on, everything looked peachy until Mariota’s knee injury during the Stanford game. The Ducks dropped two of their last four regular-season games before running away with a big win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

So, the question was, how much did Mariota’s injury hamper him? How much did it affect the Ducks? The win over Utah was fine, but a one-point win over Oregon State seemed much too close. And the loss to Arizona would’ve seemed unfathomable just a few weeks earlier.

The obvious statistics tell one story that, yes, the knee injury affected Mariota greatly. He hadn’t thrown a pick at all during the 2013 season and then he threw two a piece in the Arizona and Oregon State games. He had accounted for nine rushing touchdowns before the injury. After the injury? He didn’t find the end zone with his feet again.

Those numbers seem quite drastic, making one believe that if those basic statistics were greatly affected that the rest of his statistics probably dropped greatly as well. But the truth is not all of his statistics decreased because of the injury. In fact, many dropped just marginally while others, still, improved.

Certainly, his knee injury affected his mobility. His rushing yards per game dropped by more than 30 yards even though his carries per game only dropped from 7 per game to 6.3. But one would also think that if Mariota’s mobility were greatly affected, he’d also be more of a target in the pocket and get sacked more after the injury than he was before it. But that’s not the case. He was sacked less after the injury as he was before. (This could also mean he was smarter about when he was throwing away the ball, perhaps, but he wasn’t a sitting duck in the pocket because of the injury.)

Since he rushed less after the injury, does that mean the team relied on his arm more? Yes, his pass attempts increased by about six per game, going from 28.1 to almost 34.

To put it in perspective from the team’s level, before the injury the Ducks were running 78.1 plays per game. Of those nearly 78.1 plays, Mariota was either rushing or passing on 35.1 plays (44.9 percent). After the injury, the Ducks were running 74 plays per game and of those 74 plays Mariota rushed or passed 40 times (54 percent), meaning he wasn’t scaled back from a contribution perspective following the injury. In fact, he was actually more involved in the game plan.

The knee doesn’t only affect how one moves in and out of the pocket, it also affects the stance and footwork of a player in the pocket. Though his knee changed how much and how far he rushed, it didn’t seem to affect him as much in the pass game. His completion percentage dropped by less than two percent but he was also passing more in those games, meaning he was completing more passes after the injury than he was before the injury. In third-down passing situations and longer passes, he was only mildly affected. The percentage of his passes gaining a first down or touchdown actually improved after the injury.

This doesn’t mean that the injury didn’t negatively impact the Ducks. It just means that it maybe didn’t impact the Ducks as much as some people want to say it did. Certainly, a healthy QB who can play the full season at 100 percent is what every team wants and it’s what the Ducks will want this season, but for those who want to blame the “failed” season last year on Mariota’s knee, well, you can’t really do that.

Here’s a closer look at the statistics comparing pre-injury Mariota to post-injury Mariota. Stanford statistics aren’t included, neither are the bowl game statistics as Mariota had nearly a month to rehab and don’t represent a true post-injury Mariota.

Pre-injury :
Touchdowns (passing): 20 -- 2.5 per game
Touchdowns (rushing): 9 – 1.1 per game
Interceptions: 0
Passing yards per game: 285.1
Rushing yards per game: 63.9
Attempts per game: 28.1
Completions per game: 18
Yards per completion: 15.8
Completion percentage: 64.0 percent
Sack percentage: 4.3 percent
Third-down conversion percentage: 37.1 percent
Percentage of passes gaining a first down or TD: 68.1 percent
Percentage of 10-plus yard completions: 62.5 percent
Rush attempts: 56 -- 7 per game
Yards per rush: 9.1

Post-injury (Utah, Arizona, Oregon State):
Touchdowns (passing): 8 -- 2.7 per game
Touchdowns (rushing): 0
Interceptions: 4 -- 1.3 per game
Passing yards per game: 293.7
Rushing yards per game: 29.0
Attempts per game: 33.7
Completions per game: 21
Yards/completion: 14.0
Completion percentage: 62.4 percent
Sack percentage: 2.9 percent
Third-down conversion percentage: 35.3 percent
Percentage of passes gaining a first down or TD: 69.8 percent
Percentage of 10-plus yard completions: 60.3 percent
Rush attempts: 19 -- 6.3 per game
Yards per rush: 4.6
College football is not only about being good. It's about scheduling.

Who you don't play is often as important as who you do. Just look at the SEC, where retaining an eight-game conference schedule in a 14-team league is Machiavellian genius. It's cowardly and fraudulent, of course, but it might help the conference get more teams in the College Football Playoff.

Anyway... back to the Pac-12, a 12-team league that plays a nine-game conference schedule.

So let's look at how the Pac-12 schedules stack up, starting with the North Division (*-denotes FCS team; toughest nonconference game bolded):


Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, at Northwestern (5-7); Sept. 16, Sacramento State (5-7)*; Nov. 29, BYU (8-5)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona State, Utah

Road games (5): at Northwestern, at Arizona, at Washington State, at Oregon State, at USC

Bye weeks: Sept. 13 (before Pac-12 schedule begins), Nov. 8 (before Thursday game at USC)

Skinny: Last year, California had the third-toughest schedule in the country with Ohio State and Northwestern on the slate. This year, things are more manageable, though the Bears will almost always be hurt by playing UCLA and USC every year, per agreement with the Pac-12 office. This schedule is far from easy, as a trip to Chicago is no cakewalk, and BYU is pretty much the equivalent of a B-list Big Five foe. The home conference schedule is much tougher than the road trips, but that can operate against a team struggling to climb from the bottom of the standings. The byes are reasonably spread throughout the year -- recall the useless "bye" last year the final weekend of the season -- though USC is also off before the Thursday game. The Bears also get a couple of extra days to prepare for the Big Game against Stanford due to the Thursday kickoff.


Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, South Dakota (4-8)*; Sept. 6, Michigan State (13-1); Sept. 13, Wyoming (5-7)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona State, USC

Road games (5): at Washington State, at UCLA, at California, at Utah, at Oregon State

Bye weeks: Sept. 27 (before Thursday game with Arizona); Nov. 15 (before Colorado)

Skinny: This schedule sets up for a national championship run, including the Pac-12's nonconference game of the year against Michigan State, a likely top-5 team. The Ducks miss two South teams that are almost certain to be ranked in the preseason, so those are good misses. They don't play consecutive road games all season. By playing at Cal on a Friday, they get an extra day to prepare for Stanford at home. The Oct. 11 trip to UCLA could loom large in the national title race, and we might get a rematch in the Pac-12 championship game. So, because the Ducks play Arizona on a Thursday night, it's notable they will get a couple of extra days to prepare for the Bruins.


Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, Portland State (6-6)*; Sept. 6, Hawaii (1-11); Sept. 20, San Diego State (8-5)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona, UCLA

Road games (5): at Hawaii, at USC, at Colorado, at Stanford, at Washington

Bye weeks: Sept. 13 (before San Diego State); Oct. 11 (before Thursday game with Utah)

Skinny: The Beavers have the weakest nonconference schedule in the conference. They also have a bye before playing host to San Diego State, which might be good coming after a long trip to Hawaii. The conference misses are good, as UCLA is a top-10 team and Arizona is at least solid. The road schedule is tough, though the Beavers have recently had some success versus USC, at least at home. The Thursday game with Utah provides extra time to prepare for the trip to Stanford. They play four of their first seven games on the road, but the upside is playing four of the final five at home. The trip to Washington looms large as a North Division separation game. And will the Beavers play spoilers for Oregon at home in the season finale?


Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, UC Davis (5-7)*; Sept. 13, Army (3-9); Oct. 4, at Notre Dame (9-4)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona, Colorado

Road games (6): at Washington, at Notre Dame, at Arizona State, at Oregon, at California, at UCLA

Bye weeks: Sept. 20 (before Washington); Nov. 8 (before Utah)

Skinny: A brutal schedule. Just like last year. The trip to Notre Dame is never easy. From a preseason perspective, the misses are the least advantageous in the Pac-12. There are six road games, five of which should be against teams ranked in the preseason top 25. The Cardinal plays Washington and Notre Dame on the road on back-to-back weekends, and three of their final four games are on the road. The bye before playing the Huskies is well-timed, and you might recall that Stanford lost to Utah last year, so that bye isn't bad either. Of course, if the Cardinal emerge from this schedule at 11-1 and then win the Pac-12 championship, they not only will make the College Football Playoff, they might be seeded No. 1.


Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, at Hawaii (1-11); Sept. 6, Eastern Washington (12-3)*; Sept. 13, Illinois (4-8); Sept. 20, Georgia State (0-12)

Pac-12 misses: Utah, USC

Road games (6): at Hawaii, at California, at Oregon, at Colorado, at Arizona, at Washington State

Bye week: Oct. 4 (before game at Cal)

Skinny: The Huskies play 13 games due to an NCAA rule that allows them to after taking a trip to Hawaii, and they have given themselves a pretty darn soft nonconference slate. Anything less than 4-0 would be a massive disappointment. The bad news about 13 regular season games is just one off weekend, and a break before visiting Cal doesn't seem ideal, though it does come after what should be a physically taxing matchup with Stanford. The misses are not unhelpful, particularly no game with USC. The final four games figure to define the season, with UCLA and Oregon State coming to Husky Stadium and trips to Arizona and Washington State. Hard to believe a 3-1 finish wouldn't make Chris Petersen's first season feel successful.


Nonconference slate: Aug. 28 in Seattle, Rutgers (6-7); Sept. 6 at Nevada (4-8); Sept. 13 Portland State (6-6)*

Pac-12 misses: UCLA, Colorado

Road games (5, with the Rutgers game played in Seattle): at Nevada, at Utah, at Stanford, at Oregon State, at Arizona State

Bye week: Oct. 17 (before Arizona); Nov. 15 (before game at Arizona State)

Skinny: The nonconference slate is manageable, if not completely soft. Cougars fans have a right to believe 3-0 is the most likely scenario in Year 3 under Mike Leach. Playing Rutgers in Seattle rates as a 50-percent road game, as it breaks from routine, if not fan support. A road trip to Nevada could be tricky. Missing UCLA is good; missing Colorado probably isn't. Can the Cougs go 2-2 in conference play on the road? That might be the key to the season. That and beating the hated Huskies at home to conclude the campaign. It's not too much of a stretch to see eight wins on this schedule.

Pac-12 lunch links

May, 28, 2014
May 28
I know we usually start with song lyrics, but in honor of the extraordinary Maya Angelou, who passed away Wednesday morning, I thought it'd be appropriate to start Wednesday's lunch links with one of my favorite quotes from her.

"I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back."

Now, on to the links.
During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

The prolific run game takes center stage today.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: De'Anthony Thomas

Lost production: 96 carries, 594 yards, 8 touchdowns

[+] EnlargeThomas Tyner
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsThomas Tyner is one of many options for Oregon's running game.
Who’s back in 2014: junior Byron Marshall, sophomore Thomas Tyner, redshirt senior Ayele Forde, redshirt freshman Kani Benoit, redshirt sophomore Lane Roseberry, redshirt senior Kenny Bassett, redshirt sophomore J.J. Jones, sophomore Jake LaCoste, incoming freshman Tony James, incoming freshman Royce Freeman

Statistics of returning players: 350 carries, 2,046 yards, 23 touchdowns

Outlook: Worrying about the Oregon’s running back situation is a moo point. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter.

The Ducks seem to be able to turn out top back after top back with relatively seamless turnover. Yes, losing Thomas was a bit of a blow, but they’ll recover just fine and the spring more than proved that. The race looks like it will come down to Tyner and Marshall, but even past those two, there’s plenty to be excited about for the future.

Also, quarterback Marcus Mariota is back. Last season he was the second-leading rusher, carrying the ball 96 times for nine touchdowns and 715 yards. Jeff Lockie, who appears to be the default backup QB, also carried the ball five times with one score in 2013. The quarterbacks will continue to contribute to the run game, as will the occasional wide receiver.

It will be interesting to watch how the ball is distributed this season, especially early on, as Mariota gains more chemistry with his young receivers. He showed a lot of promise with WR Devon Allen this spring, but there’s a good chance that the Ducks could be run-heavy early (especially against Michigan State) as they get their feet wet.

But again, keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here but what will likely be another very impressive rushing season from Oregon.

Other spring reviews:

Way-too-early bowl projections

May, 27, 2014
May 27
ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy and Mark Schlabach have made their "way-too-early" bowl projections, and both foresee Oregon representing the Pac-12 in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

McMurphy has the Ducks facing Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, one of the semifinal sites. Schlabach has the Ducks playing Alabama in the Rose. Both matchups likely would inspire plenty of "yes, please" among college football fans -- ignoring the fact that said fans obviously want their teams in those spots.

In the other semifinal -- the Sugar Bowl -- McMurphy has Alabama playing Oklahoma and Schlabach has Florida State taking on Michigan State.

Both also project Stanford making another trip to the Fiesta Bowl. McMurphy has the Cardinal playing Michigan State -- a rematch of January's Rose Bowl -- and Schlabach has the Cardinal playing Wisconsin, a rematch of the Rose Bowl following the 2012 season.

In total, both believe at least eight Pac-12 teams will earn bowl berths: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona. McMurphy projects a ninth with Washington State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl opposite Rice.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Oregon State vs. TCU (McMurphy), Oregon State vs. TCU (Schlabach)
Las Vegas: Utah State vs. Arizona (McMurphy), Boise State vs. Arizona (Schlabach)
Heart of Dallas: Washington State vs. Rice (McMurphy)
Sun: Louisville vs. Arizona State (McMurphy), Duke vs. Arizona State (Schlabach)
Holiday: Nebraska vs. USC (McMurphy), Washington vs. Iowa (Schlabach)
San Francisco: Minnesota vs. Washington (McMurphy), Minnesota vs. USC (Schlabach)
Alamo: Texas vs. UCLA (McMurphy), Kansas State vs. UCLA (Schlabach)
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Michigan State (McMurphy), Stanford vs. Wisconsin (Schlabach)
*Rose: Ohio State vs. Oregon (McMurphy), Alabama vs. Oregon (Schlabach)
*Sugar: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (McMurphy), Florida State vs. Michigan State (Schlabach)

*-College Football Playoff semifinals

These are perfectly reasonable and defensible projections, though the Pac-12 blog at present sees UCLA as a more likely No. 2 seed coming out of the Pac-12. You could make an argument that Utah might give the Pac-12 10 teams with legitimate designs on bowl eligibility.

Pac-12 lunch links

May, 27, 2014
May 27
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We start with the quarterbacks.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Jake Rodrigues (transfer)

Lost statistics: 50 yards, 1 touchdown, 3-of-6 passing, 1 interception

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesAs long as Marcus Mariota is healthy, Oregon has very few issues at quarterback.
Who’s back in 2014: Redshirt junior Marcus Mariota, redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, redshirt freshman Damion Hobbs, redshirt freshman Taylor Alie, incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak

Statistics of returning players: 3,722 yards, 31 touchdowns, 253-of-399 passing, 5 interceptions

Outlook: As long as Mariota can stay healthy, the Ducks are in a very, very good place with their quarterback play. If all goes to plan, he should be in New York at the end of the regular season as one of the Heisman Trophy finalists.

Where it gets interesting is who would step forward if Mariota gets injured. Rodrigues’ transfer makes it seem as though -- at least in the Rodrigues-Lockie battle -- that Lockie had the upper hand. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Lockie now becomes the go-to No. 2.

Hobbs showed some of his dual-threat weapons in the spring scrimmage, but the local walk-on (Alie) also showed some good potential. And Mahalak -- ranked as the No. 9 QB in the country in the 2014 class -- will enroll this summer. He could push the depth chart order, too.

But, at the end of the day, as long as Mariota is playing and the Ducks find some receivers who will step up and make plays then the quarterback spot is not one to worry about. Mariota was ranked among the top seven in the country last season in several important passing statistics (touchdown-to-interception ratio, first downs per passing attempt, passing yards per attempt), but look for him to jump into the top three in most of those categories this season.

Could we have a Mariota-Jameis Winston Heisman battle on our hands? I for one (and I think I speak for many) wouldn’t be too sad to see that kind of a QB race this season.

Summer Pac-12 power rankings

May, 27, 2014
May 27
While summer is considered the "offseason," we all know there is no offseason. Every Pac-12 team is either gaining -- or losing -- ground right now due to its focus and effort at getting better, both on a team and individual level.

So how do things stand in advance of teams beginning preseason camp?

Glad you asked (and you can view the final 2013 power rankings here).

1. Oregon: I know. We always rank Oregon here, underrating Stanford and its more physical but less sexy style of play. But the return of QB Marcus Mariota and a veteran offensive line is just too tantalizing. The Ducks look like the Pac-12's best bet for an entrant in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

2. UCLA: I know. We're dropping the two-time defending Pac-12 champions to No. 3, underrating Stanford and its more physical but less sexy style of play. But the Pac-12 blog keeps reviewing the Bruins' depth chart and contemplating a trip to Vegas ... 20/1 ... hmm.

3. Stanford: The quandary with Stanford: Was the defensive front seven dominant this spring because it's going to again be among the best in the nation (probably)? Or was it because four new starters on the O-line means a step back on offense (maybe)? Two other issues: 1. Replacing D-coordinator Derek Mason; 2. Can QB Kevin Hogan improve enough on short and intermediate throws to take advantage of a strong crew of receivers?

4. USC: The Trojans enter the final season under NCAA scholarship reductions with a starting 22 good enough to win the Pac-12, but depth and health are issues. There is a lot to like on both sides of the ball, though the offensive line probably rates as the most critical question mark.

5. Arizona State: The defending South champions are going to be tough to stop on offense behind QB Taylor Kelly and WR Jaelen Strong, but replacing nine starters -- and just about all its star power -- on defense is not an issue you can write off with a "Hey, we've got lots of great JC transfers coming in."

6. Washington: The return of QB Cyler Miles from suspension provides a big boost and probably means that the Huskies can be a factor in the North race. The secondary is a concern, and that's not a good concern to have in the QB-laden conference this fall. And there is some mystery as to whether there will be growing pains during the transition to Chris Petersen from Steve Sarkisian.

7. Oregon State: We expect the Beavers defense to be better this fall compared to last season, so the big question is how do the 10 guys on offense complement QB Sean Mannion? The O-line -- again -- is a question, and it's not easy to replace the nation's best receiver. Still, we expect the 2014 Beavers to be better than the 2013 version. Perhaps much better.

8. Washington State: If you are looking for a true conference dark horse, it's the Cougars. There are questions on the O-line and on defense, but the passing game should be outstanding with third-year starter Connor Halliday and a deep, talented crew of receivers. Put it this way: What does this team look like if it improves as much in Mike Leach's third year as it did in Year 2?

9. Arizona: The Wildcats are outstanding at receiver, good on the offensive line and solid at safety. There are questions just about everywhere else, and the strange thing is that quarterback might be the least worrisome. Still, to show how we view the Pac-12's depth again this fall, the Wildcats over/under for wins is seven.

10. Utah: The Utes situation seems fairly simple. If the production at quarterback is consistent, this is a bowl team. The best bet is with a healthy Travis Wilson, though it really is about just starting the same guy all 12 games.

11. Colorado: The Buffaloes should take another step forward in Year 2 under Mike MacIntyre, but the real issue is whom can they crawl over to rise in the conference pecking order? With about six or seven projected senior starters this fall, the Buffs might not make a move up until 2015.

12. California: If the bet were to pick who finishes last in the Pac-12 in 2014, Cal or the field, I'd be reluctant to tap Cal. I'd much rather go with the field because I think the Bears were awful in Year 1 under Sonny Dykes because of an epidemic of injuries and a poorly-coached defense. The latter should be solved by the hiring of coordinator Art Kaufman, and I can't foresee the injury situation being nearly as bad.
A quick thank you to everyone who messaged me asking if we were safe from the fires in San Diego. The Gemmell clan is well. Many thanks.

To the notes!

Ryan in New York writes: Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. My MAIN man Kevin. UCLA vs Texas? C'mon man. That has stinker written all over it. Did you see this year's draft? ZERO Texas players drafted for the first time since leather helmets. New coach, new system, new philosophy, too. And the quarterback situation is an absolute disaster. The Horns are also picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12, too. On paper, the matchup has some appeal, but in reality you're pushing a rock up a hill, unless you're in Westwood, where it's a dream scenario -- you get credit for pushing around a former super power without really being challenged. Though your point about ASU is a good one, but that's another discussion. You're way too smart for this. What gives? Hyping the conference? Enhancing [Brett] Hundley's Heisman profile? An ex-girlfriend a Horns grad? Peace out.

Kevin Gemmell: Ya know, as I was typing out my Take 2 with Chantel, I could almost hear my mailbag dinging with a note from Ryan.

[+] EnlargeBevo
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIs UCLA-Texas a marquee nonconference game? It's tough to steer elsewhere among the Pac-12's other nonconference matchups (other than Michigan State-Oregon, of course).
Here’s the thing about Take 2s ... someone has to go first. And Chantel’s pick of Oregon-Michigan State was the obvious choice for no other reason than it’s the best choice and the best nonconference game.

You can read my explanation on why I picked UCLA-Texas after that one. But sure, we can look at a couple more.

As I noted in the Take 2, I think there’s always intrigue with Notre Dame, which will again play three games against the Pac-12 this season.

Notre Dame went 2-1 against the Pac-12 last season, with USC and Arizona State both stumbling over themselves late in the game, and Notre Dame swept the Pac-12 in 2012 by knocking off Stanford in overtime (see the quick forward progress call) and the Matt Barkley-less Trojans.

Plus, given the controversy that swirled around the Fighting Irish trying to pull out of their date with the Sun Devils in Tempe, I’d imagine that’s a game that will draw a big crowd, and the Irish will catch some guff from the Sun Devils faithful.

Here’s a look at the nonconference games for each team:

  • Arizona: UNLV, @UTSA, Nevada. So Nevada here as the best one?
  • Arizona State: Weber State, @New Mexico, Notre Dame. The aforementioned Notre Dame game has to be the best one (unless you’re dying for a trip to Albuquerque, in which case you can take the "Breaking Bad" tour).
  • California: @Northwestern, Sacramento State, BYU. I’d like to see the Golden Bears pull off a shocker at Northwestern. But for now, let’s just get through Sac State.
  • Colorado: Colorado State (neutral), @Massachusetts, Hawaii. No doubt, it’s the Colorado State game that’s the most important for the Buffs.
  • Oregon: South Dakota, Michigan State, Wyoming. Any questions?
  • Oregon State State: Portland State, @Hawaii, San Diego State. Anyone else remember just how close that game was last year against the Aztecs?
  • Stanford: UC Davis, Army, @Notre Dame. I actually find myself wanting to see San Jose State back on the schedule. Though considering how Stanford’s last game went in South Bend, I think that will be a fun one.
  • UCLA: @Virginia, Memphis, Texas (neutral, sort of). One of these games can bolster UCLA’s national reputation. And it’s not Virginia or Memphis.
  • USC: Fresno State, @Boston College, Notre Dame. The Notre Dame game is obviously a traditional rivalry and I don’t see any issues with the Trojans whopping a Fresno State team (again) that doesn’t have Derek Carr or Davante Adams.
  • Utah: Idaho State, Fresno State, @Michigan. No BYU this year (insert emoticon frowny face). But the game at Michigan should be a good one between a pair of former Mountain West coaches feeling their seats heating up.
  • Washington: @Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, Georgia State. You could start me, Kyle, Ted and Chantel at quarterback in each of those games and Chris Petersen would still start 4-0 in his career at Washington. (Well, maybe not Ted).
  • Washington State: Rutgers, @Nevada, Portland State. It’s doubtful Rutgers or Nevada will make the national championship game like Auburn did last season. Still, the Scarlet Knights were a bowl team last season.

So there you have it. After the Oregon-Michigan State game, which one would you choose? I could see an argument for one of the Notre Dame games or Utah-Michigan. But given the goals and expectations for UCLA this year, I think their matchup with Texas is next in line.

Eric in Woodbridge, Virginia, writes: Kevin, regarding your entry on preventing points after turnovers, North Division: I distinctly remember Stanford giving up a touchdown to Oregon on a blocked field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Did you leave it out because it was a special teams play? Thanks, keep up the great work.

Kevin Gemmell: You are correct. Rodney Hardrick did block a field goal attempt and return it 65 yards for a touchdown. But I did not include it because it doesn’t count as a turnover in the “traditional” statistical sense -- which only takes into account fumbles and interceptions. Same for safeties.

Speaking of safeties, I came across an example in the Cal-Washington State game where a safety followed a turnover. With third-and-1 at the WSU 1-yard line, Kalafitoni Pole forced and recovered a Brendan Bigelow fumble. On the next play, Teondray Caldwell was tackled in the end zone by Deandre Coleman for a safety.

That’s a situation in which WSU didn’t give up a touchdown, so good for them for making a goal-line stand. But they still yielded points by failing to capitalize on a turnover and giving up a safety.

That’s an example where WSU gets dinged in my stats for not scoring off a turnover. But in the grand scheme of things, they still only gave up two points, as opposed to seven had Bigelow scored. (Technically, I guess you could call it five points, as Cal scored a field goal after the safety kickoff).

So stats and raw numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

So if you look at the box score for that Stanford-Oregon game, the Ducks are dinged with two turnovers (both fumbles that Stanford turned into field goals) and zero Stanford turnovers.

If you want to go by the letter of the rule, which I did, then Stanford didn’t allow a touchdown following a turnover all season. If you want to go with the spirit of the rule, you’d be right. In either event, be it one touchdown or zero touchdowns allowed, it’s still an impressive number.

Jim in Phoenix writes: The video on Brett Hundley as Campus Enforcer was pretty lame, and a half (fannied) rip off of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.

Kevin Gemmell: I can’t link the Tate video because there is some non-blog-appropriate language. You’re free to Google it and have a laugh.

I also thought of the Tate video, but I thought this one was still funny. Perhaps it was a college student paying homage to the Tate video. Or maybe it was a couple of guys having fun for a spring talent show. Either way, it’s the offseason and it was good for a chuckle. If you don’t like it, it cost three minutes of your life and I’m sure you can successfully move on and put it behind you.

Chilly in Sacramento writes: Thanks for your good work. I just sent a message to Ted and wanted to include you, too, but I messed up the copy and paste ... so I'll make this quick. Check out this web article on the most delusional fan bases in college sports. (This was linked in SI.com's Extra Mustard today.) I think a fun exercise for this horrid time of year for football fans would be to rank the Pac-12's most delusional football fan bases. Since you guys get more than your share of emails from biased Pac-12 fans, you would be the best people to evaluate. I think measuring a delusional fan base would involve some kind of balance between subjective impression of your team (expectations of immediate and long-term success and view of status of your team as a college football "power" or "elite" or place in the spectrum) vs. objective measures (current and historical success). If you have done something like this on the blog before, I am sorry I missed it. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: So what Chilly is basically asking me to do is light an offseason fire and then smother it with gun powder to try to put it out.

Not going to fall for it, my friend.

Ranking fanbases, while fun, is as futile as most preseason rankings. Every group has that fanatic (where the word "fan" derives from, not ironically) who refuses to listen to reason. No matter what logic you throw at him or her, they'll still come back with a lot of "Yeah, but stills..." and "Maybe, buts...". Conversely, every fanbase has that clear-headed thinker who can separate fact from fanaticism. And the rest of every other fanbase falls within the bell curve.

[+] EnlargeAutzen Stadium
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsOregon fans have had a lot to cheer about in recent years.
Some are more vocal than others, sure. Oregon fans do quite a bit of chest-thumping. And it’s deserved so long as they keep winning 12-13 games a year or there is a poll involving them. Most Washington fans will always believe this is their year. To which I say, right on.

ASU and UCLA fans have resurfaced the last couple of seasons, and with good reason. There will always be Utah and Oregon State fans calling for their coach’s head. And there will always be Colorado fans who are convinced a zero-win season is just around the corner. Washington State fans are also making a bit of a comeback ... led by the always-opinionated Cougar Brian.

The occasional Stanford fan will loathe David Shaw no matter what he calls in certain situations. Most will golf clap their team's success and continue to embrace #nerdnation.

USC fans will always pipe in when we've written too many UCLA articles (cough, Ryan in New York). Arizona fans came out of the woodwork after the Oregon win, and then right back in after losing to ASU for the second consecutive season.

Cal fans have been quiet lately.

But that’s the beauty of this time of year. You can go down the schedule and check off wins and losses. Right about now, most Cal, Utah and Colorado fans are looking at their schedules and thinking, “Yeah, I think there are six wins out there to get to a bowl game.” And there might be.

But I’m sure last offseason almost every Stanford fan had Utah checked off as a win (though Jon Wilner continues to remind me that he picked the Utes to win that game in the preseason, to which I continue to say "bravo") and almost every Arizona fan had Oregon checked as a loss.

If ever there was a time to be delusional about your team and get your hopes up, this would be it. So I say have some fun with it and dream big.

Pac-12's lunch links

May, 23, 2014
May 23
Happy Friday!
This week on the Oregon blog we took a look at five players (or rather, four players and one position group) who stood out through spring practices for the Ducks.

The group contained two defensive nods and three offensive nods. There was one no-brainer (quarterback Marcus Mariota) and a few backups from 2013 who could make huge impacts in 2014. And the most important standout this spring was the defensive line -- which got the nod as an entire position group after looking much improved in the Ducks' spring scrimmage.

Check out all five Oregon spring standouts here:

No. 5: WR Devon Allen
No. 4: S Erick Dargan
No. 3: QB Marcus Mariota
No. 2: RB Thomas Tyner
No. 1: The defensive line
Over the last two weeks we’ve been taking a look at some players who had big springs for their respective teams. Some are upperclassmen finally coming into their own, some are younger guys taking advantage of open spots on the depth chart, while others are leap frogging some older players and making a name for themselves. Regardless, there were plenty of impressive performances in the Pac-12 this spring. All of these players are going to play a big part for their teams this fall, but which player do you think will be the most crucial to his team’s success in 2014? Rank them 1-12 here.

Here’s a breakdown of the players we’ve profiled over the past two weeks:

Arizona: WR Cayleb Jones -- The Wildcats might have the deepest wide receiver group in the entire conference, but could a Texas transfer become the most important one of the bunch? With a year spent studying the offense and learning from the sideline, Jones could be a major factor.

Arizona State: LB D.J. Calhoun -- The early enrollee ended the spring listed as a starter with Antonio Longino at the weakside linebacker position. With the Sun Devils trying to replace three starting linebackers, could Calhoun become a significant contributor as a true freshman? Seems likely.

Cal: RB Daniel Lasco -- Lasco found himself taking some extra reps this spring as Khalfani Muhammad (last season’s leading rusher) split time between the Cal track and football teams this spring. During his career he has been slowed by injury, but now that he’s finally healthy and taking more reps, could he battle Muhammad for the lead spot this fall?

Colorado: WR Bryce Bobo -- Colorado fans should feel encouraged by Bobo’s spring game performance (five catches, 132 yards) as they head into the summer wondering who can replace Paul Richardson's yardage. It’s highly unlikely that it’ll be one single player, but could Bobo carry a large part of it?

Oregon: WR Devon Allen -- When he wasn’t running for the Oregon track team this spring he was running circles around some Ducks defensive backs. The redshirt freshman could prove to be a huge player for Oregon as they look to replace last season’s top-three receivers as well as injured Bralon Addison’s production.

Oregon State: WR Victor Bolden -- Could Bolden be a possible replacement for some of the yardage lost by Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks? He has seen most of his time on special teams, but could step up as a big contributor in the fall as QB Sean Mannion looks to have another very big season for the Beavers.

Stanford: DL Aziz Shittu -- The sophomore, who can play every spot on the defensive line for the Cardinal, has received high praise this spring. Coach David Shaw said Shittu was, “probably the player of spring for us.” If it’s good enough for Shaw, is that good enough for you?

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsHow will USC wideout Nelson Agholor follow up his stellar 2013 season and excellent spring?
UCLA: CB Fabian Moreau -- He was a big contributor to the Bruins last season but during this spring season Moreau became a better leader for UCLA. Coach Jim Mora has given Moreau high praise and if the Bruins are able to take the South Division title next season, a bit part could be because of the breakout year Moreau could have.

USC: WR Nelson Agholor -- Chances are if you’re a USC fan, you know who Agholor is. If you’re not -- then he was the guy who played opposite Marqise Lee. But this spring Agholor took the steps to go from good WR to great WR, and next fall, the fruits of his labor could be on display for the entire conference to see.

Utah: RB Devontae Booker -- Booker is right on the heels of RB Bubba Poole, as displayed by his spring game performance (2 touchdowns, 19 carries, 103 yards). But between Booker, Poole and Troy McCormick, the Utes could have a three-headed monster at running back that Pac-12 teams would not enjoy having to face.

Washington: LB/RB Shaq Thompson -- He was the second-leading tackler for the Huskies last season so it wasn’t a defensive breakout spring for him. But considering he started getting offensive reps, it was a breakout spring for him as a running back. UW needs to replace Bishop Sankey’s yardage, could Thompson’s spring give him a jump start to do so?

Washington State: WR Vince Mayle -- The converted running back had a big spring for the Cougars. This spring Mayle got close to becoming quarterback Connor Halliday’s safety net. Considering Halliday threw for more than 4,500 yards last season, being his safety net would mean major, major yardage next fall.
On Thursday, the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class was announced. Unsurprisingly, the Pac-12 was well represented among the 2014 honorees.

Of the 14 players selected, three were Pac-12 alumni: former USC offensive tackle Tony Boselli, former Stanford running back Darrin Nelson and former UCLA quarterback John Sciarra.

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was one of the two coaches selected for the honor. The other was former Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore.

The 16-man class will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 9 at the 57th National Football Foundation annual awards dinner in New York City.

College Football Hall of Fame Class, 2014
DB Dre Bly, UNC
OT Tony Boselli, USC
OT Dave Butz, Purdue
LB Shane Conlan, Penn State
QB Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech
RB Darrin Nelson, Stanford
OT Willie Roaf, Louisiana Tech
QB John Sciarra, UCLA
WR Sterling Sharpe, South Carolina
LB Derrick Thomas, Alabama
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU
TE Wesley Walls, Ole Miss
Mike Bellotti, Oregon coach
Jerry Moore, Appalachian State coach
The spring season for Oregon was relatively un-newsworthy. And when it comes to spring football, un-newsworthy is a good thing. With the exception of the Bralon Addison injury, the Ducks had 15 uneventful practices. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t standouts.

This week we’ve taken a look at five standouts from spring practices.

No. 1: The defensive line

It’s hard to pick just one player on the defensive line considering, as a whole, it looked so improved in the spring game. We couldn't just give the No. 1 spot to only Arik Armstead or only DeForest Buckner or only Tui Talia or only Stetzon Bair when all of them (and others, too) looked much more complete (as players and as a position group as a whole) in May than they did last October and November.

This might be the most important improvement of the spring considering how the line struggled with stopping the run last fall. If this group continues to improve this summer like it has since the end of the 2013 season, then the defensive line that takes the field this fall will be much more capable of competing in the Pac-12.

It’ll also help that most of the best rushers in the conference from last season are gone, either to the NFL or graduation. However, don’t overlook Week 2 opponent Michigan State, which comes in with Jeremy Langford. The importance of this game cannot be overstated. The Ducks will need to have their game together when the Spartans come to town because a loss to MSU, which will use its run game to open up passing lanes for QB Connor Cook, could keep the Ducks out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Other spring standouts:


Mel Kiper's Big Board
Mel Kiper Jr. discusses his inaugural Big Board for the 2015 NFL draft.