Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
USC's impact visitor list, Stanford's statement in the Evergreen State, UCLA's major opportunity and a sophomore quarterback at his best under the bright lights are a few of the highlights from the recruiting weekend in the Pac-12 conference.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze, and I just want you back by my side.

Leading off

It's time to take our weekly stroll through The Eliminator. Not that one. This one. (But kudos to you if you know the reference).

The good news is, no Pac-12 teams were officially "eliminated" this week, per our Mark Schlabach. But a few teams were relegated to the "on the fence" category. One-loss Stanford and USC were already dangling. This week they are joined by Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah and Washington -- all who dropped their first games of the season over the weekend.

Here's Schlabach's take on the Huskies:
After trailing Georgia State by 14 points at home two weeks ago and then mustering little offense in a 20-13 loss to Stanford on Saturday, we're guessing the Huskies won't be occupying this spot for very long. Washington coach Chris Petersen was so desperate to generate some sort of offense against the Cardinal that he tried a fake punt on fourth-and-9 at his team's 47-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. It was stuffed for no gain, and Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan ran for the go-ahead touchdown five plays later.

Three Pac-12 teams officially remain in contention. That's Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. Of course, one of those teams won't be undefeated by the time Friday morning rolls around. The Ducks and Wildcats are set to square off Thursday night in Eugene.

More playoff projections

If you believe Yahoo's Pat Forde, then we're finally going to get to see the matchup we've dreamed about for years in the College Football Playoff: Oregon vs. Alabama. Forde projects the Ducks as the No. 2 seed and Alabama as No. 3 team. His take on the Ducks:
Oregon has won six straight Pac-12 home openers, and none of them has been close. Average score in routs of California (2013), Arizona (2012), Cal (2011), Stanford (2010), Cal (2009), and Washington (2008): 46-13. And three of those opponents were ranked at the time. Next: Sorry, Arizona, you’re the opening Pac-12 cannon fodder in Autzen Stadium on Thursday night.
Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports has the Ducks as the No. 3 seed facing No. 2 Auburn. There's also some good stuff on Notre Dame-Stanford.

Tune in

Yours truly joined Bill Riley and Sean O'Connell on ESPN700 in Salt Lake City yesterday if you're aching for some pod.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

It's been a long, long time since we've seen a Cal locker room celebration. This was awesome.

Warning: Bold Week 6 Pac-12 declarations

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
Declarative sentences are dangerous heading into Week 6 of a college football season. History has taught us most things that appear ready to be tied neatly with a bow end up torn to shreds. But danger is the Pac-12 blog's middle name. (We just thought "Pac-12 Danger Blog" might scare some folks away and damage advertising revenue).


Oregon's visit to UCLA on Oct. 11 will be what we thought it would be in August

Sure, both/either the Bruins and Ducks could fall this week at home, going down to Utah and/or Arizona, and we'd pin that on the proverbial "look ahead." But the expectation is that won't happen. The Utes lost some gusto while surrendering a 21-0 lead at home to Washington State, and Arizona is more than a three-touchdown underdog in Autzen Stadium.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota, Devon Allen
AP Photo/Dean HareMarcus Mariota and Oregon will try to avoid a letdown this week against Arizona.
While neither the Bruins nor Ducks have been consistently impressive, they have produced the loudest national statements in the conference thus far. UCLA posted a dominant road win at Arizona State, while Oregon overwhelmed Michigan State in the second half.

What's most notable about the Ducks-UCLA matchup is its potential for a rematch in the Pac-12 championship game, as both appear to be front-runners in their respective divisions. Not to look too far ahead, which we are clearly doing, but that could create a quandary for the College Football Playoff. It certainly would make it more difficult to get two Pac-12 teams into the playoff.

Of course, if both arrive at the game -- and that's obviously no guarantee at this early juncture -- with multiple losses, the issue is moot. But play out the various scenarios of zero, one and two losses for each in your head. What if they split close games? What if, say, Oregon is the nation's only unbeaten team but UCLA's only defeats are close losses to the Ducks?

It could get complicated. Good thing we can call such speculation "way premature" in order to avoid taxing our brains with the myriad possibilities.

The Pac-12 needs Stanford to beat Notre Dame

If Stanford wins at Notre Dame, the Cardinal will likely jump into or at least be very close to the Top 10, which could give the Pac-12 three Top 10 teams heading into Week 7. If the Cardinal lose, it will become a big hit for them and the Pac-12 as a whole.

While the Pac-12 is widely viewed as the nation's No. 2 conference, probably by a wide margin, and its 22-4 record versus FBS foes is impressive, there already have been substantial damaging defeats.

Most obviously, whatever USC accomplishes this year will be diminished by the loss at Boston College. If the Trojans had lost amid a flurry of turnovers and miscues, that's one thing. The problem is that defeat was all about getting whipped at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That rates as a physical issue, which is a very football-y thing.

Washington State's losses to Rutgers and Nevada also will hurt because the Pac-12 blog suspects the Cougars are going to give a lot of conference teams trouble this season, witness the so-close performance against Oregon and the huge comeback win at Utah. The Cougs are a solid team, much better than they showed against the Scarlet Knights and Nevada, which by the way are a combined 7-2. But that won't prevent pundits and rival fans from using the transitive property against the Pac-12 when the Cougs notch an upset or two.

Yet if Stanford beats Notre Dame and surges into its Nov. 1 date at Oregon with just one defeat, the Pac-12 might produce a second Top-10 matchup in less than a month. That's the sort of thing the SEC does, which inspires all that media gushing that so annoys many of you fine people.

Bottom line: A road win over No. 9 Notre Dame would provide a significant perception boost and a loss would do the same in a negative direction.

The middle stepped back instead of forward

Washington and Oregon State could have made big statements on Saturday. They didn't. Therefore that velvet rope that has separated both from the North Division VIP room, uncomfortably shared by Oregon and Stanford, is still there, still manned by a couple of beefy security guys.

You probably could say the same for Utah, which looked like a potential South contender before it completely collapsed against the Cougars. The jury is still out on Arizona State, which is dealing with an injury to QB Taylor Kelly and a not-ready-for-prime time defense. We'll see where Arizona stands Thursday at Oregon.

Despite many unanswered questions, the overall feeling about the challenging middle of the Pac-12 feels different than it did in August or even a few weeks ago. It doesn't appear as rugged. There seems to be some separation between Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and -- perhaps -- USC and the rest of the conference, though the Trojans could topple if they lose at home to the Sun Devils on Saturday.

Washington was a preseason Top 25 team, and Oregon State and Utah looked like threats to advance into the rankings. No longer. At least not at this point.

That is not to say teams can't get healthy, solve issues or simply grow up and then go on a run. In fact, it's reasonable to suspect that among the gaggle of Arizona, Utah, Washington and Oregon State, at least one will end the season in the Top 25.

At this point, however, there's little to suggest we will have an unexpected interloper breaking through in either division, challenging the consensus preseason favorites.
When Arizona took down Oregon last season, it was considered one of the biggest upsets of the year. The Ducks had everything on lock and had seemingly "learned their lesson" two weeks prior, before handing it all away on the road against a 6-4 team.

This Thursday, Oregon will have the chance to see Arizona again, a year removed from one of the biggest blemishes of the Ducks' recent history. Which got us thinking about other big conference upsets -- how did teams respond in those matchups the following season? Well, we’ve got you covered with four different examples.

2007: Stanford 24-No. 2 USC 23

[+] EnlargePete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh
AP Photo/Matt SaylesWhen Jim Harbaugh, right, led Stanford to an upset of Pete Carroll's USC team in 2007, the rivalry heated up. It led to a memorable confrontation after the 2009 game, shown above.
Stanford scored 17 fourth-quarter points, giving the 41-point underdog Cardinal a huge win at USC. It stopped several of the Trojans’ win streaks including five straight against Stanford, 35 straight at home and 24 straight conference home wins.

And in 2008 ... No. 6 USC 45-Stanford 23

No. 6 USC played a rough first half and entered halftime tied at 17 with unranked Stanford. But a strong second half propelled USC to a 45-23 win. From the AP write up: "From the highlights of the game played on the video board during warm-ups, to the "Greatest Upset Ever" T-shirts worn by many fans in the crowd, to the Stanford band spelling out the score of last year's game at halftime, the Cardinal did their best to extend the memory.”

2003: No. 13 Kansas State 35-No. 1 Oklahoma 7

Kansas State put up 519 yards of offense against the vaunted Oklahoma defense, giving the Sooners their first loss of the 2003 season (though, they would still go on to play in the BCS Championship, where they endured their second loss of the season, against No. 2 LSU).

And in 2004 ... No. 2 Oklahoma 31-Kansas State 21

The Sooners, like USC in 2004, started slow against the team that had upset it the previous season. Oklahoma had 60 penalty yards midway through the second quarter and started the game with two three-and-outs. But a strong second half -- Adrian Petersen rushed for 104 yards -- propelled the Sooners to the win.

1998: NC State 24-No. 2 Florida State 7

NC State was a 25-point underdog, but managed to make the Seminoles look like the one that was far overmatched. Florida State was riding a 47-1 ACC record heading into this game, but when your quarterback throws six interceptions, it’s pretty hard to win.

And in 1999 ... No. 1 Florida State 42-NC State 11

This year it was the NC State quarterback who struggled, throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles en route to a 31-point loss. Two of those turnovers resulted in FSU touchdowns, and the FSU kicker made five field goals -- so it wasn’t exactly an impressive performance for the FSU offense, but overall, the Seminoles managed to avenge their upset from the previous season.

1985: Oregon State 21-Washington 20

Oregon State came into this game after being shut out offensively in the two previous games and was a 38-point underdog against the Huskies. With just under four minutes left and the Beavers trailing by six, Oregon State failed to convert a fourth down at its 11 yard line. But minutes later a blocked punt turned into a defensive score and the extra point gave the Beavers the edge they needed for the win.

And in 1986 ... No. 13 Washington 28-Oregon State 12

The Beavers had already lost three games to ranked opponents in 1986 (by a collective score of 103-24) when the Huskies visited Corvallis. They were overmatched for against their fourth top-25 team of the season and ended up with a 16-point home loss to the team they had shocked the year before.

Pac-12 Live: Week 6

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
Join ESPN.com Pac-12 reporters Kyle Bonagura, Kevin Gemmell and Chantel Jennings at 4 p.m. ET as they review Week 5 in the conference and look ahead to the games this week, including Arizona vs. Oregon on Thursday. Don't forget that you can also ask the experts your Pac-12 questions live on the show.
"This was supposed to be a boring college football weekend," our own Ted Miller tweeted. "But of course, 'Boring College Football Weekend' is the unicorn of sports."

Those simply don’t exist, especially in the modern inception of the Pac-12, where substantial conference depth has translated into frequent drama. USC manhandled Oregon State to finish this past Saturday’s action, but before that, only eight total points separated the three earlier games at the end of regulation.

Though there wasn't much hype entering Week 5, it ultimately blossomed into a fantastic Saturday of down-to-the-wire finishes. That means the sky’s the limit for Week 6, which features a truly robust six-game slate. Let's set the table.

Game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications: Stanford at Notre Dame

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsCoach David Shaw and Stanford face a crucial test against Notre Dame.
Bad news: Stanford’s Week 2 home loss to USC immediately erased much, if not all, of the Cardinal’s margin for error in the quest for a College Football Playoff berth. Good news: Saturday’s 20-13 road suffocation of Washington made it readily apparent that David Shaw’s program can still make up lost ground. The cold-blooded Cardinal defense that has made a name for itself stifling explosive Pac-12 offenses hasn't gone anywhere, and now it's returning to South Bend looking to purge controversial 2012 memories of Stepfan Taylor struggling at the goal line in overtime.

Stanford is in the midst of what is widely considered to be the toughest two-game stretch of its schedule. A win Saturday means a road sweep of the only two trips that derailed the Cardinal when they faced a similar slate in 2012, so there is obviously a lot of stake entering this classic showdown (heck, in 2012, this game ultimately determined a spot in the national title game). One juicy battle is already set, and it pits Stanford's top-ranked pass defense (which has allowed only a single 100-yard passer in four games) against vastly improved Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (25 straight completions against Syracuse). The Cardinal defense is giving up only 4.7 points per game.

Team with the most to prove: Utah (at UCLA)

Coming off a muscle-flexing win in the Big House, Utah was enjoying life on cruise control against Washington State. The Utes jumped out to a 21-0 lead in front of their raucous home crowd, and the stars seemed to be aligning for a Week 6 Pac-12 South showdown between the undefeated Block U and fellow unbeaten No. 8 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Not so fast, shouted Mike Leach's crew.

Wazzu roared back late, overcoming a fourth-and-14 paired and a 27-14 deficit in the final quarter to win 28-27. And, just like that, Utah had returned from its big early season splash to the dreaded land of questions.

Was the Utes' early season offense really that good, or was it just picking on very shoddy Idaho State and Fresno State defenses? After winning just two road games in two seasons prior, did Utah's victory at The Big House actually signify a turnaround, or was Michigan just a corpse of a football team?

Utah will enter the Rose Bowl with a chance to push aside the Wazzu loss and prove its impressive start was no fluke. The Bruins are bubbling with confidence after hanging 62 points on Arizona State, so this is a true litmus test for the Utes.

Most desperate team: Colorado (vs. Oregon State)

There is no pleasant way to lose in double overtime, but the Buffs took an especially gut-wrenching route in Strawberry Canyon. First, they blew an early 21-7 lead. Then, they wasted a sensational late Bryce Bobo touchdown catch that forced extra time in the first place. And in a game dominated by a severe lack of effective defense -- Cal and Colorado became the first teams in FBS history to both throw seven touchdown passes in one game -- the Buffs were, ironically enough, ultimately denied by the Bears’ defense in a second overtime goal-line stand.

Colorado is now 2-3, but most sobering is the fact that this 59-56 loss dropped them to 4-25 in Pac-12 play since entering the conference in 2011. Oregon State visits Boulder next weekend after mustering only 181 yards of total offense in a disheartening 35-10 loss at USC.

A glance at the Colorado schedule calls for intense urgency now: At least on paper, this coming contest against the Beavers looks like the Buffs' best chance to rack up another win this season. The Los Angeles schools loom after the bye, and there is also a trip to Autzen Stadium waiting in late November.

Diamond in the rough game: California at Washington State

Consider the dazzling offensive display that Cal and Colorado flashed this past Saturday: the aforementioned 14 touchdown passes (tying an FBS record) and the 913 passing yards. Then consider the mind-boggling numbers that Washington State quarterback Conor Halliday is on pace to post this season: After Saturday's 417-yard performance, he has a nation-best 2,318 yards and 20 touchdown passes in just five games. Assuming Washington State makes a bowl game, Halliday is on pace to become the first college quarterback to surpass 6,000 passing yards in a single season.

So if anyone is familiar with the results of mixing gasoline and fire, this game might be the football equivalent. It features two high-scoring offenses coming off confidence-building wins, a pair of shaky defenses, and two coaches hungry to capitalize on an opportunity to make a valuable dent in the Pac-12 standings. Though Leach has a chance to return to .500, Cal's Sonny Dykes can move to 4-1 as his team nears the meat of its schedule.

The true hidden intrigue here might come from Wazzu's defense, which tightened the screws down the stretch at Utah. How will the Cougars fare against explosive Cal youngster Jared Goff?

The week’s top chance at vengeance: Oregon (vs. Arizona)

The spotlight almost always focuses on Oregon’s loss to Stanford last season, but it’s important to remember that it was the Ducks’ later stumble at Arizona Stadium that ultimately derailed the team’s BCS train and rerouted it to the Alamo Bowl. After the Cardinal’s 2013 loss to USC, Oregon had a golden opportunity to again smell Roses, but the Wildcats quashed those by administering a humiliating 42-16 beatdown in the desert.

The Ducks say that catastrophe has helped them develop valuable perspective when it comes to preparation, and Thursday night's rematch offers a chance for Oregon to put November 23, 2013 in the past.

Remember that this is a showdown between undefeated teams. Arizona is still buzzing after Austin Hill snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with his Hail Mary catch against Cal. The Wildcats have proven they can score in bunches season, but keeping pace with the Ducks in that regard presents an entirely unique challenge.

This week's top chance at redemption: ASU (at USC)

One can be sure that Arizona State players and coaches will wince more than a few times this week. They will be watching film from their brutal 62-27 home loss to UCLA, a game highlighted by the Sun Devils' atrocious tackling against Brett Hundley and the Bruins' potent offense.

A trip to the Coliseum always offers a shot at redemption, but No. 16 USC is coming into this game bristling with confidence after smacking Oregon State, 35-10. The Trojans performed exponentially better defensively against the Beavers than they did in their previous game at Boston College, but ASU -- fresh off a 622-yard performance against UCLA -- will provide a new challenge for USC, even if quarterback Taylor Kelly (questionable) is not yet ready to return from injury.

Saturday offers two potential outcomes for these teams: ASU will either re-emerge in the Pac-12 South race following that ugly loss to the Bruins, or USC will further entrench itself alongside its crosstown rival as one of the firm leaders of that division.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
Well, that was interesting.

Remember how we talked about Utah-Washington State being a swing game? If the Cougars can somehow rally to find four more wins and the Utes can't find three, we're going to look back at the Cougs' 28-27 come-from-behind win as a tipping point.

The same could be said for Cal, which pulled off a double-overtime win against a feisty Colorado team to pick up win No. 3.

Let's begin with the Utes, who once again started hot in nonconference play, only to see things fall apart once league competition started. Can't blame this one on injured quarterbacks, because Utah had two opportunities in the fourth quarter with its starter to make something happen. The Pac-12 blog still thinks there are three wins out there for Utah. Of its eight remaining games, three of them are against unranked teams. The rub is that all three are on the road.

Cal also has five ranked teams still on the schedule, and the three remaining against unranked teams -- Washington State, Washington and Oregon State -- are critical. Two of the three are on the road. We're adding Cal to the projections this week. We like its moxie.

As for the Beavers, boy, that offense didn't look good. Given OSU's three unimpressive wins and one very bad loss, we're going to drop them from the projections for now, but as always reserve the right to change our minds.

We're down to just three undefeated teams left: Oregon, Arizona and UCLA. And 10 teams are either halfway to a bowl game or beyond.

Here are the latest projections. As always, salt heavily.

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: UCLA
Valero Alamo Bowl: Stanford
National University Holiday Bowl: USC
San Francisco Bowl: Arizona
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Washington
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State
Cactus Bowl: Utah
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: California

* at large

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.

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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.


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