Oregon Ducks: Connor Wood

Pac-12 lunch links: Players on mend

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
2:30
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There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic, universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.

Pac-12 predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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Kevin Gemmell went 7-0 last week and improved to a scintillating 33-3. Ted Miller went 6-1, missing with his Holy War pick, a selection he made only to put the stink on BYU. But Utah fans shouldn't send any more checks his way.

Miller therefore fell to 31-5. Gemmel; is already making plans for the $1 million he gets if he wins the season.

All games are Saturday.

Arizona at Washington

Gemmell: Not sure what to make of Arizona yet. It hasn’t been pressed, and the passing game is still a question mark. Taking on a Washington team that has been pushed -- and is at home -- seems like a lot to overcome. And I wouldn’t worry about Washington looking over the horizon to the Stanford game next week. It'll be focused on revenge after what happened last year in Tucson. Washington 38, Arizona 24.

Miller: The Wildcats have had two weeks to prepare, but a team can't really prepare for an atmosphere like Husky Stadium. While Wildcats QB B.J. Denker has played in road games, this will be a new level of extreme. The real issue is how effective Denker is throwing the football. If the Wildcats can achieve efficient balance, the holes will be bigger for RB Ka'Deem Carey. It also will be interesting to see how the Wildcats newly stout defense holds up against the Huskies' highly rated offense. Washington 35, Arizona 20.

USC at Arizona State

Gemmell: Plenty of great sidebars and storylines in this must-win game for both teams. The Sun Devils are holding on to whatever national credibility they have by a thread. USC is riding the coattails of its defense. If Arizona State can put together 60 minutes instead of 15, I think it wins by a couple of touchdowns. If it doesn't, it could be tight. ASU 24, USC 21.

Miller: We know USC's defense is good. Do we yet know if the Trojans' offense is going to be this bad all season? The first question is whether Trojans QB Cody Kessler's throwing hand is 100 percent. The passing game went south against Utah State last weekend after he got hurt. And what will Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly be able to do against that tough USC defense? Arizona State 21, USC 17.

Colorado at Oregon State

Gemmell: Much like Arizona, I’m waiting to see what Colorado is really made of. I love the start, and everyone feels good about the Buffaloes being 2-0. But Oregon State’s passing game has been wickedly efficient and the Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks connection is one of the best in the country. The Buffs will score points, but before I start picking them in a league game on the road, I need to see just how much they’ve grown up. The two weeks off is also a wrench in predictions. They could be super rested, or super rusty. Oregon State 48, Colorado 38.

Miller: Colorado is a better team than it was in 2012, we know that. But being better and being ready to win on the road in the Pac-12 are two different things. I want to see what Buffs QB Connor Wood and WR Paul Richardson can do against a suspect Beavers defense. Oregon State 40, Colorado 28.

California at Oregon

Gemmell: Another step in the maturation of Jared Goff. Being down defensively isn’t where you want to be when playing Oregon -- especially on the road. No reason why the Ducks don’t keep things rolling. Oregon 49, Cal 21.

Miller: Both teams were off last weekend, and Cal needed a break. But Autzen Stadium isn't a place to go to heal a season. I think this one might get a bit lopsided. Oregon 50, California 20.

Stanford vs. Washington State (in Seattle)

Gemmell: Will be interesting to see how the Cougars attack Stanford early with Ed Reynolds out for the first half. I'm guessing they go at the heart of the Stanford secondary because running against the Cardinal will be a chore. Turnovers have been Washington State’s Achilles Heel (11 total, minus-3 ratio, worst in the league). Stanford will do what Stanford does. And what Stanford does should be more than enough. Stanford 31, Washington State 17.

Miller: Stanford will be missing All-American OG David Yankey, too, so the Cougs' front-seven will be catching a break. No guard in the country is better at pulling, so that hits the Cardinal's bread-and-butter. But Stanford figures to take this one seriously because the Cougars gave them trouble last year, is an obviously improved team and the Cardinal turned in a woeful fourth quarter last weekend against Arizona State. Stanford 35, Washington State 22.

Most to prove in the Pac-12

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
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Across the ESPN blogosphere on Wednesday, we’re looking at players/coaches/position groups with something to prove in each conference. In the Pac-12, the answers should be fairly obvious. Here are 10 from the league in no particular order.

1. Lane Kiffin: OK, maybe this one is in particular order. USC’s head coach is on the hottest seat in America after a disastrous 2012. There were embarrassments for the program on and off the field. That has led to plenty of speculation about what he needs to do to keep his job. Win 10 games? Nine? Win nine and beat UCLA or Notre Dame? Or both? This is a storyline that will no doubt carry deep into the season.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian
James Snook/US PresswireLane Kiffin isn't the only Pac-12 coach feeling growing pressure for a successful season.
2. Steve Sarkisian: His seat isn’t as hot as Kiffin’s. But the heat index has certainly risen in the wake of another seven-win season. The Huskies have a lot of returning talent – including a quarterback with potential, a healthy offensive line, an outstanding running back and receivers (including TE), and a fairly veteran defensive core. The pieces are in place for Washington to, at the very least, get over the seven-win hump. Seven wins or fewer will be met with harsh criticism and questions about whether Sarkisian is the right guy for the job.

3. Oregon’s linebackers: This appears to be the only question mark for the Ducks, at least on paper, because they have a solid front and an outstanding secondary. Losing Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan is a big hit in terms of production, talent and leadership. Boseko Lokombo is a veteran presence, and Tony Washington, Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick have all been in the system for a few years. If they can match the production of their predecessors, the Ducks should be fine defensively.

4. Stanford’s wide receivers: Ty Montgomery headlines this list. At the end of 2011, he showed explosive playmaking ability and his future looked sparkling. But injuries slowed him in 2012. With the Cardinal doing some overhauling after losing their top two tight ends, the receiver spot will likely take on more emphasis in 2013. Players such as Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector and Kelsey Young will need to be productive as well.

5. Paul Richardson: The Colorado receiver missed all of last season with a knee injury and had to sit and watch his team fall apart around him. The Buffaloes went 1-11 and their coach was fired. A new coach, a new offense and a new enthusiasm in Boulder is motivating Richardson to make up for lost time. He is Colorado’s most explosive player and knows he has the potential, and responsibility, to carry the offense. Now he just has to go out and prove he can do it.

6. Oregon State’s receivers: We know what we’re getting with Brandin Cooks. He proved last season that he's an outstanding player. How much of that, however, was a product of the guy across the field, Markus Wheaton? With Wheaton gone, either Richard Mullaney or Obum Gwacham will have to step up as a complementary threat to Cooks -- along with Kevin Cummings in the slot.

7. QBs, old and new: Not all the quarterback competitions are completed. But whoever wins the job at Arizona and USC will likely be looking over his shoulder for the bulk of the season. Connor Wood is back in the starting role for Colorado, true freshman Jared Goff gets the start for Cal, and Sean Mannion finally won Oregon State's job after a grueling seven-month competition with Cody Vaz. Nothing is set in stone at Washington State, so Connor Halliday will need consistent play to hold the job (we’re assuming, for now, that it’s Halliday). Expect these players to be under the microscope all season.

8. UCLA’s running backs: There are big shoes to fill with the departure of running back Johnathan Franklin, the school’s all-time leading rusher and a Doak Walker finalist last year. Jim Mora has said that he’ll likely use five backs throughout the season. Jordon James is the front-runner of the committee and has the best opportunity to distance himself. But expect Paul Perkins, Malcolm Jones, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen (health pending) to all fight for time and carries.

9. Utah’s secondary: It’s not necessarily young. Just inexperienced. And in a pass-happy league, that could spell trouble. Free safety Eric Rowe has the most playing time among the group. Cornerback Davion Orphey is a juco transfer and opposite him is Keith McGill, a former safety and juco transfer who appeared in five games in 2011 but suffered a season-ending injury and then missed all of 2012. There is talent there. It’s just mostly untested.

10. Arizona State: Yep, the whole team. This is what you wanted, ASU fans … for the sleeping giant to be awoken. The alarm clock just went off. Now it’s time to prove all the hype is worth it. A challenging schedule early -- including Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks -- will be a good measuring stick. Though the USC game is really the one that has South title implications. Still, the other three will go a long way toward determining how ASU is viewed nationally. Going 1-3 and beating USC wouldn’t be disastrous. Going 0-4 will draw the requisite “same old ASU” criticisms.

 

Quick look at Week 1 Pac-12 games

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
5:00
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Here's a quick look at Week 1 in the conference. All times are ET.

Thursday

Utah State at Utah, 8 p.m. Fox Sports 1: Utah leads the series 77-29-4 but the Aggies won 27-20 in overtime last year in Logan. That ended the Utes 12-game winning streak in the series. The Aggies went 11-2 last year but lost coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin. Former offensive coordinator Matt Wells takes over, and he has 15 starters back, including QB Chuckie Keeton, who put up big numbers last year. This will be the debut of Utes new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson.

No. 21 USC at Hawaii, 11 p.m. CBS Sports Network: USC leads the series 8-0. Hawaii is coached by Norm Chow, who went 3-9 in his first season. Trojans fans might have heard of him, and there isn't a warm relationship between Chow and USC coach Lane Kiffin. The Rainbow Warriors have 17 starters back. Chow made some news before the season when he dismissed offensive coordinator Aaron Price -- son of former Washington State coach Mike Price -- before he'd even coached a game. Chow now will run the offense.

Friday

Northern Arizona at Arizona, 10 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Arizona leads the series 11-1, and that defeat occurred in 1932. The game likely will feature the debut of Wildcats QB B.J. Denker, though coach Rich Rodriguez has been coy about his starting QB, separating the top-three guys with an "Or" on his depth chart. The Wildcats beat the Lumberjacks 41-10 in 2011.

Saturday

Nicholls State at No. 3 Oregon, 4 p.m. Fox Sports 1: These teams have never met, and it's unfortunate they will Saturday. Nicholls State went 0-7 in the Southland Conference last year, its lone 2012 win coming over NAIA Evangel. Oregon State beat Nicholls State 77-3 last year when the Beavers were legitimately trying not to score. As The Oregonian has pointed out, it's likely the Autzen Stadium points record (72, recorded against New Mexico in 2010 and Nevada in 1999) will be broken.

Eastern Washington at No. 25 Oregon State, 6 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Oregon State leads the series against the FCS power 2-0, last winning 56-17 in 2006. It was announced Monday afternoon that Sean Mannion will start at QB for the Beavers over Cody Vaz, who still might see some playing time.

Washington State at Auburn, 7 p.m. ESPNU: Auburn leads the series 1-0, beating the Cougars 40-14 in 2006. This will be the debut of Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, as well as his starting QB Nick Marshall. Two years removed from a national title -- won in a nailbiter over Oregon -- Auburn went 3-9 last fall and fired coach Gene Chizik. Malzahn was the Arkansas State coach last year, but he also was Chizik's offensive coordinator in 2010. The Tigers welcome back 17 starters.

[+] EnlargeWashington's Bishop Sankey
Josh Holmberg/USA TODAY SportsBoise State and Washington played in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, with the Broncos winning 28-26.
strong>Nevada at No. 21 UCLA, 10 p.m. Pac-12 Network: First meeting. After Chris Ault retired -- again -- Brian Polian became the Nevada coach. The Wolf Pack has 12 starters back from a 7-6 team, most notably QB Cody Fajardo, a dynamic pass-run threat. He rushed for 1,100 yards and passed for 2,786 yards last year, accounting for 32 total TDs.

No. 19 Boise State at Washington, 10 p.m. Fox Sports 1: The series is tied 1-1. Boise State beat the Huskies 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, while the Huskies prevailed in the 24-10 in 2007. The Broncos have only 10 starters back from their 11-2 team, while the Huskies welcome back 20. While Boise State QB Joe Southwick didn't put up big numbers last year, he was extremely efficient over the latter third of the season.

No. 22 Northwestern at California, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2: Northwestern leads the series 1-0 -- a 20-14 win in 1949. The Wildcats welcome back 17 starters from a 10-3 team that beat Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl last year. That includes the outstanding combination of QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark. They combined for over 2,200 yards rushing last year. This is the debut of Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who replaced Jeff Tedford, as well as true freshman QB Jared Goff.

Sunday

Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver), 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network: Colorado leads the series 61-21-2 but the Rams won 22-17 last year. The game will be played on Sports Authority Field at Mile High, previously known as Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos. The Rams welcome back 18 starters from a 4-8 team in Jim McElwain's second season. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, who is making his debut leading the Buffaloes, announced this week that Connor Wood will start at quarterback.

Pac-12 lunch links: QB Wood to start

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
11:30
AM ET
I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age.

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