Oregon Ducks: Jeff Tedford

Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

But first, you now have a full bag of Twitter handles that are required reading.

You have mine here. You have Kevin Gemmell's brand spanking new 140-character depot.

And you have our veteran Tweeters and new Pac-12 blog insiders, Chantel Jennings -- here -- and Kyle Bonagura -- here.

That is 560 characters that nine out of 10 doctors recommend -- and this is the 10th doctor.

To the notes!


Nick from Sacramento writes: If Sonny Dykes wins 5 games this season, with a new AD, think he sees season 3?

Ted Miller: Short answer: Yes.

I also think that if he wins four or even three games and the Bears are far more competitive on both sides of the ball than they were in 2013, he deserves a third season, unless things go haywire off the field. While Dykes didn't inherit an entirely empty cupboard from Jeff Tedford, there were certainly issues, and then the Bears' injury woes last season were among the worst I've witnessed -- UCLA fans, you could equate it to your 1999 season, when Bob Toledo was practically walking around campus asking guys to suit up.

Dykes hasn't been perfect. Most notably his hiring of Andy Buh as defensive coordinator didn't work out. But he also deserves credit for making a handful of changes on his staff this offseason, including the hiring of Art Kaufman to run his defense.

Of course, when a football coach of a struggling team sees the athletic director who hired him depart, he knows he is losing an important administrative relationship. ADs and the coaches they hire in revenue sports are tied at the hip. When one suffers, so does the other. In this case, with Sandy Barbour leaving, Dykes is now less secure than he was last week. And it's notable that we rated him as the least secure Pac-12 coach even before this news.

The question now turns to the sort of AD Cal has in mind to replace Barbour. There are plenty of athletic director types out there. Some move deliberately. Some are more impulsive. I've been told by more than a few savvy ADs that it's important to hire your own football coach because you would rather be judged by what you have done than what your predecessor did.

Yet, as with most things in college football, there is an easy solution: Winning.

If Dykes goes 4-8 this season and gets back to the postseason in 2015 with quarterback Jared Goff as a third-year starter -- and his team is academically and behaviorally sound -- I suspect we'll see him around for a while.


Tom from Seattle writes: Saw your QB blog about the PAC-12 and the comments on Utah's QB Travis Wilson -- "When healthy, Wilson has been a solid performer with good upside. "Are we talking about the same Travis Wilson that is the 11th ranked PAC-12 QB in conference play two years running and leads the world in INT's? Still love your blogs, though!

Ted Miller: Yes.

First, Wilson, despite playing with an injury for three games, ended up grading out fairly well, ranking 47th in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR. Sure, that is only ninth in the Pac-12, but in the conference of quarterbacks, it's important to keep a national perspective when we are evaluating what might constitute a "solid performer."

Second, see if you notice anything in these numbers. Can you guess when Wilson got hurt? What you see is a pretty good quarterback through six games and the bottom falling out during the next three conference games. Again, "when healthy Wilson has been a solid performer..." When he was bad last season, he wasn't healthy (other than the UCLA disaster).

What about that "good upside" part? Well, let's not forget that Wilson was a true sophomore last season. He was thrust into service prematurely in 2012 and played fairly well considering the circumstances. When the Utes were 4-2 after beating Stanford, he looked like a guy who could lead the Utes into the South Division race.

For comparison's sake, consider that Oregon State's Sean Mannion had a 127.1 rating with 18 interceptions as a redshirt freshman starter. Wilson finished with a 129.7 rating last season.

But thanks for loving the blogs. Most awesome people do.


Paul from Albany, Ore., writes: Losing Brandin Cooks is going to be very difficult on the Oregon State offense and this fact has been pointed out numerous times. What has not been pointed out is that this same dialogue was stated the prior year when Markus Wheaton was lost to the NFL. Yes Cooks had a better year last than Wheaton did one earlier. But why has so little been written about the common denominator in both seasons -- Sean Mannion?? He is returning and yet all you folks write about is the losses he has sustained. How about digging into the idea that maybe he is a key factor in helping these receivers achieve their lofty status?

Ted Miller: Well, after passing for 10,436 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons, Mannion certainly merits a tip of the cap. And he has improved each year, which is a good thing.

I'd also contend he gets plenty of credit. For one, we ranked him fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks, which is saying something when all four qualify as All-American candidates. And NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. knows who he is, ranking him the nation's No. 2 senior quarterback Insider.

But this will be a revealing year for Mannion. For one, he's a senior. This is his last chance to make a statement as a college quarterback and as an NFL prospect. Second, for the first time, he doesn't have a proven, NFL prospect at receiver.

NFL scouts are presently wondering if Wheaton and Cooks made Mannion look good. If Mannion is a more efficient player this season with a less stellar supporting cast in the passing game and, yes, wins a couple of big games, his stock will rise both when it comes to college kudos and NFL love.


Wayne from Mesa, Ariz., writes: A few weeks ago, the PAC-12 announced a new start time window for football: 11:00am. A few stories circulated the announcement, but I have not seen anything since. Has there been much feedback regarding this start time? From my standpoint, while it provides needed content for that time slot on the PAC-12 Network, it's way too early for the fans, especially in a region where we are used to late afternoon and night games.

Ted Miller: We did a poll and 58 percent of 5,391 respondents were positive about the 11 a.m. window.

I generally agree with that result. While 11 a.m. isn't ideal, it's better than having four games kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT. A lot of Pac-12 fans have been complaining about a surfeit of late kickoffs. This is a response to that complaint. My guess is those who will now complain about the early kickoff will be fewer in numbers.

It's important to note a few things about the 11 a.m. window.

Wayne, I notice you are from Arizona. If you are a fan of Arizona or Arizona State, you won't have to worry about an 11 a.m. kickoff, at least not until late October. The Pac-12 has no interest in fans melting into puddles in their seats.

It's also unlikely the 11 a.m. kick will be the day's marquee game. That still will almost always fall into primetime windows, be that on ET or PT.

I suspect the 11 a.m. kickoff will mean more TV eyeballs for what might seem like middling games. While some folks are worried about competing with SEC or Big Ten games at 2 p.m., I don't see that as an issue. Some viewers will tune in because they care more about the Pac-12. Some will tune in because they like to watch more than one game at once. Those who don't care about the Pac-12 wouldn't watch with any kickoff time.

Some don't like the 11 a.m. kickoff because it means waking up early to drive to the stadium, and it cuts into tailgating time. But I'm not sure if these party-hardy folks are looking at the big picture.

First, there will be some encouragement for fans to arrive Friday evening. That only means more fun. Then, on Saturday, you get the 8 a.m. bloody mary at the stadium with eggs and bacon and country ham from this guy. Yummy. Then you have a postgame tailgate and time for a dinner and -- potentially -- a nice evening to tool around the old college digs.

The socially creative among you will be emailing me at season's end telling me the 11 a.m. kickoff rocked.


Emily from Los Angeles writes: You want a heartbreaking loss? What about the 3OT game between USC and Stanford?

Ted Miller: You mean a game that featured big names, ranked teams, controversy, late heroics and three overtimes could be heartbreaking?

I was there. Really entertaining, strange game. Hated how it ended, though. Not in terms of who won, but that it was about a sloppy and unfortunate turnover rather than a dramatic play.


Trevor from Portland writes: We got an article about Pac-12 heartbreakers, and it left out the biggest heartbreaker of the decade. Cam Newton fumbled, he wasn't down by forward progress. Cliff Harris was in. Michael Dyer was down. I'm still not over it.

Ted Miller: I was there for that one, too.

The Ducks were so close to a national title. It was the only time I can recall that Chip Kelly expressed regret about his game plan and some in-game decisions, as that sort of navel gazing wasn't his thing.

That is the thing about close games. They are a thrill to win and excruciating to lose. They also are why we love sports. While we love the winning, there is also a masochistic side to us that enjoys the social aspects of wallowing in misery among friends.

(Thousands of fans from various, struggling Pac-12 outposts immediately go, "Who... us?")

Pac-12's lunch links

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This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end.

Pac-12 lunchtime links

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And when they've given you their all some stagger and fall;
After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad buggers' wall.

Ducks flip ESPN 300 OL Cameron Hunt 

February, 6, 2013
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The Oregon Ducks added their fourth ESPN 300 member and their fifth offensive lineman when former Cal commit Cameron Hunt (Corona, Calif./Centennial) confirmedthat he had flipped to the Ducks.

The No. 276 player in the ESPN 300 joins OL Evan Voeller (West Linn, Ore./West Linn) as the second Under Armour All-American in the Ducks' 2013 class. Hunt officially visited Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Cal after former Bears' head coach Jeff Tedford was fired and former Bears' OL coach Jim Mahalczik left for Arizona.

What is the impact of Hunt's decision?

Ducks flipping the script on Cal? 

February, 4, 2013
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Over the past decade, Oregon and California have gone back and forth, on and off the field. While the Ducks have dominated the Bears on the field of late, that hasn't stopped Cal from winning a number of high-profile recruiting battles.

The programs haven't gone head-to-head often in the Class of 2013, but the Ducks are looking to take make a big impact on their class by putting a dent in Sonny Dykes' first recruiting class at Cal.


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Final Pac-12 2012 power rankings

January, 8, 2013
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These are the final 2012 power rankings.

If you don't like where you finished in the power rankings, you should have played better.

See the pre-bowl-season power rankings here.

1. Stanford: Oregon received a higher final national ranking, and you could make a decent challenge in favor of the Ducks. They didn't get upset by Washington, didn't play a lot of close games and beat a top-five team in the Fiesta Bowl. But, on Nov. 17, the Cardinal went to Eugene and took care of business. Stanford is the Pac-12 champion, and Oregon is not. Ergo, Stanford sits atop the power rankings. And 2013 looks pretty darn good, too.

2. Oregon: The cherry on the top of another special season for Oregon is the return of coach Chip Kelly. And we're of the mind that, if not for the slip against Stanford, Oregon would be sitting atop college football this morning after a fine evening of frolic in South Florida. The Ducks and Stanford will be national title contenders again in 2013. And guess which two teams are going to top the first 2013 power rankings?

3. Oregon State: The loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl was baffling. The Beavers were a superior team that seemed to be looking for ways to lose in the fourth quarter. The quarterback carousel needs to be resolved. But the Beavers still won nine games, and their 6-3 conference record overcomes UCLA because of a head-to-head win on the road. Nice bounce back after consecutive losing seasons.

4. UCLA: Yes, the Bruins flopped in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl against Baylor, but it's impossible not to see Year 1 under Jim Mora as a success, made even more notable by USC's flop. Like last season, the Bruins won the South Division, but this time they earned it.

5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils won their final three games for the first time since 1978. That's how you go into an offseason with optimism. We hear a lot about "culture change" from programs with new coaches. The Sun Devils' culture change under Todd Graham was made manifest by what happened on the field.

6. Arizona: The Wildcats did better than expected in Year 1 under Rich Rodriguez, and the season would have been a complete success if not for what happened against that team from up north. That loss hurts, but quality wins over Oklahoma State, USC and Washington, as well as an overtime game with Stanford, show this team competed better than in recent years.

7. Washington: The Huskies finishing 7-6 against a brutal schedule probably was close to preseason expectations. But the two-game losing streak to end the season, which included a dreadful meltdown in the Apple Cup to Washington State, quashed the momentum a four-game winning steak from Oct. 27 to Nov. 17 had built. Perhaps that will make the Huskies hungrier in 2013, when they have a nice array of talent returning.

8. USC: The Trojans' season was a complete disaster. USC started out at No. 1 but turned in a white flag performance while losing a sixth game in the Hyundai Sun Bowl to a middling Georgia Tech team. The Trojans were eclipsed by rivals UCLA and Notre Dame while wasting the much-ballyhooed return of QB Matt Barkley. Coach Lane Kiffin will be sitting on one of the nation's hottest seats in 2013. We've been over this a few times.

9. Utah: The Utes' move up in class from the Mountain West Conference is proving tougher than some imagined. Utah missed out on playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2002, and there were issues on both sides of the ball. The Utes need an upgrade in talent and overall depth, sure, but consistent quarterback play would be a good place to start. Therein lies hope with promising freshman Travis Wilson.

10. California: A dreadful 3-9 finish ended Jeff Tedford's tenure in Berkeley after 11 seasons. In early October, after consecutive wins over UCLA and Washington State, it seemed as though the Bears might be poised for a rally. Alas, they lost their final five games, including a horrid performance in a 62-14 drubbing at Oregon State. Sonny Dykes has enough returning talent to produce significant improvement in the fall.

11. Washington State: New coach Mike Leach's season was bad on the field and off, but it ended on a notable uptick with an Apple Cup win over Washington that included a comeback from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit. Still, 3-9 took a bite out of the enthusiasm Leach's hiring initially generated.

12. Colorado: A horrid 1-11 finish that was capped by a controversial firing of Jon Embree after just two seasons. The Buffaloes are probably the worst AQ conference team over the past two seasons, and that is the considerable mess new coach Mike MacIntyre was hired to clean up. Of course, MacIntyre put together an impressive turnaround at San Jose State, so he looks like a good choice to bring the Buffs back to respectability.

ESPN 300 OL Hunt will be busy 

December, 26, 2012
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Until a couple of weeks ago, the Oregon Ducks had been looking at three offensive linemen in order to round out their class with one or two more players at that position. Then two new recruits came into the picture and received offers almost immediately.

[+] EnlargeCameron Hunt
Erik McKinney/ESPN.comESPN 300 OL Cameron Hunt has set up official visits to Oregon, Michigan and California.
Both of the new offers were big, as one led to a commitment and the other has one of the top players in the West seriously considering the Ducks.

California commit and Under Armour All-American OL Cameron Hunt (Corona, Calif./Centennial) recently began to explore other options after Cal had a coaching change. Hunt remains committed to the Bears but is giving a good look to three other programs. Nebraska, Michigan and Oregon all offered the ESPN 300 prospect within days of Jeff Tedford being let go. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer also stopped by the week before Hunt and his Centennial squad took on Concord (Calif.) De La Salle in the state championship game.

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2012 Pac-12 regular-season wrap

December, 5, 2012
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The Pac-12 -- again -- produced national title contenders but not a team playing for the crystal football when the final bell rang. Further, for the first time since 2008, the conference didn't provide a Heisman Trophy finalist.

A short summary of the regular season: It was pretty good but could have been better. But it was definitely surprising.

Better? If things had fallen the right way, seven Pac-12 teams could have been ranked in the final regular-season poll. USC began the season as a national title contender only to yield that spot to Oregon. Then Stanford ended the Ducks' hopes on Nov. 17 with a 17-14 overtime win in Autzen Stadium.

So the conference streak without a football national championship extends to eight seasons.

Surprising? UCLA won the South Division over rival USC, and Stanford beat out Oregon in the North by virtue of the aforementioned win in Eugene. Neither was tapped in the preseason as the conference champion by any of the 123 media members who voted.

Surprising? USC quarterback Matt Barkley topped just about every preseason Heisman Trophy list. He didn't even make first- or second-team All-Pac-12.

Surprising? Three of the four new coaches turned in strong seasons. Start with Jim Mora, who led the Bruins to the Pac-12 championship game and a national ranking. And, a year after USC beat UCLA 50-0, the Bruins prevailed, 38-28.

Sorry for bringing that up, USC.

Both Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State's Todd Graham finished 7-5, though Graham handed Rodriguez his fifth defeat in the Territorial Cup.

Sorry for bringing that up, Wildcats.

The new coach who was expected to make the most noise -- with both his mouth and his team -- was only 1-for-2, and it wasn't Mike Leach's team doing the talking. His Cougars finished 3-9 and recorded just one conference victory. Of course, that lone Pac-12 win was over Washington.

Sorry for bringing that up, Huskies.

The good news is a record eight bowl teams, including a third consecutive season with two BCS bowl berths, which means an extra $6.1 million for the conference to split up.

The bad news is two more coach firings: Jeff Tedford at California after 11 seasons and Jon Embree at Colorado after just two. That means half the teams in the Pac-12 will have changed coaches over the past two years.

Further, USC's disappointing season lands Lane Kiffin on the 2013 hot seat, the only Pac-12 coach who will be stuck with that designation heading into 2013.

What about some highlights? Well, here you go.

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton, Corbin Berkstresser
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonArizona State's Will Sutton averaged almost a sack per game this season, including one at Missouri.
Offensive MVP, Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Not only is he the most dominant wide receiver in the country, he might also be the most dominant player. Heisman voters say otherwise, but we in the Pac-12 know just how dominant he can be. His record-setting season should be more than enough to earn him the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver. And if he has matching numbers on a nine-win USC team, he's in New York this week.

Defensive MVP, Will Sutton, Arizona State: The numbers alone paint a pretty good picture of just how dominant the speed-rushing defensive tackle was. He led the conference in tackles for a loss per game and averaged almost a sack per game. He was a wrecking ball -- the kind of player offensive coordinators design their game plan around.

Newcomer of the year, Marcus Mariota, Oregon: In a year in which redshirt freshmen quarterbacks became all the rage, Mariota stood out with his efficiency as a passer, his athleticism as a runner and the speed with which he commanded Oregon's offense. His presence assures Oregon will continue to be one of the best offensive teams in the country in the coming years.

Biggest surprise: A school not named USC or Oregon is going to the Rose Bowl. In fact, neither team played in the Pac-12 championship game -- which many thought was as foregone conclusion before a single ball had been hiked. Stanford and UCLA were surprises -- but they also earned it.

Biggest disappointment: USC's once-promising season first got hijacked at Stanford. And from then on the Trojans were swimming in concrete shoes. After starting the season No. 1 in the AP poll, the Trojans became the first such team since 1964 to end the year out of the Top 25. The contrarian opinion Kevin Gemmell offered up back in March came to fruition. And it was a complete disaster. And, yes, even worse than Ted Miller's "Worst Case." And that's pretty bad.

Best game: Depends on where your tastes lie. If you like defense, then it was Stanford's performance at Oregon, where they held the Ducks to fewer than 200 yards rushing and won in overtime. Jordan Williamson's 37-yard kick sent shock waves throughout college football. If you like offense, you have to look to the Nov. 3 shootout between Oregon and USC. The stakes weren't as high as we all thought a few months ago, but some of the league's premier offensive players showed up as the teams combined for 113 points, 68 first downs and 1,145 yards of total offense.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 12

November, 18, 2012
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What did we learn in Week 12? Read on.

Barring a miracle, Oregon won't play for the national title, and even its Pac-12 supremacy is threatened: Oregon's hopes to play for a national title for the second time in three years took a huge and likely catastrophic hit with a 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford. The Ducks' chances to win the Pac-12 for a fourth consecutive year also are in doubt. If Stanford prevails at UCLA on Saturday, the Cardinal would win the North Division and would host UCLA on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth. Yes, they'd play a second time within a week.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJohnathan Franklin rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns in UCLA's win over USC.
The football monopoly in L.A. is over: UCLA whipped USC to capture the Pac-12 South Division, and there is no asterisk, as there was when the Bruins represented the South at Oregon last year. The Bruins jumped to an early lead and then didn't wilt when the Trojans charged back. First-year coach Jim Mora, who is now clearly in the conference coach of the year race, has emphasized mental toughness and discipline, and in a single season he seems to have changed the culture in Westwood. By the way, this is good news: The Pac-12 will benefit if the USC-UCLA game is again nationally and regionally meaningful.

USC's business is finished: It's official: The Trojans' 2012 season is a massive failure. A preseason national title contender, USC is now 7-4 overall and 5-4 in Pac-12 play. It may not be ranked this week. QB Matt Barkley, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite who spoke of "unfinished business" when he opted to return for his senior year, suffered an injury late against the Bruins, and his business might be finished without another shot at soon-to-be No. 1 Notre Dame. While coach Lane Kiffin told reporters that he was certain of his return in 2013, it's pretty clear Kiffin will top hot-seat projections next summer.

The Pac-12 will have eight bowl-eligible teams: Arizona State's blowout win over Washington State gave the conference eight bowl-eligible teams, while Utah's loss to Arizona ensured there won't be a ninth. The Utes, Colorado, Washington State and California will stay home during the holidays. Further, if Oregon wins the Civil War and Stanford beats UCLA, the conference is almost certain to get two BCS bowl teams, with the UCLA-Stanford winner in the Pac-12 title game going to the Rose Bowl and the Ducks getting an at-large selection, likely to the Fiesta Bowl. That would mean an extra $6.1 million the conference could split up.

Tedford's tenure in California is likely at an end: While there continue to be supporters for Cal coach Jeff Tedford, a fifth consecutive defeat to end the season, particularly a 62-14 blowout at Oregon State, feels like a capper to his 11-year tenure in Berkeley. Tedford is liked and respected and probably will land on his feet and get another head-coaching opportunity, but the Bears have fallen behind in the conference pecking order -- heck, the Bay Area pecking order -- and they have bills to pay while facing growing fan apathy. A decision could come as soon as Sunday.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
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A few storylines to keep an eye on this week:

  1. And the winner in the North is ...? Could be Oregon. If the Ducks can get past visiting Stanford this week, they'll lock up the division and earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. They still have to go through Oregon State next week -- but wins over both of those clubs should help them in the BCS standings. Well, at least on the computer side. The Ducks hold the No. 1 spot in both human polls. So if they win out, they will be in the national championship game. The North Division winner could be Stanford, too. If the Cardinal win this weekend and close out with a victory at UCLA next week, Stanford and Oregon will each have one conference loss, with the Cardinal holding the tiebreaker.
  2. And the winner in the South is ...? We'll see Saturday, but we know it will be from Los Angeles. The USC-UCLA rivalry hasn't been one of late. UCLA's last victory over the Trojans came in 2006 -- a 13-9 win that snapped USC's NCAA record of 63 consecutive games scoring at least 20 points and also cost the Trojans a spot in the BCS title game. The scenario is winner-take-all -- regardless of what happens next week.
  3. On the bubble: Arizona State and Utah are both trying to make the postseason. ASU has the easier road, needing just one win to lock up bowl eligibility. And it hosts a Washington State team that is winless in conference play. Utah has to first beat Arizona at home this week, then win at Colorado next. The Utes are yet to win a road game this year.
  4. QB carousel: Seems like it wouldn't be a normal week in the Pac-12 if there weren't quarterback issues. Almost half of the league has uncertainty at the position heading into this weekend. Arizona's Matt Scott might not be able to go again this week; same for Cal's Zach Maynard. Nick Hirschman suffered a concussion last week for Colorado, Jeff Tuel was injured for Washington State, opening the door for Connor Halliday's five touchdowns. And the Sean Mannion-Cody Vaz back-and-forth continues at Oregon State, pending Vaz's health.
  5. [+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
    Rick Scuteri/US PresswireUtah's chances at the postseason hinge on doing a better job stopping Ka'Deem Carey than Colorado.
    Quality matchups: If the Utes do want to get into the postseason, they'll have to find a way to slow down Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who rushed for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and five touchdowns in last week's victory over Colorado. It's Utah's strength as a defense versus Arizona's strength as an offense. You can say the same for the Oregon-Stanford matchup, which pits Oregon's league-best rushing attack against Stanford's conference-leading rush defense.
  6. Gone in 60 seconds: Per the folks at ESPN Stats & Information, Stanford is the only FBS team that hasn't allowed a touchdown drive of three plays or fewer; it is also one of only five teams that has not allowed a touchdown in less than a minute. Oregon, of course, leads the FBS in touchdown drives that last one minute or less. Stopwatches at the ready.
  7. The SoCal tight-end factor: More super-cool stuff from the Stats & Info group: Matt Barkley and Brett Hundley have combined to throw 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions when targeting their tight ends. Hundley completes 75.6 percent of his passes when targeting a tight end; Barkley is at 67.2 percent. Could make for an interesting sidebar to Saturday's matchup.
  8. Off and running: Washington's Bishop Sankey heads to Colorado as one of the hottest running backs in the conference right now. He ha rushed for 351 yards and four touchdowns in his past two games and last week became the 11th player in UW history to reach the 1K milestone. Expect him to add to that total. Colorado ranks last in the conference against the run, yielding 227.6 yards per game on the ground to go with a conference-worst 25 rushing touchdowns allowed.
  9. Decisions, decisions: When California coach Jeff Tedford gets back to the Bay Area following the Bears' trip to Oregon State, he'll have sit down with athletic director Sandy Barbour to discuss the future of Cal football and what role -- if any -- he plays in it. Walking into that meeting with a victory over the No. 16 Beavers would probably go over better than closing out the year on a five-game losing streak.

Instant analysis: Oregon 59, California 17

November, 10, 2012
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With California keeping things close and injuries piling up, it looked like Oregon might be in trouble early in the third quarter. It wasn't. The Ducks, as usual, rolled, this time winning 59-17.

It was over when: It appeared Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was hurt in the second quarter. And, in the third quarter, when California cut the Ducks lead to 24-17, it looked like the Ducks' national title hopes were threatened. But 35- and 39-yard touchdown passes from Mariota to Josh Huff made it 38-17 to start the fourth, and the Ducks then coasted home.

Game ball goes to: Mariota has gone from a very good redshirt freshman quarterback, to a good QB period, to a potential first-team All-Pac-12 QB. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 230.79 passing efficiency rating. Yeah, through the roof. He has 28 TD passes this season.

Stat of the game: Oregon was outrushed 236 yards to 180. But the Ducks' receiving corps -- perceived to be a weakness at the beginning of the season -- caught seven total touchdown passes for 395 yards.

Unsung hero of the game: Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. His defense was decimated by injuries. At one point, five members of his front seven were freshmen, including three true freshmen on the line. It appears he lost safety Avery Patterson (knee) for the season, the second starting safety to go down. Still, the Ducks' defense, which was getting pushed around in the first half after getting pushed around by USC, regained its footing and held Cal to a single touchdown in the second half.

What it means: This sets up a major Pac-12 North Division showdown for the Ducks with Stanford in Autzen Stadium on Saturday. It also showed, again, that the Ducks have plenty of grit when they get challenged. Cal, meanwhile, falls to 3-8. The Bears complete their season next weekend with a visit to Oregon State. Will that be coach Jeff Tedford's last game in Berkeley?
Carl WinstonOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSan Jose, Calif., native Michael Clay was a crucial recruiting win for the Ducks over California in the Class of 2009.
After the Ducks program began to take off in the mid-1990s, California hired former Ducks' offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford in 2002. As the Ducks' upward climb reached a standstill, Cal stepped up and looked like it might be the next in line to challenge USC.

The Golden Bears did win four of five games with the Ducks between 2004 and 2008, including a game for the ages in 2007. After they walked out of Autzen Stadium with a 31-24 win over the No. 5 Ducks, things began to change between the two schools. Cal did win the following season in Berkeley, as the Ducks fumbled gave away a game they dominated. Starting in the class of 2008, the Bears responded by going on an unprecedented run of recruiting success. The Ducks began to dominate the series on the field with a 42-3 win over the Bears in 2009. Despite the dominant performance over the then-No. 6 Bears, Cal beat the Ducks head-to-head for a number of elite recruits from 2008 to 2012.

Whether it was location, academics, Cal's plans for facilities upgrades -- which are now complete -- or former Cal assistant -- and current Washington assistant -- Tosh Lupoi, the Bears won the majority of the recruiting battles between the two schools. Similar to the recent history with USC, the Ducks don't care about recruiting rankings as much as they do the on-field results.

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Pac-12 power rankings: Week 11

November, 5, 2012
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If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Oregon: It wasn't perfect, at least on defense, but that was a resounding statement at USC. There are some injury issues, particularly on defense, but this team is coming together as perhaps the best of the Chip Kelly era. Wondering what type of opponent the Ducks will face at California: A motivated one or one that will serve as a doormat?

2. Oregon State: A nice bounce-back win over Arizona State. The Beavers have overcome a quarterback change and injuries. This team just keeps finding ways to get it done. The winner at Stanford on Saturday becomes a legitimate threat to Oregon in the North Division.

3. Stanford: So does Kevin Hogan step in at QB and make the Stanford offense formidable again? Maybe. But it's not wise to take too much away from stomping Colorado. Oregon State will offer a true defensive challenge.

4. UCLA: Just like Kevin and I predicted: The Bruins dominated Arizona. The offensive effort was outstanding but unsurprising. The defense shutting down the potent Wildcats' offense was most notable. But the Bruins can't overlook a visit to Washington State. That's what the "old" Bruins might have done.

5. USC: The Trojans' resilience is going to be tested, starting with a visit from Arizona State. USC could win out, go to the Pac-12 title game and still earn a shot at the Rose Bowl. Or they could fold and finish a season that began with national title hopes with five consecutive defeats.

6. Arizona: Wow ... the Wildcats took a horrible beating at UCLA. Some of that was a USC hangover. But a lot of that was the Bruins asserting themselves in the South Division pecking order. A visit from Colorado should supply that sixth victory and bowl eligibility.

7. Washington: The Huskies were sloppy at Cal, but sloppy with a W is OK. If they can handle a visit from Utah on Saturday, they will get a sixth victory and bowl eligibility.

8. Arizona State: The Sun Devils have lost three in a row after the schedule toughened up. The good news is they showed some fight at Oregon State. It's a battle of two wounded teams at USC on Saturday.

9. Utah: The Utes are making another late charge. At 4-5, they need to win two of three to earn bowl eligibility. They still play Colorado, so that means they need to win at Washington on Saturday or beat Arizona when it visits on Nov. 17.

10. California: Cal and Jeff Tedford are beaten up. And here comes Oregon. Maybe the Ducks will be flat after the big win over USC?

11. Washington State: A run of 10 bowl games in 10 seasons as a head coach ends for Mike Leach, and things don't seem to be going well in the Cougars' locker room. A hot UCLA team is coming to town. How about a good snow storm for the visitors from sunny SoCal?

12. Colorado: The Buffs just need the season to end. A visit to Arizona doesn't figure to go well for perhaps the nation's worst defense.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
8:45
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If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

This feels like an odd one.

1. Oregon: The Ducks showed seemingly effortless brilliance in a dominant victory over Colorado, but it wasn't a good weekend for the Ducks. They don't want the distance between themselves and everyone else to appear this vast. They want the conference to look strong, top to bottom. Losses by USC and Oregon State dinged the Ducks' BCS standing in terms of potential strength of schedule ratings down the road. And Kansas State and Notre Dame both posted impressive wins.

2. Oregon State: Picking the No. 2 team here wasn't easy. Stanford was considered, but the Cardinal barely slipped by Washington State at home. And the Beavers still have only one loss. The power rankings looks more at the short term, but the big picture keeps the Beavers here. By a thread. It feels like the visit from Arizona State will be a tester, particularly when there are now quarterback questions.

3. Stanford: The Cardinal muddled through a win against Washington State. They very well may muddle through a visit to Colorado on Saturday. The visit from Oregon State on Nov. 10 will begin a home stretch that will reveal just who Stanford is in 2012 (at Oregon on Nov. 17, at UCLA on Nov. 24).

4. Arizona: Matt Scott and Rich Rodriguez are making beautiful music together, but somebody needs to tip their cap to Wildcats defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. He's put together an opportunistic defense that just finds a way to do well with some questionable parts. Sure, USC had huge numbers. But the Wildcats also got stops that proved critical.

5. USC: The idea that the Trojans would fall into the middle of the Pac-12 power rankings never occurred to the Pac-12 blog in the preseason. What's notable is the sloppiness: turnovers and penalties. Sure, other teams have penalties. But the Trojans seem to get lots of penalties of choice -- personal fouls, taunting, lining up wrong.

6. Washington: There are two Huskies teams. The one that plays at home is worthy of a national ranking. The one that plays on the road is worthy of mockery. The next step for coach Steve Sarkisian is to make the Huskies into a team that plays like it's at home even when it's not. Up next is a Friday visit to flagging California.

7. UCLA: The win at Arizona State -- a clutch comeback one, no less -- feels like a potential corner-turner for the Bruins. Recall the horrid performance at California? That brought up some old UCLA bugaboos about road games. This win canceled those out nicely. Let's ask it ... maybe Jim Mora is the guy to actually end the football monopoly in L.A. Of course, the visit from Arizona on Saturday will provide a huge measuring stick in the South Division. The Bruins control their own destiny. If they win out, they go to the Pac-12 title game.

8. Arizona State: The schedule is getting tougher, and the Sun Devils are taking some hits. There was plenty of good to take away from the 45-43 loss to UCLA, but not so much on the defensive side of the ball. The Sun Devils could quickly right things if they can win at Oregon State.

9. Utah: Hard to say whether the blowout win over California was about the Utes finding their mojo after another 0-4 Pac-12 start -- just like last year -- or whether it was just a Cal team waving the white flag on its season. Maybe a little of both. But if the Utes can hold serve at home against Washington State, they will need to win just two of their final three to become bowl eligible. And one of those games is with Colorado.

10. Washington State: The Cougars were close at Stanford, but isn't being close what we sorta celebrated last year? The good news is how much better the defense is playing. The bad news is ... 10 sacks surrendered. And you got to see just how tough QB Jeff Tuel is. Getting hit that much and still playing well, passing for 401 yards and two touchdowns with no help from a running game.

11. California: Hey, Cal? Are you quitting on yourselves and coach Jeff Tedford? The performance at Utah suggests so.

12. Colorado: There is some good news. There are only four more games this season.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
10:00
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Taking stock of the eighth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Oregon fumbled on its first possession at Arizona State and immediately yielded a touchdown. Ah, here's that road test we were talking about! Then the Ducks opened up a can of whup-butt and throttled the Sun Devils in one of the most dominating halves of football this season. Sure, the final was only 43-21. But it was 43-7 at the break, which allowed the Ducks to rest many of their starters much of the second half. Some test.

Best game: There were no close games this week, but Oregon State's 21-7 win over Utah certainly provided some tension for Beavers fans. With the Oregon State offense muted in Week 2 with backup QB Cody Vaz, the defense won the day, forcing four turnovers. Yes, it was a two-touchdown win, but things were in doubt well into the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Kirby Lee/US PresswireFollowing a big win over Colorado, USC QB Matt Barkley is still in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
Biggest play: On Utah's first possession of the second half, with Oregon State up 14-7, it drove to the Beavers' 3-yard line. On third-and-goal, the Utes tried an inside reverse to DeVonte Christopher, but the ball got loose on the exchange and DE Scott Crichton recovered. The Utes had several blown opportunities, but this was the most glaring.

Offensive standout: Matt Barkley threw six touchdown passes against Colorado, and he now has 102 for his career, best in Pac-12 history. You know, there have been some really good QBs to come through this conference. And by the way, Barkley was nearly perfect against the woeful Buffaloes, completing 19 of 20 passes -- the only incompletion was a drop -- for 298 yards with no interceptions. Barkley has some tough games ahead in which a similar performance could re-establish his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

Defensive standout: Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas brutalized California with a team-high seven tackles, with four coming for a loss in a 21-3 Cardinal Big Game victory. He has a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

Special teams standout: Oregon State punter Keith Kostol made sure the Beavers dominated field position against Utah. He punted eight times and averaged only 38.1 yards per boot, but five of his punts were downed inside the Utes' 20-yard line -- four inside the 15.

Smiley face: Arizona opted not to go quietly into the night by whipping Washington 52-17. The Wildcats rolled up 533 total yards but the best news was a second-half shutout. While the team upstate received a lot of attention for its fast start, the Wildcats also look like a crew that could make some noise in the Pac-12 South. QB Matt Scott continues his strong play, but the running game was king against the Huskies. USC comes to town on Saturday. Could be interesting.

Frowny face: As American poet and philosopher Ric Flair often noted, "To be the man, you've got to beat the man." California and Arizona State had shots at ranked foes that could have transformed their seasons, but both were overmatched. For the Sun Devils, no worries -- theirs was a long-shot bid for a special season in Year 1 under coach Todd Graham. For the Bears, things are more serious for coach Jeff Tedford, who could have cooled his seat substantially with a Big Game victory.

Thought of the week: We now know Oregon State is for real. You can't fake 6-0. But the schedule starts to ramp up considerably for the Beavers over the next month: at Washington on Saturday, Arizona State, at Stanford, California and Oregon. So can they maintain a high level of play and keep winning? Is it realistic to speculate about a Civil War game between unbeaten teams on Nov. 24? Not yet, probably, but it's like someone saying, "Don't think about a purple elephant." You, of course, immediately do.

Questions for the week: Where and when will we get a big upset? The schedule lays out several potential red-letter games among its highest-ranked teams: Oregon at USC, Oregon State at Stanford, Stanford at Oregon, Oregon at Oregon State and Notre Dame at USC. But where might be the pratfalls? You know: The games we don't see coming that inevitably come every year -- like Stanford over USC and Washington over Stanford. Is it USC at Arizona on Saturday? Is Oregon State at risk at Washington this weekend? Arizona State and UCLA continue to be teams that could give some of the front-runners some trouble. You can count on at least one major stumble. The question is where?

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