Oregon Ducks: Jeff Tedford

Pac-12's lunch links

January, 2, 2014
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This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end.

Pac-12 lunchtime links

September, 19, 2013
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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?


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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
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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
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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?

Pac-12 second-half preview

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
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The major preseason stories in the Pac-12 were four new coaches, the return of Matt Barkley, the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidate, and USC and Oregon apparently headed for a showdown with national-championship implications on Nov. 3.

The major midseason stories are a little different.

USC and Oregon could still be an epic clash, just not as epic because USC already has lost. Also, Barkley's middling numbers for an offense that hasn't been consistently in sync have diminished the national perception of the Trojans. The Ducks are now the Pac-12 team at the center of the national discussion.

As for the four new coaches, three have gotten off to great-to-solid starts in year one. But how will they finish? And will Mike Leach get Washington State on track?

Will Arizona State maintain its fast start, or are the Sun Devils headed for a tough dose of reality as the schedule firms up, starting with Oregon on Thursday?

Speaking of fast starts: Oregon State. The Beavers have surged, and coach Mike Riley has moved from the hot seat to the throne of a national-coach-of-the-year candidate. Oregon and Oregon State are the only two unbeaten teams in the conference, so it's not inconceivable that the Civil War could be for the North Division crown, a spot in the Pac-12 title game and, perhaps, a chance to play for the national title.

It could become the season's true epic clash.

As for hot-seat talk, as distasteful as it is, nearly all of such focus will be on California coach Jeff Tedford. The Bears have won two in a row after a 1-4 start, but it remains in the air whether this team can be consistent enough to earn a bowl berth. A losing record wouldn't be good for Tedford.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireWith Taylor Kelly back at quarterback, Arizona State could be doing a lot of celebrating in 2013.
Finally, in terms of individual awards, it will be interesting to see if any Pac-12 player emerges as a true Heisman Trophy contender. Might Barkley turn it up during the second half? Will Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas start to fill up "SportsCenter" with highlights? Is there a potential dark-horse candidate?

Ultimately, midseason reviews don't mean much. Teams and players can reverse course -- positively or negatively -- at any moment.

But what it is fair to say is there are plenty of rich plot lines heading into the season's second half, even if those were not the stories that advanced the season.

Bold prediction: The conference will fill all seven of its bowl obligations, plus one. Oregon is already in; Oregon State, Arizona State, USC and UCLA are all one win from being bowl-eligible. If you follow the Sunday zaniness that is our weekly bowl projections, you know your bloggers project Oregon to the national championship, which opens up one more spot. We see Stanford and Washington bowling. That's seven right there. The eighth spot is up for grabs, with Arizona and Cal the likely candidates. Cal could get to .500 this week, then would need two more wins with Utah, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State remaining. If Arizona takes care of Colorado and Utah in the second half, that leaves it looking for one more win over from among Washington, USC, UCLA and Arizona State.

Looking forward to: The race in the Pac-12 South. Once thought to be gift-wrapped for the Trojans, the recent inconsistent play of USC opens up the possibility of someone else as the South's representative in the title game. The Trojans are still the favorite, but Arizona State and UCLA aren't going to make it easy. Both of UCLA's losses have come to North Division teams, USC's loss was to Stanford and ASU's was out of conference. It's more wide-open than we ever could have imagined in August.

Top five games (by date, not importance):

Oct. 18, Oregon at Arizona State: Time to find out if the Sun Devils are for real. They have the conference's No. 1 scoring defense facing Oregon's top-ranked scoring offense. The Sun Devils rank second in scoring. Both teams are getting phenomenal quarterback play and both like to work fast.

Oct. 27, UCLA at Arizona State: This is a pivotal game in the aforementioned race for the South Division title. It features two explosive offenses and two of the league's brightest young quarterbacks. Some pretty good players from both defenses as well.

Nov. 3, Oregon at USC: This is still the big one. An Oregon win gives the Ducks some much-needed national credibility, while a USC victory puts the Trojans back in the BCS championship hunt. Might be a last-gasp Heisman run for Thomas and/or Barkley.

Nov. 17, USC at UCLA: A new chapter in this historic rivalry begins with Jim Mora at the helm for the Bruins. He has made them a player in the Pac-12 South, and lest we forget, coordinator Noel Mazzone's offense put up 43 points on USC last year when he was with ASU. This one could decide the South champion.

Nov. 24, Oregon at Oregon State: The stakes could be stratospheric -- as in national championship implications for both schools. If the Ducks take care of business Nov. 3 and Oregon State can navigate a second-half schedule that includes Stanford and ASU, then all of Oregon will show up for what could conceivably be the Pac-12 game of the year.

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