Oregon Ducks: Kenny Lawler

You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division.

We looked at the South Division offensive three-headed monsters on Monday. On Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the North Division offense.

Only Cal and Washington State return their three-headed leaders from last season. The other four teams have all had a change of some kind. And there are some big question marks surrounding a couple of schools -- especially the one in Seattle.

Let’s take a look:

1. Oregon

QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall, WR, Bralon Addison

The skinny: Heisman candidate + rising star + explosive playmaker = nasty. Though losing Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas, the Oregon offense should be explosive once again. Mariota led the nation in adjusted QBR last season to go with 31 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions. Marshall is a returning 1,000-yard rusher with 14 touchdowns last season, and Addison hauled in nine scores.

2. Stanford

QB Kevin Hogan, RB ?, WR Ty Montgomery

The skinny: The Cardinal get the No. 2 spot here based on experience at quarterback and the fact Montgomery is returning after a second-team all-league year. And whoever the “regular” running back is, be it Kelsey Young (the leading returner in yards), Ricky Seale, Barry Sanders or Remound Wright, he will be running behind a stellar offensive line. Worth noting that Hogan and Montgomery had more rushing yards last year than any of the listed running backs. But Stanford's success running the football leads the Pac-12 blog to give it the benefit of the doubt.

3. Oregon State

QB Sean Mannion, RB Terron Ward, WR Richard Mullaney

The skinny: Though the Beavers lose Brandin Cooks, Mannion has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country after throwing 37 touchdowns last year. Storm Woods had more carries and touchdowns, but Ward had more yards, so they’ll likely work in unison, again. Mullaney had 52 catches last season.

4. Washington State

QB Connor Halliday, RB Marcus Mason, WR Gabe Marks

The skinny: WSU gets the edge in the rankings over Washington (for now) because there are still a lot of question marks around the Huskies. Halliday tossed 34 touchdowns last year and threw for nearly 4,600 yards. Marks has blossomed into a bona fide playmaker and should be in the mix for all-conference honors. The Cougars don’t do much in the way of running the football. But when they did last year, Mason totaled 429 yards on 87 carries.

5. Washington

QB?, RB Jesse Callier, WR, Jaydon Mickens

The skinny: Washington is one of those programs that could end up in one of the top two spots by the end of the season. But for now, there is too much unknown. The status of QB Cyler Miles is still up in the air. Callier has the most returning attempts (one more than Dwayne Washington and five more than Deontae Cooper) and the Huskies expect Kasen Williams back by the fall at receiver. Mickens caught 65 balls and five touchdowns last year and the aforementioned RB trio combined for 10 touchdowns.

6. California

QB Jared Goff, RB Khalfani Muhammad, WR Bryce Treggs

The skinny: There is a lot of potential in this group. The Bears just need that potential to translate into points on the field. Goff threw for 3,508 yards in his debut season, and Treggs caught 77 of his passes. Though just one for a touchdown (Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler each caught five). Though the departed Brendan Bigelow had more carries, Muhammad outperformed him with more yards and touchdowns.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Taking stock of Week 10 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: USC, injury-riddled, coach-less and written off just more than a month ago, has won three of four games since Ed Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin as interim coach, including a 31-14 win at Oregon State on Friday. And it just missed at Notre Dame (literally -- see two missed field goals). The Trojans might end up making some noise in the Pac-12's South Division after all.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesUSC wideout Marqise Lee caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown versus Oregon State.
Best game: California pushed Arizona to the brink in the Wildcats' 33-28 victory. The Bears pulled within a touchdown with 1:42 remaining on a 19-yard scoring toss for Jared Goff to Kenny Lawler, but Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick and burned the clock down to zero after a 17-yard Ka'Deem Carey run gave the Wildcats a first down.

Biggest play: USC QB Cody Kessler hit Marqise Lee for a 71-yard touchdown on the Trojans' first offensive play, which seemed to ignite the Trojans at Oregon State, a place where they had lost three consecutive games.

Offensive standout: Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly accounted for seven touchdowns in the Sun Devils' 55-21 blowout win at Washington State, earning a 95.4 QBR for the performance. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards with five TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries with two TDs.

Defensive standout: USC turned in another scintillating defensive performance at Oregon State, holding the Beavers to 14 points and 361 yards. The Beavers had been averaging 40.1 points and 487.4 yards. The Trojans had three interceptions, which matched Oregon State QB Sean Mannion's total through the first eight games. USC also got two sacks from outside linebacker Devon Kennard.

Special-teams standout: Oregon State might have lost to USC, but it wasn't punter Keith Kostol's fault. He averaged 45.8 yards on five punts, killing three inside the Trojans' 20-yard line with no touchbacks. His long was 49 yards.

Smiley face: While the North Division -- Oregon & Stanford -- gets much of the attention, the South Division also features two ranked teams: UCLA and Arizona State. They could play a critical game on Nov. 23 that will garner national attention, but they have to take care of business beforehand. Both did just that as favorites this week, with Arizona State rolling at Washington State 55-21 on Thursday, and the Bruins taking down the pesky Buffaloes 45-23 on Saturday. There have been plenty of years in the Pac-12 when ranked teams went rear-end-over-tea-kettle against seemingly overmatched foes, killing chances for a marquee matchup between ranked foes a few weeks down the road.

Frowny face: Oregon State's chances of returning to the national ranking are probably done for the season. In fact, the blowout loss to USC at home opens up the question whether the Beavers will win again against a troika of tough foes down the stretch: at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon.

Thought of the week: It's Oregon-Stanford time. While Stanford's loss at Utah watered down this matchup a bit, it still remains the Pac-12 game of the season, the one that determines the North Division and conference front-runner. Oregon is aiming for an unbeaten season and a berth in the national title game. Stanford is aiming at a second consecutive upset of the Ducks, Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl victory. Buckle up.

Questions for the week: Who's going to rule the South and try to stop the Ducks or Cardinal from achieving their BCS bowl goals? The plot thickens Saturday with UCLA's visit to Arizona and Arizona State's trip to Utah. The Wildcats could throw themselves thickly into the race with a win over the Bruins, while the typically road-adverse Sun Devils need to win a second consecutive game away from Sun Devil Stadium. And, by the way, USC, which visits California on Saturday, is lurking.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
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Five things we learned in the Pac-12 from Week 10:

  1. When consistent, ASU is really good: The Sun Devils picked up their first road win of the season with an extremely impressive 55-21 win over Washington State on Thursday night. Here's the kicker ... running back Marion Grice didn't get in the end zone! Quarterback Taylor Kelly was dominant, completing 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 66 yards and two scores, giving him seven on the day. Since dropping a 37-34 game to Notre Dame, the Sun Devils have outscored Colorado, Washington and Washington State 162-58. If the Sun Devils can maintain this consistent, high level of play, the rest of the Pac-12 South will be hard-pressed to keep pace. As for the Cougs, after a 4-2 start, they have dropped three straight, and the defense has given up at least 52 points in all three losses.
  2. [+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC is 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, who celebrated Friday's win in Corvallis with the band.
  3. The Trojans aren't done yet; the Beavers might be: Despite everything that has happened to USC, the Trojans are a factor in the South Division. They need to win out and probably get a little help along the way, but after a fairly convincing 31-14 road win over Oregon State, the Trojans look like a team to be reckoned with down the stretch. Since the Lane Kiffin firing, USC is 3-1 under Ed Orgeron. Conversely, Oregon State suffered a big setback and is now an even longer shot to win the North Division. There is still hope, but the Beavers also need to win out and hope for some help.
  4. Colorado is gritty: Say what you want about the wins and losses, but Colorado is a tougher team than it was last season. UCLA won 45-23, and the final score isn't particularly shocking. But the Buffs led midway through the second quarter, and true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau looked very poised on the road, going 25-of-36 for a touchdown and zero interceptions. They matched UCLA's physicality and even showed a bit of swagger -- be it from receiver Paul Richardson or Liufau. Culture change takes a long time. But we are starting to see the makings of a team that isn't satisfied with being pushed around. On the flip side, good performance from UCLA to get back on track. Brett Hundley looked like he was still a little uncomfortable with his young offensive line, but he looked stronger. If the Bruins can survive a trip to Arizona and home date with Washington, Nov. 23 is high noon with ASU coming to town.
  5. About those Cats: Arizona has won three in a row, including back-to-back road games to become bowl-eligible for the second straight year under Rich Rodriguez. A fine accomplishment, considering everyone they lost in the offseason through injury, graduation or attrition. Quarterback B.J. Denker turned in another steady performance, completing 24 of 38 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But he's also emerged the past couple of weeks as a solid complementary runner to Ka'Deem Carey. Denker rushed for 44 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Cal. Carey, meanwhile, continues to shred defenses. Although he didn't reach the end zone against the Bears, he rushed for 152 yards, giving him 1,072 for the year. A big date with UCLA awaits next week. Can't overlook the performance of Cal, either, which sold out to stop the run early and showed a lot of life. Kenny Lawler finally had that breakout game with three touchdown catches, two of them spectacular.
  6. South rising? The early disparity between the North and South seems to be shrinking. The South scored two major victories this week with USC's win at Oregon State and ASU's win at Washington State. Arizona's win over Cal was expected, but again, we give the Bears credit for the strong showing. As it stands, the North still holds a two-game edge over the South with an 8-6 record. Oregon is the only team to be perfect in inter-division play. Stanford, ASU and Oregon State are all 2-1. It stands to reason that the North is still probably considered the stronger division with Oregon and Stanford ranked in the top five. But the South has made a strong play of late with its depth, which includes five of six teams at .500 or better.

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