Oregon Ducks: Matt Scott

Welcome to the Friday mailbag. At the very least, reading it informs you which day of the week it is.

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And you can follow my personal Twitter account, which is updated when I'm procrastinating -- which is, like, constantly -- by clicking here.

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To the notes!

Todd Graham's Nephew from Phoenix writes: Ted, In your article about the [Todd]Graham/[Rich] Rodriguez extensions, you stated that Rodriguez had "a lot less talent" than Graham over the past two years. You've stated this before in other articles. I'm curious what you're basing that on.

Ted Miller: Coach Graham's nephew wrote a much longer note with supporting points, but we cut those out due to a severe case of cherry picking.

You could, however, make a case that the talent at Arizona and Arizona State was at least comparable in 2012. Arizona had Matt Scott at quarterback and Taylor Kelly was a complete unknown. Heading into the season, we didn't know that DT Will Sutton was going to become a monster. It's also accurate to view the 2012 Territorial Cup as a huge collapse for Arizona in the fourth quarter -- at home, no less -- and that certainly wasn't a shining moment for Rodriguez and his staff.

Still, the Sun Devils ended up with four All-Pac-12 performers in 2012 compared to three for the Wildcats. Further, what Arizona State had coming back in 2013 was decisively superior to the Wildcats, which is why Kevin and I both picked the Sun Devils to win the Pac-12 South before the season and ranked them third in the preseason power rankings compared to eighth for the Wildcats.

As for more talent this past fall, the Sun Devils finished with -- cough, cough -- 13 first- or second-team All-Pac-12 players. Arizona? One -- RB Ka'Deem Carey.

To me, the biggest difference between the talent Rich Rodriguez inherited compared to Todd Graham was on defense, particularly on the front seven. The unit that played against the Sun Devils in the 2012 Territorial Cup was pretty much a slight blip above FCS-level talent.

As for the recruiting rankings that preceded Graham and Rodriguez, Arizona State ranked ahead of Arizona in 2009, 2010 and 2012 (year of both's hiring), while the vote was split in 2011.


Victor from Eugene, Ore., writes: I was thinking about the Oregon-Stanford rivalry that has emerged in the last few years and one game particularly came to mind, the 2010 edition. It was the fifth game of the season for both teams in early October, and I wonder why the conference does not keep it scheduled like that? It is generally accepted that these teams are top of the conference, and if they keep playing late November games, that can potentially knock out one of these teams from a more prestigious bowl game (or even now a second spot in playoffs). I understand high records going in to the game make it easier to build up for TV, but this is a marquee matchup no matter when (it's) played during the season, so people are going to watch. If anything, they play early and both teams go on to keep winning, so the conference could possibly have two playoff contenders and 13-0 and 11-1. The selection committee could look past one team's loss if against a strong opponent regardless of when played, but I think a loss has less of a decisive impact if it was from an early season game.

Ted Miller: You do know, Victor, that Oregon and Stanford were not always atop the Pac-12, right? Stanford, in fact, had a losing record way, way back in 2008. And there was this team called "USC" that had a pretty good run for a bit.

Scheduling, I am told, is more complicated than you think. Heck, witness the struggle to keep rivalry games set for the final weekend of the season. Schedule rotations, TV as well as each university's own quirks make it challenging to organize the conference slate. Further, showing favoritism for a certain budding rivalry probably wouldn't roll well in 10 other athletic departments.

While I understand -- and often espouse -- the realpolitik of your thinking, I also sort of like having an A-list Pac-12 game with national implications in November. It attracts a lot of eyeballs.

As coaches say, "The games you remember are played in November."


Tom from Portland writes: In your Pac-12 power rankings blog you imply that the return of Cyler Miles is a big boost to UW. Why is that? Keith Price was the starter for the last three years, so what do you see in Miles, who has not been a starter and I don't recall him even playing very much last year?

Ted Miller: Miles saw significant action last year and played well. His competition, sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams, haven't thrown a pass for the Huskies.

Miles came off the bench against UCLA and acquitted himself well, then led the Huskies to a win at Oregon State in his lone career start. In total, he appeared in eight games, completing 61 percent of his throws for 418 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 200 yards on 23 carries. His passer rating would have ranked 61st in the nation.

Further, the scuttlebutt on his playing abilities and upside has been almost entirely positive. Of course, then there's our next question.



Rob from Seattle writes: Ted -- I'm struggling to reconcile Chris Petersen's reputation of integrity with the decision to reinstate Cyler Miles. Granted -- he knows more than me as a fan and has done his own investigation. Here's what I do know: the police report said he and [Damore'ea] Stringfellow were involved in beating up a woman during a Super Bowl celebration. Am I wrong in thinking Petersen should explain this to us, why Miles deserves to be the leader of our football team after being involved in an attack on a defenseless woman?

Ted Miller: First off, I'm not one of those guys who dons shining armor to act like I'm a paragon of virtue as I differentiate between a man and a "defenseless woman." I know plenty of women who can play defense. And offense. I think acting as though women are made out of porcelain does them a disservice.

What I do abhor is someone bullying anyone. I equate that to attacking an innocent, non-aggressive, typically smaller person, be it a man or woman. This case allegedly fell within those criteria. It was both reprehensible and shockingly stupid.

I've commented on this a couple of times, first here and then here, the latter effort describing how I might hypothetically handle punishment if I were Chris Petersen.

As repeatedly noted, I'm a big second-chance guy. Not a big fan of zero-tolerance policies in most cases.

Further, Miles wasn't charged with a crime. Receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, another likely starter, was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault and one count of malicious mischief and he has opted to transfer, which I assume he was encouraged to do.

Petersen's chief task is winning football games. Educating and building the character of young men is part of the job, but it is secondary, despite what some might disingenuously claim. Petersen does, by the way, have a better chance of teaching Miles life lessons with him on the team than off it. I think the idea of "making an example out of someone" mostly works in organizations like the Mafia, where nuanced thinking isn't part of the culture.

But I do agree with something you wrote: "Am I wrong in thinking Petersen should explain this to us why Miles deserves to be the leader of our football team...?"

No, you are not. And this willful silence on the matter is the unfortunate course Washington appears to be taking, at least at present, as neither Petersen nor Miles have talked to reporters since making a brief statement on May 14. The correct course would have been to hold a news conference -- I'd have suggested Friday, May 16 at 4 p.m. -- just after the announcement of Miles' reinstatement.

Over-managing the response to an off-field incident like this is typically a mistake. Over-managing acts as a preservative instead of a neutralizer. It, in fact, makes things seem worse, as if there is something to hide about the process. The lead story for the 2014 Huskies should be the nationally esteemed Petersen beginning his first year at Washington, not what Miles did and how Petersen handled the incident.

Washington's goal should be to have the Miles incident watered down enough over the coming weeks that it is not the lead question for Petersen at Pac-12 media days in July. As it stands now, it will be. And if Petersen is standoffish, he will be peppered with questions, and then words like "bristled" and "evasive" will describe him in subsequent stories.

Just about every off-field incident in college football is a story with chapters -- incident, arrests or not, charges or not, punishment, aftermath and redemption or not. At present, Petersen and Washington are creating a limbo between punishment and aftermath that is unnecessary.


Rajesh K from San Carlos, Calif., writes: I think you should make custom 12-sided dice with each Pac-12 team on it for internal use at ESPN.

Ted Miller: We already have one. We roll it twice each day to see: 1. Which Pac-12 team we will be biased for that day; 2. Which Pac-12 team we will be biased against that day.

Who's the best QB... really?

August, 27, 2013
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ESPN Stats & Information's new Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) will be worth following this season. It's probably the best statistical measure of a quarterback's effectiveness out there.

As previously noted, the Manning Award used the 2012 QBR to put together its preseason watch list, which includes four Pac-12 quarterbacks: Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon State's Sean Mannion, who was just named the Beavers starter on Monday.

Total QBR measures a quarterback’s contributions to scoring on each play (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, and penalties) accounting for game context (down, distance, yard line, time remaining, and score) and adjusted for opponent strength. It is based on a 0-100 scale where 50 is average.

“Total QBR uses all of a quarterback’s plays and accounts for the context of the game and quality of the defenses faced,” ESPN Stats & Information Sr. Director Jeff Bennett said in a statement with the Manning Award news release. “We are excited to bring a more complete rating system to the fans to allow for fairer comparisons of quarterbacks who play in different types of systems and face various levels of competition."

The Pac-12 blog talked to Bennett and some Stats & Info folks during a recent trip to Bristol, and they explained some of the nuances of the QBR. For example, say a team faces third-and-6 and the QB completes a 5-yard pass. By most efficiency measures, a 5-yard completion would be a positive. But not for QBR, which takes into account down and distance.

As for the 2012 numbers, six Pac-12 QBs ranked among the top 50 in QBR, including four who return this fall. Those six are (with their national ranking):
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon 87.8
11. Matt Scott, Arizona 79.1
23. Matt Barkley, USC 73.6
33. Brett Hundley, UCLA 68.3
37. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State 67.0
40. Sean Mannion, Oregon State 63.1

For the sake of comparison, here's how things with the NCAA's standard pass efficiency rating (Number is national ranking):
7. Marcus Mariota
9. Taylor Kelly
12. Matt Barkley
26. Brett Hundley
48. Sean Mannion
59. Matt Scott

So there was some difference.

Pac-12 preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
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And so it begins.

Welcome to game week. These are the preseason power rankings. You can see our post-spring power rankings here. They are different.

1. Stanford: Both Kevin and Ted went against the popular grain -- as in the Pac-12 media poll -- and picked Stanford to win the Pac-12. The biggest reason for that, other than the Cardinal winning in Eugene in 2012 and welcoming back a strong crew of starters, is the continuity in the head coaching office.

2. Oregon: The Ducks are again a preseason top-five team and national title contender, with their North Division rivalry with Stanford becoming one of college football's must-see games. There are plenty of reasons to believe that new coach Mark Helfrich, stepping up from offensive coordinator, will maintain the juggernaut Chip Kelly built, including having just about all of Kelly's assistant coaches coming back. But there is certainty only in seeing it happen on the field. The Ducks do have an advantage in terms of schedule, with Stanford playing USC, UCLA and Arizona State, and Oregon missing the Trojans and Sun Devils. And Stanford doesn't play Colorado, either.

3. Arizona State: The South Division seems to be a three-team toss-up. When Kevin and I tossed our coin, it came up with the Sun Devils. Taylor Kelly leads the offense and Will Sutton leads the defense. Pretty good start. Of course, the early schedule will reveal a lot.

4. UCLA: The Bruins have the toughest conference schedule among South Division teams, mostly because they play Oregon. ASU and USC do not. There are some questions, but QB Brett Hundley and OLB Anthony Barr are a pair of future NFL first-round picks.

5. USC: The Trojans were seventh in the spring, in large part because of residual fumes from a horribly disappointing 2012 campaign. Also, coach Lane Kiffin sits on the hottest seat in the conference. But if you look at the Trojans on paper, well, it's not too difficult to imagine this team getting on a roll, one that could lead it back into the nation's top 10.

6. Washington: The Huskies not only have 20 starters back, they also are getting back several former starters who were injured last season, most notably DE Hau'oli Kikaha -- who changed his last name from Jamora -- and OG Colin Tanigawa. Both topped the depth chart released this weekend. This team, after three consecutive seven-win seasons, sets up for a return to national relevance. The opener in newly remodeled Husky Stadium against Boise State is, well, huge.

7. Oregon State: The Beavers still haven't named a starting quarterback -- the Pac-12 blog is of the mind we'll likely see both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz in at least the first two games. The big question, however, remains: How will things work out at defensive tackle? If that question is answered, it could be a big year in Corvallis.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats are operating under the radar because of two questions: 1) QB play; 2) defense. They are replacing the highly productive Matt Scott, and even though a lot of folks are back on defense, that unit got run over in 2012. The defense is going to be better. How much is a fair question. And how much can the guy behind center do his best Scott imitation?

9. Utah: The transition to the Pac-12 probably hasn't been as easy as most Utah folks -- coaches, players and fans -- expected. Still, if QB Travis Wilson takes a step forward under new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson and the Utes fill some holes on defense, this team could move up at least to the middle of the conference. Needs to stay healthy, though.

10. California: When you look at the Bears' depth chart, this seems low, even with a true freshman, Jared Goff, taking over behind center with a brutal early schedule. Still, there might be some growing pains under new coach Sonny Dykes, as his schemes on both sides of the ball are very different compared with what the Bears did under Jeff Tedford.

11. Washington State: The Cougars welcome back 17 starters, and they seem certain to be improved in the second season under coach Mike Leach. The defense has sneaky-good talent, and the deep crew of receivers seems perfect for Leach's "Air Raid" scheme. Of course, dramatic improvement might mean only five victories against a rugged schedule, including the opener at Auburn.

12. Colorado: The Buffaloes should be better this season under first-year coach Mike MacIntyre, but that likely won't be enough for them to move up in this conference.

The Pac-12's 2,500-yard passers

May, 28, 2013
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Brett HundleyScott Halleran/Getty ImagesOdds are good that UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will throw for at least 2,500 yards in 2013.
Last year, we looked at returning 3,000-yard passers, so the headline here shows how the Pac-12 has become more run-based, defensive minded of late.

And, of course, the conference's top two passers, Arizona's Matt Scott and USC's Matt Barkley, are both off to the NFL.

The returning members of the 2.5 K Club are:

  • UCLA's Brett Hundley (3,740 yards, 29 TDs, 11 Ints, No. 4 in passing efficiency)
  • Arizona State's Taylor Kelly (3,039 yards, 29 TDs, 9 Ints, No. 2 in passing efficiency)
  • Washington's Keith Price (2,728 yards, 19 TDs, 13 Ints, No. 8 in passing efficiency)
  • Oregon's Marcus Mariota (2,677 yards, 32 TDs, 6 Ints, No. 1 in passing efficiency)


There's a reason why Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State are highly thought of heading into 2013: Proven production returning behind center. And if Washington can get Price back to top form, the Huskies become a top-25 team.

So how does everyone else stack up? Which teams seem likely to get 2,500 yards passing next fall?

Well, there's lots of "To be determined" intrigue.

TBD, Arizona: B.J. Denker will enter fall camp atop the depth chart, but this one is far from over. If USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, who owns by far the biggest arms on the roster, wins the job, the Wildcats are almost sure to pass for 2,500 yards. Coach Rich Rodriguez, though widely viewed as a spread-option coach, showed last year he's comfortable throwing, so Denker or incoming freshman Anu Solomon also could put up solid passing numbers.

TBD, California: New coach Sonny Dykes likes to throw the rock around. Louisiana Tech averaged 351 yards passing per game last year. So whoever wins the QB job -- we're betting on Zach Kline -- will almost certainly hit the 2,500-yard mark.

TBD, Colorado: The Buffaloes struggled to the throw the ball last year, but new coach Mike MacIntyre might solve that, seeing his San Jose State Spartans passed for 332 yards a game last fall. Connor Wood, the frontrunner to win the job, has the arm to throw the ball around, but it's a matter of putting it all together.

TBD, Oregon State: Sean Mannion nearly made the above list, passing for 2,446 yards and 15 TDs with 13 interceptions last year, ranking fifth in the conference in passing efficiency and fourth in passing yards per game with 244.6. But he's still knotted with Cody Vaz in the competition for the starting job. If one guy starts the entire season, he will put up strong passing numbers because Mike Riley teams always do.

Kevin Hogan, Stanford: The Cardinal ranked 10th in the conference in passing last year with just 200 yards per game, but part of that was a scheme that played to a rugged defense and Hogan not winning the job until after midseason. Hogan is plenty capable, and his supporting cast is solid. Expect Hogan to at least hit the 2,500-yard mark.

TBD, USC: Whether it's Cody Kessler or Max Wittek, the USC QB will throw for at least 2,500 yards if he maintains his hold on the job. While Lane Kiffin likes balance, there are too many passing game weapons not to attack downfield, starting with All-American receiver Marqise Lee.

Travis Wilson, Utah: The Utes were last in the Pac-12 and 97th in the nation in passing in 2012, but Dennis Erickson is now their co-offensive coordinator. One of the original architects of the spread passing attack, it's highly likely Utah will substantially boost the 190.7 yards passing a game it produced last fall. Wilson is fully capable of throwing for 2,500 yards, and the Utes are solid at the receiver position.

Connor Halliday, Washington State: Halliday still isn't free-and-clear of redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca, but he's a solid frontrunner in the competition. Whoever wins the job, he will put up big numbers in Mike Leach's "Air Raid" system. The Cougars couldn't stick with a QB last year, going back and forth with Halliday and Jeff Tuel, but they still led the Pac-12 with 330.4 yards passing per game. If Halliday starts 12 games, he'll throw for 4,000 yards.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 1

February, 25, 2013
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Our countdown of the top 25 players in the 2012 season continues.

You can see our preseason top 25 here.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

2012 numbers: Mariota completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

Preseason ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for Mariota: It's pretty extraordinary that a redshirt freshman quarterback earns first-team All-Pac-12 honors. And tops this list. But Mariota had an extraordinary season. He ranked first in the Pac-12 and seventh in the nation in pass efficiency. It's reasonable to wonder how ridiculous his numbers would have been had Oregon played more close games, and therefore Mariota's A-game was needed in the fourth quarter more than three or four times. Consistency? Mariota threw a touchdown pass in every game. He threw one interception in the final seven games. He led an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring (49.5 ppg) and was fifth in total offense (537.4 ypg). The Ducks scored 11 points per game more than any other Pac-12 team. The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Honolulu native is an extremely accurate passer who also might be the fastest quarterback in the nation -- see 86 and 77 yard runs this year. Against USC on the road, he completed 87 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He tied a school record with six TD passes against California. He rushed for 135 yards at Arizona State. In the Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State, he passed for two touchdowns and ran for another and earned game MVP honors as the Ducks ended up ranked No. 2 in the nation. Mariota will enter the 2013 season as one of the top-five preseason Heisman Trophy candidates. Said All-American Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown: "He's a great young player. He has a bright future." Yes he does. If current trends continue, Mariota will become the greatest player in Oregon history and be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. That's a lot. But it's the truth.

No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Ifo Ekpre-alloverarizona

Who and against whom: Oregon corner back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu helped lead the Oregon defense to a 49-0 shutout victory over Arizona in what was supposed to be Oregon's first "real" test of the season.

The numbers: Ekpre-Olomu had just one tackle, but he picked off Arizona quarterback Matt Scott twice -- returning one of them for a 54-yard touchdown. He also broke up three passes.

A closer look: After Arizona failed to score on its first possession in the red zone, the Wildcats were given a gift on their second possession when Marcus Mariota fumbled at his own 12-yard line. A holding call forced the Wildcats back to the 20, but they were still poised to score the game's first points. That is until Ekpre-Olomu stepped in on the first of his two picks. Scott and Dan Buckner weren't on the same page and Ekpre-Olomu made a diving catch on the sideline to stop the red zone threat. It was all Oregon from then on as the defense stifled the Wildcats and the offense jumped ahead 28-0 in the fourth. Make it 35-0 after Ekpre-Olomu jumped a Scott pass, again intended for Buckner, and with a full head of steam went untouched for a 54-yard score. They were the first two picks of his career and he would go on to earn first-team all-conference honors. It was Oregon's only shutout of the year, but it came against the team that ranked second in the league in total offense (second only to the Ducks).

You can check out all of the top performances here.

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.

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.

Quick look at Week 9 Pac-12 games

October, 22, 2012
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Here's a quick look at Week 9 in the conference. All times are ET. All games are Saturday.

Colorado (1-5, 1-3) at No. 4 Oregon (7-0, 4-0) 3 p.m. Pac-12 Network: The series is tied at 8-8, but the Ducks have won two in a row, including a 45-2 win in Boulder last year. Oregon is No. 1 in the conference in scoring offense and No. 2 in total offense. Colorado is last in scoring defense and total defense. Oregon is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in red zone offense and red zone defense. Ducks opponents have converted just nine of 28 red zone visits into TDs.

UCLA (5-2, 2-2) at Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) 3 p.m. FX: UCLA leads the series 17-10-1, but the Sun Devils have won three of the last five. The Bruins, however, won memorably 29-28 in 2011. The Sun Devils missed a 46-yard field goal for the win as time expired. The Bruins' go-ahead drive featured a conversion on a third and 29 yards play. That was the first of five consecutive defeats for the Sun Devils, and coach Dennis Erickson was fired. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency, while UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin leads the conference in rushing.

No. 9 USC (6-1, 4-1) at Arizona (4-3, 1-3) 3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2: USC leads the series 28-7 and has won the last two and nine of 10. The Trojans won a barnburner 48-41 last year. The last five games have been tight, even though the Wildcats only came out on top in 2009. The average margin of victory was 5.6 points per game with no game decided by more than seven points. USC QB Matt Barkley leads the Pac-12 with 22 TD passes. Arizona QB Matt Scott is second with 17.

Washington State (2-5, 0-4) at No. 17 Stanford (5-2, 3-1) 6:15 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Stanford leads the series 36-25-1 and has won four in a row by an average margin of 31 points. The Cardinal rolled in Pullman 44-14 last year. The Cougars rank 119th in the nation -- second to last -- in rushing with 40.6 yards per game. Stanford is No. 1 in the Pac-12 and fourth in the nation in run defense.

California (3-5, 2-3) at Utah (2-5, 0-4) 9:45 p.m. Pac-12 Network: California leads the series 5-3, including a 34-10 win in Berkeley last year. The Utes, however, have won three of the last five meetings, all of which happened before they joined the Pac-12. Utah is last in the conference and 112th in the nation in third-down conversion percentage on offense (30.1 percent). But Cal is 10th in the conference in third-down conversion percentage defense (42.9 percent).

No. 7 Oregon State (6-0, 4-0) at Washington (3-4, 1-3) 10:15 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Washington leads the series 58-34-4 but the Beavers have won seven of eight, including a 38-21 win last year in Corvallis. Washington's defense has struggled to pressure opposing QBs. It has just nine sacks this year, fewest in the conference. The Beavers have yielded just 11 sacks, the fourth-fewest in the conference. As good as the Beavers have been, they rank 119th in the nation in penalty yards per game (82.17). On the other hand, Oregon State is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in turnover margin (plus-10). The Beavers have turned the ball over just six times. The next fewest is Stanford, with 10. Washington has 16 turnovers.

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 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
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So much offense! So much defense! So hard to choose ...


  1. Josh Nunes, QB, Stanford: The goat of last week's Washington-whooping, Nunes was absolutely clutch in leading the Cardinal from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 54-48 overtime victory at home over Arizona. He engineered back-to-back touchdown drives in the fourth quarter -- including a steely 4th-and-9 toss that helped set up the tying score. Nunes accounted for five Stanford touchdowns, completing 21 of 34 passes for 360 yards and two scores while also rushing for 33 yards on seven carries and three touchdowns.
  2. Nickell Robey, CB, USC: Leaned heavily toward the USC quarterback, but Robey was so solid that we couldn't pass him up. He had seven tackles (four solo), forced a fumble and had the nail-in-the-coffin interception that he returned 38 yards for a score with 9:30 left in USC's 38-28 victory at Utah on Thursday. The Trojans had a 10-point lead at the time, so the game wasn't exactly wrapped up. Robey saw to that.
  3. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State: In the preseason, we talked about there being two true lockdown corners in the conference. Poyer is one of them (see the above entry for the other one). When the offense was struggling, it was Poyer and the Beavers defense that kept Oregon State in the game. Poyer tallied three interceptions to help keep the Beavers undefeated, while also breaking up a pass, notching a tackle for a loss and finishing with four stops in the 19-6 win at Washington State.
  4. Zach Maynard, QB, Cal: With the exception of a couple of handoff-exchange issues, Maynard played fantastic football, throwing four touchdowns and running in a fifth in a 43-17 upset win over UCLA. He completed 25 of 30 passes (83.3 percent) for 295 yards to keep the Bruins winless at Cal since 1998. His 1-yard rushing touchdown was his second of the season on the ground. Nice bounce-back performance after a 9-for-28 showing the previous game against Arizona State.
  5. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: In the biggest game of his young career, Mariota tossed four touchdown passes and completed 15 of 24 balls to lead the Ducks to yet another blowout win -- 52-21 this time -- over the Washington Huskies. He also ran for 40 yards on seven carries and kept plays alive with his feet. He had one pick, but for the most part he showed good decision making on when to throw and when to throw it away. The Pac-12 blog sees marked improvement in Mariota each week.
  6. Matt Scott/Ka'Deem Carey, QB/RB, Arizona: We normally don't hand out stickers in defeat, so Scott and Carey can get a half-sticker each. But both deserve the recognition for fantastic performances. Carey rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns against the conference's No. 1 rush defense. Scott was 45-of-69 for a career-high 491 yards with three scores. Those numbers are too good to go unrecognized.

Pac-12 superlative tracker

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
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We're tracking the offensive, defensive and coach-of-the-year races in the Pac-12.

For a more thorough look at offense, re-read our Heisman Trophy update.

Offensive player of the year

1. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon: Thomas scored a touchdown against Washington State but it was a relatively quiet game for him. For the season, he's rushed for 302 yards (9.7 yards per carry) with five touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 193 yards and three TDs.

2. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: He ranks fourth in the nation and first in the Pac-12 with 139.4 yards rushing per game. He rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries in the blowout victory over Colorado. He also caught three passes for 48 yards.

3. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon: Barner rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Washington State. He averaged 9.8 yards per carry and ran for scores of 22, 10 and 80 yards. He's second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 121 yards per game and his nine rushing touchdowns leads the conference.

4. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Kelly is first in the Pac-12 and 16th in the nation in passing efficiency. The Sun Devils are second in the Pac-12 with 38.4 points per game. Kelly threw three TD passes in the win at California and now has nine for the season.

5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Barkley was off last week. His 12 TD passes still leads the conference, but he's fifth in the conference in passing efficiency.

Keep an eye on: UCLA QB Brett Hundley; USC WR Marqise Lee; Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton. Arizona QB Matt Scott; Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor.

Defensive player of the year

1. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State: Won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high eight tackles (six solo), including three sacks, and forced a fumble in a 27-12 victory over California. He's second on the Sun Devils with 34 tackles, including 10 for a loss. Also has 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.

2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Off last week. Fourth on the Utes with 19 tackles. Also has four tackles for a loss, a sack, two pass defenses and two forced fumbles.

3. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford: Had a sack and four tackles against Washington. He's third on the Cardinal with 23 tackles. He also has five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.

4. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC: Leads the conference with 2.38 tackles for a loss per game and has five sacks.

Keep an eye on: T.J. McDonald, S, USC; Travis Long, OLB, Washington State; Chris Young, LB, Arizona State; Datone Jones, DE, UCLA; Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.

Coach of the year

1. Mike Riley, Oregon State: The Beavers, who went 3-9 last year, are now 3-0 and ranked 14th. 'Nuff said.

2. Chip Kelly, Oregon: Ducks are atop the Pac-12 and ranked No. 2. If they ended up winning a fourth consecutive Pac-12 title and earn another berth in the national title game, Kelly wins.

3. Todd Graham, Arizona State: While the Sun Devils are lacking a marquee win, they've been impressive during a 4-1 start. Of particular note is their discipline and efficiency on both sides of the ball. That wasn't what you said about the Sun Devils in the past, even during the good times.

Keep an eye on: Jim Mora, UCLA; Steve Sarkisian, Washington

Oregon gets test, Arizona an opportunity

September, 22, 2012
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EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon has been off to the side during the season's first three weeks due to a weak nonconference schedule. So the Ducks are probably as happy as anyone that Arizona arrives with a national ranking and a quality win over Oklahoma State.

At last: A test. An opportunity to showcase promising redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota, Heisman Trophy candidate De'Anthony Thomas and a defense that is supposed to be the equal of the Ducks' always high-powered offense.

The Ducks can make a real statement after thoroughly dominating Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech, particularly their defense. The Wildcats' offense is A-list, led by QB Matt Scott, RB Ka'Deem Carey, a strong crew of receivers and a veteran offensive line. Together they've produced 605 yards per game, nearly equally split between pass and run, which ranks fourth in the nation.

If the Ducks can shut down the Wildcats, who have taken well to Rich Rodriguez's spread schemes, they probably can stop just about anyone.

And what about the Wildcats defense? Well, it's played better than expected and been opportunistic. But it gave up over 600 yards in the win over the Cowboys and lacks depth and playmakers, particularly up front.

And yet.

If the Wildcats can frustrate Mariota, who is making his first start against a team with a pulse, and force a few early mistakes, this one could get interesting.

The Ducks will take pressure off Mariota by getting the ball to its playmakers: Thomas and RB Kenjon Barner. Those two are fully capable of taxing any defense.

"Taxing a defense" will be a part of this game. Both offenses run at a breakneck pace. Oregon is much deeper on defense, so it should be able to keep guys fresher. Freshness might become an issue for the Wildcats as the second half advances.

Oregon is trying to position itself in the national title hunt. That fact presents a great opportunity for Rodriguez and the Wildcats to make their own statement, one that would resonate nationally.

Video: Friday Four Downs -- Week 4

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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Conference games, North-South matchups, Heisman watch and shoddy field-goal kicking are the topics on four downs this week.

Expect Ducks, Wildcats to spin scoreboard

September, 19, 2012
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If statistical trends established in the first three games hold true, No. 3 Oregon and No. 22 Arizona should combine for 1,200 yards and 100 points when they meet in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

That would be great fun, types the guy not playing defense.

Both offenses are up-tempo, no-huddle, run-based attacks. In fact, Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez is generally considered the father of the modern spread-option offense, while Ducks coach Chip Kelly is probably its most successful practitioner. And they are connected. In the spring of 1999, Kelly, then an offensive coordinator at New Hampshire in search of a new, fullback-less scheme, traded notes with Rodriguez, who was then the offensive coordinator at Clemson.

"Very similar philosophically," Rodriguez said. "You see some of the same plays. It looks like some of the same concepts. Philosophically we're very close in how we like to approach the game from an offensive standpoint."

Kelly, however, as is often his wont, was unwilling to indulge the media's interest in the relationship between Rodriguez and himself and their offenses. "I think it's made more of than it is," he said of the 1999 path-crossing at Clemson.

"When I look at them on tape, I don't say, 'I'm looking at us,'" Kelly said. "We use different formations than they use. We run some plays that are the same, but I think everybody runs some plays that are the same."

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez, Matt Scott
AP Photo/John MillerUnder new coach Rich Rodriguez, left, QB Matt Scott has Arizona's offense in the top 10 nationally.
Both teams have started the season fast, ranking in the nation's top 10 in total offense. Both are running well, with the Ducks ranking fourth in the nation in rushing with 329 yards per game, Arizona 19th with 247. The Wildcats have thrown for a lot more yards -- 357.7 per game to 267.3 for the Ducks -- but that could be due in large part to Arizona having played a pair of competitive games. Both teams' dual-threat quarterbacks are playing well, with Oregon redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota ranking 10th in the nation in passing efficiency and Arizona fifth-year senior Matt Scott ranking 31st.

So these offenses, even if they are only loosely related, are rolling.

The difference in the teams overall is on the other side of the ball. Oregon, even with the season-ending knee injury to safety John Boyett, is deep and talented on defense. Arizona? It's playing hard in its new 3-3-5 scheme. The Wildcats have been, well, scrappy.

"They are hanging in there," Rodriguez said. "I am proud of the way they've battled. We are really short-handed and not nearly deep enough. We're just hanging on. This is going to be a huge challenge, certainly."

Oregon's defense hasn't put up great numbers. In fact, Arizona, after shutting out South Carolina State, is better by several measures. But a lot of that can be attributed to the Ducks not playing starters many second-half minutes during blowout victories. And an opponent third-down conversion rate of 15.6 percent certainly raises an eyebrow.

"I kind of like where they are at right now," Kelly said.

Neither defense will be shocked by the pace of the opposing offense. But the difference in depth should become an issue. Perhaps a decisive one, particularly in the fourth quarter. The Ducks will regularly rotate pretty much a full two-deep. The Wildcats, as Rodriguez noted, won't. The Ducks have 21 players with five or more tackles. Arizona has only 14 with at least five tackles. The backups for the Wildcats' front six have combined for 10 tackles. The Ducks' No. 2s for their front seven have combined for 46.

You almost wonder if Rodriguez might try to slow things down, but that would be against his nature.

For Oregon, while Kelly holds to his mantra of a nameless, faceless opponent of no more meaning and value than, say, Tennessee Tech, this is its first real test, the Pac-12 opener for a team that now sits atop the conference pecking order because of USC's loss to Stanford.

If the game looks anything like the 56-31 beatdown Oregon delivered in Tucson last year, it will become clear that the Ducks are again title contenders -- conference and otherwise.

It's surprising that Arizona is 3-0. It will be shocking if the Wildcats improve to 4-0. It probably will require an atypical level of sloppiness from the Ducks for the upset to happen.

Still, there's a good reason Vegas tapped this game with a 77.5-point over/under, by far the biggest number of the weekend. The expectation is there will be lots of offense -- and lots of exhausted defenders -- when the final bell rings.

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