Oregon Ducks: Matt Barkley

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.

Rivalries in the Pac-12

August, 12, 2013
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There are special rivalries -- Army-Navy, Auburn-Alabama, Ohio State-Michigan, USC-Notre Dame -- to which all college football fans tip their caps.

But every college football rivalry is great -- and bitter -- for those who are invested in one team or the other.

The Pac-12 is a league of natural rivalries, as teams are grouped in regional pairs. Even the newbies -- Utah and Colorado -- have a history with their Rumble in the Rockies.

But instead of looking at Pac-12 rivalries in terms of history, let's look at how they stand heading into 2013.

Top rivalry: When UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr rearranged the body of USC QB Matt Barkley during the Bruins' 38-28 victory last year, a great rivalry woke up. There is no comparable rivalry in the country where city pride is at stake. And it's so much more fun when both teams are nationally relevant. Jim Mora has the Bruins on a notable uptick, while things at USC with Lane Kiffin are iffy. The Trojans have dominated this one of late and historically, but the momentum might be swinging. We'll find out a lot Nov. 30. It's fair to say that game will be very, very important to Kiffin.

Rivalry on the rise: The Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State has always been bitter. The schools have a long and adversarial history that supersedes football concerns. In fact, the problem has been football. Rarely have both teams been good, so the rest of the college football nation didn't pay much attention. But with two new coaches, the Wildcats and Sun Devils both appear on the uptick. Further, it's fair to say the relationship between Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham isn't terribly warm. It's not likely coaching on opposite ends of the state will provoke a reconciliation.

Rivalry fading: Not to sound like the Pac-12 blog is trolling, but Oregon-Washington isn't what it used to be. Oh, no two fan bases go back and forth with such zeal as the Huskies and Ducks, but a rivalry loses some of its luster when it becomes one-sided and, well, Huskies... what do you want me to say? Nine consecutive wins for Oregon by at least 17 points sort of lowers the tension, eh?

Of course, this one might bounce to the top category in 2014 if Washington ends its inglorious streak on Oct. 12 when the Ducks make their first visit to fancy new Husky Stadium.

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.

 
ESPN's Todd McShay recently released his latest mock draft -- and there was a lot of movement involving the Pac-12 players projected to go in the first round.

And, for the first time, McShay taps into the second round. You can see the complete mock draft here Insider.

One of the biggest movers was Oregon's Dion Jordan, whom McShay now projects to go second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. McShay had Jordan projected as the No. 6 overall pick last month.
Jordan is the top pass-rusher in this class, but that's not all he can do. His fluidity and range in coverage are rare for a DE/OLB prospect with his length. He wouldn't be a great fit in many 4-3 defenses, but his ability to get after the passer when turned loose upfield, as well as drop into coverage from a two- or three-point stance, is ideal for the scheme new head coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich are bringing to town.

The biggest drop was California wide receiver Keenan Allen -- who was No. 12 last month and checked in at No. 25 in the latest mock. McShay has him slated for the Minnesota Vikings.
Many of the players coming off the board in this area would make sense for the Vikings, who are in something of a sweet spot late in the first round. They can sit tight and be fairly certain of getting a player who addresses a need and is nearly top-10 quality but will cost far less. In Allen's case, that means a receiver with good body control and hands who could become a very good No. 2 receiver at the next level.

Another player dropping was Utah's Star Lotulelei, who went from No. 1 overall to No. 11. It's worth noting that McShay's projection came out before Monday's Salt Lake Tribune story that after testing, Lotulelei's heart showed "no evidence of dysfunction." So expect his draft stock to trend up with this news.

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant jumps from first-round maybe to No. 21 and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Corner is a top need for Cincinnati on the other side of the ball, and now that Trufant has verified his top-end speed his suddenness, balance and closing burst give him the look of a very good man-cover corner at the next level. Scouts I've talked to are also impressed with his professional demeanor, and the bottom line is that teams can never have enough good cover guys in today's pass-happy NFL.

Players projected for the second round include USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (potentially reuniting with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco), Oregon guard Kyle Long and USC wide receiver Robert Woods.

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

Top performances of 2012: Marcus Mariota

February, 15, 2013
2/15/13
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Mariota's six pack

Who and against whom: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota carved up the California secondary, turning a close game in the third quarter into a 59-17 blowout victory.

The numbers: Mariota completed 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 230.79 passing efficiency rating, which is very, very good. He also -- oh, by the way -- rushed six times for 42 yards.

A closer look: Running back Kenjon Barner hurt? The Ducks vaunted running game bottled up? The Ducks up just seven early in the third quarter? No matter. The Bears ended up getting Marcus Mariota'd. This game, in fact, seemed to provide ultimate confirmation that Mariota was an elite quarterback and a future Heisman Trophy contender. He was simply brilliant on the road in the second half of a game where things weren't going Oregon's way. The Ducks, who had rushed for at least 400 yards in the previous three games, were outrushed by the Bears 236 yards to 180. Barner had just 65 yards on 20 carries, 256 fewer yards than he had the previous weekend against USC. Cal's defense wanted to force Mariota to pass to win. He did, and with panache, tossing touchdown passes of 10, 10, 35, 39, 14 and seven yards. He tied the Oregon school record for touchdown passes in a game and tied USC's Matt Barkley for the Pac-12 season-high.

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.

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
11/18/12
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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
11/15/12
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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.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
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What did we learn in Week 11? Read on.

Hogan was the right choice for Stanford: It seemed like odd timing that Stanford coach David Shaw switched starting quarterbacks as his team headed into its biggest game of the year, but freshman Kevin Hogan made his coach look smart, though it wasn't always pretty. Hogan completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 27-23 victory over Oregon State. He also rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries. His biggest pass was a 13-yard strike to tight end Zach Ertz for the winning points. Hogan was effective with his feet and his arm, and he didn't wilt when things didn't go his way through most of the second and third quarters. Now he faces a bigger test: Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Ed Szczepanski/US PresswireKevin Hogan kept an even keel in Stanford's comeback victory over Oregon State.
USC shows some grit: USC held Arizona State to only 250 yards and three second-half points in a 38-17 win. The Trojans trailed 17-14 early in the third, and it looked as though they might pack it in for the season. But with senior center Khaled Holmes exhorting his teammates on the sidelines, USC showed some grit, particularly on defense. The same defense that got ripped by Arizona and Oregon's spread offenses shut down the Sun Devils, recording six sacks and forcing four turnovers. It was far from perfect. On the day quarterback Matt Barkley set the Pac-12 career passing yardage record (12,026 yards), surpassing the previous mark held by Carson Palmer, he threw three interceptions. Still, the Trojans play archrival UCLA next weekend for the Pac-12 South Division title.

Ducks are banged up with Stanford coming to town, but will that matter? Oregon arrived at California with major injury issues, particularly with its defensive front, and things only got worse as the game went on. The Ducks, however, pulled themselves together and dominated the Bears in the second half, winning 59-17. Still, Stanford, which visits Autzen Stadium on Saturday, is a much better team that Cal, particularly on the offensive line. Will the Ducks get some guys back, such as defensive linemen Ricky Heimuli, Dion Jordan and Isaac Remington? The Ducks don't talk about injuries, but injuries will be something lots of folks are talking about this week. Or speculating on.

UCLA gets its big shot at vulnerable USC: While UCLA let up in the second half at Washington State -- the Bruins were outscored 29-7 and won only 44-36 -- that doesn't change the big possibilities that lie ahead. Now 8-2, the Bruins can win the Pac-12 South Division if they beat archrival USC in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. That would mean stomping on the Trojans' once-hyped season, which would inspire plenty of consternation in Heritage Hall. UCLA fans would love to do that. And it would mean the Bruins could end up in the Rose Bowl, either as the Pac-12 champions or as an at-large selection. So big stakes are at hand.

Huskies step up, Utes step back: Utah and Washington squared off as teams that weathered midseason adversity and had won two in a row. But only one could maintain positive momentum. The Huskies' decisive 35-14 victory boosted their record to 6-4, earning them bowl eligibility. They can continue to climb the pecking order if they can beat Colorado and Washington State over the next two weekends, though both games are on the road. The Utes' offensive surge came to an end, with only 55 yards passing. They need to win their next two games, at home to Arizona and at Colorado.

Picking two first-team All-Pac-12 running backs won't be easy: Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 366 yards -- a new Pac-12 single-game record -- and five touchdowns in Arizona's 56-31 win over Colorado. He will take over the Pac-12 rushing lead, as Oregon's Kenjon Barner (65 yards) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (66 yards) had subpar games. The final two weeks probably will decide the two guys who end up first-team All-Pac-12.

Video: Friday Four Downs -- Pac-12

November, 9, 2012
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Taking a look at four major issue for the Pac-12 in Week 11.

Pac-12 Heisman tracker

November, 6, 2012
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Just when we were ready to hand the Heisman to Matt Barkley (in the preseason, of course), Geno Smith came along and snatched it away. Until Collin Klein took it from him. And now, we might have another late-season changing of the guard with Oregon's Kenjon Barner coming on strong in recent weeks before blowing up against USC. Such is the fickle nature of the Heisman tracker. Barner is squarely in second place in the ESPN.com Heisman poll, though he has only one first-place vote this week (compliments of yours truly). He has 10 of the 15 second-place votes. Barkley and De'Anthony Thomas have dropped off the radar and Marqise Lee is the only other Pac-12 player receiving votes.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
  • Week 10 numbers: Carried 38 times for 321 yards (8.4 average) with five touchdowns. Caught two balls for 26 yards.
  • Season numbers: Has carried 179 times for 1,295 yards (7.2 average) with 19 rushing touchdowns. Has 15 catches for 184 yards and a score.
  • What went well: Where to start? The records? The fact that it was on the road at USC? The fact that anyone who watched that game should have been convinced he's the top running back in the country? All in all, a thoroughly dominant and prolific performance.
  • Any questions? Nope. None here. Others, however, still see Klein as the front-runner for now. But it's hard not to imagine Barner didn't punch a ticket to New York with his showing Saturday.
Others receiving votes

Marqise Lee, WR, USC
  • Week 10 numbers: Caught 12 balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Season numbers: Has 88 catches for 1,286 yards and 12 scores.
  • Thoughts: While Barner went off and showed the country he's the best running back in the nation, there should be no question about who the best wide receiver is. The loss shouldn't take away from another stellar showing.

Instant analysis: Oregon 62, USC 51

November, 3, 2012
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The Oregon-USC matchup lived up to all of the hype and more. In what will go down as a classic Pac-12 shootout, the No. 4 Ducks survived a motivated and offensively potent USC squad 62-51 in Los Angeles. Here's how it went down:

It was over when: USC failed to convert on a fourth-and-5 deep in its own territory with 3 minutes left in the game. On the ensuing Oregon drive, running back Kenjon Barner went 22 yards for his fifth rushing touchdown of the game.

Oregon game ball goes to: Barner justified his Heisman hype with an explosive performance, rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries. It was an Oregon single-game rushing record.

USC game ball goes to: There should no longer be a question of who is the best wide receiver in the Pac-12 -- or the country for that matter. It’s Marqise Lee, who had 157 yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns and 408 all-purpose yards.

Stat of the game: 1,345. Total offensive yards combined between the teams.

Stat of the game II: 2. The total number of punts.

Unsung hero: After missing time with a bad wrist, Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso had nine tackles (two for a loss) and an interception.

What it means for Oregon: For starters, legitimacy. For all those waiting to see if Oregon could do it against a quality opponent on the road, those questions were answered. The defense gave up a lot of yards and points -- not exactly surprising, though, considering the opponent. But the offense ran up 730 yards of offense -- the most ever by a USC opponent. And I think we can put all the talk about Marcus Mariota being young and overwhelmed by the moment behind us. He was 20-of-23 for 304 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

What it means for USC: With a third conference loss, the Trojans aren't out of the Pac-12 South hunt yet, but they are at the mercy of Arizona -- at least for now -- which holds the tiebreaker over them following last week's 39-36 Wildcats victory. Should USC win the South, it'll probably get another crack at the Ducks for a chance to go to the Rose Bowl. This might also be the dagger in Matt Barkley's Heisman hopes.

Halftime: Oregon 34, USC 24

November, 3, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- It was a first half full of offensive frenzy and turnovers, but Oregon and USC head into the locker room with the Trojans within striking distance, trailing 34-24.

USC gets the ball to start the third in a game where you can't waste too many possessions because the defenses are struggling.

The Trojans had three first-half turnovers, including a pair of Matt Barkley interceptions, but Barkley also threw three touchdown passes, including strikes of 75 and 76 yards. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 303 yards.

At 27-10 Oregon early in the second quarter, it looked as if the Ducks might run away with it. They still might. But not yet.

Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 14 of 16 passes for 213 yards with three touchdowns, but he had a fumble late in the second quarter at the USC 15-yard line after he seemed to get shaken up on the preceding play.

Oregon running back Kenjon Barner is headed toward a big night. He has 169 yards and two scores on 16 carries.

It figures that turnovers and precious defensive stops will be the key in the second half.

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