Oregon Ducks: Zach Maynard

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.
Marqise LeeCal Sport Media/AP ImagesYeah, Oregon's offense is elite already, but how good would it be if it had gotten Marqise Lee to sign in 2011? Pac-12 defenses shudder at the thought.
Under Chip Kelly, the Oregon football program has risen to a level few ever thought it could reach. His coaching style and aggressive schemes have led the Ducks to become a powerhouse program. While they are still far from a recruiting powerhouse, the influx of elite talent is one of the biggest reasons for their recent success. On Kelly's watch, the Ducks have secured a number of top prospects, including one of the biggest recruiting coups ever when they flipped De'Anthony Thomas after a long commitment to USC. Thomas has been brilliant in his time with the Ducks. Even with the Ducks' new recruiting prowess, taking a local legend out from under the thumb of a school like USC is the exception more than the rule.

There have been a few notable misses and some heated recruiting battles in the Kelly era that could have made this season's Ducks -- one of the best teams in school history -- nearly unbeatable. With some members of the Class of 2008 still in college, we'll look at what the Ducks could have looked like had they landed a few more of their key recruits.

2008

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
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Taking stock of the sixth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Just as the hot seat talk for California coach Jeff Tedford was starting to crescendo, the Bears pulled out an impressive 43-17 win over No. 25 UCLA. The Bears played tough on both sides of the ball, and QB Zach Maynard overcame an early interception to post perhaps his best career game, accounting for five TDs -- four throwing, one running. The defense forced six turnovers and pressured UCLA QB Brett Hundley most of the evening. Cal needed a win, and it got it.

Best game: There were nine lead changes in the first three quarters of Arizona's visit to Stanford, as neither defense could get a stop. But when the Wildcats jumped up 48-34 with nine minutes left in the game, it didn't appear we'd get an 11th change. But Stanford rallied around QB Josh Nunes and forced overtime. At that point, the Cardinal defense stepped up, forcing a turnover, and RB Stepfan Taylor's 21-yard TD run provided the winning points at 54-48.

[+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireStanford QB Josh Nunes talks with coach David Shaw during a timeout against Arizona on Saturday.
Biggest play: Down seven with 1:21 left and facing a fourth-and-9 at the Arizona 20-yard line, Nunes found Zach Ertz over the middle for 17 yards to the 3-yard line. Nunes went the final 3 yards for the tying touchdown that got Stanford to OT.

Offensive standout: Nine days after a loss at Washington had some fans calling for him to be benched, Nunes' clutch performance against Arizona might end up being more resonant than his struggles versus the Huskies. He overcame a slow start and 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.

Defensive standout: What's it with all these three-interception games? Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer grabbed three picks against Washington State, while Cal's Kameron Jackson did the same against UCLA. Both also had four tackles. Earlier in the year, UCLA CB Sheldon Price had three picks against Houston.

Special teams standout: Stanford's Daniel Zychlinski averaged 54.3 yards on four punts in the Cardinal's overtime win over Arizona with a long of 59 yards.

Smiley face: The Pac-12's top four teams: Oregon, USC, Oregon State and Stanford each found different ways to win. Oregon rolled over rival Washington 52-21, looking like a dominant, national title contender along the way. USC overcame a horrible start that left it in a 14-0 hole two minutes into its visit to Utah. Oregon State was sloppy and inefficient on offense but was bailed out by its defense against Washington State. And Stanford, as already mentioned, overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Arizona in overtime. One of the signs of a good conference is when its ranked teams just get it done, even if they aren't clicking.

Frowny face: Mike Leach was supposed to bring a high-powered passing offense to Washington State, and the Cougars were supposed to have the QB-WR combinations to make it potent. But it hasn't played out that way. The Cougars were held to two field goals in a 19-6 loss to Oregon State. They finished with a measly 227 total yards with five turnovers, including four interceptions. Neither Connor Halliday nor Jeff Tuel is playing well, and the receivers have been making too many drops. The Cougs are 98th in the nation in scoring with 21.8 points per game.

Thought of the week: Notre Dame, which Stanford visits on Saturday, is 5-0 and ranked seventh. The Fighting Irish appear to be finally emerging from a long period of malaise, and that's good for the Pac-12. The past few years, Stanford's and USC's annual whipping of the Irish meant little to the national audience. But a ranked Notre Dame team provides an opportunity for Stanford and USC to post wins that do raise eyebrows nationally, as well as raise the perception of the conference. Of course, Stanford and USC have to win those games for Notre Dame's return to relevance to be a positive one.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 features four teams ranked from Nos. 2 through 17: No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 11 USC and No. 17 Stanford. While any of those four teams could fall apart and out of the rankings, they do appear to comprise a top third of the conference so far. But who might rise from the Pac-12 and become a fifth ranked team, or at least the fifth team in the Pac-12 pecking order? The conference isn't lacking candidates. You'd have to rank Arizona State and Washington as the top two. The Sun Devils are playing well, while the Huskies already have a win over Stanford. Then there's UCLA, Arizona and Utah. And, perhaps, a resurgent California, which just beat UCLA. Will a nine-win team emerge from that group? Or will we end up with a lot of 7-5, 6-6 and 5-7?

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 weekend rewind: Week 5

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
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Taking stock of the fifth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Arizona State has been operating under the radar, in large part because it has posted good wins as it climbed to 4-1, but not one that distinguished it nationally. Still, the 27-17 victory over California had an impressive solidity to it, with the Sun Devils making critical plays on both sides of the ball. Further, you can't forget you can no longer type that ASU hasn't won in Berkeley since 1997, as I did 457 times this past week.

Best game: Oregon State's 38-35 win at Arizona wasn't over until the final minute. It featured six second-half lead changes and 1,158 yards of offense. It featured a lot of gumption from both teams, too. Probably the most entertaining game so far this year. Of course, if you subscribe to DirectTV, you didn't see it. Sorry.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireBeavers quarterback Sean Mannion had a stellar game against Arizona on Saturday.
Biggest play: In a game dominated by the offenses, it was a defensive play that gave the Beavers the prize at Arizona. With less than a minute left, Arizona had a first down on its 42, needing a field goal to force overtime and a TD to win. A minute is plenty of time for the Wildcats' fast-paced offense, which had gashed the Beavers throughout the second half. But Beavers cornerback Rashaad Reynolds jumped in front of a Matt Scott pass and grabbed the game-clinching interception.

Offensive standout: Oregon State QB Sean Mannion completed 29 of 45 throws for a career-high 433 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against the Wildcats. It was the fifth most passing yards in school history. Further, on the game-winning drive, he was 6-for-6 for 52 yards with a 9-yard TD pass to Connor Hamlett.

Defensive standout: UCLA's Damien Holmes moved from defensive end to inside linebacker this year. Then, when Jordan Zumwalt got hurt, he moved to outside linebacker against Colorado. All he did was record seven solo tackles -- five coming for a loss -- with three sacks in UCLA's 42-14 win.

Special teams standout: Washington State true freshman Teondray Caldwell had eight kick returns for 220 yards against Oregon, including a 92-yard effort that set up a Cougars TD. It was the second most kickoff return yards in a single game in school history.

Smiley face: The way Week 5 played out helped the conference end up with six teams ranked in the AP poll. Now-No. 23 Washington's win against Stanford was impressive enough for voters to forget the debacle at LSU. No. 25 UCLA, which shouldn't have been voted out in the first place, bounced back from its loss to Oregon State by winning in an appropriately dominant fashion at Colorado. UCLA joined No. 2 Oregon, No. 13 USC, No. 14 Oregon State and No. 18 Stanford. It's been a long time since the conference earned this much respect for its depth.

Frowny face: With its loss to Arizona State, California fell to 1-4 and 0-2. It was the second defeat so far in newly remodeled Memorial Stadium. The Bears' bowl hopes are feeling increasingly unlikely. QB Zach Maynard doesn't look improved as a second-year starter. The offensive line is getting pushed round. Even the defense has been spotty at times. Things are not going well for coach Jeff Tedford, who will only hear the grousing increase if his team can't find a way to avoid a losing season.

Thought of the week: Conference of quarterbacks? Only one Pac-12 QB, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, at No. 16, ranks in the top 25 in the nation in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, seven conference teams rank among the top 25 in sacks per game: No. 5 Arizona State (4.2 sacks per game), No. 6 USC (4.0), No. 10 UCLA (3.4), No. 13 teams Washington State and Oregon (3.2) and No. 25 teams Stanford and Utah (2.75).

Questions for the week: Will the Pac-12 start eating itself up or will the final regular-season rankings still feature five or six teams? How many teams are capable of winning nine or 10 games? There are some interesting misses of note: USC and Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford, Oregon and UCLA, Washington and either Arizona State or UCLA. When good teams don't play, it makes it easier for multiple teams to remain in the rankings. That's a secret you learn from conferences with eight-game conference schedules.

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