While it's probably a mistake to read too much into how a team does quarter by quarter -- the final score is what counts -- it might provide some tidbits of insight.
The baseline, of course, is this: Good teams are going to win most every quarter and bad teams will lose most every quarter. But what does it mean if your team starts fast or slowly? Or owns the third quarter? Or sputters in the second?
The conventional wisdom is teams that do well in the third are good at making halftime adjustments, but coaches often snort at such talk.
Former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter once painstakingly walked reporters through the halftime process to help them understand the small window for making significant schematic changes. Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly was at his snarky best -- even as he was being flattered -- when asked about "halftime adjustments."
Kelly, however, would admit that the occasional slow start by his offense was due to a feeling out period, where he and his assistants were taking the measure of what a defense was trying to do. That's the nature of football -- punching and counterpunching, reading and reacting.
Still, you probably shouldn't read too much into these numbers. While it's interesting that UCLA and Washington were very good in the third quarter last year while Arizona State -- curiously -- was not, the salient fact is the Sun Devils beat both.
- Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Washington were the only Pac-12 teams to win every quarter.
- California was the only Pac-12 team outscored in all four quarters. The Bears gave up 181 points in the first quarter, the worst defensive quarter in the conference.
- The highest scoring quarter belonged to Arizona State, with 192 points in the second. Washington had 184 points in the third and Oregon 182 points in the first.
- The best defensive quarter was USC in the first, holding foes to 37 points. Washington yielded 44 in the first and UCLA gave up 44 in the third.
- Arizona State was dominant in every quarter, other than the third, when it was outscored 109-99.
- Stanford was dominant in every quarter other than the fourth, which it lost 85-92, suggesting the Cardinal didn't fight for a large margin of victory.
- Oregon was dominant in all four quarters and, despite that, posted the best fourth-quarter margin of 78 points (137-59), suggesting the Ducks enjoyed producing a large margin of victory.
- Stanford yielded 60 or fewer points in each of the first three quarters. Oregon did so in the third and fourth (47 points and 59 points). Only three other teams produced even a single quarter with 60 or fewer points: UCLA in the third (44), USC in the first (37) and Washington in the first (44).
- Colorado was outscored in the first three quarters but won the fourth decisively, 130-70. That suggests Mike McIntyre's team didn't quit.
- USC won 10 games last year despite being outscored in both the third and fourth quarters. Only Cal and Washington State matched that dubious distinction.
- Utah was outscored only in the fourth quarter. Oregon State was outscored only in the first.
- Washington's 119-point margin (184-65) in the third was the largest for any quarter. Oregon's 109-point margin in the first quarter was second (182-73). Arizona State had the largest second-quarter margin at 77 points (192-115).
- Arizona's QB competition heads into the offseason, but it's still active.
- Arizona State coach Todd Graham is happy with his team's progress.
- Some spring football notes from California.
- Wrapping up spring football at Colorado.
- The story on how Oregon got big. As in eating and lifting.
- A walk-on is getting a shot on the Oregon State O-line.
- A Stanford roundtable that reviews key positions.
- UCLA is deep at receiver, but who's going to be the deep threat?
- More on USC sticking with QB Cody Kessler as the starter.
- Utah's offensive line is getting attuned with its new coach.
- Washington hopes its tight end tradition will continue.
- A report from spring practice No. 9 at Washington State.
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This recruiting cycle represents a huge year for talent in California, which means the Pac-12 should be able to put together some very healthy recruiting classes. In looking at the top five targets for the conference in the 2015 ESPN 300, it's no surprise that three come from Southern California. But if the Pac-12 wants to have a better overall finish in the recruiting rankings next year -- USC at No. 14 overall was the highest finish in 2014 -- the conference will need to reel in several out-of-area standouts, which is why the first two names on the list are here.
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It wasn’t a dramatic decision accompanied by great fanfare, but it was still notable that USC coach Steve Sarkisian named Cody Kessler the Trojans' starting quarterback after Tuesday’s practice.
Considering that Kessler was the incumbent starter, if he was improving at a more rapid rate than Browne it was a fairly clear sign that Kessler was in the lead position to be named the starter. Still, until the actual word came down from Sarkisian there was always going to be a slight bit of uncertainty.
It wasn’t a huge surprise that Sarkisian made the announcement at this time. Even though the Trojans coach was clear to say that the players will still compete throughout the summer and into fall camp, Sarkisian has long stated a preference to have his starting quarterback in place by the end of spring, in large part to help that player transition into the leadership role in summer workouts.
For Kessler, being named the starter now is a contrast to what happened last year when Lane Kiffin didn’t name a starter until the third game of the season. Both Kessler and Max Wittek later admitted that was difficult for both quarterbacks.
One of the variables in the competition this spring was that the quarterbacks were learning a new up-tempo system that Sarkisian was installing, one that could run up to 120 plays each day in practice. Both players had worked out of the shotgun in similar systems in high school so there was some familiarity, but Sarkisian wanted to see them on the field with no preconceived expectations.
Kessler, who was told of the decision early Tuesday by offensive coordinator Clay Helton, went out and had one of his best practices of the spring later in the day. Sarkisian mentioned several reasons he chose Kessler, ranging from decision-making to his presence in the locker room to his strong arm.
It was the natural choice to make as Kessler is simply more advanced than Browne is at this point, although it's clear that Browne has a bright future. For now, though, Browne will have to continue to wait his turn as Kessler will hold on to his job as the starting quarterback of the Trojans.
"I think he's extremely decisive from where he was in Week 1 in a new system to where he performed today," Sarkisian said. "He knows where he's going with the football. Are there some fundamentals and techniques we're going to continue to work on? Sure. But I think he's got a great deal of confidence. I love his leadership in the locker room with the players. He can throw the deep ball extremely well and he has enough athleticism to buy himself some time to create some plays down the field."
Kessler was locked in a quarterback competition in 2013 that spilled into the regular season before he finally claimed the job over Max Wittek. Kessler completed 236 of 361 passes for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He posted a raw QBR of 59.7 with an adjusted QBR of 66.7 in guiding the Trojans to a 10-4 record and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he was named the game's MVP.
"I went in knowing that I have a year of experience and I know what it takes in big games to win and be successful," Kessler said. "I used that confidence and applied it to practice and treated every practice like a game."
The rewards might continue with the Class of 2015.
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- Maybe you've heard, Arizona finished spring practice without a clear-cut starting quarterback.
- A draft profile of former Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford.
- Kyle Boehm is making progress at quarterback after lining up mostly at receiver last season.
- Confidence is key at Colorado, where the Buffs are looking to get back to a bowl game.
- Oregon is looking for younger receivers to step up without Bralon Addison in the mix.
- This looks good: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion sits down with Pac-12 Networks analyst Rick Neuheisel for an episode of "Under Center with Rick Neuheisel." Think "Gruden's QB Camp" for college. The episode airs Wednesday.
- This mock draft has Stanford offensive guard David Yankey headed to the Patriots in the first round.
- One Boston-area analyst agrees the Patriots need should go guard in the first round, but thinks it'll be UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo.
- Former USC WR Marqise Lee is taking a visit to Miami.
- Keith McGill's journey to NFL prospect (via Utah), included a stop as a parking attendant at Disneyland.
- Will Washington's Bishop Sankey be a starter from Day 1 in the NFL?
- CougCenter rounds up where WSU players have transferred.
Khaliel Rodgers has been working with the first unit throughout spring and has done a solid job. The redshirt freshman is known for his tenacious and aggressive nature, and he has made progress adjusting to USC's new up-tempo offense.
Walker has never been known as a player with a great work ethic so it will be interesting to see where his strength and conditioning is when he returns to practice. The fact that his injury is an ankle has prevented him from keeping up with conditioning, and there will be no real way to substitute for that until the ankle is ready. Walker is a big guy, listed on the USC roster at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, and that kind of frame will need some time to catch up to the work the other players are doing right now in order to get through 120 high-paced plays per day.
Of course, this is the final year of college eligibility for Walker, the last chance to impress the pro scouts for his potential career. Perhaps that will be the kind of carrot that will motivate him to show up ready to go from the moment fall camp arrives.
If Walker isn’t ready to go -- either with conditioning or with mental knowledge of the playbook -- Rodgers is continuing to make the coaches more and more comfortable with the thought of putting him on the field. That previous starting experience will be important for Walker, though, and you know the coaches will factor that into the equation, too.
WeAreSC caught up with Rodgers to get his thoughts as spring ball enters the final week:
Q: How is spring practice going so far?
A: It’s going great. Everyone is adjusting and doing great so far.
Q: What’s your weight at right now?
A: About 300 pounds.
Q: Is that the weight you’ve been trying to maintain through the spring?
A: Yeah, it’s been up and down a lot, been in the [200s], back up to , 310 but I’m 300 even right now.
Q: What’s it been like with [offensive line] Coach [Tim] Drevno?
A: It has been an awesome experience. He’s one of the greatest coaches to come out of the NFL. From the technique he teaches and overall, he’s a team coach and a great coach overall.
Q: How has moving around at guard been?
A: I’ve always been a guard, so moving me from left to right hasn’t been a major difference.
Q: You’ve been playing a lot with the first team, you feel pretty comfortable with that?
A: Yeah, me and the guys are gelling well. I took a lot of reps with them, with the first team, last year at practice. We were able to gel back then, so we are definitely gelling now.
Q: There was a lot of talk of you coming in and playing center, was that something you kind of wanted to do, or do you like it at guard better?
A: Whatever position Coach [Steve Sarkisian] wants me to be at, I’ll play.
Q: How much more prepared do you think you are with the redshirt year under your belt?
A: I’m more prepared just knowing the game, sitting back for a whole year and just watching how the game’s being played. Just football knowledge, I gained a lot of football knowledge.
Q: What’s the scheme been like for you? How different has it been with Sark in there?
A: It is totally different, but it is a scheme that will win games for sure, so we are definitely adjusting.
Q: For you specifically, what has been the difference for you? The protections, the calls, is all that different?
A: Wider splits, up tempo, fast, you’ve got to think faster. Everything is fast, that’s how you’ve got to win games now. Football is evolving and we got to be fast.
Q: Do you like the up-tempo style?
A: Definitely. It kills the morale of the defense.
Q: Is there any issues with conditioning for you as far as the up tempo goes?
A: We all have to get used to it as a team, but we are almost to the end of spring, so we are starting to get used to it now.
Q: You guys are running about 120 plays during practice, do you feel pretty good afterwards or are the last few plays hard?
A: It is definitely a lot of work put in so it’s not a bad feeling, but just to know that you can say you ran 120 plays, that’s a great accomplishment in practice.
Q: What do you think the quarterbacks have looked like back there?
A: All of my QBs are great. They’ve done an excellent job this whole spring.
Q: Max Browne came in with you in your class, what do you think of him so far?
A: Max, he works hard, he’s a work horse, in the film room especially. He’s always in the film room and the weight room, he always puts the extra time in. He’s a great guy.
Q: And you came in with Kenny Bigelow too, you get to face off against him. From the same high school, do you guys talk a lot about that?
A: Nah, high school is done with, it’s just like same ol' same ol', we go against each other all the time.
If things were to play out how McShay envisions, the Pac-12 would account for just three first-round picks. The surprise there is not the amount, but who is not included -- UCLA OLB/DE Anthony Barr.
After projecting Barr at No. 7 in his first mock draft in December, McShay had him at No. 11 in versions 2.0 and 3.0. This time? All the way to the second round at No. 36 to the Oakland Raiders.
It's long been assumed the UCLA pass rusher was the obvious candidate to be the first Pac-12 player taken, but the torch -- at least in this instance -- has been passed to Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 18 to the Jets. McShay's previous forecast had USC receiver Marqise Lee in that spot, but now he has Lee joining former Oregon coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia at No. 22.
Lee did some serious damage to Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012, with a combined 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is tagged for former USC coach Pete Carroll and the Super Bowl champion Seahawks at No. 32.
Seven players from the Pac-12 were projected to go in the second round, and a notable running back from the conference is on the board after the first two rounds.
TBD Weber State Arizona State TBD Idaho State Utah TBD Rutgers Washington State
TBD UC Davis Stanford TBD Fresno State USC TBD Colorado State Colorado TBD Washington Hawaii TBD California Northwestern TBD Portland State Oregon State TBD UCLA Virginia TBD South Dakota Oregon