If Haden’s beloved Trojans have a future advantage in navigating the treacherous waters of the College Football Playoff structure, the former Rhodes Scholar and quarterback of the 1974 USC National Champions understands firsthand the template for CFP inclusion or exclusion.
Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it was somewhat curious that on the Friday before last Sunday’s final CFP Top 25 was announced, Haden spoke publicly through social media for the first time about unacceptable seasonal win numbers for his own Trojans football program.
In last Friday’s social media address to the Trojans faithful, Haden was direct and to the point on what he thinks is an inappropriate number of victories for a Trojans head football coach.
“We have higher expectations than eight wins at USC,” said Haden, whose current football team under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian concluded its regular season at 8-4.
Haden added, “But I am optimistic about the future with most of our offense expected to return, especially the young offensive line, which is the foundation of any great offense.”
While the 61-year-old athletic director said he has higher expectations than eight wins per season at Troy, he didn’t specify a minimum number of wins that would be acceptable.
Haden likely realizes that a minimum of double-digit wins (try 12) and one or possibly two losses is the new four-team playoff benchmark.
In a future potential eight-team playoff, that win total could go as low as 10 wins. No matter if it's a four- or eight-team playoff, though, a 10-win season would probably qualify the Trojans for an access bowl appearance like the Rose Bowl.
With a Dec. 27 date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the National University Holiday Bowl, the Trojans -- providing they can defeat the storied Huskers in San Diego -- obviously won’t finish the season with more than nine victories.
Last season under three separate head coaches, the Trojans finished a combined 10-4 and ended their tumultuous 2013 campaign with a convincing 45-20 victory over Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
As a motivating carrot, Trojans interim head coach Clay Helton used a 10th win bowl scenario to help rally the troops after interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who replaced the fired Lane Kiffin, abruptly left the program following the regular season when he was not named the permanent USC head coach.
Even before the CFP, there has been a high C for Trojans football going back to the glory days of Howard Jones and The Thundering Herd. Even during the John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll eras, a 10-win season was the unspoken measure of minimum success.
Whether current Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian has been told in private that eight wins won’t cut it, the fact that “8” is now out there for public consumption will, no doubt, become a measuring stick for Trojans head coaches, as long as Haden remains the USC athletic director.
Haden also acknowledged in his social media release that he is returning as the Trojans athletic director in 2015, thus knocking down the plethora of heavy rumors that he is in ill health and on the verge of retiring.
Since Steve Sarkisian is Pat Haden’s first hired head football coach, there is every reason to believe that Haden will do everything in his power to help Sark succeed.
The University of Southern California has attained 11 football national championships in its illustrious history, and with all the current excitement, euphoria and drama surrounding the new College Football Playoff system, the seeds of expectation for a future 12th USC national title have already been planted.
As an added caveat, those that know Haden either by playing alongside him, against him, or working with him in the private sector would be the first to tell you that old No. 10 is extremely competitive and has a great distaste for defeat.
And speaking of No. 10, whether it be a uniform number or a collection of victories, if there were an eight-team playoff this season, both CFP No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) and No. 8 Michigan State (10-2) would have made the cut.
So maybe No. 10 warms Pat Haden’s cardinal and gold heart in more ways than one.
That’s the context for this set of rankings. Strictly from a watch-from-the-couch perspective, here’s an attempt at ordering the Pac-12’s bowl games by level of intrigue.
8. Foster Farms Bowl: Stanford (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5)
Tuesday, Dec. 30, Santa Clara, Calif.
While still in the projecting stage of the bowl season, there were some ASU fans that felt like it would be a slight to the Sun Devils if they weren’t selected by the Foster Farms Bowl, which sits fourth in the selection order. That talk died down once Maryland was officially named Stanford’s opponent. After four trips to BCS bowls for the Cardinal and a mediocre season, this one just doesn’t have much broad appeal.
7. TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Friday, Jan. 2 , Tempe, Ariz.
Oklahoma State is a perfect reason why teams should never get extra credit for beating a team when it was ranked. In Week 8, the Cowboys were the AP poll’s No. 15 team -- ahead of every Pac-12 school except Oregon -- before a five-game losing streak followed once the level of competition improved. There’s NFL talent on both rosters and Chris Petersen’s first bowl appearance with the Huskies is interesting, but the main reason to watch is to savor the last time Washington’s defensive trio of DT Danny Shelton, OLB/DE Hau'oli Kikaha and LB Shaq Thompson play together (pending the unlikely event they end up on the same NFL team one day).
6. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No. 23 Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 20, Las Vegas
There should be a lot of eyes on this one nationally. It starts at 3:30 p.m. ET, on the first Saturday of bowl season and only overlaps with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Utah State vs. UTEP) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Air Force). Plenty of people will want to see the team Jim McElwain parlayed into the Florida gig. From a Pac-12 perspective, Utah’s quarterback play will be a hot topic throughout the offseason and this game will serve as a final data point for that discussion.
5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 27, El Paso, Texas
Forget Duke pre-2013. Over the past two seasons, the Devils of the blue variety have won 19 games under coach David Cutcliffe, which is equal to that of ASU. Duke’s lack of ranking means nothing as far as how competitive this game will be. After all, the Sun Devils only need to look back to a year ago when as the No. 14 team in the final BCS standings they lost to a 7-5 Texas Tech team, 37-23.
4. National University Holiday Bowl: No. 24 USC (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 27, San Diego, Calif.
From the implausible-a-month-ago file, Mike Riley is the head coach for a storied program facing off against USC in a bowl game. He won’t be in a coaching role for this one, but it’ll be a good chance to see the canvas Riley will be working on as he tries to reach new heights as a coach in the Big Ten. Bonus points for the possibility @FauxPelini will be live-tweeting from his lair in SPECTRE’s headquarters. Take some time to appreciate USC’s Leonard Williams one last time, too, before he becomes a fixture up front for an NFL team
3. VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: No. 10 Arizona (10-3) vs. No. 20 Boise State (11-2)
Wednesday, Dec. 31, Glendale, Ariz.
The old system worked for Boise State and so has this one. This is a far-less desirable matchup than many would have hoped for the Pac-12 South champion -- almost any SEC team would have been significantly more interesting -- but it’s still one of the three Pac-12 bowls between ranked teams. Until getting drubbed by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship, the Wildcats made a habit of playing entertaining games, which falls in line of Boise State's tradition in this bowl.
2. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 14 UCLA (9-3) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (9-3)
Friday, Jan. 2, San Antonio, Texas
There are metrics that indicate the Big 12 is the best conference in college football. There are people who believe that distinction belongs to the Pac-12. Most feel they both fall below the SEC pecking order of conference strength at No. 2 and No. 3. Whatever your opinion is, it will be tested here as UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley plays his final game for the Bruins. A win against the Wildcats could spring UCLA to a top-10 finish, which wouldn’t be a bad consolation for a team that fell short of its ultimate goals.
1. College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual): No. 2 Oregon (12-1) vs. No. 3 Florida State (13-0)
Thursday, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.
Heisman Trophy winners playing quarterback for opposing teams in a College Football Playoff game? Yes, please. This is the prime example of why the playoff trumps the BCS because this game doesn’t get played in the old era. Does it need further billing? There’s only one potential game in college football that would be more intriguing … and if both Oregon and Alabama win, it will be played on Jan. 12.
Lots of playoff chatter this week, for obvious reasons. And another trend story that's popping up lately is how things would have looked under the old BCS system. It would feature Alabama versus Florida State in the national title game, and the Oregon Ducks, ranked No. 2 by the College Football Playoff Committee, would have had to win the day in a lesser BCS bowl game. So, safe to say, the Pac-12 has benefited from the new four-team system.
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News touches on this in his notebook column, and also hits on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's soon-to-be Heisman Trophy.
Here's a look at how the final rankings played out side-by-side.
And in another Oregon-esque news, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook said the Ducks were the toughest opponent he faced all season. Here's what he told the BTN:
Oregon was a great great opponent, great offense, great defense, they had the uptempo offense that was pretty hard to stop. They have a great defense with a great front seven, talented DBs, and playing in Autzen (Stadium) was very difficult as well.
I remember someone saying a few weeks back that Oregon's defense was going to look a lot stronger statistically in the second-half of the season. Who was that ...?
Another major award (It's almost Christmas, I couldn't pass up linking this)
For a conference that supposedly doesn't play a lot of defense, there sure are some big-time defensive awards going around the Pac-12.
First it was Arizona's Scooby Wright III taking home the Bronco Nagurski Award. Tuesday it was UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks being named the winner of the Butkus Award.
If you haven't seen the video yet of him being surprised with the award, you can watch it here. It's as awesome as awesome gets.
Overwhelmed with joy. This is for all my underdogs out there! Thanks family/friends/teammates/coaches/BUTKUS/UCLA pic.twitter.com/jUCuhAtCyB— Eric Kendricks (@EKLA6) December 9, 2014
- Some more thoughts from Rich Rodriguez on the Fiesta Bowl.
- How does Todd Graham stack up against the other coaches hired after the 2011 season?
- A California recruiting update.
- Former Buff Greg Henderson hoping for a shot at the NFL.
- Some facility upgrades are coming to Oregon State. Stay tuned.
- An off-season (and bowl season) question for Stanford.
- Some more on Kendricks winning the Butkus.
- Despite some Twitter rumors, Leonard Williams hasn't made his decision yet.
- Utah's coaches aren't paying attention to the rumors.
- This mock draft has two Huskies in the top 13.
- Former Washington State coach Paul Wulff is reportedly is back on the market.
This will be Oregon's look at the Rose Bowl.
From the outside looking in, it's hard to know if the response to the firing of Bo Pelini at Nebraska was as emotional as it was for the USC players when Ed Orgeron was let go, but it sure sounds like both teams took the news in similar fashion. Like Orgeron, Pelini was a hard-nosed defensive coach who was beloved by his players and had plenty of support from within the Nebraska community, along with a string of nine-win seasons. In the end, however, it wasn't enough as Pelini was shown the door and the Huskers will be led in the bowl game by interim coach Barney Cotton.
The interim tag didn't seem to bother Clay Helton and the 2013 Trojans in their bowl efforts, despite widespread concerns about how prepared the Trojans would be for the game against Fresno State. It wasn't a question out of left field either, the USC players were raw after the Orgeron departure and there was simply no way to know how they would get up for a football game just a few short weeks later. Those questions were obviously squashed once the game got started and the Trojans eventually rolled to a dominant victory.
Another similarity between the two situations is that the Cornhuskers will be preparing for the game under the watchful eye of their future coach, Mike Riley, a former offensive minded Pac-12 head coach just like Steve Sarkisian was when he played the role of observer for the Trojans' bowl efforts last year before taking over the full-time job. Under the old adage of "you only get one chance to make a first impression," you can be sure the Nebraska players will be aware of Riley's presence as they get ready to prepare for the Trojans.
USC linebacker Hayes Pullard has been selected to play in the Senior Bowl in January, a prestigious pre-draft game where the practices are filled with NFL coaches and execs. It's a nice honor for Pullard, and one that will allow him a chance to show his intangibles to the league personnel in that extended setting, something that should be a benefit as he makes the transition to the next level.
Pullard is a four-year starter who will likely end up leading the team in tackles for three seasons.
There has been no confirmed updates on the NFL early entry draft status of players like Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor, Buck Allen or Cody Kessler but the news that center Max Tuerk will return was a huge bonus for the Trojans' 2014 prospects.
Tuerk made the transition to center this season after playing both tackle and guard earlier in his USC career, and he was named first-team All-Conference, so it's easy to imagine what is possible for him by coming back for a second season to refine his technique at the position. It's not a stretch to think Tuerk could be up for national linemen awards, as well as setting himself up for a potential high-round NFL selection in 2016.
The return of Tuerk also means the Trojans will not have to find a new center next season. There was no obvious choice being groomed behind Tuerk in 2014, so USC would have been faced with the possibility of moving a player such as Toa Lobendahn or going with a true freshman in Cole Smith. With the news of Tuerk coming back, it will give Sarkisian the luxury of not needing to move another player, and also giving the opportunity to redshirt Smith while allowing him to learn under the veteran Tuerk.
Former USC offensive lineman Tony Boselli will be presented as a member of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday night at a banquet to held in New York.
Boselli, who played for the Trojans from 1991-94, is one of 14 players and two coaches who make up the 2014 class. He is the 30th USC player to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time All-American and 1994 USC team captain, Boselli led the Trojans to three bowl games and was also a three-time academic all-conference honoree.
The Trojans held practices last weekend prior to the bowl announcement and one position switch could bear watching as Chris Hawkins got a look at safety in all three sessions.
Hawkins is a redshirt freshman who came in as a corner and saw action in 11 games this year, including 32 tackles (29 solo) and one interception. A look at the USC depth chart for the future, however, shows a lot of corners and not enough safeties so there figured to be some player movement at some point to address the issue. Hawkins says he is fine with the move if the coaches want to continue putting him there, so it will be something to monitor as USC continues to move through the bowl practice sessions.
Being proven otherwise, however, seems to be turning into an annual tradition in the South, which has had three different winners in the last three years. And if you thought the division was crazy in 2014, hang on, because it might plunge itself deeper into capricious insanity in 2015 and beyond.
"It's anybody's guess," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham when asked to handicap the South next season. "But I have to believe it's one of the toughest divisions in all of college football. It was very close this year, obviously. We had a lot of teams lumped up there at the top. Every year is its own entity and set of circumstances. I can't speak to next year. But right now it's anybody's guess."
But the 2014 season saw a clear power shift within the depth of the conference. For the first time since expansion, the South had a winning record against its northern counterparts, going 15-10.
"The South has definitely resurged," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "Every game against those guys is difficult. Trying to handicap it for next year would be like trying to handicap this year. It's impossible."
Adding to the impossibility is that five of the six teams in the division are likely to return a quarterback with substantial starting experience. Barring any surprise defections, draft declarations or injuries, only UCLA will be without a quarterback with significant time as a starter.
"Once again, that means you are going to see offenses executed extremely well week in and week out," said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, whose team is the only one in the division not ranked in the Top 25. "All the quarterbacks in somehow, someway, have broken records at their school. You're looking at quality players coming back that can score points each Saturday."
Given the Trojans historical success, it seems almost shocking that USC is yet to win a division title. Maybe that changes as the Trojans roster slowly starts to rebuild itself in the post-sanctions era. Maybe not. The trio of previous victors -- all with head coaches who were hired following the 2011 season -- show no indication of slowing down. Plus the Utes are on the rise and Colorado is putting a more competitive product on the field. The Buffs were "in" seven of their nine conference games. Anyone think they are going to be worse next year?
"The thing that can happen is any team in the South can beat any team," MacIntyre said. "I think that's where it's at. We had double-overtime with UCLA and definitely could have won it. We were in there with everyone (in the South) except USC. There's a lot of parity, but there is also high-caliber football."
Meanwhile up North, the divide might be growing. The Ducks will have to find a replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota (oh come on, like it's not going to happen) and we're not exactly sure what we're going to get from the Cardinal. You have to imagine things will be smoother in Year 2 of the Chris Petersen era at Washington, but there will be losses on defense. Shaw pointed to Cal as a team on the rise, but defense will again be a concern. So outside of Oregon, you have to question which North team could do the most damage against the South. Oregon State will have a new coach. Washington State is still rebuilding. The Ducks were the only team up North to be ranked. And even if the Cardinal thump Maryland in their bowl game, the chances of them finishing ranked are slim.
"We've got a lot of guys coming back so I know we'll be in the mix," Shaw said. "But I know this, next year will be as crazy as it was this year. And in the South, I don't know who has the edge. But it's going to be exciting."
That's a safe assumption ... until proven otherwise.
It wasn’t under the current Boise State staff, but there was a time when Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III thought he would end up playing for the Broncos. He played well at their camp and expected an offer, but was ultimately told he was too slow. Shortly after he got that news, Arizona became the only FBS school to extend an offer, which he quickly accepted.
Two years later, he’s been named the best defensive player in college football and is preparing to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Wright’s rapid ascent to college football royalty has been one of the best stories in the Pac-12 this season and added another chapter, as Wright is the Bronko Nagurski Trophy recipient. He is the first winner from the conference since Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs won in 2002. The only other recipient from the Pac-12 was Arizona’s Rob Waldrop, who won the inaugural award in 1993.
Heisman finalists announced
Flourish pic.twitter.com/b4VGpkMy3T— Scooby Wright III (@TwoStarScoob) December 9, 2014
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon can officially begin preparing to look happy for Marcus Mariota when the Oregon quarterback is named the Heisman Trophy winner. That reaction video gets played for years, guys. Cooper, Gordon and Mariota were officially named finalists for college football’s most prestigious award Monday, but anything but a landslide victory for Mariota would be surprising.
The Pac-12 hasn’t had a Heisman winner since USC’s trio of Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005) won the award three times over a four-year period. Oregon has never had a Heisman winner, and the Pacific Northwest has been shutout since Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker won in 1962.
- Arizona is going to the more prestigious bowl game, but is rival Arizona State getting better bowl gifts?
- California should be loaded at receiver again next season.
- Colorado picked up its first commitment from a wide receiver for this year's recruiting class.
- Oregon coaches are triggering bonus money in the playoff.
- The Oregonian is reporting Oregon State has interest in Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin.
- Every now again we all need to be reminded that the Coaches Poll needs to go.
- Andy Drukarev takes a lot at Stanford's tight ends.
- Lots of good information here for UCLA fans considering a trip to San Antonio.
- Nebraska fan support is down leading into the Holiday Bowl against USC.
- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is prepared for multiple quarterbacks to transfer out.
- Here is an Oklahoma perspective on Washington's season.
- Here's some good perspective on Mike Leach and rumors.
Pretty cool way to honor WSU quarterback Connor Halliday.
Here's an online Holiday card from ASU receiver Jaelen Strong
In addition to Smith and Town, who have both already signed early enrollment papers with USC, the Trojans look to be in good position with Tell and Whitney, the later of whom will announce his decision on Dec. 18. In addition to USC, the big wideout is also considering West Virginia and Washington State among others.
Two other prospects who were originally scheduled to come in on officials this past weekend, athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) and wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro), wound up scratching those plans.
Gustin, who took an unofficial visit to USC recently for the Trojans’ victory over Notre Dame, has pushed his trip back to January.
Kirk, on the other hand, cancelled his visit and dropped the Trojans from consideration altogether. He will now reportedly choose from a group of five that includes Texas A&M, Arizona State, UCLA, Auburn and Ohio State. He is set to announce his choice on Dec. 17.
News and notes
- All six of the prospects who were on official visits were spotted at the Trojans’ practice session this past Saturday, as was an interesting unofficial visitor – Dillon Faamatau (Norwalk, Calif./Norwalk). The Class of 2015 defensive tackle has been receiving increased interest from the USC coaching staff as of late.
- USC wide receiver commit De'Quan Hampton (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College) was at the Trojans’ practice on Sunday.
- Class of 2015 wide receiver Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany), who verbally pledged to USC this past July, withdrew his commitment last Thursday. The parting was reportedly mutual.
- On the same day that Brady Hoke was fired by Michigan as head coach, ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark de-committed from the Wolverines. He will take an official visit to USC in January, and he is also still considering Michigan as well as Texas, North Carolina and UCLA.
- ESPN 300 linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central), who recently said that he would visit USC this coming weekend (Dec. 12), announced Sunday night via Twitter that he will not be taking any more official trips. The Trojans are no longer under consideration, and he will now choose from a group of four that includes Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee.
- USC offered Class of 2016 defensive lineman Oluwole Betiku (Gardena, Calif./Serra) on Sunday. He also holds offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma, Washington and UCLA among others.
- USC also recently offered ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle E.J. Price (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett). The 6-foot-6, 265-pound standout already has well over 20 total offers.
A look at the stats some recruits recorded in their games this past weekend
Class of 2015
QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) -- USC commit: In a 44-37 loss to Mission Viejo (Calif.) Trabuco Hills in the CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game, Darnold completed 12 of 15 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown, and he also rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) -- USC commit: Rushed for294 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries in a 62-42 victory against Southlake (Texas) Carroll in the quarterfinals of the Texas Class 6A Division II state playoffs.
OL Cole Smith (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) -- USC commit: Anchored the offensive line at center for a Mission Viejo team that defeated Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta 21-10 in the CIF-SS West Valley Division championship game.
RB Jones (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North): Rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 48 yards in a 64-40 loss to Tyler (Texas) in a Texas Class 5A Division I state quarterfinal game.
WR DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): Had three receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the victory against Carroll.
ATH Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly): Caught four passes for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 36-31 loss to Redlands (Calif.) East Valley in the CIF-SS Inland Division championship game.
Class of 2016
QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy): Completed 12 of 20 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 victory against New Iberia (La.) Catholic in the Louisiana Division III state championship game.
WR Javon McKinley (Corona, Calif./Centennial): Had 13 receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown in a 48-41 victory against Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco in the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division championship game.
Class of 2017
QB Tate Martell (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Completed 9 of 13 passes for 200 yards and six touchdowns, and he also rushed for a score in a 70-28 victory against Sparks (Nev.) Reed in the NIAA Division I state championship game.
WR Tyjon Lindsey (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Caught three touchdown passes in the victory against Reed.
Considering all the great players that San Diego County has provided the Trojans' football program over the many decades, it's about time the Cardinal and Gold travel south down the 405 Freeway and say a gridiron thank you.
A number of former San Diego County schoolboy heroes are not just players who contributed to the storied USC Trojans football program but are big-time players whose names are synonymous with college football greatness.
Certainly names such as legendary Heisman Trophy winning tailback Marcus Allen (San Diego Lincoln) and the incomparable late linebacker Junior Seau (Oceanside) lived up to those high standards, both having been named All-Americans.
In an ironic twist of fate to the Trojans' first Holiday Bowl appearance, neither a current USC starter nor scholarship backup will be in the starting lineup on Dec. 27, but that doesn't take away what San Diego County has done for the Men of Troy.
In honor of those schoolboy stars that originated from San Diego County high schools, we present our all-time All-San Diego County USC offense, defense and special teams. The years noted are the lettermen seasons they played at Troy.
QB: Irvine "Cotton" Warburton (San Diego/1932-34)
Sean Salisbury (Vista Orange Glen/1982-85)
FB: C.R. Roberts (Carlsbad/1955-56)
TB: Marcus Allen (San Diego Lincoln/1979-81)
Steven Webster (La Mesa Helix/1985-88)
Reggie Bush (La Mesa Helix/2003-05)
WR: William Buchanon (Oceanside/2002-05)
WR/TB: Michael Hayes (San Diego/1977-79)
TE: John Allred (Torrey Pines/1993-96)
William Gay (San Diego Hoover/1975-77)
OL: Steve Riley (Chula Vista Castle Park/1972-73)
OL: Pete Adams (San Diego University/1970-72)
OL: John Michael (La Jolla/1994-95)
OL: Tom Dabasinskas (Escondido/1987-89)
OL: Travis Watkins (La Mesa Helix/2002-04)
DL: Darrell Russell (San Diego St. Augustine/1994-96)
DL: Lonnie Ford (San Diego Morse/1998-2001)
DL: Harold Steele (San Diego Lincoln/1975-76)
LB: Zeke Moreno (Chula Vista Castle Park/1997-2000)
LB: Jimmy Gunn (San Diego Lincoln (1967-69)
LB: Junior Seau (Oceanside/1988-89)
LB: David Lewis (San Diego Lincoln/1974-76)
LB: Greg Slough (Point Loma/1969-70)
DB: Nate Shaw (San Diego Lincoln/1964-66)
DB: Richard Cook (San Diego Morse/1995-98)
DB: Bill Jaroncyk (Encinitas San Dieguito/1966-67)
SS: Marcus Hopkins (San Diego Lincoln/1988-90)
PK: Adam Abrams (San Diego Bishop's/1995-98)
ST: Reggie Bush (La Mesa Helix/2003-05)
Outside of the major bowls, only one of the opponents is ranked in the final CFP rankings (No. 11 Kansas State, which is playing UCLA in the Valero Alamo Bowl), but six Pac-12 foes boast at least nine wins. Nebraska, which is 9-3 and plays USC in the National University Holiday Bowl, is 25th in the AP poll.
Some initial impressions.
College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual) No. 2 Oregon (12-1) vs. No. 3 Florida State (13-0): This one is pretty simple for Oregon and the Pac-12. The conference wants to win its first national title since 2004, while the Ducks are looking for their first national title, period. So this is all about national validation for both parties.
Meanwhile Florida State is trying to repeat, which would begin talk of a dynastic run under Jimbo Fisher, who could then boost himself up near the top of the list of nation's best coaches. If Mark Helfrich were to bring a national title back to Eugene, he probably would never have to hear about Chip Kelly's shadow again.
Obviously, it's an outstanding matchup of quarterbacks, with last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Florida State's Jameis Winston, squaring off with Marcus Mariota, a heavy favorite to take home the bronze statue on Saturday.
Oregon fans need to be prepared for national pundits to again speculate on how the Ducks will hold up on the line of scrimmage against a big, bad team from the Southeast. But on the optimistic side of things, beating the Seminoles and then, perhaps, Alabama in the national title game would eliminate that narrative forever.
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl No. 10 Arizona (10-3) vs. No. 20 Boise State (11-2): While the Wildcats are thrilled to be playing in a major bowl so close to home, the matchup doesn't provide much juice. Beating the Broncos won't impress many folks, and losing would be a major hit to Arizona's Q-rating.
You'd think the Wildcats will be plenty motivated to avoid that. For one, they looked awful while getting blown out by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, so they want to wash that taste out of their mouths. A big home crowd should help get their adrenaline flowing.
The extra prep time should help get QB Anu Solomon healthy, as he's been battling a pesky ankle issue for weeks.
While Boise State is a solid 11-2, it doesn't have a marquee victory like it has in most seasons. Its best win came early in the season over Colorado State. The Broncos got drubbed in their season opener by Ole Miss 35-13.
You can expect, of course, that the Broncos will be plenty hungry to take a bite out of a Pac-12 team. Not only that, they want to show the nation that they will be fine post-Chris Petersen under coach Bryan Harsin.
Valero Alamo Bowl No. 14 UCLA (9-3) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (9-3): This is an A-list matchup that both the Pac-12 and Big 12 would really like to win in order to obtain some degree of bragging rights versus the other. Both teams also are coming off disappointing defeats, with the Bruins particularly smarting after they yielded the South Division title by getting blown out by Stanford the final weekend of the regular season.
In fact, this could be a line of demarcation game for UCLA. Win, and it's reasonable to call the season moderately successful (if underwhelming). Lose, and the season is a certifiable failure, at least based on lofty preseason expectations.
It's also UCLA QB Brett Hundley's last game. The season didn't turn out like he wanted, but this is his chance to go out on a high note after he and coach Jim Mora combined to rebuild the Bruins into a contender.
National University Holiday Bowl No. 24 USC (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3): An immediate concern for USC is whether Nebraska picks up some of that juju new coach Mike Riley sometimes had against favored Trojans teams in the past.
It will be interesting to see how both teams react after disappointing seasons. Steve Sarkisian could use a bowl win to quiet some of his vocal critics who gave him less than a one-year honeymoon. Nebraska players were unhappy that Bo Pelini got fired, so they will either play with fire as a tribute to him or show a jaded lack of interest.
As always with USC at the end of the season, it also will be interesting to see how many players announce their NFL intentions after the game.
Foster Farms Bowl Stanford (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5): Hey, a rare Pac-12-ACC matchup... wait. At the very least, this game will help Pac-12 fans learn that Maryland now plays in the Big Ten.
It has been a trying and disappointing season for Stanford, which has become accustomed to major bowls, but it's also notable that the Cardinal played great in its last two games, dominating California and UCLA. QB Kevin Hogan, particularly, seemed to find his rhythm.
Hyundai Sun Bowl No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3): This is not where the Sun Devils wanted to be. If they had beaten arch-rival Arizona, it would be them, not the Wildcats, in the Fiesta Bowl playing in front of a home crowd. So El Paso is a few notches below where Todd Graham's team wanted to be.
But they better not take Duke lightly, as they did Texas Tech last year in a dreadful Holiday Bowl performance. While David Cutcliffe's crew suffered a late-season swoon, losing two of their final three games -- just like ASU -- it's looking to finish nationally ranked for a second consecutive season, which doesn't happen often in Durham. At least not in football.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl No. 23 Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2): Hey, it's a Mountain West reunion!
This is a tough matchup for the Utes because the Rams are pretty impressive, though there's also the possibility they could be flat after losing coach Jim McElwain to Florida. Colorado State beat Colorado and Boston College this season, so it's earned a couple of Power 5 scalps already, even if it lost to Air Force the final weekend of the season.
And, of course, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham's name has been buzzing about for some open jobs out there, including Michigan.
Cactus Bowl Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6): These are two teams trying to salvage disappointing seasons with a bowl win.
The Cowboys had lost five Big 12 games in a row by double-digits before shocking rival Oklahoma on Saturday. Did they find their rhythm, or will that emotional win diminish their focus for this one?
For Washington, first-year coach Chris Peteresen could use a win to remind Huskies fans why they were so excited when he was hired away from Boise State.
That sweat on your temples ... that nervousness in your stomach ... that compulsion to clasp all of your fingers together in the shape of an "O" ... that's called playoff fever. And if you cheer for the team in Eugene, Oregon, chances are you've got it.
After months of projections and polls, the first-ever College Football Playoff bracket was announced, and the Oregon Ducks got the No. 2 seed and will play Florida State in a national semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
Here's some reaction:
- This semifinal will be a matchup of brand-name programs.
- This setup couldn't have worked out better for Oregon.
- Some Oregon players react to the "business trip."
- Here's an overview of all four playoff teams.
- Sports Illustrated has its overview.
The Arizona Wildcats headline the rest of the Pac-12 bowl slate with an in-state trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where they'll face Boise State. Here's a quick reaction from Rich Rodriguez in a statement from the school:
"I’m really happy for our players, staff and especially our fans. We have a lot of fans and alumni in Phoenix and hopefully everyone else in Tucson can get up there. It should be nice for the players' families, too, because it is a nice time of the year here in Arizona."
Probably doesn't hurt recruiting in the area, either.
Here’s the complete bowl lineup for the conference.
- No. 22 Utah vs. Colorado State, Saturday, Dec. 20, Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
- No. 15 Arizona State vs. Duke, Saturday, Dec. 27, 'Devil Bowl (just kidding; it’s the Hyundai Sun Bowl).
- No. 24 USC vs. Nebraska, Saturday, Dec. 27, National University Holiday Bowl
- Stanford vs. Maryland, Tuesday, Dec. 30, Foster Farms Bowl
- No. 10 Arizona vs. No. 20 Boise State, Wednesday, Dec. 31, VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
- No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State, Thursday, Jan. 1, Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern
- No. 14 UCLA vs. No. 11 Kansas State, Friday, Jan. 2, Valero Alamo Bowl
- Washington vs. Oklahoma State, Friday, Jan. 2, TicketCity Cactus Bowl
- A closer look at the ASU-Duke game.
- Cal boosters like the direction Sonny Dykes is taking.
- High school coaches in Colorado applaud the Buffs' in-state recruiting.
- Former Cal coach Jeff Tedford has some interest in the Oregon State job.
- The Cardinal are staying local for their bowl game.
- A little more info on the UCLA-Kansas State matchup.
- Buck Allen isn't rushing his decision on whether to enter the draft.
- Colorado State is motivated to play Utah.
- Some Washington players react to their bowl destination.
- The Cougs reportedly have lost one of the faces of their defense.
Normally, this would be a breakout item, because it's about how the coaches voted in their poll. However, we're putting it in "Just for Fun" because Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was the lone coach not to have Oregon in the top 4. And that's just funny.
Last time, Arizona went to the Fiesta Bowl... (Tucson Citizen photo) pic.twitter.com/NmVvdwZrkX— Anthony Gimino (@AGWildcatReport) December 7, 2014
From the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20 to the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T on Jan. 12, here's a look at the 2014-15 college football bowl lineup and playoff schedule.
DEC. 27, 8 P.M. ET, QUALCOMM STADIUM, SAN DIEGO (ESPN)
Season highlights: Nebraska started 5-0 for the first time since 2010. It amassed a Big Ten-record 784 yards in the opener against Florida Atlantic and won in resounding fashion at home against historical nemesis Miami, grinding out 343 rushing yards. The Huskers reached nine wins for the seventh straight season under Bo Pelini. They saw receiver Kenny Bell and I-back Ameer Abdullah shatter records and capped the regular season by matching the largest road comeback in program history in a 37-34 overtime win at Iowa on the day after Thanksgiving.
Season lowlights: Michigan State stole the thunder from Nebraska’s high-powered offense, holding the Huskers to 1.3 yards per rushing attempt in a big-game disappointment nearly erased by a late Nebraska charge. Six weeks later, there was no comeback at Wisconsin as Melvin Gordon gouged the Huskers for a then-FBS record 408 rushing yards in a five-touchdown loss that ultimately cost Pelini his job. A week later, Minnesota won at Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1960, eliminating the Huskers from contention for the West Division title. On Nov. 30, Pelini was fired.
Player to watch: With a month to heal from a Nov. 1 knee sprain, Abdullah should get an opportunity to go out in a flash. His 4,500 career rushing yards rank behind only Mike Rozier, with 4,780, in Nebraska history. A Doak Walker Award finalist, Abdullah topped 200 yards four times and registered a play-of-the-year candidate with his 58-yard catch-and-run in the final seconds to beat McNeese State. Only the knee injury, which knocked him out against Purdue and severely limited him in three other games, kept Abdullah from a run at 2,000 yards.
Motivation factor: It remains to be seen how the Huskers respond in practice to the Pelini firing, met with anger from many players. Can interim coach Barney Cotton rally the team? The answer is likely yes, considering the cohesiveness of this group and the connection formed with the outgoing staff. They figure to play with abandon. For some Huskers, it’s an opportunity to make a first impression on new coach Mike Riley, who won’t be involved with the game but, no doubt, wants to see his team in action.
-- Mitch Sherman
Season highlights: Three wins stand out. The Steve Sarkisian era got off to a great start when the Trojans won at then-No. 13 Stanford on Sept. 6, ending the Cardinal’s 17-game home winning streak -- then the longest active streak in the country. The Trojans’ most significant win of the year came at eventual Pac-12 South Division champion Arizona, which entered the game 6-0 and ranked No. 10. Lastly, the Trojans’ 49-14 win against rival Notre Dame was the one of the most lopsided wins in the 86-game history of the series.
Season lowlights: If not for a Hail Mary to lose against Arizona State, USC would have won the South. It still would have won the division with a win against UCLA but instead lost 38-20. Josh Shaw’s fictitious hero tale was the most prominent of many off-the-field issues that didn’t put USC in a good light. It came just a few weeks before AD Pat Haden was fined $25,000 following a bizarre incident in which he confronted officials in the second half of a game against Stanford.
Player to watch: DL Leonard Williams. Despite being possibly the best pro prospect in the country -- ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him No. 2 on his latest Big Board -- Williams has managed to fly somewhat under the radar. While other players in the Pac-12 put up massive sack numbers, the shared opinion among coaches and scouts is that Williams is the best defensive lineman. The bowl will likely be his final game in a USC uniform, but Williams, a junior, has not announced whether he will enter the NFL draft.
Motivation factor: Assuming QB Cody Kessler comes back, USC will be among the favorites in the Pac-12 South next year thanks to its returning young talent. If the Trojans end the year with a big win, they may also have some momentum when recruiting heats up ahead of signing day on Feb. 4.
-- Kyle Bonagura
Buffs' weekend stampede
Colorado coaches made a dedicated push to bring in a number of uncommitted visitors -- along with a couple committed prospects -- in what turned out to be their biggest recruiting weekend of the year thus far. Buff commits Lausii Sewell and T.J. Fehoko were in attendance and looked to help the coaches make headway with ESPN 300 defensive end Mika Tafua, along with junior college prospect Afolabi Laguda and linebacker Gabe Sewell.
It's never easy to make a recruiting trip all the way out from Hawaii, and Tafua -- along with Utah commit Tuli Wily-Matagi -- definitely took a red-eye out to visit Colorado.
Cougars stock up on juco defenders
Tre ball! pic.twitter.com/nxwTcHIptr— Afolabi Laguda (@Aguda21) December 6, 2014
Washington State landed commitments from four junior college teammates this weekend. It started with cornerback Treshon Broughton, who flipped his commitment from Oregon State. The Cougars then hosted DeVante Wilson, Jonah Moi and Jeremiah Mitchell on official visits and landed commitments from all three.
Huskies host prospects
I want to thank the Wazzu coaching staff and everyone here at Wazzu for making this visit awesome! Great place with great people #GoCougs— Mufi Hunt (@YaBoiMuf21) December 7, 2014
Across the state, Washington played host to several official visitors as well. Two-way standout Octavius Spencer has seen his recruitment take off following his senior season, as Cal, Oregon, UCLA and Washington have now all offered. This past weekend, Spencer took his official visit to see the Huskies.
Big weekend for Trojans
For all you dawgs fans out there! pic.twitter.com/Nfuwtq9zaG— Aus the rapper (@Awstin_joynaaa) December 6, 2014
USC didn't receive official visits from ESPN 300 prospects Christian Kirk or Porter Gustin, which had been planned, but the Trojans did get six official visitors on campus this past weekend -- four of them from uncommitted prospects.
The farthest traveler was ESPN 300 athlete Terry Godwin, the nation's No. 38 prospect, who shared this photo from inside the Coliseum.
Official visit to USC! pic.twitter.com/y6bcnCM61p— Isaac Whitney (@isaacwhitney8) December 6, 2014
5:49 2nd Qtr Utah State 7 UTEP 3 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State