USC Trojans: Stanford Cardinal
And there was much rejoicing!
So, what have been the Pac-12 highs and lows of this often confounding system? Thanks for asking!
1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesReggie Bush and USC ran away with the 2004 national title.
3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top seven. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.
4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.
5. Oregon and Stanford both win: The 2012-13 bowl season wasn't good to the Pac-12, but Oregon pounded Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks finished ranked No. 2 and Stanford was seventh. It was just the second time two Pac-10/12 teams won BCS bowl games in the same season.
1. Just one BCS national title, lots of frustration: No conference has more legitimate gripes with the BCS system than the Pac-12. Multiple seasons saw the conference have teams skipped over, most notably Oregon in 2001 and USC in 2003 and 2008. And ask California fans about how Texas coach Mack Brown gamed the system in 2004, preventing the Bears from playing in the Rose Bowl.
2. USC's three-peat gets Vince Younged: It's difficult to look at Texas's epic 41-38 win over USC as anything but great college football art -- perhaps the all-time greatest game -- but Trojans fans don't feel that way. The loss prevented USC from claiming three consecutive national titles and, of course, a second BCS crown for the Pac-10/12.
3. Oregon falls short versus Auburn: Oregon looked like a great team and Auburn a team with two great players before the BCS title game after the 2010 season. The Ducks chose a bad time to play one of their worst games of the season, but they still nearly prevailed before being undone by a dramatic game-winning drive from the Tigers.
4. Make a field goal, Stanford: Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed three field goals, including a certain game-winner from 35 yards on the last play of regulation, in the Cardinal's 41-38 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2011 season. Williamson also missed from 43 yards in overtime, which set the Cowboys up for the win. Stanford dominated the game, outgaining the Cowboys 590 yards to 412, with a 243-13 edge in rushing.
5. Ducks drop Rose Bowl: Oregon fell flat in Chip Kelly's first BCS bowl game, with the favored Ducks losing to Ohio State 26-17 in the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season. Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor had perhaps the best game of his career -- 266 yards passing, 72 rushing -- and the Ducks offense struggled, gaining just 260 yards.
The Conference of Quarterbacks saw two of its own tumble precipitously, USC's Matt Barkley to the first pick of the fourth round, and Arizona's Matt Scott to undrafted. Meanwhile, four of its five first-round picks were defensive players. And the offensive guy was a lineman.
Oregon was the top-dog, with five picks, including two in the first round and one in the second. USC, which once held that position on a near-annual basis, ended up with an underwhelming four -- same as UCLA -- the first being receiver Robert Woods in the second round, 41st overall.
Arizona and Arizona State, 2012 bowl game winners, were both shut out, while woeful Colorado produced two draft picks.
The conference as a whole supplied 28 draft picks, a number that ranked third among FBS conferences.
The SEC led the way with an extraordinary 63 draft picks. In fact, this article here does a nice job of quantifying how stunning the SEC's dominance was in the draft, not unlike how it has dominated the BCS.
The seven-team SEC East actually had more draft picks than any other conference with 32. That, in fact, is the number of SEC draft picks in the first three rounds.
Yeah... well. Heck. I don't even know what to say about that.
The ACC was No. 2 with 31. After the Pac-12, the Big 12 offered up 22 with 10 teams as the Big Ten did with 12. The Big East had 18.
Scott, who signed a free agent deal with Jacksonville, wasn't the only player who likely was surprised to not hear his name called. Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas, two times a first-team All-Pac-12 performer, went undrafted and signed a free agent deal with New Orleans.
Other free agent signings of note:
- Washington State QB Jeff Tuel: Buffalo Bills
- UCLA TE Joseph Fauria: Detroit Lions
- California RB C.J. Anderson: Denver Broncos
- Utah CB Ryan Lacy: New Orleans Saints
- Arizona State LB Brandon McGee: Dallas Cowboys
- USC CB Nickell Robey: Buffalo Bills
- California DE Aaron Tipoti: Buffalo Bills
- USC S Jawanza Starling: Houston Texans
- Utah P Sean Sellwood: Atlanta Falcons
- Utah C Tevita Stevens: Washington Redskins
- Colorado LB Doug Rippy: Denver Broncos
- UCLA CB Aaron Hester: Denver Broncos
- Stanford CB Terrence Brown: Cincinnati Bengals
- Colorado S Ray Polk: Seattle Seahawks
- Oregon LB Michael Clay: Miami Dolphins
- Oregon DT Isaac Remington: Philadelphia Eagles
Here's how things unfolded for the conference in the draft, round-by-round:
First Round: 3. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon: Miami; 14. Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah: Carolina; 20. Kyle Long, OG, Oregon: Chicago; 22. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: Atlanta; 26. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: Green Bay.
Second Round: 35. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Philadelphia; 41. Robert Woods, WR, USC: Buffalo; 46. Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon: Buffalo.
Third round: 71. T.J. McDonald, USC, S: St. Louis; 76. Keenan Allen, WR, California: San Diego; 79. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State: Pittsburgh.
Fourth round: 98. Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Philadelphia; 107. Brian Schwenke, OL, California: Tennessee; 109. David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado: Green Bay; 121. Khaled Holmes, OL, USC: Indianapolis; 125. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: Green Bay; 133. Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford: Atlanta.
Fifth round: 140. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford: Arizona; 145. Steve Williams, CB, California: San Diego; 155. Jeff Locke, P, UCLA: Minnesota.
Sixth round: 172. Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado: Oakland; 182. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon: Carolina. 192. John Boyett, S, Oregon: Indianapolis; 196. Jeff Baca, OL, UCLA: Minnesota.
Seventh round: 212. Joe Kruger, DL, Utah: Philadelphia. 218. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State: Philadelphia. 236. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: Chicago. 247. Marc Anthony, CB, California: Baltimore.
You can see the preseason top 25 here.
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
2012 numbers: Lee caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 106 yards. And returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD.
Preseason ranking: No. 9
Making the case for Lee: It's pretty simple: Lee, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound true sophomore, was a unanimous All-American because he was the best receiver in the nation this season. Some might argue he was the best overall player in the nation. He ranked second in the nation in both receptions per game (9.08) and receiving yards per game (132.38). His 345 yards receiving at Arizona set a Pac-12 record and also were the fifth-most in FBS history. Lee produced three of the top four receiving games in the conference this year -- the Arizona performance, 197 yards versus Hawaii and 192 yards at Utah. Five times he went over 150 yards receiving. It wasn't like teams didn't know he was coming. He was a 1,000-yard receiver as a true freshman. Further, the Trojans other top receiving target, Robert Woods, was a unanimous All-American the year before. You'd think Lee would have had to share the ball more. Yet Lee was so difficult to stop, so tempting to target, that it's possible -- probable perhaps -- that the Trojans strangely inconsistent offense this year looked to Lee too often. That, however, isn't Lee's fault. Lee posted a spectacular season that wasn't appreciated enough because his team was so massively disappointing overall.
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
Jones, who belatedly broke through as a senior for the Bruins under Mora, earning second-team All-pac-12 honors, is having a great week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and his draft stock is surging, according to multiple reports.
First from ESPN's Todd McShay, Kevin Weidl, Steve Muench :
UCLA's Datone Jones (6-4[, 280) had another good day. Talk about explosive upper body power -- this guy has it. He played hard and is a disciplined backside defender. He blew up a play on nine-on-seven with his quickness and ability to get inside. He also has the ability to work his hands and disengage when he's locked up in a tight situation.CBS Sports rated Jones one of the Senior Bow's top "risers."
He's had a good week. There's a buzz in the stands about him.
After an impressive practice on Monday, Datone Jones kept the momentum going on Tuesday, standing out as one of the best defensive stars on the North squad. He is very strong from head to toe and does a nice job using his powerful arms and hands to rip past blockers. He wasn't overly productive as a pass rusher at UCLA, largely due to the fact that he was moved all over the Bruins' hybrid 3-4 scheme, but he did make 19 tackles for loss as a senior with his impressive blend of burst and power to dispose of blockers at the point of attack. Jones is a name that will start to appear in first-round mock drafts moving forward.
It also appears that two Pac-12 running backs, UCLA Johnathan Franklin and Oregon's Kenjon Barner, also are doing well.
That said, McShay, Weidl and Muench had some questions about Franklin's speed, and that "makes him more of a third- or fourth-round prospect instead of a second."
Another Pac-12 player on the North, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, has distinguished himself. From CBS:
While tight end Vance McDonald has impressed on the South squad, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa has stood out on the North team. A former defensive end, he didn't make the move to offense until late last season, entering the 2012 campaign with just one career catch on his resume. Kasa plays a bit tight and bulky, but he is an intriguing athlete and has really impressed as a blocker this week. He obviously needs some more seasoning, but the tools are there for Kasa to be an interesting developmental draft choice early on the third day.As for South practices , where California and Stanford players are, the Bears seem to be doing well. Cornerback Marc Anthony and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke have impressed:
Cal CB Marc Anthony had the best Wednesday. He turned and ran with Georgia's Tavarres King. I think he runs well, showed the ability to turn and run with guys, and he can break on balls thrown in front of him. He almost had a pick, and he can get physical.And here's a take on Schwenke:
While Jenkins has shown the ability to dominate lesser opponents, California center Brian Schwenke has proven surprisingly effective when taking on the massive defender. While perhaps not the most aesthetically-pleasing blocker, Schwenke shows good quickness, functional strength and understands leverage. He sinks his hips on contact, anchoring well despite being significantly lighter at 6-3, 307 pounds than many of his opponents.
Another player whose speed is being questioned is Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas. While he's been impressive on the physical side, Thomas apparently has struggled in coverage. From CBS:
Speaking of looking the part, no linebacker was as physically imposing as Chase Thomas (6-foot-3 1/8, 241 pounds). The outside linebacker practiced and played with a lot of effort, throwing around fellow linebackers in a tackle-shed drill, and that helped make up for a lack of burst and speed that a lot of high-profile outside linebackers tend to have. On Tuesday, Thomas was beaten a number of times on a quasi-race from a two-point stance to a tackling dummy. Ultimately, he seemed a half-step behind receivers in practice and a bit slower than his teammates in drills.
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.
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- When Keller Chryst first arrived at Palo Alto (Calif.) High School, he thought of himself as “just a guy from North Carolina.”
His father, Geep, had been hired by the San Francisco 49ers as a quarterbacks coach after working for the Carolina Panthers. Chryst was a freshman. He enrolled in time to go through spring football with the Vikings. By the time his sophomore season started, he was Palo Alto’s starting quarterback.
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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.
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonArizona State's Will Sutton averaged almost a sack per game this season, including one at Missouri.
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.
Well, what's immediately next is the Trojans looking up at UCLA in the Pac-12 pecking order and Notre Dame in the national one. How 'ya like them apples, 'SC?
UCLA is the likely pick to repeat as Pac-12 South Division champions in 2013. They've got the QB in Brett Hundley and lots of talent coming back on both sides of the ball. And they have a decisively better coaching staff than USC, at least if we are allowed to extrapolate on the evidence we repeatedly saw on the football field this year.
A year ago, while UCLA and Notre Dame were seemingly floundering, it appeared the Trojan colossus was again rising under coach Lane Kiffin, whose bad reputation was undergoing a generous reevaluation. Yet the stratospheric expectations inspired by a 10-2 2011 season have yielded to desperation and recrimination just a year later.
The big 2013 story for USC? Kiffin's hotseat.
While USC under Kiffin certainly no longer has a buy rating, it might be premature to sell all your shares.
For one, the team coming back in 2013 certainly won't be untalented, including 17 returning position player starters (though a few with remaining eligibility might opt to enter the NFL draft). QB Max Wittek hinted against Notre Dame that the transition to him from Matt Barkley might not be too bad. He has a wicked strong arm that could make beautiful music with receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, if Woods opts to return for his senior season.
Further, you'd think the Trojans would be plenty motivated. They were the biggest punchline in college football this year. Yeah, bigger than woeful teams like Colorado. They were historically bad as a team that was ranked No. 1 in the preseason. They were beaten soundly by archrivals whom they whipped just a year ago.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireShould Lane Kiffin remove his father, Monte Kiffin, as the Trojans' defensive coordinator?
It might be easier for Kiffin to get his guys focused and motivated when everyone is taking shots at them instead of celebrating their potential awesomeness. The Trojans should be plenty angry heading into 2013. They chiefly should be angry at themselves, but here's a guess that the preseason talk -- regionally and nationally -- will give them plenty of names for an enemies list.
But before we look ahead to USC as angry underdog playing the "us against the world" card in 2013, there needs to be some rigorous backward looking evaluation of what went wrong this fall.
In this column , Steve Bisheff did an outstanding job of breaking down the difficult decisions ahead for Kiffin. We're about to second much of what he said.
First off, Kiffin needs to hire two new coordinators, which means he must dump two guys by the name of Kiffin: Himself on offense and his dad, Monte Kiffin, on defense.
Monte Kiffin is one of the all-time great defensive minds. His legacy is assured. But his work has been middling-to-poor at USC. He's gotten less from USC's talent than he should have.
If Lane Kiffin needs a role model for tough decisions, he could look to his buddy Steve Sarkisian at Washington, who dumped Nick Holt as defensive coordinator last year. Holt, Kiffin and Sarkisian go way back, but Holt was doing a lousy job. That was made even clearer this fall when new coordinator Justin Wilcox produced substantial improvement with arguable less to work with than Holt had in 2011.
Then, if Kiffin feels guilty about terminating his father, he can take out his ill will toward the responsible party by firing himself. It's not just that Kiffin didn't do a good job calling plays this year -- and he didn't -- it's that he neglected other aspects of his team that, as a head coach and CEO, he should have been on top of.
Oregon's Chip Kelly can micromanage his team and call an outstanding game. Kiffin can't. That's been made clear.
There's also this: USC has the resources to hire just about anyone Kiffin wants. He could pay both coordinators $1 million. If they are worried about job security due to Kiffin's hot seat, Kiffin could give them multiyear contracts. That alone would perk up the ears of just about anyone in the country, including top NFL guys.
Remember that list of candidates we made up for the head coaching vacancy at California? Kiffin probably could get a lot of those "hot" coordinators to come work for him.
With good coordinators, the Trojans are a nine- or 10-win team next year. With no changes, the good money would be on there being no Kiffins inside Heritage Hall in 2014.
Kiffin's survival also depends on more than Xs and Os, though.
As Bisheff covered at length, Kiffin often overthinks things, and this often leads to substanceless gestures, such as not allowing teams to do Friday night walkthroughs at the Coliseum, or trying to fool woeful Colorado with players switching jerseys.
Kiffin needs to learn that the USC head coach doesn't need to outsmart his opponents, much less use gamesmanship against them. He simply needs to put a disciplined, focused product on the field with a sound plan. Talent then takes over.
If there are competing simple and complicated ideas for something at USC, about 99.9 percent of the time, the simple one would work best.
What's next for USC? Well, if you are looking three-to-five-years down the road, I'd expect the program to again be in the Pac-12 and national title hunt on a consistent basis.
USC is not going to blow up and go all Paul Hackett Era again. Athletic director Pat Haden is too smart to let that happen.
The question is simply who will be fronting the program: Kiffin or someone else.
If Kiffin clings to the status quo, it will be someone else.
(At this point, we'd encourage Mississippi State fans to turn away. Just as we are supposed to love the sinner but hate the sin, we love you but not your schedule).
The Bulldogs' best win this year was over Middle Tennessee, a team that lost to McNeese State. Its four SEC wins came against teams that went a combined 14-34.
Arizona, you beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC. Arizona State, you beat Arizona. USC, you beat Arizona State and Washington. Washington, you beat Stanford and Oregon State. Heck, Arizona's win over Toledo and Washington's over San Diego State are better than anything Mississippi State did this year.
Each of you, I suspect, would pound Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, bless their hearts, aren't very good.
Ah, but the Bulldogs are 8-4. So many college football fans -- and media members -- look at their eight wins and your seven and say, "Mississippi State is better than Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington."
This is a ramification of having 7-5 disease, which some years is also known as 6-6 disease.
What's the big deal? Well, Mississippi State is probably going to go to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl where it will play an NC State team that just fired its coach, according to our friends with ESPN.com's SEC and ACC blogs. The Bulldogs should prevail -- NC State is, after all, the ACC's only bowl-eligible 7-5 team -- and load up a ninth victory.
James Snook/US PresswireSteve Sarkisian's Washington team just couldn't escape the 7-5 disease outbreak.
The last 8-5 team to finished ranked was No. 23 Florida State in 2005.
The 14-team SEC has no 7-5 teams. The ACC has two. The Big East has one. The Big Ten has one.
Now go here. Look over the Big 12 standings. Notice something?
The Big 12 has one 7-5 team (Texas Tech) and one 6-6 team (Iowa State). If Oklahoma State loses to Baylor on Saturday, both will be 7-5. If West Virginia beats Kansas, as expected, and TCU loses to Oklahoma, as expected, the Big 12 will have two more 7-5 teams.
The 10-team Big 12 could finish the season with four 7-5 teams and one 6-6 team, or three 7-5 teams and two 6-6 teams.
Now, we get to brass tacks: What do the Big 12 and Pac-12 share that the ACC, SEC and Big Ten do not?
If you said a nine-game conference schedule, you should give yourself a hand, pin a rose on your nose and exclaim, "Larry Scott, can we please -- PLEASE! -- kill the nine-game conference schedule?!"
I know I write this like, I don't know, 43 times a year. But I'm writing this now because of this column from my buddy, David Ubben, the Big 12 blogger. David sounds a bit peeved that folks aren't giving his conference the respect it deserves because of that confounded nine-game conference schedule. He sounds a bit like me through the years.
By the way, Big 12, welcome to the frustration club on this one, though I do seem to recall many of you in past years waving away the nine-game versus eight-game argument when Pac-10 folks raised it. We won't bring up your weak nonconference scheduling right now because that would be a rude way to greet new members of the club.
The Big Ten actually thought about going to a nine-game schedule. It got wise, perhaps because a certain blogger explained the math.
The nine-game conference schedule was adopted by the Pac-10 in 2006. It's always been a terrible idea, but at least back then there was a concrete justification: The Pac-10 played a full round-robin schedule and therefore crowned a true champion because everyone played everyone else, even if some years a complicated tie-breaking system was needed.
Now all it does, by definition, is drop six extra losses into the conference every year and create scheduling imbalance, with some teams having five home conference games and some with four. It hurts the conference in both the human and computer polls.
The end result is this: Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington, instead of sitting at 8-4, become 7-5 teams with little hope of ending up nationally ranked after the bowl season.
Of course, the schedule doesn't deserve all the blame for a surfeit of Pac-12 mediocrity. If Arizona, USC and Washington took care of business last weekend in winnable games, the Pac-12 currently would have seven ranked teams with eight or more wins. That would have been great fun, though I'm sure giddy Sun Devils and Cougars fans couldn't care less about that.
College football will play its final year in the BCS system in 2013. The next season, we'll start a four-team playoff, which is likely the first step toward something bigger and far more lucrative.
Already the dynamic is changing. Where there were once six power conferences, there are now four. A great race for revenue is ahead as the conference pecking order is again redefined.
By playing nine conference games, the Pac-12 only will ensure it starts the race from behind.
Team of the week: Quick: Name the team that you saw as a certainty to lose this past weekend. Washington State, right? The Cougars were 2-9, mired in controversy, and their best defensive player, OLB Travis Long, was out with an injury. Further, rival Washington was riding high, having won four games in a row. And when the Huskies took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter, that certainty felt confirmed. Heck, the Pac-12 blog even tweeted a postmortem, declaring the Cougs dead. But despite all that was against them, the Cougars rose up and won. Kudos, particularly to the seniors, who end their careers on a high note.
Best game: The Apple Cup was exciting -- it went to overtime -- but it was terribly sloppy. No. 1 Notre Dame's 22-13 win over USC, while certainly not elegantly played by the Trojans, was a high-stakes affair that wasn't resolved until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. While Notre Dame was seemingly in control throughout, USC's offensive talent made it seem as though things could change quickly. The Fighting Irish stopped USC eight straight times inside the 10-yard line with 2:33 left to ice the game, which was pretty darn dramatic (though USC fans might use another term).
Biggest play: With less than six minutes left and the score tied at 27, Arizona lined up to punt from its 15-yard line. The Wildcats already had lost momentum, allowing a 10-point lead to slip away, but there was no reason it couldn't swing back their way. Unless they gave up a blocked punt, which they did. Kevin Ayers got the block, and it was recovered at the Arizona 8-yard line. A TD run from Cameron Marshall later, the Sun Devils took a lead they'd never relinquish.
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn runs into the end zone after his one 100-yard TD kickoff return late in the fourth quarter against Colorado.
Defensive standout II: Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas, who has had a better season than his overall numbers indicate, was dominant against UCLA, recording two sacks in the win over the Bruins.
Offensive standout: It hasn't been the scintillating year many projected for Oregon WR/RB De'Anthony Thomas, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, but he came through big for the Ducks when they needed him in the Civil War. With Kenjon Barner banged up, Thomas turned in his best game of the season, rushing for 122 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns. TD runs of 5 and 29 yards in the third quarter transformed a close game into a blowout.
Special-teams standout: Utah's Reggie Dunn quite simply has posted the best season a college football kick returner has ever had. In the win over Colorado, just after the Buffs tied the game with a 100-yard kickoff return, Dunn went 100 yards for a score on the ensuing kickoff, providing the winning points. It was the fourth time this season and fifth time in his career Dunn has gone 100 yards for a touchdown on a kick return. Both are NCAA records.
Special-teams standout II: Washington State kicker Andrew Furney came up big in the Cougs' come-from-behind Apple Cup win. He tied the game with a 45-yard field goal and won it in overtime with a 21-yard kick. On the night, he was 3-for-3.
Smiley face: It was reasonable to wonder how Stanford might react at UCLA after its emotional, hard-fought win at Oregon. But the Cardinal were efficient, businesslike and dominant on both sides of the ball against a very good Bruins team. I'd bet if you asked the SEC champion which team it wouldn't want to play for the national title, Stanford might be the first team mentioned.
Frowny face: Late in the fourth quarter and holding a nine-point lead, Notre Dame stopped USC eight straight times inside the 10-yard line. First, you give credit to Notre Dame, which plays outstanding defense. Then you acknowledge that Lane Kiffin's play calling at this crucial moment was ... terrible, as L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote in detail here.
Thought of the week: With the Rose Bowl berth on the line, UCLA gets a second crack at Stanford on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game. With just six days separating that and their regular-season game, how might this matchup look different? Did the Bruins save some schematic ideas? Remember: UCLA already had won the South Division. With Oregon's win over Oregon State, the Cardinal needed to win at UCLA to earn the Pac-12 North Division crown. The Bruins' stakes were much lower: pride. If you're one for realpolitik in college football, a win Saturday would have sent the Bruins to boisterous Autzen Stadium for the Pac-12 title game. UCLA's chances to get to the Rose Bowl might be better at Stanford than they would have been at Oregon.
Questions for the week: Who had Stanford and UCLA as their North and South Division winners in August? Anyone? Anyone? I can't recall a published prediction picking either. But I now have written a post-it note that is now stuck to my desk: "There are no sure things. There are no sure things. Never forget." Of course, you know I will forget this.
And, again, keep in mind the power rankings lean heavily on the week that was, not as much on the totality of the season.
See last week's power rankings here.
1. Stanford: I've started to think Stanford has become one of those "No one in the entire nation is playing better at this point of the season" teams. Certainly no team has better back-to-back wins over the past two weeks.
2. Oregon: The Ducks looked like their old selves against rival Oregon State. Best bet is they are headed to the Fiesta Bowl, where they will almost certainly play a Big 12 team that is ranked higher than the Big Ten's Rose Bowl representative. Maybe even good ole Kansas State.
3. UCLA: Were the Bruins -- consciously or unconsciously -- holding something back against Stanford on Saturday, knowing they'd already secured a berth in the Pac-12 title game? Maybe. We'll see in Friday's rematch.
4. Oregon State: Early in the third quarter, it looked like the Beavers might challenge the Ducks. Then -- poof -- Oregon went all Oregon and it was another blowout. Guessing the Beavers end up in the Holiday Bowl with the Pac-12 title game loser going to the Alamo Bowl.
5. Arizona State: It's official: Year 1 under new coach Todd Graham is an unquestioned success. Going 7-5 is one thing, but 7-5 with win No. 7 coming in Tucson is entirely different.
6. Arizona: While the reverse on the Arizona State verdict isn't true -- it's impossible to say the Wildcats didn't greatly exceed expectations in Rich Rodriguez's first season -- losing state bragging rights is an itch that will demand scratching for an entire year.
7. Utah: The Utes end the season with a close win at Colorado. That's not much -- at all -- but the teams below rate lower based on their recently elevated program misery index.
8. USC: Last year, the Trojans upset Oregon and beat their top rivals, Notre Dame and UCLA. This year, preluded by national championship expectations, they lost to all three. USC went from top-ranked to unranked, from expectations of 12-0 to 7-5. There are no grins inside Heritage Hall. Lane Kiffin will be near the top of every 2013 preseason coaching hot seat list.
9. Washington State: It was an awful season, full of losing and controversy. Ah, but when a Washington fan walks into the local watering hole, he will avert his eyes in shame from the Cougar contingent. When the folks in purple start to talk about all the great things going on at Washington, they will be silenced by a simple: "31-28. Stick it."
10. Washington: That was a dreadful choke in the Apple Cup, Huskies. You rightly should expect much grief from your Coug friends. Of course, you still have a bowl game ahead in which to secure an eighth win, which the Huskies haven't collected since 2001. Do that, and you not only will perk up several spots in the power rankings, you can enter the offseason with a smile.
11. California: Teams that fire their coach tend to tumble in the power rankings. But take heart, Golden Bears fans. See how quickly three of the four Pac-12 teams that hired new coaches a year ago climbed out of the doldrums.
12. Colorado: Worst season in Colorado history? Probably. Now there's just one question, Buffs: What are you going to do about it?
No. 2 Oregon plays host to No. 13 Stanford with the Pac-12 North Division on the line (mostly). The Ducks, of course, are fighting for a berth in the national title game, but first they want to secure home-field advantage for the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30.
AP Photo/Nick LuceroThe annual rivalry game with USC will have more than bragging rights at stake this season for coach Jim Mora and UCLA.
The other game with ranked teams? No. 23 Texas Tech at No. 24 Oklahoma State. Neh.
Stanford will be the highest-ranked opponent that Oregon has faced thus far this season, but the Ducks have owned the Cardinal of late. Not only have the Ducks won nine of the past 10 games in the series, they've scored 105 points combined in the past two games while winning each by more than 20 points.
Stanford, however, controls its own destiny just like Oregon. If it beats the Ducks, and then finishes its season with a win at UCLA, it wins the North. If Stanford beats Oregon but loses to UCLA, and the Ducks also go down at Oregon State, the Cardinal would win the North Division because it would have head-to-head victories over both the Ducks and Beavers.
As for USC-UCLA, the Trojans have dominated the series of late, winning five straight and 12 of the past 13. All five victories during the current winning streak have been by at least 14 points, including a 50-0 bludgeoning last season. UCLA’s last win in the series came in 2006 when they upset the Trojans 13-9 at home.
This showcase weekend is a seeming climax for an interesting year for the Pac-12. For one, the conference has joined the SEC and the Big 12 as the nation's dominant leagues, with decisive superiority -- 17 members of the present BCS standing's top 25 -- compared to other "AQ conferences." Six of 12 Pac-12 teams are ranked in the BCS standings. For the Big 12, it's five of 10, and the SEC features not just six of 14 but six in the top 9.
Yet it's possible for the first time in three years the Pac-12 won't get a second BCS bowl team, which would dock the conference's 2012-13 bowl payout by about $6.1 million, or $508,333 per team. Just to be eligible, a second team must be ranked in the final top 14 of the BCS standings. Further complicating matters is Notre Dame. If Oregon earns a berth in the national title game, more than a few projections have the Rose Bowl picking Notre Dame -- undefeated or with one loss -- over a three-loss Pac-12 team.
Still, there's enough football left complicating potential scenarios that the speculation is mostly an academic exercise at present, not unlike guessing who-done-it two-thirds of the way through a mystery novel.
As for the rest of the Pac-12, things also are intriguing. Seven teams are already bowl eligible, and only three -- California, Colorado and Washington State -- are guaranteed losing records. To become bowl eligible, Arizona State needs to win one of its final two games -- Washington State and at Arizona -- and Utah needs to win both its final two -- Arizona and at Colorado.
If the conference has eight or even nine bowl eligible teams, things could get interesting. For one, the conference's seven contracted bowls have plenty of flexibility for choosing teams. There figures to be some politicking among conference teams. And, perhaps, some hurt feelings. Further, the 6-6 teams at the end of the bowl pecking order likely will be scrambling free agents, ending up in bowl games you probably haven't paid any attention to before.
This should be the best weekend of the Pac-12 season so far. It may provide further clarity. Or it might just thicken the plot.
- Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Posting the ninth-best rushing total in FBS history probably gets you a helmet sticker. Carey rushed for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Colorado, averaging 14.6 yards on his 25 carries.
- Curtis McNeal, RB, USC: Rushed 31 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 22-yard touchdown in USC's win over Arizona State.
- Lamar Dawson, LB, USC: The linebacker helped pace a USC defense that forced four turnovers and limited the Sun Devils to 17 points and 250 total yards. He tallied a team-high 11 tackles and also had an interception.
- Keith Price, QB, Washington: He accounted for three touchdowns in leading the Huskies past visiting Utah. Price, who completed 24 of 33 passes for 277 yards, had a pair of touchdown passes and also ran for a third.
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: The accolades continue as Mariota matched an Oregon record by throwing six touchdowns. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards. He also carried six times for 42 yards.
- Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA: To go with his eight tackles (including three for a loss) and 2.5 sacks, he also tallied a safety.
- Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford: On 19 carries, Taylor rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the third straight season. He also had a 40-yard touchdown reception -- a dump pass that he turned into what head coach David Shaw called one of the finest plays of his career.
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.
Ed Szczepanski/US PresswireKevin Hogan kept an even keel in Stanford's comeback victory over Oregon State.
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.
Here's a quick look at Week 11 in the conference. All times are ET. All games are Saturday.
Colorado (1-5, 1-8) at Arizona (5-4, 2-4) 1:30 p.m. FX: Colorado leads the series 13-1, including a 48-29 win last year. The Wildcats' only win in the series came in 1986. Arizona could be without QB Matt Scott, who suffered a concussion in the loss Saturday at UCLA. The Buffaloes rank last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and rushing defense. But Arizona ranks last in total defense and pass defense. Arizona is 11th and Colorado 12th in pass efficiency defense. The Buffs have just three interceptions all season, which ranks 113th in the nation. The Buffs have surrendered 40 sacks, tied for most in the conference. The Wildcats have just 13 sacks this season.
Arizona State (5-4, 3-3) at No. 19 USC (6-3, 4-3) 3 p.m. Pac-12 Network: The Sun Devils lead the series 18-10, including a 43-22 win last year in Tempe. That victory, however, ended an 11-game Trojans' winning streak in the series. ASU has not defeated USC in Los Angeles since a 26-15 win in the Coliseum in 1999. The Sun Devils have lost three games in a row, the Trojans two games in a row. USC ranks first in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Arizona State ranks first in pass efficiency defense. The Trojans pass for 312.7 yards per game, but the Sun Devils only allow 161.6 yards per game through the air. The Trojans are still seeking win No. 800. It’s the earliest USC kickoff time in the Coliseum since 1998.
No. 11 Oregon State (7-1, 5-1) at No. 14 Stanford (7-2, 5-1) 3 p.m. Fox: Stanford leads the series 50-25-3. The Cardinal has won three of the last four, including a 38-13 win last year. This game features the two best defenses in the Pac-12. Stanford is No. 1 and Oregon State No. 5 in the nation in run defense, and both are ranked in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense. Both also recently changed quarterbacks, with Kevin Hogan taking over the Cardinal's starting job from Josh Nunes, and Cody Vaz replacing Sean Mannion. The winner becomes the top challenger to Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division. Stanford visits the Ducks on Nov. 17, while the Beavers play host to them on Nov. 24.
Utah (4-5, 2-4) at Washington (5-4, 3-3) 10:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Washington leads the series 7-0, including a 31-14 win in Salt Lake last year. Both teams have won two in a row. Washington is the only Pac-12 school that Utah has never beaten. Utah must win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible for a 10th-straight year. The Huskies are 4-1 this season at CenturyLink Field, a record that includes wins over then-No. 8 Stanford and then-No. 7 Oregon State. According to the NCAA, Washington has played the second-toughest schedule in the nation to date while the remaining schedule ranks No. 116 in the nation. Last year, the Utes also started 0-4 in Pac-12 play before winning four straight games and five of their last six, including a Sun Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. Utah senior Reggie Dunn made NCAA history with his fourth career 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown vs. WSU last Saturday. Going into the game, Dunn was tied for the record at three with Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State, 1986-88) and Brandon Boykin (Georgia, 2008-11). Utah is 11-0 when John White rushes for 100 yards, which he has done three times this season, including the past two games.
No. 3 Oregon (9-0, 6-0) at California (3-7, 2-5) 10:30 p.m. ESPN: California leads the series 39-34-2, including a 43-15 win last year. The last time the Ducks were in Berkeley, the Bears almost pulled a major upset against the unbeaten Ducks before succumbing 15-13. Oregon is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in scoring (54.3 ppg), total offense (561.2 yards per game) and rushing (341.2 ypg). QB Marcus Mariota is No. 1 in the conference in passing efficiency. It appears that Bears QB Zach Maynard will not play in this game due to a knee injury he suffered last Friday against Washington. His backup is Allan Bridgford.
No. 18 UCLA (7-2, 4-2) at Washington State (2-7, 0-6) 10:30 p.m. ESPN2: UCLA leads the series with the Cougars 39-18-1 and has won four in a row, including a 28-25 win last year. The Bruins have won three in a row since losing at Cal. The Cougars have lost six in a row since a 2-1 start. The Bruins are second in the conference in scoring (37 ppg), third in total offense (514.9 ypg) and second in rushing (226.2). The Cougars are allowing foes to convert 48.6 percent of their third-down plays, which marks the worst percentage in the conference. UCLA's defense has recorded 33 sacks. The Cougars have surrendered 40 sacks, tied with Colorado for worst in the conference. UCLA is ranked ahead of USC in the BCS standings for the first time since 2001.