Washington Huskies: Oregon Ducks
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.
We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.
And then we'll let you vote from a list of potential options.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Most important game: vs. Boise State, Aug. 31
Why it's important: There is obvious temptation to pick a North Division rival -- and I certainly am not trying to downplay the significance of the Apple Cup. When that game rolls around, the Huskies might be a top 25 team jockeying for a high-end bowl game. And revenge will certainly be on their minds.
As for Oregon -- yeah, I get how important that game is. But a rivalry is only as good as the teams (note the plural) that play in it. And Washington hasn't lived up to its end of the bargain since "The Matrix" trilogy ended. Wouldn't be shocked to see a few Oregon fans wearing these if they drive up for the game. If Washington beats Oregon -- then certainly it would be huge for the program. But it would also be considered a significant upset. And thus, it's not their most important game.
Stanford is obviously important as well. The Huskies shook up the college football world by stunning the Cardinal last year -- and now they have to prove they can do it on the road. That's a huge game for the maturity of this program under Steve Sarkisian. But it's not their most important game.
Recall, if you will, another team in the North Division that finished 7-6 the year before and kicked off its season in a remodeled stadium against a Mountain West Conference opponent. That would be California in 2012. Remember how that game turned out? Remember the tone that loss set for the rest of the season?
I'm not saying the Huskies will share Cal's fate should they lose that game. But with so many key starters returning -- an improved (and healthy) offensive line, an A-list running back, a defense on the verge of graduating from potent to nasty -- a home loss in the new-look stadium would be absolutely deflating.
Remember, this series is also about what each game might reveal. And I don't know about you all, but I'm anxious to see if Keith Price is going to return to the 2011 form that made him one of the most feared quarterbacks in the league. This first test will be very telling of his progress.
And, of course, there are the rematch ramifications. Boise State's 28-26 fourth-quarter win in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is still very fresh in the minds of fans, players and bloggers.
In the final two games of 2012, the Huskies failed to finish. And as a result, they enter the year on a two-game skid. A victory over a team that's been a top-25 staple would energize the fan base and lend credence to the whispers that this could actually be Washington's breakout year. It also probably puts the Huskies in the top 25 after Week 1. Then victories at Illinois (currently enjoying a nine-game losing streak) and home to Idaho State and Arizona (no promises after last year's 52-17 whooping, but there are a lot more question marks around the Wildcats than there were last week) would put Washington at 4-0 heading into the critical showdown with Stanford.
A loss, however, would zap any preseason hype and would be greeted with an unenthusiastic "ho-hum, more of the same" attitude.
It's a question of legitimacy. And the Huskies can get some by winning in Week 1.
Washington's dramatic improvement and blossoming promise since going winless in 2008 yielded to a frustrated "what if?" and "not yet" in 2012 under fourth-year coach Steve Sarkisian.
Yet when you roll together the mixed bag of red-letter wins and bad losses and the lessons both entail, and then toss in impressive returning talent, there's reason to believe the program might turn the reopening of renovated Husky Stadium into a welcome-back party for a program that's been off the college football map for more than a decade.
Washington features 20 returning starters with A-list talent on both sides of the ball. After three consecutive seven-win seasons, which have grown progressively less satisfying for fans, the Huskies seem poised to take the proverbial next step.
"I'd say so, without a doubt," said Sarkisian when asked if this was his most talented team. But then he added, "If we'd finished the last two games, we'd have finished last season as a 9-4 team. But we didn't get it done."
Not getting it done -- at least not yet -- is why some seem intent on putting Sarkisian on the hot seat.
Washington, despite playing one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2012 -- six top-20 and four top-10 teams -- seemed on the cusp of a nine-win season in November. All the Huskies had to do was hold on to an 18-point fourth-quarter lead against Washington State and then win a bowl game.
Neither happened, and the Huskies' worst fourth quarter in Apple Cup history left an ugly smudge on Sarkisian's generally strong résumé.
Further, the 2012 season played out in surprising ways, positively and negatively.
The Huskies' biggest questions before the season were defense and running back. But the defense was vastly improved under first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox, and Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,439 yards. Meanwhile, the biggest certainty was QB Keith Price, who'd ranked seventh in the nation in passing efficiency in 2011, with 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 67 percent completion rate.
Price was touted as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. But he started slowly and never found his rhythm. He finished eighth in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency with 19 TDs and 13 picks.
That had many folks wondering if he'd keep his job in 2013. Before spring practices began, Sarkisian essentially said it was Price's job to lose, but he certainly could lose it if he got outplayed.
After six practices -- Washington returns to the field on April 2 after spring break -- Sarkisian said Price looks more like his 2011 self, particularly after the Huskies concluded their first session with a scrimmage.
"That was probably the best practice he's had in over a year," Sarkisian said. "He played really well."
A lot of Price playing well has to do with his health. His legs seemed shot much of last season. Not only was he not running well, he wasn't moving in the pocket and his throws lacked velocity and accuracy, two qualities that are often connected. The offseason priority has been getting Price's leg strength back.
"Not that Keith is ever going to be a runner, but he's at his best when he can avoid the initial pass rush and is able to buy time and keep his eyes downfield and create plays," Sarkisian said. "We've definitely seen that this spring."
It's not all on Price, though. The Huskies were beaten up on the offensive line last fall, and the lack of depth showed -- see 38 sacks surrendered. Further, there were times when the Huskies didn't seem mentally tough. They seemed intimidated at LSU, which fell into a pattern of woeful performances on the road -- see Oregon, Arizona and Washington State.
The difference between teams that win six or seven games and those that win nine or 10 or more is often consistency of performance.
"There are a couple of key things for taking a next step, for this to be our best team," Sarkisian said. "Yeah, I know it's our most talented team. But are we really going to be a team that goes on the road and it doesn't matter what time, or what the weather is, or who the opponent is, or what their record is? That stuff can't matter to us anymore. We've got to play our game."
When asked if he feels like he's on the hot seat, Sarkisian said, "Not at all."
On paper, hot-seat talk should give way to high hopes. The grounds for optimism are solid. The Huskies have the talent and experience to end up in the top 25.
But Washington needs to eclipse being a team of "not yet" and "what if?"
Kevin will take a look at the South Division on Friday.
Spring start: Feb. 25
Spring game: March 23
What to watch:
1. Who's the QB? One of the big reasons that Jeff Tedford's star fell in Berkeley was because he was unable to maintain his early success developing quarterbacks over the past five or so seasons. New coach Sonny Dykes is an offensive-minded guy who built high-powered offenses at Arizona and then as Louisiana Tech's head coach. He'll be choosing between touted redshirt freshman Zach Kline, longtime backup Allan Bridgford and several others.OREGON DUCKS
2. New defense: Under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh, the Bears will be switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base front. That means guys who were outside linebackers will be putting their hands on the ground and some defensive ends will be moving inside to tackle spots. Buh needs to win over a crew that had a pretty solid degree of success with a 3-4, excluding, of course, the 2012 season.
3. Skill questions: There are questions all over the offense, and leaving off an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks last year might be a mistake. But the Bears have real issues with the guys who will be touching the ball in 2013. Cal must replace its top two rushers from 2012, and the top two candidates to step up will sit out with injuries this spring: Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco. Further, receiver Chris Harper and tight end Richard Rodgers are out.
Spring start: April 2
Spring game: April 27
What to watch:
1. Players reacting to new coaches: Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost step in as head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. Ron Aiken and Matt Lubick join the staff at defensive line coach and wide receivers coach, respectively. How much will things change after Chip Kelly's departure?
2. Next man up: Which young players will take the next step? Defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, running back Byron Marshall, receivers Chance Allen and B.J. Kelley and safety Reggie Daniels have the ability and will have the opportunity in 2013.
3. Replacing departing linebackers: Linebacker is the position with the most questions heading into the spring. Who will replace Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso? Tyson Coleman, Derrick Malone, Rodney Hardrick and Joe Walker will battle for the spots vacated by the All-Pac-12 performers.
-- Brandon P. Oliver, DuckNation
OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Spring start: April 1
Spring game: April 26
What to watch:
1. Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion? Or is that Mannion or Vaz? The Beavers have a nice core of talent coming back on offense, but much depends on -- finally -- figuring out the true No. 1 triggerman. Mannion was the starter at the beginning of 2012 but fell out of favor. Vaz did himself no favors by the way he played in the Alamo Bowl against Texas. Vaz might be the front-runner, but Mannion has more overall talent.STANFORD CARDINAL
2. Defensive tackle: The Beavers must replace both starting defensive tackles, and Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo were underrated players who were very valuable to a very good run defense. The top four backups in 2012 had 12 tackles combined. Further, the recently reinstated Mana Rosa will miss spring with a foot injury. Youngsters and JC transfers are going to need to step up.
3. Receiver depth: Leading receiver Markus Wheaton is gone, but Brandin Cooks is back. That's a good start at receiver, but things are a little sketchy after that. Kevin Cummings was the third leading pass-catcher among the receivers last year, but he caught just 18 balls. Is the intriguing but unproductive Obum Gwacham ready to step up? The high jumper dropped track this spring in order to focus on football. We'll see if it pays off.
Spring start: Feb. 25 and April 1
Spring game: April 13
What to watch:
1. Tight end: The tight end obsessed Cardinal lost Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, perhaps the best tandem at the position in the nation in 2012. The general feeling was coach David Shaw therefore would move 2012 fullback Ryan Hewitt back to his former position, but Shaw is hoping a youngster or two, starting with sophomore Luke Kaumatule, will step up. Shaw also moved senior Eddie Plantaric and junior Charlie Hopkins, former defensive linemen, to tight end.WASHINGTON HUSKIES
2. Center and left tackle: Shaw wants to move All-American left tackle David Yankey inside to left guard. That would set up a big battle between touted sophomores Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy for the left tackle spot. The loser might still end up starting, perhaps pushing Cameron Fleming at right tackle. Further, center Sam Schwartzstein needs to be replaced. Top candidates are seniors Conor McFadden and Khalil Wilkes, as well as junior Kevin Reihner and sophomore Graham Shuler.
3. Replacing Thomas: The loss of running back Stepfan Taylor became less of an issue when Tyler Gaffney opted to drop baseball for football. The Cardinal seems fairly deep at running back, with Gaffney looking like the lead dog. But what about replacing outside linebacker Chase Thomas? Thomas' 2012 backup, Alex Debniak, also graduated. The most obvious answer would be sophomore Kevin Anderson, who had seven tackles and two sacks as Trent Murphy's backup last fall.
Spring start: March 5
Spring game: April 20
What to watch:
1. Quarterbacks: As he prepares for his senior season, Keith Price is the incumbent at quarterback. However, he is coming off an up-and-down campaign as a junior and some wonder if one of the younger quarterbacks in the program -- Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist or early enrollee Troy Williams -- could push Price for the starting job.
2. Offensive line: Injuries vaulted young players into starting roles in 2012. While the group struggled at times, the experience should lead to improvement, and it will be interesting to see how this group develops throughout the spring.
3. Early enrollees: Williams and safety Trevor Walker are getting early starts on their college careers. The incoming freshmen want to make an impact right away. Kicker Cameron Van Winkle also plans to enroll before the end of spring practice and should push for a starting job as a true freshman.
-- Mason Kelley, HuskyNation
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
Spring start: March 21
Spring game: April 20
What to watch:
1. Is Halliday Leach's guy? Quarterback Connor Halliday has plenty of starting experience and he's played well at times. He seems like the front-runner to start in 2013. But he's also been inconsistent, and that clearly frustrated coach Mike Leach last year. Halliday needs to end all doubt this spring, or he could get challenged by redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca, incoming freshman Tyler Bruggman or perhaps someone else this fall.
2. The O (No!) line: A team cannot give up 57 sacks in 12 games and expect to have a good season. While Leach isn't a big fan of running the ball, 29 yards rushing per game -- a 1.4 yards per carry average, no less -- isn't going to cut it, either. Four starters return from the 2012 O-line. That may or may not be a good thing. To have any legitimate chance at a bowl game in 2013, the Cougs must get better on the offensive line.
3. Going Long on the pass rush: Travis Long was a four-year starter, a guy who was underappreciated because he played on lousy defenses. He's been the Cougs' best defender probably all four years and now he's gone. He led the defense with 9.5 sacks last year, even though everyone knew he was the only true pass-rushing threat. No other Coug had more than three sacks. His backup, junior Logan Mayes, had 2.5 sacks last year. But it's not just about replacing Long, it's about the pass rush in general, which relied heavily on blitzes to create pressure, a big reason the Cougars were 11th in pass efficiency defense in 2012.
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.
“I got really bad strep throat,” the four-star recruit said. “My throat just got really swollen. I didn’t do very much more than just kind of lay around. I got to see a practice, but I just got really sick the day I got down there.”
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound inside linebacker had already made the trek to Eugene, Ore. over the summer. He felt like that unofficial visit provided a good understanding of what the university had to offer.
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After a lengthy and sometimes contentious bureaucratic process, it finally will open a renovated Husky Stadium, as one of the most spectacular settings in college football finally gets a stadium worthy of sitting on the banks of Lake Washington in the shadow of Mount Rainier.
It likely will own its first preseason ranking since 2002.
And it will face Boise State, one of the nation's top programs.
On Saturday, Washington will play a hugely important game. It will try to shake off the frustration of a horrible collapse in the Apple Cup against rival Washington State and end its season on the uptick in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRESteve Sarkisian's focus is on Saturday's game with Boise State, not the one next August.
Yes, Washington and Boise State are set to play back-to-back games connecting this season to the next. Yes, it's strange.
But Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian isn't obsessing about it. The preparation for the Las Vegas Bowl is no different than any other game, no matter that it amounts to Game 1 of a two-game series.
"We've got basically nine months to worry about the next game," he said.
Sarkisian acknowledges that there are certain to be plenty of moments he will file away -- matchups, tendencies, formations -- that he will grind over the next few months. Both teams surely will.
"There's going to be plenty of stuff we take from this game, good and bad, that we will be able to apply in the preparation for the second one," Sarkisian said. "That goes without saying. It's hard to prepare that way now for what is down the road, but I do think, whether it's during the game or looking at the film of returning personnel, we'll be thinking of things we can take from the game."
The reality is the Huskies are just glad to have a next game on their schedule. The stink of their last game has surely been hard to shake.
Washington arrived in Pullman riding a four-game winning streak. It seemed on its way to its first postseason national ranking since 2001, which would have further boosted the perception of promise for 2013.
Washington State, meanwhile, was in seeming disarray, coach Mike Leach's first season turning from hopeful to massively disappointing. The Cougars were 2-9, had lost eight in a row and were coming off a 46-7 shellacking at Arizona State. Their best defensive player, outside linebacker Travis Long, wasn't going to play.
While it was a sloppy game throughout, things seemed to be going according to the Huskies' plan. They led by 18 heading into the fourth quarter, and there was little to suggest the Cougars could overcome a 28-10 deficit. It seemed more likely they would mail it in and hustle into the offseason.
Then things went completely haywire for the Huskies. In one of the worst fourth quarters a team has posted in Apple Cup history -- a fumble, six penalties and a missed 35-yard field goal for the win -- the Huskies allowed the Cougars to tie the game and force overtime.
In overtime, QB Keith Price's first pass was intercepted.
Yeah, it was really bad. Sarkisian even laughs when a reporter awkwardly tries to accurately describe its badness without giving offense. Sark has no illusions about what happened in Pullman, but his message to his team is the big picture, which it still has significant control over.
"We told them one quarter of football wasn't going to define our season," Sarkisian said. "We've come a long way as a football team. We've matured greatly the second half of the season. I couldn't have been more proud of what our defense was able to get accomplished. I'm really proud of some of our younger offensive players, as they matured as the season went on. But unfortunately we played a bad 15 minutes. We gave up an 18-point lead, and we really didn't execute in any of the three phases to win the game."
Boise State offers an opportunity to make at least some of that bad taste go away. It would provide momentum heading into the offseason. And it would quiet some of the grumbling about Sarkisian, as some fans forget he inherited a team that went 0-12 in 2008.
So the Las Vegas Bowl is a big, meaningful game -- but not as meaningful as Aug. 31.
Further, Sarkisian points out that the second game won't be a complete redo.
"One of the differences is I think Boise State is starting 13 seniors and we're starting about three," Sarkisian said. "A lot of new faces will be playing for them significantly next fall."
New faces in a new stadium for a hugely important game.
CONCORD, Calif. -- The high school season is over. Concord (Calif.) De La Salle wrapped up an undefeated season. The Spartans claimed their fourth straight state championship.
Now that Austin Hooper has taken care of everything he hoped to achieve during this senior season, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end is ready to shift his attention back to recruiting.
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He knew he had one more he could take, but most coaches wanted him to come in January. He didn’t have enough weeks to fit everything in.
Then Utah called. The Utes offered him a last-minute trip. It was a chance to experience something new, so the 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker accepted the invitation.
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After taking some time to think about his future, Danny Mattingly (Spokane, Wash./Mead) decided that playing college football for Notre Dame “wasn’t the right thing for me.”
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound athlete confirmed Thursday he is no longer committed to the Irish.
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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.
The case for Colorado is this: The Buffs this season went 1-11 overall and 1-8 in Pac-12 play. They were outscored 552 to 214. They ranked last in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense. They were 116th in the nation in scoring offense and 120th (last) in scoring defense.
That's pretty darn bad.
But there's some pretty darn good/bad competition.
Oregon State put together an epic level of awfulness in the 1980s. The Beavers didn't win a conference game in 1980, 1981 and 1982.
While the Beavers were winless in 1980, the best worst team of that three-year run was probably 1981. That team opened with a win over Fresno State and then nearly beat LSU in Baton Rouge. Then everything went bad.
The Beavers were outscored 330 to 75 in conference play and 469 to 145 overall. They scored fewer than 10 points in five games. They lost the Civil War to 2-9 Oregon 47-17.
My personal favorite, however, is a Pac-10 rivalry pair -- A Dismal Duo! -- mostly because I witnessed it: The Year of the Crapple Cup.
That was 2008. Washington went 0-12, and Washington State went 2-11.
In terms of statistical awfulness, the Cougars were worse. They were outscored 570 to 165 overall and 453 to 77 in conference play. They were shut out three times and scored a single field goal twice.
One of their wins was over a Football Championship Subdivision team. The other ... was over Washington in the Crapple Cup, 16-13 in double overtime.
Not unlike this season's Apple Cup, the Huskies lost after a massive fourth-quarter choke, not to mention superior field goal kicking from the Cougars.
The Huskies, who were outscored 463 to 159 overall and 347 to 111 in conference play, were the nation's only winless team that season, and coach Tyrone Willingham was given the boot at season's end.
The Cougars finished that season ranked 118th in the nation -- second to last -- in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Huskies were 117th in scoring offense and 116th in scoring defense.
But the Cougs did have the Crapple Cup victory to salve the wounds suffered during a rotten season.
So, to steal an old term from former Washington State coach Mike Price, they became the kings of Poop Island, while the Huskies were merely Poop Island citizens.
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?
“Langston over there, I was his first friend he ever met when he moved here from New York,” the senior athlete said.
The Notre Dame commit stood in the rain. He couldn’t believe his senior season was finished. He tried to process the Panthers’ 21-7 loss to Auburn in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
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