A look at backup QBs in the Pac-12

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
UCLA and Arizona State learned the hard way just how important a backup quarterback can be over the weekend when both Brett Hundley and Taylor Kelly went down with injuries.

Here's a quick look at who each school has waiting in the wings:

Arizona: Jesse Scroggins, senior

The Wildcats’ depth chart lists Scroggins or Jerrard Randall or Connor Brewer as the backups to freshman Anu Solomon, but Scroggins in the only of the three to attempt a pass this season. He started his career at USC, where he redshirted in 2010 before appearing in one game off the bench in 2011, when he took the final snap of a game against Washington and did not attempt a pass. His only other collegiate action came in 2012 at El Camino College, where he threw for 1,148 yards in eight games.

Career stats: 1 for 2, 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars; No. 2-ranked QB; No. 55 player overall; Class of 2010

Arizona State: Mike Bercovici, junior

There was a time when Bercovici was looked at more favorably than Taylor Kelly, but that perception is not but a faded memory, as Kelly won the job in 2012 and asserted himself as a top QB. Bercovici has a reputation for having a strong arm and a quick release. We'll find out.

Career stats: 14 for 24, 112 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 80-ranked QB; No. 142 player in California; Class of 2011

California: Luke Rubenzer, true freshman

Rubenzer, who quickly asserted himself as an important part of the Cal offense, has been one of the surprises of this season. As a change-of-pace running quarterback, the Cal coaching staff determined he was too important to redshirt. He's run for 82 yards on 17 carries and a score. He appears capable as a thrower as well.

Career stats: 5 of 9, 103 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 43-ranked dual-threat QB; No. 28 player in Arizona; Class of 2014

Colorado: Jordan Gehrke, sophomore

Gehrke remains mostly an unknown after transferring from Scottsdale Community College in Arizona before the 2013 season. While Sefo Lifau is the unquestioned starter, reports out of Boulder indicated that Gehrke did a good job pushing Liufau throughout fall camp. He completing 174 of 366 passes for 2,388 yards and 22 touchdown with 14 interceptions for SCC.

Career stats: 4 for 8, 35 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 121-ranked QB; no reported offers in high school; Class of 2012

Oregon: Jeff Lockie, sophomore

Lockie split the non-Mariota game reps with Jake Rodrigues last season, but it became clear this spring that Lockie was the preferred backup moving forward, which led to Rodrigues' decision to transfer. Lockie wasn't a high-profile recruit, but was the MVP of one of Northern California's most competitive high school leagues during his senior year at Monte Vista High.

Career stats: 25 for 33, 242 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 105-ranked QB; No. 145 player in California; Class of 2012

Oregon State: Brent VanderVeen, sophomore

VanderVeen emerged from a three-way competition for the backup job, beating out Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio in the process. He's the only backup in the conference that has yet to throw a pass in his career.

Career stats: No pass attempts
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 144-ranked QB; No. 193 player in California; Class of 2012

Stanford: Evan Crower, junior

Before the season began, Stanford coach David Shaw spoke candidly about Crower's future, offering the possibility that Kevin Hogan's backup could transfer after getting his degree in order to play somewhere else next season. Shaw said Crower is "ready to play," so wouldn't fault him for heading elsewhere. Vanderbilt?

Career stats: 18 for 28, 236 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 38-ranked QB; No. 58 player in California; Class of 2011

UCLA: Jerry Neuheisel, sophomore

In his first meaningful playing time, Neuheisel stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two scores against Texas on Saturday. He's not going to make anyone forget about Brett Hundley, but it was a good enough performance for UCLA fans [and coaches] to feel good about the backup situation.

Career stats: 34 for 43, 302 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: One star; No. 156-ranked QB; No. 233 player in California; Class of 2011

USC: Max Browne, freshman

Without question, Browne is the most high-profile No. 2 quarterback in the conference, arriving at USC as one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. He's still green, having only appeared in one game, but if Cody Kessler were to go down there would certainly be a lot of interest in how Browne performs.

Career stats: 3 for 4, 30 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars, No. 2-ranked QB; No. 20 player overall; Class of 2013

Utah: Kendal Thompson, junior

Thompson transferred from Oklahoma with hopes to earn the starting job, but Travis Wilson held on to it after a competition throughout fall camp. In two games off the bench so far, Thompson has shown to be an effective weapon. He's completed 10 of 17 passes for 156 yards and ran for 78 yards on 15 carries.

Career stats: 14 for 30, 220 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 22-ranked QB; Class of 2011

Washington: Jeff Lindquist, sophomore

The only backup to start a game in the Pac-12 this year, Lindquist played with mixed results against Hawaii in the season-opener. He has the physical skills to be a good starter, but still needs to develop.

Career stats: 10 for 26, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars; No. 17-ranked QB; No. 3 player in Washington; Class of 2012

Washington State: Luke Falk, freshman

When highly-regarded prospect Tyler Bruggman announced he was transferring immediately cast Falk in a different light. Bruggman saw the writing on the wall: Falk had the leg-up in the backup competition and instead of staying and competing, he opted to try his luck elsewhere. Falk arrived at WSU as a recruited walk-on, but was given a scholarship before the season. He threw an 84-yard touchdown on his second career pass attempt on Saturday.

Career stats: 2 for 2, 86 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Walked on at WSU after originally committing to Cornell; two stars from Rivals.com

USC Grades: Weak areas exposed by BC

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Tyler RouseWinslow Townson/Getty ImagesNot even Leonard Williams could slow the Boston College running attack on Saturday.

The USC Trojans entered last Saturday night as one of the Top 10 teams in the country. Although it was early in the season, it seemed as if Steve Sarkisian's first year as USC's coach was destined to reach the College Football Playoff with a schedule that had the Trojans playing just one ranked team at home before a late November date with UCLA.

Those expectations, however, changed quickly after USC's 37-31 loss to unranked Boston College. Now we are left to wonder how good the Trojans really are this season. Sure, USC beat Fresno State, 52-13, to start the season but the Bulldogs are now 0-3 and have given up over 50 points in each one of their games. USC was thrilled to beat Stanford 13-10 at “The Farm” but the Cardinal got inside USC’s 35-yard line in each one of their nine drives. If Stanford doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot in seven of those nine drives, Stanford wins that game and USC is 1-2.

USC’s deficiencies were finally on display against Boston College where they were manhandled at the line of scrimmage and dominated for much of the game in suffering their first loss of the season.

GradePassing attack

Cody Kessler's numbers were perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise forgettable game for USC. He was 31-for-41 for 317 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. When he was finally allowed to throw the ball down field, USC’s offense looked alive again, but by that time it was too little, too late. Running back Javorius Allen was USC’s leading receiver on the night with nine receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown.

GradeRushing attack

USC tried and tried and tried some more to establish the running game against Boston College and ended up running into a wall each time. USC finished with just 20 yards on 29 carries for a paltry 0.7 yard per rush average. It was USC’s worst rushing performance since rushing for one yard against Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.

GradeIn the trenches

What made USC’s lack of a running game even worse was that Boston College ran at will on the Trojans. The Eagles ran for 452 yards and five touchdowns against USC. Boston College’s 452 rushing yards were the most given up by a USC team since Texas A&M gained 486 yards in the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl. USC also gave up five sacks, each one coming on a crucial third down, and USC converted just five of 16 third downs.


USC’s defense probably deserves an F for giving up over 500 yards with most of that coming on the ground but they get some credit for holding Boston College to just 54 yards passing. Chris Hawkins also intercepted a Tyler Murphy pass as USC jumped out to a 17-6 lead to start the game. USC was also able to hold Boston College to just 2-for-11 on third down conversions. That’s the extent of the positives for USC’s defense, however, as Boston College did whatever they wanted on the ground and finished the game with a back-breaking 66-yard touchdown run by Murphy in the fourth quarter when USC was mounting a late comeback.

GradeSpecial teams

Andre Heidari nailed a 52-yard field goal early in the game and Kris Albarado escaped a near blocked punt to down a kick inside the 10-yard line. Albarado had 10 punts on the night with a 37.5-yard per punt average. Nelson Agholor wasn’t able to do much with his five punt returns, totaling just 15 yards.


Sarkisian’s offense looked like a revelation in the season opener when it ran a school-reocrd 105 plays. It was understandably scaled back for the second game against Stanford but his inability to open up the passing attack when the rushing game was shut down against Boston College was puzzling. It wasn’t until USC was down 30-17 with less than seven minutes left that Sarkisian finally opened up the offense. USC’s offense, however, is probably the least of its worries after giving up over 400 yards on the ground despite having the best defensive lineman in the country in Leonard Williams. As bad as USC was against Boston College, the Trojans should be able to win when they put up 30 points and hold their opponents to just 54 yards passing.

USC aims to learn during bye week

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
LOS ANGELES -- Still trying to figure it all out after a 37-31 upset loss at Boston College on Saturday night, the USC Trojans are now faced with picking up the pieces, and a bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

When a team like USC gets off to such a promising start to the season (2-0) and a No. 9 national ranking, there is always the question of whether a bye week comes at a good time. With the unexpected turn of events like what happened in Chestnut Hill, the loss at Boston College basically welcomes a bye week throughout the program.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaCody Kessler said his confidence is high when it comes to USC's resiliency.
So, just how important is this week’s bye in the eyes of some of those that participated in Saturday’s Boston bummer?

“It’s very important, said sophomore wide receiver George Farmer, who score his first touchdown of the season on a 8-yard reception from quarterback Cody Kessler.

“We’re kind of glad this happened to us now that we can use this bye week to prepare for Oregon State,” Farmer added.

“We can clean up on all the areas that we didn’t do so well on this week. This bye week is really critical. We’re going to do everything we can to clean up everything we can.”

For senior co-captain and inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, emotions turn to philosophical analysis. Pullard echoes Farmer’s statement on the urgency of the bye week.

“It’s very important,” Pullard said. “We can’t look at this as a loss but as a game. When we see a quarterback run on us like that, this is what the Pac-12 is bringing to the table – this option stuff. We got a little taste of it.”

Of course, there is also ability now to sit down this week and break down where the deficiencies are and how to correct them.

Sophomore starting right tackle Zach Banner tried to put the bye week and the loss to Boston College in perspective.

“We have to get it back,” Banner said of the momentum that had been built after the opening victories over Fresno State and Stanford. “After a hard loss like this, Coach told us there are things that we could have controlled during that game. We have to look at the film and we have to never do this stuff again.”

Speaking of the head coach, Steve Sarkisian had his thoughts regarding the bye week after the loss.

“I really believe we'll bounce back and we'll do it in great fashion,” Sarkisian said. “It's back to the drawing board for the bye week, which is probably coming at a good time for us.”

Kessler couldn’t agree more.

“It's going to be a big week for us to bounce back coming into the bye week,” Kessler said. “I'm not worried. This team knows how to fight back.”

The Trojans now have two weeks to get the bitter taste of the Boston College defeat out of their system before Oregon State comes to the Coliseum on Sept. 27.

And you can be sure of one thing: Beavers coach Mike Riley will test the Trojans and see how much they have learned and corrected themselves. Indeed, this is a critical bye week for the Men of Troy.

Drive Through: AP Poll Angst

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15


Georgia lost to South Carolina, and Stanford lost to USC. Yet, in the week 4 AP Poll, both teams are ranked higher than the teams that beat them. Heather Dinich explains why voters need to do a better job.

Injuries, implosion muddle South picture

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait. That's been used before. But, with apologies to Dickens, it fits. The Pac-12 weekend was a tale of one division, two teams, two cities, two quarterbacks, and it was a day of thrills and it was a day of misery.

The plot certainly thickened in the Pac-12's South Division on Saturday, but not necessarily in a good way.

A week after posting a gritty upset at Stanford, USC was humiliated at Boston College, while UCLA cobbled together a win over Texas behind scrappy, ebullient backup QB Jerry Neuheisel. Neuheisel's services were required because Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. His status remains uncertain, though there was reasonable hope based on initial reports that his injury wasn't serious.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's shocking loss to Boston College underscored the vulnerability within the Pac-12 South division.
Our second city is Tempe, Arizona, where UCLA will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, squaring off with defending South Division champion Arizona State, which beat Colorado on Saturday but also lost its star senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who beat out Hundley for second-team All-Pac-12 last year. Seeing Kelly on crutches due to a foot injury -- and his body language -- probably won't fuel great expectations that he will be ready for the Bruins.

The UCLA-Arizona State game was one we eyeballed in the preseason as a major measuring stick in the battle for the South. A significant part of the appeal was the quarterback battle. That hasn't changed, only now the intrigue is whether it will be Neuheisel for UCLA and Mike Bercovici for Arizona State. A week ago, that quarterback news would have heavily favored the Sun Devils. While Bercovici isn't the runner Kelly is, he's got one of the best arms in the conference and is well-versed in the Sun Devils offense. He is expected to win the starting job as a fifth-year senior next fall. Neuheisel was widely viewed as a career backup with a well-known father -- former UCLA QB and coach Rick Neuheisel -- but his second-half performance against the Longhorns suggested he can be more than a rudimentary game manager.

Both teams have an off week, when they can either get healthy or retool their plans. The stakes continue to be high, perhaps more so after USC threw up on itself with a wet-noodle performance at Boston College. While a nonconference game doesn't affect the Trojans' Pac-12 standing, it certainly made them look extremely vulnerable heading into a much-needed bye week. Other than USC fans, the most miserable folks watching that game surely root for Stanford, which probably can't believe it lost to the Trojans just a week before.

What this implosion and these injuries reveal in a wider sense is vulnerability in the South. In the preseason, UCLA looked like a decisive South favorite. Then USC made a statement with a win over the Cardinal. Arizona State was lurking with a great offense and a questionable defense. At this point, however, none of these three teams is scaring anyone. And don't look now, but Arizona and Utah remain unbeaten and have shown flashes that suggest they might be factors in a divisional race that previously seemed limited to the aforementioned troika.

The Wildcats play host to California on Saturday. Lo and behold, the Bears also are unbeaten, and this game suddenly possesses some potential meaning it didn't seem to have in the preseason. If Cal gets the upset, it can fully erase last season's misery and start thinking bowl game. If Arizona gets the win, it will be 4-0 and eyeballing the Top 25 with a visit to No. 2 Oregon looming on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona appears suspect on defense, but the offense, with impressive redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon, a good O-line, deep corps of receivers and breakout freshman running back Nick Wilson, will make the Wildcats a threat to any foe.

Utah visits Michigan on Saturday. While the Wolverines don't look like they'll be hailing in much victory this season, a Utes win would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. While Utah's trouble hasn't been in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12, a 3-0 start would hint they are not a South afterthought, particularly if the offense continues to shine with QB Travis Wilson.

While Oregon's win over Michigan State coupled with Stanford's loss to USC only boosted the Ducks' status as North Division favorites, the South intrigue has seemingly spiderwebbed since the beginning of the season. The race appears more wide open and complicated. UCLA's visit to Arizona State remains a major measuring stick, but it's just as likely either team would sacrifice that game -- as horrible as that sounds -- to know it will get its starting quarterback back healthy for the rest of the season.

Early Offer: Sunderland a key get for OU 

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Oklahoma landed two high-profile recruits this weekend, but scoring a pledge from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. is about as big as it gets. Plus, Boston College will be able to use its victory over then top-10 USC as a big selling point on the recruiting trail.

If USC's sudden defensive breakdown after three games seems shocking, it shouldn't be.

Not if you carefully studied Steve Sarkisian's coaching resume. Not if you observe him on the practice field, where he spends almost 95 percent of his time with the offense. Not if you watched as he made little, if any, halftime adjustments as Boston College trampled through the Trojans for so many rushing yards, you'd have thought it was Oregon on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

That wasn't just another defeat in Chesnut Hill on Saturday night. It was among the more embarrassing losses in recent school history.

USC teams do not get outrushed 452 yards to 20. It just isn't supposed to happen.

But it did. It was as real as all that BC emotion flooding out from the stands. A small, unranked bunch beat all those four and five-star Trojans recruits into the ground. The same team that had been pounded for 302 yards rushing by Pittsburgh a week earlier made USC's offensive and defensive lines look thinner than your average lobster roll on the way to a 37-31 upset that was far worse then the final score indicated.

Maybe this is what happens when you hire a head coach with little or no defensive background. In 2011, in Sarkisian's third year at Washington, his team finished 105th or lower nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense.

Eventually, Sark, whose entire coaching career has been on the offensive side, hired Justin Wilcox as his defensive coordinator, and things improved dramatically. But Wilcox came with him to USC, and after three games, this Trojans' defense is seriously staggering.

First, Stanford gashed it for 413 yards, failing to win the game only because it couldn't convert inside the red zone. Then this, a Trojans' performance so ragged, it couldn't be blamed solely on a post-Cardinal letdown, or a long cross-country plane ride.

You don't stink up the place like that, coughing up 506 total yards, unless you have some serious problems. And a defense that was supposed to be the best in the Pac-12 and one of the better units in the country suddenly has more holes in it than a bad summer movie script.

How could Boston College make Leonard Williams & Co. look so confused with their read-options? Where were the USC defenders on the edge? And how in the world did they turn tiny quarterback Tyler Murphy into looking like the second coming of Marcus Mariota?

Offensively, most of the problems centered on the Trojans' young blockers, who were clearly overmatched. They couldn't run block, and they couldn't pass block. Other than that, they were fine.

Not that Sarkisian helped much with his play calling. Even after it became clear Javorius Allen and Justin Davis couldn't even get to the line of scrimmage most of the time, Sark kept calling run plays, especially on first down.

Whatever happened to taking what the defense gives you? Clearly, BC was concentrating on stopping the run and giving USC the intermediate passing game, but Cody Kessler, who suffered five sacks, wasn't able to take much advantage of it when it mattered.

The Trojans finally ditched their short, horizontal passing game to rally some with 14 points in the fourth quarter, but every time you thought they had a chance to come back, the Eagles would get the ball back and the rest was history.

So just as quickly as the 2014 optimism skyrocketed a week ago, it has plummeted back to Earth. Instead of being 3-0 and looking ahead to bigger and better things, USC is a sagging 2-1 after losing to a 17-point underdog.

And if Murphy and the less-than-imposing Eagles can do this to the Trojans, what are Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame apt to do, let alone a more sophisticated read-option team such as Arizona, or a hungry Utah squad in Salt Lake City?

The road that looked so smooth and inviting after the great escape at Stanford now is filled with potential potholes again.

Longtime Trojans fans have every right to be disappointed.

But if they go back and review the new head coach's resume, they really shouldn't be surprised.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Nothing has changed with Oregon. The Ducks still are the clear favorite to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff, but after that, the guessing game continues.

We'll go ahead and project UCLA to the Fiesta Bowl based on the feeling that eventually the Bruins will get things figured out and play like the team many thought they were in the preseason. Right now, there's just not a clear-cut choice behind Oregon. Arizona State, also 3-0, was considered there too, but the uncertainty of QB Taylor Kelly's status moving forward is reason for concern.

What to make of USC? A week after stunning Stanford on the road, USC was exposed by Boston College and its big win now looks like an aberration.

As always, take the order with a grain of salt. There haven't been enough games to feel good about these projections.

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: UCLA
Valero Alamo Bowl: Arizona State
National University Holiday Bowl: Stanford
San Francisco Bowl: USC
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Utah
Cactus Bowl: Washington
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Oregon State
*-At large

Trojans have problems in trenches

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
It was a night to forget for the Trojans after going into Boston College and getting outplayed and outcoached by an Eagles team that wasn’t expected to do either.

That’s why they play the games, however, because on any given night this can happen, especially to a USC team that appeared undermanned and underprepared as opposed to the hosts, who came out fired up and ready to play.

The game actually started off well for the Trojans with an early lead after a Cody Kessler to George Farmer touchdown pass, but then there was a dropped pass by Bryce Dixon that surely would have been a score and the Trojans had to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead at the start of the second quarter.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's defenders could only look at the stats in disbelief after surrendering 452 rushing yards to Boston College.
The Eagles answered with a touchdown but missed the extra point, and after Kessler hit Javorius Allen with a short pass that he took for a 51-yard touchdown, the score was 17-6 and it looked like the Trojans were well on their way to another big night. From that point on, however, the game belonged to the Eagles, who answered with two touchdowns before half to go into the locker room with a 20-17 lead.

What was puzzling at that point was that Boston College seemed to be controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage, something that wasn’t anticipated coming into the game. Sure, the Eagles had five graduate students on the offensive line, but USC was countering with All-American Leonard Williams and several upperclassmen around him. To see the halftime rushing totals showing Boston College with 197 yards and USC with 24 was truly astounding, and nothing changed in the second half. When all was said and done, the Eagles piled up 452 yards on the ground and the Trojans had 20 (72 actual yards gained but 52 lost).

There is a lot of attention being paid on Sunday to the adjustments, or lack thereof, by the USC coaches. On offense, the run game clearly wasn’t working and the offensive line was allowing a lot of pressure from Boston College, which sacked Kessler five times. Kessler did have 317 yards and four touchdowns on 31-of-41 passing, and it seemed as if the passing game could have done even more if given the chance. Defensively, the Trojans had a lot of issues with maintaining assignments and covering the read-option with Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy, who ran for 191 yards on 13 carries (14.7 yards per attempt) but threw for only 54 yards.

After the game there were plenty of mea culpas from the coaching staff on down, and this one will stick for an extra week as the Trojans have a bye next Saturday. There is a train of thought that says it would be best to get back on the field to get the bad taste from this game out of their mouths but this is also a USC team that could stand to take a break right now, get a little healthy, and regroup as much as possible before the Oregon State Beavers come to town in two weeks.

Notes from the sidelines

It was the third time in the past four games that Kessler has thrown four touchdowns. … Hayes Pullard sat out the first half and ended the game with five tackles and a pass breakup. His leadership and knowledge of the defense certainly could have been a benefit in the first half to prevent BC from gaining critical momentum. … Gerald Bowman has been playing well lately and led the Trojans with seven tackles, but it’s not usually a good thing when a safety leads your team in tackles.

Extra points

  • When Farmer opened the scoring for the Trojans with an 8-yard catch it was the first touchdown of his USC career.
  • There was another first as well when cornerback Chris Hawkins nabbed his first interception as a Trojan in the second quarter.
  • USC punter Kris Albarado got a full night’s work with 10 punts for 375 yards, including a brilliant effort to get a good kick after an errant snap.
Game plan

To see the Eagles dominate on both sides of the line of scrimmage is not what the Trojans had in mind. The Eagles defense had given up 213 yards to a Pitt runner the previous week and broke a 15-year old BC record for most rushing yards allowed in a game. Naturally, the Trojans figured a big rushing day was in their future, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. It doesn’t help when USC running backs get only 22 carries, but they could have doubled the rushing attempts and it probably wouldn’t have helped. The young Trojans offensive line had too many miscommunications to think things would have been much different. On the defensive side of the ball, a read-option quarterback continued to give the Trojans fits as time after time the Eagles ball carriers seemed to have too many yards before initial contact. It helped BC that they had five graduate students forming a veteran offensive line but it doesn’t begin to explain all that went wrong for the Trojans.

Final thoughts

OK, so much for talk of an undefeated season, and the early season top 10 ranking goes away as well. If that’s the reality right now, so be it. A 2-1 start is likely a record that most USC fans would have accepted; the loss just didn’t come to the expected opponent. Now the bigger questions turn to the issues that were exposed against Boston College. 1) What is the identity of the USC offense? The uptempo offense that was so touted produced 59 plays last week, 70 this week, while the opponents ran 68 plays in each. 2) What can be learned to face future read-option teams that will look at this game and smile? You know that future opponents will look at the BC game plan that gained over 500 total yards and attempt to do similar things. Is it a matter of getting a few key injured guys back? Is it a matter of trust between coaches and players? This is still a staff that has only been in place at USC for three games so it stands to reason that there is plenty of learning curve left to go. Whatever it is, it better be in place quickly because Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona are three teams with offensive-minded coaches who can get very creative.

Oregon remains at No. 2; USC drops

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Oregon strengthened its hold on the No. 2 spot in the fourth AP poll of the season, but the Pac-12 is without two top-10 teams for the first time this season.

The Ducks picked up an additional first-place vote and are six points closer to top-ranked Florida State (42 behind) compared to last week.

USC took the biggest fall, dropping eight spots to No. 17 following its 37-31 loss to Boston College and is now one spot behind Stanford, which the Trojans beat on the road last week.

UCLA remains at No. 12 after squeaking out a win against reeling Texas, but was jumped by both Ole Miss and Michigan State. Through three games, UCLA remains undefeated, but none of its wins have done much to impress voters.

Next up for the Bruins is No. 15 Arizona State in Tempe on Sept. 25. The Sun Devils jumped Stanford this week -- largely because USC's loss to Boston College devalued the Cardinal -- after opening conference play with a 38-24 win against Colorado.

Washington (14) and Arizona (3) also received votes.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

Playoff picture: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Week 3 reminded us just how wild and unpredictable college football can be. Boston College shocked No. 9 USC. Virginia Tech lost at home to East Carolina one week after a monumental upset at Ohio State. Kentucky pushed Florida to three overtimes. South Carolina stunned No. 6 Georgia. Virginia knocked off No. 21 Louisville.

Did we mention USC lost to Boston College?

The playoff picture is as cloudy as the skies over Williams-Brice Stadium, but every game affects it in some way. Here’s a quick rundown of what we learned after Week 3:

[+] EnlargePharoh Cooper, Dylan Thompson
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina is once again pointing forward in the playoff picture thanks to a big win over No. 6 Georgia.
Who helped themselves the most: South Carolina. Had the Gamecocks lost to Georgia, they would’ve been written off in this space. Gone. Kaput. Better luck next year. Instead, they kept their playoff hopes alive by reasserting themselves in the SEC East race. Make it to the SEC title game and you’ve got a shot at the College Football Playoff. Win the SEC and you’ve got a ticket.

Once again, Georgia is looking up at the Head Ball Coach, but don’t give up on the Bulldogs. Remember, the last two times South Carolina beat Georgia, it was Georgia that went on to win the division. South Carolina’s win didn’t guarantee anything except longer life in the playoff race.

Who was hurt the most? The city of L.A. Sure, UCLA won and backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates like he just beat, well, USC. But it was at unranked Texas, a beleaguered team that had just gotten smacked around by BYU the previous week. And with starter Brett Hundley injuring his elbow in the game, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Bruins moving forward.

UCLA is now 3-0 for the third straight season under Jim Mora, but if you’re going by that ever-scientific eyeball test, you’ve seen that UCLA hasn’t looked great in any of those wins. Now the Bruins have to go beat a ranked Arizona State team.

No. 9 USC, meanwhile, was -- get this -- outgained by Boston College on the ground 452-20! Was the defense in the stands? BC quarterback Tyler Murphy ran for 191 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. So, there’s that. But hey, the Trojans beat Stanford.

Injury impact: The College Football Playoff’s 13-member selection committee will consider injuries as it determines the top four teams in the country, and there were two injuries of note Saturday night. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly injured his right foot in a 38-24 win over Colorado, and Hundley also left early with his elbow injury. No timeline has been set for either quarterback’s return, and the teams will face each other on Sept. 25.

Biggest trap game: Virginia Tech. It was just a week ago that the Hokies were being considered a dark horse for the national title. With what appeared to be a manageable schedule -- no Florida State, no Clemson in the regular season -- and a chance to beat a ranked opponent in the ACC title game, the Hokies had a shot.

Clearly, it was a mirage. East Carolina went into Blacksburg and beat the Hokies 28-21. Even more defeating was the fact that Virginia Tech was in position to overcome a 21-point deficit for what would have been the biggest comeback ever under Frank Beamer. Instead, ECU quarterback Shane Carden scored a rushing touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game. Before you start snickering, Ohio State fans, the Hokies’ loss now makes the Buckeyes’ home loss to Virginia Tech look even worse. Speaking of Ohio State ...

The beat goes on: The Big Ten beat, that is. The conference is now 1-9 against opponents from Power 5 conferences. Iowa lost at home to Iowa State, Maryland lost at home to West Virginia, Minnesota was beaten by TCU and Illinois was pummeled by Washington. Surprised? Don’t be. According to Vegas, Big Ten teams were favored to win in just four of those nine losses.

If only it ended there.

The Hoosiers lost to another pesky MAC team, Bowling Green. It was the league’s third loss to a MAC team in the past two weeks.

There are only four spots in the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten doesn’t look like it wants one.

Drawing conclusions from Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

Georgia vs. South CarolinaChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

No. 24 South Carolina 38, No. 6 Georgia 35

"I think I may be the winningest coach against Georgia here at South Carolina," said Steve Spurrier, who has now won more games than any other coach against Georgia, including four victories in five tries with South Carolina.

Boston College 37, No. 9 USC 31

In its "red bandanna" game honoring Welles Crowther, a Sept. 11 victim and hero, Boston College shocks USC for its first victory over a top-10 team in a decade.

No. 12 UCLA 20, Texas 17

UCLA backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel, subbing in for an injured Brett Hundley, threw a 33-yard TD pass with three minutes left to rally past upset-minded Texas in Arlington, Texas.

East Carolina 28, No. 17 Virginia Tech 21

A week after upsetting Ohio State, Virginia Tech is toppled by East Carolina after Pirates quarterback Shane Carden threw three touchdown passes and scored a rushing TD with 16 seconds left.

(Read full post)

College Football Minute

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14


South Carolina's big win, a mixed day for L.A., and upsets at the top of the ACC. It's all ahead in the "College Football Minute."

Unlikely Boston College stuns No. 9 USC

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- This is not the way the No. 9 team in the nation is supposed to lose. This is not the way the Glamour Guys from USC go down. This is not the team that should be beating the Trojans, with their Hollywood profile and grand tradition.

The USC locker room is filled with four- and five-star recruits. And then there’s the Boston College locker room, a sweatier, and -- early Sunday morning -- happier version of the Island of Misfit Toys.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy is a fifth-year refugee from Florida. Two of the running backs, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, haven’t made it to 5-foot-10 yet, and both of them tower over 5-6 freshman Sherman Alston, whose 54-yard misdirection touchdown run late in the first half gave the Eagles a 20-17 lead they never lost.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesThough he finished with just 54 yards passing, Boston College signal-caller Tyler Murphy had 191 rushing yards and a touchdown vs. USC.
“We’re probably not your ideal top college football program as far as looks,” said Murphy, who started six games at Florida before transferring after last season. “Whatever it takes to win. Whether the guys are 5-2 or 7-8, we’ll find a place for them and we’ll find what they excel at and we’ll get them the ball.”

Murphy rushed for 191 yards, including a 66-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, on only 13 carries, to lead the Eagles over the Trojans, 37-31. Boston College hadn’t beaten a ranked team in six seasons or a top-10 team in a decade.

Boston College outgained USC on the ground 452 yards to 20. The Trojans haven't given up that much on the ground since 1977. The running game worked because the Eagles' offensive line, one of only two in the nation that starts five graduate students, won the battle on the line of scrimmage. And the running game worked because Murphy’s sleight of hand on the zone-read kept a fast Trojans defense moving in the wrong direction.

If you are looking for a mental picture of how Boston College won the game after spotting USC a 17-6 lead, think of a Trojans defender, sprawled on the ground, or turning the wrong way, lurching in vain toward an Eagles ball carrier. Suffice it to say it will be a long video session this week for USC cornerback Chris Hawkins. And he’s not the only one.

The Eagles' defense sacked Cody Kessler five times and refused to afford him time to throw downfield. Kessler threw for 317 yards, but completed only one pass longer than 20 yards. Linebacker Josh Keyes made five-and-a-half of his eight tackles behind the line.

USC hoped it could come east, get ahead early and rest its starters. When you travel with 54 available scholarship players -- and that includes linebacker Hayes Pullard, who sat out the first half after a targeting penalty last week -- you look to ease the load when you can. When the Trojans flipped field position on the Eagles early in the game and started two possessions inside the BC 40-yard line, they grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

On the other side of the ball, The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three possessions and gained a net total of minus-2 yards. By the time they moved their total yardage into the plus column, the Eagles trailed 10-0.

“We grouped up together on the sideline and we said, ‘That ends now. We’ve got to start playing up to our potential,’ I think we turned the tide then,” center Andy Gallik said.

[+] EnlargeBoston College Eagles fans
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsDespite an early 17-6 deficit, Boston College stormed back to upset USC. The Eagles' fans stormed the field after the win.
On the Eagles' next snap, a first-and-10 at the BC 22, Willis got a big hole in the left side of the line, and then used great downfield blocks to race 52 yards to the USC 26. The Eagles scored six plays later.

“I thought we played our best football early in the game,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Our execution was good. But for whatever reason, we lost it. And that’s the part I have to figure out. They hit the one long run and things started to go the other direction on us.”

All upsets are emotional for the winners, but this one left a warm feeling throughout Alumni Stadium. Before the game, the parents of Welles Crowther, a Boston College lacrosse player who died a hero in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, were introduced.

After the game, Eagle coach Steve Addazio gave them a game ball.

“We talked a lot about Welles Crowther,” Addazio said after the game. “We talked a lot about who he was and what it takes to be a BC man. Our guys really dug deep on this.”

Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball player whose fight against ALS prompted the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised more than $100 million to fight the disease, attended the game and was shown on the video boards at halftime, to the delight of the crowd of 41,632.

Football teams don’t live on emotion. They live on execution, and if that’s fueled by emotion, all the better. This Boston College team is a motley crew. But on Saturday night, the Eagles didn’t play that way. They looked like five-star recruits, every one of them. Ask the five-star guys they beat.