USC: Oregon Ducks

Week 1 rivalries? Coaches say no thanks

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
3:00
PM PT
(Pause for laughter)

(Pause again, for laughter)

(Pause, again, still for more laughter)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora had just been asked a purely-for-fun, purely-hypothetical question: What if UCLA and USC had to play in Week 1?

“I don’t think it would be a good deal,” Mora said. “You want the drama to build. I don’t know what it would be like. I never thought of that. [Pause for laughter, again]. It would make for an interesting off season. You’d have a whole lot of time to talk about it rather than just a week. Heck, I don’t know.”

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/David Zalubowski Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre relishes the opportunity to play a rivalry game in Week 1. But most Pac-12 coaches would rather wait until the end of the season.
 The roots of this comical concept stem from the fact that while most of the Pac-12 will be dining on desserts in Week 1, the Colorado Buffaloes have to play a rivalry game with Colorado State right out of the chute.

And make no mistake -- this is a rivalry game. This will be the 86th game in the series (the Buffs lead 62-21-2), which has been played off and on since 1893 and annually since 1995 (the longest gap was between ’58 to ’83).

It doesn’t matter that Colorado is in the Pac-12 and Colorado State is in the Mountain West. This game is as heated as it gets.

“We think of this as a traditional rivalry, no doubt about it,” said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre. “You hear about it every day. Everybody is up and down Interstate 25, and CU fans and CSU fans run into each other. The kids know each other. The coaches know each other because we speak at different clinics and run into each other all of the time.”

Colorado State got win No. 1 for coach Jim McElwain in 2012 with a 22-17 victory. A year later, the MacIntyre era kicked off with a 41-27 victory.

“The pros of it are it’s a big, heightened game,” MacIntyre said. “It keeps your kids on their toes. They hear about it all the time. It makes it a little more special. All opening games are special. But this puts an extra flavor to it, so to speak.”

That got the Pac-12 blog to thinking … simply for extra flavor … what if every rivalry game in the league was played in Week 1. What would the storylines be?

  • Territorial Cup: New Arizona QB faces new ASU D as RichRod looks for first win in rivalry.
  • The Big Game: Bear Raid looks to get off the mat against two-time conference champs.
  • The Civil War: Potential first-round picks Marcus Mariota and Sean Mannion duel in opener.
  • UCLA-USC: Oh jeez … can you imagine USC and UCLA squaring off Saturday after the week the Trojans have had? This one writes itself.
  • The Apple Cup: Chris Petersen’s Washington debut against the Cougs.

Look, we know this isn’t ever going to happen. But it’s fun to think about the possibilities. Right?

“Oh, we wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all,” said Arizona State coach Todd Graham, [OK, guess not]. “I’m a fan. I don’t want to start the season off with a rivalry game. We love that being at the end of the season for our fans.”

The consensus was that if the rivalry game was in Week 1, so be it, the coaches would prepare per usual. But it just wouldn’t feel the same.

“One year we played Hawaii after [we played Oregon] at the end of the year and that felt funny,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “It would definitely make for an interesting start to the season.”

Because the CSU-CU game is an out-of-conference showdown, the thought is that this game is best played before league play cranks up. And that makes sense.

“Late in the conference, you’re worried about conference games and getting to the conference championship game,” MacIntyre said.” I think playing it early in the year is a good thing for both of us.”

So, no. Pac-12 rivalries should not be played in Week 1. But the tradition works for the Colorado folks so don’t mess with it. It will make for a fun debut Friday night and add some sizzle to a Week 1 slate that doesn’t have a ton of gusto.

And we can all get on board with Graham: “That game is the game for us. You can win 11 games and lose that one and have an unsuccessful season. You could lose 11 and win that one and have a successful season. That’s how big that game is for us. I kind of like it where it’s at.”

Something to prove in the Pac-12

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
5:00
PM PT
Enough chatter. Enough previews. Enough hype. It’s game week. Time to put up or shhhhhh.

Today we’re going to take a look at players/coaches/position groups with something to prove in 2014. These are in no particular order, but each is just as significant.

  1. Hot seat coaches: While Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's and Cal coach Sonny Dykes' seats aren’t exactly roasting, it’s not like they just took the ice bucket challenge, either. The Utes have missed the postseason for consecutive seasons, and the Bears have dropped 16 straight FBS teams (11 under Dykes’ watch). Unless either has a disastrous season, the Pac-12 blog sees them back in 2015. But results need to come sooner than later.
  2. [+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
    AP Photo/Don RyanThe preseason hype has been in full force for Pac-12 QBs like Oregon's Marcus Mariota. It's now time to deliver.
     Quarterbacks: The 10 returning starters have brought a crush of national attention to the Pac-12. Now it’s time for those guys to earn it. Some are calling this the most talented collection of quarterbacks in one league in the history of college football -- headlined by Heisman trophy candidates Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. The expectations have never been higher for Pac-12 signal-callers.
  3. Stanford’s offensive line: Speaking of hype … a couple of years ago the Cardinal inked what some called the best offensive line recruiting class in the history of history. Now all five starters are from that class. Some already have significant experience. Others saw some work in Stanford’s “extra linemen” packages last season. This group has to live up to its billing for the Cardinal to do what they want to do on offense.
  4. Austin Hill: In 2012, he was a beast, catching 81 balls for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. Then an ACL injury suffered in the spring of 2013 cost him all of last season. Now he headlines an extremely deep and talented wide-receiving corps for the Wildcats in a Rich Rodriguez system that favors pass-catchers. No doubt, Hill is looking to get that first catch, first hit and first touchdown out of the way. If redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon can produce solid quarterback play, Hill could be in for another outstanding season.
  5. USC freshmen: Damien Mama and Toa Lobendahn are slated at right and left guard, respectively, for the season opener against Fresno State. Ajene Harris is listed as a starting wide receiver. Adoree’ Jackson and JuJu Smith are expected to contribute as receivers and on special teams. And with the loss of Josh Shaw, Jackson might see extended time at cornerback. Steve Sarkisian made a huge splash in his first preseason by landing a top-notch recruiting class. Now it’s time for these guys to go out and prove it.
  6. Mark Helfrich: Sometimes the burden of expectation can weigh heaviest of all. Helfirch got a taste of that last season when, despite going 11-2 and beating Texas in the Alamo Bowl, there were some who considered Oregon’s 2013 campaign an unsuccessful one. He lost to Stanford (Chip Kelly also did, twice, by the way), lost to Arizona and some off-field incidents (Colt Lyerla, Rose Bowl comments, snowball fight) became bigger talking points than what was happening on the field. On the field, in case you forgot, was a Heisman-favorite quarterback playing the second half of the season with a partially torn knee ligament. A Pac-12 championship would go a long way toward silencing his doubters.
  7. D.J. Foster: Working in tandem with Marion Grice last season, Foster rushed for 501 yards and six touchdowns to go with his 653 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He’s a versatile back that Mike Norvell loves to split out and use in the passing game. But with Grice gone, Foster now takes over as the primary back. They’ll still use him in the passing attack. He’s too talented for them not to. But he’ll get a lot more work as a runner beyond the 93 carries he had last fall.
  8. Myles Jack: The Pac-12 blog has a special column on Jack coming out later this week so we won’t spoil anything. All we’ll say for now is he’s getting a ton of national love. From All-America lists to Heisman chatter, Jack is the national darling of preseason college football. Thing is, he might just be worth all of the hype. His encore season will be telling.
  9. The new guys: That the Huskies are a preseason Top 25 team speaks to how highly the national media thinks of Chris Petersen -- especially after they lost their quarterback, running back and tight end. He has his work cut out for him in a brutal Pac-12 North. But the expectations aren’t as extreme as they are for the guy he replaced. Sarkisian and the Trojans are expected to compete for a South Division title, a conference crown and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Beating UCLA would be a good start.
  10. Cal’s defense: The Bears had a rough go of it last season. No doubt. As the injuries piled up, and younger players were forced into action. The end result was, well, Cal in 2013. With a new defensive coordinator in Art Kaufman and finally a little health, guys like Brennan Scarlett, Mustafa Jalil and Stefan McClure take center stage in what the Bears hope will be a defensive revival.

Poll: Which teams will meet in December?

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
12:00
PM PT
Last week at Pac-12 media days, the media poll was announced and the resounding response was that the media believes the Ducks will win this year’s Pac-12 championship game.

When it came to the breakdown of where teams would finish, again it was a pretty clear agreement: most media had Oregon and Stanford as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the North Division and UCLA and USC as their counterparts in the South Division.

SportsNation

Which will be the matchup in the 2014 Pac-12 Championship game?

  •  
    40%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,594)

We didn’t need a media poll to start thinking about the Pac-12 championship game, but this just gave us even more reason to explore it. Yes, these four teams seem to be a step ahead in personnel and game plan for the season, and have some favorable matchups here and there. But, it’s college football and craziness happens, so there is certainly a chance that a team not in this group jumps into the lead in the North or South and ends up playing in Levi’s Stadium at the end of the season.

So, we wanted to ask you: which matchup do you think you will be watching when it all comes down to it on Dec. 5?

Will it be:

Oregon-UCLA: This would be a rematch of an Oct. 11 game that would match up (what could be) an explosive and dynamic Oregon run game against some of the best linebackers in the country -- Myles Jack, Eric Kendrick, we’re looking at you, can you handle Marcus Mariota, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner? It would be great to be able to see Mariota and Brett Hundley on the same field twice this season as they battle it out for NFL draft status, top quarterback in the Pac-12/nation, etc. etc.

Oregon-USC: These teams don’t play during the regular season, and if you can say that you don’t want to see USC defensive end Leonard Williams get after Mariota and the Oregon offensive line, then you are probably the kind of person who doesn’t like puppies, apple pie or happiness. This could be one of the best battles-within-a-battle to watch all season, regardless of conference. No doubt football fans all over the country would tune in to see what could be the best defensive lineman and the best quarterback battle for 60 minutes.

Stanford-UCLA: Could we see two teams play in back-to-back weekends? If Stanford wins the North and UCLA wins the South, that would be the case. They would close out the regular season on Friday, Nov. 28 in Los Angeles and then meet again a bit further north at Levi’s Stadium the following weekend. If you are not completely trusting of Oregon and its ability to close out a season, maybe this is the pick to make. Stanford has been the underdog before and has done pretty well.

Stanford-USC: This would be a great rematch. These teams play in Week 2, but can you imagine how different they would be by the championship game? The growth that happens between Sept. 6 and Dec. 5 would just be ridiculous, and it would be fun to compare these two games side-by-side and say, “Yes, this is where this team has grown the most over a season.” A Steve Sarkisian-David Shaw dual-duel is completely conceivable and would be fun to watch.

Other: Those are the front-runners in the conference, but could we see some surprises? Trap games exist for all four of those teams, and with coachs like Chris Petersen or Todd Graham, you can't completely count out their teams. Could Washington sneak into a matchup with UCLA or USC or someone else? Could Arizona State appear in the championship game for the second season in a row? It’s all possible. But is it probable? You decide.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
11:30
AM PT
Ancient Greece was the beginning of Western civilization. You see in Greece, they didn't have professional sports or Wheaties boxes, so the athletes competed for another reason. Anybody?

Links: Graham buys 'Poison' home

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
11:30
AM PT
It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
2:30
PM PT
Ain't no party like an S Club party.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
11:30
AM PT
Way back on the radio dial a fire got lit inside a bright eyed child. Every note just wrapped around his soul, steel guitars to Memphis all the way to rock 'n roll.

Position U: Running backs

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
10:00
AM PT
video
Who really deserves to claim the title of "Running Back U" for the 2000s?

1. Arkansas (104 points)
In perhaps the biggest upset at any position, Arkansas can call itself “Running Back U” for the 2000s. Certainly Darren McFadden played the biggest role in the Razorbacks’ claim, but he got an assist from Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Those former backfield mates are among six Arkansas running backs who have been drafted since 2001, helping the Hogs barely edge Oklahoma for the top spot.

Award winners: McFadden, Walker (2006, 2007), Camp (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: McFadden (2006, 2007).
First-team all-conference: Fred Talley (2002), Cedric Cobbs (2003), Darren McFadden (2005, 2006, 2007).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2008), McFadden (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cobbs (Round 4, 2004), Knile Davis (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Hillis (Round 7, 2008), Kiero Small (Round 7, 2014).

2. Oklahoma (102 points)
When someone like Adrian Peterson has been on your campus, you have to start there when discussing Oklahoma running backs. But one of the main reasons the Sooners racked up such a considerable point total is the Big 12’s unusual practice of honoring fullbacks on its all-conference team. In addition to the Petersons and DeMarco Murrays, there are also several blocking backs included in the Sooners’ 12 all-conference running backs who made our list.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Peterson (2004).
First-team all-conference: Quentin Griffin (2002), Peterson (2004, 2005, 2006), J.D. Runnels (2005), Brody Eldridge (2007), DeMarco Murray (2008, 2010), Matt Clapp (2008), Trey Millard (2011, 2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peterson (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Griffin (Round 4, 2003), Murray (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Runnels (Round 6, 2006), Patrick (Round 7, 2008), Trey Millard (Round 7, 2014).

3. Alabama (100 points)
Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had better pick it up this season, or the Alabama train is going to roll to the top spot. The Crimson Tide once again has one of the nation’s most talented backfields with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry set to join the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy as top point producers from Alabama.

Award winners: Ingram, Heisman (2009); Richardson, Walker (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kenneth Darby (2005), Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011), Lacy (2012), Yeldon (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ingram (2011), Richardson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Le’Ron McClain (Round 4, 2007), Glen Coffee (Round 3, 2009), Lacy (Round 2, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ahmaad Galloway (Round 7, 2003), Darby (Round 7, 2007), Brad Smelley (Round 7, 2012).

4. Auburn (86 points)
Auburn hasn’t been as flashy as its in-state rival -- the Tigers don’t have a single award winner or consensus All-American in the 2000s -- but few schools have been as consistent at developing solid tailbacks. Perhaps the most memorable names are the stars from the undefeated 2004 team -- Ronnie Brown and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams -- but Rudi Johnson, Kenny Irons, Ben Tate and Tre Mason all made big impacts at Auburn, as well.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2000), Williams (2003, 2004), Brown (2004), Irons (2005, 2006), Michael Dyer (2011), Mason (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Brown (2005), Williams (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Heath Evans (Round 3, 2001), Johnson (Round 4, 2001), Irons (Round 2, 2007), Tate (Round 2, 2010), Mason (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jay Prosch (Round 6, 2014).

4. Wisconsin (86 points)
Montee Ball is Wisconsin’s only major award winner and consensus All-America tailback from the 2000s, but the Badgers have an impressive tradition of turning out 1,000-yard rushers. Among the program’s top producers from this era are 2001 first-round pick Michael Bennett, Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis, among others. Ball posted huge yardage and touchdown totals in 2011 and 2012 -- which explains why he was a two-time All-American and won the 2012 Doak Walker Award -- but it’s the run of consistency at running back that makes Wisconsin a producer of top rushers.

Award winners: Ball, Walker (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Ball (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Davis (2001), Calhoun (2005), P.J. Hill (2006), John Clay (2009), Ball (2011, 2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bennett (2001).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Calhoun (Round 3, 2006), Ball (Round 2, 2013), James White (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Davis (Round 7, 2005), Bradie Ewing (Round 5, 2012).

6. Oregon (82 points)
Although the Ducks have ranked among the nation’s top programs over the past half-decade, LaMichael James’ 2010 Doak Walker Award is the only major award that an Oregon player has won at any position in the 2000s. James is the Ducks’ top point producer out of the backfield in recent years, but they also won points with backs like Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith before Chip Kelly’s rushing attack turned Oregon into the offensive juggernaut that we see today.

Award winners: James, Walker (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: James (2010), Kenjon Barner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Smith (2002), Jonathan Stewart (2007), James (2010, 2011), Barner (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Stewart (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Morris (Round 2, 2002), Smith (Round 4, 2003), LaMichael James (Round 2, 2012), De’Anthony Thomas (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Barner (Round 6, 2013).

7. USC (78 points)
Reggie Bush was actually a two-time All-American, but we aren’t factoring the 2004 nod he received because that was as an all-purpose player, not a running back. Nonetheless, Bush’s standout 2005 season was the main points driver as the Trojans cracked the top 10 largely because of the former No. 2 overall NFL pick’s accomplishments. It bears mentioning, however, that USC has already had eight running backs drafted in the 2000s.

Award winners: Bush, Heisman (2005), Camp (2005), Walker (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Bush (2005).
First-team all-conference: Bush (2004, 2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bush (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Justin Fargas (Round 3, 2003), LenDale White (Round 2, 2006), Joe McKnight (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Malaefou Mackenzie (Round 7, 2003), David Kirtman (Round 5, 2006), Allen Bradford (Round 6, 2011), Stanley Havili (Round 7, 2011).

8. Penn State (72 points)
Larry Johnson’s huge 2002 season accounts for much of Penn State’s point production -- he generated 52 points between winning three national awards, becoming a consensus All-American, winning first-team all-conference honors and getting drafted in the 2003 first round -- but the Nittany Lions have had five running backs drafted and Evan Royster also won all-conference honors in 2009.

Award winners: Johnson, Camp (2002), Maxwell (2002), Walker (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Johnson (2002).
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2002), Royster (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: Johnson (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Omar Easy (Round 4, 2002), Michael Robinson (Round 4, 2006), Tony Hunt (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Royster (Round 6, 2011).

9. Oklahoma State (70 points)
There’s nothing flashy about Oklahoma State’s point production here. No national awards, and just Kendall Hunter among its All-Americans. But the Cowboys have been outstanding at producing all-conference running backs, with Hunter (twice) and Tatum Bell ranking among their eight backs who made the coaches’ first team.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hunter (2010.
First-team all-conference: Bell (2003), Dantrell Savage (2007), Hunter (2008, 2010), Keith Toston (2009), Bryant Ward (2009, 2010), Joseph Randle (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Bell (Round 2, 2004), Vernand Morency (Round 3, 2005), Hunter (Round 4, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Randle (Round 5, 2013).

10. California (66 points)
Considering how Cal shares a conference with splashy programs like Oregon and USC, perhaps it’s understandable that its success developing tailbacks might fly a bit under the radar. But just look at the Bears’ résumé, starting with Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and J.J. Arrington. There have been some enormously productive tailbacks who got their start in Berkeley.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Arrington (2004).
First-team all-conference: Adimchinobe Echemandu (2003), Arrington (2004), Lynch (2006), Justin Forsett (2007), Best (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Lynch (2007), Best (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Arrington (Round 2, 2005), Shane Vereen (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Echemandu (Round 7, 2004), Forsett (Round 7, 2008).

10. Virginia Tech (66 points)
Frank Beamer’s Hokies are another bunch who trotted out productive tailback after productive tailback. Virginia Tech hasn’t won a national award and has only Kevin Jones among its All-America backs, but its list of all-conference backs -- including first-round picks Jones and David Wilson, along with Lee Suggs, Brandon Orr and Ryan Williams -- features some players whose running abilities fit perfectly with Beamer’s winning formula in Blacksburg.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jones (2003).
First-team all-conference: Suggs (2000), Jones (2003), Orr (2006), Williams (2009), Wilson (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2004), Wilson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Suggs (Round 4, 2003), Williams (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jarrett Ferguson (Round 7, 2002), Cedric Humes (Round 7, 2006).

REST OF “RUNNING BACK U” RANKINGS
62 -- Boston College; 60 -- Michigan, Ohio State; 58 -- Stanford; 56 -- LSU, Miami; 52 -- Georgia Tech, Oregon State; 50 -- West Virginia; 48 -- BYU; 44 -- Arizona, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, TCU; 42 -- Texas; 40 -- Clemson, Iowa, Nebraska; 36 -- Kansas State, Rutgers; 32 -- Georgia, Minnesota; 28 -- Florida State, Louisville, Tennessee, UCLA; 26 -- Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse; 24 -- Virginia; 20 -- Colorado, North Carolina; 18 -- Baylor, Mississippi State, Wake Forest; 16 -- Florida, Northwestern, Washington, Washington State; 14 -- Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas Tech; 12 -- Iowa State, Kentucky; 10 -- Kansas, N.C. State, Texas A&M; 8 -- Missouri, Utah; 6 -- Arizona State, Duke, Indiana, Notre Dame; 2 -- Vanderbilt

Lunch links: Arizona State's RB depth

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
11:30
AM PT
I would follow you into the mists of Avalon if that's what you mean.

Is the Pac-12 inexperienced?

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
1:30
PM PT
As previously noted, there is no simple measure that consistently predicts college football success. We lean on returning starters most often -- it matters, of course, just who those returning players are -- because we typically value experience.

There's good reason for that. Experience matters. While it's not more important than talent, it often overcomes talent.

Another way to measure a team's experience is to look at returning "lettermen," who are loosely defined as players who contributed during the past season.

This is what Phil Steele does here. Of course, he also notes that each program defines lettermen differently, so he defines his measure in a percentage of lettermen returning.

And, by this measure, the Pac-12 isn't terribly experienced heading into 2014.

Last year -- one of the deepest in terms of quality in conference history -- 11 pac-12 teams ranked among the nation's top-65 (top half, really) in terms of experience. This year, just five teams do, and six rank between 85th and 124th.


Does this mean the Pac-12 should expect a downturn in 2014? Not necessarily.

For one, 10 Pac-12 teams welcome back experienced QBs, and half of those are all-star prospects as well as NFL prospects. That's almost always a benefit. No other conference even approaches the quality the Pac-12 will have behind center this fall. Further, as we've show the past two days -- here and here -- there's a strong collection of offensive line talent coming back. Finally, one of preseason themes is the depth across the conference at receiver.

What I think we'll see this year in the Pac-12 is a step back on defense and -- not unconnected -- a big step forward on offense, particularly the passing game.

Whether that translates to nonconference and bowl wins and, perhaps, success in the inaugural College Football Playoff remains to be seen.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
11:30
AM PT
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.

Pac-12's lunch links

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
2:30
PM PT
And the piano sounds like a carnival. And the microphone smells like a beer.

How to make the Pac-12 better

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
12:00
PM PT
ESPN.com columnists Gene Wojciechowski, Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach provided you guys with 30 things -- 10 apiece -- that they'd like to change about college football.

They had some good ideas. They also gave us an idea: What are some things we'd like to change about the Pac-12?

Chantel Jennings, Kyle Bonagura and Ted Miller chime in with their thoughts.

Chantel Jennings

Alabama meets Oregon … finally: For the last few years everyone has wanted to see the Tide and the Ducks clash. The BCS era never brought it, so how fitting would it be to see a national title game (or at least a semifinal) featuring these two teams? C’mon, let’s settle a few scores in the inaugural College Football Playoff -- SEC vs. Pac-12, Nick Saban vs. Mark Helfrich. There are going to be complaints about the new system, but if it matches up Alabama and Oregon, it’ll have already done something the BCS was never able to do.

A Mike Leach weekly column: He’s certainly one of the most interesting quotes in all of college sports. He’ll give dating advice (someplace casual for dinner to begin, then maybe a drive-in movie theater) or discuss the difference between jeans and slacks at the drop of a hat. But, personally, I’d like to see more Leach-isms. I want a Dear Abby-esque Leach column: Dear Leach, I’m trying to decorate my house and can’t decide the best feng shui. … Dear Leach, I want to propose to my girlfriend but can’t decide how. … Dear Leach, What should I name my child? The possibilities here are endless. It’s not necessarily college-football specific, but I can’t be the only one who thinks this would make the season even more enjoyable.

No more lame nonconference games: I’m new to the Pac-12 and I deeply respect its ability to create tough conference schedules -- nine league games, I see you. But, what I don’t want to see is South Dakota-Oregon, Memphis-UCLA, Weber State-Arizona State or Portland State-Oregon State. Yes, I understand why these games exist, and trust me, it’s a big upgrade from the Big Ten (I’ve already recounted my first college football game as a student, Appalachian State-Michigan). But the football season only gives us 12 regular-season games. Is it too much to ask for all 12 to be great? Is it too much to ask for all of these games to be ones that we want to breakdown and analyze 10 months in advance? We talk about this sport year-round -- give us 12 games worth discussing.

Kyle Bonagura

Revamp the postseason awards: As things sit, the Pac-12 officially gives out the following postseason accolades: Offensive Player of the Year, Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, the Morris Trophy (voted on by offensive and defensive linemen) and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. That’s fine and good, but it’s straightforward and kind of boring. I’d favor an add-on by adopting the Big Ten’s model which names 10 players of the year at different positions -- all of whom are named after two former conference greats. Does this affect anything? Not even a little. But it’s a nice way to honor players of the past and present at the same time.

Address the officiating: One of the most common hashtags on Twitter during Saturdays in the fall is #Pac12refs. And it’s not for complimentary reasons. At its worst, it can imply complete ineptitude. More commonly, it’s the result of a blown call. Missed an obvious face mask penalty? #Pac12refs. Play clock didn’t reset? #Pac12refs. I haven't seen anything tangible that backs up the perception that the conference is officiated worse than the others, but if there is a way the conference can restore faith in its officials, that needs to happen.

Allow alcohol sales in stadiums: I understand the premise of promoting a better atmosphere by keeping alcohol out of games, but is it really going to cause an unmanageable wave of problems if $9 beers are sold inside the gates? If someone of age wants to have a couple beers during a football game, they should have that choice to make. As it is, some fans choose to drink heavier before the game -- knowing they can’t once they’re inside. Others plan accordingly -- stay after a game to see all the empty, smuggled-in bottles of alcohol that are left behind. This will happen eventually. It makes too much sense.

Ted Miller

Standardize media access: There needs to be a standardized way programs and professional media come together, and we're not talking about giving special access to reporters on the athletic department payroll. This actually is a not all that difficult to solve in a way that still allows coaches their coveted game-week secrecy. Spring and preseason practices should be opened to credentialed reporters. If a team wants to close access to fans, that's its call. When the season begins, game-week practices are closed after the first 20 minutes. As for injury information, the Pac-12 office should publish on Thursday afternoon an official report that conforms to the NFL standard. And if coaches outrageously fudge on it, they should get fined.

Get -- cough, cough -- "expenses" under control: Jon Wilner does a good job of breaking down Pac-12 revenues here. What he also gently touches on is Pac-12 expenses: $106 million. That, folks, is outrageous bloat. I've got a crisp $100 bill (it’s actually a 10-spot, but I'm trying to be in Pac-12 character) that says an itemized list of expenses would be embarrassing to the conference, particularly in this age of "student-athletes" wondering about their meager slice of the money pie. While the Larry Scott administration has done a great job making money, it has done a questionable job spending it. Pac-12 administration isn't supposed to be ritzy. It's supposed to be entirely about making and then funneling money back to the institutions it represents.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
11:30
AM PT
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.

Pac-12 releases early TV schedule

May, 29, 2014
May 29
3:30
PM PT
Dates, times and early TV schedules have been released for the early portion of the 2014 season. Here’s a comprehensive list, team-by-team of what has been scheduled.

ARIZONA:
  • Friday, Aug. 29 vs. UNLV, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Thursday, Sept. 4 at UTSA, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Nevada, 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 2 at Oregon, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Nov. 28 vs. Arizona State, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
ARIZONA STATE:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Weber State, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at New Mexico, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at Colorado, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Thursday, Sept. 25 vs. UCLA, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Nov. 28 at Arizona, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
CALIFORNIA:
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Sacramento State, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Friday, Oct. 24 vs. Oregon, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Thursday, Nov. 13 at USC, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
COLORADO:
  • Friday, Aug. 29 at Colorado State, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET/FOX Sports 1
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. ASU, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, ESPNU
OREGON:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. South Dakota, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Wyoming, 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 2 vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Oct. 24 at Cal, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
OREGON STATE:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. Portland State, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at Hawai’i, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 vs. Utah, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
STANFORD:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. UC-Davis, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. USC, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Army, 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Oct. 4 at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
  • Friday, Oct. 10 vs. Washington State, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Nov. 28 at UCLA, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
UCLA:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at Virginia, 9 a.m. PT/2 noon ET, ESPN
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Memphis, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Texas, 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Thursday, Sept. 25 at ASU, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Nov. 28 vs. Stanford, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
USC:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. Fresno State, 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at Stanford, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at Boston College, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2
  • Thursday, Nov. 13 vs. Cal, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
UTAH:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Idaho State, 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Fresno State, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 at Oregon State, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1

WASHINGTON:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at Hawai’i, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Eastern Washington, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Illinois, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
WASHINGTON STATE:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Rutgers, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Sept. 5 at Nevada, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Portland State, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks

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2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler37253944
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen221336.01
J. Toland12473.90
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
D. Rogers56012.00
N. Agholor55711.42
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense277424701
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring521339