Washington to start QB Cyler Miles

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
5:36
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After serving a one-game suspension in the season opener, quarterback Cyler Miles will start for the Washington Huskies against Eastern Washington, coach Chris Petersen announced Monday.

[+] EnlargeCyler Miles, Bishop Sankey
Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY SportsWashington QB Cyler Miles will start for the Huskies against Eastern Washington after serving a one-game suspension.
Jeff Lindquist started for the Huskies against Hawaii on Saturday as Miles was sidelined as punishment for his role in a fight on Feb. 2. Lindquist completed just 10 of 26 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown as Washington escaped with a 17-16 win.

Petersen's decision to start Miles following his suspension has been widely expected for weeks. Miles appeared in eight games in relief of Keith Price last season and completed 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

He did not take part in any team activities following an altercation after the Super Bowl until being reinstated to the team on May 14.

At Pac-12 Media Days, Petersen said he was happy with how Miles responded after being suspended in February.

"He's done everything right, without question, or he wouldn't be with us," Petersen said. "Guys make mistakes, we all know that, certainly in that age group. We always say that the age group we're dealing with, for the most part, is the dumbest age group in America.

"It just happens to be so public. Guys make mistakes, but the important thing is that we learn from it," Petersen said.
Marcus Mariota and Connor CookAP PhotoThe performances of Marcus Mariota, left, and Connor Cook will go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's Oregon-Michigan State game.
There will be no "real" Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015. The "real" Rose Bowl, whose purity previously had been diluted by the BCS, is a casualty of the College Football Playoff this season. While that will make many of us old fogies wince, the only constructive response is to embrace change and recognize the fulfillment of decades-long clamoring for a playoff was inevitably going to kill off some cherished institutions with its birth.

As a consolation prize, however, the college football gods have given us No. 8 Michigan State visiting No. 3 Oregon on Saturday. It's a Rose Bowl matchup the first weekend of September, with the (alleged) Big Ten best versus (alleged) Pac-12 best. With Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller out for the season and UCLA's less than scintillating performance at Virginia, this one has gained further traction as a potential CFP selection committee barometer for both teams and both conferences.

No, there will be no sunset behind the San Gabriel Mountains at Autzen Stadium, but there likely will be rosy fingers of meaning extending from whatever happens Saturday. For one, an early-season victory over a top-10 team in a nonconference game is exactly what the selection committee claims it will pay homage to. As an optional challenge boldly undertaken outside of the rote bureaucracy of conference scheduling, this game should serve as a badge of honor for teams trying to distinguish themselves to 13 judges in a conference room Dec. 7.

Ah, the committee. We can be fairly certain that, for better or worse, the great "Transitive Property of College Football" will play a role in its deliberations, and that is the perception prize the Spartans and Ducks will battle over in addition to the scoreboard numbers.

If Oregon wins, it will thereby -- transitively -- be better than any team the Spartans beat over the remainder of their season. If Michigan State ends up the Big Ten champion at 12-1, the Ducks will be viewed as the de facto Big Ten champs -- at least if the Ducks do well enough over the rest of their season to merit such an overreaching (overreacting?) designation. This playoff math would be rendered less relevant if Oregon, in this scenario, meanders to a 10-2 finish and fails to win the Pac-12's North Division.

The same goes for Michigan State, perhaps even more so because the rest of its schedule is not as demanding. If the Spartans beat a Ducks team -- in fearsome Autzen Stadium, the Pac-12's toughest road venue, no less -- that goes on to win the ostensibly SEC-ish Pac-12, their bounty could be a defensible claim to the top perch in two Power 5 conferences. That is, of course, if they take care of business over the entire season.

So the function is almost a transference of the Rose Bowl's typical season-ending meaning, just without any of the cool pageantry. A further twist is that both teams after the game become each other's biggest fans, with both winner and loser wanting the other to make the result a more impressive measure of itself.

Not that you'll hear Ducks coach Mark Helfrich or Spartans leader Mark Dantonio celebrating this sort of curlicue thinking. They've got teams with big goals, including playoff goals, but placing this game on such a pedestal could make a loss feel catastrophic within the locker room. Then what about the next 10 or 11 games?

“[This is] game No. 2. We have 10 games after that. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves," Dantonio said. "It’s not an end-all either way. That’s going to be a measuring stick game for us. Where are we at? Who are we? It will give us a little more of a sense of identity early in the season.”

Once you get past going John le Carré on potential selection committee intrigues, the football part of this football game is pretty cool, too. Although the teams share a team color of green, that's pretty much where the commonality ends, and even then, Oregon long ago went ludicrous speed on the notion of team colors and sartorial standards.

Speaking of ludicrous speed, Oregon, you might have heard, plays fast and furious on offense and piles up yards and points like a frenzying school of pirañas. Meanwhile, Michigan State, as you know, plays defense like a thick wall of titanium. Wall? It's more like an impregnable box -- with walls slowly closing together.

Last year, Oregon ranked No. 2 in the nation in total offense (565 yards per game) and No. 4 in scoring offense (45.5 ppg). Michigan State ranked No. 2 in total defense (252.2 ypg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (13.2 ppg). The Spartans also enter the game knowing they beat the Pac-12 team that beat the Ducks, given that they dispatched Stanford 24-20 in the 2014 Rose Bowl.

Of course, an over-reliance on what happened the past season is one of the greatest weaknesses in so-called college football punditry. The first weekend has already shown us that projecting forward based on returning starters and extrapolated improvement is an inexact science. Both Oregon and Michigan State are missing key players from 2013 on both sides of the ball. They also have shiny new players ready to glow.

Still, the circumstantial evidence suggests both teams will lean on their obvious strengths on Saturday. The Ducks and quarterback Marcus Mariota, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, rolled up 673 yards without really trying in an opening win over South Dakota, while Michigan State's defense throttled Jacksonville State 45-7 yielding just 244 yards.

The obvious only goes so far. The game ultimately might swing on the secondary quantities. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook has been surging since the middle of the past year, and he was darn near perfect in the opener and actually earned a perfect rating of 100 in ESPN.com's Total QB Rating. Oregon's defense has long been given short shrift, despite ranking among the nation's leaders and sending numerous players to the NFL.

The sum conclusion is that, while we will go Rose Bowl-less this season, this is a game that has plenty to offer, both in football on Saturday and in potential micro-analyzed meaning as the season progresses.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
8:00
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I can't believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they're everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.

Leading off

Welcome to Week 2. By now, you probably already know what happened in Week 1. But we'll use this space each Monday to give you a quick reference to every game that happened in the Pac-12. National reactions

Here's a look at what some folks around the nation are saying about the Pac-12 and its teams.

John Taylor of NBC Sports hit on a couple of Pac-12 teams in his Week 1 rewind. USC coach Steve Sarkisian is getting a lot of praise for keeping things together after a tumultuous week leading up to the Trojans' first game.
In the first game of the Steve Sarkisian era Saturday night, the Trojans took out all of their lingering frustrations on an overmatched Fresno State squad by the score of 52-13. Quarterback Cody Kessler passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns ... in the first half alone. The offense ultimately rolled up 704 yards of offense on 104 plays, the latter of which set a Pac-12 record.

Anne Petersen of the Associated Press gets to the heart of what everyone is thinking in Eugene ... we can finally start looking ahead to Week 2 and Oregon vs. Michigan State.
While Oregon is known for their hyper-drive offense, Michigan State's success last season -- the Spartans went undefeated in conference play -- came in large part because of their bruising defense. The Spartans lost standouts Max Bullough and Darqueze Dennard from that defense, but they still have lineman Shilique Calhoun, considered one of the top players in his league, and linebacker Taiwan Jones, who looked promising in the opener with Bullough gone.

UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is catching a little heat from Pete Roussel for the way his linemen performed in the win over Virginia. The Bruins were without starting center Jake Brendel. And that obviously hurt. But there were bigger line issues at play. Not to mention more than a few wide receiver drops.
The resume of a coach is his tape. And right now, Adrian Klemm has his hands full. He knows it, too. That "super assistant" label from the media doesn’t look so fitting right now.
Nationally honored

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week for his performance in UCLA's win over Virginia. Kendricks posted 16 tackles, forced a fumble that led to a UCLA defensive touchdown and also returned an interception for a touchdown. Say what you want about the offense (and there is plenty to say), but Kendricks had a monster game.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Saw this Saturday night and had to tweet it out, because it's equal parts awesome and adorable.

 
The first week of the season has come and gone, and with it went the redshirts for 75 freshman players in the Pac-12.

USC, which had the conference's highest-ranked recruiting class in 2014, played the most freshmen (11) and Oregon State played none. Those 75 players accounted for seven starts (on offense or defense) and eight touchdowns. The total number of players will undoubtedly grow in the next few weeks.

Here's a breakdown of all 75, by school (*-denotes players who started):

Arizona (6)
Arizona State (9)
Cal (8)
Colorado (3)
Oregon (10)
Oregon State (0)
  • None
Stanford (4)
UCLA (7)
USC (11)
Utah (10)
Washington (5)
Washington State (2)

Best from the weekend: Pac-12 

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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It was something of an odd opening weekend for Pac-12 teams looking to bring in recruits for official and unofficial visits. Only four programs hosted Saturday games and the conference had just two official visitors in total. But even without a significant number of visitors, there was important news for the conference.

Malik Lovette commits to Oregon

Lovette’s head coach, Kurt Bruich, offered his congratulations to his star athlete, who committed to Oregon while on an official visit. The commitment didn't come as much of a shock, and Oregon continues to stockpile talent in the offensive backfield, as Lovette teams with fellow ESPN 300 running back Taj Griffin to give the Ducks a potent duo.

2016 talent takes in big USC win

With UCLA on the road this weekend, USC coaches took advantage of being the only game in town, bringing in a number of bigtime 2016 prospects. ESPN 300 quarterback KJ Costello and ESPN 300 wide receiver Tyler Vaughns are pictured above, and there was plenty more junior talent in attendance. Cornerback C.J. Polland, athlete Brandon Burton and linebackers Darrian Franklin and Blake Walls were a few other 2016 ESPN 300 prospects in attendance.

Trojans make solid first impression under Sarkisian

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 1

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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Football is back. That means helmet stickers are back! Here’s who gets one of college football's most coveted honors for Week 1.

Kaelin Clay, KR, Utah: The Pac-12 blog is always hesitant to dole out too much praise for victories in FCS games. But Clay went above and beyond in Utah’s 56-14 win over Idaho State. He returned a punt 46 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona: Not a bad night for the new guy. He threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start (also adding 50 yards on the ground) as the Wildcats totaled a school record 787 total yards in their 58-13 win over UNLV.

Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State: This is getting to be a troubling trend. Halliday has a monster game, but the Cougs lose in the fourth quarter. Sort of how we ended last year. Still, he threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns against a Big Ten team, a 41-38 loss to Rutgers. That has to count for something.

UCLA’s defense: While the offense significantly underwhelmed, the defense kept the Bruins alive with three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter, which was ultimately the difference in their 28-20 win at Virginia. Interception returns by Ishmael Adams and Eric Kendricks, with a Randall Goforth fumble return in between, gave the Bruins a big enough lead.

Jalen Jefferson, LB, Cal: Been a while since we tapped a Cal defensive player for a helmet sticker. Feels weird. Feels good. Jefferson led all players with 16 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and a critical 11-yard sack on Northwestern’s penultimate offensive play of the game. On the final play, it was Jefferson who snagged an interception, sealing a 31-24 win. He was Eh-vre-where.

Cody Kessler, QB, USC: I know, I know. We could do three or four quarterbacks every week. And just an FYI, we probably will, because they’re that good this year. Kessler picked up where he left off against Fresno State last year and posted a career high 394 yards on 25-of-37 passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the 52-13 win over the Bulldogs.

Washington 17, Hawaii 16

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
3:13
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video
Ted Miller discusses Washington's 17-16 win at Hawaii, a game in which the Huskies had plenty to worry about.
We never know. We learn.

We have ideas of what teams will look like, and we project based on returning talent, talking with coaches, watching practices and making educated guesses. But we never really know until we see what's on the field.

We're smarter Saturday night than we were Thursday morning -- mostly. The first week of Pac-12 Football 101, which saw the league go 10-2 in nonconference play, was chock-full of intellectual goodies.

Perhaps the team that enlightened us the most was the California Bears, who snapped a 16-game losing streak to FBS teams by going into Ryan Field and notching a 31-24 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.

[+] EnlargeCal's Jalen Jefferson
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJalen Jefferson celebrates his interception that essentially sealed the game for Cal.
It's not that it was the first FBS win of the Sonny Dykes era, or that the offense looked balanced and explosive. It's the fact that they had a 31-7 lead and won 31-24. Dykes liked the idea that his team had to tip-toe through a little bit of fire to pick up the win. He watched his team evolve from soft to salty.

"I never got the feeling from one player or one coach of ‘here we go again,'" Dykes told the Pac-12 blog via telephone after the game. "The guys really believed in each other. And the reason they did is because they have worked so hard. They were prepared. And they knew someone would make a play to give us a chance to win the ball game."

As it turned out, someone made two. On Northwestern's final drive, Jalen Jefferson notched a critical sack on second-and-6 for a loss of 11 yards. On the next play, Jefferson snagged an interception that essentially closed out the game.

"It's been a long few months for us, but we're a tighter team than we were last year," Jefferson said. "A lot of those breaks we weren't getting last year, we got them. We can feel things changing for the better."

Added quarterback Jared Goff: "I think we learned about resiliency. We knew they would fight back and we didn't give up ... we learned how to finish a game."

It was educational, for sure.

We learned some things haven't changed -- at least not yet. While the Bears were protecting the fourth quarter from a Big Ten team, the Washington State Cougars were yielding the fourth quarter to another. And UCLA? Well, Brett Hundley is still getting sacked, and his offensive line still looks leaky. If not for three defensive touchdowns, the Bruins would be staring at 0-1.

We didn't learn much from the FCS games -- other than it was good to see Utah's Travis Wilson back on the field and that Oregon State seems to makes those games sketchier than they probably should be. We don't know a ton more about ASU's defense or Oregon's offense. We didn't learn much about Stanford's rushing attack. Ty Montgomery is really good. But we already knew that.

We learned USC still has the ability to hit the mute button on the outside noise. If there's one team that knows a little something about turmoil, it's the Trojans -- for what they went through last year. That's a team with scary potential.

We learned not very good is sometimes good enough. See Washington and UCLA, whose fans are crawling into bed at this moment feeling both relieved and probably a little jolted.

And the rest of the Pac-12 probably learned a little something about the Bears.

"We're capable of being pretty good, I think," Dykes said. "We have to execute better. We're good in spurts. We have to be good consistently and close people out."

Next week Cal gets FCS Sacramento State with a chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 2011. The schedule ramps up with a pair of high-profile games, including Michigan State at Oregon and USC at Stanford.

Looking forward to what we'll know by this time next Saturday.

Oregon 62, South Dakota 13

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
2:18
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video
Marcus Mariota combined for 310 yards passing and rushing with four touchdowns in Oregon's 62-13 win over South Dakota.
EUGENE, Ore. -- ESPN's College GameDay will be in Eugene when Michigan State visits Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

It's the sixth-consecutive season that GameDay will visit Eugene. The crew was on campus last season when Oregon and UCLA faced off. The Ducks won, 42-14, to move to 8-0 on the regular season.

The matchup is a highly anticipated one, featuring two preseason top-10 teams, led by returning quarterbacks Connor Cook (Michigan State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). College Football Playoff implications are on the line as the Big Ten and Pac-12 battle.

 

Chat wrap: CFB Saturday Live

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
11:56
PM ET
We were here for 15 hours chatting away and offering real-time reaction and analysis to Saturday's action. Scroll through to get a recap of the day:

USC 52, Fresno State 13

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
11:25
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video
Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns in the USC Trojans' 52-13 win against the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Trojans rise above distractions

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
11:24
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video
LOS ANGELES -- The text popped up on Su'a Cravens phone as he prepared to leave for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to play Fresno State on Saturday.

It was from Josh Shaw, one of Cravens’ best friends on the team and the player he thought he would be lining up beside in the defensive backfield this season.

“He just told me to be a leader,” said Cravens, a sophomore starting safety at USC. “Just be a leader and take over the secondary.”

Three days after Shaw, a USC senior cornerback, admitted to lying about how he suffered two high ankle sprains the past weekend and was suspended indefinitely, USC took the field for their season opener and a break from off-the-field distractions in one of the wildest weeks the program has ever experienced.

It began Monday when the team revealed that Shaw, one of the team's captains, had injured himself while jumping from the second story of an apartment complex to save his 7-year-old nephew, who was struggling in the pool. Shaw said his nephew did not know how to swim.

On Wednesday, Shaw hired a criminal defense attorney and admitted to team officials the story was a complete fabrication. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department is eyeing Shaw for a potential role in a domestic dispute.

[+] EnlargeSu'a Cravens, Steve Sarkisian
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC safety Su'a Cravens, who was jumped by Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian after Saturday's convincing win, said this week's off-field issues "didn't compare at all to [last season]."

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Cravens said. “I’m pretty sure nobody on the team was expecting it. We all thought he was a hero at one point. It’s unfortunate what happened, but we have to keep going.”

The Trojans did more that keep going. They took a week’s worth of frustration and anger out on Fresno State during a 52-13 blowout, which could have been worse if the Trojans hadn’t taken out their starters before the start of the fourth quarter.

USC set a Pac-12 record by running 105 offensive plays in the no-huddle offense Steve Sarkisian unveiled during his head-coaching debut with the Trojans. USC also totaled 704 yards and 37 first downs, the most the Trojans have had since 2005, when USC was riding a 34-game winning streak and Sarkisian was the assistant head coach.

It felt like old times at USC. The Trojans were dominant from opening kickoff and scored 52 points before the end of the third quarter. USC hadn’t scored that many in a game at the Coliseum since Pete Carroll was the coach.

As much as USC would like to turn back the clock to that time, it was the struggle of the past season -- when USC went through three head coaches -- and dealing with the sanctions and bowl bans the previous three campaigns that planted the seeds for a team that could persevere through controversy and outside distractions.

Most of the players in USC’s locker room are used to being punished for the mistakes of others and being asked about issues out of their control. In the big scheme of things, this week should not be that entirely shocking for them.

So Shaw concocted an elaborate lie about how he suffered his injury that lasted less than 24 hours. So USC senior running back Anthony Brown quit the team and decided to call Sarkisian a "racist" a week later on social media before deleting his post and making his account private hours after it became public.

It’s certainly embarrassing but perhaps not quite as distracting for a team as having your coach fired in the middle of the night at an airport, and then, less than three months later, watch his replacement quit just before your bowl game.

“It didn’t compare at all to [the past season],” Cravens said. “We got a completely different coaching staff five games into the season. Of course, it sucks what happened to Josh, and it’s unfortunate what A.B. said in the press. But we got bigger things to handle. That was the game today. And next week we got Stanford, and that’s all we’re thinking about.”

These Trojans might not be as talented as the national championship squads Sarkisian coached a decade ago, but they have proven themselves to be perhaps the most resilient group the school has ever seen.

After Lane Kiffin was essentially fired outside an airport tarmac, the Trojans responded by beating Arizona the following week and winning six of their next seven games. When Ed Orgeron quit after not being named the permanent head coach, they beat Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

On Saturday, they ushered in the Sarkisian era with one of the most dominating offensive performances the school has ever had, after one of the most difficult weeks the school has ever experienced.

“I think when everybody is talking bad about SC and saying it’s a clown college, or they’re so distracted, and it’s a joke at this school, we just laugh,” Cravens said. “We’re going to play our game no matter what happens.

“People may think they know what’s going on at SC, [but] what they don’t know [is] it’s a band of brothers getting ready to play the game. Think what you want. We’re SC. We’re the SC that y’all have known. We’re the SC that’s ready to fight against everybody we play every weekend. I think we showed that today.”

Cody Kessler, who passed for a career-high 394 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score, shook his head when asked if the distractions got to the team. So did Leonard Williams, who had seven tackles and an interception.

“You saw last year that we went through so much, and we’re tight because of it,” Kessler said. “Coach Sark makes it about us. And we practice Monday through Friday and never once did these guys get rattled, and it showed tonight.”

Sarkisian saw what last year’s team went through when he was named the team’s head coach before the bowl game. He knew how tight the team was and only felt the need to bring up the Shaw and Brown incidents twice before returning the focus back to football.

“I don’t know if it brought us closer, but it reinforced what we’re about,” Sarkisian said. “They went through a lot last year with the transition, and there were moments where these guys had to cling together. And ultimately, it showed.”

The focus on Saturday finally returned to football at USC. If the Trojans continue to play the way they did against Fresno State, it might actually remain that way for a while.
Tags:

Football

Cravens: Shaw, Brown on my mind

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
11:02
PM ET
video

LOS ANGELES -- While most USC players tried to change the subject when the names of Josh Shaw and Anthony Brown were brought up after Saturday's 52-13 victory over Fresno State, starting safety Su'a Cravens admitted he was thinking of both seniors and how their final seasons could have been different if they had handled their situations another way.

“I know [Brown] probably regrets saying what he said,” Cravens said of the running back who quit the team Aug. 21 and later called coach Steve Sarkisian "racist" in social-media posts since deleted. “It’s unfortunate. I know Sark personally, and Sark is a great coach, and there’s no way shape or form it's true what [Brown] said. I think he was just upset with the situation. If he could rethink that whole thing, he wouldn’t have said it. It’s the frustration of being in your senior year and really not playing. A.B. is my friend, and it’s unfortunate what he said.”

“[Shaw] apologized publicly to the coaching staff and to the entire football team and administration," Cravens added. "We all know what kind of guy Josh is, and he doesn't need to apologize to us for us to know that he’s sorry for what he did.”

What exactly happened with Shaw continues to be a mystery to most outside of the team -- the cornerback has been suspended after he admitted to lying about how he suffered a pair of ankle sprains -- and as much as Cravens would like to see the one-time defensive captain return, he understands that’s out of his hands.

“We got to see what happens legally, and if Coach Sark lets him back onto the team,” Cravens said. “We don’t know what happened. I’m sure if some guys did know what happened, they wouldn’t say because they might have to be witnesses in a courtroom. I don’t know. As far as I see it, he fabricated his story, and that’s all I know.”

California 31, Northwestern 24

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
8:25
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video Jared Goff threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns as California topped Northwestern 31-24.

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