Click here for last week's Power Rankings.
1. Stanford: With a second-consecutive Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance, as well as a good chance for another top-five final ranking, life's pretty good on The Farm.
2. Oregon: The Ducks nip the Sun Devils, whom they didn't play this year, because they are headed to the better bowl and are ranked higher.
3. Arizona State: The decisive loss at home to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game shows the Sun Devils haven't yet arrived, but they have traveled far in Year 2 under coach Todd Graham.
4. UCLA: The biggest win for UCLA this past week was keeping coach Jim Mora and his staff. A bowl win would provide positive momentum heading into the offseason for the 2014 South Division favorites -- pending QB Brett Hundley's announcement whether he is returning or entering the NFL draft.
5. USC: A guy who knows USC well this weekend explained why Steve Sarkisian was a good hire for the Trojans. He made a pretty convincing case. We shall see, though, won't we?
6. Washington: The Huskies generated significant positive national publicity by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State, a task some pundits didn't think would ever happen. It will be interesting to see how the team itself responds in the Fight Hunger Bowl against a good BYU team.
7. Washington State: The Cougars are going bowling for the first time since 2003, which is a big deal. Now can they close the season with a win?
8. Arizona: The Wildcats need a bowl win to make their season feel successful.
9. Oregon State: The Beavers need a bowl win to make their season feel successful.
10. Utah: The Utes' focus, as it is for the two teams below them, is entirely on recruiting. There will be pressure on coach Kyle Whittingham to take a step forward in the conference next fall.
11. Colorado: It was a solid debut season for Mike MacIntyre. Now the question becomes: Can the Buffaloes move up in the conference and South Division pecking order in 2014? The climb won't be easy.
12. California: There's nowhere to go but up, right? A bit surprising that Sonny Dykes hasn't made some staff changes.
Go here and find the geniuses and the miscreants.
The truth is, after reviewing the coaches votes, there's really not too much cause for outrage. Some. But not too much.
The most notable snub is UCLA not appearing on the ballot of Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, whose vote was otherwise pretty typical for where it place Pac-12 teams (Stanford seventh, Oregon 12th, Arizona State 15th).
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked Stanford 10th, which is ridiculous. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer ranked Oregon 17th, which should enrage Ducks fans until they realize Arizona State coach Todd Graham had the Ducks at 15th.
It's notable that Arizona State and Oregon didn't play this year, and Graham's team was seemingly competing with the Ducks in the bowl pecking order.
Yet Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who voted his team seventh, ranked the Sun Devils 10th, their second-highest placing.
Who, you immediately asked, had Arizona State higher than 10th? That would be Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who ranked the Sun Devils ninth. I've got no explanation for that.
As far as not getting too outraged at Swinney, that starts with seven other coaches ranking the Cardinal ninth. While that sounds like stupidity loves company, it also shows that Swinney's ballot wasn't unique in its, er, "thinking."
USC appeared on 11 ballots, including Alabama coach Nick Saban and four Pac-12 coaches but not with Oregon State's Mike Riley and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. The Trojans ended up 25th in the BCS standings though not in the coaches top-25. The Trojans highest ranking was 19th from Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Washington's lone vote? Michigan's Brady Hoke.
In conclusion, there really aren't any votes like Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's for Ohio State that merit taking a blood oath swearing lifelong and bitter enmity.
Here are the highs and lows for the ranked Pac-12 teams.
Stanford: (3) Mike Leach, Washington State; (10) Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Oregon: (6) Leach; (17) Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Arizona State: (9) Kyle Flood, Rutgers; (21) Dan Holgorsen, West Virginia & Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
UCLA: (13) Helfrich; (unranked) Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Some other interesting notes.
- New Washington coach Chris Petersen ranked Oregon eighth. Not sure if that's of note, but I'm guessing some Oregon fans will find something sinister and Husky-ish there.
- Leach loves his conference: No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Oregon, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 16 UCLA and No. 19 USC. But, of course, no Washington.
- Baylor's Art Briles is a closet Pac-12 North Division fan. He had Stanford fifth and Oregon ninth.
- Who also loves Stanford? LSU's Les Miles, who sometimes requires a Stanford linguist for translations, voted the Cardinal fourth, as did South Alabama coach Joey Jones, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury.
- Kingsbury, however, isn't a big Oregon fan. He had the Ducks 15th.
To the notes!
Jon in Seattle writes: Kevin, in response to your article regarding Chris Petersen's first news conference, your conclusion accurately sums up our impression. As a die-hard Washington fan and having spoken to many others, we weren't bothered by the way he answered the question about beating Oregon. It was a fun but silly question and any answer would have ultimately been meaningless, so it was refreshing to see him refuse to bite the bait and stick to the heart of his message. This is especially true in contrast to Sarkisian, who made many promises upon arriving here. As you said, Petersen has a process, he has a plan, and beating Oregon is an extension of its execution. We like what we're hearing. And hey, the guy is 2-0 against Oregon already. Of course, you won't hear him bragging.
There’s nothing really to say in that situation that is going to be productive. I found him to be extremely charismatic during his first news conference. He was fiery but controlled. He said all of the right things without overstepping.
I think back to when I was covering Brady Hoke and his move from San Diego State to Michigan. He, too, was fiery, and he made some promises regarding his new team and the team that wears scarlet and gray. Things aren’t going so hot right now in Ann Arbor. It’s one thing to fire up your fan base with promises. But when you don’t follow through with them, they are just empty words.
Petersen portrayed confidence and there was not a moment when I thought to myself, “OK, buddy, we’ll see.”
I really liked what he had to say about not being too hands-on with this team during the bowl season. I think that’s the right call. This is the 2013 Huskies. He’s not a part of that legacy.
I don’t know Petersen yet. I’ve talked with him once or twice on teleconferences and in news conferences, but I don’t have any sort of relationship with him. But I’m looking forward to getting to know him. And if he’s anything like the man he projected himself to be on Monday, I’m pretty sure three years from now we’ll look back at that day and realize that nothing he said was empty.
Eddie in Los Angeles writes: I grew up in Boise, attended Washington and live in Los Angeles. I’m a fan of all three teams. How should I feel?
Kevin Gemmell: Grateful that it’s neither raining nor snowing where you live?
If you truly are a fan of all three teams (and let’s be honest, you have to lean a little toward one or the other or the other when they play head-to-head) then you should feel pretty freaking blessed.
Divorces are ugly -- especially when a coach leaves a program voluntarily for another one. But this series of separations couldn’t have gone any smoother. You can’t be bitter at Petersen for leaving Boise State, especially after he delivered you a 92-12 record. You can’t be bitter at Sarkisian leaving after taking an 0-12 program and making it a postseason regular. And you can’t be disappointed with the hire of Sarkisian at USC.
If you are really a fan of all three programs then you should probably be feeling pretty good right about now.
Henry in San Juan Capistrano writes: Think about it. Had ASU not earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game and just sat home, they would be in the top 10 in the BCS and maybe the top 10 in the AP. They should make some rule that says the teams in the championship games can't move down from their previous position if they lose. Mizzou got hosed in this way as well.
Kevin Gemmell: Pretty specious reasoning. Because if ASU hadn’t earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game that means they would have lost another conference game somewhere along the way -- more than likely at UCLA or home to Arizona -- and they would have dropped in the rankings. I think they actually would have slipped further in the rankings had they lost a regular season game rather than a conference championship. Voters tend to respect teams a little more for making their league’s title game.
As for rules changes, I’m not a huge fan of that. You play the game. If you win, you move up. If you lose, you move down. C’est la vie. You don’t like it, don’t lose. You’ve earned the right for an extra game. And no one is saying that if you win, you shouldn't move up in the rankings. ASU would be in the top six or seven had they beaten Stanford. And you probably wouldn’t have complained. It’s got to be able to work both ways.
I know what you’re getting at. But I don’t think it’s feasible.
Trev with a Left Coast bias wrote: I understand it might be geography for why the Allstate Sugar Bowl would pick Oklahoma, but wouldn't you rather have a possible setting of what was originally thought to be the BCS title game matchup? My opinion is the SEC told the Sugar Bowl that they don’t want to have Oregon for two reasons: 1) Don't want to give extra money to the biggest threat (Pac-12) and 2) What if we lose? Your thoughts?
Kevin Gemmell: I think geography played a significant role. I think the fact the SEC and Big 12 are starting a scheduling alliance next year played a role. I think the attitude of some of Oregon’s players toward the Rose Bowl played a role. And I think the fact Oregon didn’t look particularly good in November played a role.
Like the rest of the world, I would love to have seen Alabama-Oregon happen -- even if it wasn’t for the national championship. It would have been a TV ratings home run -- somewhere between the finale of M*A*S*H and the 2009 Super Bowl.
There is no greater conspiracy theory here. And truth be told, I’m not sure the Oregon team as it stands today is the best product the Ducks could put on the field.
I’m sure there was some politicking going on behind the scenes. And by the way, for everyone who says ESPN controls college football, don’t think this would have been a ratings boom for my bosses. It goes to show that it’s ultimately the committees that make the decisions based on what’s best for their bowl and their respective tourism bureaus.
Erik in Bangkok writes: Kevin, simple question: Why do you rank Michigan State higher than Stanford? Taking into account strength of schedule and also your expectations of their head-to-head outcome.
Obviously, strength of schedule is important. That's why I have a team that lost to two unranked teams in my top five. I recognize and have written countless times how difficult the Pac-12 schedule is.
I was very impressed with both teams in the conference title games. And the difference between No. 4 and No. 5 in my book is pretty insignificant. In fact, I think Stanford has an edge having been to the Rose Bowl before and my first impression is that the Cardinal win that game.
I honestly didn’t sweat over it that much, and you shouldn't either. I thought Michigan State finished the season stronger with nine straight wins and so I ranked accordingly. My gut tells me Stanford is the better team. But from a rankings standpoint, I thought Michigan State closed stronger. It will work itself out in the final ballots.
RedditCFB in Minneapolis writes: Well, it's official: With the BCS Era coming to a close ('98?-13) there have been 878 bowl games in the BCS Era and the SEC & Pac-12 only met ONCE! How do we fix this? Is there a way to get a new bowl in Wally World so the SEC won't be as afraid of travel? The terrible bowl tie-ins have not significantly improved under Larry Scott (one of his few flaws).
Kevin Gemmell: Bowl games aren’t designed to provide the best possible matchup. They are designed to be the best possible matchup while also bringing in money to the city that hosts them. You’ll notice all of the Pac-12’s contracts are regionally based -- with the Valero Alamo and Hyundai Sun bowls being the longest trek. And even that isn’t too far of a hike.
It’s dollars. They want as many people to come to their city for as long as possible, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, go to amusement parks and spend money. While you’re in town, maybe take in a football game.
The National University Holiday Bowl probably doesn’t like having to take teams from Los Angeles because fans drive down to San Diego, watch the game and then drive home that night. They want people in hotel rooms for five days with trips to Sea World and the zoo and LegoLand.
How many Washington fans would go to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl? The first year? It might be filled. But what about the third and fourth years? These Pac-12 SEC matchups would look great on TV. And from my leather chair, I’d love to drink it all in. But the travel (see previous question), specifically the fan support and filling the stadium, simply wouldn’t be there on an annual basis.
Damon in Seattle writes: Who won? USC or Washington?
Kevin Gemmell: Honestly, Damon, I hate these questions. But I understand why people ask them. Because they want to feel better about the decisions their team made. You're looking for some closure from the previous administration and a reason to feel good about the new one.
Washington won because it snagged the big fish that many others couldn’t hook. USC won because it got someone from the USC family. Washington won because there is little to no chance the program takes a step back with Petersen as the head coach. USC won because the program will probably take a step forward under Sarkisian.
Is that sufficient? Because there's no right or wrong answer for at least a few years.
Until all the coaching staffs are in place, until there are three or four recruiting cycles under these guys, questions like “who won?” are fairly irrelevant. Ask me again in four years. I’m sure I’ll have a better answer.
Rudy in Houston writes: I said once "don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" Kevin, you didn't and ran the table! Congratulations!
Kevin Gemmell: I'd like to thank Ted Miller for not believing in me, my wife who doesn't care, and the good people at the Scripps Ranch Starbucks who still charge me full price for a cup of coffee despite a perfect media ballot.
- Running backs are the storyline in Arizona's bowl game.
- It's been a memorable season thus far for the Sun Devils.
- How are your favorite Bears doing in the NFL?
- Saying goodbye to the Buffs seniors.
- Hroniss Grasu is a finalist forthe Rimington Trophy.
- A first look at Oregon State-Boise State.
- The Cardinal are waiting on Michigan State prep.
- UCLA-Virginia Tech by the numbers.
- Athlon asks whether USC or Washington made the better hire.
- All in all it was a frustrating year for the Utes.
- Justin Wilcox could still end up at Washington.
- Washington State opens as favorites over Colorado State.
- Athlon ranks the bowl games.
What that means is that if you had all the college -- or NFL -- coaches pick a running back, the vast majority would choose Carey first. Why? Again, he's better than Mason and Williams.
And, if this is about pure numbers, Carey's numbers are superior to Mason's, who apparently got invited to New York because he posted an undeniably great performance in the SEC title game against Missouri. If that was the selling measure, then the Auburn offensive line should have been sent to New York.
Then there's Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, whose Heisman case is hampered by the Ducks losing two of their final four games. Of course, that didn't change the fact that he's been better than three of the four QB finalists over the entire season.
None of the four invited QBs -- Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, AJ McCarron of Alabama and Jameis Winston of Florida State -- has a resume without holes.
Lynch played against weak competition. Manziel lost his final two games of the season and played poorly while doing so. McCarron's candidacy was about career achievement, but he lost to his team's arch-rival to end the season, thereby missing out on his much-celebrated drive for a three-peat.
Winston, the overwhelming favorite as the best player on the best team, obviously had his off-field issue. No charges were filed, but the incident was hardly a shining and blameless moment for Winston.
Who's to blame for nobody from the West Coast heading to NYC? Well, we hate to bring out a hackneyed harrumph but it's obvious: East Coast Bias.
Notice anything about the finalists? Yep, none play in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones. To get off the Pac-12 train for a bit, consider that Fresno State QB Derek Carr, who is probably a better NFL prospect than Manziel, McCarron and Lynch, wasn't invited. He only led the nation in passing and threw 10 more TD passes than anyone else.
This bias isn't about some evil and corrupt dislike of all things West Coast. It's about a limited and flawed radar of evaluation. And, you know, going to bed early.
But East Coast voters aren't the only ones who suffer from bias. Here's a guess that when the regional voting patterns are revealed that Mariota's and Carey's support will only be lukewarm out West. That's because many West Coast voters suffer from a form of college football Stockholm Syndrome, where they are unduly influenced by the dominant and oft-repeated East Coast narrative, even if it runs counter to the conclusions of their own eyes and brains.
Before Oregon lost to Stanford, there was no East Coast Bias to fret. Folks loved Mariota and he led every Heisman poll. But when he lost, he plummeted unlike any other candidate who had an off-game. His consideration died completely when the Ducks also lost at Arizona.
It's a case of out of sight, out of mind, a condition that none of the other finalists back East had to deal with as they were re-evaluated despite shortcomings not unlike Mariota's.
When the odd ending to the season forced Heisman voters to revisit their pecking order, they apparently didn't include players outside their time zones. Bad finishes for Manziel, Lynch and McCarron? Neh.
A bad finish for Mariota? Wait… who's that?
For Carey, it was just a matter of everyone knowing he's the nation's best running back but not caring because he played for a 7-5 Arizona team. Are there really voters in the country who would be willing to step up to a microphone and say, "Mason/Williams are better than Carey"? I hope not.
And, despite a tireless effort from the Wildcats sports information department to point out that Carey's 15 consecutive games with over 100 yards hasn't been accomplished IN A DECADE, voters went all lazy because I'd bet at least 50 percent of them never watched him play all season.
Sour grapes? Absolutely. But sour grapes based entirely on facts and sound logic.
Sports Business Daily has done its annual accounting of bowl gifts, and let's just say there's a reason players like bowl games, beyond another chance to play and win.
The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school, so this is all within the NCAA's complex web of rules.
You'll see "gift suite" over and over. Here's what that is, per SBD:
SportsBusiness Journal’s eighth annual analysis of the gift packages provided to bowl game participants by the committees that host the games reveals that half of those organizations will stage a gift suite or shopping spree in the coming weeks. Gift suites are set up as private events prior to the game in which game participants, and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift, or gifts, up to a value that is predetermined by each bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit.
So what do Pac-12 players get this bowl season. Glad you asked.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Oregon State vs. Boise State)
Tues., Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Honolulu
Gift suite; Oakley sunglasses; Tori Richard aloha shirt, Pro Athletics shorts and performance T-shirt; Ogio backpack; beach towel
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Arizona vs. Boston College)
Tues., Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN); Shreveport, La.
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; New Era skull cap; football
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Washington State vs. Colorado State)
Sat., Dec. 21, 2 p.m. (ESPN); Albuquerque, N.M.
Gift suite, portable mobile device charger, 8 GB USB; Oakley Breadbox sunglasses; cap, Oakley Fine Knit beanie; Oakley Flak Pack XL backpack; Gildan stadium blanket
Fight Hunger Bowl (Washington vs. BYU)
Fri., Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN); San Francisco
Soundmatters wireless portable speaker system; Fossil watch; Maxx HD Wayfarer sunglasses; messenger bag; Macy’s gift card
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (USC vs. Fresno State)
Sat., Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Las Vegas
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3; beanie, cap; Oakley Flak Pack XL backpack; football, Zappos gift card
Hyundai Sun Bowl (UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Tues., Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (CBS); El Paso, Texas
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; Top of the World cap, Majestic fleece pullover; Ogio backpack; coin, Helen of Troy hair dryer
National University Holiday Bowl (Arizona State vs. Texas Tech)
Mon., Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN); San Diego
$305 Best Buy gift card; Reactor Meltdown watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; cap
Valero Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. Texas)
Mon., Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN); San Antonio
iPad Mini with retina display, Apple gift card; Fossil watch; panoramic photo, Schutt mini helmet
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio (Stanford vs. Michigan State)
Wed., Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN); Pasadena, Calif.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era 59Fifty cap; Ogio backpack
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Glad you asked.
1. Florida State
4. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
9. South Carolina
13. Oklahoma State
16. Arizona State
20. Fresno State
23. Texas A&M
And here's mine:
1. Florida State
5. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
8. South Carolina
12. Oklahoma State
14. Arizona State
17. Central Florida
20. Fresno State
25. Northern Illinois
That's good news and bad news.
The good news is the conference has an excellent chance to post an impressive bowl record. The bad news is it has a chance to embarrass itself, too. Anything less than 6-3 would be a major disappointment.
The biggest reason the Pac-12 should thrive this bowl season is also the biggest negative for the conference: just one BCS bowl team, unlike the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12, and unlike the previous three seasons. Yep, the deepest Pac-12 perhaps in history ended up being a negative when it came to handing out bowl invitations.
The most aggrieved party is No. 10 Oregon, the only eligible at-large team to be passed over. The Ducks were hoping to be pitted against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but the bowl went with Oklahoma, honoring a relationship with the Big 12 and perhaps thinking the Sooners will travel better than the Ducks.
Not to incur the wide-eyed wrath of Oregon fans, but the Sooners' case probably was stronger on merit, too. The Ducks lost two of their final four games, and they barely slipped by 6-6 Oregon State in the Civil War to conclude the season. Oklahoma is riding a three-game winning streak that was capped by impressive victory over No. 6 Oklahoma State on Saturday. Paired with the Sooners other quality win -- at Notre Dame -- that's more impressive than the Ducks best wins (UCLA and Washington). And the Sooners losses, to Baylor and Texas, are at least comparable to the Ducks' (Stanford and Arizona). According to ESPN Stats & Information, Oregon's and Oklahoma's schedules were pretty equivalent, the Ducks ranking 50th and the Sooners 55th.
Sure, Oregon would be favored against Oklahoma, but the Sugar Bowl folks took the temperature of the respective fan bases and found more smiles in Norman than Eugene.
Finally, to be honest, the way Oregon looked over the final month of the season suggests they'd be better off allowing the Sooners to deal with Alabama and Nick Saban.
As for the conference champions, kudos to Stanford for negotiating the nation's fourth-most difficult schedule with an 11-2 record. In fact, the Cardinal is ranked No. 1 in ESPN Stats & Information "Championship Drive Rating," which measures a team's overall merit -- the "difficulty of achieving their W-L or better and how well they control games using in-game win probability; both adjusted for quality of opponent."
Of course, Stanford, which opened as a 3-point favorite against Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, is where the Pac-12's overall offseason perception will start. It figures to get a tough fight from the defensive-minded Spartans. A Cardinal loss would diminish the Pac-12's national perception as a whole -- as in trickle down from the Big Ten champion being superior to the Pac-12 champ.
Oregon's matchup with Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl is interesting. If both teams show up with their best game, Oregon wins by two or three touchdowns. But the Ducks over the final four weeks of the season would lose to Texas. The Ducks need to be motivated. They need to know, for one, that the Longhorns figure to be fired up, as they are perhaps playing their last game with Mack Brown as their coach.
The biggest mismatch of the conference's bowl season might be Arizona State against Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl. The Sun Devils have won seven of eight -- the loss coming Saturday in the Pac-12 title game -- and are among the nation's hottest teams. The Red Raiders? They've lost five in a row, the last four being blowouts.
UCLA is in a similar situation in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Virginia Tech. The Bruins have won four of five, while the Hokies have lost three of five. Virginia Tech's defense will challenge Bruins QB Brett Hundley, but the Hokies are horrid on offense.
USC and Washington will be the conference's biggest question marks due to coaching changes. The Trojans face a very good Fresno State team led by QB Derek Carr in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, while the Huskies face a BYU team that ran all over Texas earlier this season in the Fight Hunger Bowl. Under normal circumstances, both matchups would favor the Pac-12. But these aren't normal circumstances.
Oregon State will face a Boise State squad with the same deal in the Hawaii Bowl. While this is a down year for the Broncos, it's hard to bet against Boise State with Chris Petersen in a bowl game. But he's now in Seattle. The Beavers, by the way, really need to win this game, otherwise it's going to be a sour offseason in Corvallis.
Meanwhile, Arizona makes the longest trip to meet Boston College in Shreveport, Louisiana for the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. This is interesting just because you have the top two running backs in the country in Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Boston College's Andre Williams.
Finally, Washington State will be playing in its first bowl game since 2003 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State. The Cougars have wins over USC, Utah and Arizona. The Rams' best win is over 5-7 Wyoming. Mike Leach and the Cougs should roll.
Again, when you added it all up, 9-0 is not unreasonable and 7-2 is almost pessimistic. But bowl games are funny things, and this has been a funny season.
As we move into a four-team College Football Playoff with a selection committee weighing who's in and who's out, perception might become even more important than it was with the quintessentially subjective BCS.
The Pac-12 seemed like -- at the very least -- the nation's second best conference, no matter the BCS bowl situation. It needs to make good on that during the bowl games.
- Arizona is going down south for its bowl game.
- Up next for Arizona State is a date with Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
- California's defense will get some JUCO help.
- Colorado picks up commitment No. 16.
- Oregon coach Mark Helfrich on a snowball fight that got a little out of hand.
- Oregon State is headed to Hawaii for its bowl game.
- Stanford and Michigan State have a lot of similarities.
- UCLA will approach the Sun Bowl differently than it did the Holiday Bowl last year.
- USC will get a tough Fresno State team in the Las Vegas Bowl.
- Utah got better in 2013, but things might be more difficult next fall.
- Washington and interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo are headed to the Bay Area for the postseason.
- Washington State will end its bowl drought in New Mexico.
The No. 59-ranked prospect in the ESPN Junior 300 was once committed to South Carolina along with high school teammate Wesley Green, but Key backed off that verbal pledge on Sept. 22.
Fast forward three months and the athletic edge-rush prospect is looking at all his options with two programs in line to make an eventual trimmed list.
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The great unknown of Texas’ future remains unsolved two days after Texas’ loss to Baylor. But the imminent future was at least settled Sunday: Texas is returning to the Valero Alamo Bowl, this time to take on No. 10 Oregon.
And that proposition looks about as scary as anything Mack Brown and his loyalists might see in the next few weeks.
We don’t know what’s next for Brown. He traveled to New York on Sunday with UT president Bill Powers and athletic director Steve Patterson for the College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. He’s supposed to hit the road this week for in-home visits with recruits.
The response from fans and pundits on Sunday night was relatively consistent: Texas (8-4) is going to get smoked by Oregon (10-2). It won’t be pretty.
Oddsmakers have made the Ducks a two-touchdown favorite, which is familiar territory for the Longhorns by now. This team liked playing the underdog role in 2013, so perhaps there’s no better way to end the year than with Texas’ most difficult matchup yet.
Oregon has a two-time All-Pac-12 quarterback in Marcus Mariota. He ranked No. 2 in the nation in QBR this season behind Florida State's Jameis Winston. If not for an MCL sprain that limited his game late in the season, Mariota would likely be New York-bound as well this week. The way this Heisman field fell apart, he still might.
The Ducks' famously fast tempo won’t be what causes this Texas defense trouble. The Longhorns have seen faster this season, and Oregon’s plays-per-game-average of 75 is down from a year ago.
The problem will be the option. Among spread offenses, nobody does that better in college football than the Ducks. It’s a big reason they’re 56-9 since 2009, the year former coach Chip Kelly took over.
Mariota rushed for 695 yards excluding sacks this season, his second as the starter. He says the knee injury that prevented him from running effectively should be 100 percent healed by the Dec. 30 bowl game.
And he’s surrounded by options: Three running backs surpassed 500 yards this season, led by second-year back Byron Marshall’s 995 yards. He has an ankle injury, but also plenty of time to recover.
And don’t forget De’Anthony Thomas, as explosive a player as there is in college football. He’s healthy again after missing four games with an ankle injury. Miss him once in space and he’ll hit the home run. And when you sell out to stop the run, Josh Huff (1,036 receiving yards, 11 TDs) can sneak behind the defense and make you pay.
“These guys are like Baylor," Brown said. "They can score fast and they do a tremendous job."
Read option, speed option, triple option, veer, packaged plays – the Ducks do it all. No other bowl team has more 20-yard runs this season than Oregon.
And few bowl teams struggled more to stop the option and the quarterback run than Texas. For all the progress Greg Robinson and the defensive staff made in the past 10 games, this remains the team's Achilles’ heel.
The Longhorns gave up the ninth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks in the bowl subdivision. As Brown joked midway through the season: If Texas’ opponents don’t run the option, they’ll put it in the playbook.
It was just too easy, even against a defense with a pair of All-Big 12-caliber ends. Injuries have rendered this unit thin at linebacker and defensive tackle. Robinson, his coaches and his defenders will need these 15 bowl practices to find answers.
Oregon’s defense is far from flawless, but it did hold foes to 19 points per game in its wins. It’s a top-three scoring defense in the Pac-12 and No. 4 in total defense. At the moment, though, the attention of Texas’ offense will be on fixing itself.
Case McCoy is coming off the worst start of his career. The Longhorns gained 59 yards in the second half Saturday at Baylor. Their only touchdown drive began at Baylor’s 11-yard line, and they still needed seven plays to score.
They’ll need every practice and film session afforded to them this month. Stanford beat Oregon with pure power. Arizona blew out the Ducks with an elite running back. What’s it going to take for Texas to pull this one off?
The Longhorns have their own problems to solve first, and plenty of preparation ahead. If you think the next three weeks will be rough and messy off the field, it can get a lot worse if Texas doesn’t stay focused on its toughest test yet.
Unidentified players reportedly organized the snowball fight and more than 100 students participated.
According to a video that went viral Monday, the group stopped several cars and pelted them with snowballs and dumped containers of snow on windshields. In one case, a driver who got out of his car -- identified by KATU-TV as former professor Sherwin Simmons -- was hit repeatedly and had a large container of snow thrown on him through the driver's side door.
"I was one of the many UO students involved in the snowball fight on Friday, and my actions escalated to an inappropriate level and, for that, I sincerely apologize," Brown said in a statement released by the university. "We never should have engaged innocent people, and I deeply regret my actions and will accept the consequences."
The suspension was announced Monday by coach Mark Helfrich, who has apologized to the targeted drivers. Helfrich had promised discipline during the weekend, saying the behavior shown in the video was "completely unacceptable and dangerous."
Other players involved in the fight received unspecified punishments but will be allowed to play in the bowl game. All students involved in the fight, including nonplayers, are subject to further discipline from the dean of students, the university said.