Pac-12 QB Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
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The Pac-12 typically has great quarterbacks and good depth at the position, but the 2014 season is particularly stacked behind center. With a few All-American candidates and early NFL draft picks, it’s almost difficult to keep up with who’s doing what to which secondary.

No worries. We’ve got you covered. Each week, we will provide you a top-five ranking of the Pac-12 QBs.

Now, it won’t always be a 1 to 5 ranking according to the expected pecking order at season’s end or NFL draft lists. It will react heavily to the preceding week. And we’ll try to spread some love.



Honorable mention: Travis Wilson, Utah: Statistically, Wilson didn’t blow anybody away at Michigan (14-of-20, 172 yards), but that’s because he didn’t play the entire game. An ugly, neck-contorting fall in the second quarter made viewers grimace, but Wilson returned to lead a critical Utes’ touchdown drive in the third quarter. His gutsiness alone deserves mention, but the efficiency of Utah’s offense after Wilson’s return to the lineup is what really stood out Saturday.

Inactive Week 4: Kevin Hogan, Stanford; Cody Kessler, USC; Taylor Kelly, ASU; Brett Hundley/Jerry Neuheisel, UCLA

To see last week’s rankings, click here.

Pac-12 Weekend Wrap: Sept. 23

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:51
PM ET


video

Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney breaks down the top weekend storylines from the Pac-12.
video

Heather Dinich looks at who she thinks should be in the playoffs after four weeks of the season.

#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 23 

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:00
PM ET
video
For today’s lunch break, the continued impressive recruiting mind of the Tennessee Volunteers coaching staff takes center stage, plus the latest on Under Armour All-America Game defensive back Micah Abernathy.

Drive Through: Heisman Race

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
11:59
AM ET


video

A quarter of the season is in the books. Who are the leading candidates for the Heisman? Prim Siripipat and Adam Rittenberg look at the field of candidates.

Kanell's Top Four Teams

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
11:51
AM ET


video

Danny Kanell ranks the top four teams in college football.

College football's top 10 QBs

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
10:00
AM ET

Week 4 provided yet another reminder of the wonderful uncertainty and unpredictability of the college game.

And suffice to say, the drama tends to center on the guys taking the snaps. Shortcomings at quarterback have leveled the playing field among Power 5 and Group of 5 programs, and several breakout performers on under-the-radar teams have emerged to steal the spotlight.

So as we pass the season's one-quarter mark, my updated list of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football will reflect all of the upheaval, from the emergence of Kenny "Trill" Hill to the unfortunate decisions of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

While current productivity remains at the forefront of my thought process when compiling this list, each passer's NFL projection is equally important.

With that in mind ... Seeeet. Hut.


1. Marcus Mariota | Class: Jr. | Oregon Ducks

College production: 9.5
NFL skills: 10
Preseason rank: 2


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Pac-12 morning links

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
8:00
AM ET
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Leading off

The Eliminator is a cruel mistress. And this past weekend she claimed another victim. Add the California Bears to the "Better Luck Next Year" category after Arizona's dramatic come-from-behind victory on Saturday in Tucson.

Here's what Mark Schlabach had to say about the Bears:
If Clemson blowing a late lead is "Clemsoning," what in the world do you call what the Bears did at Arizona on Saturday night? Cal blew a 31-13 lead in the fourth quarter, giving up 19 points in the final 3:30. The Bears surrendered a 47-yard Hail Mary on the final play of a 49-45 loss.

Obviously, the playoff hopes of the Pac-12 didn't rest on Cal. While the Pac-12 blog likes what it sees from the Bears, let's get to a bowl game first before we start talking playoffs. That leaves the league with five teams under the "still in contention" category: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. Oregon State, Stanford, USC, Utah and Washington are all "on the fence."

Speaking of playoffs, Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports weighed in with his weekly four-team projection and still has the Ducks as one of the top four teams.

What's on tap?

Athlon Sports projects the top five college football games this week, and two of their five are in the Pac-12. UCLA's trip to Arizona State -- rife with QB injury intrigue -- tops their list. And with good reason. The winner of the UCLA-ASU game has gone on to win the South Division the last two years.

They are also eyeballing the Stanford-Washington showdown. Here's why:
One of these teams has to start looking like a Pac-12 North contender, right? Stanford has been inept in the red zone, and Washington is letting bad teams hang around.

This should be an interesting matchup because both teams have struggled with consistency. Normally Stanford is the master of clean, efficient play. And when another team plays inconsistently, the Cardinal pounce. But neither team has really played up to its potential yet. The Pac-12 blog is confident they've both just been saving it for this game.

News/notes/team reports
  • Cal's blunders were Arizona's gain.
  • The Sun Devils are expecting to see Brett Hundley.
  • Some grades for Cal's game against Arizona.
  • Slowly but surely, the Buffs are making progress on offense.
  • Devon Allen emerging as a big-play threat for Oregon.
  • When Victor Bolden went down, other OSU receivers stepped up.
  • "Grades" for Stanford's bye week.
  • Tough break for the Bruins, who lose Randall Goforth for the season.
  • Adoree' Jackson narrows his focus during the bye.
  • Some new faces have been big contributors for Utah.
  • The roundup from Chris Petersen's Monday meeting with the media.
  • Some grades from WSU's game against Oregon.
Just for fun

Not necessarily fun, just gnarly.

 

So far, I'd say so:

 

Questions and answers for the Pac-12 North

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
4:15
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With the Pac-12 schedule beginning in earnest Week 5, we at the Pac-12 blog identified one question that each team has answered thus far in a satisfactory way and one that still needs to be figured out. First up: the Pac-12 North.

Cal

One question that has been answered: Will Cal be competitive? The Bears have taken the biggest step forward in the conference and can no longer be written off as an automatic win for teams looking up and down their schedule. Saturday's loss to Arizona was a heartbreaker, but the progress is obvious.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the defense hold up for four quarters? In its two games against FBS teams, Cal has allowed 13 total points in the first half and 60 points in the second half. That disparity needs to be rectified.

Oregon

One question that has been answered: Will Oregon be OK without Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and De'Anthony Thomas? The answer is yes, yes, yes -- a resounding yes. And that’s nothing against those three players, because they’re all very talented. But between the Ducks’ three-headed monster at running back (Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall) and their small army of receivers led by Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe, the Ducks are doing just fine for themselves.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the offensive line pull it together and protect Marcus Mariota? The Heisman hopeful was sacked seven times Saturday night in Pullman, Washington. SEVEN. TIMES. It is a little more understandable when you consider a true freshman was starting a left tackle and a former walk-on was starting at right tackle. Now, we know the mantra that every backup prepares like a starter, but it’s clear the Ducks are struggling after losing Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher. Mariota won’t be 100 percent by the end of the season if he’s sacked seven times a game. That falls on the offensive line.

Oregon State

One question that has been answered: How will the Beavers try to replace Brandin Cooks? “Try” is the key word here, as it’ll be nearly impossible to completely replace Cooks' 128-catch, 1,730-yard, 16-touchdown virtuoso performance of 2013. But in its attempt to pick up the slack, Oregon State is running the ball more effectively (Storm Woods and Terron Ward are averaging more than six yards per carry) and Sean Mannion has a new favorite target: Victor Bolden, who has 18 catches after only grabbing nine all of last season.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Will Oregon State’s rushing defense be better than last year’s? Mannion-to-Cooks was great in 2013, but the Beavers floundered to a .500 regular-season record when their defense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. The unit gave up 5.1 yards per rush last season, and the results haven’t been particularly promising so far in 2014 (allowing 4.7 yards per carry against Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State), but a veteran-heavy front seven still has a chance to post significant improvement. USC’s Buck Allen will provide a hefty challenge this week.

Stanford

One question that has been answered: Will the losses of key contributors on defense, including coordinator Derek Mason, hurt Stanford’s defense? So far, a resounding “no.” The Cardinal are proving that nasty defensive success is more about scheme and cohesion than it is about star power. A finally healthy defensive line duo of David Parry and Henry Anderson has spearheaded a suffocating unit with no glaring weakness: Stanford has already pitched two shutouts and is surrendering only 4.3 points per game. The Cardinal are also leading the nation by registering a sack on 12.5 percent of opponents’ passing attempts.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Who is Stanford’s go-to running back in the post-Tyler Gaffney era? David Shaw is still going with the four-man committee approach, and receiver Ty Montgomery has even received some carries because he’s the only one big enough to replicate the 220-plus-pound size Stanford used to enjoy at the position. The Cardinal would probably like to establish an identity soon because their lack of a go-to weapon has contributed to enormous problems in the red zone (No. 124 nationally in scoring efficiency there).

Washington

One question that has been answered: Will the Huskies be fine at quarterback in the post-Keith Price era? Cyler Miles has been solid, though the level of competition ratchets up considerably Saturday with Stanford’s vaunted defense paying a visit. Miles has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a pick. Meanwhile, the Huskies have introduced a new offensive wrinkle that’s allowed backup Jeff Lindquist to rush for a pair of touchdowns.

One question that hasn’t been answered: How will Washington’s relatively young defensive backfield hold up? Again, so far, so good -- though Georgia State racked up 233 yards of total offense while Washington slept through Saturday’s first half. But freshman Sidney Jones and the rest of this unit will be tested against the dangerous aerial threats of the Pac-12 North. It does look like veteran Marcus Peters is ready to make plays for the Huskies on the back end. He recorded two picks this past week. Washington’s nation-best 19 sacks have certainly made life easier for the team's defensive backs, too.

Washington State

One question that has been answered: Could Connor Halliday be smarter with the ball? Now, he hasn’t had a flawless season, but if Saturday’s close loss against Oregon told us anything, it’s that Halliday can really excel in this offense when he, his receivers and his offense line key in. He threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes and not throwing a single pick (just the third time that has happened since the start of the 2012 season) against the No. 2 team in the nation.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the Washington State team that showed up against Oregon show up for every game the rest of the season? If the team that challenged Oregon -- the one that sacked Mariota seven times, doesn’t throw interceptions, rushes the ball with enough success -- shows up every game, the Cougars will be competitive and have winnable games against Utah, Arizona, Oregon State and Washington. Could they pick up a win over Stanford, USC or Arizona State and still be bowl eligible after their 1-3 start?
video

Everything will be better with a playoff, right? With no clear-cut top teams and just four spots in the playoff, Gene Wojciechowski explains the playoff selection committee has their work cut out for them.
No. 2 Oregon goes into its bye week after surviving a scare against Washington State. Certainly the Ducks are glad to have escaped Pullman with a win, but it was very close to being very different, which would have made this bye week very sour.

But they got the win and improved to 4-0. Though it’s a perfect record, this team is far from perfect and this week, they will try to get a few steps closer to that benchmark. Here are some areas in which the Ducks must improve before they continue their march toward a Pac-12 title.

1. The offensive line must protect Marcus Mariota better

A true freshman at left tackle isn’t exactly a comforting feeling for anyone. Nor is the idea of a former walk-on at right tackle. Nor is the idea of three guys who could play offensive tackle sitting together with braces on their legs, watching these younger guys struggle so mightily.

OK, so there are a lot of non-comforting feelings. No matter how much that hurts, it probably doesn’t hurt quite as much as Mariota did after being sacked seven times against Washington State.

What is the answer? I’d imagine the Ducks are hoping that Jake Fisher will be healthy enough to play against Arizona next Thursday, and that would relieve some of the stress on at least one side of the line. But, as a whole, this group needs to improve fast. It can’t allow Mariota to be hit seven times. In the perfect world, it can’t allow Mariota to be hit at all.

2. Stop giving up so many big plays

The defense has done well in making in game adjustments this season, but it has been a little too porous a little too often. Already this season, the defense has given up 68 plays of 10-plus yards. To put that in perspective, there are 116 teams that have allowed fewer. TCU leads the country allowing just 16 plays of 10-plus yards. Stanford (19) and Oregon State (25) are both in the top 10.

Of those 68 plays, 21 went for 20-plus yards. That, once again, puts Oregon outside of the top 100 nationally in that category. There are definitely times when statistics don’t say too much, and yes, you can say this isn’t too important because Oregon is 4-0. But the Washington State game and the first half of the Michigan State game (heck, the first quarter of the Wyoming game) would have been much, much different if the defense didn’t allow quite so many big plays.

2b. Be better against the pass

Sixty five percent of opposing quarterback completions have resulted in a first down or a touchdown against Oregon. Again, that’s very, very bad (like No. 113 in the country bad). The average completion against Oregon goes for 11.6 yards. And this isn’t one of those situations where you can say, "Well, teams aren’t completing that many passes against us so who cares if 65 percent of them go for a first down or touchdown?" because you would be wrong. Teams are completing 27 passes per game against Oregon. There are only five teams in the country that have more passes completed against them per game -- BYU, Nevada, Bowling Green, Cal and Indiana.

3. Keep using as many people as possible in the offensive attack

The more the Ducks have four different names show up under the running statistics and eight different names show up under the receiving statistics, the more opposing defensive coordinators are going to shake in their boots.

Royce Freeman is leading the way for the Ducks right now with five rushing touchdowns on 48 carries and Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall have both accounted for one rushing touchdown on 40 carries and 21 carries, respectively. In the pass game, Devon Allen, Keanon Lowe and Marshall have all accounted for at least three receptions per game, and Pharaoh Brown and Darren Carrington both have nine catches this season.

It seems really, really basic to say the problem of abundance is a good one to have. But the Ducks need to keep playing this up, especially given the offensive line problems. If opponents know that every single skill position on the field is one that can burn a defense and make them pay, then maybe they won’t throw the kitchen sink at the offensive line? And if they still do, Oregon fans can be grateful they have a quarterback as smart as Mariota who knows how to get the ball to his arsenal of weapons.

After four weeks, we still know nothing

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
11:00
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The Socratic smugness that enveloped me in the wee hours of Sunday morning was a revelation of sorts, though a recognition of futility isn't terribly comforting.

After the tumult of another thrilling weekend, Twitter spun and spun with ostensible wisdom, with Pac-12 and college football philosophers insisting this or that was true based on this or that result. As for me, all I knew is that I knew nothing. Therefore, I am wiser than Twitter, for neither Twitter nor I appears to know anything great and good; but Twitter fancies it knows something, although it knows nothing. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than Twitter, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

Ya know?

Dominant teams? There may not be any. Florida State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon etc. Each seems to be surviving rather than asserting itself. Same holds true in the Pac-12.

The good news is Socrates also believed an unexamined college football season is not worth following. Further, after four confounding weeks, both nationally and within the Pac-12, we figure to scrape and claw toward more substantial revelations this week, at least on the West Coast. Probably. Maybe.

First, just the facts.

Seven Pac-12 teams remain unbeaten, though hardly unblemished. Three in the North Division: Oregon, Washington and Oregon State. And four in the South: Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah.

At least one of those will go down before next weekend, as UCLA visits Arizona State in a critical South clash on Thursday. Both teams have looked vulnerable. Both teams have QB questions, with Taylor Kelly definitely out for the Sun Devils, and Brett Hundley trying to come back from a hyper-extended elbow that knocked him out of the nail-biting win over Texas.

Oregon, the putative top Pac-12 team and favorite to represent the conference in the College Football Playoff, is off this week. The Ducks might be good enough to win the national championship or they might lose three games due to an injury-riddled offensive line or a leaky defense. We've seen Oregon dispatch mighty Michigan State with a dominant second half on both sides of the ball and then cling for dear life at Washington State, the only conference team presently owning a losing record.

Just as UCLA-Arizona State is a separation game in the South, so is Stanford’s visit to Washington on Saturday in the North. We have little feeling on the potency of either. Both have flashed potential on both sides of the ball. Yet both also have looked feckless and discombobulated, which is surprising when you consider the reputations of their respective head coaches. The winner becomes the top potential foil for Oregon in the North.

Or might that actually be Oregon State? We don’t really know what to make of the Beavers, who visit USC on Saturday, because they haven't played anyone. For that matter, we don’t really know what to make of USC either because it was good enough to beat Stanford and bad enough to be humiliated at Boston College.

Things are perhaps just as intriguing -- read: hard to figure -- among the hoi polloi, among the teams not widely viewed as serious threats to win the conference. And by "widely viewed" keep in mind the chattering classes tend to talk themselves into general agreement based their need to wheeze carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, yours truly not exempted by any means.

Colorado's trip to California is a game that matches teams that both said, “We can win this one!” in the preseason. The loser’s long shot bowl hopes will take a huge hit. You could probably say the same about Washington State’s trip to Utah, though a Utes victory might propel them into the Top 25 and transform them into a popular new dark horse in the South.

In fact, our limited intelligence after four weeks might merely be a confirmation of what most suspected in the preseason: There will be no easy outs this fall, which might be as much a function of the top slipping as the bottom rising. Sure, Washington State is 1-3, but the Cougs pushed Oregon to the brink. A little less brilliance from Marcus Mariota and a little more help from the officials and things might have been different. Colorado is 2-2 but it gave Arizona State trouble, the Buffs rushing for 232 yards against the Sun Devils' rebuilt defense. California was a Hail Mary pass away from winning at Arizona and improving to 3-0. Utah won convincingly at Michigan, which might not mean much but it's still a happy ending in the Big House against a team wearing cool winged helmets.

So expect to muddle forward toward clarity, even if we encounter a few false summits along the way. No Pac-12 team appears unbeatable. And no team appears incapable of playing competently. Each fan base should remain hopeful while not ruling out the possibility of eventual despondency.

The good news, as Socrates noted via Plato, is there are two ruling and directing principles in a college football season. It always at least teases our innate desire for pleasure. And, at its end, we acquire grounds to judge excellence.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
8:00
AM ET
Hey Shane Falco. I lost a ton of money on that Sugar Bowl disaster of yours. What a bloody shambles that was. You could smell the stink all the way back in bloody Wales.

Leading off

Have we all caught our respective breaths? Good.

What a weekend it was for the Pac-12. Thrilling games in Tucson and Pullman were the exclamation point on a day that saw Colorado cap the Hawaii sweep, OSU take care of business against SDSU, Utah go to B1G country and win on the road and 30 fantastic minutes of football from the Huskies. Here are some reactions from across the league and country:

Jon Wilner weighs in on the weekend in his Pac-12 roundup, with some harsh analysis for the Bears:
Cal played well, led 31-13 entering the fourth quarter and had the Wildcats beaten time and time again (or so it seemed). But with an offense incapable of eating the clock, the defense wilted and Arizona pounced on the opportunity. In the Hotline’s opinion, the Air/Bear Raid approach is inherently flawed. The next time it wins a major conference championship will be the first time.

Things aren't looking great in Michigan after Utah rolled through town, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today. And Athlon Sports offers up their thoughts on the Michigan-Utah game.

By now, we've all seen the highlights of the Arizona-Cal game. Rich Rodriguez and his guys just want to remind you of the duration of the game:

In the rankings

The Ducks had a good chance to slide up into that No. 1 spot, but Washington State's gutty performance gave voters enough pause to not give Oregon top honors. Kyle Bonagura broke it down here for you.

Here's where the ranked Pac-12 teams stand. As always, the AP ranking is first followed by the coaches poll. You can see the complete polls here.
  • Oregon 2 - 4
  • UCLA 11 - 10
  • ASU 15 - 12
  • Stanford 16 - 14
  • USC 18 - 22

Utah, Washington Arizona and Oregon State all received votes in the AP poll. Washington, Arizona and Oregon State got votes in the coaches poll. Also, thought you'd like to see how a couple of people voted. Here is Bill Rabinowitz's ballot and Wilner's ballot.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

The victory announcement from the Cal store is kind of funny if you haven't heard about it yet.

Creepy? Adorable? A little bit of both?

Kind of dig this move from ASU and Todd Graham.

Finally, thought this was funny as an impromptu game of Twitter-tac-toe broke out between Utah football and the Pac-12 Network during the rain delay.

Early Offer: Tough times ahead for UF? 

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:45
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Recruiting in the SEC is already difficult, but the difficulty in Gainesville is about to be ratcheted up even more as rival recruiters are already pressuring Florida recruits to reconsider. Plus, it was clear Saturday night that Oregon needs help on the offensive line, but the good news is that help is on the way.

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Pac-12 Weekend Wrap: Sept. 23
Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney breaks down the top weekend storylines from the Pac-12.
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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/25
Saturday, 9/27