It didn't take long for the Holiday Bowl to put up big numbers either, as the 1979 game (only the second in its existence) saw 874 yards of total offense between the two teams as Indiana -- coached by Lee "Not So Fast, My Friend" Corso -- defeated BYU by a score of 38-37.
It was the 1980 game, however, which really served notice that the San Diego-hosted bowl could be something unique. The Cougars of BYU were involved once again, this time against the Pony Express backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James and the SMU Mustangs. SMU was up 45-25 late in the game before Jim McMahon led BYU on a touchdown drive, the Cougars recovered an onside kick and scored again, then blocked an SMU punt and hit a Hail Mary to pull out the dramatic 46-45 victory. McMahon (446 passing yards and four TDs) and James (225 rushing yards and two TDs) were named Co-Offensive Most Valuable Players of the Game.
McMahon came back in 1981 to throw for 342 yards and three touchdowns as the Cougars beat Washington State 38-36. The defensive MVP that day for BYU was current Utah coach Fred Whittingham.
The 1984 game was an important milestone for the bowl as BYU clinched the national championship with a 24-17 victory over Michigan, behind 343 passing yards from Robbie Bosco.
After so many years of quarterback heroics it was a return to the running game in 1988 when Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State rushed for 222 yards and a bowl-record five touchdowns in a 62-14 victory over Wyoming. Sanders sat out the fourth quarter, which prevented him from breaking Craig James' bowl rushing record. Current OSU coach Mike Gundy threw for 315 yards while Hart Lee Dykes caught 10 passes for a then bowl-record 163 yards.
It was another future Heisman winner -- Ty Detmer from BYU -- who brought the attention back to the air in 1989 by setting Holiday Bowl records for completing 42 of 59 passes for 576 yards but it was in a losing effort to Penn State, who was led by Blair Thomas with a bowl-record 35 carries for 186 yards. Detmer was knocked out of the game early with a shoulder injury in 1990 (the year he won the Heisman) in a 65-14 loss to Texas A&M but he came back to throw for 350 yards in a 1991 tie against Iowa 13-13, which was the first tie and the lowest scoring Holiday Bowl.
In recent years, the tradition of offense has been kept alive by players such as Marshawn Lynch with 111 rushing yards and a pair of scores in 2006, Colt McCoy with 321 all-purpose yards in 2007 or Dez Bryant with bowl record 13 catches for 168 yards in 2008.
USC tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo was part of a memorable Holiday Bowl in 1999 as quarterback of the Washington Huskies. Tuiasosopo had Washington in the lead late in the game and driving for a score when he threw an interception, the game turned, and Kansas State eventually won 24-20. Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian knows what it's like to coach in the game, he brought his Huskies to San Diego in 2010 where they beat Nebraska 19-7 behind 177 rushing yards from Chris Polk.
With such a strong tradition of performances on the offensive side of the ball, don't be surprised at all if Trojans Cody Kessler, Buck Allen and Nelson Agholor or Cornhuskers' Tommy Armstrong, Ameer Abdullah or Kenny Bell are the ones making similar memories in this edition of the game.
That’s my advice for Cody Kessler if, as some believe, USC’s junior quarterback is seriously considering leaving for the NFL before his senior season.
RB Ronald Jones II (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North): Jones recently de-committed from Oklahoma State, and his focus now appears to be on USC and Notre Dame. He officially visited the Trojans on the weekend of Dec. 5 and the Fighting Irish on the weekend of Dec. 12. He hasn’t scheduled any other official visits at this point. Jones will play in the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game on Jan. 2.
RB Dexter Williams (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange): Williams is committed to Miami (Fla.) but he has expressed interest in possibly visiting USC, Notre Dame and Marshall. He’s taken official visits to Miami and Louisville.
WR DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): Lodge has taken official visits to USC and LSU, and he will reportedly visit Ole Miss and Texas in January. He’s also still looking at Baylor, Arizona State, and TCU among others. He will play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite): St. Brown has visited Notre Dame and Utah, and he’s mentioned in the past that he could take a trip to USC in January. He’s set to play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
TE/DE T.J. Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius): Wheatley recently visited USC, and the Trojans are still very much in the mix for the 6-foot-6 tight end/defensive end. He’ll also visit Alabama, Oregon and UCLA before Signing Day. Auburn and Michigan are two more schools to look out for. Wheatley will play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.
DT Rasheem Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Green recently listed a top 4 that included USC, Arizona State, Miami and Oregon. He’s already checked out the Hurricanes and Ducks in person, and he has official visits lined up for the Trojans (Jan. 16) and Sun Devils (Jan. 23). Green was originally scheduled to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3, but he will sat that one out as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
DT Tim Settle (Manassas, Va./Stonewall Jackson): Settle recently listed a top 5 (in no order) of Louisville, Virginia Tech, Washington State, USC and Oklahoma State, and he has taken official visits to each of those programs. He will announce his decision on Jan. 2 at the Under Armour All-America Game.
DE Mika Tafua (Honolulu, Hawaii/Kamehameha): Currently committed to BYU, Tafua recently took official visits to USC and Colorado, and he will head to Provo (Utah) to check out the Cougars some time in January. He could also visit Oregon, Vanderbilt or Washington.
LB John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Calif./Serra): The Trojans are thought by many to be the favorite to land Houston, and the ESPN 300 linebacker recently listed a top 5 that included USC along with Oregon, Arizona State, Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Of that group he has visited all but the Trojans, but he will take an official to USC on Jan. 16. Houston will play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
LB Osa Masina (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton): Masina has taken official visits to USC, UCLA and Arizona State, and there’s a possibility that he could make an announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The Trojans are thought to have a good chance in this one.
LB Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Ga./Macon County): Smith has taken official visits to USC and Georgia, and he has trips set up for LSU (Jan. 16), Ole Miss (Jan. 23) and UCLA (Jan. 30). He will announce his decision on Signing Day, with the Bulldogs standing out as the leader. Smith will play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
CB DeChaun Holiday (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills): Holiday recently took an official visit to Oklahoma, with plans to take more trips in January, although those haven’t been set up at this point. UCLA is thought to be his leader, but USC has remained in contact with him along with Arizona State, Oregon and Washington among others. Holiday will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly): Marshall has already taken an official visit to Notre Dame, and he’s also set up a trip to Florida State (Jan. 16). He’s also expressed interest in taking official visits to schools like Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma and Alabama. USC is still very much in consideration, as is UCLA and Stanford, but those programs are more likely to receive unofficial visits. Marshall will play in the Under Armour Game.
CB Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas/Thurgood Marshall): Sheffield has taken official visits to USC, Ohio State, Florida State and Texas A&M, and he’s also unofficially visited both Alabama and Oklahoma. He will announce his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game.
S Marvell Tell (Encino, Calif./Crespi): Tell has taken official visits to USC, Oregon and Texas A&M, and he has said recently that he could announce a final decision between the three on Jan. 3 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
ATH Javarius Davis (Jacksonville, Fla./Ed H. White): Davis has taken an official visit to Miami (Fla.), and Oregon and USC are among the other schools that he’s looking at. He could possibly visit the Trojans in January.
ATH Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway): A Georgia commit, Godwin officially visited both the Bulldogs as well as USC recently, and he has January visits set up for Auburn (Jan. 16), Alabama (Jan. 23) and Texas A&M (Jan. 30). He will play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
ATH Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills): Gustin officially visited Notre Dame back on Sept. 5, and he is expected to take a number of trips in January, including one to USC. He checked out the Trojans on an unofficial visit this past November, in addition to Arizona State that same month. He’s also reportedly considering Arkansas, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and Oregon. Gustin will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
ATH Donte Jackson (Jefferson, La./Riverdale): Jackson recently announced that he will make his decision on Jan. 21, and that he will decide between LSU, Georgia and USC. Of that group he has only officially visited the Trojans, although he has been to LSU and Georgia on unofficials.
ATH Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly): Ross has taken official visits to USC, Notre Dame and Miami. He has a final five that includes the Trojans and Fighting Irish, as well as Arizona State, Oklahoma and Oregon, and he will announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Trojans land Whitney
Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and staff received good news this past Thursday when Riverside (Calif.) City College wide receiver Isaac Whitney signed with USC, choosing the Trojans over West Virginia and Washington State among others.
Set to arrive on campus in January with two years to play two, he caught 49 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns this fall. Possessing 6-foot-4 height, he’ll bring a unique combination of talents to the fold.
"I like Isaac on a couple fronts,” said Sarkisian following USC’s practice on Saturday. "One, I think he provides something a little bit different than what we have. He’s a bigger receiver, but for a big receiver he shows a lot of, I’d say, little-guy qualities. He’s very quick in and out of his breaks [and] he’s extremely athletic, so I think he’s going to be a great fit in our system."
News and notes
- A pair of USC commits helped their teams win state titles this past weekend. Tight end Tyler Petite caught seven passes for 102 yards in Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo's 35-28 victory against Lakeside (Calif.) El Capitan in the CIF-State Division III final. Running back Aca'Cedric Ware, who had a monster 2014 season overall, was limited to 23 yards rushing, but his Cedar Hill (Texas) squad still managed to defeat Katy (Texas) 23-20 in the Texas Class 6A Division II championship.
- USC offered ESPN Junior 300 defensive end and Florida State commit Janarius Robinson (Panama City, Fla./Bay) this past Friday.
- Class of 2015 WR/DB Octavius Spencer (Monrovia, Calif./Monrovia) committed to UCLA last week. The Trojans had expressed some late-season interest in the two-way standout, but never offered.
- Class of 2015 defensive tackle Dillon Faamatau (Norwalk, Calif./Norwalk), who has also received some interest from USC recently, committed to Washington State last week.
With the 2014 campaign in the books, here’s a look at some end-of-season statistics that a number of USC recruits put up this fall.
Class of 2015
QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) -- USC commit: In 14 games Darnold completed 213 of 314 passes for 2,985 yards and 39 touchdowns with eight interceptions, while also rushing for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns on 125 carries.
QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) -- USC commit: In 11 games Town completed 207 of 296 passes for 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns with three interceptions, and he also rushed for 300 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries.
RB Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) -- USC commit: In 15 games Ware rushed for 2,440 yards and 34 touchdowns on 291 carries.
WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Calif./First Coast) -- USC commit: In 10 games Payton had 47 receptions for 843 yards and eight touchdowns.
TE Petite (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo) -- USC commit: 16 games Petite caught 37 passes for 969 yards and nine touchdowns.
LB Cameron Smith (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay) -- USC commit: In 13 games Smith amassed 148 tackles, three forced fumbles and four interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns).
RB Jones (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North): In 13 games Jones rushed for 2,009 yards and 28 touchdowns in 240 carries.
WR Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): In 16 games Lodge caught 63 passes for 1,219 yards and 25 touchdowns.
TE/DE Wheatley (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius): Wheatley caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns on offense, and he made 68 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 10 sacks on defense.
LB Houston (Gardena, Calif./Serra): In 11 games Houston racked up 147 tackles (61 solo), 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions – one of which he returned for a touchdown.
DL Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Green amassed 56 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 8 sacks.
LB Masina (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton: In 12 games Masina compiled 97 tackles (50 solo), 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception on defense, and on offense he caught 11 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 596 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries.
CB Marshall (Long Beach, Calif/Poly): Marshall finished his senior season with 85 tackles, five tackles for loss and 16 pass deflections on defense. He also caught 19 passes for 315 yards and eight touchdowns on offense, and he returned one punt for a touchdown on special teams.
ATH Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills): Gustin completed 212 of 349 passes for 2,864 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions, he rushed for 891 yards and 10 touchdowns on 92 carries, he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, and on defense he amassed 152 tackles (61 solo), 29 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and two interceptions.
ATH Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly): Ross caught 50 passes for 988 yards and 15 touchdowns on offense, he compiled three interceptions on defense, and he also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns on special teams.
Class of 2016
QB K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic): In 11 games Costello completed 229 of 380 passes for 3,123 yards and 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy): In 13 games Patterson completed 129 of 199 passes for 2,428 yards and 38 touchdowns with three interceptions, and he also rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries.
WR Jackie Jones (Long Beach, Calif/Poly): Jones had 64 receptions for 719 yards and five touchdowns.
WR Tyler Vaughns (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat): In 13 games Vaughns accumulated over 1,000 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns at wide receiver, and he also picked off four passes on defense.
DE Oluwole Betiku (Gardena, Calif./Serra): In 11 games Betiku compiled 59 tackles (30 solo), 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
LB Lokeni Toailoa (Rialto, Calif./Carter): In 12 games Toailoa racked up 98 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and six sacks on defense, and he also caught 11 passes for 90 yards, and rushed for 124 yards and 10 touchdowns on 35 carries on offense.
S C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif./Serra): In 11 games Pollard made 58 tackles (32 solo).
ATH Trevon Sidney (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat): In 13 games Sidney made four interceptions on defense, and he also caught four touchdown passes.
Class of 2017
QB Tate Martell (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): In 15 games Martell completed 124 of 200 passes for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns with two interceptions, and he also rushed for 433 yards and five touchdowns on 73 carries.
QB Tua Tagovailoa (Honolulu, Hawaii/St. Louis): Tagovailoa completed 163 of 239 passes for 2,583 yards and 33 touchdowns with three interceptions.
WR Tyjon Lindsey (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): In 15 games Lindsey caught 34 passes for 884 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he also returned two punts for scores.
DE Haskell Garrett (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): In 15 games Garrett compiled 79 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and one interception.
ATH Nathan Tilford (Upland, Calif./Upland): Tilford rushed for 943 yards and 15 touchdowns on 151 carries, and he also caught 12 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
WR De'Quan Hampton (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College) -- USC commit: In 11 games Hampton caught 64 passes for 839 yards and seven touchdowns.
WR Whitney (Riverside, Calif./Riverside City College) -- USC commit: In 12 games Whitney caught 49 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns.
On Saturday evening (5 p.m. PST/ESPN) in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, two of the most storied programs in college football lore get together, surprisingly for just the fifth time.
For Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans, they’ll be looking to prove they’re truly on the fast track back to college football’s elite, while the Cornhuskers, with interim head coach Barney Cotton, will be looking to get their first victory against that West Coast power from Los Angeles.
The Trojans currently own a 3-0-1 mark against the Huskers. How did the Trojans build such an impressive resume against the lads from Lincoln?
Let’s take a look at the previous four games between two of college football’s most recognizable brands:
1969: This was supposed to be a Trojans team rebuilding after going through the dominance of the previous O.J. Simpson era (1967-68). Making their first trip to Lincoln, it figured that with inexperienced sophomore quarterback Jimmy Jones, the Trojans would probably be shaken by the environment. But it was the capacity 67,058 in Memorial Stadium that were shaken. The Trojans struck first in the opening quarter with a 1-yard TD run by tailback Mike Berry, the first of his two scores.
In the second quarter, Trojans wide receiver Bobby Chandler was on the receiving end of a 45-yard TD bomb from the athletic Jones. Later, SC fullback Charlie Evans silenced Memorial Stadium with a 4-yard scoring reception from Jones. The Trojans held a 21-7 lead at half, and with Berry’s 1-yard third-quarter score and placekicker Ron Ayala’s fourth-quarter 34-yard field goal, the Trojans never looked back
Final score: USC 31, Nebraska 21
1970: An early September night game in Los Angeles before 73,768 in the Coliseum, the No. 9 Cornhuskers were looking for revenge when they opened the scoring in the second quarter with a surprise 17-yard fullback pass from Dan Schneiss to receiver Guy Ingles. The No. 3 and two-touchdown favorite Trojans tied it on a 4-yard run by quarterback Jimmy Jones. Nebraska came right back with quarterback Jerry Tagge connecting to scintillating wingback and future Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers for a 15-yard touchdown.
Down 14-7 at the half, the Trojans roared back in the third quarter, culminated by a 1-yard TD run by fullback Charlie Evans. However, on the second play after the ensuing kickoff, Huskers I-back Joe Orduna ripped off a 67-yard scoring jaunt to put Nebraska in front again, 21-14. The Trojans rallied in the fourth quarter, moving 80 yards, capped by a 9-yard scoring run by tailback Clarence Davis. The Trojans missed on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game, as Nebraska would then go on to the national championship with an 11-0-1 record.
Final score: USC 21, Nebraska 21
2006: It had been some 36 years since these teams had last played against each other. There was great anticipation for the “reunion.” Before 92,000, Pete Carroll’s Trojans program, which was now at its zenith, wasn’t about to let Nebraska pull a major upset on the road.
While the Trojans had lost Heisman Trophy quarterback Matt Leinart to graduation, in stepped redshirt junior John David Booty. Leading 7-3 in the second quarter, Booty found wide receiver Steve Smith for a 3-yard touchdown that put the Trojans ahead 14-3. The Trojans led 21-10 in the fourth quarter, and tailback Chauncey Washington sealed the victory with a 7-yard touchdown run. It wasn’t pretty, but it was another victory.
Final score: USC 28, Nebraska 10
2007: Based on their team’s effort the season before, the 84,959 mostly Nebraska fans in Memorial Stadium were hopeful of a potential upset in Lincoln. Instead, what the Cornhuskers received from the Trojans that September evening on national television was a major league flogging from the Men of Troy.
Carroll’s team had that unbeatable “look” when they came out for pregame warm-ups, and the Huskers found that last season’s “inexperienced” Trojans were now very experienced and extremely talented. Fullback Stanley Havili and tailback Chauncey Washington each had two touchdowns while tight end Anthony McCoy and tailbacks Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson each added a score. The Trojans pounded out 313 yards on the ground to just 31 yards for the Cornhuskers.
Final score: USC 49, Nebraska 31
C.J. Spiller, No. 47 in 2006 class
Spiller created a true recruiting battle in the Southeast between Florida, Clemson and Florida State with the Tigers winning out over Florida in a stunner that drew national attention with nearly everyone believing the two-sport star would stay in state.
Spiller hit the field running, literally, in 2006 rushing for 938 yards and 10 touchdowns on 129 carries. He added 210 yards receiving and 267 return yards for a total of 1,415 all-purpose yards.
As a sophomore, the running back with 10.3 100-meter speed rushed for 768 yards, but added nearly 1,000 yards receiving and in returns for a total of 1,723 all-purpose yards, including two kick off returns for touchdowns.
Spiller would again prove to be one of the top all-around backs in college football in 2008, adding 1,770 all-purpose yards to his quickly growing career total. He was named All-ACC first team following the 2008 season.
Spiller’s best season at Clemson would be his last. He was named unanimous All-American and ACC Player of the Year following his 2,680 all-purpose yard performance. He finished his career with 7,588 all-purpose yards and 52 touchdowns, including leaving the college ranks with the most kick off return touchdowns in FBS history.
Spiller was selected No. 9 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL draft. He was named to the 2012 Pro Bowl.
Honorable mention: Nelson Agholor, No. 47 in 2012 class. Agholor picked USC over Florida and Florida State coming out of Tampa Berkely Prep. In three seasons for the Trojans, the receiver and return man has 172 receptions for 2,481 yards and 19 touchdowns, along with 977 return yards and four scores. Agholor is expected to be a highly drafted player in 2015 or 2016.
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To the notes!
Duckzila from Portland writes: The Oregon offense typically feasts on teams that are undisciplined on defense. My perception is Florida State is a team that relies on athleticism and freelances quite a bit on the defense side of the ball. Even when they shut down Georgia Tech in the second half of the ACC championship, they were helped out by an inaccurate quarterback missing open plays downfield. To be fair, I definitely suffer from seeing college football through green and yellow shaded glasses, and haven't watched a ton of FSU games this year. I'm curious if you see the FSU defense the same way?
Ted Miller: No, I don't see Florida State's defense that way.
What I see is a talented unit that was rebuilding after being dominant during 2013's national title campaign, one that was breaking in a new coordinator, one that was then riddled by injuries. I see a defense that is on track to be as healthy as it has been all season against Oregon.
I see a defense that is adept at making adjustments. The Seminoles gave up 174 points in the first half this season. They yielded just 125 in the second half. Oregon's underrated defense gave up 141 points in the first half and 151 in the second half. I see a defense that overcame an offense that was stunningly turnover-prone -- the Seminoles' 27 turnovers would have been the highest total in the Pac-12. Oregon had just eight turnovers this season.
Further, and this isn't a terribly original point: Defenses tend to excel after extended pre-bowl preparation. The extra time helps a defense train its eyes, accustom itself to potential misdirection and create a laser-like focus on its keys. Ducks fans saw that when two offensive juggernauts, Auburn and Oregon, played a low-scoring, 22-19 slugfest for the 2010 national championship.
If Oregon's offense wins the battle with FSU's defense, I doubt we will say it's because FSU was undisciplined. I think we'll say it's because the Oregon offense is just really freaking hard to stop.
Ted Miller: It's not unfair to say Chris Petersen's first season was underwhelming, even disappointing. He inherited talent that hinted at 10 wins in the regular season and he won eight. He didn't beat a ranked team and the Huskies struggled against overmatched foes. While he's not one to navel-gaze in front of the media, my guess is Petersen will be as self-critical about himself and his staff as any message board.
So why be optimistic? Well, Petersen went 92-12 at Boise State and won two Fiesta Bowls, a record that far surpasses Dan Hawkins or, really, any coach outside of a Power 5 conference. There's a reason folks so celebrated his hiring. The guy is smart. He's detail-oriented. He has a system. Some of the things that cost the Huskies this year -- such as giving mouthy, me-first cornerback Marcus Peters the boot -- probably will pay off in the long term as Petersen establishes his culture.
Yet Petersen might need to recalibrate some. Playing a Pac-12 schedule is different than playing one or two Power 5 foes a year and trying to earn your big-boy-football bona fides. In the Pac-12, you play a marquee game against Oregon... and then you play a marque game against Arizona State the next weekend.
As much as he's emphasizing "OKGs -- Our Kind of Guys" in recruiting, he's probably going to need a more generous gray area when evaluating prospects, particularly ones who run 4.4-second 40-yard dashes and weigh more than 300 pounds. He also might need to rethink some spots on his coaching staff.
Yes, the Huskies take some huge roster hits heading into 2015, particularly on defense and the offensive line. Eight wins next year probably would be an overachievement. But Petersen wasn't hired for immediate flash. He was hired to return Washington to long-term glory. Those are two different processes, and the latter often includes worse short-term growing pains.
Ted Miller: Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah will be in good shape if the College Football Playoff committee is reviewing their nonconference schedules. Arizona and Colorado will not be.
Here are the schedules.
- Arizona: UTSA, at Nevada, Northern Arizona
- Arizona State: Texas A&M (Houston), Cal Poly, New Mexico
- Colorado: at Hawaii, UMass, Colorado State (Denver), Nicholls State
- UCLA: Virginia, at UNLV, BYU
- USC: Arkansas State, Idaho, at Notre Dame
- Utah: Michigan, Utah State, at Fresno State
Obviously, the Buffaloes are aiming for bowl eligibility, not a berth in the CFP, and have scheduled accordingly. Arizona is another matter, as the Wildcats' nonconference schedule is Baylor-esque and would be viewed dimly by the committee.
Of course, the Wildcats didn't envision they would be in the hunt this season, at least from the past scheduling perspective of athletic director Greg Byrne. If the Wildcats again surge in 2015, their nonconference schedule will be a problem, unless they emerge from the Pac-12 unbeaten.
“Adoree’ Jackson is a great player,” Smith said. “He was Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, which is awesome. For me to get to go against him every day is amazing and it’s real nice challenge to get me ready for game day. It will be great to go through our time at USC together, and next year I’ll be going both ways with him so it will be fun.”
Houston, we have a final 5: One of the top prospects on the USC wish list is linebacker John Houston, who released his list of five final schools on Friday and, to no surprise, the Trojans were included, along with Oregon, Arizona State, Miami and Oklahoma. Houston has already taken visits to the four other schools on his list and will trip to USC for the Trojans big recruiting weekend on Jan. 16, when several of the top remaining prospects will be on campus.
Houston has long been rumored to have the Trojans in his lead spot and, while nothing has changed that, he has legitimately enjoyed seeing the other schools, particularly Oregon. With that being said, the last visit is always critical and USC would appear to be well positioned to close this one and land the coveted target. Houston is ranked as the No. 2 inside linebacker by ESPN but with his 6-foot-3, 210 pound frame he could easily end up as a strong side backer as well. Houston will take part in the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 2 to be shown on ESPN2.
Must-see matchup: You can be sure that plenty of NFL defensive line coaches will be paying attention to the Holiday Bowl with Leonard Williams of USC and Randy Gregory of Nebraska taking part in the game. The two juniors are both expected to declare for the draft and both were projected as top-5 selections by Todd McShay of ESPN in his mock draft that was released this week.
Williams, who was named the USC team MVP this week, is actually ranked atop McShay’s overall player rankings, in large part because of the versatility he has shown and the ability to play multiple spots at the next level. The fact Williams was also a consistent contributor despite playing with injuries also has been noted by the professional scouts. What they also will find when they take a closer look at Williams is a guy who plays the game with passion and has a strong work ethic. It speaks volumes that his selection as an All-American this year made him the first two-time AA selection at defensive end for the Trojans in 50 years.
Gregory has an impressive list of accomplishments of his own, including a unique ability to rush the passer as evidenced by 18 career sacks as a Cornhusker. Like Williams, he also battled injuries this year but played through it and ended the season with 10 tackles for loss. With a 6-foot-6, 245 pound frame it’s easy to see that Gregory has the physical dimensions to play in the NFL with the only question being the eventual position, an OLB in a 3-4 or DE in a 4-3.
The 2014 ride -- typically unpredictable, frequently stunning, always entertaining -- has been bathed in a downright surreal aura throughout (see #Pac12AfterDark). We want to commemorate the Paction, so we've assembled a list of the top 15 moments that defined this bizarre Pac-12 campaign while making an impact on its eccentric, memorable course.
Here is the final installment, featuring our three top plays from the 2014 Pac-12 season:
3. The play of polar opposites: Kaelin Clay fumble; Joe Walker TD return
This has to be the ultimate "what if?" play of the Pac-12 season, and that is saying something. Yes, Oregon might have won anyway without Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay's help in early November, but the journey to do so would have been exponentially more difficult. And a Utes' win would have drastically changed the complexion of the Pac-12 South title race and the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Early in the second quarter, Clay hauled in a deep post from Travis Wilson and sprinted toward paydirt. A jubilant Rice-Eccles Stadium shook celebrating what initially looked to be a 79-yard touchdown catch that would have positioned Utah for a 14-0 lead.
But one not-so-minor detail stood in the way of that.
As part of his scoring celebration, Clay had dropped the football -- and he accidentally did so before he had crossed the goal line. So as Utah players were celebrating what they thought to be a touchdown, Oregon defenders were scrambling to recover a fumble. Linebacker Joe Walker eventually secured the ball and ran 99 yards in the opposite direction, scoring to tie the game while creating a signature #Pac12AfterDark moment of mass confusion.
This broke the mayhem gauge: There was a point in time when Utah and Oregon were both simultaneously celebrating 100 yards apart in opposite end zones.
Only the Ducks' party lasted. Instead of trailing 14-0 in the teeth of a ferocious defense playing in front of its electric Salt Lake City crowd, Oregon was suddenly even with the Utes. Walker had sprinted 180 yards on one play -- 80 from the line of scrimmage to pick up the fumble at the goal line, and 100 more to score the other way -- but he was the energized one after the play, while Utah was deflated. The Ducks went on to win 51-27, and the rest was history.
2. The Jael Mary
Before the night of October 4, 2014, we were still oh, so naive. We thought that there was no way a successful Hail Mary could decide a game at the gun more than once per decade. We thought a nine-point lead with three minutes remaining at home against a backup quarterback was ... relatively safe?
But then October 4 happened, and nothing was the same. The practice of expecting conventional finishes in this conference died in the Los Angeles Coliseum on that night. Arizona State and USC played a game which saw Pac-12 end-of-game eccentricity go from being a rare spectacle to a regular occurrence.
Javorius Allen's 53-yard touchdown run gave USC a 34-25 lead with 3:02 remaining and Troy celebrated, unaware that ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici was about to rack up 145 yards over his next three completions. The first was a 73-yard touchdown strike to Cameron Smith. That made this a two-point game with 2:43 remaining.
But the Trojans recovered the ensuring onside kick, and ASU didn't have any timeouts left. So nothing to sweat for Steve Sarkisian, right?
Well, nothing except for the ultimate rip-your-heart-out finish. After a USC three-and-out, ASU took over at its own 28 with 23 seconds remaining. A 26-yard pass to Smith positioned the Sun Devils for a final gasp as time expired. Jaelen Strong plucked Bercovici's Hail Mary heave out of the air and hopped into the end zone, sending the Coliseum into shocked silence, leaving the hometown fans wondering why USC hadn't seemed interested in covering one of the country's best receivers?
As is the case with so many #Pac12AfterDark questions, there is no satisfying answer. There is only a legendary result, and this one is immortalized as the Jael Mary. Arizona State 38, USC 34.
1. The Hill Mary
The Jael Mary has an ancestor, and it also Hails (pun intended) from the state of Arizona. Two weeks before the Sun Devils snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Los Angeles, Arizona did the same thing against California. The difference: The Wildcats put on their show at home, sending a stadium into delirium, and they did it first. Arizona's last-second heroics also were a determinant in their Pac-12 South championship and Cal's failure to make a bowl game, so they beat out their Tempe rivals on this list.
The climactic play of this game was only the final piece of an absolutely sensational Wildcats' rally. Cal led 31-13 entering the fourth quarter, and it's not as if the Golden Bears suddenly stopped scoring to blow their lead: Sonny Dykes' club actually registered two insurance touchdowns in the quarter. But this insurance policy wasn't big enough to withstand a 36-point Arizona fourth quarter.
The Wildcats scored, and they scored furiously fast. A Casey Skowron field goal. A Tra'Mayne Bondurant interception followed by an Austin Hill touchdown. A Cayleb Jones touchdown. A Terrence Jones-Grigsby touchdown. An onside kick recovery. Another Jones touchdown.
Even after that flurry, Arizona still trailed 45-43. It failed a two-point conversion that could have tied the game with 2:44 remaining. Cal regained possession with a chance to seal the game, but the Wildcats kept kicking.
With under a minute left, Dykes elected to try a 47-yard field goal, but this turned out to be an ill-fated decision. James Langford missed, and Arizona got one final chance with 52 seconds left. Facing a fourth-and-7 from his own 33, quarterback Anu Solomon found Hill for a 20-yard gain that moved the ball to the Bears' 47. He then spiked the ball with only a precious few ticks remaining, setting up our No. 1 moment of truth.
To signal in the obvious play call, Rich Rodriguez and his fellow coaches clasped their hands together in "Hail Mary" prayer fashion.
Cal only rushed three, and Solomon's 73rd and final pass of the night was also its most majestic, a soaring 50-plus yard lob that might have brought down rain had the game not been played in the cloudless desert.
"Halfway, and then three-quarters of way [into the throw's flight], I knew the ball was coming to me," Hill said. "I was just hoping no one bumped into me, or hit my elbow, or jumped on top of me so I could secure the catch."
Mission accomplished. Hill Mary immortalized. Arizona 49, Cal 45.
"Don't ever go home early," a beaming Rodriguez told a TV camera afterward.
Nope, don't do that. Not in this age of Pac-12 football.
Other impact plays
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Why Utah wins: This has tended to be a letdown game for Pac-12 teams in recent years -- the league has lost four of the past five games in the Las Vegas Bowl. But Utah won't be lacking for motivation after returning to the postseason after a two-year absence and Colorado State, despite its strong season, will be a little deflated following Jim McElwain's departure for Florida. -- Chantel Jennings
Why Colorado State wins: Yes, the Rams lost their coach to Florida, but they’re still running on the energy of a 10-2 season and a prolific offense. Receiver Rashard Higgins leads the nation with 17 touchdown catches and Utah is not playing its best ball of the season. I think that’s the difference-maker here. -- David Lombardi
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Why Arizona State wins: Good quarterback. Good running back. Outstanding wide receiver and a defense that gets after it on the blitz more than any team in the country. The “attacking-hybrid” defense will leave the other Devils feeling blue. -- Kevin Gemmell
National University Holiday Bowl
Why Nebraska wins: It would be a fitting start to Mike Riley's tenure at Nebraska, wouldn't it? Although the former Oregon State coach won't be guiding his new team from the sideline, expect the Cornhuskers to make an impression with a victory over a Pac-12 foe. -- Chantel Jennings
Why USC wins: USC is a more talented, athletic team than Nebraska and would win this game without extenuating circumstances, but the acrimonious departure of Bo Pelini figures to leave some Cornhuskers indifferently motivated. Further, the Trojans, whose biggest issue is depth, almost certainly benefited more from a few weeks of off-time to heal various bumps and bruises. -- Ted Miller
Foster Farms Bowl
Why Stanford wins: Defense didn’t win a championship for the Cardinal. But it can win a bowl game against a Maryland team that averages fewer than 30 points per game and only averages 130.4 yards per game on the ground. -- Kevin Gemmell
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Why Boise State wins: It’s the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos don’t lose these games. In all seriousness, though, Boise State has ripped off eight straight wins. They’re peaking right now, and Arizona had some wind taken of their sails against Oregon. -- David Lombardi
Why Arizona wins: It's a statement game for Arizona -- and the Pac-12 -- so don't expect the Wildcats to take their opponent lightly. It's been too fine a season for Arizona to end with a blowout loss to Oregon and a defeat at the hands of Boise State. Expect to see some fireworks from the Wildcats' young playmakers on offense as well as trophy-laden linebacker Scooby Wright. -- Chantel Jennings
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
Why Oregon wins: Forget the Heisman versus Heisman storyline. The Ducks take care of the football, plain and simple. Florida State has danced with defeat several times, but other teams have let them off the hook. If they Ducks can force turnovers, they are one of the best teams in the country at making opponents pay. -- Kevin Gemmell
Why Florida State wins: Florida State is getting healthy during the break before this game, while Oregon lost All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to a knee injury. That’s a big problem when a team is preparing for Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene and quarterback Jameis Winston. Yet it’s Oregon’s greatest strength and Florida State's seeming weakness that will be the difference. The Ducks pretty much dominated every game they won this year. Florida State pretty much didn’t dominate anyone, playing down to foes for three-plus quarters and making their fans squirm in the waning moments. That mental toughness in the fourth quarter will pay off in this one because Oregon won’t dominate the Seminoles, and a tight final frame is when Florida State thrives. -- Ted Miller
Valero Alamo Bowl
Why Kansas State wins: This one starts with motivation, and we’re betting Kansas State has more. UCLA started out in the preseason top 10 and envisioned itself winning the Pac-12 and playing in the College Football Playoff. It’s not unreasonable to suspect the surprising and dispiriting blowout loss to Stanford during the final weekend of the season, which gave Arizona the Pac-12’s South Division crown, will come with an extended hangover. While both offenses have good quarterbacks and explosive playmakers, the Wildcats have been more consistent on defense this year. That will be the difference. -- Ted Miller
Why UCLA wins: I'm taking the opposite side of the argument when it comes to motivation. Bowl games are all about motivation, yes, and the Bruins, with a chip on their shoulder, have a chance to end the season on a high note. Brett Hundley’s finger is healthy and when he’s at his best, there aren’t many teams in the country that can stop him. Plus the Bruins are underdogs. That’s a role they haven’t played much this year, but seem to relish. -- Kevin Gemmell
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Why Washington wins: The Huskies began to develop a semblance of offensive consistency toward the end of the season, and that makes them a capable all-around team. That certainly should be enough to beat a 6-6 Oklahoma State team that is nothing spectacular this season. -- David Lombardi
All week we've been bringing you the All-America honors as they rolled in.
In total, 14 Pac-12 players were named to a first-team All-America squad. Of those 14, Marcus Mariota, Scooby Wright and Hau'oli Kikaha were unanimous selections. Two other players -- Tom Hackett and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- were consensus selections appearing on at least three of the five recognized teams.
This is the eighth straight year the Pac-12 has had a unanimous selection and the first time since 2005 it's had three in one year (Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Maurice Drew). The five recognized teams are the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Here's the final tally among the big five:
- QB, Marcus Mariota, Oregon, Jr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
- OL, Jake Fisher, Oregon, Sr., FWAA
- OL, Hroniss Grasu, Oregon, Sr., SN
- OL, Andrus Peat, Stanford, Jr., SN
- AP, Shaq Thompson, Washington, Jr., AP
- DL, Nate Orchard, Utah, Sr., FWAA-WC
- DL, Danny Shelton, Washington, Jr., AP-SN
- DL, Leonard Williams, USC, Jr., AFCA
- LB, Eric Kendricks, UCLA, Sr., SN
- LB, Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington, Sr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
- LB, Scooby Wright III, Arizona, So., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
- DB, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon, Sr., AFCA-AP-WC (consensus)
- P, Tom Hackett, Utah, Jr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-WC (consensus)
- PR, Kaelin Clay, Utah, Sr., SN
Just before the start of bowl season, the folks at Athlon Sports wanted to look back at the chaos that was the 2014 Pac-12 regular season. We've been running our pivotal plays series all week, so be sure to check that out. But Athlon looked at the top 15 games of the season. Here's their top five.
- Oct 2: Arizona 31, Oregon 24
- Oct. 4: Arizona State 38, USC 34
- Sept. 6: Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
- Oct. 25: Utah 24, USC 21
- Oct. 4: Utah 30, UCLA 28
You'll note that three of their five are from Week 6. We noted last week in our Roadtrip Revisited post that every game that week was unbelievable. If you click the link, they actually rate 30 games. Fairly surprised the Cal-WSU game (also in Week 6) didn't make the top 10. To each their own.
- A look at the three JC players who signed with Arizona.
- ASU signed a touted JC tight end.
- Former Cal quarterback Zach Kline will head to Indiana State.
- The Buffs are looking to JCs to boost their defense.
- Florida State doesn't feel like an underdog.
- The Beavers lost a TE commit to Boise State.
- Stanford has some familiarity with Maryland's offense.
- What does UCLA's roster look like in 2015?
- What a JC receiver had to say about his commitment to USC.
- Hackett more concerned about CSU than his accolades.
- Another commitment for the Huskies, plus an updated list of their commits.
- Jacob Thorpe updates WSU's DC search in his chat.
Really great read from our friend Max Olson on the Big 12 blog about the recruitment of linebacker Malik Jefferson. Some interesting UCLA notes in there.
It’s not an ideal loss for the middle of the USC defensive line when it is getting ready to face the strong rushing attack of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Woods offers a stout 6-foot-1, 325-pound presence that can be hard to move, and the Trojans will need to do some shuffling to fill the void. Delvon Simmons has moved over from defensive end in practice to take reps with the first unit, but USC coach Steve Sarkisian said the Trojans could also look at Leonard Williams, Claude Pelon or Cody Temple in that spot as well.
Moving Simmons is an enticing option. He’s an experienced transfer who had 43 tackles in his first season with the Trojans primarily in a back-up role. At 295 pounds he offers enough size to handle the role.
New Verbal: The Trojans added a verbal commitment on Thursday when Riverside City College wide receiver Isaac Whitney announced he would attend USC. Whitney is a member of the ESPN JC 50 and chose the Trojans over West Virginia. He joins De'Quan Hampton from Long Beach City College as a pair of 6-foot-4 targets for Sarkisian to add to his receiving corps next season, as both are expected to be utilized on bubble screens and in red-zone situations. Whitney had 49 catches for 809 yards and four touchdowns this fall for RCC.
USC now has 18 commitments for the class of 2015.
Team Awards: USC held its annual end-of-season banquet Wednesday night, with Leonard Williams walking away with team MVP honors. Williams, who was named an All-American for the second straight season, was also named the USC Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Max Tuerk was named Offensive Lineman of the Year, Cody Kessler won the Trojan Way Leadership Award, Randall Telfer was named Most Inspirational Player and Chad Wheeler won the Bob Chandler Award.
First, I just can’t get comfortable that they play in the Big Ten. Whatever happened to the Big 8 and that titanic traditional rivalry with Oklahoma? When was the last time the Cornhuskers won a national title? You hate to live in the past, but these can’t be today’s Big Red, can they?
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Every year, one of the big questions out West revolves around the Ducks' chances of finally grabbing that national championship. Oregon boasts Superman this year, and it's almost certainly Marcus Mariota's last campaign in Eugene. Though their defense suffered a major blow with the loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the Ducks have their man under center. They can't take this chance to win it all for granted: A playoff appearance is a golden opportunity for this powerful Oregon program to prove that it can finally bring home college football's ultimate hardware. Florida State, the defending champs, await in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual.
This, likely Brett Hundley's final season in Westwood, was supposed to be year the Bruins surged from "good" to "elite." But they slipped too often, and the timing of their last fall -- a 31-10 finale loss at the hands of Stanford -- couldn't have been worse. Now, the narrative has shifted back to the old "they can't win the big one" theme, and that's the exact perception UCLA wanted to avoid. They have a chance to make a cleansing statement versus a good Kansas State squad, also 9-3, in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The season started magically for the Utes -- aside from that 28-27 road bump at home against Washington State, of course. But after kicking 2014 off at 6-1, Utah dropped three of their last five games. They narrowly squeaked by Pac-12 bottom feeder Colorado to close the regular season, so it's fair to say that Kyle Whittingham's club stumbled to the finish line. An 8-4 record is nothing to scoff at, but the Utes could use a good stomping of Mountain West opponent Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. It would go a long way toward maintaining that "we've arrived as a force in the Pac-12" tone over the offseason.
The Sun Devils' season trajectory had some similarities with Utah's, though ASU lost one fewer game late in the season. Still, they were a one-loss team until a rough November knocked them out of the conference race. A Hyundai Sun Bowl date against fellow 9-3 competitor Duke has become ASU's consolation price, and that is quite the step down from the Rose Bowl aspirations Todd Graham's club harbored followings its November 8 win against Notre Dame. So it's important for the Sun Devils to reverse trajectory heading into the offseason, and they would also like to prove that they are better in December than last season's 37-23 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
The Wildcats were peaking at the right time ---- Oh wait, there was red-hot Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, and there were 24 yards of total offense for Arizona in the first half. Suddenly, Rich Rodriguez's club wasn't peaking at the right time. But the Wildcats can take solace in the fact that the Ducks have the ability to make good teams look foolish. They can also comfort themselves knowing that this VIZIO Fiesta Bowl is a prime chance to deliver a positive closing statement against a 10-2 Boise State team that loves that big stadium in Glendale.
Steve Sarkisian really needed that blowout victory over Notre Dame in the finale to dump the "seven win" moniker that online trolls gleefully tossed around following the Trojans' loss to UCLA. Sark got the powerful performance he was looking for, so he's 8-4 heading into a National University Holiday Bowl matchup against Nebraska. Sure, a postseason win would be nice for the Trojans, but they are lower on this list because there is not all that much for them left to prove this season. Regardless of whether they win or lose on December 27, we know who USC is: a very talented, somewhat flawed, and ultimately thin team that's excited about getting a clean slate in 2015.
There is very little the Cardinal can prove in their Foster Farms Bowl clash with Maryland on Dec. 30. Stanford capped a disappointing 7-5 regular season with a resounding 31-10 thumping of UCLA, and that performance made it very clear the Cardinal had underperformed in their games leading up to the finale. Now, David Shaw's team is a two-touchdown favorite against the Terrapins in a game 20 minutes away from campus, so there is really no chance to prove anything more than what the Cardinal already accomplished against the Bruins -- even in the case of a lopsided victory.
The Huskies managed eight wins in the first year of the Chris Petersen era, and they fought through some turmoil, too. The team delivered a strong finish following the dismissal of star cornerback Marcus Peters. So, the season has served as a solid foundation for Petersen to work with as he tries to assert himself in Seattle moving forward. It's hard to see the result of the TicketCity Cactus Bowl against 6-6 Oklahoma State swinging the vibe too far in either direction.
Leonard Williams, No. 50 in 2012 class
Williams was not a nationally talked about prospect through his junior season, but that all changed in the late spring of 2011 through his senior season. The Under Armour All-America Game alumni ended up signing with the USC, with the Trojans pulling the major upset over Florida, Florida State and Auburn for the Dayton Beach (Fla.) Mainland product. Williams was part of a Top 10 USC class that included Nelson Agholor, and offensive linemen Zach Banner, Max Tuerk, and Jordan Simmons.
Williams burst onto the scene as a freshman in Los Angeles. He not only appeared in all 13 games, but also started nine at defensive tackle. He had 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Following the season, he was named to various All-Pac 12 and Freshman All-American teams.
Williams moved to defensive end as a sophomore, and his dominance remained the same. In 13 starts, the 2013 All-Pac-12 first team selection recorded 74 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks.
In 2014, Williams' junior and likely final season at USC, he started 12 games making 71 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, again earning All-Pac-12 postseason honors. He was named AP All-American second team this week.
Should Williams forgo his final season of eligibility as expected, he is a near lock to be selected in the Top 10 picks of the 2015 NFL draft.
Honorable mention: LeSean McCoy, No. 50 in 2006 class. McCoy was originally headed to Miami (FL) out of high school, but the firing of Larry Coker led the explosive back to Pittsburgh to play for then head coach Dave Wannstedt after a year at prep school. He played only two years for the Panthers before heading to the NFL due to being three years removed from high school. After 3,365 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns in two seasons at Pittsburgh, McCoy was selected in the second round (No. 53 overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been selected to Pro Bowl’s following the 2011 and 2013 seasons. Two prospects ranked No. 50 that played at Florida -- Xavier Nixon (2009 class) and Jaylen Watkins (2010 class) -- currently play in the NFL. Ohio State sophomore safety Vonn Bell, No. 50 in 2013, is expected to be a high NFL draft choice in the next couple of years.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State