Last week, your humble #4pac made some bold predictions about the season and how it will play out. One of the predictions was that there would be six teams in the AP Top 25 come season’s end.

Now you’ve seen some Week 1 action and maybe you were impressed, maybe you were disappointed, maybe you were confused (or maybe you were just happy that football was finally back and you didn't care what happened because "it's just Week 1 anyway," right?).

SportsNation

How many Pac-12 teams will be in the AP Top 25 at the end of the season?

  •  
    16%
  •  
    44%
  •  
    34%
  •  
    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 779)

But how much did the Huskies' near loss at Hawaii bother you? Was there too much hype too soon for first-year coach Chris Petersen? Or with Cyler Miles getting the starting QB spot, are you feeling OK the Huskies coming back into the Top 25? What about UCLA’s offense? The Bruins' defense did work, but the offense took a while to get started. Are you reconsidering their spot as a top-10 or Top-25 team? Or was it just a one-half glitch? Maybe Taylor Kelly impressed you like he did the AP, earning a small bump up in the standings.

And it’s not hard to imagine that big moves that could be happening after this weekend. With Michigan State visiting Oregon in a top-10 matchup, a lopsided win or loss could push Oregon higher or move it much lower. We’ve seen that snowball before against a team that has similar characteristics to MSU. And USC-Stanford could have the same effects except that one Pac-12 team’s move up the poll is another Pac-12 team’s move down.

You’ve only seen a small sliver but after seeing each team take the field, we wanted to know your thoughts on how many teams you think will be in the Top 25 at the end of the season.

Just to remind you, here were the Pac-12 teams in the preseason AP Top 25:

3. Oregon
7. UCLA
11. Stanford
15. USC
19. Arizona State
25. Washington

And when the Week 2 votes came out today, here’s how things shook out:

3. Oregon
11. UCLA
13. Stanford
14. USC
17. Arizona State

So, there’s a bit of movement from Week 1 to Week 2. When all is said and done and the bowl games are wrapped up, how many Pac-12 teams will still be standing in the Top 25?
LOS ANGELES -- With USC’s highly anticipated clash at Stanford coming up Saturday, the Trojans took part in an intense, full-pads practice Tuesday. As the early morning session got underway, however, it became clear that one pivotal player was missing -- quarterback Cody Kessler.

Making his way onto Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field midway through the workout, Kessler was suited up but did not participate. Following practice USC head coach Steve Sarksian said that the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week had a procedure performed on his toe on Tuesday morning that ultimately kept him on the sideline, before adding that he anticipates him returning to action on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler, Adoree' Jackson
Harry How/Getty ImagesUSC quarterback Cody Kessler did not practice Tuesday due to a minor procedure on his toe earlier in the day.
“He had a deal with his toe that had been bothering him throughout the ball game, and we felt like we wanted to take care of it sooner rather than later,” Sarkisian said. “This morning was the first chance we could have a procedure done to get it, in our opinion, cleaned up. We expect him to be full-go tomorrow and to be ready to go for the game.”

Kessler called the procedure “minor,” and he appeared to have no doubt in his mind that he will return on Wednesday. In his absence Tuesday, redshirt freshman Max Browne ran the Trojans’ No. 1 offensive unit.

Browne, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 30 yards against Fresno State, performed solidly for the most part during Tuesday’s workout, although he did throw two interceptions.

“Max went in and played, and we really didn’t skip a beat,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he looked really good. Now, there were some things where there were some plays that we haven’t run in a while where details were off a little bit, but all-in-all I thought Max had a really good practice.”

Sarkisian said that, despite missing a day of game-week preparations for Stanford, he doesn’t anticipate Kessler falling behind the curve.

“We’re not putting anything in that we haven’t repped in training camp or even into last week, so Cody will be very comfortable with the game plan,” Sarkisian said. “He’s gotten a lot of reps. That’s part of the beauty of going up-tempo and getting the number of reps that we get in training camp and in a practice -- is that the quarterbacks are very comfortable with what we’re doing.”

More injury news

  • Defensive lineman Leonard Williams went to the sideline late in practice after rolling an ankle, but Sarkisian said that it doesn’t appear to be serious.
  • Starting right guard Damien Mama went down near the end of practice, clutching his right leg/knee and remaining on the ground for a few minutes. The big freshman did ultimately walk off the field under his own power, and Sarkisian said that he thought that Mama “got more scared than anything else.”

  • Tre Madden (turf toe) did not participate in practice, but he also didn’t have the boot on that he’s been wearing recently.


  • “I was visiting with Tre today,” Sarkisian said. “He is not 100 percent healthy yet, but he is much improved.”

  • Offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers (knee) suited up and took extensive reps with the No. 2 offense at left guard.
  • Offensive lineman Aundrey Walker suited up and took some reps with the No. 2 offense at left tackle.
  • Linebacker Lamar Dawson suited up but did not participate in the majority of practice.
No ill-feelings between Sarkisian and Shaw
Following Washington’s 31-28 loss to Stanford last season, Sarkisian -- then the Huskies’ head coach -- and Cardinal head coach David Shaw made headlines after they went back-and-forth following Sarkisian accusation that Shaw's players had faked injuries to slow down UW's up-tempo offensive attack.

Despite the disagreement between the two, Sarkisian said that he and Shaw are on good terms.

“It was in the heat of the moment,” Sarkisian said. “David and I addressed it over the next couple of days, and we moved on.

“Oddly enough David and I, and our wives were together in Hawaii this spring, so we’re in a good place. We’re competitive, we both want to win, we both want to win Saturday, and so we’re going to battle and compete this week and all day Saturday to try to win the game, which we should do: That’s why we’re in the position we are. And when the game is done, the game is done. There may be a disagreement Saturday as well, but that’s part of the business we’re in. That doesn’t affect our personal lives when we move out of that competitive forum.”
As much as USC coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford coach David Shaw would like to downplay their very public back-and-forth last season stemming from Sarkisian’s accusation that Stanford faked injuries, there is no avoiding the lingering effects.

Former Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner -- one of two players Sarkisian accused of faking injuries -- made that clear with a not-so-subtle joke on Twitter in the aftermath of the Josh Shaw fake-hero saga.



Clearly some tension remains.

Moments after Stanford's 31-28 win went final, Sarkisian told KJR 950-am in Seattle: "Their defensive line coach [Randy Hart] was telling them to sit down. I guess that's how we play here at Stanford, so we'll have to prepare for that next time."

Next time is this week.

When contacted by ESPN.com, Gardner said, more than anything, he was surprised by Sarkisian’s comments.

“Obviously, all of this is in the past, but we always pride ourselves at Stanford in doing things the right way and we try speak positively about our opponents and give credit where credit is due,” he said. “It was disappointing. To call out senior captains, guys like had been there a long time, and our coaches ... I felt like he was questioning our character and our integrity without really the background knowledge about us.”

The shoulder injury he suffered against the Huskies didn’t immediately hold Gardner out of any games, but it progressively got worse and eventually required season-ending surgery. Despite missing the final six games of the season, Gardner was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He'll miss this season, too, after dislocating his shoulder twice in training camp, which also required season-ending surgery.

To their credit, Shaw and Sarkisian have both seemingly moved on.

"We never talked about it again. It was over. It was in the past," Shaw said Tuesday. "[Sarkisian] and I sat together at lunch and breakfast a couple times and talked about a bunch of other things. Our wives are getting to become good friends; they know each other well. There’s no animosity whatsoever."

When asked if he and Shaw had patched things up, Sarkisian echoed what Shaw said.

"I think, first of all, I have a great deal of respect for David as a coach and as a person," Sarkisian said. "We had a disagreement in the heat of the moment and I think both of us have moved on. We’ve seen each other on different occasions since then. We were in Hawaii together at an event. We haven’t spoken on it and I think our relationship is fine. We’ve moved on."

Kickoff for Saturday's matchup between No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford is set for 3:30 p.m., ET on ABC.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
5:00
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If there is anything more exciting than bowl projections after one week, I haven’t seen it. Maybe one or two things … mixed competitive potato farming … root canals … etc.

You know these are coming every week, so just bear with us.

We don’t have much data to work with. I’m thinking a couple of things might get sorted out when USC travels to Stanford next week. And there will be some critical games to keep an eye on in the future (Utah vs. Washington State on Sept. 27, Cal at Washington State on Oct. 4, etc.).

Just a refresher of how things work in the new College Football Playoff era: After the four playoff teams are picked, the selection committee will also pick at-large games for the Fiesta, Peach, Orange and Cotton bowls.

The flexibility in bowl arrangements might shake some things up also. Some conferences have moved away from the traditional “in-order” selection process and moved to a “tier” process.

It’s early, so if you see your team listed, great. If you don’t, don’t get into too much of a huff yet. (What am I thinking? Of course you're going to get into a huff.)

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford
Valero Alamo Bowl: UCLA
National University Holiday Bowl: USC
San Francisco Bowl: ASU
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Washington
Cactus Bowl: Oregon State
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Utah

*-At large
As far as the Pac-12 is concerned, there wasn't much of a shakeup in the first AP poll of the season that took actual games to take into account.

Oregon remained at No. 3, followed by No. 11 UCLA, No. 13 Stanford, No. 14 USC and No. 17 Arizona State. Washington, which began the season at No. 25, fell from the rankings after its narrow win against Hawaii.

Here's a closer look at the fluctuation of teams:

No. 3 Oregon: After receiving one first-place vote in the preseason poll, the Ducks received five this week. Only top-ranked Florida State (46) has more first-place votes than Oregon, which hosts No. 7 Michigan State this week. It will be the first nonconference matchup between top-10 teams in the history of Autzen Stadium. Oregon is just three points behind Alabama in the rankings.

No. 11 UCLA: Fell four spots from No. 7 after its 28-20 win at Virginia. Georgia (6), Michigan State (7), Texas A&M (9) and Baylor (10) are the four teams that jumped the Bruins.

No. 13 Stanford: It was hard to really learn much from the Cardinal's 45-0 win against UC Davis as far as how the team stacks up against the nation's elite, but it's still mildly amusing to see a team fall two spots with that kind of performance. Of course, it's also easy to explain considering the teams that jumped them -- Texas A&M and LSU -- both beat teams that are still in the Top 25.

No. 14 USC: Of the ranked Pac-12 teams in Week 1, USC had the best performance compared to what expectations were going into the game. The Trojans picked up about 100 points in the poll and moved up one spot.

No. 17 Arizona State: Like Oregon and Stanford, ASU treated its FCS opponent as expected. The Sun Devils are up two spots and were passed only by Texas A&M.

Washington: The Huskies received 34 votes, down from 130 in the preseason, which technically puts them at No. 34.

Arizona: The Wildcats picked up four votes after dismantling UNLV. And if you must know, that's good for No. 44.

Oregon State: After overcoming a halftime deficit against Portland State, the Beavers, who had 10 preseason votes, no longer have an AP support. However, the performance was good enough to pick up an extra vote in the coaches' poll -- jumping from four to five votes. Go figure.

The College Football Playoff committee, responsible for selecting the four teams to play in this year's inaugural playoff, will release its first Top 25 rankings Oct. 28 on ESPN.

Cody Kessler will play Saturday

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
11:58
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[+] EnlargeCody Kessler, Adoree' Jackson
Harry How/Getty ImagesCody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns against Fresno State, one to Adoree' Jackson.

LOS ANGELES -- USC quarterback Cody Kessler missed part of practice to undergo a procedure on one of his toes.

Kessler says he'll be fine to play when the 14th-ranked Trojans (1-0) visit No. 13 Stanford (1-0) on Saturday.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said Kessler was bothered by a toe injury throughout USC's 52-13 victory over Fresno State last weekend. Kessler was named the Pac-12's offensive player of the week after passing for a career-best 394 yards with four touchdowns and rushing for one.

Sarkisian says Kessler couldn't get the unspecified procedure done on his toe until Tuesday morning.

"He got it cleaned up, and we expect him to be ready to go for the ballgame," Sarkisian said.

Kessler is beginning his second season as USC's starting quarterback. He started all 14 games last season as a sophomore, passing for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.


(Read full post)


Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
2:00
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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
10:00
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The Oregon Ducks made the biggest splash on the recruiting trail over the weekend, landing a commitment from ESPN 300 athlete Malik Lovette. The Ducks had the nation's No. 276 prospect on campus for an official visit and sealed the deal rather quickly. Elsewhere, it was a fairly quiet weekend for the conference overall, as three Thursday games, two Friday game and several away games left only four programs hosting Saturday contests and even fewer official visitors.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
8:00
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Leading off

Week 2 brings two of the most anticipated games of the college football season, with Michigan State traveling to Oregon and Stanford hosting USC. Nationally, most are calling the Sparty-Duck game the No. 1 nonconference matchup in college football this year. The Pac-12 blog agrees. And we know what Stanford and USC have been like the last few seasons. It's a good week to be a Pac-12 fan. Here's what some folks are saying about the matchups.

Athlon Sports on Oregon-Michigan State:
We don't really know anything about either team after lopsided victories in Week 1. Sparty crushed poor Jacksonville State 45-7, while the Ducks routed lowly South Dakota 62-13. This is the ultimate contrast in schemes with Marcus Mariota leading one of the nation's most powerful spread attacks and Pat Narduzzi directing one the gnarliest defensive units in the land.

And their take on Stanford-USC:
Look for quarterbacks Kevin Hogan (204 yds, 4 total TD) and Cody Kessler (394 yds, 4 TD) to build on excellent Week 1 performances. Stanford is looking for revenge after a late-season upset at the hands of the Trojans in Los Angeles a year ago, and the loser will fall a game behind higher-ranked division contenders.

Sports Illustrated previews the MSU-Oregon game as well, with a focus on what this game could mean for the playoff selection committee down the road:
The ramifications of the result from Eugene will transcend what Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun do on the field, as the season’s marquee non-conference game provides precious data points in comparing the Big Ten and the Pac-12.

And our own Ted Miller hit on this yesterday.

Bowling talk

One of the bolder predictions in the preseason came from Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, who pegged the Washington Huskies as the team to beat in North. Here is his weekly notebook with news and notes and his opinion from around college football. Top to bottom, it’s a good read with plenty of Pac-12 goodies in there. But the one most readers will stop on are his predictions for the six bowl games on New Year’s Day, which still include Washington and UCLA.
Am I feeling a little skittish about my UCLA and Washington picks right about now? Of course. Will I be swapping out Michigan State for Ohio State this time next week? Quite possibly. But I’d like to watch more than one game before jumping to any grand conclusions. After all, a year ago Auburn barely survived Washington State at home in its season opener and Michigan State could barely move the ball against Western Michigan. They wound up a combined 25-3.
Tune in

For all of your audio needs, you can check out the Solid Verbal podcast. They recap a lot of what happened in the Pac-12 (starting at about the 38:20 mark). Among the topics:
  • Some praise for California.
  • Should we freak out about UCLA?
  • Washington's struggles.
  • Washington State-Rutgers.

Worth a listen if you have the time.

News/notes/team reports

*I posted the updated depth charts last week for each team. Is that a weekly feature you guys want? Tweet at me and let me know.

Just for fun

Never hurts to keep an eye on this:



Nice to see Cal players celebrating.

Pac-12 QB Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
3:00
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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 10 returning starters, including a handful who are expected to be All-American candidates and early NFL draft picks, it’s almost difficult to keep up with who’s doing what to whom’s 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. If our ratings seem inconsistent and they frustrate you at times, well, we just feel so horrible about that.

Honorable mention:
Brett Hundley, UCLA, Connor Halliday, Washington State, Taylor Kelly, Arizona State: Three big names end up here after being outshined by others, at least for one week. Hundley was victimized by poor offensive line play at Virginia and mostly played well under intense pressure, but he gets hit for he and his team falling well short of expectations. One offensive touchdown ... really? Halliday gets a hat tip for putting up huge numbers in a loss, but it was a disappointing season-opening loss. Ergo, only a hat tip. Kelly put up solid if unspectacular numbers against a terrible opponent.

Recruiting notebook

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
3:30
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The first day college coaches can call Class of 2015 recruits as part of the fall recruiting calendar is Sept. 1.

For USC coach Steve Sarkisian, the sales pitch for his calls today was made a lot easier by what his team did over the weekend.

"Hello, Mister Recruit, did you watch our game?"

There can be no better way to attract recruits than by putting a good product on the field, and the Trojans did that in a big way on Saturday in a 52-13 victory against Fresno State. Recruits were able to see a modern up-tempo offense get the ball to a bevy of athletes and the results were mind-boggling. They also saw a physical defensive front lead the way to a four-interception day.

All of that is important in the minds of recruits, but perhaps the most important number for Sarkisian was 11. As in 11 true freshmen played, and they not only played, they had an impact on the game. Three of those true freshman started (receiver JuJu Smith, left guard Toa Lobendahn and right guard Damien Mama) and three scored touchdowns (Smith, Adoree' Jackson and Bryce Dixon).

"I’m not surprised," Sarkisian said of his talented freshmen stepping up in their first game. "We know the importance of this freshman class. We needed them to come in and contribute to have success."

Smith had a team-leading 123 yards on four catches, including a 53-yarder that showed speed to go along with his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame. Jackson had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, also getting credit for one tackle on defense and providing good pass coverage. Dixon added a 22-yard touchdown. Ajene Harris had a catch. Viane Talamaivao saw plenty of time on the offensive line. On defense, Uchenna Nwosu had a pair of tackles and Olajuwon Tucker added one.

"Ever since the summer in practices these guys have come wanting to learn," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said of the freshmen. "We threw them in there, and I knew that they were going to run the right route and not miss their assignments. I was excited for them, especially in their first game."

With an offense that ran a conference-record 105 plays, Sarkisian will be able to show recruits there is immediate opportunity. He proved he is willing to start a true freshman by putting three of them in the lineup for the opener. Even those who don’t start were able to get plenty of reps in reserve to give the starters a rest. There was rotation, not only with guys like Dixon and Harris, but Talamaivao was one of those who rotated in on the line. And Jackson saw time on offense, defense and special teams, a truly remarkable feat.

"I thought Adoree' did well," Sarkisian said. "He really had an impact on all three phases. He had a great look in his eye, and the game was never too big for him."

Do you think Adoree’s former Serra teammates John Houston and Rasheem Green noticed his contribution? Or did Iman Marshall notice his former Poly teammate Smith? Of course they did. And plenty of other recruits noticed as well. Now Sarkisian will look to capitalize on that strong early impression to get the recruiting cycle started on the right foot. He’s definitely off to a good beginning after the opening game.

.

A look at the stats some recruits recorded in their games this past weekend:

CLASS OF 2015

QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente): USC commit passed for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Also rushed for 78 yards and two more touchdowns in a 38-22 victory against Garfield.

QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure): USC commit completed 21 of 39 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-20 loss to Helix.

RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): USC commit had 23 carries for 193 yards and 4 TDs in a 56-34 victory against South Oak Cliff.

WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast): USC commit caught seven passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in a 41-6 victory against Ribault.

WR Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro): Had 117 yards rushing, 186 yards receiving and 63 yards on two punt returns in a 41-14 victory against Scottsdale Chaparral.

CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly): Was strong on the defensive side of the ball and chipped in on offense with a 10-yard touchdown reception in a 54-14 victory against Crenshaw.

DE Joseph Wicker (Long Beach, Calif./ Poly): Recorded six sacks.

ATH Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills): In a 42-7 victory against Payson, Gustin completed 13 of 23 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns at quarterback. He also rushed for 52 yards and one touchdown. On defense he had 11 tackles with 1 sack.

WR Cordell Broadus (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Hauled in five passes for 73 yards and one touchdown in a 48-27 victory against Servite.

WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite): Made a handful of catches, including a 49-yard touchdown in a 48-27 loss to Bishop Gorman.

RB Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas/Plano West): Ran for 120 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries. Also caught two passes for 64 yards and one touchdown in 44-7 victory agaist Mesquite.

RB Dexter Williams (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange): Miami commit rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown in 27-24 victory against Boone. Williams recently revealed that he plans on taking an official visit to USC.

QB Caleb Wilson (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Completed 8 of 15 passes for 142 yards. Also rushed for one touchdown in a 24-6 victory against Lakewood.

RB Malik Roberson (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Ran for 43 yards and one touchdown.

WR Trent Irwin (Newhall, Calif./Hart): Caught 10 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown in a 63-48 loss to Chino Hills.

CLASS OF 2016

ATH Mique Juarez (Torrance, Calif./North): One sack, one interception, and a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD in a 13-10 victory against Redondo Union.

QB K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic): Passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-21 victory against Bishop Amat.

QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy): Completed 8 of 16 passes for 84 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in a 33-14 victory against Ouachita Christian.

S C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Compiled five tackles.

CLASS OF 2017

ATH Nathan Tilford (Upland, Calif./Upland): Rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries in a 71-0 victory against Knight.

QB Tate Martell (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Completed 9 of 15 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Also rushed for 110 yards.

Osiris St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite): Had six receptions for 141 yards.

Pac-12 names players of the week

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
6:30
PM PT
video

USC quarterback Cody Kessler, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks and Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay have been named the Pac-12's players of the week.

Kessler is the offensive player for posting a career-high 394 passing yards in USC's 52-13 win over Fresno State. He tossed four touchdown passes and also rushed for one.

Kendricks was named defensive player of the week for a 16-tackle effort in UCLA's 28-20 road win over Virgnia. The Bruins turned in three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter, including an interception that Kendricks returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Kendricks, who was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week, also forced a fumble that led to another touchdown.

Clay took home this week's special-teams honors for returning a pair of kicks for touchdowns in Utah's 56-14 win over Idaho State. The first was a 46-yard punt return late in the first half. Later in the game he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. He became the league's first player since Cal's Deltha O'Neal in 1999 to score off a punt and a kicker return in the same game.

USC ready for revenge-minded Stanford

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
12:26
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Having toyed with the Fresno State Bulldogs in their 52-13 season-opening victory in the Coliseum on Saturday, things take a dramatic upturn as the USC Trojans get ready for this weekend’s trip to Palo Alto and the revenge-minded Stanford Cardinal.

Head coach David Shaw’s Cardinal, no doubt, will be seeking retribution after last season’s gut-wrenching, 20-17 upset loss to the Trojans in Los Angeles, which sparked a stampede of Cardinal and Gold faithful onto the hollowed turf of the Coliseum upon the game’s stirring conclusion.

Fond memories of that USC triumph still resonate with returning Trojans players, especially sophomore strong safety Su'a Cravens.

Just ask the 2013 freshman All-American about his recollections of last November’s upset win and the current state of the USC/Stanford series, and Craven’s Hollywood smile quickly turns Tony Soprano serious.

“My interception, of course, the field goal, and team ball,” said Cravens, recalling his pick of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in the fourth quarter last season, which helped set up Andre Heidari's game-winning 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.

“In the last couple of years Stanford has made it a rivalry, not as intense as UCLA or Notre Dame, but this is a big game coming up this weekend,” Cravens said. “They are going to be on all their Ps and Qs and so will we.”

Stanford, which opened its season at home Saturday by destroying UC Davis 45-0, obviously doesn’t have pleasant memories of the last time these two private universities met, and Shaw will have his troops good and ready for payback.

Adding to the intrigue for this Saturday’s Pac-12 opener for both teams will be the Trojans' freshmen-on-the-road factor, an element that didn’t play out in a negative way against Fresno State.

You can bet Stanford will be looking to physically and mentally intimidate Steve Sarkisian’s inexperienced, wide-eyed USC freshmen, all of whom played significant roles against Fresno State.

Having been a freshman last season, Cravens has some advice for his younger teammates as it relates to the Cardinal.

“Don’t make the game bigger than what it is,” Cravens said. “It’s a long season and I understand it’s Stanford, but it’s your game and don’t let anybody else distract you.”

Junior linebacker Anthony Sarao, once a Stanford commit, added to Cravens' advice by saying, “Take every practice this week one at a time and get ready for Stanford’s physicality by being in the film room.”

And what kind of game does Cravens expect for the noon kickoff in Northern California?

“It’s going to be a physical game,” Cravens smiled. “They like to keep it in between the tackles.”

And Cravens isn’t alone in his assessment for the upcoming Cardinal confrontation.

“It’s going to be big on big,” echoed All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

And somewhere legendary Trojans defensive line coach Marv Goux must be smiling.

Pac-12 morning links

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

Leading off

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

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

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

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

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

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

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

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

 

Georgia, USC benefit big in Week 1

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
10:13
PM PT
For more information on the rankings here, check out the Football Power Index and Dean Oliver's primer on this metric used by the Stats & Information analytics team.

What were the top analytical and statistical storylines from Week 1 of the college football season?

Georgia is the new favorite in the SEC
Georgia’s chances of winning the SEC greatly improved in Week 1.

The Bulldogs’ win over Clemson and South Carolina’s loss to Texas A&M combined to raise Georgia’s chances of winning the SEC East from 29 percent (in preseason) to 62 percent and its overall chance of winning the SEC from 11 percent to 31 percent, via ESPN’s FPI rating.

The Bulldogs jumped from 14th to sixth in the rankings. That was the third-biggest FPI ranking jump of any Top-25 team after Week 1, behind Nebraska (up 13 spots to 28) and Texas A&M (up eight spots to No. 8).

South Carolina’s probability of winning the SEC East plummeted from 41 percent to 11 percent and its chance of winning the SEC fell from 19 percent to four percent.

Clemson and South Carolina had the two biggest drops in FPI rankings among teams in the Top 25, with Clemson falling 17 spots (to 30th) and South Carolina slipping 13 (to 20th). They were followed by North Carolina, which dropped 12 spots to 31 despite beating Liberty, 56-29.

North Carolina’s win against Liberty may have seemed dominant based on the 56-29 final score, but the Tar Heels trailed Liberty early in the second half before scoring 28 straight points. Their average in-game win probability ranked 29th out of 59 teams that won on Saturday.

USC rises in Pac-12
USC jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 in FPI after defeating Fresno State on Saturday. Conversely, UCLA dropped in FPI from No. 4 to No. 7 after its offense struggled on the road against Virginia.

USC now has the second-best chance to win the Pac-12 behind Oregon and the No. 1 chance to win the Pac-12 South.

USC travels to Stanford on Saturday in a game with conference implications. The Football Power Index gives the Trojans a 51.6% chance to win the game, and it is projected to be the closest Pac-12 game of the year.

Comeback of the week: LSU over Wisconsin
LSU came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Wisconsin 28-24. Not only was that the largest comeback of the week, but LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (35 percent) of any team that won on Saturday. The Tigers had an above-average chance to win on only 16 percent of their plays.

LSU’s win probability dipped to six percent early in the third quarter after Wisconsin took a 24-7 lead. The Tigers went on to score 21 straight points to win the game.

Unlikeliest wins of Week 1
Based on ESPN’s FPI projections, UTSA’s win against Houston was the most unlikely win by an FBS team against another FBS team in Week 1. FPI gave UTSA a 19 percent chance to win entering the game.

Other significant upsets included Temple (30 percent chance to win) over Vanderbilt, Colorado State (34 percent chance to win) over Colorado and Rutgers (34 percent chance to win) over Washington State.

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