Pac-12 morning links

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
Come son of Jor-El. Kneel before Zod. Snootchie boochies!

Leading off

It's depth chart Wednesday! There are four teams on bye this week -- Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and USC -- so we won't update them until next week. Here are the updated depth charts for the other eight.
Some observations: Mark your calendars

The Pac-12 released the 2015 schedule on Tuesday and Kyle Bonagura broke it down last night. You can just scroll down, because it's the post right below this one. Or if you're really lazy, just click here.

Some of the key matches that jump out are Michigan's trip to Utah in a rematch of this weekend's game, Arizona State vs. Texas A&M at Reliant Stadium and a rematch of Oregon-Michigan State, with the Ducks traveling to B1G country this time around.

There's the usual matchups of Notre Dame vs. USC and Stanford, plus Oregon State travels to Michigan and Cal heads to Texas. And don't think the Cougars won't have vengeance on their mind when they go to Rutgers.

P-A-C vs. S-E-C

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News broke down the nonconference performances thus far of the Pac-12 and the SEC to find the answer to the question: Who is better?

He crunches the results, makes a couple of predictions, and leaves us with this result:
The Pac-12 hasn’t outperformed the SEC thus far in Power 5 results and has no discernible advantage going forward in the quantity or quality of its Power 5 games.
News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

Ever wonder what Mike Leach or Steve Sarkisian would look like if they were the subject of the Mona Lisa? We haven't either, thank goodness someone has.

Three times the jinx? We're kidding.

There wasn’t any doubt about the message that Steve Sarkisian has sent in the past regarding the identity he wanted to establish with his USC offense.

“I’ve been clear about the fact that I want to run the football,” Sarkisian said. “I want us to be a physical, run-first football team.”

That’s exactly what the Trojans did during the first two weeks of the season. In the opener against Fresno State, USC ran the ball 64 times for 277 yards. The numbers weren’t as gaudy against a physical Stanford team -- 37 attempts for 156 yards -- but the effort came in an emotional win and there were no complaints. Against Boston College, however, things went a bit sideways.

[+] EnlargeJavorius Allen
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaJavorius Allen and the USC running game were completely throttled by Boston College.
The Trojans ended the game with 20 total rushing yards. To put that number into perspective, consider that Pittsburgh ran for over 300 yards on the same Eagles defense the previous week. It was the lowest rushing total for a USC team since the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.

The result was surprising, yes, but there were legitimate items to explain it. Three of the four guards in the offensive line rotation are true freshmen, and the fourth was seeing his first game action of the season after missing most of last season with a knee injury. There is also a new starter at right tackle who is seeing his first action as a Trojan this season. This is not to say that the blame is placed on the shoulders of these players, but miscommunication on the line was a factor in the last week’s performance, and the inexperience of the group has to be considered part of that cause.

“They [Boston College] took great advantage of our young offensive line, and that depends on communication,” Sarkisian said. “It’s one thing to come in with a plan and realize they are defensing it; it’s another thing to make the adjustment to what they are doing. We didn’t do that well and a confused football player is not a very good football player.”

USC quarterback Cody Kessler put the responsibility on the players to execute the plays that are called.

"We had a lot of missed assignments when we were trying to establish the run but the play calls were there, the looks we wanted were there,” Kessler said.

With the USC run game stopped, the Boston College defense was able to pin its ears back and get after Kessler to the tune of five sacks. Kessler actually had a pretty good game, completing 31 of 41 passes for 317 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. It continues a pattern of efficient play for Kessler, who eight touchdowns and no interceptions along with a 71% completion percentage this season.

“Protecting the ball is my biggest thing and I've been doing an OK job with that right now,” Kessler said.

There were a lot of USC fans who would have been happy to see Kessler throw the ball even more against Boston College when it was clear that the run game wasn’t working. When Sarkisian held his weekly call with the media on Sunday night, he admitted that, in hindsight, throwing the ball more might have been the proper thing to do.

“I want to run the ball but we have to make sure we aren’t being stubborn about it,” Sarkisian said. “Over the last two weeks we’ve had a lot of three-and-outs, and the key for us to get our play count up and really get the tempo going is to get first downs. We need to figure out who we are on offense, what is our identity? Are we a run-to-pass team or a pass-to-run team? When is the time right to pass to set up the run? We need to figure that out so that we can play to our strengths. Last night might have been a perfect example of that.”

For the head coach to admit to reconsidering a major focus of his offensive strategy has received mixed reviews among USC fans. There are certainly some who welcome the honestly and the willingness to be flexible about what is working with the personnel of your team. There are also others who question how the original premise could change so quickly.

Of course, there is no clear answer to fixing what went wrong against Boston College, just as it might be an overreaction to change much of anything because of one bad game. Sometimes there isn’t any amount of strategy that is going to work if you are getting physically beat on both sides of the line, as the Trojans were Saturday. That is more surprising than any rushing total or completion percentage. I just don’t think there were too many people who expected the Eagles to overpower the Trojans, yet that is exactly what happened.

Any changes in offensive strategy during the bye week will likely depend upon the comfort level between coaches and players in terms of adjustments. Sarkisian called it “in-game adversity” when you have a situation like Saturday where the defense throws some complicated stunts and twists at a young offensive line to cause confusion. Where do you go? How do you adjust? It’s a fine line that Sarkisian and his staff will need to walk, and it will be very interesting how it plays out with the USC offense in the coming weeks.

2015 Pac-12 football schedule

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
We're three weeks into 2014 ... so let's talk about 2015.

The Pac-12 released the full 2015 football schedule Tuesday, which begins the third cycle of scheduling among conference teams since the 2011 expansion.

We've known about most of these games for awhile, but it's still fun to scan them all in one place. Chris Petersen's return to Boise State, Arizona State's trip to Houston to play Texas A&M and the state of Oregon against the state of Michigan (on the same day) immediately stand out.

10 notable nonconference games
  • Michigan at Utah
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • BYU at UCLA
  • California at Texas
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Notre Dame at Stanford

Here is the full schedule:

Week 1

Thursday, Sept. 3
  • UTSA at Arizona
  • Michigan at Utah
Saturday, Sept. 5
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M, NRG Stadium, Houston
  • Arkansas State at USC
  • Virginia at UCLA
  • Colorado at Hawaii
  • Eastern Washington at Oregon
  • Weber State at Oregon State
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Portland State at Washington State
  • Grambling State at California
  • Stanford at Northwestern
Week 2

Saturday, Sept. 12
  • Arizona at Nevada
  • Cal Poly at Arizona State
  • Idaho at USC
  • UCLA at UNLV
  • UMass at Colorado
  • Utah State at Utah
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Sacramento State at Washington
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • San Diego State at California
  • Central Florida at Stanford
Week 3

Saturday, Sept. 19
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona
  • New Mexico at Arizona State
  • Stanford at USC
  • BYU at UCLA
  • Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
  • Utah at Fresno State
  • Georgia State at Oregon
  • San Jose State at Oregon State
  • Utah State at Washington
  • Wyoming at Washington State
  • California at Texas
Week 4

Friday, Sept. 25
  • Stanford at Oregon State
Saturday, Sept. 26
  • UCLA at Arizona
  • USC at Arizona State
  • Nicholls State at Colorado
  • Utah at Oregon
  • California at Washington
Week 5

Saturday, Oct. 3
  • Arizona at Stanford
  • Arizona State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Colorado
  • Washington State at California
Week 6

Thursday, Oct. 8
  • Washington at USC
Saturday, Oct. 10
  • Oregon State at Arizona
  • Colorado at Arizona State
  • California at Utah
  • Washington State at Oregon
Week 7

Thursday, Oct. 15
  • UCLA at Stanford
Saturday, Oct. 17
  • Arizona at Colorado
  • Arizona State at Utah
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Oregon at Washington
  • Oregon State at Washington State
Week 8

Thursday, Oct. 22
  • California at UCLA
Saturday, Oct. 24
  • Washington State at Arizona
  • Utah at USC
  • Colorado at Oregon State
  • Washington at Stanford
Week 9

Thursday, Oct. 29
  • Oregon at Arizona State
Saturday, Oct. 31
  • Arizona at Washington
  • USC at California
  • Colorado at UCLA
  • Oregon State at Utah
  • Stanford at Washington State
Week 10

Saturday, Nov. 7
  • Arizona at USC
  • Arizona State at Washington State
  • UCLA at Oregon State
  • Stanford at Colorado
  • Utah at Washington
  • California at Oregon
Week 11

Friday, Nov. 13
  • USC at Colorado
Saturday, Nov. 14
  • Utah at Arizona
  • Washington at Arizona State
  • Washington State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Stanford
  • Oregon State at California
Week 12

Saturday, Nov. 21
  • Arizona at Arizona State
  • USC at Oregon
  • UCLA at Utah
  • Colorado at Washington State
  • California at Stanford
  • Washington at Oregon State
Week 13

Friday, Nov. 27
  • Oregon State at Oregon
  • Washington State at Washington
Saturday, Nov. 28
  • Arizona State at California
  • UCLA at USC
  • Colorado at Utah
  • Notre Dame at Stanford
Friday, Dec. 4
  • Pac-12 Championship Game, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Pac-12 by the numbers: Week 4

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Here's another look at random stats pertaining to the Pac-12.

Hawaii at Colorado
  • WR Nelson Spruce has accounted for 39.7 percent of Colorado's receiving yards, the second-highest percentage in the conference.
  • The Buffaloes have picked up 43 first downs from pass plays, second most in the Pac-12.
  • Colorado is the only team in the Pac-12 that has been outscored this year (minus-25).
Utah at Michigan
  • Nine of Utah's 14 touchdown drives have taken two minutes or less.
  • Utah scores on 70 percent of drives where it gets the initial first down.
  • QB Travis Wilson is one of 10 players in the country with at least six touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Georgia State at Washington
  • Georgia State, a second-year FBS program, has never beaten a FBS team.
  • WR John Ross is averaging 37.3 yards per reception on six catches -- half of which have gone for touchdowns.
  • In two games with Cyler Miles at quarterback, Washington has averaged 51.5 points and 500.5 yards per game.
California at Arizona
  • Cal has lost 14 consecutive Pac-12 games, the second-longest conference losing streak in the country.
  • According to, Arizona opened as a 17-point favorite, but dropped to as low as nine points Tuesday morning.
  • Cal ranks third in the Pac-12, converting on 51.5 percent of its third-down chances.
  • Arizona ranks No. 8 nationally and No. 1 in the Pac-12 on offense, averaging 582.7 yards per game.
  • Cal ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in rush defense (113 yards per game) and Arizona is No. 3 (116.0)
San Diego State at Oregon State
  • Oregon State has allowed one more rushing first down (11) than via penalty (10).
  • San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion played against each other in the same high school league.
  • Mannion ranks No. 2 among active FBS quarterbacks with 11,064 career passing yards.
Oregon at Washington State
  • Oregon has scored at least 14 points in a national-best 68 straight games.
  • Both teams rank in the top 15 nationally in total offense: 10. Oregon (573.3); 15. WSU (557.0)
  • Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ranks third nationally averaging 11.35 yards per pass attempt.
  • Oregon safety Erick Dargan, who chose the Ducks over WSU, leads the nation with three interceptions -- tied with four others.
  • WSU teammates Isiah Myers and Vince Mayle are the only teammates that both rank in the top 15 in receptions -- Myers is No. 5 with 26; Mayle is No. 7 with 25.
National individual leaders

Passing touchdowns
t1. Connor Halliday, WSU — 12
t13. Sefo Liufau, Colorado — 8
t13. Marcus Mariota, Oregon — 8
t13. Cody Kessler, USC — 8
t13. Anu Solomon, Arizona — 8

4. Mariota, Oregon — 93.3
6. Taylor Kelly, ASU — 92.1
9. Jared Goff, Cal — 90.1
11. Travis Wilson, Utah — 87.5
14. Cyler Miles, Washington — 85.2

Rushing yards
3. D.J. Foster, Arizona State — 510
4. Nick Wilson, Arizona — 449

Rushing touchdowns
t8. Royce Freeman, Oregon — 5
t8. Foster, ASU — 5

Receiving yards
4. Isiah Myers, WSU — 423
10. Nelson Spruce, Colorado — 346

Receiving touchdowns
1. Spruce, Colorado — 6
t2. Myers, WSU — 5

Yards from scrimmage
1. Foster, ASU — 649
9. Wilson, Arizona — 470

1. Danny Shelton, Washington — 6
t3. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington — 5

Defensive touchdowns
1. Shaq Thompson, Washington — 2

Field goals
3. Casey Skowron, Arizona — 7

Pac-12 team stats

Offensive touchdown drive percentage
1. Oregon — 56.8
2. Utah — 50
3. Arizona State — 45.2
4. Cal — 40.7
5. Arizona — 36.8
6. Washington State — 35
7. Washington — 34.2
8. Stanford — 33.3
9. USC — 30
10. Colorado — 25
11. Oregon State — 23.3
12. UCLA — 23.1

Defensive touchdown drive percentage
1. Stanford — 2.8
2. Oregon — 15.8
3. Arizona — 17.9
4. Arizona State — 18.6
5. Cal — 19.2
6. Utah — 19.4
7. UCLA — 20
8. USC — 20.5
9. Oregon State — 20.7
10. Washington State — 24.4
11. Washington — 26.3
12. Colorado — 35

Offensive 3-and-out percentage
1. Arizona — 5.3
2. Stanford — 6.1
3. Colorado — 10
3. Washington State — 10
5. Cal — 14.8
6. UCLA — 15.4
7. Oregon — 16.2
8. Washington — 18.4
t9. Oregon State — 20
t9. USC — 20
t11. Arizona State — 21.4
t11. Utah — 21.4

Defensive 3-and-out percentage
1. Utah — 45.2
2. Stanford — 38.9
3. Arizona — 35.9
4. Washington State — 31.7
5. Oregon State — 27.6
6. Washington — 26.3
7. UCLA — 25
t8. USC — 23.1
t8. Cal — 23.1
10. Arizona State — 20.9
11. Colorado — 20
12. Oregon — 15.8

Past weeks
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

USC Trojans practice report

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
The Trojans jumped back into the flow of things Tuesday for the first time since suffering a stunning 37-31 defeat at the hands of Boston College this past weekend. Taking part in a physical, full-pads practice session inside Loker Stadium highlighted by an extensive amount of 11-on-11 work, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said that he liked what he saw from his team coming off the loss, and that the bye week might just have come at the ideal time.

“Sure, we’d all love to be playing this Saturday, and have moved on from the ball game and focus in on a new opponent and all those things, but the other side of me says we need this bye week, and we need to get better,” Sarkisian said. “A bye week doesn’t mean a week off, it means we have to get better individually, we have to get better collectively, so part of that is that this is a great opportunity for us to take advantage of this week, and I thought we had that type of practice today.”

Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 31 of 41 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles, agreed with his head coach.

“I thought it was great,” Kessler said. “Guys were flying around. I feel like we got that competition back today. We didn’t have to do any service squad or scout team [work], we got to compete all day. We got to go against each other -- ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos -- and kind of get after it, which was nice, especially after last week. A lot of guys were upset after that, so it was nice to get out here in full pads and kind of hit a little bit and go up against each other.”

Morgan done with football at USC

Senior tailback-turned-safety D.J. Morgan will no longer play football at USC. He will now focus on track while also continuing to train for a potential shot at an opportunity in professional football.

Morgan has battled injuries since his senior year in high school at Woodland Hills (California) Taft, when he tore ligaments in his knee.

Morgan was a former prep standout as a hurdler and sprinter. In 2009 he placed first in the under-17 age group 110-meter high hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Italy with a time of 13.28.

Injury update
  • Leonard Williams (ankle), Tre Madden (turf toe), JuJu Smith (ankle) and Randall Telfer did not practice on Tuesday.

  • “We had about four guys today that we’re using the bye week for a really extended rehab,” Sarkisian said. “We just want to get those guys really healthy.”
  • Sarkisian said that wide receiver Christian Tober suffered a broken collarbone during practice last Thursday.
News and notes
  • Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers spent most of the day with the No. 2 offense at center,after having lined up at guard up to this point.
  • Freshman Rahshead Johnson lined up on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback on Tuesday after lining up at wide receiver up until now. He was a talented two-way star at Long Beach (California) Cabrillo.
  • With Williams out of the lineup, Claude Pelon ran with the No. 1 defense at defensive end.
  • SAM linebacker Quinton Powell appeared to get some increased work in on Tuesday and had a solid day. Inside linebacker Olajuwon Tucker also stood out.

A follower on Twitter wants to know if UCLA and USC's struggles will bring down the Pac-12's strength of schedule.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.

Leading off

For the folks out there who were on the fence about whether Todd Graham was really committed to Arizona State, he's given you half a million reasons to get off it.

During a news conference on Monday, it was announced that the Graham family and the family of athletic director Ray Anderson would each pledge $500,000 toward the school's fundraising effort to "reinvent" Sun Devil Stadium. Graham came to Arizona State with a reputation for hopping programs -- especially after a quick departure from Pittsburgh. This move seems to solidify his place in Tempe.
It really wasn’t about that. Obviously this is something that makes a big statement about what our commitment is, as we surely wouldn’t make this kind of commitment if we had anything else in mind.

Sun Devil Stadium will undergo three phases of renovations over the next three offseasons, with construction slated to be complete in 2017. You can watch the complete news conference here.

That's the good news for ASU.

The bad news is that the quarterback Taylor Kelly will miss next week's South Division showdown against UCLA. Several outlets reported the news Sunday night and the Pac-12 blog confirmed from an ASU source Monday. Mike Bercovici told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic that he's ready for the challenge.


We told you last week if you haven't seen The Eliminator yet, you really should. As of right now, only Washington State and Colorado have been flagged as "eliminated" from the College Football Playoff. Arizona, ASU, Oregon and UCLA are listed as "still in contention" with the rest of the league "on the fence."

But before we get to the playoff, someone has to win their division first. Ted Miller hit on the South on Monday, which is a mess.

News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

If you only watch one video today of a Pac-12 mascot playing charades with Ashley Adamson, make it this one:

USC recruiting notes

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Steve Sarkisian has made it clear that he wants to bring in two tailbacks for this class and there is one player currently committed at the position in Aca'Cedric Ware.

Ware wasn't a name familiar to many USC fans when he first committed but his production was impressive with over 1,289 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns while helping to lead Cedar Hill to the Texas 5A Div. 2 state title in 2013.

After visiting the USC campus for the Rising Stars Camp in June it was clear that there was a lot of mutual interest from Ware and the Trojans, which resulted in a quick verbal commit.

Ware has since gotten off to a strong start for the Longhorns, who opened the season with a pair of victories before falling 40-30 last week to traditional power Skyline. In that loss Ware ran for 103 yards on 22 carries with a pair of scores and former USC running back Shawn Walters, who is on the Skyline staff, had a simple evaluation of the future Trojans' game.

“He's the truth,” Walters said.

Ware has over 400 yards in three games with eight touchdowns as Cedar Hill sits with a 2-1 record and will face another talented team this week in Coppell.

Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire says the Trojans will be getting an overall back, a hard-nosed player, and a great kid on and off the field.

“Aca'Cedric has been having a great year for us,” McGuire said. “And the thing is that he's doing it with a target on his back. He's a real physical back who can break tackles, has great vision and is so powerful. He's at 6-foot, 200 pounds right now and he could add 20 pounds to his frame and you wouldn't even know it.”

The Longhorns will appear on ESPN2 on October 23rd at 5 p.m. PT for their game against DeSoto.

News and notes
  • On Sunday, ESPN 300 cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) announced that his five allotted official visits will be used on Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State, LSU and Oklahoma. The Trojans are noticeably missing from that list, but he has been up to the USC campus on a number of occasions already, and it's safe to say that Steve Sarksian and Co. are still heavily in the mix for his services, along with Stanford and UCLA.
  • ESPN 300 linebacker Osa Masina (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton) has scheduled an official visit to USC for the weekend of Nov. 29, when the Trojans host Notre Dame. He's also set to visit Arizona State (Oct. 17) and Wisconsin (Oct. 24), and he plans to schedule trips to UCLA and Michigan as well.
  • Missouri City (Texas) Thurgood Marshall cornerback Kendall Sheffield -- the No. 9 overall ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 -- has scheduled an official visit to USC for the weekend of Oct. 4, when the Trojans face Arizona State at home. Sheffield will also visit Ohio State (Sept. 27), Florida State (Oct. 18), Oregon (Nov. 1) and Alabama (Dec.).
  • Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany Class of 2015 athlete Dominic Davis gave a verbal commitment to Washington State back on July 24, but that hasn't stopped a number of programs – including USC – from pursuing him, and he recently stated that, in addition to WSU, he will likely take official visits to USC, UCLA and Washington.
  • ESPN 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Orange Lutheran) released a top five at the end of July that did not include USC, but he too, still continues to have contact with the Trojans staff, and on Sept 10 he tweeted, “USC called today. Great convo.” Lucier-South, as well as USC target Ykili Ross (Riverside, Calif./Poly) took an official visit to Oklahoma this past weekend.
  • One more prospect who continues to show some interest in USC despite being committed elsewhere is ESPN 300 defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (Albany, Ga./Westover). He recently told ESPN's Derek Tyson that he's a “pretty strong commit” to Georgia, but also revealed that, in addition to the Bulldogs, he's going to try to visit Auburn, Alabama, Miami and USC.
  • ESPN 300 linebacker Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Ga./Macon County) said that there are seven schools that currently stand out to him – Georgia, Florida, UCLA, Miami, LSU, USC and Ole Miss.
  • Class of 2016 defensive end Rahshaun Smith (Towson, Md./St. Frances Academy) was offered by USC last week. The ESPN Junior 300 member holds over 30 total offers.
  • San Pablo (Calif.) Contra Costa College defensive end Takkarist McKinley signed with UCLA and is immediately eligible to play for the Bruins. McKinley was also considering USC, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Missouri and California – the school he originally signed with out of high school.
  • Class of 2017 wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr., who left Mission Viejo (Calif.) earlier this month and landed at Coto de Caza (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic, has now enrolled at Calabasas (Calif.).
  • Class of 2015 OL verbal commit Chuma Edoga and McEachern High will be on ESPNU this Friday night (5 p.m. PT) vs. Lovejoy.
A look at the stats some recruits recorded in their games this past weekend

Class of 2015

QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) – USC commit
Completed 14 of 21 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-10 victory over Redlands (Calif.) East Valley.

QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) – USC commit
Completed 16 of 26 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 24 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-21 victory over Dana Hills.

RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) – USC commit
Rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in a 40-30 loss to Dallas (Texas) Skyline.

WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) – USC commit
Had four receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns in a 62-7 victory over Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines.

WR Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany) – USC commit
Hauled in three touchdown passes, including a 90-yarder in a 51-30 victory over Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne.

LB Cameron Smith (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay) – USC commit
Had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 27-13 victory over Oakley (Calif.) Freedom.

DL Noah Jefferson (Henderson, Nev./Liberty) – USC commit
In a 14-13 victory over Henderson (Nev.) Coronado Jefferson compiled three tackles and one sack on defense, while also hauling in one pass for 20 yards on the offensive side of the ball.

WR Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro)
Had five receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 20 yards and two touchdowns on five carries in a 63-7 victory over Prescott Valley (Ariz.) Bradshaw Mountain.

CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
Marshall amassed five tackles (4 solo) to go along with seven passes defended from his cornerback spot, and he also made one catch for 18 yards on offense in a 34-24 victory over Westlake.

LB John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
Racked up 12 tackles (6 solo) and one forced fumble in a 31-6 victory over Carson.

DL Rasheem Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
Had five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack in the victory over Carson.

ATH Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills)
The quarterback/linebacker completed 18 of 31 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, rushed for 115 yards and one touchdown, and he also compiled 17 tackles, two tackles for loss and one interception in a 42-21 loss to Provo (Utah) Timpview.

TE T.J. Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius)
In a 34-0 victory over Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas, Wheatley caught two passes for 32 yards on offense, while also collecting 7 tackles (three for a loss), one sack and one forced fumble on defense.

Class of 2016

QB K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic)
Completed 22 of 35 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in a 21-10 victory over Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey.

QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy)
Completed 11 of 16 passes for 175 yards and four touchdowns, while also scoring one touchdown on the ground.

WR Jackie Jones (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
Caught five passes for 65 yards in the victory over Westlake.

WR Tyler Vaughns (La Puente, Calif./Bishop Amat)
Caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in a 46-17 victory over Rancho Cucamonga.

LB Lokeni Toailoa (Rialto, Calif./Carter)
Racked up 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack in a 46-27 loss to Ontario (Calif.) Colony. He also scored on a two-point conversion run.

LB Blake Walls (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
Had five tackles in the victory over Carson.

S C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
Had seven tackles with one tackle for a loss in the victory over Carson.

DL Oluwole Betiku (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
Had four tackles in the victory over Carson.


WR De'Quan Hampton (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College)
Caught five passes for 84 yards in a 42-13 victory over Palomar College.

A look at backup QBs in the Pac-12

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
UCLA and Arizona State learned the hard way just how important a backup quarterback can be over the weekend when both Brett Hundley and Taylor Kelly went down with injuries.

Here's a quick look at who each school has waiting in the wings:

Arizona: Jesse Scroggins, senior

The Wildcats’ depth chart lists Scroggins or Jerrard Randall or Connor Brewer as the backups to freshman Anu Solomon, but Scroggins in the only of the three to attempt a pass this season. He started his career at USC, where he redshirted in 2010 before appearing in one game off the bench in 2011, when he took the final snap of a game against Washington and did not attempt a pass. His only other collegiate action came in 2012 at El Camino College, where he threw for 1,148 yards in eight games.

Career stats: 1 for 2, 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars; No. 2-ranked QB; No. 55 player overall; Class of 2010

Arizona State: Mike Bercovici, junior

There was a time when Bercovici was looked at more favorably than Taylor Kelly, but that perception is not but a faded memory, as Kelly won the job in 2012 and asserted himself as a top QB. Bercovici has a reputation for having a strong arm and a quick release. We'll find out.

Career stats: 14 for 24, 112 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 80-ranked QB; No. 142 player in California; Class of 2011

California: Luke Rubenzer, true freshman

Rubenzer, who quickly asserted himself as an important part of the Cal offense, has been one of the surprises of this season. As a change-of-pace running quarterback, the Cal coaching staff determined he was too important to redshirt. He's run for 82 yards on 17 carries and a score. He appears capable as a thrower as well.

Career stats: 5 of 9, 103 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 43-ranked dual-threat QB; No. 28 player in Arizona; Class of 2014

Colorado: Jordan Gehrke, sophomore

Gehrke remains mostly an unknown after transferring from Scottsdale Community College in Arizona before the 2013 season. While Sefo Lifau is the unquestioned starter, reports out of Boulder indicated that Gehrke did a good job pushing Liufau throughout fall camp. He completing 174 of 366 passes for 2,388 yards and 22 touchdown with 14 interceptions for SCC.

Career stats: 4 for 8, 35 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 121-ranked QB; no reported offers in high school; Class of 2012

Oregon: Jeff Lockie, sophomore

Lockie split the non-Mariota game reps with Jake Rodrigues last season, but it became clear this spring that Lockie was the preferred backup moving forward, which led to Rodrigues' decision to transfer. Lockie wasn't a high-profile recruit, but was the MVP of one of Northern California's most competitive high school leagues during his senior year at Monte Vista High.

Career stats: 25 for 33, 242 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 105-ranked QB; No. 145 player in California; Class of 2012

Oregon State: Brent VanderVeen, sophomore

VanderVeen emerged from a three-way competition for the backup job, beating out Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio in the process. He's the only backup in the conference that has yet to throw a pass in his career.

Career stats: No pass attempts
As a recruit: Two stars; No. 144-ranked QB; No. 193 player in California; Class of 2012

Stanford: Evan Crower, junior

Before the season began, Stanford coach David Shaw spoke candidly about Crower's future, offering the possibility that Kevin Hogan's backup could transfer after getting his degree in order to play somewhere else next season. Shaw said Crower is "ready to play," so wouldn't fault him for heading elsewhere. Vanderbilt?

Career stats: 18 for 28, 236 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 38-ranked QB; No. 58 player in California; Class of 2011

UCLA: Jerry Neuheisel, sophomore

In his first meaningful playing time, Neuheisel stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two scores against Texas on Saturday. He's not going to make anyone forget about Brett Hundley, but it was a good enough performance for UCLA fans [and coaches] to feel good about the backup situation.

Career stats: 34 for 43, 302 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: One star; No. 156-ranked QB; No. 233 player in California; Class of 2011

USC: Max Browne, freshman

Without question, Browne is the most high-profile No. 2 quarterback in the conference, arriving at USC as one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. He's still green, having only appeared in one game, but if Cody Kessler were to go down there would certainly be a lot of interest in how Browne performs.

Career stats: 3 for 4, 30 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars, No. 2-ranked QB; No. 20 player overall; Class of 2013

Utah: Kendal Thompson, junior

Thompson transferred from Oklahoma with hopes to earn the starting job, but Travis Wilson held on to it after a competition throughout fall camp. In two games off the bench so far, Thompson has shown to be an effective weapon. He's completed 10 of 17 passes for 156 yards and ran for 78 yards on 15 carries.

Career stats: 14 for 30, 220 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
As a recruit: Three stars; No. 22-ranked QB; Class of 2011

Washington: Jeff Lindquist, sophomore

The only backup to start a game in the Pac-12 this year, Lindquist played with mixed results against Hawaii in the season-opener. He has the physical skills to be a good starter, but still needs to develop.

Career stats: 10 for 26, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Four stars; No. 17-ranked QB; No. 3 player in Washington; Class of 2012

Washington State: Luke Falk, freshman

When highly-regarded prospect Tyler Bruggman announced he was transferring immediately cast Falk in a different light. Bruggman saw the writing on the wall: Falk had the leg-up in the backup competition and instead of staying and competing, he opted to try his luck elsewhere. Falk arrived at WSU as a recruited walk-on, but was given a scholarship before the season. He threw an 84-yard touchdown on his second career pass attempt on Saturday.

Career stats: 2 for 2, 86 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
As a recruit: Walked on at WSU after originally committing to Cornell; two stars from

USC Grades: Weak areas exposed by BC

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Tyler RouseWinslow Townson/Getty ImagesNot even Leonard Williams could slow the Boston College running attack on Saturday.

The USC Trojans entered last Saturday night as one of the Top 10 teams in the country. Although it was early in the season, it seemed as if Steve Sarkisian's first year as USC's coach was destined to reach the College Football Playoff with a schedule that had the Trojans playing just one ranked team at home before a late November date with UCLA.

Those expectations, however, changed quickly after USC's 37-31 loss to unranked Boston College. Now we are left to wonder how good the Trojans really are this season. Sure, USC beat Fresno State, 52-13, to start the season but the Bulldogs are now 0-3 and have given up over 50 points in each one of their games. USC was thrilled to beat Stanford 13-10 at “The Farm” but the Cardinal got inside USC’s 35-yard line in each one of their nine drives. If Stanford doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot in seven of those nine drives, Stanford wins that game and USC is 1-2.

USC’s deficiencies were finally on display against Boston College where they were manhandled at the line of scrimmage and dominated for much of the game in suffering their first loss of the season.

GradePassing attack

Cody Kessler's numbers were perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise forgettable game for USC. He was 31-for-41 for 317 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. When he was finally allowed to throw the ball down field, USC’s offense looked alive again, but by that time it was too little, too late. Running back Javorius Allen was USC’s leading receiver on the night with nine receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown.

GradeRushing attack

USC tried and tried and tried some more to establish the running game against Boston College and ended up running into a wall each time. USC finished with just 20 yards on 29 carries for a paltry 0.7 yard per rush average. It was USC’s worst rushing performance since rushing for one yard against Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.

GradeIn the trenches

What made USC’s lack of a running game even worse was that Boston College ran at will on the Trojans. The Eagles ran for 452 yards and five touchdowns against USC. Boston College’s 452 rushing yards were the most given up by a USC team since Texas A&M gained 486 yards in the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl. USC also gave up five sacks, each one coming on a crucial third down, and USC converted just five of 16 third downs.


USC’s defense probably deserves an F for giving up over 500 yards with most of that coming on the ground but they get some credit for holding Boston College to just 54 yards passing. Chris Hawkins also intercepted a Tyler Murphy pass as USC jumped out to a 17-6 lead to start the game. USC was also able to hold Boston College to just 2-for-11 on third down conversions. That’s the extent of the positives for USC’s defense, however, as Boston College did whatever they wanted on the ground and finished the game with a back-breaking 66-yard touchdown run by Murphy in the fourth quarter when USC was mounting a late comeback.

GradeSpecial teams

Andre Heidari nailed a 52-yard field goal early in the game and Kris Albarado escaped a near blocked punt to down a kick inside the 10-yard line. Albarado had 10 punts on the night with a 37.5-yard per punt average. Nelson Agholor wasn’t able to do much with his five punt returns, totaling just 15 yards.


Sarkisian’s offense looked like a revelation in the season opener when it ran a school-reocrd 105 plays. It was understandably scaled back for the second game against Stanford but his inability to open up the passing attack when the rushing game was shut down against Boston College was puzzling. It wasn’t until USC was down 30-17 with less than seven minutes left that Sarkisian finally opened up the offense. USC’s offense, however, is probably the least of its worries after giving up over 400 yards on the ground despite having the best defensive lineman in the country in Leonard Williams. As bad as USC was against Boston College, the Trojans should be able to win when they put up 30 points and hold their opponents to just 54 yards passing.

USC aims to learn during bye week

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
LOS ANGELES -- Still trying to figure it all out after a 37-31 upset loss at Boston College on Saturday night, the USC Trojans are now faced with picking up the pieces, and a bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

When a team like USC gets off to such a promising start to the season (2-0) and a No. 9 national ranking, there is always the question of whether a bye week comes at a good time. With the unexpected turn of events like what happened in Chestnut Hill, the loss at Boston College basically welcomes a bye week throughout the program.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaCody Kessler said his confidence is high when it comes to USC's resiliency.
So, just how important is this week’s bye in the eyes of some of those that participated in Saturday’s Boston bummer?

“It’s very important, said sophomore wide receiver George Farmer, who score his first touchdown of the season on a 8-yard reception from quarterback Cody Kessler.

“We’re kind of glad this happened to us now that we can use this bye week to prepare for Oregon State,” Farmer added.

“We can clean up on all the areas that we didn’t do so well on this week. This bye week is really critical. We’re going to do everything we can to clean up everything we can.”

For senior co-captain and inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, emotions turn to philosophical analysis. Pullard echoes Farmer’s statement on the urgency of the bye week.

“It’s very important,” Pullard said. “We can’t look at this as a loss but as a game. When we see a quarterback run on us like that, this is what the Pac-12 is bringing to the table – this option stuff. We got a little taste of it.”

Of course, there is also ability now to sit down this week and break down where the deficiencies are and how to correct them.

Sophomore starting right tackle Zach Banner tried to put the bye week and the loss to Boston College in perspective.

“We have to get it back,” Banner said of the momentum that had been built after the opening victories over Fresno State and Stanford. “After a hard loss like this, Coach told us there are things that we could have controlled during that game. We have to look at the film and we have to never do this stuff again.”

Speaking of the head coach, Steve Sarkisian had his thoughts regarding the bye week after the loss.

“I really believe we'll bounce back and we'll do it in great fashion,” Sarkisian said. “It's back to the drawing board for the bye week, which is probably coming at a good time for us.”

Kessler couldn’t agree more.

“It's going to be a big week for us to bounce back coming into the bye week,” Kessler said. “I'm not worried. This team knows how to fight back.”

The Trojans now have two weeks to get the bitter taste of the Boston College defeat out of their system before Oregon State comes to the Coliseum on Sept. 27.

And you can be sure of one thing: Beavers coach Mike Riley will test the Trojans and see how much they have learned and corrected themselves. Indeed, this is a critical bye week for the Men of Troy.

Drive Through: AP Poll Angst

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15


Georgia lost to South Carolina, and Stanford lost to USC. Yet, in the week 4 AP Poll, both teams are ranked higher than the teams that beat them. Heather Dinich explains why voters need to do a better job.

Injuries, implosion muddle South picture

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait. That's been used before. But, with apologies to Dickens, it fits. The Pac-12 weekend was a tale of one division, two teams, two cities, two quarterbacks, and it was a day of thrills and it was a day of misery.

The plot certainly thickened in the Pac-12's South Division on Saturday, but not necessarily in a good way.

A week after posting a gritty upset at Stanford, USC was humiliated at Boston College, while UCLA cobbled together a win over Texas behind scrappy, ebullient backup QB Jerry Neuheisel. Neuheisel's services were required because Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. His status remains uncertain, though there was reasonable hope based on initial reports that his injury wasn't serious.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's shocking loss to Boston College underscored the vulnerability within the Pac-12 South division.
Our second city is Tempe, Arizona, where UCLA will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, squaring off with defending South Division champion Arizona State, which beat Colorado on Saturday but also lost its star senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who beat out Hundley for second-team All-Pac-12 last year. Seeing Kelly on crutches due to a foot injury -- and his body language -- probably won't fuel great expectations that he will be ready for the Bruins.

The UCLA-Arizona State game was one we eyeballed in the preseason as a major measuring stick in the battle for the South. A significant part of the appeal was the quarterback battle. That hasn't changed, only now the intrigue is whether it will be Neuheisel for UCLA and Mike Bercovici for Arizona State. A week ago, that quarterback news would have heavily favored the Sun Devils. While Bercovici isn't the runner Kelly is, he's got one of the best arms in the conference and is well-versed in the Sun Devils offense. He is expected to win the starting job as a fifth-year senior next fall. Neuheisel was widely viewed as a career backup with a well-known father -- former UCLA QB and coach Rick Neuheisel -- but his second-half performance against the Longhorns suggested he can be more than a rudimentary game manager.

Both teams have an off week, when they can either get healthy or retool their plans. The stakes continue to be high, perhaps more so after USC threw up on itself with a wet-noodle performance at Boston College. While a nonconference game doesn't affect the Trojans' Pac-12 standing, it certainly made them look extremely vulnerable heading into a much-needed bye week. Other than USC fans, the most miserable folks watching that game surely root for Stanford, which probably can't believe it lost to the Trojans just a week before.

What this implosion and these injuries reveal in a wider sense is vulnerability in the South. In the preseason, UCLA looked like a decisive South favorite. Then USC made a statement with a win over the Cardinal. Arizona State was lurking with a great offense and a questionable defense. At this point, however, none of these three teams is scaring anyone. And don't look now, but Arizona and Utah remain unbeaten and have shown flashes that suggest they might be factors in a divisional race that previously seemed limited to the aforementioned troika.

The Wildcats play host to California on Saturday. Lo and behold, the Bears also are unbeaten, and this game suddenly possesses some potential meaning it didn't seem to have in the preseason. If Cal gets the upset, it can fully erase last season's misery and start thinking bowl game. If Arizona gets the win, it will be 4-0 and eyeballing the Top 25 with a visit to No. 2 Oregon looming on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona appears suspect on defense, but the offense, with impressive redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon, a good O-line, deep corps of receivers and breakout freshman running back Nick Wilson, will make the Wildcats a threat to any foe.

Utah visits Michigan on Saturday. While the Wolverines don't look like they'll be hailing in much victory this season, a Utes win would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. While Utah's trouble hasn't been in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12, a 3-0 start would hint they are not a South afterthought, particularly if the offense continues to shine with QB Travis Wilson.

While Oregon's win over Michigan State coupled with Stanford's loss to USC only boosted the Ducks' status as North Division favorites, the South intrigue has seemingly spiderwebbed since the beginning of the season. The race appears more wide open and complicated. UCLA's visit to Arizona State remains a major measuring stick, but it's just as likely either team would sacrifice that game -- as horrible as that sounds -- to know it will get its starting quarterback back healthy for the rest of the season.

Early Offer: Sunderland a key get for OU 

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Oklahoma landed two high-profile recruits this weekend, but scoring a pledge from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. is about as big as it gets. Plus, Boston College will be able to use its victory over then top-10 USC as a big selling point on the recruiting trail.

If USC's sudden defensive breakdown after three games seems shocking, it shouldn't be.

Not if you carefully studied Steve Sarkisian's coaching resume. Not if you observe him on the practice field, where he spends almost 95 percent of his time with the offense. Not if you watched as he made little, if any, halftime adjustments as Boston College trampled through the Trojans for so many rushing yards, you'd have thought it was Oregon on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

That wasn't just another defeat in Chesnut Hill on Saturday night. It was among the more embarrassing losses in recent school history.

USC teams do not get outrushed 452 yards to 20. It just isn't supposed to happen.

But it did. It was as real as all that BC emotion flooding out from the stands. A small, unranked bunch beat all those four and five-star Trojans recruits into the ground. The same team that had been pounded for 302 yards rushing by Pittsburgh a week earlier made USC's offensive and defensive lines look thinner than your average lobster roll on the way to a 37-31 upset that was far worse then the final score indicated.

Maybe this is what happens when you hire a head coach with little or no defensive background. In 2011, in Sarkisian's third year at Washington, his team finished 105th or lower nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense.

Eventually, Sark, whose entire coaching career has been on the offensive side, hired Justin Wilcox as his defensive coordinator, and things improved dramatically. But Wilcox came with him to USC, and after three games, this Trojans' defense is seriously staggering.

First, Stanford gashed it for 413 yards, failing to win the game only because it couldn't convert inside the red zone. Then this, a Trojans' performance so ragged, it couldn't be blamed solely on a post-Cardinal letdown, or a long cross-country plane ride.

You don't stink up the place like that, coughing up 506 total yards, unless you have some serious problems. And a defense that was supposed to be the best in the Pac-12 and one of the better units in the country suddenly has more holes in it than a bad summer movie script.

How could Boston College make Leonard Williams & Co. look so confused with their read-options? Where were the USC defenders on the edge? And how in the world did they turn tiny quarterback Tyler Murphy into looking like the second coming of Marcus Mariota?

Offensively, most of the problems centered on the Trojans' young blockers, who were clearly overmatched. They couldn't run block, and they couldn't pass block. Other than that, they were fine.

Not that Sarkisian helped much with his play calling. Even after it became clear Javorius Allen and Justin Davis couldn't even get to the line of scrimmage most of the time, Sark kept calling run plays, especially on first down.

Whatever happened to taking what the defense gives you? Clearly, BC was concentrating on stopping the run and giving USC the intermediate passing game, but Cody Kessler, who suffered five sacks, wasn't able to take much advantage of it when it mattered.

The Trojans finally ditched their short, horizontal passing game to rally some with 14 points in the fourth quarter, but every time you thought they had a chance to come back, the Eagles would get the ball back and the rest was history.

So just as quickly as the 2014 optimism skyrocketed a week ago, it has plummeted back to Earth. Instead of being 3-0 and looking ahead to bigger and better things, USC is a sagging 2-1 after losing to a 17-point underdog.

And if Murphy and the less-than-imposing Eagles can do this to the Trojans, what are Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame apt to do, let alone a more sophisticated read-option team such as Arizona, or a hungry Utah squad in Salt Lake City?

The road that looked so smooth and inviting after the great escape at Stanford now is filled with potential potholes again.

Longtime Trojans fans have every right to be disappointed.

But if they go back and review the new head coach's resume, they really shouldn't be surprised.