Thursday, September 19, 2013
What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 4
By Kevin Gemmell
A few storylines to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this week.
Keep it rolling: The Pac-12 is 23-4 in its nonconference games this year and 16-3 against FBS competition. It’s also 8-0 against Mountain West teams. USC and Oregon State can extend that streak with matchups against Utah State and San Diego State. Washington State also renews its border war with Idaho for the first time since 2007 -- a series the Cougs have owned 70-17-3.
Air it out: Eight Pac-12 quarterbacks rank among the top 16 in total offense, headlined by Cal’s Jared Goff (429.7 ypg). Through three weeks, three Pac-12 quarterbacks (Goff, Marcus Mariota and Sean Mannion) have combined to throw for 440-plus yards four times. Only two other seasons in Pac-12 history have seen league quarterbacks throw for 440 or more yards more than four times -- 1998 (six times) and 2002 (five times).
Speed it up: Pac-12 offenses are scoring, and scoring fast. There have been 195 scoring drives, and so far 83 have taken less than two minutes. As you’d expect, Oregon tops the list with 23 of its 28 scoring drives taking less than two minutes. Utah is next on the list with nine.
UCLA QB Brett Hundley was impressive against Nebraska and should be even more so this week.
Heisman moments? Mariota, who sits atop the ESPN.com Heisman poll, is off this week. But Brett Hundley has a chance to bolster his numbers against a New Mexico State team that is allowing nearly 50 points per game. Look for Mannion to continue rolling against a San Diego State team that is yielding 41 points per game. Same for Washington running back Bishop Sankey against an FCS Idaho State squad.
The headliner: For the first time this year, we have two ranked Pac-12 teams squaring off with No. 23 ASU’s trip to No. 5 Stanford. The focus is, and should be, on the lines. Stanford wants to do what Stanford does -- pound at ASU’s interior defense. The Sun Devils were pretty good defending at Wisconsin's inside rushing attack but were caught off guard by sweeps. Will be interesting to see if Stanford goes after the edges the way Wisconsin did.
Sankey rolling: Sankey now has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his past seven games -- including a career-high 208 yards in the win last week over Illinois. Through three weeks and two games, he’s the national leader in average yards per game with 184.5. Dating back to last year, he has rushed for 1,142 yards in his last seven games.
Take a breather: Four byes this week, with Arizona, Cal, Colorado and Oregon all getting the week off. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, whose team had an unscheduled bye last week, said his team is back to practicing after several players were displaced by flooding.
Running like a Mad(den) man: Only six players have started the season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. We don't want to assume, but Sankey probably will have his third straight this week. For now, USC’s Tre Madden is the only Pac-12 player among those six (Paul James, Rutgers; Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin; Mark Weisman (FB), Iowa; Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, Arkansas). Per our friends at ESPN Stats & Information, USC is running the ball on 62 percent of its plays this year, up 18 percent from last year. Of those six mentioned, Madden is the only one who has faced three FBS opponents. He leads the Pac-12 with 149 yards after contact.
Mobile Hogan, mobile Kelly: Also from Stats & Info: Kevin Hogan and Taylor Kelly are the only Pac-12 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 20 percent of their passes outside the pocket over the last two seasons. Kelly leads all AQ quarterbacks with 115 passes attempted from outside of the pocket. When out of the pocket, Hogan has completed 76 percent of his passes, including 20-of-24 passes on designed rollouts. In comparison, Kelly has completed a lower percentage of his passes thrown outside the pocket, but his average throw travels 10 yards, 4.5 yards longer than Hogan.
Goodbye for now, Holy War: The Utah-BYU rivalry will go on break for a couple of years after Saturday. Kyle Whittingham insists that doesn’t mean anything. I’m guessing having two extra years of bragging rights, however, means plenty to the fans. Utah has won four of the past five and holds a 56-34-4 edge in the series, which dates back to 1896. Though BYU doesn’t recognize six games, split 3-3, from when it was Brigham Young Academy. But since this is the Pac-12 blog, we’ll recognize it, cause we’re cool like that. And Utah SID Liz Abel is awesome at her job for bringing that nugget to our attention. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is coming off of a 142-yard rushing performance -- the second most ever by a Utah quarterback and the most since 1979. Should this one be a nail-biter, it's worth noting that both kickers -- Utah's Andy Phillips and BYU's Justin Sorensen -- are 5-for-5 on field goals this season. Neither has missed a PAT.