NCF Nation: Addison Gillam

Conference wrap: Pac-12

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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It’s tough to put a grade on the 2013 edition of Pac-12 football. When we look back 20 years from now, all that will probably stand out is that the Pac-12 had just one BCS bowl team in the final year of the Bowl Championship Series. So with Stanford carrying the flag for the league, its performance against Michigan State in the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio takes on a greater importance.

But this year, perhaps more than any other, the Pac-12 showed why it is one of the toughest, if not the deepest, conference in all of college football. It passed the nonconference test, going 31-6 against non-league competition -- with wins over teams from the SEC, Big Ten and ACC. It crushed the Mountain West, going 10-0 against the West Coast’s little brother conference. And three more meetings in the postseason could extend it to 13-0.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Matt YorkDavid Shaw has Stanford atop a very deep conference.
Speaking of bowls, a record nine Pac-12 teams are in the postseason, 75 percent of the league. Washington State is bowling for the first time since 2003. Colorado is making headway. Utah appears right on the cusp of breaking through.

There were thrilling upsets. (Utah, Washington State and USC all get thumbs up.) There was the Week 1 Oregon State debacle. There were All-Americans, national award winners and a style of football that is uniquely Pac-12.

The influx of big-name coaches has raised the ante over the past few seasons, and that trend continued this year, with Steve Sarkisian’s move to USC and Chris Petersen’s ingress to Washington.

The South was nasty, and will be again next year. Arizona State has staked its claim. But UCLA is right on the Sun Devils’ heels, as are USC and an Arizona squad that has the potential to be very, very scary in 2014.

The North belongs to Stanford until proven otherwise. The Cardinal's recipe for beating Oregon has yielded fruit for two years. But with Marcus Mariota back for another season, you certainly have to expect the Ducks to be a top-10 team. And Petersen’s arrival makes Washington an instant player for the division.

The best thing the Pac-12 can go is finish strong in the postseason, win its BCS bowl game and head into the playoff era with plenty of momentum.


Offensive MVP: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey
was arguably the most consistent skill player in college football this season, posting at least 100 yards in every game he played and finishing with 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns on 322 carries (5.3 average). He also caught 26 passes and a touchdown.

Defensive MVP: With 14 sacks, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy was the Pac-12 and the national leader in getting at the quarterback. He also ranked third nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss. Murphy posted 58 total tackles, blocked a kick, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Newcomer of the year: Plenty of fantastic options, including ASU receiver Jaelen Strong and Colorado linebacker Addison Gillam. But it was UCLA linebacker/running back Myles Jack who made the biggest splash. The Bruins' true freshman posted 70 tackles with five for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. He also blocked a kick. As a running back he carried 37 times for 269 yards with seven touchdowns.

Biggest surprise: Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said he thought the Cougars would start being a consistent winner by 2014. Coach Mike Leach had his own timetable. In just his second season in Pullman, Leach has the Cougars in a bowl game for the first time since 2003 -- and they recorded a marquee win on the road at USC in Week 2 that ultimately helped them become bowl-eligible.

Biggest disappointment: There was no great redemption story for Lane Kiffin. In fact, the Trojans looked like a significantly improved team after he was removed from his coaching duties. Hopes were high that Kiffin would be able to turn the Trojans around after an abysmal 2012. But a 62-41 loss at ASU in Week 5 was the straw that broke the back of his fairly underwhelming tenure with the Trojans.

Best game: At the quarter pole, we went with Oregon State at Utah. At the midway post, we went with Oregon State at Utah. And now in the season wrap, we’re sticking with that. That game, now more than ever, spells out the importance of every single week. Oregon State would be home for the holidays without that dramatic 51-48 overtime victory. And because of said dramatic overtime defeat, the five-win Utes are out of the postseason again. From a pure tension and excitement level, that game was tough to beat.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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Some storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsKevin Hogan and Stanford control their North Division fate and play a dangerous USC team on Saturday.
North race: Stanford is in the driver's seat. If it wins this week against USC and next week against Cal, the Cardinal will lock up the North Division and advance to the Pac-12 championship game for the second straight year. Oregon's best chance is for Stanford to lose one of those two games and the Ducks win out to finish with an 8-1 conference record.

South race: Arizona State and UCLA are in the same position as Stanford. If either team wins out, they will be the South Division champ. We have to wait one more week for these teams to meet, and both need to keep focus this week with a pair of dangerous North Division teams coming to town. Arizona State hosts Oregon State and UCLA hosts Washington. This is one of those "you have to earn it weeks" because of the league's nine-game schedule. USC is still in the hunt but must beat Stanford.

Bowl checkup: Right now the Pac-12 has eight bowl-eligible teams: Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Arizona. This week could provide some jockeying for bowl position and prestige. Colorado and California are officially out of bowl contention, and Washington State and Utah are still in the hunt with four wins each. Both have tough road draws this week -- Utah at Oregon and Washington State at Arizona -- and the stage is set for some good drama in Pullman, Wash., next week when Utah and Washington State square off in a game that could determine the postseason fates of both teams. Each needs to win two of their last three to become eligible.

North vs. South: This is a big weekend for determining which division is truly the strongest from top to bottom. Right now the North holds a slight edge, going 8-7 against teams from the South. But all six games this week feature North vs. South teams -- Washington is at UCLA, Washington State is at Arizona, Oregon State is at ASU, Stanford is at USC, Cal is at Colorado and Utah is at Oregon. The South is home for five of the six games.

All eyes on L.A.: Two huge games in the City of Angels this week with Stanford heading to USC and Washington coming down to UCLA. Both games have huge implications on the divisional standings. If USC wins, it keeps pace with UCLA and Arizona State. If the Cardinal win, they move one step closer to a second straight North title. Stanford has won the last four matchups and five of the last six. The last three have come down to a touchdown or less. Washington, meanwhile, looks to break its road blues. The Bruins are coming off a confidence-boosting road win at Arizona. We're also curious to see what Myles Jack brings, if anything, for an offensive encore.

All eyes (also) on Arizona: Speaking of huge games. Oregon State heads to Tempe to take on an Arizona State team looking to steal the South Division crown from UCLA. ASU still has a one-game advantage in Pac-12 play, so a loss wouldn't be devastating (losing to Washington would hurt UCLA's chances more). But the trip to Pasadena next week is obviously going to be very telling. In Tucson, the Wildcats are looking to better their bowl standing while the Cougars are hoping to take another step toward bowl eligibility. It's 12-straight 100-yard rushing games and counting for Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey.

Someone has to win, right? California and Colorado are the only two teams still seeking a conference victory. Both teams have true freshmen starters at quarterback with Jared Goff at Cal and Sefo Liufau at Colorado. Speaking of true freshmen, keep an eye on Colorado linebacker Addison Gillam, who already holds the school's record for tackles by a freshman with 86. Cal hasn't won a conference game since topping Washington State on Oct. 13, 2012. Colorado hasn't won a league game since topping, well, Washington State on Sept. 22, 2012.

Bounce back: This is the first time we've had to include Oregon in a bounce-back category. But the Ducks were pretty much manhandled in the loss to Stanford last week. It was a low-output performance from the offense, and the defense couldn't get off the field. But the Ducks are still in contention for the North, though Oregon fans should be USC fans this weekend, and their shot at a BCS at-large game is still very much in play. Utah needs to find a way to snap its three-game slide. The Utes are winless since the victory over Stanford, and haven't won on the road this year. Like Stanford, Utah has a very physical front. But rehabbing at Autzen, especially with Oregon coming off of a loss, is going to be a tall order.

No more breathers: The bye weeks are done. All 12 teams are in action this week and next week. In Week 14, only California has an open date, but that's because its season will be over.

Giving back: ASU is known for embracing its military ties, and here's a head's up on something cool it is doing: As part of Sun Devil Athletics' annual Salute to Service football game against Oregon State, fans can purchase a ticket to donate to an active military member or veteran, and SDA will match every donated ticket with a second ticket.

Freshmen impact in the Pac-12

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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Pretty much every team plays true freshmen. But how much of an impact are those freshmen having on the game? Through four weeks, some have made immediate impacts. Others have seen some mop-up time. Across the ESPN blogosphere this morning, we’re looking at the five teams in each conference who have had freshmen make the greatest impacts on their team.

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCal signal-caller Jared Goff is off to a big start in his career.
1. California: The quarterback is the most important position, and anytime you have a true freshman playing quarterback, it’s going to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game. So far, quarterback Jared Goff has risen to the occasion, even if it hasn’t translated into wins for the Bears. He leads the country in total offense. He’s completing 61 percent of his passes (103-of-168) and has seven touchdowns to four interceptions. Goff is one of seven true freshmen who have seen time for the Bears. Running back Khalfani Muhammad is tied for second on the team with 21 carries (97 yards, one touchdown).

2. UCLA: The Bruins have played 16 true freshmen so far, which, as of last week, was second in the country only to Texas A&M. Linebacker Myles Jack has had the biggest impact with 14 tackles, including two for a loss and a team-high four pass breakups. They are also getting good production from Eddie Vanderdoes, who had two tackles for a loss against New Mexico State, and offensive lineman Alex Redmond has started all three games at guard.

3. USC: The Trojans have gotten impact performances on both sides of the ball from their freshmen. Seven have seen the field for the Trojans. Safety Su’a Cravens has been as advertised so far with 18 tackles, half a tackle for a loss, and an interception. With Silas Redd out, running back Justin Davis has supplemented Tre Madden nicely. In four games, Davis has rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 47.2 yards per game and a team-high 5.9 yards per carry.

4. Washington State: The Cougars have gotten quality -- not necessary quantity -- out of their true freshmen. They have only played four. But two of them are getting quality playing time and making significant contributions. Cornerback Daquawn Brown made his first career start against USC and posted a team high 11 tackles while breaking up two passes. He also had an interception against Southern Utah. Wide receiver River Cracraft is fourth on the team with 10 catches for 111 yards.

5. Colorado: The Buffs aren’t going as young as they did last year, but they are still getting production from their rookies. And they have found something special in linebacker Addison Gillam. Through two games he’s the Buffs leading tackler with 20 stops -- including a sack, two tackles for a loss and five stops on third down. He also blocked a punt. Defensive end Jimmie Gilbert should also continue to see time. In 64 snaps he has three tackles and a sack.

Honorable mentions

These guys have been impactful, but chances are their teams would still have had success if they weren’t on the field based on quality of competition and/or depth at a position. But their contributions shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Oregon TE John Mundt: Five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Oregon RB Thomas Tyner: 12 carries for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Arizona LB Scooby Wright: 13 tackles, three for a loss.
  • Oregon State KR Victor Bolden: 19 returns, 365 yards, 19.2 average.
  • Utah LS Chase Dominguez: Haven’t heard his name before? Good. You shouldn’t. He’s a long snapper.
  • Arizona State K Zane Gonzalez: Has converted 4 of 7 field goals with a long of 40 and is 3-4 inside 40 yards. 13 of 13 on PATs.
  • Washington KR John Ross: Six kick returns for 112 yards (18.7 average). Three punt returns for 16 yards (5.3 average).

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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Taking stock of Week 1 in the Pac-12:

Team of the week: Washington opened fancy, renovated Husky Stadium with a dominant 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State. Quarterback Keith Price was outstanding, and the defense kept the Broncos from scoring a touchdown. It was Boise State's worst loss since 2005.

Best game: While Oregon State's 49-46 loss to FCS school Eastern Washington was the biggest nail-biter, the Pac-12 blog isn't in the habit of celebrating a conference loss to an FCS team. So we're going with Utah's 30-26 comeback win over Utah State. The Utes trailed 23-14 early in the second half but stormed back after following up a 45-yard field goal with a successful onside kick. It was a gutsy call that led to the Utes' go-ahead points.

Biggest play: Colorado had taken a 26-24 lead over Colorado State early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams had driven to midfield and looked poised to counter on their next possession. On second-and-8, a Garrett Grayson pass to Kapri Bibbs looked like it was going to earn a first down, but Buffs defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe came from behind Bibbs and slapped the ball out. Greg Henderson got a nice bounce and scooped and scooted lickety-split down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown that changed the game.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenKeith Price was stellar in Washington's win over No. 19 Boise State.
Offensive standout: Price completed 23 of 31 passes for 324 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for 25 yards in the win over Boise State. Moreover, he did all that after throwing a pick on his first pass, showing mental toughness by not letting an early mistake in a high-pressure environment get him down. His efficiency rating for the game -- 176.8 -- would have led the nation in 2012. Price also now has 56 career TD passes, a school record.

Defensive standout: Colorado's Addison Gillam was just the second true freshman to start a season opener at inside linebacker in school history, but that's not why he's noted here. He's here because he recorded 14 tackles, with two coming for a loss, and a sack. He also had a pass breakup and a key tackle on fourth down. The Buffaloes' defense, which was just awful last year, held Colorado State to 295 total yards.

Defensive standout II: Yes, Washington's Justin Wilcox knows what he's doing as he continues to climb the short list of nation's best defensive coordinators. The Huskies were bend-but-don't-break early against Boise State, and then they took over. Six points was the Broncos' lowest point total since 1997 (a 58-0 loss to Washington State). While Boise State gained some yards -- both teams were running up-tempo schemes, so there were 173 total plays in the game -- the Broncos averaged only 3.9 yards per play. For the sake of comparison, Alabama gave up 4.2 yards per play last year. Boise State's longest running play was 18 yards, and its longest passing play was 16 yards. When you don't give up big plays, you have a chance to win.

Special-teams standout: Utah kicker Andy Phillips, a former U.S. alpine skier who had never played competitive football -- at any level -- before his kickoff against Utah State, kicked field goals of 45, 19 and 38 yards and was perfect on three extra points in the Utes' 30-26 victory. The final two kicks came after the Utes had fallen behind 26-24 in the fourth quarter. Oh, and he perfectly executed an onside kick that might have been the biggest play of the game. His three kickoffs all went for touchbacks. See this video.

Smiley face: The most important thing is to be 1-0 after the opening week, and seven of 10 Pac-12 teams that played can now say that. Two of the teams that lost, California to No. 22 Northwestern and Washington State at Auburn, showed fairly well as underdogs and probably felt they should have won. Washington, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon probably feel like they got exactly what they wanted out of the week. USC and Utah are, again, happy to be 1-0.

Frowny face: Oh, man, Oregon State. That defense.

Oregon State was the week's big loser. More like BIG LOSER. A four-touchdown favorite against Eastern Washington -- an FCS power but an FCS team nonetheless -- the No. 25 Beavers went down 49-46 because they simply couldn't stop Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams, who passed for 411 yards and rushed for 107. The Beavers welcomed back seven starters from one of the nation's best defenses, but that unit turned in a miserable performance. What the heck happened to All-Pac-12 defensive end Scott Crichton, who had just two tackles?

It was only the third time that an FCS school defeated a ranked FBS team.

Thought of the week: You can never -- ever! -- take any team lightly. In a week when every Pac-12 team will be favored in nonconference play, that's something to remember.

Questions for the week: USC and Washington State open Pac-12 play this week in the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, and this game could be revealing. The Cougars showed they are an improved team at Auburn, while the Trojans are hard to pin down. Will Washington State get the upset? If that happens, the Mike Leach era gains momentum while the Lane Kiffin era takes a notable downturn. A secondary question is whether one or the other USC quarterbacks takes control of the starting job.

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