NCF Nation: BYU Cougars

ACC viewer's guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
9/20/14
8:00
AM ET
The best day of the week is finally here. Is the best league game of the year here as well? Probably. Here's a primer on all of the action throughout the day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter with all of the hashtags below.

Noon

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, ESPN, #GTvsVT: The Yellow Jackets have gotten to 3-0 in the most wayward of fashions. The Hokies are coming off a home loss to East Carolina, one week after upsetting a top-10 Ohio State team on the road. Could their trouble be on defense? Brandon Facyson has been playing hurt all season, sure, but Virginia Tech has surrendered 22 plays of 20 yards or more this season, fourth-most in the nation and half its total from last season (44). The big-play threat might not exactly be there with Georgia Tech, but as Jared Shanker noted this week, the visitors do bring with them a knack for converting third downs. Virginia Tech has won the past four games in this matchup.

Iowa at Pittsburgh, ESPNU, #IOWAvsPITT: Third-year Panthers coach Paul Chryst hosts a familiar foe this weekend, as he faced the Hawkeyes six times while he was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, going 3-3. Pitt is looking for its first 4-0 start since 2000, and it will likely turn to the nation's leading rusher, James Conner, to try to get there, despite Iowa's stingy run defense (No. 7 nationally). Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, by the way, will experience a homecoming of sorts, as he went to Upper St. Clair High in Pittsburgh.

12:30 p.m.

Maryland at Syracuse, 12:30, ESPN3, #MDvsCUSE: The Terrapins are in their first year away from the "basketball" conference that is the ACC, as coach Randy Edsall said this summer, and the Big Ten newcomers will look to avenge last year's 20-3 home loss to the Orange, which came without receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Syracuse, meanwhile, looked like a new team in last week's 40-3 win at Central Michigan, as it came off a bye and had quarterback Terrel Hunt back running the show on offense. Syracuse is looking to get to 3-0 for the first time since 1991, which would provide a big boost to a team that will embark on a difficult three-week stretch against Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State.

Tulane at Duke, ESPN3, #TULNvsDUKE: Has there been a more overlooked team than Duke recently? All the Blue Devils have done is take care of business, coming off a 10-win, division-title season and starting 3-0 this season in methodical fashion (albeit against bad competition). In any event, the unranked Blue Devils close their nonconference slate against American Athletic Conference newcomer Tulane, which is no stranger to the ACC this season, having lost to Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Here's one interesting stat surrounding Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The Blue Devils have lost yardage on just three percent of Boone's snaps, the lowest percentage of any Power Five quarterback with at least 150 plays.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesTyler Murphy and Boston College hope to avoid a letdown after their upset of USC when they face FCS Maine on Saturday.
1 p.m.

Maine at Boston College, ESPN3, #MEvsBC: It's all about avoiding a letdown this week in Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles produced one of the young season's greatest upsets last weekend against USC. The Black Bears should hardly pose a huge challenge to BC, which, with Tyler Murphy under center, has been able to stretch the field much more than last season, even if the run game is still its bread and butter. Murphy leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards this season with 401, 40 more yards than he has tallied passing the ball (361).

3:30 p.m.

Louisville at FIU, Fox Sports 1: The Cardinals are looking to rebound from their first defeat of the second Bobby Petrino era, while the Golden Panthers welcome their second straight ACC foe to Miami. FIU gave Pitt a handful last week before the Panthers pulled away, but Louisville will probably not be so kind coming off the loss at Virginia. Louisville beat FIU 72-0 a year ago, and while there are plenty of new faces, quarterback Will Gardner will try to bounce back after getting pulled a week ago. His offensive line will look to get its act together as well.

Virginia at No. 21 BYU, ESPN, #UVAvsBYU: Speaking of the Cavaliers, they should serve as one of the toughest tests the Cougars face all season, as the home team has the best chance of anyone in the nation at running the regular-season table (21.7 percent, per ESPN's FPI). We'll see just how good this Virginia defense really is after strong showings through the first three weeks, as BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and his home field will be a handful to handle. Virginia beat BYU last year in the season opener, one of just two games it won all season.

Army at Wake Forest, ESPN3, #ARMYvsWAKE: The Demon Deacons' defense has actually been pretty good through three games despite a 1-2 record. And while the offense showed signs of life late in last week's loss at Utah State, it cannot afford to give away points, and it would help to develop some form of a ground game. The Black Knights were shut out last week at Stanford. They also boast, at this point, the nation's slowest offense at 31.1 seconds per play, according to data from ESPN Stats & Info.

North Carolina at East Carolina, ESPNU, #UNCvsECU: The Pirates came awfully close to beating a South Carolina team that is probably better than we initially gave it credit for, and they went into Blacksburg, Virginia, last week and took down the Hokies. Now they get the Tar Heels in a rematch of last year's 55-31 ECU rout in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have looked underwhelming through two games, and they will be without starting guard Landon Turner. But their offense is still capable of putting plenty of points on the board, and this is a team that certainly has not forgotten about the way it was embarrassed by the Pirates last season. A shootout between Marquise Williams and Shane Carden could be on the horizon. And given UNC's upcoming slate -- at Clemson, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame -- it better hope it can keep up this time around before league play starts. One thing to keep in mind: With Brian Walker's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown two weeks ago at San Diego State, UNC now has 10 non-offensive touchdowns since last season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That is tied with North Texas for the second-best mark in the nation during that span, trailing only Florida State's 11.

6 p.m.

Presbyterian at NC State, ESPN3, #PREvsNCSU: The Wolfpack's laughable nonconference slate concludes, and a win here would make them 4-0 after a disappointing 3-9 mark last season. Still, it should do wonders for a young team looking to go bowling in Dave Doeren's second year at the helm, especially if it can replicate its dominant performance from last week at USF. Like its rival in Chapel Hill, NC State needs to do itself a favor, with back-to-back games against FSU and Clemson awaiting in the next two weeks to open conference play. As David Hale notes, quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been invaluable so far for the Pack, leading the ACC in touchdowns and yards and second only to Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas in passer rating.

8 p.m.

Miami at No. 24 Nebraska, ESPN2, #MIAvsNEB: Andrea Adelson and Mitch Sherman did a wonderful job recapping some of the great matchups between these old rivals. What might be the difference at Memorial Stadium, however, is the ground game. Duke Johnson has rushed for at least 90 yards in each of his past five games dating back to last season, while Ameer Abdullah has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in 12 of his past 14 games and has tallied more than 100 yards from scrimmage in 16 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. The ACC is 6-3 against the Cornhuskers in the past nine meetings, though the Hurricanes are just 1-6 in their past seven games against AP-ranked teams, with an average point margin of minus-22.4.

8 p.m.

No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State, ABC, #CLEMvsFSU: Here's the matchup we've all been waiting for, but it won't include Jameis Winston. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will sit out the entire game, the school announced late Friday, after reportedly making profane remarks in public. It will be Sean Maguire's turn to run the show. Maguire has not started a game since Nov. 12, 2011, his senior year at Seton Hall Prep (New Jersey). Coach Jimbo Fisher is 3-1 against Clemson since arriving in Tallahassee, but the lower-ranked team has won two of the past three meetings. The Tigers, meanwhile, are 0-4 all time against AP No. 1 teams, with the last such game coming in the 1999 "Bowden Bowl I" against FSU, a 17-14 Seminoles win. Coming into this contest, ESPN's FPI ranks Clemson 19th, FSU 2nd, and it gives the Seminoles a 77 percent chance to win.

Watch: Serviceman surprises wife at game

September, 12, 2014
9/12/14
12:10
PM ET
video

Surprise military homecomings never get old. The joy on the stunned faces is enough to make any heart melt.

That was the case again during Thursday's Houston-BYU game.

Hill, BYU have chance at perfect mark

September, 9, 2014
9/09/14
12:17
PM ET

Quarterback Taysom Hill has helped BYU average 38.0 points in its first two games.
After BYU's demolition of Texas in Week 2 - the Longhorns’ worst home loss since 1997 - the Cougars jumped from 24th to 15th in ESPN's Football Power Index.

The Cougars now have the best chance to enter the bowl season undefeated, according to FPI, thanks to their 75th-ranked remaining schedule.

BYU’s toughest remaining game, according to FPI, is at Boise State on Oct. 24, in which the Cougars have a 72 percent chance to beat the Broncos.

With quarterback Taysom Hill at the helm combined with a manageable remaining schedule, the Cougars might just be a sleeper for the playoff.

Hill might be the player who most resembles the idea of a “dual-threat quarterback” in college football.

He began as a situational player when he returned from his LDS mission to Sydney, Australia, in 2012. But since he took over as starter in 2013, he has been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars.

Making plays in the ground game
Hill is best-known for making big plays with his feet. His career average of 89.3 rush yards per game ranks third among FBS quarterbacks in the last 10 seasons.

Last season, Hill finished with six 100-yard rushing games, tied for second-most by an FBS quarterback, and rushed for the third-most yards (1,344) in a season in BYU history. He is already BYU’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.

Since the start of last season, Hill has the most rushes of at least 10 yards (69) among FBS players, 42 on designed runs. Almost half of Hill’s designed runs have been zone-read plays, on which he averages almost nine yards per rush.

Like former BYU great Steve Young, Hill has improvisation skills, as he trailed only Johnny Manziel in scramble yards per game (41.5) last season.

Hill's passing has improved
Hill’s passing game should not be overlooked. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes from inside the pocket last season; in two games (against Connecticut and Texas) this season, he has completed 78.8 percent of such passes.

Hill’s increased accuracy can be attributed to shorter passes. This season, Hill’s passes have traveled an average of 6.7 yards downfield, 3.5 yards per attempt shorter than last season. He has thrown six passes that traveled more than 15 yards downfield this season. He averaged 7.2 such passes per game in 2012.

Hill has posted a Total QBR of more than 80 in both of BYU’s games this season, one of seven qualified FBS quarterbacks to do so. This group includes Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Everett Golson and Trevor Knight. Hill had only three games with a Total QBR of at least 80 in 2012.

Pac-12 problem: Losing expansion?

August, 22, 2014
8/22/14
10:23
AM ET
Over the past five or so years, the Power Five conferences started playing expansion roulette. Although the ultimate wisdom of these moves can be measured only over the long term, the short-term results can be judged.

That judgment? Things worked out well for the SEC and Big Ten. Not so much for the Pac-12 and Big 12.

The Big Ten added Nebraska three seasons ago to give it 12 teams. The Cornhuskers, despite not satisfying their demanding fans, have gone 17-7 in league play and won 28 games overall.

[+] EnlargeSefo Liufau and Tenny Palepoi
AP Photo/Rick BowmerColorado and Utah have a dismal 13-41 combined record in league play since joining the Pac-12.
The SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12. Each has posted double-digit wins and high national rankings as an SEC member, and their two-year conference marks essentially match what they did in their last two years in the Big 12.

The Big 12 replaced those two with TCU and West Virginia, teams that had won BCS bowl games as members of the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. Yet neither has posted a winning record in Big 12 play, and both regressed to 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the conference last year.

The Pac-12? It raided the Big 12 for Colorado, which went 5-7 and 2-6 in 2010, and the Mountain West for Utah, which went 10-3, 7-1 that year. Neither has matched its 2010 records in the Pac-12 nor posted a winning record in conference play. The Buffaloes have gone a meager 4-23 against Pac-12 foes, while the Utes have gone from 4-5 to 3-6 to 2-7 in conference games.

Nebraska has been to three consecutive New Year's Day bowls, beating Georgia in the Gator Bowl last year, while Texas A&M has won a Heisman Trophy and two bowl games. Like the Aggies, Missouri has won a Cotton Bowl against the Big 12. Both have produced top-five rankings over the past two years.

The lone badge of postseason honor for the Pac-12 newbies? Utah's victory over Georgia Tech in the 2011 Sun Bowl. To the Utes' credit, they have gone 9-1 in games outside the Pac-12 over the past three seasons, including 3-0 versus their bitter rival BYU.

Although the Pac-12 has surged after realignment in terms of national perception, gaining ground on the SEC, and the Big Ten has stagnated by comparison, that's had nothing to do with expansion. While Pac-12 folks aren't going to whine about the fruits of expansion -- Exhibit A being a $3 billion TV deal -- or even grouse about poor-to-middling results from the new members, it's fair to say the short-term gain in terms of assets on Saturdays has been slight.

As assets, Colorado and Utah don't attract national eyeballs at present as they would if they were winning 10 games and were nationally ranked. The Utes' nail-biter with Arizona State in November was an interesting game, but it would have been featured prominently in highlight shows that night if it were a battle of ranked teams eyeballing the South Division title.

That said, other Pac-12 coaches might enjoy not having two more teams threatening to play at a Top 25 -- or better -- level. The conference, even with the Utes and Buffs slumping, is deeper than it's ever been. In fact, if both were playing at a high level, the conference's chances to put two teams in BCS bowl games, as it did in two of the previous three years, would have been reduced, costing each team about $1 million since 2011. That holds true looking forward to a potential berth -- or berths -- in the College Football Playoff.

Depth is good. It's fun to celebrate top-to-bottom quality. But it also makes it more difficult to go 12-0 or 11-1 in the regular season, records typically required for national title contention.

Still, the Pac-12 is better served by Utah and Colorado improving. The conference certainly would like the Denver and Salt Lake City markets to turn their attention to college football in large numbers.

Not to conclude with an outlandish assertion here, but here's a guess that the folks most eager for the Buffs and Utes to help the Pac-12 feel good about its expansion choices are the fans, administrators, players and coaches associated with both programs.
Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.

Position U: Tight ends

June, 17, 2014
6/17/14
11:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Tight End U” for the 2000s?

1. Miami (84 points): While it has been relatively quiet since its positional heyday early in the 2000s, Miami still easily tops this list. With seven tight ends drafted, including first-round picks Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen, the Hurricanes far surpassed the next closest programs at the position. They don’t get extra points for this, but they also produced arguably the top tight end in the NFL today in 2010 third-round pick Jimmy Graham, who's now starring for the New Orleans Saints.

Award winners: Kellen Winslow, Mackey (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Kellen Winslow (2003).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Shockey (2000, 2001), Kellen Winslow (2002, 2003), Greg Olsen (2006).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jeremy Shockey (2002), Kellen Winslow (2004), Greg Olsen (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Everett (Round 3, 2005), Jimmy Graham (Round 3, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dedrick Epps (Round 7, 2010), Richard Gordon (Round 6, 2011).

2. Iowa (66 points): Dallas Clark leads the way thanks to a 2002 season after which he won the John Mackey Award and was a consensus All-American. But Iowa had a consistent run of tight ends in the 2000s, with first-round pick Clark and five others getting drafted -- most recently third-round pick C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was the fifth tight end selected this year.

Award winners: Dallas Clark, Mackey (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Dallas Clark (2002).
First-team all-conference: Dallas Clark (2002), Brandon Myers (2008), Tony Moeaki (2009), C.J. Fiedorowicz (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dallas Clark (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Scott Chandler (Round 4, 2007), Tony Moeaki (Round 3, 2010), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Erik Jensen (Round 7, 2004), Brandon Myers (Round 6, 2009).

3. Missouri (64 points): Missouri hasn’t had as much success placing tight ends in the pros as some of the other top programs on this list, but the Tigers have an award winner (Chase Coffman won the 2008 Mackey Award) and three consensus All-American tight ends (Coffman, Martin Rucker and Michael Egnew) since 2000. Not too shabby.

Award winners: Chase Coffman, Mackey (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Martin Rucker (2007), Chase Coffman (2008), Michael Egnew (2010).
First-team all-conference: Martin Rucker (2006), Michael Egnew (2010, 2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Martin Rucker (Round 4, 2008), Chase Coffman (Round 3, 2009), Michael Egnew (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.


4. Wisconsin (64 points): One All-American (Lance Kendricks in 2010, when he led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches), six first-team All-Big Ten picks (Kendricks, Garrett Graham twice, Mark Anelli, Travis Beckum and Jacob Pedersen) and six drafted players helped Wisconsin nearly earn the runner-up spot in the tight end rankings.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Lance Kendricks (2010).
First-team all-conference: Mark Anelli (2001), Travis Beckum (2007), Garrett Graham (2008, 2009), Lance Kendricks (2010), Jacob Pedersen (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Owen Daniels (Round 4, 2006), Travis Beckum (Round 3, 2009), Garrett Graham (Round 4, 2010), Lance Kendricks (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mark Anelli (Round 6, 2002), Jason Pociask (Round 5, 2006).

5. Georgia (62 points): It doesn’t have the national awards to show for it, but Georgia seems to boast an outstanding tight end nearly every season. The best example of that is how the Bulldogs keep placing tight ends in the pros – starting with Randy McMichael, Ben Watson and Leonard Pope and leading all the way up to Arthur Lynch, who just went to the Miami Dolphins in the most recent draft. The Bulldogs have built an impressive legacy at the position that looks to continue.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Randy McMichael (2001), Leonard Pope (2004, 2005), Martrez Milner (2006), Orson Charles (2011), Arthur Lynch (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ben Watson (2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Randy McMichael (Round 4, 2002), Leonard Pope (Round 3, 2006), Martrez Milner (Round 4, 2007), Orson Charles (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Arthur Lynch (Round 5, 2014).

6. BYU (56 points): Independents Notre Dame and BYU are hurt in these position rankings by not being members of a conference -- thus they couldn’t earn points for all-conference selections, although BYU did as a member of the Mountain West up through 2010. In fact, the Cougars earned 36 of their 56 points by having six tight ends named to the All-MWC team between 2001 and 2009. Notre Dame certainly belongs higher on the list, considering that it has had nine tight ends drafted, including first-round pick and 2012 Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Dennis Pitta (2009).
First-team all-conference: Doug Jolley (2001), Jonny Harline (2005, 2006), Dennis Pitta (2007, 2008, 2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Doug Jolley (Round 2, 2002), Dennis Pitta (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tevita Ofahengaue (Round 7, 2001), Spencer Nead (Round 7, 2003).

7. Virginia (54 points): Heath Miller is a one-man wrecking crew here, single-handedly accounting for 38 of Virginia’s 54 points thanks to a Mackey Award-winning season in 2004 when he was a consensus All-American and went on to become a first-round draft pick. Miller also won All-ACC honors in 2003.

Award winners: Heath Miller, Mackey (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Heath Miller (2004).
First-team all-conference: Heath Miller (2003, 2004), John Phillips (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Heath Miller (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chris Luzar (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Billy Baber (Round 5, 2001), Tom Santi (Round 6, 2008), John Phillips (Round 6, 2009).

8. Stanford (48 points): Stanford is arguably the top program for tight ends right now, but that’s a fairly recent development. Of the six Cardinal tight ends drafted since 2001, four have been since 2010, led by second-round picks Coby Fleener and 2012 All-American Zach Ertz. Stanford posted a rare double in 2013 when Ertz and Levine Toilolo were both picked in the draft’s first four rounds.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Zach Ertz (2012).
First-team all-conference: Alex Smith (2004), Coby Fleener (2011), Zach Ertz (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Teyo Johnson (Round 2, 2003), Alex Smith (Round 3, 2005), Coby Fleener (Round 2, 2012), Zach Ertz (Round 2, 2013), Levine Toilolo (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jim Dray (Round 7, 2010),

9. Colorado (46 points): Colorado hasn’t had much to brag about on the football field over the last several years, but the Buffaloes are still hanging on in the tight end rankings. Daniel Graham’s outstanding 2001 season (including a Mackey Award and a consensus All-America designation prior to becoming a first-round draft pick) is a big reason why Colorado makes the top 10.

Award winners: Daniel Graham, Mackey (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Graham (2001).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Graham (2001), Joe Klopfenstein (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Daniel Graham (2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Joe Klopfenstein (Round 2, 2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Quinn Sypniewski (Round 5, 2006), Nick Kasa, Round 6, 2013).

10. UCLA (46 points): As with its fellow No. 9 on the list, Colorado, UCLA can thank a single player for its spot in the top 10. Marcedes Lewis accumulated 32 of the Bruins’ 46 points with a 2005 season when he won the Mackey Award, was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 pick and then went on to become a 2006 first-round draft selection.

Award winners: Marcedes Lewis, Mackey (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Marcedes Lewis (2005).
First-team all-conference: Mike Seidman (2002), Marcedes Lewis (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Marcedes Lewis (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Mike Seidman (Round 3, 2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jeff Grau (Round 7, 2002), Bryan Fletcher (Round 6, 2002).

REST OF “TIGHT END U” RANKINGS
44 – Notre Dame; 40 – Clemson; 38 – Arizona State, Florida, Louisville; 34 – Oregon, USC; 32 – Minnesota, North Carolina, Purdue, Rutgers; 28 – Tennessee; 26 – Oklahoma; 24 – N.C. State; 22 – Kentucky, Washington; 20 – Arkansas, Maryland; 18 – Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech; 16 – Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas; 14 – Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State; 12 – South Carolina; 10 – California, LSU, Michigan State, Oregon State; 8 – Boston College, Northwestern; 6 – TCU, Utah, Duke, Syracuse; 4 – Alabama, Kansas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech; 2 – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Mississippi State; 0 – Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State, West Virginia

Fight Hunger Bowl preview

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
11:00
AM ET
Washington (8-4) and BYU (8-4) square off Friday night in the Fight Hunger Bowl at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: For Washington, it starts with running back Bishop Sankey, a Doak Walker finalist and one of the most consistent and powerful backs in the country. He ranks second in the country in rushing yards (1,775), fourth in rushing touchdowns (18) and averages 147.8 yards on the ground per game. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is the first player in school history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. His completion percentage isn't great -- just 54.1 percent, and he has thrown 13 interceptions to go with 19 touchdowns. But what he lacks in accuracy, he makes up for in scary athleticism.

What to watch: Both teams run an up-tempo style of offense that will put a lot of strain on the opposing team's defense. Well-known nationally is hybrid defensive end/OLB Kyle Van Noy, who pretty much single-handedly won the Poinsettia Bowl last year for the Cougars. Washington's offensive line has been steady and consistent, but keeping Van Noy out of the backfield poses as big a challenge as any pass rusher the Huskies have seen this season. How the Huskies protect quarterback Keith Price and open up holes for Sankey will be the matchup to watch.

Why to watch: Much like USC and Boise State, who already have played their bowl games, Washington is a team going through a coaching transition. That always adds intrigue and drama to the postseason, because motivation comes into question. But with Chris Petersen's hire at Washington, the Huskies don't seem to be as unstable as Boise State was in its loss to Oregon State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. BYU has a knack for playing well in the postseason, winning six of its past seven bowl games and four in a row. Their stability provides a stark contrast to the in-transition Huskies, making for some interesting sidebar discussions in this one.

Predictions: Kevin Gemmell picked Washington to win, 38-27. Ted Miller picked BYU to win, 30-24.

Irish seniors finish with complete win

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
10:40
PM ET


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jarron Jones walked to the corner of the Notre Dame Stadium interview room, the media members following him numbering in the dozens, all to hear the words of a guy who, before Saturday, had seven career tackles.

Jones had doubled that total in the minutes before his meeting with the press, tallying seven stops against BYU. He doubled his career blocked kick total, too, recording his second of the season. He had stepped in for an injured Kona Schwenke, who was stepping in for an injured Louis Nix, and he delivered a performance that at least momentarily quelled the fears of everyone surrounding the program about who could step in if (and likely when) Nix goes pro.

[+] EnlargeJarron Jones
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsJarron Jones had a breakout game filling in for the injured Louis Nix.
"Opportunity, right?" coach Brian Kelly said. "He got the opportunity, was the next man in situation.

"Jarron we felt like was coming on, and he played exceedingly well and really happy for him. But we thought this was something that when we recruited him that he was capable of, and he showed that today."

Yet as much as Jones' play represented the future, Senior Day at Notre Dame was still about the present. The Irish led from start-to-finish in their 23-13 win over BYU, something they had not done since a Week 1 victory over Temple, back when all of their goals were still in front of them. That was no longer the case after their last outing, a harrowing loss at Pitt two weeks ago, but elimination from a BCS-bowl chase seemingly had a reverse effect on this group, which took care of the Cougars by playing as complete of a game as it has all season long.

"When we go out on the field, we're going to compete, we're going to compete to win, we expect to win when we go out on the field — we're not going to lay down," said Cam McDaniel, perplexed by the idea that the Irish had little left to play for. "Anybody that says that these last two games are irrelevant, that's just a completely ignorant statement, because of what we put into this thing, all the blood, sweat and tears that go into this, everything behind the scenes.

"I mean, if you make comments like that, you don't understand what this football team -- what we stand for and what we want to do. We expect to win every time we go out on the football field, and we're going to compete our tails off."

The junior running back did his part, rushing for a career-best 117 yards on a day in which the Irish eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark for just the third time this season -- despite losing center Nick Martin in the first quarter to a hyper-extended left knee, and despite a running loop of first-year starters at right guard in Conor Hanratty and Steve Elmer. The banged-up defense hunkered down when it mattered most. Notre Dame held a team that totaled 415 yards to just 13 points, thanks in large part to holding the Cougars to just one touchdown and three field goal attempts in four red zone trips.

And the Irish were not too shabby on special teams themselves, with Kyle Brindza aiding them offensively by going 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 51-yarder mid-way through the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game.

"Yeah, we could be loose here and there during warmups and everything,” Brindza said, “but this was probably the most locked-in week we've ever had in a while, even dating back to last year when we went to a BCS-bowl game."

The attitude came down from Kelly, who, despite probably wishing the program was beyond it at this point, demanded a sharper effort and focus across the board.

Yes, that means preaching the can't-start-winning-till-you-stop-losing mantra, again. And yes, that means keeping the locker room clean, still.

"The locker-room thing was a big one," two-time captain Zack Martin said. “… We prepared a lot of plays this week. If we didn't have 11 guys doing the right thing, we'd do it again. Just little things like that that tried to focus our guys a little more. But tonight we were playing for the seniors, and hats off to our younger guys for coming in and playing their butts off."

Chief among them was Jones, still feeling the effects of his field goal block, which came near the four-minute mark with BYU threatening to slice the deficit back to a single possession.

It was the redshirt freshman's first blocked kick since getting a hand on a Temple kick back in Week 1.

"It hurts," Jones said, looking at his left hand, still stinging from the contact in what Notre Dame said was its coldest home game (26 degrees) in 22 years.

"I'm not going to lie. The ball feels like eight-times harder when it's coming at your hand like that. The Temple game, that wasn't as bad as this one."

Left guard Chris Watt was more impressed with the rest of Jones’ game.

"I just see [Dan] Fox, eight tackles, Jones -- I'm like, TJ Jones? I was like, 'Wow, seven,'" the redshirt senior laughed of Jarron Jones' breakout. "That's good for us, having younger guys stepping up in this program, especially going into next year."

Next year might look a little brighter after Saturday, but the Notre Dame is not ready to turn the page on this season just yet.

The Pinstripe Bowl figured to be there at the end for the Irish whether they went 7-5 or 9-3. Given two long weeks to ponder each scenario after stumbling in the Steel City, they came out and delivered their decision, a verdict validating this senior class' contributions in the process.

Video: White leads Wisconsin over BYU

November, 9, 2013
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James White had three touchdowns in No. 24 Wisconsin's 27-17 win over BYU.

Video: BYU bests Georgia Tech

October, 13, 2013
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Taysom Hill passed for 244 yards and a touchdown to lead BYU to a 38-20 win over Georgia Tech.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 4 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: While the Pac-12 blog has been hard on Stanford for giving up 21 unanswered points to Arizona State in the fourth quarter, the fact remains the Cardinal posted a two-touchdown win over a ranked team. And that first half showed folks why Stanford is a national title contender. Need to tighten some things up? Absolutely. But Stanford at its best has plenty of irresistible force and unmovable object to it.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsWill Oregon State QB Sean Mannion miss coach Danny Langsdorf, who is heading to the NFL? Sure, but it shouldn't affect his production.
Best game: Oregon State fans let out a massive, "Whew," after the Beavers overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit at San Diego State and won 34-30. While the game was far from pretty, it was a win, and the Beavers seem like a team right now that should just be grateful to collect one. Further, the weekend was otherwise devoid of nail-biters, though USC allowed Utah State to stay unnecessarily close.

Biggest play: Oregon State's defense has been mostly horrible, but it provided the winning margin against San Diego State when CB Steven Nelson returned an interception 16 yards for a TD with 2:31 remaining. The play might have saved the Beavers' season.

Offensive standout: Oregon State can't run the ball or play defense, but QB Sean Mannion can throw the rock around with WR Brandin Cooks. Mannion completed 38 of 55 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Beavers' comeback win over San Diego State. Cooks was his chief weapon, catching 14 passes for 141 yards.

Defensive standout: Utah State couldn't block USC DT Leonard Williams, who had eight tackles with three coming for a loss in the Trojans' 17-14 win over Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies. The Trojans held a previously potent offense to just 285 total yards.

Defensive standout II: Sure, it came against woeful Idaho, but Washington State DT Xavier Cooper dominated inside. Of his five total tackles, 3.5 came for a loss, including 1.5 sacks. He was a key part of a surging defense that held the Vandals to 253 total yards. LB Darryl Monroe, who led the Cougars with 12 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, also merits note.

Special-teams standout: Think you had a long Saturday? Utah punter Tom Hackett punted 11 times for the Utes against BYU, averaging 44.2 yards per boot with a long of 61 yards, though that one was returned 58 yards to the Utah 13. That's 486 yards of punting from the Australian! Three were downed inside the Cougars' 20-yard line. G'day to that.

Frowny face: USC and Oregon State were both ranked in the preseason but both appear to be significantly flawed. The Trojans can't do anything on offense, and the Beavers are struggling on defense. Hmm. Maybe if they combined forces we could generate another national title contender?

Smiley face: The Pac-12 is 29-4 in nonconference play, including 21-3 against FBS teams, with just three matchups with Notre Dame left to play. That is by far the most distinguished mark in the nation. Remember when the Mountain West Conference was -- rightfully -- talking smack about the Pac-12? Well, the Pac-12 is 10-0 versus the MWC this year.

Thought of the week: While the season is only hitting the quarter pole, we should learn a little about the conference's South Division contenders -- and pretenders -- this weekend. Arizona has played three overmatched foes and was off over the weekend. The visit to Washington should be revealing. We have no idea who the Wildcats really are. They seem much improved on defense and limited throwing the ball. A victory over the Huskies would thrust them into the top 25 and announce them as contenders in the South Division. Meanwhile, the Arizona State-USC game also seems to serve as a critical separation game in the South.

Questions for the week: Will Lane Kiffin's last stand be in the desert? If Kiffin and the Trojans prevail and improve to 4-1, Kiffin might buy himself some goodwill -- and top-25 votes. The season would still offer plenty of hope. If the Trojans lose, they will fall to 0-2 in the conference, a major hole in the division race. At that point, reporters covering the Trojans likely would start writing speculative articles about USC's next coach.

Rivalry will force Utes to bounce back

September, 19, 2013
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Losses hurt. Overtime losses hurt more. But there’s a special, sinister place in the psyche reserved for overtime losses at home when you score 48 points. Losses like that can suck the life out of a team.

That is, of course, unless you’re playing your biggest rival one week later.

[+] EnlargeTravis Wilson
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsTravis Wilson and the Utes will visit rival BYU on Saturday night.
“You certainly have no problem getting your players up for this game,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose Utes take on BYU Saturday. “It’s an in-state rivalry and the emotion and the passion and all of that take care of itself in this one. It’s good timing to get refocused and ready to play again.”

The Utes are coming off of a 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State, a game in which they trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter before clawing back to take the lead with 4:25 to play and then tying it up with :21 seconds left before falling in extra frames. BYU is coming off a bye.

The added intrigue to this season’s edition of the rivalry is that the game will go on a two-year break. That means two extra years for the winners to puff up their chests. Two extra years for the losers to marinate. Two extra years for fans to trump any debate with: “Who won the last one?”

Certainly, that has to make this game more significant than any of the previous ones, right?

“Not at all,” Whittingham said. “In my opinion, it doesn’t put any more emphasis on the game. There happens to be a two-year break in between, but I don’t think it’s any more important to them than last year or the year before or the year before.”

The last one ended in chaos. The one before that was a Utah blowout and the one before that came down to a blocked field goal. The Utes have won three straight in the series and four of the past five.

Given how two of the past three matchups have gone, Whittingham said be prepared for anything.

“It seems like last year might have been more bizarre than it's been in a few years, but it seems like almost every year it comes down to the last play or the last series of plays, and I guess that's one of the reasons that it's made it a good rivalry,” Whittingham said. “I don't have an explanation for it other than it's very competitive, and both teams seem to play well in the game and it comes right down to the bitter end.”

So while the Utes have little time to lick their wounds from the Oregon State loss, BYU took some time off to fully soak in their 40-21 win over then-No. 15 Texas. But just as Utah isn't lingering much on its overtime loss, BYU isn't resting on the laurels of its Texas victory.

“We’ve shifted, and it’s done,” said BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. “Texas was a great win, and we have a lot of good things to build off but we have a lot of things that we need to fix. Everyone on the team has shifted their focus to Utah; there’s nothing to hang our hat on. We had a good game and we’re going to build off that, but our focus is now Utah.”

With last week’s loss, the Utes are now 7-12 in Pac-12 play since joining the conference. Far below the standards Whittingham expects. But he believes the team is making progress. And given the nine-game conference schedule Utah plays, winning non-league games takes on greater importance for a team hoping to return to the postseason.

“We feel like we’re a much better football team right now than we have been the last couple of years,” he said. “The league itself is a lot better than it was a couple of years ago so I guess it’s a relevant statement.”

Part of Utah’s adjustment to the league has been trying to increase its depth. Winning against BYU not only carries universal pride, it also helps with the in-state recruiting -- though Whittingham admits there isn’t as much crossover recruiting as there used to be when both schools were in the Mountain West.

One of the biggest weapons to emerge for Utah are the legs of quarterback Travis Wilson. His 142 rushing yards last week were the second most by a quarterback in Utah history, and he accounted for 78 percent of Utah's total offensive output. A big game for him could mean a big game for the Utes.

"They certainly have to account for Travis running the ball," Whittingham said. "We actually missed a couple of reads -- if he reads a couple of other ones correctly, he's over 200 yards rushing. Even though we had a big night, it could have been even more prolific as far as his carrying the football. But that definitely poses problems for opposing defenses and coordinators. Travis, through three games, has proven that he's a very viable runner. So that's one more thing that they have to account for when they are scheming us. That is a big positive."

Pac-12 predictions: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
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Both Ted and Kevin went 9-1 last week, with both missing with a pick of Utah over Oregon State. They picked different teams in the Colorado-Fresno State game, but it was postponed and might not be rescheduled.

So Kevin is 27-3 so far this season and it's California's fault Ted is just 26-4.

Cal! Baaaaa!

Arizona State at Stanford

Kevin Gemmel: I think ASU will come out firing -- eager to prove it belongs in the top 25 after last week’s freakish ending. But Stanford’s defense is a lot better than Wisconsin’s. This is also ASU’s first game on the road, and until we see what it can do outside of Tempe, Ariz., I’m leaning toward the home team. Stanford 31, Arizona State 24.

Ted Miller: The absences of DE Henry Anderson and CB Barry Browning are a cause for concern for Stanford, but the Cardinal's defense is pretty darn deep. Stanford might not have gone too deep into its playbooks on either side of the ball against San Jose State and Army. This is a big moment for the Cardinal to announce themselves as a national title contender. Stanford 28, Arizona State 20.

Utah State at USC

Kevin Gemmell: Say this for the Trojans, that defense is pretty good. It will be tested against an explosive Utah State offense that puts up nearly 50 points per game behind Heisman dark horse Chuckie Keeton. But it looks like the USC offense woke up last week, and the Pac-12 is a perfect 8-0 against the Mountain West this season. USC 35, Utah State 24.

Ted Miller: The Trojans looked good in all areas while stomping Boston College last week. Now can they put together strong back-to-back performances? Keeton is a great matchup for the USC defense because he'll provide plenty of practice for the mobile QBs the Trojans will see this season, but the first question is whether the offense has found its footing with QB Cody Kessler. USC 30, Utah State 17.

New Mexico State at UCLA

Kevin Gemmell: After all of the emotion of the past 10 days, the Bruins could use a game where they probably won’t get pushed too hard. Get in, get out, stay healthy and take care of their business. No reason the Bruins should have any issues. UCLA 52, New Mexico State 10.

Ted Miller: What Kevin said. Bruins should roll easily and get reserves some valuable action. UCLA 55, New Mexico State 13.

Utah at BYU

Kevin Gemmell: Despite it being only 45 minutes away, Provo, Utah, is still a tough place to play. And rivalry games are always difficult to pick -- especially when you have two very similar teams. My usual approach in this situation is to take the home team. But this Utah team is a lot more explosive than previous editions. I see points and another tight finish. Utah 38, BYU 35.

Ted Miller: BYU has three things going for it: (1) It's playing at home; (2) It's coming off a bye week; (3) Utah lost an emotional home game to Oregon State last weekend. What the Cougars have going against them is me picking them to win. You're welcome, Utes. BYU 28, Utah 24.

Oregon State at San Diego State

Kevin Gemmell: Both teams were predicted to have pretty good seasons. Both teams saw momentum come to a halt with Week 1 losses to FCS teams. The Aztecs are coming off a bye. Which should help. But not enough to overcome the play of Sean Mannion, who is playing like one of the top quarterbacks in the country right now. Oregon State 42, San Diego State 24.

Ted Miller: San Diego State's offense has been sputtering, which should help the Beavers' defense regain some mojo. The Aztecs' defense? It gave up 40 points to Eastern Illinois. The Beavers should put further distance between themselves and a bad opening game. Oregon State 45, San Diego State 17.

Idaho State at Washington

Kevin Gemmell: The Huskies overcame a huge maturity milestone by winning a competitive game on the road. Now they close out the nonconference schedule with an FCS team that is 2-0 … but won’t provide much resistance. Good tune-up game for the Huskies heading into conference play. Washington 48, Idaho State 13.

Ted Miller: The Huskies should complete a strong 3-0 start. Big test coming Sept. 28 when Arizona comes up for a visit after a bye week. Washington 42, Idaho State 17.

Idaho at Washington State

Kevin Gemmell: There is always bad blood between these schools -- which led to actual blood during the summer. The Cougs are clicking while the Vandals are in shambles. Feel pretty confident picking WSU in this rivalry game. Washington State 35, Idaho 7.

Ted Miller: Washington State will improve to 3-1, which it hasn't done since 2006. A matchup in Seattle with Stanford awaits. Washington State 44, Idaho 13.
UCLA receiver Shaquelle Evans and a couple of teammates enjoyed watching his fellow Bruins win the NCAA baseball national title over Mississippi State this week.

"It's always good seeing your school do something great," he said. "We watched them dominate. They basically made Mississippi State submit. That's how we teach football -- to make our opponents submit."

The Pac-12 blog will submit that life is pretty darn good these days in sunny Westwood. Not only did the school win its 109th national title -- first in baseball -- it also is cuddling up every night with the Victory Bell after beating arch-rival USC 38-28 last fall, ending a five-game losing streak in the series.

[+] EnlargeShaquelle Evans and Josh Evans
Richard Mackson/US PresswireAfter running past USC last season, Shaq Evans and the Bruins are looking to maintain their momentum.
The Bruins, who went on to win the Pac-12's South Division, are again relevant in football. Toss in a pair of strong recruiting classes under second-year coach Jim Mora, not to mention an epically disappointing season across town at Heritage Hall, and it's not difficult to see why there's plenty of optimism around the program.

That starts with the win over USC, particularly when you consider where the programs stood at the end of 2011. USC beat the Bruins 50-0 and finished 10-2. Just about everyone projected the Trojans as 2012 national title contenders. Meanwhile, the Bruins were mocked for playing in a bowl game with a losing record and a fired coach. The hiring of Mora was not immediately embraced by a skeptical fan base who were dreaming of Kevin Sumlin.

Beating the Trojans -- the telling image being linebacker Anthony Barr's monstrous fourth-quarter sack of Matt Barkley -- transformed an enduring dynamic, with the Trojans strutting and the Bruins simmering with jealousy.

"It means the world," Evans said. "After 50-0, man, I didn't know if I wanted to be here any more. But after beating them, it was a great feeling. We knew if we beat them, the floodgates open for this program. You could tell with recruiting, people leaving them to come to us. It changes our program around. And it's going to keep going forward."

Still, the Bruins have flashed potential before, only to stumble back into an inconsistent pattern.

Former coach Rick Neuheisel notched a 27-24 upset over Tennessee in 2008, his first game as the Bruins coach. They lost their next game 59-zip at BYU. A 3-0 start in 2009 yielded to a five-game losing streak. The Bruins posted a physically dominant blowout win at Texas in 2010 but lost two weeks later 35-7 to a California team that would finish 5-7, the first of three consecutive losses.

Up and down. Up and down. Which always ends up, at season's end, feeling mostly down because it invites, "What could have been?" navel gazing.

Evans, a fifth-year senior, is well-aware of this. Even last year, there were some bafflingly disappointing performances -- a 43-17 loss at Cal and the faceplant against Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.

"The buzz around campus is good but we are not satisfied with what we did last year," he said. "9-5 is obviously an upgrade from 6-8, but we felt like we should have gone 12-2. This year, we're trying to go 14-0."

Evans will be a key piece if the Bruins are going to approach such high aspirations. He quietly posted a strong season last year, catching 60 passes for 877 yards with a stout 14.6 yards per catch. But in a conference laden with so much talent at receiver, that only ranked 11th (62.6 yards per game).

Further, Evans knows exactly where he fell short statistically, "Touchdowns!" he said before the question was finished.

Evans caught just three, in large part because tight end Joseph Fauria was the go-to guy in the red zone.

"I understood last year that if you've got a guy who is 6-foot-8 and you're in the red zone, he's going to be your primary target," Evans said.

Evans knows this is the year -- his final year before the NFL draft -- in which he needs to show his stuff. And with the departure of Fauria and running back Johnathan Franklin, as well as the expected maturation of quarterback Brett Hundley, Evans should be in position to become a 1,000-yard receiver.

And that likely would include more opportunities to peacock in the end zone (within the parameters of NCAA no-fun rules, of course).

For both Hundley and Evans, that's about refining their respective games. Evans mentions blocking and route running for himself, and accuracy, decision-making and command of the offense for Hundley.

After all, it's an obsessive focus and daily attention to details that will prevent the program from being inconsistent.

"I really believe we are past that," Evans said.

The test of that will be who ends up atop the South Division at season's end. And who owns the Victory Bell.
Houston and Arizona signed a home-and-home deal for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, both schools announced Tuesday.

The Cougars will travel to Tucson, Ariz., in 2017 before the Wildcats make a return trip to Houston the following year.

“We are excited to announce our agreement with Arizona. Our department is committed to scheduling quality non-conference opponents and this type of matchup is one that rewards both our team and our fans,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement. “Not only are these non-conference games exciting for our fans, but they are exciting for college football. Our plan is to continue to schedule home-and-home series with a number of high-profile teams in the future.”

The schools have played twice before, with Houston winning at Arizona, 34-17, in 1969 before the Wildcats won at home, 37-3, in 1986.

The Arizona game adds some much-needed punch to a Cougars schedule lacking in future marquee nonconference opponents. Houston does host BYU this fall and will travel to face the Cougars in 2014.

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