NCF Nation: California

Pendergast hiring official at USC

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
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Though it started getting reported early this week that Clancy Pendergast would be USC's next defensive coordinator, the Trojans waited until Friday afternoon to issue a news release making the hiring official.

Pendergast, a longtime NFL coach, coordinated California's defense the previous three seasons. He replaces Monte Kiffin, who has been hired by the Dallas Cowboys.

“Clancy is a perfect fit for us,” coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. “He is a very experienced and successful defensive coordinator. He plays an attacking-style defense with multiple looks and, having spent the last three years in the Pac-12, he knows how to defend the various kinds of offenses that we see in this conference.

“What was particularly appealing to me was how he took a Cal defense that was seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense the year before he arrived and then led the league his first two years. That’s our goal here, to have that same kind of impact. I also liked that he has coached at the highest level, getting to the Super Bowl in the NFL.”

Pendergast, 45, also has previously coached at USC. He was a defensive assistant in 1992.

You can hear more of our thoughts on the hiring here.

And the complete news release is here.

What to Watch, Week 4

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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We’ve got big games from coast to coast in Week 4, so let’s check out the top 10 storylines to watch heading into Saturday:

[+] EnlargeRyan Mallett
Kim Klement/US PresswireCan Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett lead his team to a win over the No. 1 team in the nation?
1. Does Arkansas have what it takes to beat Alabama? Certainly the Razorbacks are much improved on defense, and Ryan Mallett has lived up to his Heisman Trophy billing. But does this team have a killer instinct? This is a team that had a 7-0 halftime lead over ULM, then blew a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead against Georgia last week before rallying for 31-24 the victory. Alabama will try to confuse Mallett the way it did last season. Offensively, there are so many options for the Tide, the Razorbacks are going to have to prove just how good they have become on defense.

2. Does Oregon State have a chance to beat Boise State? Absolutely the Beavers have a chance. Is it going to happen? That is another question. Some keys to watch: Oregon State might not be able to run into the heart of that Boise State defensive line. Do the Beavers try to run sweeps to the outside with their speedy receivers to loosen them up? The Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz, are always a threat to take it the distance. The Boise State secondary has been vulnerable at times, so if Ryan Katz has time to throw, he could connect for some big plays.

3. Can Notre Dame close out a win? So far 2010 has looked a lot like 2009 for the Fighting Irish, what with losing games in the closing seconds to Michigan and Michigan State. They could just as easily be 3-0 with a few more plays going their way. Instead, they are staring at the prospect of a 1-3 start, given the way Stanford has played going into the game. This could be a national statement game for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who has 674 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

4. Can the Big East represent in big nonconference games? Pittsburgh, one of the popular preseason picks to win the Big East, fell flat on its face Thursday night in a 31-3 loss to Miami. That leaves Cincinnati and West Virginia this weekend in huge national profile games. Oklahoma visits the Bearcats, who have fallen on hard times just one season removed from an undefeated regular season. They hardly resemble the outfit that made it to the Sugar Bowl last season, having already lost to Fresno State and NC State. West Virginia, meanwhile, travels to LSU. The Mountaineers might be the best hope to win the Big East, but then again they nearly lost to Marshall.

5. How does Michigan State respond without coach Mark Dantonio? Luckily, the Spartans play Northern Colorado, not exactly the toughest challenge. Dantonio suffered a heart attack in the hours after the Spartans’ overtime win over Notre Dame, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will lead the team in his absence. A big game looms next week at home against Wisconsin. The bigger question is whether Dantonio will be back in time for that one.

6. Does South Carolina need to prove that it is for real even after beating Georgia? Some believe the answer is yes. Well here it is, perhaps an even bigger test because the Gamecocks must play a better Auburn team on the road. Last week, Auburn struggled to stop Clemson running back Andre Ellington, who had 140 yards and a touchdown. This week, the Tigers face a bigger, more physical back in freshman stud Marcus Lattimore. The key for the Tigers: shutting him down to force Stephen Garcia into trying to win the game. South Carolina has the defense to be able to slow down Cam Newton.

7. How does Iowa respond after its heartbreaking loss to Arizona? The Hawkeyes get an easier challenge this week against Ball State, but they are beginning life once again without Jewel Hampton, out for the season with a torn ACL. This game serves as an excellent tune-up headed into next Saturday’s big game against Penn State. Iowa has to figure out how to get its offensive line going, perhaps the most glaring weakness on the team, which was completely exposed against the Wildcats.

8. How does Arizona respond after its big win over Iowa? We can ask the question both ways. The Wildcats are up to No. 14 in the polls after that win, and now all of a sudden are a team everyone believes is right there in the mix for the Pac-10 title. They play a California team that lost to Nevada last week. What was striking in that game was the way Nevada dominated on both lines. That doesn’t bode well going into this game, considering how strong Arizona looked on the offensive and defensive lines against the Hawkeyes.

9. Can Virginia Tech win at Boston College without Ryan Williams? This is a crucial game for the Hokies, who could drop to 1-3 with a loss. Without Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson will carry the load. But Evans has lost two fumbles in two weeks, and the Hokies traditionally struggle running the ball against the Eagles. That was until last season, when they had 235 yards on the ground. They are going to need another performance like that to win, but it’s going to be much harder without their top runner.

10. Can Oregon keep up its scoring pace? Hard to imagine the Ducks will be able to hang half a hundred on Arizona State, a team that came thisclose to beating Wisconsin on the road last week. Oregon has averaged over a point a minute in its three games this season, but the Sun Devils are no New Mexico and are certainly no Tennessee. Still, Arizona State has to be better in the red zone to have any shot at the upset.
These opportunities have come before for Nevada, but the Wolf Pack has never taken advantage.

So here it is, another chance to beat a team from an automatic qualifying conference. Only this time, the Pack (2-0) gets to host California (2-0) at Mackay Stadium in a nationally televised game tonight (10 p.m. EDT, ESPN2).

Colin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Cathleen AllisonLast week, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick became the ninth player in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 yards and throw for 3,000 yards in his career.
With all eyes on it, Nevada gets to show the country what dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick is all about. But more importantly, it is a chance to show it is no pushover in the WAC.

“It's a great opportunity for us, but in the past, we've had opportunities as well. We just haven't capitalized on them,” Kaepernick said. “We're looking to capitalize on this one this week."

Getting a high-profile team to come into Reno has been challenging. This is California’s first visit to Reno since 1915. The one and only time Nevada won came Nov. 7, 1903. The game also marks the fourth time a Pac-10 team has played in Nevada since 1992. Nevada lost all those games.

Home or away, the record against higher-profile teams from AQ conferences has been dismal. Since Chris Ault returned to coach in 2004, Nevada is 1-12 against AQ opponents. The lone win came against Northwestern in 2006. Since then, Nevada has lost six straight.

“I think it's a terrific opportunity, but we’re going to have more opportunities down the road,” Ault said. “This is the opportunity of this weekend against a team from the Pac-10. It ought to be exciting for our community. I know it's exciting for our team. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Nevada, of course, wants to finally take advantage. To do that, the Wolf Pack is going to need a big game from Kaepernick.

For all that Kaepernick has accomplished, he is relatively unknown outside the WAC. Never mind that he had 402 yards of total offense in a 51-6 win against Colorado State last week. Never mind that in the game, he became the ninth player in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 yards and throw for 3,000 yards in his career.

He seems to lag behind in national attention, but his accomplishments in the Pistol offense speak for themselves. Nevada leads the country in total offense, and Kaepernick ranks third behind Denard Robinson of Michigan and G.J. Kinne of Tulsa.

Ault said Kaepernick has made improvements in the passing game, improvements that have shown in the first two games of the year.

“He’s always been a great runner, where he needed to improve was his efficiency as a passer,” Ault said. “He worked very hard last year, his spring was outstanding, his fall camp’s been outstanding and I really think he’s taken that part of his game up quite a bit. That adds to the dimension. We’re throwing the ball more this year than we have in the past. He just continues to get better in the passing part of the game.”

Kaepernick is completing 71 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Nevada has more carries than pass attempts, naturally, but the total yardage is essentially even (590 rushing, 594 passing). Kaepernick has never completed more than 60 percent of his passes. His best was last year, with a 58.9 completion percentage.

Nevada hasn’t been challenged the way it will be against California, which leads the nation in total defense and has given up just one touchdown all year. The Bears come in off a 52-7 win against Colorado last week. The offense, behind Kevin Riley and Shane Vereen, has played well, too.

More than anything, though, this is a game Nevada needs to prove itself. The Wolf Pack is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 1995, but imagine what a big win against California would do for this program.

“Whenever you play against opponents who are supposed to be better than you, you always want to show them up and win that game, so that’s what we’re going to look to do,” Kaepernick said.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 3

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
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My picks in Week 2 were … slightly better than awful. With a 12-10 overall record, I need somebody to give me a pep talk. Is Frank Beamer available? Oh wait. He is probably busy giving his team one of those.

On to the picks!

Virginia Tech 35, East Carolina 27. No way Virginia Tech loses a third straight, right? Well, the Hokies have a recent history of losing to the Pirates -- dropping the opener in 2008. Dominique Davis has played lights out for the Pirates, but the defense -- not so much. The Hokies are going to be fighting mad, and should be able to slow down the East Carolina offensive attack just enough to escape.

Oklahoma 24, Air Force 20. The Falcons present a unique offense to defend, and Oklahoma has looked helter-skelter in its first two games. Air Force did a fantastic job slowing down the BYU offense, limiting the Cougars to 88 yards through the air. Oklahoma struggled against Diondre Borel. But give the Sooners the win here based on the play in the trenches.

Florida State 30, BYU 20. Don’t think the BYU quarterback problems are going to be solved against the Seminoles, who dismantled a far better Cougars team last year on the road. Unfortunately for BYU, the passing game is not in tip-top shape right now and that is where the Sooners did most of their damage last week.

TCU 24, Baylor 20. The Bears are one of three teams that have yet to allow their opponent into the end zone this season, but they haven’t played anybody as good as TCU. Don’t think that streak will continue against veteran Andy Dalton and an experienced offense.

Houston 35, UCLA 17. Are the Bruins that bad? I am calling this game for Houston, regardless of who starts at quarterback. Case Keenum (concussion) might be day to day, but his backup has proven capable and so has the running game through two games this season. UCLA, meanwhile, has been able to muster nothing on offense or defense.

Southern Miss 20, Kansas 17. The Golden Eagles dropped a close one to the Jayhawks last season, and though they looked pretty unspectacular against South Carolina in the opener, Austin Davis and DeAndre Brown could be in line for big games. This is a huge test for a defense that has played inconsistently. But, hey, so has Kansas.

California 28, Nevada 17. The Wolf Pack haven’t had much success against AQ opponents, losing eight straight games. Though the defense has looked much better, and defensive coordinator Andy Buh spent the last three seasons as a Stanford assistant, California simply has too much talent on offense. The Bears will find a way to slow down Colin Kaepernick enough to win.

Hawaii 37, Colorado 30. Going with the upset in this one. I know Hawaii has been away from home for a really long time, increasing its chances of losing this game, but Bryant Moniz and the offense have looked good in the first two games. The Buffaloes? Not so good, especially last week.

SMU 44, Washington State 10. The Cougars nearly lost to FCS Montana State last week, so that should tell you how the rebuilding effort is going in Pullman. SMU has had some injuries to deal with, but as long as Kyle Padron is behind center, the Mustangs should easily win this one.

Missouri 33, San Diego State 27. The Aztecs are vastly improved, thanks to a better run game and more experience from Ryan Lindley. But Blaine Gabbert is playing well for the Tigers, with a completion percentage over 70 percent. The Tigers defense also has six interceptions on the year and makes the difference in this one.

Miami (Ohio) 30, Colorado State 10. The Rams have scored a total of nine points in two games, and true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas has been sacked eight times. The defense hasn’t played much better, either. The RedHawks haven’t exactly torn up the field but have shown much more improvement this season than the Rams.

Army 24, North Texas 17. Things went from bad to worse for the Mean Green this week when they found out starting quarterback Nathan Tune would be out for the season with a dislocated hip. Five starters have gone down with season-ending injuries now, and coach Todd Dodge is trying to cope. It’s going to be tough against a much-improved Army team.

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