NCF Nation: Darian Hagan

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
3:09
PM ET
A look back on the week that was.

Team of the week: Oregon State announced its return to relevancy with a win at No. 9 Arizona. The biggest revelation: Sophomore QB Ryan Katz is ready for primetime.

Best game: You can't beat a game with two game-winning drives, unless your team is the one that produced the penultimate game-winning drive, which was the case of USC in its 37-35 loss at Stanford. For the second consecutive weekend, the Trojans lost on a last-second field goal. Still, a game billed as a potential blowout showed USC has plenty of fight left, at least on offense. (Wow. Are we now citing "moral" victories for the Trojans?)

Biggest play: There were so many big plays in Oregon State's 29-27 win over Arizona that it's hard to pick just one. But if you had to, it might just be Katz's 43-yard completion to H-back Joe Halahuni on a second and 13 play from the Beavers 33-yard line. With James Rodgers out with a knee injury, Katz's top passing options were limited, and if he'd missed the throw over the middle, it's possible the Beavers wouldn't have been too aggressive on a third-and-long call from their own territory. The Beavers got a first down on the Wildcats 24 and were able to run a lot of clock -- six of the next seven plays were runs -- before scoring a TD that gave them a a 29-20 lead, which made it a two-possession game.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck passed for 285 yards with three touchdowns against USC on Saturday.
Offensive standout: As usual, so many to choose from: Katz, Oregon's LaMichael James, California's Shane Vereen, USC's Matt Barkley, USC's Robert Woods, etc. But Andrew Luck was masterful against USC, completing 20 of 24 passes for 285 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. What's more: He led a seven-play, 62-yard drive in 1:08 to set up the game-winning field goal. And did you see his hit on Trojans CB Shareece Wright after a fumble? Smack goes the QB!

Defensive standout: Cal cornerback Darian Hagan had a bad year last season. Not this year. He had two sacks, an interception and five tackles while leading the Bears stellar defensive effort against UCLA. Honorable mentions include Arizona State's Jamaar Jarrett, who had two sacks at Washington, and Oregon's Brandon Bair, who had 3.5 tackles for a loss at Washington State.

Special teams standout: Oregon's Cliff Harris returned a punt 67 yards for a TD at Washington. He has done that three times this year, which is the most in FBS football. Oh, and he returned an interception for a TD at Tennessee.

Smiley face: Cal suffered two tough losses in September: It got embarrassed at Nevada and lost a heartbreaker at Arizona. It could have yielded. Instead, it whipped a hot UCLA team 35-7 and showed it can stop a pistol offense by holding the Bruins to just 144 yards.

Frowny face: Washington had injury issues and QB Jake Locker was trying to play through a flu-like illness, but that doesn't change the fact that it couldn't maintain the momentum it built after a win at USC. Arizona State had plenty of issues, too, but it found a way to win on the road in a rainstorm, weather one would think would benefit the Huskies far more than the Sun Devils.

Thought of the week: Oregon fans: How different did it feel when QB Darron Thomas injured his throwing shoulder knowing you had senior Nate Costa on the bench ready to step in? While Thomas may be back as soon as the UCLA game on Oct. 21, the Ducks would still feel like the Rose Bowl favorites with Costa as the starter. Recall in 2007 that when Dennis Dixon was lost for the year with a knee injury, almost everyone immediately realized the Ducks were in big trouble.

Questions for the week: Does the cannibalism begin now? Or do a couple of teams emerge at the top of the conference? Arizona's loss to Oregon State -- which left only Oregon undefeated -- hinted that stringing together wins is going to be extremely difficult due to the depth of the conference. So does that mean we end up with a muddle of two, three and four-loss teams? Or will Oregon ride home unscathed with an escort in the top-10?

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
2:50
PM ET
A look back as we now hit the meat of the conference race.

Team of the week: UCLA shocked the nation with a 34-12 stomping of No. 7 Texas. The Bruins, who were physically dominant on both lines of scrimmage, now seem fully recovered from an 0-2 start.

Best game: Arizona needed a late drive and defensive stand for a second weekend in a row as the Wildcats nipped California 10-9. Not a lot of 10-9 games through the years in the Pac-10, eh?

[+] EnlargeJuron Criner
AP Photo/Wily LowArizona receiver Juron Criner came through with some big catches against California.
Biggest play: The Wildcats wouldn't have won without a 51-yard completion from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, which was the centerpiece of the 77-yard, game-winning drive. Criner, who was questionable for the game with a turf toe, fought off tight coverage from Darian Hagan to make the play.

Offensive standout: The UCLA running game, which piled up 264 yards against Texas, gets the nod. Therefore, we include the offensive line, running backs Johnathan Franklin (118 yards) and Derrick Coleman (94 yards) as well as quarterback Kevin Prince (50 yards).

Defensive standout(s): UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers led the defensive effort at Texas. He had six tackles and an interception, and his sack included a forced fumble. Oregon safety John Boyett also merits a tip of the cap. He recorded a game-high 11 tackles against Arizona State and returned an interception 39 yards for a TD.

Two-way standout: Owen Marecic, Stanford's starting fullback AND linebacker, scored on an offensive run and interception return that were just 13 seconds apart at Notre Dame.

Special teams standout: Stanford kicker Nate Whitaker tied a school record with five field goals: 24, 41, 36, 33 and 29 yards during the Cardinal's 37-14 win at Notre Dame, where Whitaker played before transferring to Stanford.

Smiley face: Oregon and Stanford both passed tough road tests and set up a top-10 matchup in Autzen Stadium on Saturday that will announce the Pac-10's early leader.

Frowny face: Poor Cal. The Bears have lost consecutive games in painful fashion. First, they were embarrassed at Nevada, a team they couldn't stop on defense. Second, they yielded a late TD vs. Arizona, failing to score a TD in a 10-9 loss. Two missed field goals from Giorgio Tavecchio would have helped the cause, too.

Thought of the week: The Pac-10 is clearly nine teams deep. Good for the conference. The question, however, is whether any team can go undefeated in a nine-game conference schedule and play its way into national title consideration. The feeling here is no. Then the question becomes: Can any team get through with only one loss? Maybe. But it will be taxing to do so.

Thought of the week II: While most national eyes will be on Stanford's visit to Oregon -- and rightly so -- Washington's visit to USC and Arizona State's trip to Oregon State should be revealing. We don't know what to make of these four teams just yet. We should get a much clearer picture of the conference pecking order by Sunday.

Quote of the week: Said UCLA safety Tony Dye to the LA Times: "The first two weeks, we didn't exist. This is our team right now. If we keep rolling like this, we're going to win the [Pac-10]."

Quote of the week II: Said Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as he opened his press conference following a blowout win at Notre Dame, "Might be the biggest press conference I've ever been to right here."

Pac-10: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
10:52
AM ET
After every season, starters leave. But not all starters are created equal.

Here are the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10 with spring practices just around the corner.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

How do you replace the best running back in the nation, a guy who scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,871 yards? You don't. Those sorts don't come around every season.

The Contenders: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gafney will get first crack, as well as Jeremy Stewart, who's coming back from a knee injury. Incoming freshman Anthony Wilkerson could be a dark horse.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State

The first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback became an NFL prospect during a strong senior season. He led the conference with 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, which tied with Washington's Jake Locker.

The Contenders: This will be a showdown between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich this spring, with Katz starting as the leader.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Price could be an NFL first-round draft pick. He led the Pac-10 with 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders: Good question. The Bruins are perilously thin here, considering both tackles need to be replaced and only senior David Carter has much experience. The answers here might be in the Bruins' recruiting class.

Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California

The Cal secondary was a huge disappointment this season, but Thompson, a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 performer, was mostly his usually stellar self.

The Contenders: Will Darian Hagan step up in his senior season? Perhaps the answer is sophomore Josh Hill? Or maybe a redshirt guy? The Bears only signed one player listed as a corner in their most recent recruiting class. Expect there to be a lot of competition here this spring.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor guy who started four years and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors his final two seasons, ranking third in the conference with 9.5 sacks.

The Contenders: Considering the other end, Darrion Jones, also is gone, the Huskies will trend young here. Andru Pulu was listed behind Te'o-Nesheim on the depth chart, with Talia Crichton and Kalani Aldrich on the other side. There also will be opportunities for younger players here.

Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Dickson not only was the Ducks' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns, the matchup problems he presented forced defenses to scheme specifically for him. That helps an offense in ways that aren't accounted for in statistics.

The Contenders: Junior David Paulson was Dickson's backup last year, and he had some nice moments, but he's no Dickson. JC transfer Brandon Williams and touted incoming freshman Curtis White will be in the mix here.

Kenny Alfred, C, Washington State

Alfred, a four-year starter, was a good player on a bad -- and beaten up -- line. His brain as well as his physical ability will be hard to replace.

The Contenders: Walk-on junior Chris Prummer was listed as Alfred's backup -- largely due to injury -- but Andrew Roxas, who redshirted this year after contracting viral hepatitis, is probably the leader here, though Steven Ayers could move inside to challenge him. Or there could be some reshuffling.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin:

Here are few lunchtime links for your perusal. Enjoy them.

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