NCF Nation: Devin Ross
Nebraska simply outclassed Arizona in a 33-0 victory in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, a game in which the Wildcats never even produced a whimper of life.
The Pac-10 falls to 2-3 in the bowl season, and one has to start wondering if all that "best conference" talk was just a bit loopy.
How the game was won: Nebraska showed up and punched Arizona in the mouth on both sides of the ball. Over and over and over and over. And over again. It's not an exaggeration to say that Arizona didn't have a single positive moment in the entire football game.
Turning point: This is a stretch because the real turning point was the opening kickoff. But Nebraska, leading 17-0 in the second quarter, had a third-and-8 on the Arizona 33-yard line. Cornhuskers backup quarterback Cody Green threw to his left sideline -- and directly to Arizona cornerback Devin Ross. If Ross had caught the ball, it's likely he would have scored a touchdown. He didn't. Nebraska subsequently kicked a 50-yard field goal and took a 20-0 lead. Like we said, it's a bit of a stretch.
Stat of the game: Six and 109. The first number is how many first downs Arizona collected on the night. The second is the Wildcats' total yardage. Just terrible.
Player of the game: Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee. Lee is the reason the Pac-10 blog -- darrrrhhhhh -- picked Arizona to win this game. (Yes, feel free to comment on that below). The feeling was that Arizona had a huge advantage at the position. But Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles chose the bowl game to post his worst performance of the year, while Lee completed 13 of 23 passes for 173 yards with a TD and no interceptions.
What it means: This was a massive humiliation for Arizona and coach Mike Stoops, suffered at the hands of hometown buddy Bo Pelini. Was the bowl result bad enough to erase all the positives from the 2009 season? Maybe not, but it may not feel that way for a few days around the program. Something went wrong for the Wildcats in their preparation. Perhaps Nebraska was just that much better, but it didn't look that way going in. You have to wonder if something was amiss within the team. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' impending departure for Florida State? Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' potential candidacy at Texas Tech? Or maybe it was something with the players. Stoops' next task is figuring out a way to make sure this defeat doesn't linger within his program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Results of the annual Pac-10 media poll will be announced on July 30, but here's a guess at how most ballots will look:
1. USC; 2. California; 3. Oregon; 4. Oregon State... 9. Washington; 10. Washington State
And from five to eight all heck breaks loose.
Now, some -- such as Phil Steele -- think Oregon will tumble. Some have issues with Oregon State. And some think Washington will be a surprise team.
But a plurality figures to vote these six teams as they appear above and then throw the other four into the air and leave it to the college football spirits to decide.
So where do you rank Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA?
I wouldn't be completely shocked if any of those four actually broke into the top four. I also wouldn't be astonished if any finished ninth.
I think I've written at various times that all four should end up bowl-eligible, even though eight conference teams with a .500 record or better is difficult to pencil out. (It did, however, happen in 2006 -- and Washington even finished 5-7).
I changed my own 5-8 a number of times. I won't tell you how I voted yet. My boss threatened to tear off my arm and beat me with it if I did. He's done it before so I believed him.
Why the difficulty?
For one, each of the Unfixed Four will break in a new quarterback, though Stanford and UCLA both have their starters back from 2008.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Optimism is a powerful thing. And spring is a time for renewal. So this is a "Best of" list, without any of the "Negative Nellie" stuff.
Best spring game performance by a quarterback: Stanford redshirt freshman Andrew Luck all but won the starting quarterback job over incumbent Tavita Pritchard after completing 18 of 25 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns to lead the White team to a 42-17 victory over the Cardinal.
Best spring game performance by a quarterback II: Washington quarterback Jake Locker seemed fine working in a pro-style offense after completing 16 of 18 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The two incompletions, by the way, were drops.
Best spring game performance by two quarterbacks: Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper combined to complete 37 of 56 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns and neither threw an interception in the Ducks' spring game. Perhaps it was the rainy weather only fit for a Duck?
Best spring, overall, by a quarterback: Under intense, national scrutiny ,USC's Aaron Corp threw only one interception throughout spring practices and was consistently solid throughout the session, which earned him the nod as the Trojans No. 1 quarterback over spectacular freshman Matt Barkley entering the offseason. Under coach Pete Carroll, every previous Trojan quarterback who had been tapped No. 1 out of spring started the season opener.
Best performance by a true freshman: Barkley made the recruiting gurus who ranked him No. 1 look smart.
Best spring game on defense: Talk about a penetrating performance. USC's backup defensive end Nick Perry had six tackles for loss, including four sacks, among his seven tackles. Yeah, USC's defense is going to be hurting in 2009.
Best spring on defense: Six guys stood out: Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond III, UCLA's tackle Brian Price, Oregon State tackle Stephen Paea, Arizona State defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, Arizona linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka and USC linebacker Malcolm Smith.
Best surprise: USC transfer and notorious underachiever Jamere Holland suddenly decided to become Oregon's best deep threat and turned in an outstanding spring. Golly, sometimes listening to your coaches helps.
Best breakout: While California has questions at receiver, the general feeling is sophomore Marvin Jones is almost certainly one of the answers.
Best 'it's about time' breakout: USC's Everson Griffen might be the nation's most talented pass-rusher, but his high-performance engine has also been a high-maintenance engine. Yet his effort and intensity were consistentthis spring, which meant no one could block him.
Best comeback: California offensive tackle Mike Tepper has been through a lot, but he's hoping his sixth year will just be about anchoring a line with a lot of upside. Read Tepper's story here.
Best comeback II: Got a funny -- mean, but funny -- note during the 2008 season that instructed the Pac-10 blog to refer to Oregon State receiver Darrell Catchings as Darrell Droppings. Can't do that now because Catchings lived up to his name -- the real one -- this spring.
Best position change: Arizona sophomore Robert Golden, a marquee 2008 recruit, switched from cornerback to strong safety this spring, and early word is he could become an All-Conference player at his new position. The move further allowed the Wildcats to switch Cam Nelson to free safety from strong and get Trevin Wade on the field to complement Devin Ross at corner.
Best coaching decision: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh wants his best 11 on the field at any given time, and he's willing to get creative to do it. That's why he's got a handful of guys playing both ways, including Owen Marecic (fullback and middle linebacker), Michael Thomas (cornerback and receiver), Richard Sherman (cornerback and receiver) and Alex Debniak (linebacker and running back). Will it work? We'll see. But it's undoubtedly interesting.
Best candidate for a karmic change: No team had worse injury issues this spring than Washington State, which is clearly in the midst of a major rebuilding project. Then promising defensive end Cory Mackay, who'd impressed this spring, suffered a serious back injury after he fell asleep at the wheel of his car. The Cougars are overdue for some luck. Perhaps it arrives this fall?
Best position in conference: The Pac-10 might have the nation's best collection of talent in the secondary, with USC and California boasting units that should rank among the nation's best. Consider: FS Taylor Mays (USC), SS T.J. Ward (Oregon), SS Josh Pinkard (USC), CB Walter Thurmond III (Oregon), CB Alterraun Verner (UCLA), CB Syd'Quan Thompson (California), CB Devin Ross (Arizona), CB Omar Bolden (Arizona State), FS Rahim Moore (UCLA), CB Shareece Wright (USC), among others.
Best potentially surprising position: If you talked about good Pac-10 defensive linemen in recent years, you were basically talking about USC. Not in 2009. Nine of the Pac-10's top 30 players, at least by, er, one person's accounting, are defensive linemen, and that list included only one player from USC (Griffen, at No. 30) and didn't include Cal's Cameron Jordan.
Best quote: "How do we go from nine to one?" said Chip Kelly on what he believes are his marching orders as Oregon's new coach. "Nine" is where the Ducks finished last y
ear in the final coaches' poll.