NCF Nation: FBS

Downfield success key for Pachall in 2013

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
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Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesCasey Pachall will try to replicate his success from 2011 and lead TCU to another 10-win season.
The 2013 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top quarterbacks entering the fall. Thursday we take a look at TCU’s Casey Pachall.

A Look Back at 2011 & 2012

Casey Pachall begins the 2013 season somewhat off the radar after missing the final nine games of last year, but over the last two seasons he has been one of the top quarterbacks in the nation when he’s played.

Pachall has completed 66 percent of his passes with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his career, and his opponent-adjusted Total QBR -- a metric that ESPN will unveil this fall -- ranks among the top 15 percent of all qualified quarterbacks since 2004.

More importantly, Pachall has a 15-2 record as a starter and TCU’s average margin of victory in those games is 20.6 points.

Before a trip to rehab ended his 2012 season in October, Pachall was leading the nation in pass efficiency and had the Horned Frogs unbeaten at 4-0 and, perhaps, on their way to a fifth-straight 10-win season.

During those four games, Pachall proved that he can throw downfield effectively. He completed two-thirds of his passes thrown at least 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage last season, which led all quarterbacks from BCS-AQ schools with at least 50 attempts.

What’s Ahead for 2013?

The first step for Pachall is to win the starting job from sophomore Trevone Boykin, who is listed as a co-starter on the end of spring depth chart.

Most believe Pachall will be named the starter in August, which leads to his next challenge, re-establishing a connection with his receivers.

TCU lost its leading receiver, Josh Boyce, to the NFL but returns its No. 2 receiver, Brandon Carter. Over the last two seasons, Pachall has completed 70 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions when targeting Carter.

Another question mark for Pachall heading into the 2013 season is whether he can handle the tougher competition in the Big 12, as he played in only one conference game last season.

The Big 12 is not known for its defensive prowess, but TCU struggled offensively in its first year in the conference, primarily with Boykin under center.

Obviously, a large portion of TCU’s struggles were a result of injuries and suspensions, but Pachall, who has faced just three BCS-AQ opponents in his career, must be the catalyst for TCU to step up to the level of improved competition.

If Pachall can re-establish his touch and quickly adapt to the pace of play in the Big 12, there is no reason he can't replicate his 2011 success and lead the Horned Frogs to their ninth 10-win season under head coach Gary Patterson.

QBs the story in college football this fall

May, 20, 2013
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The 2013 college football season could showcase one of the best college quarterback classes ever. Here are five reasons why:

1. BEST TEAMS IN 2012 RETURN THEIR QUARTERBACKS
Each of the top six teams in last season’s final AP poll returns its leading passer. The last time that happened was entering the 1982 season. That 1982 group led to the famed 1983 NFL draft class that boasted six quarterbacks chosen in the first round -- including Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

2. BEST PASSERS ARE RETURNING
Each of the top five and 10 of the top 11 quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency return to school. In all, seven players with a passing efficiency of at least 160 last season are coming back, more than in the previous three seasons combined.

3. DIVERSE ARRAY OF NFL TALENT
This class is expected to produce a number of NFL starting quarterbacks. Four of Todd McShay’s top 15 prospects in the 2014 draft are quarterbacks (Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s AJ McCarron).

Yet, showing how deep this class is, Brock Huard ranks Georgia's Aaron Murray, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Ohio State's Braxton Miller ahead of either McCarron or Manziel on his quarterback draft board.

4. LITTLE QB TURNOVER IN SEC
The SEC is in prime shape to win its eighth straight national title with 11 of 14 starting quarterbacks from last season returning to school. Among the 11 are the starters of the top three teams in each division including Manziel, Murray and McCarron.

Last season, Manziel set the SEC record for total offense with 5,116 yards. Murray is on pace to set conference records for most career passing yards and total offense, and McCarron is the two-time BCS national champion.

5. AWARD WINNERS BACK ON CAMPUS
The SEC isn’t the only conference returning elite quarterbacks. The Big Ten, Mountain West and MAC each return their first- and second-team quarterbacks from last season. So would Conference USA and the WAC if realignment hadn’t altered those conferences. The Big 12 is the only conference that doesn’t return either its first- or second-team quarterback.

Among the returnees, Boyd could challenge the ACC record for total offense in a career, Troy’s Corey Robinson is on pace to shatter the Sun Belt’s career record for total offense, and Jordan Lynch returns after leading Northern Illinois to its first ever BCS bowl game last season.

Recruiting has Tide, Irish in 2013 title mix

January, 10, 2013
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Getty ImagesNick Saban and Brian Kelly have Alabama and Notre Dame primed for another run in 2013.

Before the season, the Alabama Crimson Tide were one of the favorites to play in the BCS National Championship. The Tide were ranked second in both the Associated Press and coaches’ preseason top 25 polls. However, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were a surprise participant. The Irish were unranked in the AP preseason top 25 and 24th by the coaches.

The Tide rolled the Irish 42-14 to capture their third consensus national title in four seasons. Despite the loss, the trip to the title game marked a return to prominence for one of the country’s most storied programs. Looking ahead, what are the chances one or both teams reach Pasadena for next year’s BCS National Championship?

Alabama has proven it has staying power, but the Tide will lose at least two members of their offensive line in highly decorated center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack.

Right tackle D.J. Fluker could also leave early for the NFL, as could running back Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner. However, quarterback AJ McCarron returns, as do freshmen T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper.

As for Notre Dame, the Irish’s biggest personnel losses will be linebacker Manti Te'o on defense and tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Theo Riddick on offense. Te’o won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Eifert captured the Mackey Award as the country’s top tight end, while Riddick led the team in yards from scrimmage (1,244).

Like Bama, Notre Dame’s starting quarterback also returns, Everett Golson. Although the defense loses Te’o, eight other starters return, including defensive end Stephon Tuitt and nose tackle Louis Nix III. Tuitt led the Irish with 12 sacks and was just 1.5 shy of the school’s single-season record set by Justin Tuck in 2003.

One reason these schools enjoyed success in 2012? Recruiting. Alabama and Notre Dame have brought in top-10 recruiting classes each of the previous two years and this year’s classes are no different. The Irish currently have the top-ranked recruiting class, while the Tide’s is third according to ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Notre Dame’s defense, which was exposed a bit by Alabama, has help on the way in outside linebackers Jaylon Smith (No. 2-ranked OLB) and Alex Anzalone (No. 5). Greg Bryant, the second-ranked running back, has also committed.

As for the Tide, the rich get richer as Robert Foster, the nation’s No. 2 receiver, will join a corps that already includes the aforementioned Cooper. With the players returning and the new pieces on the way, don’t be surprised if both teams make another title run next season.

Stanford seniors live transformation

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
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Folks throw around terms such as "best" and "worst" and "most" and "least" in sports in all the time, even when their application is more symbolic than real. Extremes are easy to understand. Talking about them can be fun. Actually experiencing them is rare, though. Living through the best of times and worst of times? That was just Charles Dickens rolling out a good opening line.

Richard Sherman and the rest of Stanford's fifth-year seniors, however, know both the best of times and worst of times, at least in terms of college football.

In 2006, the Cardinal went 1-11. That was the most losses in school history and worst record since an 0-10 mark in 1960. It was the program's fifth consecutive losing season, and coach Walt Harris was fired after just two years.

[+] EnlargeWalt Harris
AP Photo/Paul SakumaThe Cardinal went 1-11 in 2006 under former coach Walt Harris.
Worst of times.

In 2010, the Cardinal went 11-1. That set a school season record for victories. Stanford, ranked fourth in the final BCS standings, hasn't finished ranked in the top five of the AP poll since 1940. It's headed for a date with Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl on Monday.

Best of times.

And, yes, the latter is more fun.

"It's unbelievable," Sherman said. "I can't even express to you the emotions I have and the other seniors have. Coming in the way we did, obviously, 1-11 and now leaving with a record-setting season, one of the best offenses in the country, one of the best defenses in the country. Just a great team. We love each other. I can't explain it to you. It's a combination of joy, happiness, pride, a lot of things. Man, watching these guys grow up. We've all come a long way."

Sherman was a freshman on the 2006 team. It was shut out twice. It lost to San Jose State. It ranked 118th in the nation in scoring (10.6 points per game) and 108th in scoring defense (31.4 ppg), meaning it lost by an average of three touchdowns.

Harris went 6-17, turning in the shortest tenure of any Stanford coach since Rod Dowhower left after one season in 1979 with a 5-5-1 record. It was clear his disciplinarian methods weren't clicking with the sort of players who can get into Stanford.

"It was maybe just a bad fit," receiver Mark Bradford said at the time. "Maybe we didn't respond to the way that was his style of coaching. His style of coaching probably would have worked in a lot of other places. It didn't work here."

Enter Jim Harbaugh, who introduced himself by stating, "I vow I will attack this endeavor with enthusiasm unknown to mankind."

He was the anti-Harris. "It was just a whole different way of coaching. ... Coach Harbaugh definitely brought a different energy and enthusiasm to the program. Basically, he brought a belief in winning that I don't think guys had before he got here," Sherman said.

That can't be undersold. While injuries were a huge issue for Stanford in 2006, there was plenty of talent on the roster: Trent Edwards was the quarterback for the first half of the season before he got hurt, and plenty of guys went on to the NFL. And many names are familiar because of their roles in the Cardinal's recent surge under Harbaugh, from running back Toby Gerhart to Sherman to almost the entire offensive line.

[+] EnlargeRichard Sherman
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesRichard Sherman is part of Stanford's senior class that has transformed the program.
There was talent in 2006. Sherman said the players worked hard and practiced hard. But the results were terrible. The offense only scored as many as two touchdowns in two games all season.

"It was rough coming from high school," said Sherman, who started out as a receiver. "You don't really know what to expect and then you come into that. It's rough to not get wins. You work hard every week, you game plan every week, and things just don't work out for you. It's obviously frustrating."

Just four years later, Stanford became one of the great turnaround stories in college football history. Louisville, which went 11-1 in 2001 after going 1-10 in 1997, was the last FBS team to win one game and then as many as 11 games four years later. Pittsburgh won the 1976 national championship with a 12-0 record four years after posting a 1-10 mark.

The 2010 Cardinal not only won, they dominated. They outscored foes by an average of more than 22 points. They ranked No. 8 in the nation in scoring (40.3 ppg) and No. 11 in scoring defense (17.83). They recorded three shutouts for the first time since 1969. They set a school record for points (484), and quarterback Andrew Luck set a school record with 28 touchdown passes. For the second consecutive year, the program produced a Heisman Trophy finalist -- Luck -- who followed Gerhart, the 2009 runner-up.

"This year was like the perfect storm," Sherman said.

But Sherman & Co. still retain a chip on their collective shoulders. They aren't ready to announce their arrival on the national scene just yet. They won four games in 2007, five in '08 and eight in 2009. It's been a process, and they sense there are still some stragglers who doubt them.

"People don't look at us as a talented team now and they didn't look at us as a talented team then [in 2006]," Sherman said. "Obviously, when you put on the Stanford 'S' it takes your talent and speed away. You're not fast or athletic anymore. It's been that way since I got here. We have great athletes, great players."

Sherman said the Cardinal aren't satisfied with merely earning the trip to Miami for a BCS bowl game. "There aren't going to be many guys trying to live the life in Miami. It's not about the trip. It's about the win," he said.

Winning, of course, is the only way to ensure that 2010 will be remembered as the very best of times on the Farm.

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