NCF Nation: Houston Texans

Stanford's recent success just about Andrew Luck? That's just silly talk.

If ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay is on target with his mock 2012 NFL draft, plenty of evidence to the contrary will be produced on draft day. Insider
McShay projects that Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick, of course, but he also projects that Luck will be joined by three teammates in the first round.

How many other teams will produce that many first-round picks? One: National champion Alabama.

The Pac-12 has seven first-round picks in McShay's mock draft.

Here's how McShay sees things, with some comments included.

1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford (Indianapolis Colts)

2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC (St. Louis Rams)

13. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Arizona Cardinals)
This might seem a bit high for a guard, but DeCastro was the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the nation in 2011 and has a chance to develop into one of the elite NFL players at his position. Offensive tackle is also a need area, but DeCastro is a much better overall player than the top available tackle. Cornerback could also be a consideration, but both Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) carry off-field baggage.

18. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (San Diego Chargers)

20. Nick Perry, DE, USC (Tennessee Titans)
The Titans have three defensive ends set to become free agents and need a dynamic pass-rusher to complement Derrick Morgan. While Perry is raw, he has good initial burst and natural pass-rush skills. Cornerback, safety and offensive line are also need areas, but Perry makes the most sense in this situation.

26. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (Houston Texans)
The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.

29. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State (Baltimore Ravens)
Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He's a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing cornerback Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.

Here's McShay's player rankings. Insider

Here's Kiper's Big Board. Insider

And here's Kiper's top-five by position, Insider which is chock full of Pac-12 players.

Most interesting: Kiper ranks former Arizona State's Brock Osweiler No. 3 among the quarterbacks, ahead of former Arizona's Nick Foles, who is fifth. Luck, of course, is No. 1 and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is No. 2.

If Osweiler ends up getting picked on the first day -- first two rounds -- it certainly will validate his surprising decision to enter the NFL draft.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
5/01/11
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The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4
A lot has been made of California's split personality this season, but it's possible UCLA and Washington are even more deranged.

Both started the season with high expectations, particularly Washington, which thought it had a Heisman Trophy candidate when quarterback Jake Locker opted to return for his senior season.

Splat. Both opened with losses on the road to mediocre teams.

Washington bounced back with a strong win over Syracuse. Joy! Then it got run over at home by Nebraska. Despair! Then the Huskies won at USC. Joy! Then the Huskies got bounced at home by Arizona State. Despair! Then they beat Oregon State in double-overtime. Joy!

Then they got waxed in three consecutive games. Lots of despair.

[+] EnlargeRick Neuheisel
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesRick Neuheisel, the former Washington coach and current UCLA coach, will be a central figure when the Huskies host the Bruins on Thursday.
UCLA followed up its loss at Kansas State by getting trenched at home by Stanford 35-zip. Abandon ship! Then it beat Houston and Texas when the Cougars and Longhorns were still considered good. Back on the bandwagon! Then, after beating Washington State, the Bruins got waxed in two consecutive games and couldn't make plays at the end to upset Arizona. Bail on the Bruins!

Then, the Bruins upset Oregon State. Hope?

It's hard to project either way for either team as they head into a meeting Thursday night in Husky Stadium.

"When they play well in all three phases, [they] look really, really good -- as we have this year at times," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "There are other times when things haven't gone well, that [things] have fallen apart on them, as they have for us."

And so both teams find themselves desperate for a win to keep bowl hopes alive. Sarkisian's Huskies need to win their final three game -- visits to California and Washington State are ahead -- while the Bruins need to win two of three -- they are at Arizona State then play host to USC in the season-finale.

So there's not a lot of margin for error, and everyone knows the stakes are high. A bowl game would make it a successful season for either team. A losing record would fall short of preseason expectations. Bruins safety Rahim Moore joked this week -- seemingly -- that he'd quit football if the Bruins didn't manage to earn bowl eligibility. It's clear both coaches aren't against dangling the bowl game as a motivational carrot.

"Whether I dangle it or not, our guys are well aware of what we need to do," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.

As far as subplots, Neuheisel is one. The Huskies coach from 1999-2002, he's not very well liked by some in Seattle, who still blame him for the program's lengthy downturn, even though Neuheisel went to four bowl games in four years -- the worst was the Sun Bowl -- and won a Rose Bowl after the 2000 season.

Neuheisel, who has been gracious in his comments about Washington since being hired at UCLA, said he expects the animosity to die down, and that Huskies fans will mostly focus on rooting for their team. And as for his role in the program's downturn?

"There were a lot of mistakes made. Certainly, I made some," he said. "But it's been seven years. My last year coaching there was 2002. There's been ample time to fix things."

Another subplot is the return of Locker from a rib injury that sidelines him for the defeat at Oregon on Nov. 6. This will be Locker's final home game after a hugely disappointing season. Can he put on one final, big show, something like did down the stretch last year?

Speaking of quarterbacks, there's also UCLA's Richard Brehaut, who's been surprisingly effective running the Bruins pistol offense and has breathed some life into a once moribund passing game. It's taken some time, however, for Neuheisel and -- particularly -- offensive coordinator Norm Chow to develop confidence in Brehaut. Their hands were forced when starter Kevin Prince was lost for the year with a knee injury.

"Richard is kind of a swashbuckler who can get in there and throw the ball around and make it look really easy," Neuheisel said. "Then all of a sudden, when the defense is coming from a lot of different places, is he really aware of what's happening and remembering all the nuances that go with playing quarterback? He wasn't as advanced [as Prince]. Now that he's having to do it, he's learning and getting better very quickly."

Then there's the weather. It's expected to be cold and rainy. The perception is the Southern-California-centric UCLA roster won't be accustomed to that, particularly Brehaut.

Whatever the weather, though, Brehaut's best bet is to hand the ball off. The Bruins have run the ball well this year, and the Huskies rank 118th in the nation in run defense (219.6 yards per game).

Finally, Washington is going for a blackout -- black uniforms, black shirts for fans, black end zones -- in order to make a statement for the ESPN broadcast.

You could say they are dressing for a funeral. The question is: Will it be their own, or the Bruins in mourning after the game?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

We just thought the Texas Tech-Texas A&M rivalry couldn't get any more vituperative and nasty.

Tech coach Mike Leach, who in the past has teased the Aggies with his plans of starting "Mike's Pirate School," modeled along the lines of A&M's Corps of Cadets, has added some more fire this week with his comments about A&M quarterback Stephen McGee.

Leach was angry about how his own quarterback, record-breaking Graham Harrell was not drafted while McGee was picked by Dallas in the fourth round of the draft. McGee saw action in only three games as a starter last season.

Leach's barbs at the Aggies and McGee provided much fodder for day-after draft stories across the Big 12.

Leach remained unapologetic about his remarks about McGee, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman and McGee's draftability, Dallas Morning News reporters Brian Davis and Chuck Carlton report.

Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna writes that Leach was wrong in his pointed criticisms of McGee and A&M's handling of the quarterback.

And Austin American-Statesman beat writer Randy Riggs has Sherman's response to Leach, where the A&M coach says the Tech coach is in no position to comment about his relationship with McGee.

All of this only ensures that the Oct. 24 game in Lubbock between the two bitter rivals will be that much more anticipated.

Here are some other stories from across  the conference, with a lot less indignation.

  • The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson reports that some ticket prices to the Iowa-Iowa State game on Sept. 12 in Ames will be going down to $60 per seat.
  • Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com wonders if Harrell was too productive for his own good.
  • Colorado's season-ticket sales are holding steady, despite a rise in some ticket prices and the declining economy, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
  • The Omaha World Herald's Tom Shatel weighs in on the alleged Cody Glenn ticket- scalping case and the free-agent competition between Chase Daniel and Joe Ganz for playing time with the Washington Redskins.
  • Sam Bradford and Zac Robinson shared their faith together at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet in Oklahoma City and also planned an upcoming golf game, the Daily Oklahoman reports.
  • The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter reports that Chase Daniel went against his rooting instincts as a fan when he opted for a contract offer from the Washington Redskins.
  • Iowa State tackle Doug Dedrick had already agreed to a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans before the NFL draft was completed, Ames Tribune reporter Bobby La Gesse writes.
  • Nebraska officials told the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson they found no evidence to back up Cody Glenn's claims of ticket scalping.
  • It was understandable that former Kansas linebacker Mike Rivera ended up signing with the Chicago Bears, the Kansas City Star's Brady McCullough reports. Rivera has owned a jersey of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher since high school.
  • Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel reports that Sam Bradford is the clear No. 1 pick among quarterbacks in the 2010 draft.

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