NCF Nation: Juan Garcia

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A friendly warning: You know that stack of money you could be saving on your car insurance? You know: The one with big eyeballs. It bites.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

These links won in a landslide.

  • It's looking more and more likely that Nate Longshore will start at quarterback for California at USC because Kevin Riley isn't practicing due to the concussion he suffered vs. Oregon.
  • UCLA's chances vs. Oregon State just got a lot worse: The Bruins have suspended three players for a violation of team rules -- the L.A. Times reported that the players violated the department's drug use policy.
  • Comparing all-time lows: Arizona in 2003 vs. Washington State in 2008.
  • High-strung receiver Nate Kimbrough might inject some emotion into the Arizona State offense. And some O-line changes may help, too
  • Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli returned to practice but it's still unclear whether he or Justin Roper will start at quarterback against Stanford.
  • Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao didn't practice Tuesday. Though his injured shoulder is improving, it seems unlikely he will start at UCLA.
  • Stanford's potent running game will take a hit if fullback Owen Marecic can't play.
  • Cal is a big test for USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Is Pete Carroll right to rant about the BCS system? Here's a contrarian view on the supposed greatness of USC's defense.
  • Washington's season is "eating away" at center Juan Garcia.
  • Washington State coach Paul Wulff gets a vote of confidence from athletic director Jim Sterk.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. Dear Arizona -- Get the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas: What does a dominating running game do for a team? Well, it wasn't just that Stanford had 286 yards rushing last weekend in its win over Arizona, it was that it ran 72 total plays vs. 57 for the Wildcats. What could a team do with 15 more plays? A lot. But if you only have 57, more than six of them should involve tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Mike Thomas.

2. Nate Longshore needs to grab hold of Cal's quarterback spot: California would love to run right at Arizona like Stanford did, but the Bears are down two starting offensive linemen and struggled just two weeks ago to get the running game going at home against Arizona State (79 yards on the ground). While it will help to get speedy Jahvid Best back, he's not going to give Cal 25 carries coming back from a dislocated elbow. That means Nate Longshore, making his second consecutive start, will need to make plays in the passing game. It doesn't help that receiver Michael Calvin was lost for the year this week to a knee injury. But Longshore should be plenty motivated to erase the three-interception performance he had in Tucson in 2006, an upset defeat that cost the Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.

3. How much does Washington still care?: The Huskies' players don't live in caves. They know that their fan base is hollering for coach Tyrone Willingham's coaching noggin'. They also can look at the guy under center and know he's no longer their leader, Jake Locker, who's done for the year with a thumb injury. While last season's bitter defeat at Oregon State should serve as motivation to play hard in front of the home fans, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies fight all four quarters if things start to get out of hand. And what if the Beavers jump on them early? Will a white flag come out?

4. Beavers stop the pass, own the field: Washington senior guard Casey Bulyca, who rivals center Juan Garcia as the Huskies most physical player, underwent knee surgery Tuesday and is done for the year. The line has been mostly mediocre this year, in any event. The Huskies don't really have a starting tailback, with Willie Griffin, Brandon Johnson and Terrance Dailey shuffling in and out. Locker, the best run threat, is, again, out. The Huskies average 2.9 yards per rush, and Oregon State's run defense has improved dramatically since yielding 239 yards at Penn State. This means it's up to UW quarterback Ronnie Fouch and his young receivers to make plays. But the Beavers likely will welcome the pass because safety Al Afalava and cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis are back to full speed after nursing injuries previous weeks.

5. USC will not be at full speed at Washington State: USC is banged up and it might make sense for coach Pete Carroll to lean toward caution with players who are borderline-ready to play at Washington State. Running back Joe McKnight (toe) won't make the trip. Neither will defensive end Everson Griffen and offensive lineman Butch Lewis (both are sick). Offensive guards Jeff Byers (knee) and Zack Heberer (toe), linebackers Brian Cushing (shoulder) and Kaluka Maiava (foot) and tight end Blake Ayles (groin) also missed significant practice time this week.

6. Don't hold the ball, Kevin Lopina: A team (hopefully) never expects to lose, but Washington State's prime directive is to get quarterback Kevin Lopina safely through USC's visit. Lopina is making his first start since going down with a back injury on Sept. 20 against Portland State, and the Cougars have a bye next week for him to further get his health, rhythm and timing back. The Trojans put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, often with just a four-man rush. Lopina needs to get the ball away in a hurry. That means three-step drops, roll outs, a two count and throw -- heave the ball into the stands if necessary. Just don't give up the sack, the INT or get hurt. The Cougars Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks are done for the season, and the guys next in line are a walk-on and a true freshman, so they really need Lopina to keep taking snaps.

7. Can Stanford run up the middle on UCLA?: Stanford has become the Pac-10's most physical running team. Running back Toby Gerhart is a 230-pound guy who's not afraid of contact, and the Cardinal line, led by center Alex Fletcher, has been the conference's best unit to this point of the season. But UCLA has perhaps the conference's best defensive tackle tandem in Brian Price and Brigham Harwell. Can Fletcher and his guards move these guys out of the way? The going should be far tougher up the middle, though the Bruins haven't been dominant against the run this year by any means, ranking eighth in the Pac-10 with 171 yards given up per game.

8. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft needs to put four quarters together: Stanford is going to gang up on the run and try to force Craft to win the game. For much of the season, the Cardinal secondary looked vulnerable, but last weekend it did a masterful job containing Arizona's top targets, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Thomas, and didn't allow quarterback Willie Tuitama to throw a touchdown pass. Stanford also brings a lot of blitzes (see 19 sacks on the season). Craft has had fits and starts of success, and he seems to go in and out of rhythm throughout a game. He was sacked six times by Oregon and he threw a lot of ill-advised passes that were dropped by Ducks defenders. If the Bruins are going to defend their home turf, Craft needs to make plays consistently.

9. The solution for Arizona -- Stop the run: Arizona has lost twice this season. In both games, a power back ran all over the Wildcats undersized defense. But Cal doesn't have a Rodney Ferguson (New Mexico, 158 yards) or a Toby Gerhart (116 yards), who both tip the scales at 230 pounds. If the Wildcats force the Bears to throw into a secondary that is the defense's strength that will help in multiple ways. Not only will it ease the pressure on the defensive front, it also will stop the clock more often and allow the potent Arizona offen
se to get more plays.

10. Can any Pac-10 teams win on the road?: Pac-10 teams are 6-20 on the road this year -- 2-8 in nonconference play and 4-12 in conference. While Washington and Washington State have proved hospitable for obvious reasons -- stinking -- the rest of the Pac-10 has treated guests with disdain. Stanford and California are both looking to move up in the conference pecking order, but in order to do that they will have to prove they can win on the road someplace other than Washington or Washington State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Only 25? That makes this hard.

Going backwards.

25. A 185-pound cornerback standing between Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski and the endzone. Two words: Oh, no.

24. Strawberry Canyon without Tree Sitters. Honestly guys, what about an actual old-growth forest? Or perhaps a worthy cause for children? Or was this really only about creating a spectacle that accomplished nothing?

23. The Stanford Tree spinning, spinning, spinning -- with no one sitting in it. Best mascot in sport.

22. The USC band playing "Tribute to Troy." Again. And again. And again. Love that song.

21. Washington QB Jake Locker averaging six years per quarterback sneak. He's the nation's best running QB.

20. Driving from Spokane to Pullman surrounded by snow-covered hills. It's a winter wonderland.

19. Arizona coach Mike Stoops requiring an exorcism on the sidelines. He's toned it down through the years, though. I miss the unfiltered emotion, though not the player berating.

18. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel reminding Pac-10 coaches that they don't have to be boring ALL the time. Honestly, should the media hyperventilate every time he's glib?

17. California RB Jahvid Best running in open space. Typically it means TD.

16. Washington center Juan Garcia getting nasty until the, well, final echo of the referee's whistle. It's darn near a miracle his spring foot injury is better.

15. Washington State's Brandon Gibson making double coverage irrelevant. Proving a warrior for the Cougars offense should help Gibson's draft status.

14. Oregon State offensive lineman Jeremy Perry getting healthy and reminding everyone what a road-grading guard can do. Perry, when healthy, is the conference's most physical run blocker.

13. A beautiful, 65 degree day in Seattle, snow-capped mountains on the horizon, with tailgating boats packing Lake Washington by Husky Stadium. One of the best settings in college football.

12. Mill Avenue after an Arizona State victory. Oh, my. Let's just say it makes most folks wish they were still in college.

11. USC LB Rey Maualuga getting a running start and then... WHAMMO! Hardest hitter in college football.

10. The Oregon cheerleaders.

9. Oregon State's Sammie Stroughter catches the punt... gone. We missed him last year. He's going to remind us why.

8. The Stanford band offending someone. They might not be the best musicians in the world, but they are the best entertainers -- at least if you're not a stick in the mud.

7. Arizona State kicker Thomas Weber with a 55-yard field goal to win a game with two seconds left. Here's a bet he makes it.

6. USC RB Joe McKnight making an entire stadium go, "No he didn't!" Figure that will happen at least once a game.

5. Autzen Stadium going berserk. Without peer in the conference in terms of noise and outright hostility.

4. Washington fans saying "Welcome back!" to Rick Neuheisel on Nov. 15. Husky Stadium figures to be without peer this day in terms of noise and outright hostility.

3. Sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains at the Rose Bowl. Makes me want to write a poem. At least for a moment.

2. USC playing for the national championship in Miami. Go Trojans! Humble another foe!

1. A Pac-10 team other than USC playing for the national championship in Miami. See, we told you there were other good teams in the Pac-10!

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

I really labored over some of these.

Offense

QB: Rudy Carpenter, Sr., Arizona State
RB: Jahvid Best, So., California
RB: Jeremiah Johnson, Sr., Oregon
TE: Rob Gronkowski, So., Arizona
OL: Alex Mack, Sr., California
OL: Jeff Byers, Sr., USC
OL: Juan Garcia, Sr., Washington
OL: Max Unger, Sr., Oregon
OL: Andy Levitre, Sr., Oregon State
WR: Mike Thomas, Sr., Arizona
WR: Brandon Gibson, Sr., Washington State
K: Thomas Weber, So., Arizona State

Defense

DE: Nick Reed, Sr., Oregon
DT: Fili Moala, Sr., USC
DT: Brian Price, So., UCLA
DE: Dexter Davis, Jr., Arizona State
LB: Rey Maualuga, Sr., USC
LB: Brian Cushing, Sr., USC
LB: Zach Follett, Sr., California
CB: Jairus Byrd, Jr., Oregon
CB: Alterraun Verner, Jr., UCLA
FS: Taylor Mays, Jr., USC
SS: Patrick Chung, Sr., Oregon
P: Keenyn Crier, So., Arizona

KR: Ronald Johnson, So., USC
PR: Sammie Stroughter, Sr., Oregon State

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

One week and it begins...

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

My assumption is your tailgate blueprints have been finalized as well as all the pie charts, spreadsheets and PowerPoint demonstrations. If not: For shame.

  • At Arizona, it was recognition day -- starting to work against Idaho's offense and defense. Greg Hansen: If you win it they will come. Nic Grigsby is the starter at TB, but there's more quality depth than in the past.
  • Arizona State's first offense looked pretty good in its final scrimmage Thursday. Said QB Rudy Carpenter to the Arizona Republic of the suspect OL: "The offensive line did an awesome job tonight. They've been doing a great job all camp. If they continue to do that, I think we can be pretty good." Bad news is the WR Chris McGaha is still sitting out with a toe injury. The defense benefits from the return of DT Saia Falahola, who appears to have won a starting job. East Valley Tribune list of freshmen who likely will play: wide receiver Gerell Robinson, running back Ryan Bass, guard Zach Schlink, defensive end Lawrence Guy, linebackers Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee, cornerback Josh Jordan, safety Clint Floyd. Oh, and the Sun Devils expect to eclipse 50,000 season ticket sales, the most in at least two decades.
  • California coach Jeff Tedford picked sophomore Kevin Riley as the Bears starting QB over senior Nate Longshore. Riley started slowly but surged late. Also, note at the bottom says that "walk-on freshman David Seawright had won the kicking job over senior Jordan Kay." Some perspective on the QB decision from Jon Wilner and Jonathan Okanes. List of other freshmen and newcomers who could play from SF Chronicle: receivers Verran Tucker and Marvin Jones, defensive tackle Kendrick Payne, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, tight end Anthony Miller and safety Bryant Nnabuife and likely DBs Marc Anthony and Josh Hill.
  • The extent of Oregon QB Nate Costa's new knee injury is unknown and it will likely not be until late Sunday or Monday before everything clears up because the team orthopedic surgeon -- who repaired the same knee last fall -- is out of town.
  • My guess is this will fire up Oregon State fans: Hit this link and click the bottom left image for the Beavers intro video (thanks to Building the Dam).
  • The Bootleg has set up a nice Game Day site for the Stanford-Oregon State game that gets things rolling next Thursday.
  • The UCLA defense will not have to carry the offense. Hmm. We shall see. It appears OLB John Hale has held off a challenge from touted freshman Akeem Ayers. More info on UCLA frosh who will not redshirt. One of those is safety Rahim Moore. And attention now turns to a mysterious Tennessee team.
  • USC's final scrimmage was "efficient" -- neither QB Aaron Corp nor Mitch Mustain committed a turnover and no one got hurt. It also appears that Corp and Mustain were competing for the backup role and that Mark Sanchez, two weeks after dislocating his knee cap, will be full-go for Virginia preparations on Monday. Corp may have an edge as the backup. More than a few folks have wondered: What about unheralded QB Garrett Green, who's played consistently well. More scrimmage standouts -- note that Mustain played well, so this whole backup QB decision is going to be close. An injury update -- and get this -- it's good news. And a big-picture look as the Trojans turn their attention to game prep.
  • Interesting story on Sanchez and his embrace of his Mexican heritage and how that seems to bother some folks.
  • Whatever happened to Washington's Jordan White-Frisbee? He may end up being a key piece on the Huskies O-line. Lots of depth-chart questions remain for the Huskies, but that's probably by design. Molly Yanity is guessing that freshman Chris Polk might prevail at TB. More on All-Pac-10 center Juan Garcia, who's recovery from a severe foot injury.
  • No question who Washington State's best player is: WR Brandon Gibson. But the Cougars breakout player may be DE Kevin Kooyman.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Touching all the bases while optimism remains high.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

There's two things you can say about offensive lines: 1) Every good team has a good one; 2) People tend to notice offensive lines more when they are bad.

There aren't any "Oh my gosh, those guys are terrifying" crews this season. Only UCLA and, to a lesser extent, Arizona State, have significant issues up front.

A couple of the lines also need qualifiers: If Washington center Juan Garcia wasn't going to start the season on the injured list, the Huskies would rank No. 2. And Oregon State would rank higher if guard Jeremy Perry's health wasn't an issue, not to mention that tackle Tavita Thompson isn't expected back from suspension until Nov. 1.

USC only welcomes back one official "starter," but three of the new faces topping the depth chart started at least two games last season. Plus, with four incoming prep All-Americans at the position, and highly respected line coach Pat Ruel calling the shots, it's hard to believe the Trojans line will be a milquetoast.

 
 Tom Hauck/Getty Images
 Alex Mack earned All-American honors a year ago.

So here are the hogs... (returning starters)

  1. Oregon (3): Center Max Unger and tackle Fenuki Tupou were All-Pac-10 for the best conference's best rushing team in 2007. The two new starters are experienced seniors.
  2. California (3): All-American center Alex Mack leads three returning starters from a group that surrendered only 11 sacks last season.
  3. Washington (3): Even without center Juan Garcia for a few games, Mike Denbrock's well-coached unit led the conference's second-best rushing attack and was above average in pass protection.
  4. USC (1): The Trojans, with only guard Jeff Byers back, get the benefit of the doubt that the 2007 backups would start for most teams.
  5. Washington State (4): Four starters back from a unit that only gave up 22 sacks.
  6. Arizona (4): Among the four returning starters is tackle Eben Britton, who will play on Sundays. Run blocking shaky.
  7. Oregon State (3): With mauling guard Jeremy Perry, this is a top-flight unit, but without Perry it's easy to remember 36 sacks in 2007.
  8. Stanford (3): Alex Fletcher, who has converted from guard to center, is outstanding, but the unit still ranked ninth in rushing and gave up 48 sacks (ninth also).
  9. Arizona State (2): The Sun Devils' season may hang on how much the line improves. Just two starters are back from a unit that gave up a stunning 55 sacks in 2007.
  10. UCLA (2): Injuries, attrition and lack of talent are the problems. Just two starters and little depth return from group that gave up 36 sacks and was mediocre at run blocking.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller 

Read and reflect...

  • Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News reports that USC's backup linebacker Chris Galippo needs back surgery (again), which will knock him out the first part of the season. Sure, the Trojans are deep at linebacker, but Galippo is a real talent who would have been in the regular playing rotation. Here's Wolf's follow-up.
  • Stewart Mandel thinks Arizona State under Dennis Erickson is the most likely candidate to provide an annual foil for USC. And, by the way, Mandel takes on sleepy Pac-10 fans who don't write him enough.
  • Fellow college football blogger Graham Watson thought this highly amusing. But for us on the West Coast, it just looks like Pete Carroll is looking to improve his ground game by going to sea. Some teams seek firepower. Only Carroll goes nuclear.
  • Not to get too USC here (someone already told me I was being "too Oregon"), but here's a nice story in the Honolulu Advertiser on USC's "other" linebacker, Kaluka Maiava. He's pretty clear about his expectations for the season:

"The past three years we should have been national champs. We've tasted it, but it's been a real slap in the face," Maiava said, referring to losses to Stanford and Oregon last year. "We can go all the way; nothing should stop us. The only team that can beat us is us."

  • Good news for Washington fans: center Juan Garcia told the Seattle Times that he's growing more confident that he will be able to play in 2008 after suffering a severe foot injury during spring practices. I wrote this story about Garcia this spring. He's a true college football success story, a guy who came from a tough background and made something of himself. He also is a nasty dude on the field, which I'm sure we all appreciate.
  • Speaking of the Huskies, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague Jim Moore (the King Coug of Seattle) often does so with a biting wit. The Northwest's favorite gadfly caught up with former UW QB Chris Chandler, and Chandler had some interesting things to say about the direction of the program.
  • Ah, my pet cause: non-conference scheduling. Wizard of Odds breaks down the conferences, from the cowards to the brave (credit and kudos goes to the study's originator at The National Championship Issue.)

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