NCF Nation: Marcus Allen

Top 10 Pac-12 seasons

August, 7, 2014
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ESPN.com has been looking at the greatest seasons in college football history this week -- overall and by team.

Today, we look at the 10 greatest seasons in Pac-12 history. And, yes, we made the overall success of a player's team part of our evaluation.

Feel free to disagree.

(Note: It was a management decision to exclude great Utah and Colorado seasons that occurred outside of the conference. So no Rashaan Salaam nor Alex Smith).

1. Marcus Allen, USC (1981): He was the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, piling up 2,342 yards in 12 games. Finished with 2,683 yards of total offense and 23 TDs. He won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

2. Matt Leinart, USC (2004): The Heisman Trophy winner as a junior, he became just the third QB in three decades to lead his team to back-to-back national titles. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,322 yards with 33 TDs and six interceptions.

3. Jim Plunkett, Stanford (1970): Stanford's only Heisman winner, he piled up 3,189 yards of total offense and was responsible for 22 touchdowns. He led the Cardinal to the Pac-8 title and an unset of No. 2 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

4. Charles White, USC (1979): White led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory and No. 2 final ranking on his way to the Heisman Trophy. He led the nation with an average of 194.1 yards per game, finishing with 2,050 yards and 19 TDs.

5. Terry Baker, Oregon State (1962): He won the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award, passing for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns, and producing 2,261 yards of total offense. His 24 total TDs led the nation. The Beavers won their final seven games, finished 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl.

6. Reggie Bush, USC (2005): While his name is shrouded in controversy and his 2005 Heisman Trophy was officially taken away, you can't take away what he did on the field, which included nearly leading USC to a third consecutive national title. He led the nation with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and ranked fourth in the nation with 133.85 yards rushing per game, which included a stunning 8.7 yards per carry.

7. Gary Beban, UCLA (1967): UCLA's only Heisman winner, he piled up 1,586 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns. The only downside is he went 1-2-1, including losing to USC, in his final four games.

8. Ryan Leaf, Washington State (1997): Forget for a moment his NFL flop and post-football shenanigans, he was brilliant in 1997, leading the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in 67 years. He passed for 3,968 yards and was responsible for a whopping 40 TDs. Finished third in Heisman voting.

9. Steve Emtman, Washington (1991): He was the centerpiece of one of the greatest Pac-10/12 teams of all time, a Huskies crew that dominated foes on its way to a 12-0 record and a split national title with Miami. He won the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy and was the Pac-10 defensive POY. The consensus All-American finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman, leading a defense that yielded 9.58 points per game.

10. Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2002): Suggs set an NCAA record with 24 sacks on his way to becoming a unanimous All-American, Bronko Nagurski Award winner, Lombardi Award winner and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He also had 31 1/2 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles. The downside is the Sun Devils went 8-6 and weren't terribly good on defense as a whole.

Greatest season in USC history?

August, 5, 2014
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USC Trojans football has been defined by great teams and great individual seasons for decades. How about seven Heisman Trophy winners, starting with Mike Garrett in 1965 and finishing with Reggie Bush in 2005 -- though there is, of course, an asterisk by Bush's name due to NCAA violations.

ESPN.com launched its The Season package Monday, which looked at the best seasons recorded for each major college football team, and we tapped Marcus Allen's 1981 Heisman campaign as No. 1 for the Trojans. That pick, while we feel pretty good about it, wasn't easy.

SportsNation

Who had the best season in USC's history?

  •  
    37%
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    7%
  •  
    3%
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    14%
  •  
    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,090)

That's why we're curious about your takes.

In order to narrow our field to five, we dropped Garrett and O.J. Simpson from the running. Garrett's numbers don't hold up, while we'd just as soon not hear Simpson's name ever again.

So that leaves Charles White, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Bush as choices for you to unseat Allen.

As for Allen, he was pretty spectacular in 1981, becoming the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, a number he shattered with 2,427 yards. He also won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, finishing with 2,683 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns. In addition, he was the Trojans' leading receiver and set 14 new NCAA records and tied two others. Further, he beat out a star-studded list of candidates: Georgia's Herschel Walker, BYU's Jim McMahon and Pittsburgh's Dan Marino.

A downside? His team finished 9-3 and No. 14 in the final AP poll. A big finish is where White, Allen's tailback predecessor, has Allen beat.

White's USC teams won the Rose Bowl in 1978 and 1979, splitting a national title in 1978 with Alabama and finishing second behind the Crimson Tide in 1979, his senior season. That year, White led the nation with an average of 194.1 yards per game. In the last 10 games of his senior season, he averaged 201 yards rushing per game. He finished with 2,050 yards (including the bowl game) and 19 TDs. His 6.2 yards per carry bested Allen's 5.6, too.

White unseated Oklahoma's Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman winner, with a dominant percentage of first-place votes (453 vs. 82).

Leinart and Bush were sort of a tandem during USC's dynastic run under then-coach Pete Carroll, nearly leading the Trojans to three consecutive national titles.

In 2004, Leinart led the Trojans to an undefeated national title run, including a dominant victory over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Orange Bowl. He became just the third QB in three decades to lead his team to back-to-back national titles. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,322 yards with 33 TDs and six picks. A three-time All-American, he was 37-2 as a starter and placed third in the Heisman race in 2005, when Bush won over Texas' Vince Young.

As for Bush, it wasn't just numbers for him. A human highlight film, he's probably the flashiest of all USC Heisman winners. He led the nation in 2005 with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and ranked fourth in the nation with 133.85 yards rushing per game. He finished with 1,740 yards rushing and an eye-popping 8.7 yards per carry with 16 TDs. A great receiver, he also had 39 receptions for 481 yards and two scores. He returned punts and kicks as well. He set a Pac-10 record with a spectacular 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State and earned perhaps dubious honors as the namesake of the "Bush Push" against Notre Dame.

Finally, there's Palmer, a four-year starter who suffered through some lean years before leading the 2002 Trojans to the opening of their dynastic run. He won all Heisman voting regions after he passed for 3,942 yards with 33 TDs and 10 picks, completing 63 percent of his passes.

Palmer also didn't have anyone to lean on while winning over voters. He was the first West Coast winner of the award since Allen. Palmer mostly rewrote the Pac-10's passing record book and went on to become the first pick of the 2003 NFL draft.

That's a pretty scintillating list. So how do you rank them?

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

December, 5, 2011
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Taking stock of the Pac-12 heading into the bowl season.

Team of the week: Oregon won its third consecutive Pac-12 championship with a 49-31 win over UCLA in the inaugural conference title game. The Ducks have officially become a mini-conference dynasty.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThis 30-yard touchdown run by LaMichael James set the tone for Oregon against UCLA.
Biggest play: After UCLA fumbled on its first possession, Oregon faced a fourth and 1 on the Bruins 30-yard line in the first quarter. A defensive stop would have made a big statement. Instead, LaMichael James went 30-yards for a 7-0 lead. What seemed inevitable in any event seemed even more so at that moment.

Offensive standout: James, the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist, is one of the best backs in the history of the Pac-8, Pac-10 and Pac-12. And, Huskies, USC and Beavers fans, to argue the point is to be stupid.

Consider:

  • James, a junior, rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries against UCLA, giving him 1,646 on the season. He becomes the first player in conference history to rush for 1,500 or more yards three times in a career. First. In. History. That's enough, by the way. But there's more!
  • James passed former USC back Marcus Allen (4,810 from 1978-81) for third on the Pac-12’s career rushing list with 4,923 yards.
  • James tied USC’s LenDale White (2003-05) for second in conference history in career rushing touchdowns with 52. He also equaled White’s 342 career points, which is 10th in Pac-12 history.

If you want to argue, please, first insist the earth is flat. It's a more intelligent position.

Defensive standout: Oregon linebacker Michael Clay had two sacks, six tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the Ducks win against UCLA.

Special teams standout: UCLA punter Jeff Locke averaged 48.2 yards on four punts, killing two inside the Oregon 20-yard line.

Smiley face: Washington State for hiring Mike Leach. We don't use a hashtag often on the Pac-12 blog, but this gets one: #brilliant!

Frowny face: Arizona and Washington State conducted A-list coaching searches and got their man. It doesn't appear at this point Arizona State and UCLA are. We'll see who both end up with -- this frown can be turned upside down -- but it appears we're going to have an athletic director (or two) picking a third or fourth choice and then disingenuously insisting that's not the case.

Thought of the week: Getting two BCS bowl berths for a second consecutive year means each Pac-10 team will take home at least $1.2 million more over the past two years than if it had just one. And, yeah, I mean Pac-10 because Colorado and Utah don't get a BCS bowl share this year. Commissioner Larry Scott had nothing to do with Oregon and Stanford getting good, but he is the commissioner of record during those two years. Just by standing around and smiling, it seems as though Scott makes revenue appear.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 is likely to be underdogs in five or six of its seven bowl games (spreads will be released later today). Oregon is expected to be favored against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and UCLA could go either way with Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. So will the conference lay an egg -- as expected in Vegas -- this bowl season or will it step up and prove the experts wrong?

Oregon needs to 'WTD' on Jan. 2

December, 3, 2011
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EUGENE, Ore. -- It would be unfair and perhaps even inaccurate to describe Oregon's celebration after winning the first Pac-12 championship game as subdued or distracted or somehow lacking that unfettered euphoric frenzy that erupts after landmark success. The Ducks partied after whipping overmatched UCLA 49-31. The grins were ear-to-ear. The emotions were authentically proud and in the moment.

Winning three consecutive conference championships is a special achievement for any program, but especially a program whose older fans can remember times when such results seemed unattainable.

But you know the "but" is coming. The but is this: After the Ducks finish celebrating, they need to get down to business. And that business is winning their final game, the one that would unmistakably announce the program's arrival as an elite program.

The Ducks have reached the Rose Bowl before. They have played for a national title. But they have walked away from that final game both times with the confetti falling on their triumphant opponents.

It won't surprise anyone that Ducks coach Chip Kelly didn't even sniff the bait when asked if he felt like the program needed to win a BCS bowl game after losing the past two seasons.

"Not based on the two previous losses," Kelly said. "I think our guys are going to go out there and compete, but not based upon anything that happened in the past. I've said this a lot, we're a forward-thinking operation."

Sure, fair enough. But not every Ducks fan or even Ducks player is so completely enmeshed in "The Tao of Chip." They know the simple fact that Oregon in just three seasons under Kelly has accomplished everything a program can in the Pac-12, other than winning a Rose Bowl or winning a national title.

"We really need to finish this season right," said tight end David Paulson, who caught one of three touchdown passes from quarterback Darron Thomas.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly, Rick Neuheisel
Kyle Terada/US PresswireChip Kelly is on to the Rose Bowl with his Ducks, while Rick Neuheisel, right, is out of a job.
"The last two seasons, we had great years but we didn't finish on a good note. I think for this program to keep growing, we need to finish the season. This year, we need to finish in the Rose Bowl."

The dispatch of UCLA takes second billing. It played out as expected. The Bruins fought hard but were overwhelmed by the Ducks' speed and relentlessness, even with do-everything back De'Anthony Thomas knocked out in the first quarter with an apparent concussion.

Oregon led 21-7 after a quarter, 35-17 at halftime and 49-24 entering the final frame. The result was never in doubt. Game MVP LaMichael James produced three touchdowns and 219 of the Ducks' 352 yards rushing. The Ducks outgained the Bruins 571 yards to 337.

The loss even took second billing for the Bruins. For them, it was more about Rick Neuheisel coaching his final game. He was fired this week and finishes his ill-fated career at his alma mater with a 21-28 record.

"There was a lot of heart and there was a lot of work," Neuheisel said. "We made it a game, at least for a time. I was thrilled we got that kind of effort, given the events of last week."

There was an abundance of graciousness when Neuheisel and his players met with reporters. They paid tribute to Oregon, Neuheisel paid tribute to his players and they, in turn, thanked him.

Said linebacker Patrick Larimore, "Being able to play under him has been truly a blessing for me and I know it has been for the rest of the team."

The Bruins had to play a clean game to have any chance and they did not. They lost three fumbles and threw an interception. They also were 1-for-3 on fourth down, while Oregon was 4-of-7. The Ducks, in fact, scored a pair of long touchdowns -- a 30-yard James run in the first quarter and a 25-yard pass to Daryle Hawkins -- on fourth-and-short plays.

Oregon, meanwhile, piled up a bunch of notable numbers. James, a redshirt junior, became the first back in conference history to produce three consecutive seasons with more than 1,500 yards rushing. That's a major achievement when you consider the history of Heisman Trophy winners and Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs the conference has produced. James' 52 career rushing touchdowns is tied with former USC running back LenDale White for second in conference history, and he passed Marcus Allen for third place on the conference's all-time career rushing list with 4,923 yards.

Thomas set a school record with his 63rd career touchdown pass.

As for getting to the Rose Bowl -- again -- it remains special, without question. It's certainly a source of jealousy among 11 other Pac-12 teams. Even Kelly admitted, "It means a lot."

"The Rose Bowl in this conference is the pinnacle," Kelly said. "If you don't have a chance to play -- obviously because of our two losses -- in the national championship game, there's no other game you'd rather play in than the Rose Bowl."

But the playing is not the thing to catch the consequence of becoming a college football king. And Kelly and Oregon, of all coaches and teams, should know that. After all, it's written all over the stadium and even has a special "WTD" shield.

Win the day.

Oregon needs to win the day on Jan. 2.
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.

But before we move on as a 12-team league, let's look back at the best of a 10-team league.

On Wednesday, we looked at the best players. Thursday, it's the best teams.

We've listed 12 teams because that's the new magic number (Arizona fans, see if you can guess who came in 13th).

Again, no team before 1978 -- when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 -- was considered.

1. 1991 Washington: The Huskies finished 12-0 and split the national title with Miami.

Best player: Defensive tackle Steve Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.

Point differential: Washington outscored its foes 495-115.

Best win: Whipped Michigan 34-14 in Rose Bowl. Wolverines finished ranked sixth.

Comment: Four wins over teams that finished ranked in the final top 25, including road victories at No. 15 Nebraska and at No. 8 California. Featured one of the great defenses in college football history, yielding just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. Eight Huskies earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

2. 2004 USC: While the NCAA and BCS have nixed it in their own ways, the Trojans finished 13-0 and won the national title on the field.

Best player: Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: USC outscored its foes 496-169.

Best win: Crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the national title game.

Comment: Basically a push for dominance with 1991 Washington. Beat four teams that finished ranked in the top 25, including the bludgeoning of Oklahoma. Eight Trojans earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

3. 2003 USC: The Trojans finished 12-1 and split the national title with LSU. Their only loss came in triple overtime at California.

Best player: Receiver Mike Williams was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 534-239.

Best win: The completely dominant 23-0 victory at then-No. 6 Auburn in the opener set the tone for the season -- and caused many Pac-10 fans to question how good these highly rated SEC teams really are.

Comment: The Trojans finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but lost out playing in the BCS title game because of the computer polls. LSU fans have been thanking the computers for that glitch ever since.

4. 2005 USC: A 34-game winning streak came to an end with a nail-biting loss to Texas in the national title game. The Trojans finished 12-1.

Best player: Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 638-297.

Best win: The 34-31 win at Notre Dame -- the "Bush Push" game -- was one of the all-time greats.

Comment: Perhaps the best collection of offensive players in the history of college football: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Taitusi Lutui earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. And don't forget LenDale White, Winston Justice, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd.

5. 1978 USC: Finished 12-1 and split national title with Alabama. Lost to Arizona State, 20-7.

Best player: Charles White was a unanimous All-American.

Point differential: 318-153

Best win: A 24-14 win over the team that "claimed" the other half of the national title.

Comment: Split national title -- coaches liked the Trojans; AP the Crimson Tide -- despite a decisive 24-14 USC at Alabama. So much for head to head.

6. 1979 USC: Finished 11-0-1 and No. 2 behind Alabama. Tied Stanford 21-21.

Best player: Charles White won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 389-171

Best win: The 17-16 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, in which White ran for a record 247 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with just more than a minute remaining.

Comment: Team featured four future College Football Hall of Famers in White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lot and Brad Budde. By the way, THAT undefeated, untied Alabama team was really, really good: Outscored foes 383-67. So no sour grapes on that one.

7. 2001 Oregon: The Ducks finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 in both polls. The only loss was 49-42 versus Stanford (a really, really weird game, if you recall).

Best player: Quarterback Joey Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 412-256.

Best win: A 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.

Comment: The Fiesta Bowl victory caused plenty of folks to bemoan the Nebraska-Miami matchup in the BCS title game, considering Colorado had blown out Nebraska the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Stanford loss, the typically straightforward AP noted the game had "everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."

8. 1984 Washington: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 behind BYU. Lost to USC ,16-7.

Best player: Defensive tackle Ron Holmes was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 352-145

Best win: Shocked Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl. Sooners finished ranked sixth.

Comment: A controversial season. Before the Orange Bowl, Sooners coach Barry Switzer lobbied hard for the winner to be declared the national champion. As it was, BYU won the national title after beating a bad Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Does anyone believe BYU was better than the Huskies? No.

9. 2010 Oregon: The Ducks finished 12-1 and No. 3 in both polls, losing the national title game to Auburn.

Best player: Running back LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 611-243

Best win: The Ducks handed Stanford its only loss, 52-31, after trailing 21-3 early. Cardinal finished ranked No. 4.

Comment: An innovative, exciting team to watch, one that played faster than perhaps any big-time college team in history.

10. 1996 Arizona State: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in both polls. Lost Rose Bowl -- and potential national championship -- to Ohio State, 20-17.

Best player: Quarterback Jake Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 488-216

Best win: The Sun Devils trounced top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Nebraska, 19-0.

Comment: The Sun Devils lost one of the most dramatic Rose Bowls, when the swashbuckling Plummer was out-swashbuckled by Joe Germaine, who was raised in Arizona as an ASU fan.

11. 2000 Washington: The Huskies finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3, their only loss coming at No. 7 Oregon. They beat Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl.

Best player: Marques Tuiasosopo finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 387-270

Best win: Beat Miami, 34-29. Hurricanes finished ranked No. 2.

Comment: This is not the most talented team on the list. In fact, some have rated the 2000 Oregon State team -- see below -- ahead of the Huskies. And based on NFL results, the Beavers were more talented than the Huskies. But head to head matters, and the win over Miami is better than anything Oregon State did.

12. 2000 Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4, their only loss a 33-30 decision at Washington, which finished ranked No. 3.

Best player: Running back Ken Simonton was first-team All-Pac-10.

Best win: Beat Oregon 23-13 in Civil War. Oregon finished ranked seventh in the coaches poll.

Comment: One or two more plays at Washington, and the Beavers would have played for the national title. And they, by the way, were more talented than the Oklahoma team that did win the title. Notable Beavers: Ken Simonton, Chad Ochocinco (the Chad Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Gibson, DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson, Dennis Weathersby and Eric Manning. They spanked Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.

Kaboom!

Before we start looking forward -- oh, well, guess that's all we've been doing this offseason -- let's take a look back at the 10-team conference that started in 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 (and Pac-8 purist grumbled about life ending as they knew it).

Today, we compile an all-time, All-Pac-10 team (No player who graduated before 1978 was considered). Thursday, we'll rank the best Pac-10 teams.

As for picking the players, you might imagine this wasn't easy. Lots of great players over the past 33 years. This list doesn't include many consensus All-Americans, national award winners and players who won multiple All-Pac-10 honors.

[+] EnlargeMatt Leinart
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesUSC's Matt Leinart is the conference's all-time leader touchdown passes.
I struggled with receiver and offensive line the most. And kicker (UCLA fans will slap their foreheads at my pick). Ten selected players already are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

NFL success wasn't a part of this measure -- just look at the QB. But there were a couple of moments -- tight end and kicker -- when it waved at me from a distance.

As for the per school tally, it should be no surprise that USC led the way with seven players. It might be a surprise that Arizona, with no Rose Bowl berths, was second with four. Neither Oregon nor Stanford have a player on the team.

Feel free to disagree. Or to post your own team.

Offense

QB Matt Leinart, USC (2005): 2004 Heisman Trophy winner. Finished third in 2005. Won two national titles; played for a third. 99 career touchdown passes is 14 more than any other quarterback in conference history.

RB Charles White, USC (1979): 1979 Heisman Trophy winner. Fourth in 1978. Pac-10's all-time leading rusher. College Football Hall of Fame.

RB Marcus Allen, USC (1981): 1981 Heisman Trophy winner. 2,427 yards rushing in 1981 is conference single-season record. College Football Hall of Fame.

WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC (2006): A two-time consensus All-American. Ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting. 41 career touchdown receptions is nine more than any wide receiver in conference history.

WR Mike Hass, Oregon State (2005): Biletnikoff winner. Consensus All-American. His 1,532 yards receiving is a conference single-season record. He also holds the single-game receiving yards record (293).

OL Jonathan Ogden, UCLA (1995): 1995 Outland Trophy winner and consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10.

OL Randall McDaniel, Arizona State (1987): Consensus All-American, two-time first-team All-Pac-10. College Football Hall of Fame.

OL Brad Budde, USC (1979): Lombardi Trophy winner. Three-time first-team All-Pac-10. College Football Hall of Fame

OL Alex Mack, California (2008): Three-time first-team All-Pac-10. Two-time Morris Trophy winner.

OL Lincoln Kennedy, Washington (1992): Consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10. Two-time Morris Trophy winner.

TE Tony Gonzalez, California (1996): Consensus All-American. First-team All-Pac-10.

Defense

DE Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2002): Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi Trophy and Ted Hendricks Award winner. Consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10. Set NCAA single-season sack record (24).

DT Steve Emtman, Washington (1991): Outland and Lombardi winner. Finished fourth for Heisman Trophy. Consensus All-American. College Football Hall of Fame.

DT Rob Waldrop, Arizona (1993): Outland and Bronko Nagurski winner. UPI lineman of the Year. Two-time consensus All-American. College Football Hall of Fame.

DE Tedy Bruschi, Arizona (1995): Two-time consensus All-American. Three-time first-team All-Pac-10. Morris Trophy winner.

LB Chris Clairborne, USC (1998): Butkus Award. Consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10.

LB Ricky Hundley, Arizona (1983): Two-time consensus All-American. Three-time first-team All-Pac-10. College Football Hall of Fame.

LB Jerry Robinson, UCLA (1978): Two-time consensus All-American. Three-time first-team All-Conference. College Football Hall of Fame.

S Kenny Easley, UCLA (1980): Four-time first-team All-Conference. Three-time consensus All-American. College Football Hall of Fame.

S Ronnie Lott, USC (1980): Consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10. College Football Hall of Fame.

CB Antoine Cason, Arizona (2007): Thorpe Award winner. Consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10.

CB Mike Richardson, Arizona State (1982): Two-time consensus All-American. Two-time first-team All-Pac-10.

Specialists

P Nick Harris, California (2000): A consensus All-American in 2000, he punted a lot and was very good at it. He set NCAA records for most career punts and punting yardage.

K Jason Hansen, Washington State (1991): Consensus All-American (1989). Two-time first-team All-Pac-10. 39 career field goals of 40 or more yards and 20 of 50 or more; both Pac-10 records.

The final four revealed

May, 12, 2010
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Two rounds are in the books and four teams are left in ESPN.com’s playoff to determine college football’s best NFL pipeline.

Clemson, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Arizona State and Penn State were eliminated in Round 2.

Georgia, Notre Dame, UCLA and Ohio State were pushed aside in Round 1.

Only Florida State, Pittsburgh, Miami and the University of Southern California are left.

Based on recent history, it’s a surprise the Panthers are still standing.

Next to college football’s teams of the 1980s (Miami), 1990s (FSU) and 2000s (USC), the Panthers stick out as much as Lane Kiffin sitting at a table of Hall of Fame coaches.

But here’s a brief history lesson to bring you up to speed on Pittsburgh football:

In the early 1980s, there probably wasn’t a better NFL factory than the Steel City’s university. Quarterback Dan Marino played there, along with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson.

Who can forget Pitt’s stellar offensive linemen like Mark May, Jimbo Covert, Ruben Brown and Bill Fralic or its menacing defensive linemen such as Hugh Green, Chris Doleman and Sean Gilbert? Former NFL running backs Curtis Martin and Craig “Iron Head” Heyward played for the Panthers. More recently, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Darrelle Revis starred at Pitt.

But if the survey were based on the last 10 to 15 years -- instead of the last three decades -- the Panthers wouldn’t have a seat at the front table.

FSU, Miami and USC are far and away college football’s best NFL factories during the last two decades.

The Hurricanes blessed us with alumni who won five NFL Most Valuable Player awards and made 100 Pro Bowl appearances. An alumni game at "The U.” would include a defense led by safety Ed Reed, linebacker Ray Lewis, and defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy. Try scoring against that unit.

The Miami offense would include quarterback Jim Kelly, tailbacks Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis, receiver Michael Irvin, tight end Jeremy Shockey, and tackle Bryant McKinnie.

Only USC can match that kind of star power. Four of the former Trojans drafted by NFL teams since 1979 are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: safety Ronnie Lott, tailback Marcus Allen, and offensive linemen Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews.

It’s probably only a matter of time before former Trojans Junior Seau joins his fellow USC alumni in Canton, Ohio.

Florida State, which won 10 games or more every season from 1987-2000 and won national championships in 1993 and ’99, produced NFL stars such as Deion Sanders, Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones and Warrick Dunn.

But many of FSU’s best players during the 1980s and ‘90s never found as much success in the NFL. Brad Johnson, the only former Noles quarterback to have sustained success in the NFL, didn’t even start during his senior season at FSU. Quarterbacks like Peter Tom Willis, Danny McManus, Danny Kanell and Casey Weldon had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but not much more.

What was the biggest surprise in the first round? No. 12 seed Ohio State over No. 5 seed Tennessee.

Ohio State’s lineup of Orlando Pace, Cris Carter, Chris Spielman, Eddie George and Robert Smith is as good as anybody’s, but Tennessee’s roster of NFL talent is arguably just as solid.

Besides, who doesn’t know the Buckeyes are going to lose to an SEC team every time?

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