NCF Nation: Utah State Aggies

Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.
There will be familiar faces around weight rooms and in front of overhead projectors in football complexes this summer: coaches’ faces.

Big deal.

Except it is a big deal, at least to the coaches who can now occupy strength and conditioning sessions and hold film study with their players.

The NCAA partially adopted a rule from the hardwood in October allowing a maximum of eight hours of mandatory workouts for players for eight weeks of the summer. What football coaches really care about, however, is the ability to watch those conditioning sessions and meet with their players for up to two hours each week. Any on-the-field work with footballs is still prohibited.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Andy ManisIndiana coach Kevin Wilson is one of many coaches that can visit with players in the summer rather than relying on "spies" to get information on offseason workouts.
“You don’t need secret spies anymore,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson told ESPN.com. “You can just watch your football team now. ... It’s common sense that if I’m in control and if I want to walk in the weight room and watch them lift weights then I can watch them lift weights.”

It is uncharted territories for most coaches, who are used to relying on third-party word of mouth from the program’s strength coach and upperclassmen on how summer workouts are progressing and whether freshmen are adjusting. Some coaches began mapping out how they would use their eight hours when the rule was passed, while others will take the pulse of the team and adjust accordingly. For some, they’ll protect the details of those hour splits as if it were the playbook.

“We have to carve out [player meetings] with our strength coach, time that we can take away from his hours because you’re not adding extra time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “There is this model that I’m not interested in giving up to anybody, that we think gives us a balance.”

Notre Dame is still debating between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire as its starting quarterback, so Kelly can spend part of the summer mentally preparing both for the upcoming competition. He will institute a “spring ball installation” of the core offensive plays and defensive structure, “something we’ve never been able to do in June.” He’ll also show his quarterbacks all of their mistakes in previous settings in hopes of limiting them once the season begins.

The vast majority, if not all, are in favor of the rule, although to varying degrees. Indiana’s Wilson has walk-on players who could eventually earn a scholarship, so those players feel a need to attend summer workouts. He knows that means some will take out additional loans for summer school.

For the coaches, with summers now filled with prospect camps and recruiting visits, there are fewer hours to break away from the football facility. Wilson will take advantage of the change, but he wonders whether coaches will suffer from the burnout a 365-day coaching calendar lends itself to. The NCAA implemented a two-week summer dead period to combat the evolving recruiting calendar, but Wilson knows some coaches will stick around to watch tape with players.

“It’s a little ironic they added a rule that for two weeks a recruit can’t come in but added a rule so you can spend that time with your players,” first-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson told ESPN.com.

Added Wilson: “How do we find the balance? It’s nice we can work with them, but it’s finding a balance where your coaches can find sanity. It’s nice we can talk legally but … I think you can overcoach.

“It will be interesting after year one, whether coaches will say they want to do more or do less.”

No school returns fewer starters in 2014 than Utah State, so coach Matt Wells is tasked with making sure those players who will be asked to step up this fall are physically and mentally able. He is also cognizant that his staff spending too much time with the team this summer could produce undesired results.

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesThe new NCAA rules are a boon to first-year coaches such as Wake Forest's Dave Clawson, who get a chance to get acclimated with their new players.
In the early portion of the summer, Wells will meet with his team more often than he might in July. He will bring the program’s newcomers up to speed with scheme and terminology in meetings, but he also doesn’t want to overload them. With the upperclassmen, he believes it will become counterproductive to have extended and repetitive classroom sessions.

“We’re going to still lean on player-led meetings, voluntary meetings the coaches aren’t in because it builds leadership in your team and in position groups,” Wells told ESPN.com. “We’ve benefitted from that the last three summers from an increased leadership role, and I think it’s important for the players to have a break from the coaches.”

For first-year coaches such as Clawson, the new rule will narrow the learning curve this fall as his players continue to adjust to his offensive and defensive ideologies. Clawson is seemingly like most coaches, though, in that he does not favor using the full two hours for Football 101 seminars. Wake Forest’s new coach is not deviating much from the old summer status quo.

When he and his staff assessed the Demon Deacons following the spring, he felt strength and conditioning was lacking most. So when mandatory summer workouts kicked off, he decided he’d only spend 30 minutes to an hour each week meetings with players.

“It didn’t make sense to take two hours away from that,” he said.

That could change in the coming weeks, though. While some schools already have their entire incoming freshman class on campus, Clawson won’t see all of his until July. He said the previous rule preventing coaches from working with freshmen lacked common sense.

“It used to be awful, the first time a freshman’s ever on campus and you can’t be around them,” Clawson said. “When these guys first get here, you need to have some involvement. Part of recruiting is parents trusting you with their son, and first time they drop them off, to not be allowed around them was very hard.”

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
11:00
AM ET
Taking stock of Week 4 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: While the Pac-12 blog has been hard on Stanford for giving up 21 unanswered points to Arizona State in the fourth quarter, the fact remains the Cardinal posted a two-touchdown win over a ranked team. And that first half showed folks why Stanford is a national title contender. Need to tighten some things up? Absolutely. But Stanford at its best has plenty of irresistible force and unmovable object to it.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsWill Oregon State QB Sean Mannion miss coach Danny Langsdorf, who is heading to the NFL? Sure, but it shouldn't affect his production.
Best game: Oregon State fans let out a massive, "Whew," after the Beavers overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit at San Diego State and won 34-30. While the game was far from pretty, it was a win, and the Beavers seem like a team right now that should just be grateful to collect one. Further, the weekend was otherwise devoid of nail-biters, though USC allowed Utah State to stay unnecessarily close.

Biggest play: Oregon State's defense has been mostly horrible, but it provided the winning margin against San Diego State when CB Steven Nelson returned an interception 16 yards for a TD with 2:31 remaining. The play might have saved the Beavers' season.

Offensive standout: Oregon State can't run the ball or play defense, but QB Sean Mannion can throw the rock around with WR Brandin Cooks. Mannion completed 38 of 55 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Beavers' comeback win over San Diego State. Cooks was his chief weapon, catching 14 passes for 141 yards.

Defensive standout: Utah State couldn't block USC DT Leonard Williams, who had eight tackles with three coming for a loss in the Trojans' 17-14 win over Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies. The Trojans held a previously potent offense to just 285 total yards.

Defensive standout II: Sure, it came against woeful Idaho, but Washington State DT Xavier Cooper dominated inside. Of his five total tackles, 3.5 came for a loss, including 1.5 sacks. He was a key part of a surging defense that held the Vandals to 253 total yards. LB Darryl Monroe, who led the Cougars with 12 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, also merits note.

Special-teams standout: Think you had a long Saturday? Utah punter Tom Hackett punted 11 times for the Utes against BYU, averaging 44.2 yards per boot with a long of 61 yards, though that one was returned 58 yards to the Utah 13. That's 486 yards of punting from the Australian! Three were downed inside the Cougars' 20-yard line. G'day to that.

Frowny face: USC and Oregon State were both ranked in the preseason but both appear to be significantly flawed. The Trojans can't do anything on offense, and the Beavers are struggling on defense. Hmm. Maybe if they combined forces we could generate another national title contender?

Smiley face: The Pac-12 is 29-4 in nonconference play, including 21-3 against FBS teams, with just three matchups with Notre Dame left to play. That is by far the most distinguished mark in the nation. Remember when the Mountain West Conference was -- rightfully -- talking smack about the Pac-12? Well, the Pac-12 is 10-0 versus the MWC this year.

Thought of the week: While the season is only hitting the quarter pole, we should learn a little about the conference's South Division contenders -- and pretenders -- this weekend. Arizona has played three overmatched foes and was off over the weekend. The visit to Washington should be revealing. We have no idea who the Wildcats really are. They seem much improved on defense and limited throwing the ball. A victory over the Huskies would thrust them into the top 25 and announce them as contenders in the South Division. Meanwhile, the Arizona State-USC game also seems to serve as a critical separation game in the South.

Questions for the week: Will Lane Kiffin's last stand be in the desert? If Kiffin and the Trojans prevail and improve to 4-1, Kiffin might buy himself some goodwill -- and top-25 votes. The season would still offer plenty of hope. If the Trojans lose, they will fall to 0-2 in the conference, a major hole in the division race. At that point, reporters covering the Trojans likely would start writing speculative articles about USC's next coach.

Pac-12 predictions: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
9:00
AM ET
Both Ted and Kevin went 9-1 last week, with both missing with a pick of Utah over Oregon State. They picked different teams in the Colorado-Fresno State game, but it was postponed and might not be rescheduled.

So Kevin is 27-3 so far this season and it's California's fault Ted is just 26-4.

Cal! Baaaaa!

Arizona State at Stanford

Kevin Gemmel: I think ASU will come out firing -- eager to prove it belongs in the top 25 after last week’s freakish ending. But Stanford’s defense is a lot better than Wisconsin’s. This is also ASU’s first game on the road, and until we see what it can do outside of Tempe, Ariz., I’m leaning toward the home team. Stanford 31, Arizona State 24.

Ted Miller: The absences of DE Henry Anderson and CB Barry Browning are a cause for concern for Stanford, but the Cardinal's defense is pretty darn deep. Stanford might not have gone too deep into its playbooks on either side of the ball against San Jose State and Army. This is a big moment for the Cardinal to announce themselves as a national title contender. Stanford 28, Arizona State 20.

Utah State at USC

Kevin Gemmell: Say this for the Trojans, that defense is pretty good. It will be tested against an explosive Utah State offense that puts up nearly 50 points per game behind Heisman dark horse Chuckie Keeton. But it looks like the USC offense woke up last week, and the Pac-12 is a perfect 8-0 against the Mountain West this season. USC 35, Utah State 24.

Ted Miller: The Trojans looked good in all areas while stomping Boston College last week. Now can they put together strong back-to-back performances? Keeton is a great matchup for the USC defense because he'll provide plenty of practice for the mobile QBs the Trojans will see this season, but the first question is whether the offense has found its footing with QB Cody Kessler. USC 30, Utah State 17.

New Mexico State at UCLA

Kevin Gemmell: After all of the emotion of the past 10 days, the Bruins could use a game where they probably won’t get pushed too hard. Get in, get out, stay healthy and take care of their business. No reason the Bruins should have any issues. UCLA 52, New Mexico State 10.

Ted Miller: What Kevin said. Bruins should roll easily and get reserves some valuable action. UCLA 55, New Mexico State 13.

Utah at BYU

Kevin Gemmell: Despite it being only 45 minutes away, Provo, Utah, is still a tough place to play. And rivalry games are always difficult to pick -- especially when you have two very similar teams. My usual approach in this situation is to take the home team. But this Utah team is a lot more explosive than previous editions. I see points and another tight finish. Utah 38, BYU 35.

Ted Miller: BYU has three things going for it: (1) It's playing at home; (2) It's coming off a bye week; (3) Utah lost an emotional home game to Oregon State last weekend. What the Cougars have going against them is me picking them to win. You're welcome, Utes. BYU 28, Utah 24.

Oregon State at San Diego State

Kevin Gemmell: Both teams were predicted to have pretty good seasons. Both teams saw momentum come to a halt with Week 1 losses to FCS teams. The Aztecs are coming off a bye. Which should help. But not enough to overcome the play of Sean Mannion, who is playing like one of the top quarterbacks in the country right now. Oregon State 42, San Diego State 24.

Ted Miller: San Diego State's offense has been sputtering, which should help the Beavers' defense regain some mojo. The Aztecs' defense? It gave up 40 points to Eastern Illinois. The Beavers should put further distance between themselves and a bad opening game. Oregon State 45, San Diego State 17.

Idaho State at Washington

Kevin Gemmell: The Huskies overcame a huge maturity milestone by winning a competitive game on the road. Now they close out the nonconference schedule with an FCS team that is 2-0 … but won’t provide much resistance. Good tune-up game for the Huskies heading into conference play. Washington 48, Idaho State 13.

Ted Miller: The Huskies should complete a strong 3-0 start. Big test coming Sept. 28 when Arizona comes up for a visit after a bye week. Washington 42, Idaho State 17.

Idaho at Washington State

Kevin Gemmell: There is always bad blood between these schools -- which led to actual blood during the summer. The Cougs are clicking while the Vandals are in shambles. Feel pretty confident picking WSU in this rivalry game. Washington State 35, Idaho 7.

Ted Miller: Washington State will improve to 3-1, which it hasn't done since 2006. A matchup in Seattle with Stanford awaits. Washington State 44, Idaho 13.

Pac-12 predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:01
AM ET
It's prediction time! Wheeee!

Last year, Kevin and Ted tied at the end of the regular season with 66-25 records. Ah, but then came the bowl season, and -- cough, cough -- by virtue of Ted going 5-3 and Kevin going 4-4, the old guy prevailed by a single game.

Let's hear it for the old guys!

And you know who won it for Ted? Texas! How about that fudge?

Thursday

UTAH STATE at UTAH

Kevin Gemmell: First game, and I’m already conflicted. This one is scary with Chuckie Keeton back at QB for Utah State and all five of his linemen back to protect him. I think Utah is going to be better than it was last season, and the Utes will be looking for revenge from last year’s loss. In close games, go with the home team. Utah 21, Utah State 17

Ted Miller: This is an interesting one. Utah State changed coaches but has a lot of guys back. The Utes have preseason injury issues -- paging Brian Blechen; your defense needs you -- and those issues have made coach Kyle Whittingham grumpy. But you know why I'm picking Utah? Because I think the Utes are angry about how folks have written them off, and angry often translates well in football. And I like the MUSS being loud. Utah 24, Utah State 21

USC at HAWAII

Kevin Gemmell: A good chance for both USC quarterbacks to get a lot of work against a nonthreatening opponent. Trojans should roll. USC 35, Hawaii 14

Ted Miller: USC is going to win this game, but it would be good for coach Lane Kiffin if the Trojans looked good doing it. Want to be goofy about your QB situation? Fine. You just better look good on offense. The biggest news in this one is which QB starts and, subsequently, who sets himself up to start against Washington State next week. USC 35, Hawaii 20

Friday

NORTHERN ARIZONA at ARIZONA

Kevin Gemmell: How many Arizona quarterbacks will we see in this game? I’m putting the over/under at three -- and I’m leaning toward the over. Arizona 42, NAU 17

Ted Miller: I actually think B.J. Denker is going to be the man for the Wildcats, even if other guys play. The issue is whether he remains that way. I think the only guy who would unseat him is Jesse Scroggins, and he has struggled to stay healthy. Arizona 40, NAU 14

Saturday

NICHOLLS STATE at OREGON

Kevin Gemmell: The only concern here is that Marcus Mariota tweaks a fingernail pulling off his shoulder pads at halftime. Oregon 48, Nicholls State 7

Ted Miller: I'm actually afraid for Nicholls State. Oregon 101, Nicholls State 3

EASTERN WASHINGTON at OREGON STATE

Kevin Gemmell: Eastern Washington is a pretty good Football Championship Subdivision team. And Oregon State fans know better than to overlook FCS teams. But I see no reason the Beavers don’t roll in this one. Oregon State 35, Eastern Washington 10

Ted Miller: The Beavers have some nagging injury issues, so they just want to win this one and get out of the game healthy. And they want Sean Mannion to justify his winning a high-profile QB competition. Oregon State 41, Eastern Washington 17

NEVADA at UCLA

Kevin Gemmell: A good tuneup game for the Bruins against a team that has some bite. I really like what Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is capable of. But I like Brett Hundley better. Should be a decent game, but ultimately not enough to give UCLA a real scare. UCLA 35, Nevada 17

Ted Miller: Sitting here making this pick, I realize how Jim Mora has changed things at UCLA in just one year. For a decade or so previous to him, this is exactly the sort of game that you'd pause over, going, "Hmm ... UCLA is better but, man, do the Bruins know how to blow it!" Mora inspires confidence in terms of his team coming out in a businesslike fashion and playing like the superior collection of athletes that it is. UCLA 40, Nevada 24

BOISE STATE at WASHINGTON

Kevin Gemmell: Should be one of the closest, most competitive games in the country in Week 1. And in close games, sticking with my personal doctrine, I’ll go with the home team. Washington 24, Boise State 21

Ted Miller: These teams were tightly contested in the Las Vegas Bowl, and the Huskies look like a better team than they were last season, while the Broncos have a lot of guys to replace. Still, it comes down to Huskies QB Keith Price. If he's his 2011 self again, Washington will roll. Washington 30, Boise State 21

NORTHWESTERN at CALIFORNIA

Kevin Gemmell: I think the Bears will show a little backbone and Jared Goff will gain some confidence. But probably not enough to beat a ranked team in his first career start. However, it’ll be closer than people think. Northwestern 35, California 28

Ted Miller: Hello, Cal fans. It's me again. I've got bad news. I think you're going to win this game. Of course, that probably means you're going to lose, because the Bears never do what I think they'll do. Or was that just a Jeff Tedford thing? I'm so conflicted. Maybe if someone brought me a calabrese from Top Dog I could make sense of it all? California 27, Northwestern 24

WASHINGTON STATE at AUBURN

Kevin Gemmell: I got burned by the Cougs in the season opener last year when they were two-touchdown dogs on the road, and it haunts me to this day. Lesson learned. Auburn 28, Washington State 21

Ted Miller: Both teams went 3-9 last season, but the Tigers have a lot more size and athletes. I think the Cougars are going to put a scare into Auburn and its fans, but the Tigers' athleticism and, perhaps, the Southeastern humidity will wear WSU down in the fourth quarter. Auburn 33, Washington State 24

COLORADO STATE vs. COLORADO

Kevin Gemmell: The Rams bring back nine starters on offense. But Paul Richardson is due for a multitouchdown game. Colorado will get a little vengeance from last season. Bring on the Mac attack. Colorado 27, Colorado State 17

Ted Miller: I stared at the Colorado depth chart Tuesday and had an interesting reaction that surprised me: maybe. The Buffs should have won this game last season, and I think they're better than in 2012. Colorado 30, Colorado State 27

3-point stance: ND's Kelly seeks balance

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
5:00
AM ET
1. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly captured the debate that is both eternal and internal in the bowl season. The coaching staff tries to determine how much hitting to do during bowl practice to keep a team sharp without getting anyone hurt. “I know how important it is. I know you need to do it,” Kelly said. “But ask any coach that’s sitting in this chair, and they’re going, ‘I really don’t want to lose Manti (Te'o, the All-America linebacker) to a practice tackling drill indoors in December.’”

2. The Mid-American Conference might have had its best season ever, what with Northern Illinois doing some BCS busting and six other MAC teams playing in the postseason. However, the league has begun the postseason as if it’s stretched too thin. Toledo and Ball State have been routed by fellow non-AQs Utah State and Central Florida, respectively -- both underrated teams. Maybe it’s just bad matchups. In the Military Bowl on Thursday afternoon, Bowling Green (8-4) plays a San Jose State (10-2) team that nearly upset No. 6 Stanford.

3. Happy 88th birthday to Arkansas legend Frank Broyles, who retired from coaching 36 years ago with a record of 149-62-6 (.700) but served as athletic director for more than three decades. Broyles’ former assistants included former Razorbacks players Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson, who won four national championships between them. But he was best known for his friendship with Darrell Royal, the coach of his then-archrival, Texas. They retired together in 1976, played golf together often and never discussed their 1969 showdown, when the No. 1 Longhorns defeated the No. 2 Hogs, 15-14.

3-point stance: Tough moment for Jones

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
5:00
AM ET
1. Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock explained two weeks ago how Butch Jones told him he had turned down Colorado to stay with the Bearcats, only to see Tennessee lure Jones away later that day. Jones told me Wednesday how gut-wrenching it was. Babcock asked him point-blank if he was going to Colorado or Tennessee. Jones assured Babcock he had turned down Colorado and that he hadn’t talked to the Vols. “Whit’s face dropped,” Jones said. “‘Butch,’ Whit said, ‘(Tennessee athletic director) Dave Hart just called.’ Trace (Armstrong), my agent, didn’t know about it. I didn’t know about it.”

2. In the end, Jeremy Pruitt took the bird in the hand. The Alabama secondary coach could have waited a year to see if defensive coordinator Kirby Smart got a head-coaching gig. Instead, Pruitt accepted an offer from Jimbo Fisher to become Florida State’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt knows it’s a gamble to leave the Nick Saban Coaching Academy. A year ago, Derek Dooley lured away Sal Sunseri to be defensive coordinator at Tennessee. After Dooley got fired, Fisher hired Sunseri to work for his young friend Pruitt.

3. As one of the leading mockers of athletic directors who buy opponents for home games, I have to admit it’s refreshing to see one of those games used for something more. If Wisconsin hadn’t brought in Utah State this past September, then athletic director Barry Alvarez might not understand how good a coach Gary Andersen is. The Aggies nearly upset the Badgers, losing 16-14, and now Alvarez has picked Andersen to replace Bret Bielema. Andersen becomes the third WAC coach to move to an AQ school this month.

Reports: Wisconsin interviews Andersen

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
8:00
PM ET
Wisconsin got a close-up look at Utah State coach Gary Andersen earlier this year. He brought his Aggies into Madison in September and nearly pulled off the upset, losing 16-14 on a late missed field goal.

Could Andersen's next trip to Camp Randall Stadium be as Badgers head coach? ESPN's Brett McMurphy and others are reporting that Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez interviewed Andersen for the job on Monday. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Andersen is now Alvarez's top choice.

Andersen led Utah State to an 11-2 record and victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this season. He was also the defensive coordinator at Utah in 2008, when the Utes went undefeated.

Andersen has spent most of his career in the Utah area and has no apparent ties to Wisconsin. His team also runs a spread offense, which goes against the power-football mentality Alvarez has used to build the Badgers program and wants the next coach to continue.

Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Mel Tucker is also thought to be a top candidate. SI.com's Pete Thamel reports that Alvarez has also interviewed Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
9:38
PM ET
Toledo Rockets (9-3) vs. Utah State Aggies (10-2)

Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. ET, Boise, Idaho (ESPN)

Toledo take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Toledo made its first-ever appearance in the BCS standings at No. 25 on Nov. 4. That followed eight straight wins by the Rockets, including a 29-23 upset over then-No. 21 Cincinnati on Oct. 20.

Back-to-back November losses to Ball State and Northern Illinois by a touchdown apiece prevented Toledo from playing for the MAC title. But it was still a highly successful debut for first-year head coach Matt Campbell, who took over when Tim Beckman left for Illinois. The Rockets are led on offense by Doak Walker Award semifinalist David Fluellen, who is No. 8 nationally in rushing with 1,460 yards. On defense, linebacker Dan Molls leads the FBS with 166 tackles.




Utah State take by WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings:In the 114 years that Utah State has had a football program, it had never won 10 games in a season.

Until now.

With their perfect 6-0 conference record, Utah State secured the WAC title outright behind fourth-year coach Gary Andersen, who has become one of the bigger up-and-coming names in FBS football. Now, with his team full of players he has recruited, the Aggies have put together one of the most successful seasons in program history.

While Utah State had an all-around impressive team, though its defense seems to be where it hung its hat. The Aggies had the eighth-best scoring defense in the FBS.

3-point stance: Memories of Mike DuBose

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
5:00
AM ET
1. Gene Chizik is 31-12 at Auburn, 14-0 when Cam Newton starts and 17-12 when he doesn’t. The 31-28 overtime victory over Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn’s first win of 2012, couldn’t have placated the Tigers much, not with No. 2 LSU next. Chizik's tenure is reviving memories of Mike DuBose, who coached Alabama from 1997-2000. DuBose went 10-3 and won the SEC in 1999, the senior year of tailback Shaun Alexander and Outland Trophy-winning tackle Chris Samuels, and 14-20 otherwise. Chizik isn’t Dubose yet. But Auburn fans who reveled in DuBose’s demise -- and you know they did -- may be feeling a little karma.

2. Something good will come out of USC coach Lane Kiffin’s attempt to ban a reporter from covering practice for reporting injury information (athletic director Pat Haden overrode Kiffin’s decision). The incident caught the eye of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. He said Saturday night that he will bring up for discussion at the league’s next meeting of athletic directors a leaguewide policy for reporting injuries, a la the NFL.

3. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that Wisconsin barely survived Utah State. The Aggies missed a field goal on the last play of the game to lose, 16-14. But that’s how Utah State (2-1) rolls. Eight of the Aggies’ last nine games have been decided in overtime or by four points or fewer. Utah State has won six of them. That streak figures to come to an end Saturday at a rebuilding Colorado State. Then again….

Wisconsin outlasts Utah State, barely

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
11:24
PM ET
It came down to a 37-yard field goal attempt with just 11 seconds remaining in Camp Randall for Josh Thompson, who was kicking for the win over Wisconsin. But the ball would go right, just enough to allow the Badgers to sneak out with a 16-14 victory.

And while the Badgers' defense looked stronger than last week, their offense still struggled, but the dramatic win was still satisfying for Wisconsin. But the process to get there was anything but pretty.

Wisconsin struggled mightily against Utah State. In the first half, the Badgers looked confused and allowed the Aggies to mount a 14-3 lead going into halftime. But the Badgers came out of the break with a renewed energy, holding Utah State scoreless in the second half and scoring 13 unanswered points in the third quarter.

It was sophomore wide receiver Kenzell Doe who gave Wisconsin its first glimmer of hope in the third quarter when he returned a punt for 82 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Montee Ball would follow that up with a 17-yard touchdown run, his first of the season.

But it never seemed smart to count out Utah State, which has become used to playing in close games (10 of the Aggies' 13 games last season were decided by seven points or less) -- and the fact that Wisconsin seemed like it could break at any point made the Badgers an unsafe bet. And the fates weren't decided until the final kick.

Bret Bielema and Wisconsin managed to close out the game and tadvanced to 2-1 on the season. But the win over Utah State was far from convincing for the reigning Big Ten champions, who look anything but.

Utes stumble in OT to Utah State

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
12:28
AM ET
video

As far as losses go, this one is going to sting Utah for a while.

In an electric atmosphere in Logan, Utah, the visiting Utes fell 27-20 to Utah State when they failed to score a touchdown in the first overtime session.

After Kerwynn Williams' 1-yard touchdown run put the Aggies ahead 27-20 in the extra period, it appeared the Utes had knotted the score on a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Murphy. But he was called for offensive pass interference after pushing off his defender, negating the score. The penalty backed Utah up 15 yards on third down, and the Utes failed to reach the end zone in the next two plays.

Adding salt to the wound, Utah lost quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury toward the end of the first half. He spent the second half on the sidelines with his left arm in a sling. ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who was working on the sidelines for the ESPN2 telecast, reported late in the third quarter that X-rays on Wynn had come back negative.

[+] EnlargeJordan Wynn
AP Photo/Rick BowmerUtah quarterback Jordan Wynn left Friday's game in the first half with a shoulder injury and spent the second half with his left arm in a sling.
Wynn’s injury history is well-known to Utah fans. He’s had three shoulder surgeries since he started his Utah career -- two on his right shoulder (December 2010 and October 2011) and one on his left shoulder following the 2010 spring game. Although he is in his fourth year, he’s started only 21 games (including Friday). Prior to the injury, Wynn was 6-of-11 for 47 yards. Utah's pass protection was extremely shaky throughout the game, but especially in the first half. Wynn was sacked three times and hit eight times before being knocked out of the game.

He was replaced by Jon Hays, who finished 12-of-26 for 154 yards and a touchdown. Travis Wilson also saw some spot duty, throwing one pass, a 28-yard touchdown.

What this means for Utah moving forward is unclear. The Utes host BYU next week in the Holy War before opening Pac-12 South Division play with a trip to Arizona State. They then have a bye before the much-anticipated showdown with USC on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Friday's victory was Utah State’s first over Utah since 1997.

Utah fell behind 7-0 when Utah State blocked Sean Sellwood’s punt and Clayton Christensen recovered in the end zone. At the end of the first quarter, USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton connected with Joe Hill on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Keeton finished 22-of-32 for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

Coleman Petersen got the Utes on the board with a 42-yard field goal at the end of the first half, sending Utah into the locker room trailing 13-3.

Utah tied the game at 13 in the third on another Petersen field goal and Wilson’s touchdown pass -- a flea-flicker to Kenneth Scott. Scott also caught a fourth-quarter touchdown that tied the game at 20, this one a 24-yard jump ball from Hays. Scott was the standout offensive player for Utah, catching three balls for 82 yards and two scores. Running back John White IV was mostly ineffective, carrying 27 times for 96 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

Neither team was particularly efficient on third downs. Utah converted just two of 17, and Utah State converted two of 13 -- although Utah State outgained the Utes 371-325 in total yards.

Petersen had an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation but failed to connect on a 52-yard field goal.

Pac-12 predictions: Week 2

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to Week 2. Ted went 9-2 in Week 1; Kevin went 8-3. The difference was Kevin picking a Washington State upset of BYU.

Friday

Kevin: Utah 35, Utah State 10. The Utes will see a stronger offense than they saw last week, but it won't matter much because the defense is so solid. Love the emergence of Jake Murphy and the increased attention to the tight ends.

Ted: Utah 28, Utah State 17. It won't be as easy as last weekend but the Utes will be in control on both sides of the ball. Expect quarterback Jordan Wynn to take a few more shots downfield.

Saturday

Kevin: Cal 31, Southern Utah 14. Maybe this is the week Memorial Stadium sees a victory. The last one was on Oct. 23, 2010. Cal should win based on its athletes alone.

Ted: Cal 35, Southern Utah 10. The Bears should get a couple of injured guys back on defense, which should help. Playing angry might help, too.

Kevin: Washington State 28, Eastern Washington 14. The Cougs let me down last week, but I'm cautiously picking them again this week. I think the offense gets going. The defense actually showed some life in the second half against BYU, giving hope that it will carry into this week.

Ted: Washington State 35, Eastern Washington 24. If I were picking an FCS team to play, the Eagles might be the last one I'd pick -- just ask Washington. There's a reason the Cougars have avoided their neighbors since 1908. Still, I suspect the Cougs' offense will get going this week.

Kevin: Colorado 21, Sacramento State 10. Colorado did some good things last week, but was just too inconsistent. The younger players should have the jitters out of their systems and the Buffs should be able to run the ball against an FCS team. If not, things are worse than we thought.

Ted: Colorado 33, Sacramento State 17. This qualifies as a must-win, and I suspect the Buffs will take care of business in a focused fashion.

Kevin: USC 45, Syracuse 17. No issues for the Trojans this week -- they'll cruise. Wouldn't be surprised to see a little more balance on offense this week, considering they are on the road again next week at Stanford and they'll probably want to test drive the run game.

Ted Miller: USC 48, Syracuse 20. It will be interesting to see how many of the three injured USC defensive starters return this week. I suspect things will look more polished on both sides of the ball. Ditto on what Kevin said about running the ball.

Kevin: Wisconsin 21, Oregon State 17. Tough to gauge the Beavers since they didn't play in Week 1. And though Wisconsin struggled last week, it's never easy to start the season against a ranked opponent.

Ted: Wisconsin 34, Oregon State 24. Was tempted momentarily to pick the upset, but then I remembered that Montee Ball is back. For those who don't know, he's really good. I doubt the Beavers' defense, though improved, can contain him for four quarters.

Kevin: Oregon 49, Fresno State 21. Taking into account that Oregon's fifth-string players will be in by the second quarter, I'll give the Bulldogs three touchdowns throughout the course of the game. Ducks breeze through another one.

Ted: Oregon 55, Fresno State 24. They say a new quarterback makes his biggest improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. If so, here's a "Yikes!" on behalf of the Bulldogs in advance of facing Marcus Mariota.

Kevin: Nebraska 28, UCLA 27. I saw a lot of good things out of the Bruins in Week 1. I also saw a lot of things that won't fly against the Cornhuskers. I want to pull the trigger on the Bruins, but the youth on the offensive line is still a concern.

Ted: Nebraska 35, UCLA 24. The Bruins will battle, but Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is a third-year starter who appears to have figured it all out. I want to see how the Bruins run the ball and stop the run. Of course, that's all about taking a measure of UCLA's physicality up front.

Kevin: Oklahoma State 45, Arizona 28. A nice win for the Wildcats last week, but the defense probably isn't ready yet for a high-powered offense like the Cowboys'.

Ted: Oklahoma State 35, Arizona 30. I suspect the Wildcats have a better shot than many suspect, playing at home against a freshman quarterback, with Matt Scott giving Arizona a significant advantage behind center. That said, the Wildcats' track record in two previous meetings as well as a questionable front seven makes it difficult to pull the trigger on an upset pick.

Kevin: Stanford 24, Duke 17. Traveling cross-country is never easy. We saw that last season when Duke hung with the Cardinal in the first half in Durham. The Cardinal have some core fundamentals to fix before next week's game against the Trojans.

Ted: Stanford 30, Duke 17. The Cardinal will play better this weekend on both sides of the ball. And they need to. Duke thinks it has a bowl team and is hungry to earn respect.

Kevin: Arizona State 27, Illinois 14. Color me impressed by the Sun Devils, who showed no mercy in Week 1. There are quarterback issues surrounding the Illini and regardless of who starts for them, the Sun Devils face either a backup in Reilly O'Toole or a limping starter in Nathan Scheelhasse.

Ted: Arizona State 24, Illinois 17. This pick assumes that Scheelhasse won't play or will be severely limited by his bum ankle. The key for the Sun Devils is getting the running game going, whether that's with Cameron Marshall, Marion Grice or D.J. Foster. Or all three.

Kevin: LSU 28, Washington 17. I was impressed with the defense against San Diego State, but if the offense struggles against LSU, it could be a long day. Losing Jesse Callier doesn't help.

Ted: LSU 41, Washington 17: LSU will be able to run and stop the run. Washington won't. While Huskies quarterback Keith Price will have his moments, it's too much to ask him to beat -- or even to be competitive with -- the Tigers on the road.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
9:00
AM ET
There is more movement than we expected with the power rankings, as number of teams underwhelmed in Week 1.

The theme this week? "OK, but let's see what you do Saturday."

You can review the Week 1 power rankings here.

1. USC: A dominant win over Hawaii. And no major injuries. Just what USC wanted.

2. Oregon: The Ducks actually closed the perceived distance between them and USC with quarterback Marcus Mariota's performance. While it was easy to suspect he would be more than a game manager, he pretty much proved it against overmatched Arkansas State.

3. Utah: The Utes did what they needed to do, dominating a bad Northern Colorado team on both sides of the ball. It wasn't pretty all the time on offense, but it was effective.

4. UCLA: It was hardly a perfect, or even a very good, performance at Rice, but the Bruins offense rolled up huge numbers with redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley and the defense pitched a second-half shut out on the road. Now let's see what happens with Nebraska.

5. Washington: The Huskies looked shaky after a strong start against San Diego State, but it was the offense more than the defense that disappointed. The defense, in fact, was the pleasant surprise of the game. Now let's see what happens at LSU.

6. Stanford: The Cardinal gets a big demotion for a poor effort at home against a weak San Jose State team. Part of that demotion is the mediocrity of perceived strengths: The defense and the running game. The Cardinal can move back up if it gets back to its physical ways against Duke on Saturday.

7. Arizona: Quarterback Matt Scott put up huge numbers and the defense exceeded expectations -- albeit exceedingly low expectations -- in an overtime win over Toledo. A decent win, but it didn't provide much reason for hope against Oklahoma State on Saturday.

8. Arizona State: The Sun Devils not only dominated Northern Arizona, they turned in a pretty clean sheet -- one turnover, four penalties for 30 yards. The next two games are measuring sticks with Illinois at home and Missouri on the road.

9. Oregon State: The Beavers didn't play so their debut will be Saturday at home against Wisconsin. Whether the postponement of the opener proves to be a negative or positive will be based on how the Beavers look against the Badgers, who whipped them 35-zip last year.

10. California: The Bears celebrated the opening of their renovated stadium by getting pushed around in a 31-24 loss to Nevada. The disappointing part about it was it's impossible to call it a fluke.

11. Washington State: The Mike Leach Renaissance won't happen overnight, at least based on a flat performance at BYU. The Cougars of Provo looked pretty good, but the way the Cougars of Pullman reacted to early adversity is the real problem.

12. Colorado: Colorado State looked like a game that was a must-win for bowl hopes. So those hopes took a major hit, as the Rams asserted themselves in the second half and seemed to physically handle the Buffaloes on both sides of the ball.
In case you haven't noticed, we've got a bit of a theme going on this week -- important games in the Pac-12. Obviously, everyone is circling the Nov. 3 showdown between USC and Oregon in Los Angeles. But there are other games to enjoy along the way. So this week we're looking at games we're most excited about.

Ted Miller: I like measuring-stick games, games that perhaps reveal the talent and heart of a team, as well as, of course, where they rank in the Pac-12 pecking order. We have a perfect example Sept. 27 (a Thursday) in Seattle: Stanford's visit to Washington, which will be played in CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks' stadium.

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesStanford has trampled Washington in recent seasons; the Huskies can turn the tide Sept. 27.
The obvious measure of this game's importance is this: The winner steps up in the Pac-12 North Division pecking order, the loser steps back. The winner can imagine challenging Oregon for the division title, while the loser's attention likely turns to more attainable quarry. But it's more than that. For one, it's likely both teams already will have suffered a defeat. The Huskies visit LSU on Sept. 8, while Stanford hosts USC on Sept. 15. Those opponents likely will rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation. This game, therefore, can serve to redirect one team's early-season trajectory. It's much better to head into October with one loss than with two.

For Stanford, this is about announcing the program's health in the post-Andrew Luck Era. Beating the Huskies on the road likely would re-establish the Cardinal as a top-25 team, where, based on the schedule, they could remain all season.

But, really, the weight falls more heavily on Washington. Why? For one, Stanford has beaten the Huskies four games in a row. But that's not the biggest issue. It's not even that the three most recent games have been blowouts. It's the nature of those blowouts. Stanford has unmanned Washington during that winning streak. Huskies fans, cover your eyes. You don't want to read this. Stanford has averaged 322 yards rushing in those four victories. 322! Last year, the Cardinal set a school record with 446 yards rushing in a 65-21 victory. The Cardinal only had 278 in 2010, but, of course, the final count was 41-zip. At Husky Stadium!

It hurts to lose no matter what. And it hurts to get blown out. But for a football team to get physically manhandled ... that's humiliation. It's hard to describe the recent turn in this series any other way. The Huskies' pride is on the line. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was brought in to make sure no opponent rushes for 322 yards against Washington. It will be interesting to see if he can deliver in this early conference test. Or if post-Luck Stanford keeps churning along, winning with character and cruelty.

Kevin Gemmell: I too enjoy a good measuring-stick game -- and I don't think there is a bigger one early in the season than USC's trip to Utah on Oct. 4. First, it's a Thursday night game, which means a national TV audience. It's at Rice-Eccles Stadium -- one of my favorite venues -- and the place should be going crazy.

[+] EnlargeUSC Trojans, Utah Utes
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PRESSWIREThe Oct. 4 visit from USC gives Utah a chance to prove it belongs in the Pac-12 elite.
For the sake of argument, I'm going to work off the assumption that both USC and Utah are 4-0 heading into this game. If any Hawaii, Syracuse, Stanford, Cal, Northern Colorado, Utah State, Brigham Young or Arizona State fans take exception to that argument, I know Ted would love to hear about it in his mailbag.

In terms of measuring-stick games, there is none bigger on the 2012 schedule than this one for Utah -- which is desperate to find its way into the conversation as one of the Pac-12's elite. A victory over the Trojans -- who presumably will be one of the top-ranked teams in the country (if not No. 1) on Oct. 4 -- would go a long way toward achieving that.

Both teams will be coming off a bye week, so there is a good chance they will be rested and healthy. But the Trojans have the tougher road through the first four weeks. USC will have been put through the meat grinder against two top-rated defenses in Stanford and Cal before their bye. Then they come to Salt Lake City against -- arguably -- the best defensive front in the conference.

That makes this a pretty significant measuring-stick game for the Trojans, too. Three consecutive wins over three of the top front-sevens in the Pac-12 will likely answer any questions about the Trojans' toughness. By the way, they're on the road again the following week at Washington. This is just step three in an awfully difficult four-game stretch.

USC has the stronger offense -- even Utah fans won't dispute what the Trojans bring to the table with Matt Barkley and Co.-- but Utah's defensive line is as good as it gets. And one cannot throw the ball if one's face is buried in the turf.

This projects to be a brutal, physical game with the winner taking decisive command of the Pac-12 South.

A victory for Utah would catapult the Utes into conference legitimacy and mark that they have arrived. A USC victory re-affirms its status as the team to beat in the South and will likely leave the rest of us licking our chops for Nov. 3.

SPONSORED HEADLINES