EUGENE, Ore. -- No. 2 Oregon kept its national title hopes alive on Saturday with a 44-10 win over Colorado.

How the game was won: Scoring. Lots and lots of scoring. The Ducks put up 44 points and left quite a few other opportunities on the field. With the exception of the first play of the game (an onside kickoff that Colorado recovered), Oregon dominated and controlled the game in all aspects. Quarterback Marcus Mariota -- who was working behind another revamped offensive line -- was nearly flawless. From his first completion (a 7-yard completion to Devon Allen) to his last (a 14-yard TD to Charles Nelson), the game came easy to him.

The defense performed well too, holding Colorado to just 10 points (a season low) on 226 yards of offense. Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who came into the game averaging an FBS-high 9.9 catches per game, accounted for only two receptions. His 16 receiving yards was also nearly 100 yards less than his season average (109.1 yards per game).

Gameball goes to: Mariota, who most likely made his final appearance as a player in Autzen Stadium. He didn’t take part in the senior day festivities, but all signs indicate that this was the redshirt junior’s final home game. And if he returns, it would be a shock. But the reception he got from the fans as he left the field after his final play, which came early in the fourth quarter, and the ensuing “Mariota, Mariota, Mariota” chants, seemed to be a good way to say goodbye to this stadium and its fans.

Also, let’s give some quick shout outs to two true freshman standouts: Royce Freeman and Nelson. Freeman eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season -- the first true freshman in Oregon history to do so -- and ended the day with two touchdowns and 105 rushing yards on 17 carries. Nelson finished with two touchdowns as well. His three receptions is a career high. Not bad for a guy that we’ve literally watched play his way into the lineup over the past month.

Playoff implication: Oregon is securely in the top four. And with every single one of these blowout wins, it continues to make big statements to the committee. Alabama might have started slow against Western Carolina, but don’t expect the Crimson Tide to drop out of the top spot. However, it’s really not a point of worry for the Ducks because even if they aren’t the top dog, they’re securely in that top four group. As long as that’s the case, Oregon is still in the running for a national title.

Best play: There were plenty of big plays in this 34-point win. So, we’re going to go with the play that had the most style points. That was courtesy of redshirt freshman receiver Darren Carrington, who tipped the ball to himself and then caught it with his backside on the ground. It was a 29-yard reception that gave Oregon a first down. The drive ended with a field goal, but this was memorable.

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What's next: Oregon prepares for the Civil War. Oregon State’s last game in Reser Stadium was an upset of then-No. 6 Arizona State so the Ducks will need to be sharp from beginning to end. The Pac-12 championship against [insert any South team here] follows no matter what, but Oregon must beat the Beavers in order to stay in the playoff race.

UCLA fan's mohawk presents a stiff challenge for haircut of the day

November, 22, 2014
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Well, maybe we were a little premature in our "Best Haircut of the Day" award. Earlier this afternoon, it looked like the competition was over after we spotted this Huskers fan in the stands at the Minnesota-Nebraska game.

Then this UCLA fan came along, and luckily ESPN reporter Holly Rowe was there to snap a pic.


So what do you say, fans: Who wore it better?

UCLA, NebraskaTwitter/@sportsiren, Twitter/@jacmol18
Stanford snapped a two-game losing skid with a 38-17 thumping of rival Cal on Saturday. Here's how it happened:

How the game was won: Stanford sealed this victory with 12:31 left to play when its sturdy defense forced Cal to turn the ball over on downs. The Bears had begun to generate some mojo following an onside kick recovery, but this game was about the Cardinal clamping down and forcing five turnovers after their offense supplied a multipossession lead. Stanford rushed for 204 yards and passed for 214.

Game ball goes to: We have to give out two game balls today because this was such a balanced Stanford effort. Remound Wright delivered four rushing touchdowns (last done by Toby Gerhart in the 2009 Big Game), while linebacker Blake Martinez intercepted two passes and forced a fumble during the defense's aggressive showing.

What it means: Although the program lost luster this season, Stanford will head to a bowl game for the sixth consecutive year. The 6-5 Cardinal have notched their sixth consecutive six-win season, tying their longest streak since the Great Depression. The 5-6 Bears must win their finale against BYU to earn bowl eligibility.

What's next: Stanford moves on to its regular-season finale at UCLA, which will be an especially intriguing game if the Bruins get by USC on Saturday night. Cal still has a shot to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. The Bears must beat BYU next week.

Video: No. 15 Arizona 42, No. 17 Utah 10

November, 22, 2014
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Nick Wilson rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and Arizona took advantage of four Utah turnovers for a 42-10 win.

Video: No. 13 Arizona State 52, Washington State 31

November, 22, 2014
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Taylor Kelly threw for four touchdowns and D.J. Foster rushed for three scores as Arizona State beat Washington State, 52-31, on Saturday.
To stay warm, many people sip on chicken broth. Others sip on hot chocolate. But has anyone ever combined them?

They have now.

To stay warm during a cold and rainy Arizona-Utah game in Salt Lake City, ESPN sideline reporter Jessica Mendoza pulled off the rare feat in front of a national TV audience.

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In case her reaction didn't tell you all you need to know about how bad it tasted, she confirmed shortly thereafter on Twitter.

Video: Keeping the enemy close

November, 22, 2014
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As UCLA prepares for its rivalry game with USC, Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley sits down for a little one-on-one with former USC receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
College football’s inaugural four-team playoff is still weeks away, but the FBS head coaches already want an eight-team playoff, according to ESPN’s weekly poll, #1QFor128.

Of the coaches that voted in ESPN’s poll, 44 percent want an eight-team playoff compared to 29 percent for the current four-team model, and 17 percent want a 16-team playoff.

Of the 128 FBS coaches, 102 participated in this week’s poll, conducted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams.

This week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said that in terms of the number of teams, an eight-team playoff “would probably be ideal.”

This is the first year of a 12-year contract with ESPN to have the four-team College Football Playoff. CFB Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said they are committed to only four teams for the next 12 years and “there has been no discussion of expanding.”

Still, the coaches’ voting shows they already want an eight-team playoff – six weeks before the inaugural four-team playoff begins on Jan. 1.

Nearly 20 percent of the coaches favored a 16-team playoff. One Group of 5 conference coach suggested taking the eight highest-ranked conference champions (from the 10 FBS leagues) and the next eight highest-ranked at-large teams.

This coach even went as far to suggest the first-round and second-round games could be played at neutral sites, including cold-weather sites, with cities bidding to host the games like the NCAA basketball tournament regional model.

Four percent of the coaches are not in favor of a playoff, while two percent voted for a six-team and a 12-team playoff. One coach wants a 32-team playoff, another coach a 64-team playoff.

More than half of the coaches (53 percent) from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) that voted chose an eight-team playoff, compared to 33 percent for the four-team model.

The coaches from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt) that voted also preferred an eight-team playoff (39 percent). However, 25 percent of the Group of 5 coaches want a 16-team playoff, slightly below the 26 percent that voted for a four-team playoff.

One Power 5 conference coach said: “four is good” but “eight would be perfect.”

Swofford said he doesn’t think “all the controversy [of the four-team field] is going to go away.”

“You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before,” Swofford said. “But whoever's fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some [Power 5] conferences that won't have a team in the playoff.”

Swofford is a member of the College Football Playoff management committee.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said an eight-team playoff “increasingly will be a topic of conversation. But each FBS conference would want to take the temperature of its membership on something as significant as this.”

Chat: CFB Saturday Live

November, 21, 2014
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Chat live with our writers from 9 a.m. to noon ET and then again starting at 8 p.m. ET for the prime-time games. In between, keep this page open as we bring you the latest real-time reaction, analysis, pics and video from our ESPN crew scattered throughout the nation.

Mailbag: Humbug to Pac-12 pride

November, 21, 2014
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Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter. It's the first step toward making your life into an epic poem.

To the notes?

Luke from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Thank you to Kevin Gemmell for writing the following: "This league's coaches rarely talk about what's good for the conference. They want what's best for their own team -- national perception and conference pride be damned. And for the record, this fifth of the Pac-12 blog is just fine with that." I find a lot of writing in the blog is around the narrative of the Pac-12 winning a national championship. This seems reasonable considering it is the Pac-12 blog. However, I pose the question: How many people read this blog because they are fans of the conference and how many people read because they are fans of a team in the conference? I'd argue the latter is a much larger portion. The narrative pretending their is some sort of overall conference strategy where we all pull the rope to win a national title is a little silly. I'm an Arizona fan. If Oregon makes it to the playoff will I cheer for them? Yes. Is Oregon winning a national title one of my goals as an Arizona fan coming into the season? Absolutely not. Fans from 10 other teams in the conference feel the same way.Buffs fans don't care if OSU "flipped the script" and now ASU doesn't get to be part of a de facto playoff game against Oregon. Buffs fans want a conference W, and go to your blog for insight on how they get there. Same with me. If the Ducks win a national title I'll be happy for them and happy for the conference. But that's it, slightly happy.

Ted Miller: Interesting point, and this is a position I've heard before from Pac-12 fans. It's pretty much a big-city, pro-sports attitude, where a team has no notable, vested interests in the success of, say, its league or division. It also tends to mean you're a not an obsessive college football fan, in that obsessive college football fans follow the entire game nearly as much as their own team, see the constant trolling that goes on between the ESPN.com conference blogs.

I'm not going to tell you how to be a sports fan. That's entirely your call, and we appreciate you visiting ESPN.com. I do, however, have a position on this, which I'm sure shocks you.

First off, I think what Kevin is noting is that Pac-12 teams don't have any intention of laying down to further a rival's national title hopes, which should surprise no one. We both talk to coaches all the time about what's "good" for the conference. What these coaches want is the Pac-12 to receive the same deference as the SEC, and they'd prefer themselves and not their top rivals to be the conference's bell cow.

Of course their overwhelming interests are their own teams, which sign their paychecks, but they also understand a shared interest. That would include, for example, the Pac-12 playing a nine-game conference schedule while other conferences play only eight. Just about every Pac-12 coach believes that is a problem because it ensures the conference has six more losses in its collective standings every season, though it's more front and center for coaches whose teams presently have a national outlook compared to coaches who are just trying to win a conference game.

And you better believe there's shared interests in a conference with revenue sharing. When the Pac-12 got two BCS bowl teams, each team pocketed an additional $500,000, plus or minus, so Pac-12 rivals tend to be frenemies. That won't change in the College Football Playoff, when the Pac-12 getting left out will cost every conference team big money.

I view it as no coincidence that you got your feathers up, Luke, when an Arizona State loss at Oregon State was bemoaned as a lost opportunity for the conference to stage a Pac-12 championship game as a play-in contest for the inaugural College Football Playoff between a pair of highly rated teams. Of course, your emotional reaction to any sympathy for the Sun Devils, whose misfortune you surely were rejoicing about on Saturday, colors your position.

But this also comes down to a pretty straightforward cost-benefit analysis, something the SEC and its rabid rivalries picked up on before the rest of the nation: A rising (Crimson?) tide lifts all ships. While your emotions are almost entirely invested in loving your team and hating your top rivals, there's also the practical shared interest within Power 5 conferences of wanting to distinguish the conference as a whole, to look better top to bottom than the other four major conferences, to be first among so-called equals. Without the purity of an extensive playoff, as there are in pro sports, there's still a beauty contest going on every year in college football, and it's all about regional perceptions.

For example, Alabama fans were in a quandary when Auburn played Oregon for the national title. How could they possibly root for Auburn -- ever?! Many couldn't bring themselves to do it. But many did in the name of SEC solidarity. And the many who couldn't still salved their feelings when the Tigers won the title by saying, "Well, at least the SEC kept the national championship streak going."

I expect that to be the same for many in the Pac-12. Many Washington and Oregon State fans surely couldn't root for the Ducks to win a national title, but if that had happened there would have been a part of them that recognized the Pac-12 taking down the SEC as a good thing for the Pac-12 and, by extension, themselves.

This doesn't mean you begin every season rooting for your team and the Pac-12 in general on equal footing. But there is unquestionably a shared interest.

Let's say Arizona is approaching the end of the 2015 regular season and is ranked No. 6 in the college football rankings. You turn on the TV and see a pundit saying, "Arizona has looked great this year, but the Pac-12 is down. That's why you have to give the edge to a second SEC team getting into the playoff."

You'd probably find your self becoming more of a collectivist.

Caleb from Astoria, Ore., writes: If Utah wins out, UCLA beats USC, Stanford beats UCLA, and Arizona beats Arizona State, this leaves all five teams at 6-3 in Pac-12 play. Who would go to the Pac-12 Championship game?

Ted Miller: Utah.

Tiebreaker: The Utes and UCLA, with 3-1 records against the other four, would eliminate Arizona, Arizona State and USC. Then the Utes would win out because of their head-to-head win over UCLA.

Spencer from Indianapolis writes: This year the Pac 12 bowls have a new selection process. Do you feel like some of the better teams might slip to a lower bowl because of fan base, location, and so on? I feel like my Utes might slip down because they are not as big of a draw as others. I also feel like some other teams may slip down as well. Just wondering your thoughts on the process this year.

Ted Miller: If you are talking about major bowls outside the playoff -- the Peach, Fiesta, Cotton and Orange bowls -- the selection committee is also placing teams in those games based on its rankings, which means those old, annoying considerations -- such as selling hotel rooms -- won't play a predominant role in picking teams. That's unquestionably a good thing.

As for the Pac-12's existing bowl partnerships, those will be mostly the same. While the SEC, ACC and Big Ten have taken more control over the bowl selection procedure, the Pac-12 still has a rule that allows bowls to pass over a team as long as there is no more than a one-game difference in conference record.

So the, say, Alamo Bowl could pass over Utah in favor of USC, even though the Utes beat the Trojans as long as USC is no more than one-game behind the Utes in the conference standings.

But that's no different than any other year.

Aaron Tigard, Ore., writes: Hey PAC, Sad days here. With Marcus Mariota's latest transgression, how does this impact the team and his draft prospects? Based on the coverage, I have to imagine that Coach Helfrich has no option other than removing him from the team, posthaste. Will the CFP committee take this into account? As for "Menace" Mariota, is there an NFL team out there who will be willing to take a chance on a player who clearly has off-the-field issues? Should he even declare for the draft or should he transfer to Portland State for a year to rehab his image?

Ted Miller: Mr. Subtle immediately picked up on your facetiousness here. And I get it. Most folks speed -- ranging between sometimes and all of the time. Mariota is unquestionably a high-character guy, not in the sense that he's a great football player who hasn't been arrested and handles the media well but in the sense that he'd be viewed as a paragon of what a young man should be even without football. There are no naysayers to this. And snarky me has looked for them.

Yet let's not make light of driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone. That's a bad thing. You'd feel differently if there had been an accident and someone who was obeying traffic laws had been injured. Considering that speeding occurs in 33 percent of all fatal accidents, this is not something to sniff at. Aggressive speeding is selfish and stupid and dangerous.

Of course, part of this is me being 45 and having two children. I've become a militant slow driver -- as in I never go over 10 miles above the speed limit. I also take a passive-aggressive joy in making tailgating speeders lives miserable. Pull up to my bumper to show me I'm going too slow for you? Well, I'll show you slow.

When you're in your 20s, you often think you're immortal and bad things only happen to other people. Or you are above the rules. After all, your life is so important and you are in a hurry and everybody needs to just get out of your way because you are late and that isn't your fault it's these slow drivers!

Mariota is a fine young man. He also needs to slow the freak down.
Jim Mora acknowledges that UCLA's trajectory of improvement this season has been complicated.

"For us, if you were going to do a graph, it’s been rather jagged, but always trending upwards, even when it didn’t seem like it," he explains.

The entire gamut of feelings and evaluations have checked in with the Bruins over the course of 10 games so far -- lofty hype, bitter disappointment, maddening inconsistency, and mercurial play all come to mind.

Ultimately, the smell of success is lingering even as the dust of the chaos begins to settle. UCLA is 8-2, and with only two games remaining, they have traversed the Pac-12 South minefield well enough to control their own destiny -- not only for a conference crown, but also (potentially) for a College Football Playoff berth.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJim Mora and UCLA will have their progress on defense tested when rival USC visits the Rose Bowl.
Whether the Bruins finish the job relies heavily on their defense. Can that unit harvest the fruits of its up-and-down labor? USC is coming to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, so UCLA has its chance to answer that question against the likes of Cody Kessler, Nelson Agholor, and Javorius Allen.

A topsy-turvy campaign

For painful stretches of this season, struggles were prevalent for the Bruins. They were mainly rooted in the inability to generate a consistent pass rush; through eight games, UCLA had logged only 10 sacks.

The low point came on October 11, when Oregon ran the Bruins out of the Rose Bowl in a 42-30 game that wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate. Boneheaded penalties damaged any promising efforts, and there weren't many of those to begin with, as UCLA didn't reach Marcus Mariota a single time. After matters quickly escalated, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich tried to turn in his play card to Mora on the sideline during an embarrassing "I give up, you do it" moment caught by national television cameras.

"All the pressure was on us, and we let it get the best of us," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "We got back to the fundamentals, counted on each other, and began trusting one another to do the job."

Quarterback pressure arrived the following Saturday at California. The Bruins sacked Jared Goff three times. One of those takedowns marked the coming out party of 6-foot-4 sophomore defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley, a player whose emergence has spurred the critical improvement of UCLA's pass rush.

Though the Bruins again failed to register a sack their next time out during an ugly double-overtime squeak-by at Colorado, the upward trend had begun -- even if the ascending line on that graph was jagged.

"We would see things that -- to us -- showed we were making progress," Mora said. "But I think the last couple weeks, we’ve just been a more consistent football team in all areas."

He's right. After the near-debacle at Colorado, UCLA has racked up three sacks apiece in consecutive wins against Arizona and Washington. Six of the Bruins' 16 sacks have come during the past two games. With McKinley bringing his heat, the contributions of physically imposing stalwarts Kenny Clark, Owa Odighizuwa, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Deon Hollins have begun to overwhelm opposing fronts.

A positive effect

This Bruins' defense is loaded with talent, and the development of a rigid backbone up front has allowed this stockpile to truly shine. Outside linebacker Myles Jack might generate the most hype, but Kendricks' play on the inside has been UCLA's most spectacular element. His 110 tackles trail only Arizona's Scooby Wright for the Pac-12 lead, and his sensational sideline-to-sideline play was essential in the Bruins' biggest defensive statement of the year, a 17-7 suffocation of the Wildcats. The Bruins held Arizona to just 2.4 yards per rush and 3.6 yards per pass.

"We started knowing where we fit, trusting one another to do our job, and relying on our teammates," Kendricks said. "When we did that, you saw the outcome: We played excellent football."

Ulbrich, a first-year defensive coordinator, has indicated that he is finding a comfort zone when it comes to fine-tuning the intricacies of the defense and the best ways to maximize UCLA's abundance of talent. This development is obviously helping the entire unit, but it's led specifically to improved play from cornerback Fabian Moreau and less of a reliance on the secondary in general. The defense banked heavily on the work of top cornerback Ishmael Adams (two interceptions) earlier in the season, but now the load is more evenly spread out across the entire unit.

That comes just in time for the Bruins. They have been fortunate enough to see explosive Brett Hundley performances bail them out time and time again, but that's not a sustainable winning formula -- especially with a multidimensional USC team coming in, hungry for vengeance. If UCLA is, in fact, going to rise from the ashes to make good on the preseason hype, its defense will have to carry its recent balanced success into the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

"[USC] does a little bit of everything: Tempo offense, a good quarterback, running back, offensive line, wide receivers," Kendricks said. "There are good athletes everywhere. It’ll challenge every aspect of our defense."

This test comes at the most telling time, with UCLA finally encountering the moment of truth. The can cannot be kicked any further down the road; it's time to find out if these Bruins were worthy of preseason expectations.

"If we just handle our job and our end of the bargain, everything will handle itself," Kendricks said. "That’s what we continue to do. That’s what we continue to preach."

Watch: Herbstreit breaks down USC-UCLA

November, 21, 2014
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Expect drama from Utah-Arizona

November, 21, 2014
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The following is a public service announcement from the ESPN.com Pac-12 blog.

Those planning to attend Saturday’s Utah-Arizona game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, or watching the 12:30 PT kickoff on ESPN, are advised to bring the following items:

  • Blood pressure medication
  • A defibrillator
  • A shoulder to cry on
  • A comforting beverage of your choice (the Pac-12 blog doesn’t judge)
Given the erratic and unpredictable nature of both teams, the Pac-12 blog thanks you for your consideration.

[+] EnlargeAustin Hill
Darin Wallentin/Getty ImagesThe Wildcats have made close, nail-biting finishes the norm.
Think we’re being too dramatic? We’re not. More nails have been bitten to the nub between watching Utah and Arizona than any other teams in the conference. That they meet Saturday in a game with Pac-12 South implications only adds to the pulse-racing dramatics these two teams have practiced in 2014.

Each team has played in six games decided by seven or fewer points -- that’s tied for the second most in FBS. The Wildcats are 5-1 in those tight games while the Utes are 4-2. Utah has also played three overtime games, going 2-1 in bonus football.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez prepped his team in the preseason for the fact that his Wildcats would likely participate in several barn burnings. And thus they were ready when things got close in Week 2 on the road at UTSA.

“We’ve got some talent, but (we knew) we’re not overloaded where we can dominate anybody,” Rodriguez said. “Plus the schedule that we play, there are a lot of quality teams with a lot of quality players. We got into that mindset that we’re ready to battle. I think it’s helped us when we’ve faced some adversity. Whether we’ve gotten down early or been on the road, our guys said hey, let’s make some plays and keep playing and see what happens.”

What happened was some of the most dramatic football in the country this season. Among Arizona's thrillers are a 36-point, fourth-quarter, time-expiring Hail Mary against Cal; a win over No. 2 Oregon on the road; a missed field goal in the loss to USC; and most recently, a successful last-second field goal to beat Washington.

If Arizona has been the Cardiac 'Cats, then Utah has certainly been the ulcer-inducing Utes. During a stretch from the end of September to the beginning of November, the Utes played in five straight games decided by six or fewer points. The highlights include a two-point win over UCLA, a double-overtime win over Oregon State and a last-minute touchdown against USC. The lowlights are an overtime loss to ASU and blowing a 21-0 lead to WSU.

Most recently, Utah won a double-overtime game last week at Stanford.

“I’d say it starts with our leadership and the senior leadership on this team,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s a great group. It’s as good of leadership as I’ve been around during my time at Utah and I think that’s a main factor in the mentality of the team and the way they are able to persevere.”

Winning these close games is unfamiliar territory for the Utes. But playing in them isn’t. Last season Utah also played in six close games, but lost in overtime to Oregon State, by a touchdown to UCLA and by a point to ASU.

“I think we’re a better football team personnel-wise across the board,” Whittingham said. “We’ve upgraded and that obviously has a lot to do with it. But between that, the experience we may have gained and the leadership, I think those are probably the main factors.”

While Utah has relied on its experience, Arizona has relied on its conditioning. You might recall way back in 2012 when Rodriguez was first hired, he famously (infamously?) called his players weak. Now it’s that physical strength that he’s banking on to get his guys through tough times.

“I think our team knew back in August, we talked about it, we knew we would probably be in a lot of tight games that would go the full 60 minutes and if anything else, we’re going to be a pretty conditioned team,” Rodriguez said. “We control what we can control and we talk about playing as hard on the last play as we do the first play and I think our guys really believe that plays a role in every game. There’s a little luck involved, too. But we’ve been in nine straight games that have gone down to the fourth quarter and our guys, to their credit, they are still playing as hard as they did at the beginning.”

Utah's specialists are people, too

November, 21, 2014
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This has been a pretty special year for Pac-12 special teams. We wrote last week about the abundance of kick and punt returns, and several kickers have enjoyed the thrill of kicking game-winners.

Utah is widely regarded as having the best special teams in the country. Punter Tom Hackett is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award and has been honored three times as a star of the week.

Kicker Andy Phillips leads the conference in field goals made and is second in accuracy (82.6 percent). He is also a Groza Award semifinalist.

And long snapper Chase Dominguez -- well -- I don’t think I’ve typed his name once this season. If you’re the long snapper and no one knows your name, that means you’re doing a good job.

But the trio recently showed off their skills, while also looking for a bit of respect. The following Vines show a display of their accuracy, followed by a brief message that specialists are in fact people, too.

Enjoy.

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Tags:

Utah Utes

Latest Dish: Five things I learned

November, 21, 2014
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Here are five things I learned in college football this week:

1. Might Georgia Tech end up being the fly in the ointment in the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff?

The No. 18 Yellow Jackets (9-2, 6-2 ACC) have won four games in a row, and they captured the ACC's Coastal Division after Duke lost to North Carolina 45-20 on Thursday night. Georgia Tech will play No. 3 Florida State in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 6, and might end up being the last big obstacle for the Seminoles in their quest to reach the playoff.

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWith Duke's loss Thursday night, Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets won the Coastal and are slated to play FSU in the ACC championship game.
After Duke lost, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Proud to see hard work our team has put in all year pay off with Coastal title!! Lots of work to do next 2 weeks!!”

Before playing the Seminoles for the ACC title, the Yellow Jackets will play at No. 10 Georgia on Nov. 29. The Bulldogs are still trying to reach the SEC championship game, but need No. 20 Missouri to drop one of its two remaining SEC games (at Tennessee on Saturday or home against Arkansas on Nov. 28) to win the SEC East.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher might be happier if his team was playing the Blue Devils instead for the ACC championship. The Seminoles beat Duke 45-7 in the 2013 ACC title game, and Tech’s triple-option spread offense isn’t much fun to prepare for on short notice. FSU already has won the ACC's Atlantic Division title and hosts Boston College on Saturday and intrastate rival Florida next week.

Tech’s triple-option spread offense also can take a toll on an opponent’s defensive line because of its use of cut blocks. The Seminoles lost three defensive linemen -- Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and reserve Justin Shanks -- after they suffered lower-leg injuries in the first half of a 37-12 win over The Citadel on Sept. 6. The Citadel also runs the triple-option and uses cut blocks, which are designed to knock down defensive linemen by hitting them at the knees.

“Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy,” Fisher said after that game. “I’d rather play more conventional teams. Just because of the chance of injuries that occurred.”

Of course, Florida State, assuming it reaches the College Football Playoff, would have about a month to recover from playing Georgia Tech before its semifinal game.

2. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston's student conduct-code hearing is still scheduled for Dec. 2, and his attorney, David Cornwell, continues to plead his case on Twitter.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted four times, apparently in response to the accuser’s attorney, John Clune, filing a legal brief to FSU officials. Under the school's student conduct code rules and procedures, Clune and Cornwell will be able to attend the hearing and counsel their clients, but won’t be allowed to speak on their clients’ behalf.

Winston and the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in December 2012 will be required to present evidence, question witnesses, and answer questions posed by retired Florida State Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, who will hear the case.

Under the rules and regulations in place, Winston isn’t required to answer any or all of Harding’s questions. Winston faces four potential student conduct code violations, including two related to sexual misconduct.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted:

3. There seems to be a possibility that Texas and Texas A&M could meet in a postseason bowl game because of where they currently sit in their respective conference standings.

The rivalry was one of the biggest casualties in college football’s realignment, and the best chance for a meeting would be at the Dec. 29 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston.

Earlier this week, Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported that the Aggies and the SEC would block a postseason matchup against the Longhorns.

But Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said the SEC will determine the bowl lineup, and he insists the Aggies won’t try to duck the Longhorns. Under the SEC’s new bowl selection process, schools rank the available bowls, and bowls rank the available teams, in order of preference, and then the league slots its teams.

“Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference,” Hyman told the Houston Chronicle. “The configuration is so different than it’s been in the past.

“It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control . . . Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play.”

4. A Georgia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it an aggravated misdemeanor to jeopardize the eligibility of a college student-athlete by providing him or her with illegal benefits.

Under the terms of House Bill 3, anyone who causes a student-athlete to lose his or her eligibility would face a potential $5,000 fine.

State Rep. Barry Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald that he introduced the bill for consideration next year at the request of House Speaker David Ralston. In October, University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended four games for improperly accepting $3,000 to sign autographs.

“A 20-year-old in college is not a child, but that 20-year-old is [vulnerable], particularly if they are from a humble background, if someone waves hundred-dollar bills in front of his face,” Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald.

The bill, if it passes, wouldn’t take effect until next year, so the memorabilia dealers who paid Gurley couldn’t be punished.

5. UCLA had to cancel Thursday night's bonfire at a pep rally.

The Bruins play USC on Saturday, but the annual rally was shut down by students protesting a proposed tuition hike at the school.

That didn’t stop UCLA coach Jim Mora from, uh, fanning the flames. (Warning: His language might not be suitable for all ages.)

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