Pac-12: Oregon Ducks
Here are 10 Pac-12 storylines that could help shape signing day for the conference.
1. Who are USC's assistant coaches?
At this point, very few questions about USC's coaching staff are answered. Steve Sarkisian is in place as the head coach and has retained wide receivers coach and ace recruiter Tee Martin. Making the trip down from Washington with Sarkisian are linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and assistant coach Johnny Nansen, whose position hasn't been determined. USC assistants Clancy Pendergast, Clay Helton, Mike Summers and John Baxter are among the candidates to stay at the school, but nothing is likely to be announced until after USC's bowl game. Who winds up filling out that staff will be on the minds of a number of top prospects, especially if the coaches come from other Pac-12 programs.
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Further, a number of Pac-12 players are on their way to consensus and unanimous All-American honors.
While we still await the AP, FWAA and the American Football Coaches Association teams, here's how things stand so far with 12 different Pac-12 players receiving note on at least one first team.
PAC-12 FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
Offense: RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona, WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State, OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford
Defense: DT Leonard Williams, So., USC, LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
Offense: Carey, Cooks, Yankey
Defense: Murphy, LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA
The Sporting News
Offense: Cooks, Yankey
Defense: Barr, Murphy
Specialists: KR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
Offense: Carey, Cooks, Yankey, OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon, All-purpose Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
Defense: Barr, S Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State, S Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford
Offense: Carey, Cooks, Yankey
Defense: Barr, Murphy
But this year, perhaps more than any other, the Pac-12 showed why it is one of the toughest, if not the deepest, conference in all of college football. It passed the nonconference test, going 31-6 against non-league competition -- with wins over teams from the SEC, Big Ten and ACC. It crushed the Mountain West, going 10-0 against the West Coast’s little brother conference. And three more meetings in the postseason could extend it to 13-0.
There were thrilling upsets. (Utah, Washington State and USC all get thumbs up.) There was the Week 1 Oregon State debacle. There were All-Americans, national award winners and a style of football that is uniquely Pac-12.
The influx of big-name coaches has raised the ante over the past few seasons, and that trend continued this year, with Steve Sarkisian’s move to USC and Chris Petersen’s ingress to Washington.
The South was nasty, and will be again next year. Arizona State has staked its claim. But UCLA is right on the Sun Devils’ heels, as are USC and an Arizona squad that has the potential to be very, very scary in 2014.
The North belongs to Stanford until proven otherwise. The Cardinal's recipe for beating Oregon has yielded fruit for two years. But with Marcus Mariota back for another season, you certainly have to expect the Ducks to be a top-10 team. And Petersen’s arrival makes Washington an instant player for the division.
The best thing the Pac-12 can go is finish strong in the postseason, win its BCS bowl game and head into the playoff era with plenty of momentum.
Offensive MVP: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey
was arguably the most consistent skill player in college football this season, posting at least 100 yards in every game he played and finishing with 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns on 322 carries (5.3 average). He also caught 26 passes and a touchdown.
Defensive MVP: With 14 sacks, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy was the Pac-12 and the national leader in getting at the quarterback. He also ranked third nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss. Murphy posted 58 total tackles, blocked a kick, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Newcomer of the year: Plenty of fantastic options, including ASU receiver Jaelen Strong and Colorado linebacker Addison Gillam. But it was UCLA linebacker/running back Myles Jack who made the biggest splash. The Bruins' true freshman posted 70 tackles with five for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. He also blocked a kick. As a running back he carried 37 times for 269 yards with seven touchdowns.
Biggest surprise: Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said he thought the Cougars would start being a consistent winner by 2014. Coach Mike Leach had his own timetable. In just his second season in Pullman, Leach has the Cougars in a bowl game for the first time since 2003 -- and they recorded a marquee win on the road at USC in Week 2 that ultimately helped them become bowl-eligible.
Biggest disappointment: There was no great redemption story for Lane Kiffin. In fact, the Trojans looked like a significantly improved team after he was removed from his coaching duties. Hopes were high that Kiffin would be able to turn the Trojans around after an abysmal 2012. But a 62-41 loss at ASU in Week 5 was the straw that broke the back of his fairly underwhelming tenure with the Trojans.
Best game: At the quarter pole, we went with Oregon State at Utah. At the midway post, we went with Oregon State at Utah. And now in the season wrap, we’re sticking with that. That game, now more than ever, spells out the importance of every single week. Oregon State would be home for the holidays without that dramatic 51-48 overtime victory. And because of said dramatic overtime defeat, the five-win Utes are out of the postseason again. From a pure tension and excitement level, that game was tough to beat.
Ted Miller: While you could make a strong case that Oregon State needs to win it's bowl game in order to take some heat off of Mike Riley, just down the road at Oregon there's already significant pressure on Mark Helfrich to guide the Ducks into the offseason on an up note.
If Oregon beats Texas, it can trace its late-season swoon to QB Marcus Mariota's sprained knee. An excuse? Absolutely. But a legitimate one when assessing what went wrong during the season. The Ducks can look at 2013 and say, "Hey, we lost to a very good Stanford team on the road with our QB hurt, and we had one weekend at Arizona when we didn't show up. Could be worse. Stanford lost two games, too, by the way."
If Oregon beats Texas, it sets Mariota up as the leading 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate and it likely ensures a preseason ranking near the top 5 or at the very least the top 10. That means it starts 2014 squarely in position to play its way into the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.
If Oregon beats Texas, it will still seem all Win the Day-y.
But what if Oregon doesn't beat Texas?
If the Ducks go down, some of the more demanding Ducks fans will see Helfrich's seat as warming in only Year 2. If the Ducks go down, there will be quite a few smirks in the Pac-12 and across the nation. Folks in SEC country will talk about a "gimmick team" whose run is over. Washington fans will look at their coach -- Chris Petersen -- and then Helfrich and start to make plans for a breakthrough after 10 years of woe. Oregon State fans will start to see a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
If the Ducks go down, that might give more than a few recruits pause. They might wonder if signing with Oregon means signing with a program that has plateaued and might be headed in the wrong direction. A disappointing recruiting class would give frustrated Ducks fans more to fret about during the long offseason.
If the Ducks go down, it will seem like a lost season.
Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive year, and Washington just got a Big Fish coach. UCLA and Arizona State are rising in the South, and USC will emerge from scholarship reductions a year from now. The Ducks position in the North Division and the Pac-12 as a whole is being challenged.
Beating a middling Texas team that still has a marquee name will answer that challenge and slow the offseason handwringing to a manageable level.
Losing to a middling Texas team will put the program on red alert.
Kevin Gemmell: The Pac-12 is at a critical juncture, and nationally speaking, it can ill afford to drop its BCS game. That’s why the Pac-12’s must-win game has to be Stanford vs. Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.
Right now the rest of the country is looking at the Pac-12, top to bottom, and thinking, "Gosh, that is a tough league. Hard to believe they only have one BCS game." Which is exactly why Stanford has to win. Because if they don't, the "overrated" chants will rain down heavy and hard for the next nine months.
The Pac-12 is better off when Oregon is ranked in the top five and going to BCS bowl games every year. And the Pac-12 needs the Ducks -- or UCLA -- or ASU -- or USC -- or Washington -- or Arizona -- or someone else to pick up the slack next year as we head into the playoff era. Easier said than done, of course, given the way the league’s nine-game conference schedule plays out.
That’s all well and good for the end of September. But no one cares about that if you don’t do well in the bowl season.
If the Pac-12 goes 8-1 in the bowl season, but loses its BCS game, the league takes a massive PR hit; because, let’s be honest, outside of Pullman Wash., or Fort Collins, Colo., there won't be a ton of buzz if Washington State beats up on Colorado State -- which it should. Opinions won’t be swayed too much if UCLA beats Virginia Tech or Arizona beats Boston College. And even if Oregon wins, it won’t make a huge dent.
Right now, Stanford carries the flag for the rest of the conference. The Pac-12 needs all of the national credibility it can get its hands on because the last Top 25 poll is usually a starting point for the first poll of the 2014 season. Oregon getting inside the top 10 is important. UCLA and ASU getting in the top 15 is important. USC getting into the top 20 is important. But Stanford getting in the top two or three is more important right now. And from a league perspective, beating a Big Ten team in the 100th Rose Bowl Game is the most important.
For the second weekend in a row, UCLA will have an ESPN 300 prospect on campus. Last week, the Bruins hosted Alabama linebacker commit Zach Whitley Jr (Houston/North Shore). This weekend, ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) will make the trip. Thomas, the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 5 defensive end, would be a huge addition for UCLA, which has done very well in Texas recently, led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm. Thomas still has a number of suitors, but UCLA has maintained a consistent presence in his recruitment -- along with Pac-12 rival Stanford -- and has a chance to make a statement this weekend.
USC's weekend intrigue
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Everyone can’t wait to thump their chests at how fantastic their conference is. The Pac-12 and its fanbase are no exception. Already people are touting that the league should go 9-0, or at least 8-1, in its bowl season.
And that confidence is justified. The league was outstanding in its nonconference slate this year. So there is reason to be hopeful. Then again, we recall what happened last year when the league was favored in seven of eight games and ended up going 4-4. Things happen. Quarterbacks get sacked. Offensive linemen get hurt. First downs appear out of nowhere.
Then again, miracles can also happen. Right, Wildcats?
So what’s the 2013 bowl season look like for the Pac-12? What would be an acceptable number of losses for the league to still keep its national credibility?
Once again, here's the bowl lineup:
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: USC vs. Fresno State
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs. BYU
Gildan New Mexico: Washington State vs. Colorado State
Sheraton Hawaii: Oregon State vs. Boise State
AdvoCare V100: Arizona vs. Boston College
How many bowl games will the Pac-12 win this year?
Your voting options:
9: Nothing sweeter than perfection. That’ll stick it to the BCS man for only having one Pac-12 team in a BCS bowl game.
8: Still a solid showing, assuming the one loss isn’t Stanford falling to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Game. I think we can all agree that no matter what, the league has to win its BCS bowl game.
7: Still very respectable (again, assuming Stanford takes care of business). There are a couple of scary games on the docket -- like Oregon State against Boise State or USC against Fresno State. This wouldn’t be a panic scenario, but it wouldn’t feel as good as eight or nine wins.
6: Now it starts to get dicey. Because that means there were at least three upsets along the way. Five of the eight games are against teams from BCS conferences, so either the Pac-12 is losing some credibility against the AQ leagues or non-AQ teams are pulling off upsets.
5 or fewer: With the talent in the league this year and the way the games shakeout, this would be considered a disaster of a bowl season. Again, Stanford winning can salvage that a little bit, but five wins or fewer opens up the door for “overrated” fodder that would marinate for months.
- Rich Rodriguez is confident in Arizona's development.
- Taking a closer look at the Arizona State offense.
- California has set a date for its spring football game.
- Checking in with former Colorado coach Bill McCartney, whose headed to the College Football Hall of Fame.
- The Alamo Bowl with Oregon and Texas is an interesting matchup for a variety of reasons.
- Oregon State needs to win -- really needs to win -- its bowl game.
- Are Michigan State fans poaching Stanford Rose Bowl tickets?
- UCLA gets a commitment from a defensive back.
- Some updates and speculation on the USC coaching staff.
- Some best and worst from the Utah football -- Utes and state of -- this past fall.
- Chris Petersen is taking the next step at Washington.
- Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, who has been selected for the Senior Bowl, and the Cougars seniors have persisted.
Trending up: UCLA landed its second ESPN 300 prospect of the week on Tuesday, as athlete Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) joined defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) in committing to the Bruins. In doing so, UCLA moved into the top 40 rankings. UCLA has plenty of momentum right now, especially after keeping coach Jim Mora and ace recruiters Demetrice Martin and Adrian Klemm. Adding running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu will only make UCLA stronger down the recruiting stretch, as ESPN 300 prospects Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure), Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco) are very much in play.
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Go here and find the geniuses and the miscreants.
The truth is, after reviewing the coaches votes, there's really not too much cause for outrage. Some. But not too much.
The most notable snub is UCLA not appearing on the ballot of Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, whose vote was otherwise pretty typical for where it place Pac-12 teams (Stanford seventh, Oregon 12th, Arizona State 15th).
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked Stanford 10th, which is ridiculous. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer ranked Oregon 17th, which should enrage Ducks fans until they realize Arizona State coach Todd Graham had the Ducks at 15th.
It's notable that Arizona State and Oregon didn't play this year, and Graham's team was seemingly competing with the Ducks in the bowl pecking order.
Yet Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who voted his team seventh, ranked the Sun Devils 10th, their second-highest placing.
Who, you immediately asked, had Arizona State higher than 10th? That would be Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who ranked the Sun Devils ninth. I've got no explanation for that.
As far as not getting too outraged at Swinney, that starts with seven other coaches ranking the Cardinal ninth. While that sounds like stupidity loves company, it also shows that Swinney's ballot wasn't unique in its, er, "thinking."
USC appeared on 11 ballots, including Alabama coach Nick Saban and four Pac-12 coaches but not with Oregon State's Mike Riley and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. The Trojans ended up 25th in the BCS standings though not in the coaches top-25. The Trojans highest ranking was 19th from Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Washington's lone vote? Michigan's Brady Hoke.
In conclusion, there really aren't any votes like Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's for Ohio State that merit taking a blood oath swearing lifelong and bitter enmity.
Here are the highs and lows for the ranked Pac-12 teams.
Stanford: (3) Mike Leach, Washington State; (10) Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Oregon: (6) Leach; (17) Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Arizona State: (9) Kyle Flood, Rutgers; (21) Dan Holgorsen, West Virginia & Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
UCLA: (13) Helfrich; (unranked) Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Some other interesting notes.
- New Washington coach Chris Petersen ranked Oregon eighth. Not sure if that's of note, but I'm guessing some Oregon fans will find something sinister and Husky-ish there.
- Leach loves his conference: No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Oregon, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 16 UCLA and No. 19 USC. But, of course, no Washington.
- Baylor's Art Briles is a closet Pac-12 North Division fan. He had Stanford fifth and Oregon ninth.
- Who also loves Stanford? LSU's Les Miles, who sometimes requires a Stanford linguist for translations, voted the Cardinal fourth, as did South Alabama coach Joey Jones, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury.
- Kingsbury, however, isn't a big Oregon fan. He had the Ducks 15th.
To the notes!
Jon in Seattle writes: Kevin, in response to your article regarding Chris Petersen's first news conference, your conclusion accurately sums up our impression. As a die-hard Washington fan and having spoken to many others, we weren't bothered by the way he answered the question about beating Oregon. It was a fun but silly question and any answer would have ultimately been meaningless, so it was refreshing to see him refuse to bite the bait and stick to the heart of his message. This is especially true in contrast to Sarkisian, who made many promises upon arriving here. As you said, Petersen has a process, he has a plan, and beating Oregon is an extension of its execution. We like what we're hearing. And hey, the guy is 2-0 against Oregon already. Of course, you won't hear him bragging.
There’s nothing really to say in that situation that is going to be productive. I found him to be extremely charismatic during his first news conference. He was fiery but controlled. He said all of the right things without overstepping.
I think back to when I was covering Brady Hoke and his move from San Diego State to Michigan. He, too, was fiery, and he made some promises regarding his new team and the team that wears scarlet and gray. Things aren’t going so hot right now in Ann Arbor. It’s one thing to fire up your fan base with promises. But when you don’t follow through with them, they are just empty words.
Petersen portrayed confidence and there was not a moment when I thought to myself, “OK, buddy, we’ll see.”
I really liked what he had to say about not being too hands-on with this team during the bowl season. I think that’s the right call. This is the 2013 Huskies. He’s not a part of that legacy.
I don’t know Petersen yet. I’ve talked with him once or twice on teleconferences and in news conferences, but I don’t have any sort of relationship with him. But I’m looking forward to getting to know him. And if he’s anything like the man he projected himself to be on Monday, I’m pretty sure three years from now we’ll look back at that day and realize that nothing he said was empty.
Eddie in Los Angeles writes: I grew up in Boise, attended Washington and live in Los Angeles. I’m a fan of all three teams. How should I feel?
Kevin Gemmell: Grateful that it’s neither raining nor snowing where you live?
If you truly are a fan of all three teams (and let’s be honest, you have to lean a little toward one or the other or the other when they play head-to-head) then you should feel pretty freaking blessed.
Divorces are ugly -- especially when a coach leaves a program voluntarily for another one. But this series of separations couldn’t have gone any smoother. You can’t be bitter at Petersen for leaving Boise State, especially after he delivered you a 92-12 record. You can’t be bitter at Sarkisian leaving after taking an 0-12 program and making it a postseason regular. And you can’t be disappointed with the hire of Sarkisian at USC.
If you are really a fan of all three programs then you should probably be feeling pretty good right about now.
Henry in San Juan Capistrano writes: Think about it. Had ASU not earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game and just sat home, they would be in the top 10 in the BCS and maybe the top 10 in the AP. They should make some rule that says the teams in the championship games can't move down from their previous position if they lose. Mizzou got hosed in this way as well.
Kevin Gemmell: Pretty specious reasoning. Because if ASU hadn’t earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game that means they would have lost another conference game somewhere along the way -- more than likely at UCLA or home to Arizona -- and they would have dropped in the rankings. I think they actually would have slipped further in the rankings had they lost a regular season game rather than a conference championship. Voters tend to respect teams a little more for making their league’s title game.
As for rules changes, I’m not a huge fan of that. You play the game. If you win, you move up. If you lose, you move down. C’est la vie. You don’t like it, don’t lose. You’ve earned the right for an extra game. And no one is saying that if you win, you shouldn't move up in the rankings. ASU would be in the top six or seven had they beaten Stanford. And you probably wouldn’t have complained. It’s got to be able to work both ways.
I know what you’re getting at. But I don’t think it’s feasible.
Trev with a Left Coast bias wrote: I understand it might be geography for why the Allstate Sugar Bowl would pick Oklahoma, but wouldn't you rather have a possible setting of what was originally thought to be the BCS title game matchup? My opinion is the SEC told the Sugar Bowl that they don’t want to have Oregon for two reasons: 1) Don't want to give extra money to the biggest threat (Pac-12) and 2) What if we lose? Your thoughts?
Kevin Gemmell: I think geography played a significant role. I think the fact the SEC and Big 12 are starting a scheduling alliance next year played a role. I think the attitude of some of Oregon’s players toward the Rose Bowl played a role. And I think the fact Oregon didn’t look particularly good in November played a role.
Like the rest of the world, I would love to have seen Alabama-Oregon happen -- even if it wasn’t for the national championship. It would have been a TV ratings home run -- somewhere between the finale of M*A*S*H and the 2009 Super Bowl.
There is no greater conspiracy theory here. And truth be told, I’m not sure the Oregon team as it stands today is the best product the Ducks could put on the field.
I’m sure there was some politicking going on behind the scenes. And by the way, for everyone who says ESPN controls college football, don’t think this would have been a ratings boom for my bosses. It goes to show that it’s ultimately the committees that make the decisions based on what’s best for their bowl and their respective tourism bureaus.
Erik in Bangkok writes: Kevin, simple question: Why do you rank Michigan State higher than Stanford? Taking into account strength of schedule and also your expectations of their head-to-head outcome.
Obviously, strength of schedule is important. That's why I have a team that lost to two unranked teams in my top five. I recognize and have written countless times how difficult the Pac-12 schedule is.
I was very impressed with both teams in the conference title games. And the difference between No. 4 and No. 5 in my book is pretty insignificant. In fact, I think Stanford has an edge having been to the Rose Bowl before and my first impression is that the Cardinal win that game.
I honestly didn’t sweat over it that much, and you shouldn't either. I thought Michigan State finished the season stronger with nine straight wins and so I ranked accordingly. My gut tells me Stanford is the better team. But from a rankings standpoint, I thought Michigan State closed stronger. It will work itself out in the final ballots.
RedditCFB in Minneapolis writes: Well, it's official: With the BCS Era coming to a close ('98?-13) there have been 878 bowl games in the BCS Era and the SEC & Pac-12 only met ONCE! How do we fix this? Is there a way to get a new bowl in Wally World so the SEC won't be as afraid of travel? The terrible bowl tie-ins have not significantly improved under Larry Scott (one of his few flaws).
Kevin Gemmell: Bowl games aren’t designed to provide the best possible matchup. They are designed to be the best possible matchup while also bringing in money to the city that hosts them. You’ll notice all of the Pac-12’s contracts are regionally based -- with the Valero Alamo and Hyundai Sun bowls being the longest trek. And even that isn’t too far of a hike.
It’s dollars. They want as many people to come to their city for as long as possible, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, go to amusement parks and spend money. While you’re in town, maybe take in a football game.
The National University Holiday Bowl probably doesn’t like having to take teams from Los Angeles because fans drive down to San Diego, watch the game and then drive home that night. They want people in hotel rooms for five days with trips to Sea World and the zoo and LegoLand.
How many Washington fans would go to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl? The first year? It might be filled. But what about the third and fourth years? These Pac-12 SEC matchups would look great on TV. And from my leather chair, I’d love to drink it all in. But the travel (see previous question), specifically the fan support and filling the stadium, simply wouldn’t be there on an annual basis.
Damon in Seattle writes: Who won? USC or Washington?
Kevin Gemmell: Honestly, Damon, I hate these questions. But I understand why people ask them. Because they want to feel better about the decisions their team made. You're looking for some closure from the previous administration and a reason to feel good about the new one.
Washington won because it snagged the big fish that many others couldn’t hook. USC won because it got someone from the USC family. Washington won because there is little to no chance the program takes a step back with Petersen as the head coach. USC won because the program will probably take a step forward under Sarkisian.
Is that sufficient? Because there's no right or wrong answer for at least a few years.
Until all the coaching staffs are in place, until there are three or four recruiting cycles under these guys, questions like “who won?” are fairly irrelevant. Ask me again in four years. I’m sure I’ll have a better answer.
Rudy in Houston writes: I said once "don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" Kevin, you didn't and ran the table! Congratulations!
Kevin Gemmell: I'd like to thank Ted Miller for not believing in me, my wife who doesn't care, and the good people at the Scripps Ranch Starbucks who still charge me full price for a cup of coffee despite a perfect media ballot.
- Running backs are the storyline in Arizona's bowl game.
- It's been a memorable season thus far for the Sun Devils.
- How are your favorite Bears doing in the NFL?
- Saying goodbye to the Buffs seniors.
- Hroniss Grasu is a finalist forthe Rimington Trophy.
- A first look at Oregon State-Boise State.
- The Cardinal are waiting on Michigan State prep.
- UCLA-Virginia Tech by the numbers.
- Athlon asks whether USC or Washington made the better hire.
- All in all it was a frustrating year for the Utes.
- Justin Wilcox could still end up at Washington.
- Washington State opens as favorites over Colorado State.
- Athlon ranks the bowl games.
What that means is that if you had all the college -- or NFL -- coaches pick a running back, the vast majority would choose Carey first. Why? Again, he's better than Mason and Williams.
And, if this is about pure numbers, Carey's numbers are superior to Mason's, who apparently got invited to New York because he posted an undeniably great performance in the SEC title game against Missouri. If that was the selling measure, then the Auburn offensive line should have been sent to New York.
Then there's Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, whose Heisman case is hampered by the Ducks losing two of their final four games. Of course, that didn't change the fact that he's been better than three of the four QB finalists over the entire season.
None of the four invited QBs -- Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, AJ McCarron of Alabama and Jameis Winston of Florida State -- has a resume without holes.
Lynch played against weak competition. Manziel lost his final two games of the season and played poorly while doing so. McCarron's candidacy was about career achievement, but he lost to his team's arch-rival to end the season, thereby missing out on his much-celebrated drive for a three-peat.
Winston, the overwhelming favorite as the best player on the best team, obviously had his off-field issue. No charges were filed, but the incident was hardly a shining and blameless moment for Winston.
Who's to blame for nobody from the West Coast heading to NYC? Well, we hate to bring out a hackneyed harrumph but it's obvious: East Coast Bias.
Notice anything about the finalists? Yep, none play in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones. To get off the Pac-12 train for a bit, consider that Fresno State QB Derek Carr, who is probably a better NFL prospect than Manziel, McCarron and Lynch, wasn't invited. He only led the nation in passing and threw 10 more TD passes than anyone else.
This bias isn't about some evil and corrupt dislike of all things West Coast. It's about a limited and flawed radar of evaluation. And, you know, going to bed early.
But East Coast voters aren't the only ones who suffer from bias. Here's a guess that when the regional voting patterns are revealed that Mariota's and Carey's support will only be lukewarm out West. That's because many West Coast voters suffer from a form of college football Stockholm Syndrome, where they are unduly influenced by the dominant and oft-repeated East Coast narrative, even if it runs counter to the conclusions of their own eyes and brains.
Before Oregon lost to Stanford, there was no East Coast Bias to fret. Folks loved Mariota and he led every Heisman poll. But when he lost, he plummeted unlike any other candidate who had an off-game. His consideration died completely when the Ducks also lost at Arizona.
It's a case of out of sight, out of mind, a condition that none of the other finalists back East had to deal with as they were re-evaluated despite shortcomings not unlike Mariota's.
When the odd ending to the season forced Heisman voters to revisit their pecking order, they apparently didn't include players outside their time zones. Bad finishes for Manziel, Lynch and McCarron? Neh.
A bad finish for Mariota? Wait… who's that?
For Carey, it was just a matter of everyone knowing he's the nation's best running back but not caring because he played for a 7-5 Arizona team. Are there really voters in the country who would be willing to step up to a microphone and say, "Mason/Williams are better than Carey"? I hope not.
And, despite a tireless effort from the Wildcats sports information department to point out that Carey's 15 consecutive games with over 100 yards hasn't been accomplished IN A DECADE, voters went all lazy because I'd bet at least 50 percent of them never watched him play all season.
Sour grapes? Absolutely. But sour grapes based entirely on facts and sound logic.
Sports Business Daily has done its annual accounting of bowl gifts, and let's just say there's a reason players like bowl games, beyond another chance to play and win.
The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school, so this is all within the NCAA's complex web of rules.
You'll see "gift suite" over and over. Here's what that is, per SBD:
SportsBusiness Journal’s eighth annual analysis of the gift packages provided to bowl game participants by the committees that host the games reveals that half of those organizations will stage a gift suite or shopping spree in the coming weeks. Gift suites are set up as private events prior to the game in which game participants, and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift, or gifts, up to a value that is predetermined by each bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit.
So what do Pac-12 players get this bowl season. Glad you asked.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Oregon State vs. Boise State)
Tues., Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Honolulu
Gift suite; Oakley sunglasses; Tori Richard aloha shirt, Pro Athletics shorts and performance T-shirt; Ogio backpack; beach towel
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Arizona vs. Boston College)
Tues., Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN); Shreveport, La.
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; New Era skull cap; football
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Washington State vs. Colorado State)
Sat., Dec. 21, 2 p.m. (ESPN); Albuquerque, N.M.
Gift suite, portable mobile device charger, 8 GB USB; Oakley Breadbox sunglasses; cap, Oakley Fine Knit beanie; Oakley Flak Pack XL backpack; Gildan stadium blanket
Fight Hunger Bowl (Washington vs. BYU)
Fri., Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN); San Francisco
Soundmatters wireless portable speaker system; Fossil watch; Maxx HD Wayfarer sunglasses; messenger bag; Macy’s gift card
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (USC vs. Fresno State)
Sat., Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Las Vegas
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3; beanie, cap; Oakley Flak Pack XL backpack; football, Zappos gift card
Hyundai Sun Bowl (UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Tues., Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (CBS); El Paso, Texas
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; Top of the World cap, Majestic fleece pullover; Ogio backpack; coin, Helen of Troy hair dryer
National University Holiday Bowl (Arizona State vs. Texas Tech)
Mon., Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN); San Diego
$305 Best Buy gift card; Reactor Meltdown watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; cap
Valero Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. Texas)
Mon., Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN); San Antonio
iPad Mini with retina display, Apple gift card; Fossil watch; panoramic photo, Schutt mini helmet
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio (Stanford vs. Michigan State)
Wed., Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN); Pasadena, Calif.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era 59Fifty cap; Ogio backpack
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The Pac-12 conference has seen a flurry of action recently, with coaching news and rumors keeping recruits on their toes. Following a week where Steve Sarkisian took over at USC and Chris Petersen moved from Boise State to Washington, this past weekend was tame by comparison. But UCLA made some significant noise with a big commitment, while Oregon extended two intriguing offers. CIF championship games provided backdrops for huge performances from Pac-12 recruits, while the conference title tilt was only the appetizer in the battle between Arizona State and Stanford.
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2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State