Pac-12: Ameer Abdullah

Some things to watch between USC and Nebraska in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday).
  1. Nebraska must stop the rush: When Nebraska loses, it’s usually because it is having trouble stopping the run. In the Cornhuskers’ three losses this year, they’ve allowed an average of 350 yards on the ground. Giving up 408 yards to Melvin Gordon didn’t exactly help that average, either. But when they allow their opponent to average more than 4 yards per carry, they are 0-3. USC’s Buck Allen was third in the Pac-12 with 111.4 yards per game.
  2. Let Kessler be Kessler: USC quarterback Cody Kessler has a plus-32 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season (36-4). That's the third highest in FBS this season. And when he looks to Nelson Agholor, Kessler finds him better than three of every four tries (76.4 percent). That's the best completion percentage for a QB/WR duo among Power 5 schools. When he looks to Agholor beyond 15 yards, Kessler is 18-of-25 with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
  3. Ameer versus the world: When Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah faces seven or fewer defenders in the box, he’s averaging 7.2 yards per rush. However, when teams stack the box with eight or more defenders, that number drops drastically to 3.4 yards per carry. This presents the game-within-the-game chess match, because Abdullah has 791 yards rushing between the tackles and 731 yards when he hits the edge. USC had one of the top rush defenses in the Pac-12, allowing 3.9 yards per carry and 132.5 yards per game. The Trojans did, however, yield 18 touchdowns on the ground, which ranked in the bottom half of the conference.
  4. Who is motivated? Always a popular topic in bowl season. Despite the surprise hire of Mike Riley, Bo Pelini continued to leave chaos in his wake. Plus, interim coach Barney Cotton might already have one foot out the door on his way to joining Tony Sanchez at UNLV. USC, by all accounts, had an up-and-down season with a couple of "what if?" moments. Are they happy to be in a bowl under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, or are key players already eyeballing the NFL combine?

National links: Bias on the committee? 

November, 11, 2014
I have grave news to bring you. The College Football Playoff selection committee is biased.

Yes, the 12-member panel tasked to solve the nation's problems choose the sport's first four-team playoff includes people with real-life experiences, likes and dislikes.

Some of them, apparently, have ideas about the way the game ought to be played and coached.

Take a deep breath and remember, this is what we wanted.

Did you know? Pac-12 Week 2

September, 7, 2012
Some notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • The Pac-12 plays seven games against foes from other AQ conferences on Saturday.
  • Arizona has lost 6 consecutive games against top-20 teams. Its last victory against a top-20 opponent came Sept. 18, 2010, against ninth-ranked Iowa.
  • Oklahoma State defeated Arizona each of the past two seasons -- in the 2010 Alamo Bowl and last year in Stillwater. The ‘Pokes outscored Arizona 73-24 in the two games, and gained 594 yards in the win last season. That was the most yards allowed by Arizona in a single game since 2005.
  • In his brief debut last week in an 84-0 win over Savannah State, Oklahoma State freshman quarterback Wes Lunt was 11-for-11 passing for 129 yards. Arizona ranked last in the Pac-12 last year in pass defense.
  • The Illinois defense recorded six sacks, two interceptions and recovered a fumble in its 17-14 win against Arizona State last year.
  • Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase’s injury status will be a key thing to keep an eye on for this game. Scheelhaase left the Illini's victory over Western Michigan last week with an ankle injury. After he left, the offense managed no points and just 15 yards on the five drives with Reilly O’Toole at the helm. The defense scored Illinois’ only points after Scheelhaase left.
  • California has never played Southern Utah before.
  • Utah State last week held Southern Utah to three points and 209 yards.
  • Colorado is playing Sacramento State for the first time. It's the Buffs third game against an FCS foe.
  • Sacramento State lost its opener at New Mexico State, 49-19.
  • Oregon has dominated the series with Fresno State of late, winning six in a row against the Bulldogs. Fresno State’s last win in the series came in 1982.
  • Oregon leads FBS in touchdowns drive of two minutes or fewer (95) one minute or fewer (44) and three plays or fewer (41) since the start of 2010. Last week against Arkansas State, Oregon scored eight touchdowns that averaged 2:00 and five of the Ducks' eight touchdowns were scored in under 1:45.
  • Since coach Chip Kelly took over in 2009, Oregon has had 60 rushing plays of at least 30 yards, the most in FBS. That’s bad news for the Bulldogs. Over that same span, Fresno State’s defense has allowed 45 such plays (worst in FBS).
  • Wisconsin has won 33 consecutive regular-season non-conference games, the second-longest active streak among FBS teams. Its last loss regular-season non-conference loss came in 2003 against UNLV.
  • Oregon State has lost two straight and three of its last four season openers.
  • Duke visits Stanford looking to do something it hasn’t done in more than 40 years -- the Blue Devils haven’t beaten a ranked team away from Durham since Oct. 2, 1971. The opponent and location of that game? Stanford, in Palo Alto, Calif. Since then, Duke has dropped 57 straight games against ranked opponents away from Durham. In fact, Duke’s overall record against ranked opponents since that game is a dismal 3-93, with all three wins coming at home.
  • Stanford has won 10 straight August/September games and nine straight regular season games vs non-conference opponents.
  • Running back Rex Burkhead’s injury status (knee) will be a big topic, but Nebraska feels comfortable with its depth behind Burkhead. When Burkhead left the game in the first quarter last week, his backups -- Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard, Imani Cross -- rushed for 177 yards and combined for two scores (one rush, one pass).
  • Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez saw instant returns on his work this summer at the Manning Camp and with QB guru Steve Calhoun. Martinez had a career-high 354 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Cornhuskers' 49-20 victory over Southern Miss. Martinez had the majority of his success downfield, completing 10 of 15 throws that traveled 10 yards or more downfield for 225 yards and four touchdowns. His four touchdowns on these throws doubled his previous career high. He had two each against Northwestern in 2011 and Oklahoma State in 2010.
  • Keep an eye on UCLA’s special teams, specifically their extra-point attempts. Last week against Rice, they allowed Cameron Nwosu to set an NCAA record by blocking three of them.
  • USC dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the AP poll this week becoming the first team to win a game by more than 35 points and fall from No. 1 since Penn State in 1997. The only No. 1 team to win its opener by more than 35 points and fall from No. 1 was Florida in 1994. The Gators beat New Mexico State 70-21 and fell to No. 2 behind Nebraska. Nebraska had shut out No. 24 West Virginia 31-0 the previous week in the Kickoff Classic.
  • Matt Barkley has thrown 35 touchdowns since the start of 2010 season when opponents send five or more pass-rushers. Against a blitz, he's completing 61 percent of his passes with 35 TDs and just three interceptions.
  • USC gained 224 of its 394 receiving yards after the catch against Hawaii, the most yards after the catch for any AP top-25 team in Week 1. Marqise Lee had 138 yards after the catch, including 69 on his 75-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the game. The 224 yards after the catch was the Trojans’ second-most since the start of the 2009 season. They had 234 YAC against UCLA in their final game of last season.
  • This is the 110th meeting between Utah and Utah State, the 12th-most-played rivalry in FBS history. Utah has won the past 12 meetings and leads the all-time series 77-28-4. The last seven meetings have all been decided by more than 15 points.
  • Utah State is 0-3 against BCS-AQ schools since Gary Andersen took over as coach in 2009, but all three games have been within eight points. Utah State has not hosted a BCS-AQ team since 2001.
  • LSU hosts Washington on Saturday night and the Tigers have been anything but kind to Pac-12 opponents over the years. LSU hasn’t lost to a Pac-12 team since dropping a 17-12 decision to USC in 1979. Since then, LSU is 11-0 and averaging 35.8 points per game in those contests. To make things worse for Washington, LSU has won 38 straight non-conference regular season games.
  • LSU lost three of its four starters in the secondary. Last week, North Texas threw for two touchdown; last year, the Tigers allowed multiple TD passes only once (two against West Virginia) and allowed only seven on the season.
  • Washington hasn’t fared well in non-conference road games of late. The Huskies have lost four consecutive non-conference games away from home, with their last such win coming in the 2007 season opener at Syracuse.
  • Since the SEC was formed in 1933, Washington is only 1-6 against SEC teams, with its lone victory coming in the 1989 Freedom Bowl over Florida. This is Washington’s first road game at an SEC school since 1983 (also at LSU).
  • Washington State is playing Eastern Washington for the first time since 1908.
  • The new kickoff rules seem to be having an impact already. In the first week last season, the touchback percentage was 19.4 (138 total). Last week, the touchback percentage ballooned to 40.8 (269 total).

Nebraska's offense is all or nothing

September, 17, 2011
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska has thrived offensively on the big play so far this year. When it happens, it's great. The rest of the time? Not so great.

That's the case in the first half against Washington, as well. Consider:
  • Taylor Martinez has only four completions in 10 attempts, but two of those have gone for touchdowns and another one went 50 yards.
  • Martinez has a 28-yard run but only 17 other yards on his other seven runs.

Nebraska fans just booed their offense as it put itself in a hole then couldn't move the ball on a three-and-out series. Perhaps they're growing tired of this all-or-nothing situation.

The Huskers' big-play guy on special teams might be lost for the day. Return man Ameer Abdullah, who has sandwiched two long kickoff returns around a fumbled punt return, left after apparently hurting his ankle on a 66-yard scamper on a kickoff. He hasn't been back in the game since.

Nebraska starts out on fire

September, 17, 2011
LINCOLN, Neb. -- The prevailing theory as to why Nebraska lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl after stomping the Huskies in the regular season is that the team didn't want to be there after losing in the Big 12 title game.

Well, motivation doesn't appear to be a problem early on for the Cornhuskers.

After a big return from freshman Ameer Abdullah -- who is announcing himself as maybe the most dangerous specialist in the Big Ten -- on the opening kickoff, Nebraska nearly scored on its first play from scrimmage. Tim Beck dialed up a great call by faking the option and then having Taylor Martinez throw deep, where he found Kenny Bell for a 50-yard gain. Nebraska scored on the next play, just 34 seconds into this game.

It's not a good sign for Washington, which is banged up in the secondary. The Huskies were clearly set up to try and stop Martinez from running the ball, but two completions later they already find themselves in a 7-0 hole.