Pac-12: Arizona State Sun Devils

Pac-12 morning links

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
8:00
AM ET
Happy Friday!

Leading off

This is the final weekend of "mostly" nonconference play. Starting next week, it's a full slate of Pac-12-only games. So say your hellos and goodbyes to the Michigans, Hawaiis and Georgia States of the world this weekend. There are still three dates with Notre Dame and Cal's season finale against BYU. But for the rest of the league, we wrap up the non-league games this weekend.

The nonconference schedule always makes for some interesting picks. The Pac-12 blog unleashed its picks on the world yesterday morning. Not a ton of discrepancy, other than a 4-1 decision on the Utah-Michigan game. Besides that one game, the rest of the Pac-12 blog is in agreement.

Here are what others from across the country are picking for Week 4.
  • The folks at CBS make their picks on some of the national games, including an across-the-board-selection of Oregon in Pullman.
  • Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman Review was pretty good last week straight up, not so much if you're betting pennies. His picks this week.
  • Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News weighs in with his picks here.
  • Athlon Sports offers up their Pac-12 predictions here.
  • Christian Caple of the News Tribune lays out his picks.

(I'm noticing a lot of folks went 7-1 last week ... hmmm, USC...)

Big Board update

When the first two names are called at the 2015 NFL draft, there's a good chance they will both be from the Pac-12. So says ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who updated his Big Board. It's an Insider piece, but I'll tell you the new big board is silly with Pac-12 players. Eight players from the league are in his top 25 -- including three in the top 10.



News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

Pac-12 morning links

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
8:00
AM ET
I see you have learned to work the Google on the internet machine.

Leading off

The two highest-ranked teams in the Pac-12 -- Oregon and UCLA -- have had some issues along the offensive line three weeks into the season. The Ducks have suffered injuries that have forced some younger or less experienced players into action. The Bruins haven't done a great job protecting their quarterbacks. If either hopes to advance to the College Football Playoff, they are going to have to figure things out up front. That's the premise of Steve Lassen's piece for Athlon Sports, which examines the offensive lines of both schools so far.

Lassen on Oregon:
Will Oregon’s offensive line woes derail the offense against Washington State or Arizona? Probably not, but a thin offensive line could create more pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota.

And on UCLA:
The stats from the first three games suggest the offensive line is improving. But what type of impact could a long-term injury to [Malcolm] Bunche hold for this group? And assuming Bunche does return to full strength, can this unit jell and continue to improve after a sluggish start to the season?

UCLA is off this week while Oregon travels to Washington State for its first Pac-12 game of the season. The Bruins will head to Tempe on the 25th to square off with ASU.

Utes & Cats

In his mailbag this week, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports hit on a question about Arizona and Utah and their place in the South Division. Here's an excerpt about the Utes:
This year, with [Travis] Wilson back and currently the nation’s No. 2-rated passer, the Utes have clobbered their first two foes, but they were Idaho State and Fresno State. Michigan has certainly proven beatable. If Utah can pull it off on the road, then I’d reevaluate their place in that division.

Mandel says, given the state of the division (injuries to Taylor Kelly, a shaky start for UCLA, USC's loss), the Utes might be a good sleeper team to sneak up and steal the division. He doesn't see Arizona as a team ready to make that leap yet. On the field, it won't get settled until the Wildcats make the trip to Salt Lake City on Nov. 22. Might be an intriguing showdown for a couple of teams either looking to reach bowl eligibility or improve their place in the pecking order.

My guess is if Utah wins this weekend, they'll be added to this list.



News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

If you're a fan of "The Office," this is for you. If you're a fan of Stanford athletics, this is for you. If you're a fan of both, this might be the greatest thing in the world. And if you're a fan of neither, move along. Nothing to see here.

Want to see what the Ducks saw before their Wyoming game? Warning: The following video might make you want to go workout.

Mailbag: WSU's defensive woes

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
8:00
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag, where all questions are answered except the meaning of life. I’m keeping that one to myself.

Cougar Brian in Scappoose, Oregon, writes: With the probable loss to Oregon this week, we're staring at 1-3 in Pullman, and once we're past the two most winnable games on our schedule following that in Cal and Utah, it's hard to see a W again this season. Given how things are going, at what point do you see the seat under Mike Leach and his staff, especially defensive coordinator Mike Breske, heating up?

Kevin Gemmell: For Leach, there might be a slight, warm tingling sensation, but that’s about it. He’s already received an extension and he’s locked in. And I know WSU fans tend to take the pint-glass-half-empty approach to their team. But let’s not forget: It’s only his third season and he’s taken you to a bowl game. Things are better, relatively speaking.

What makes this start to the season so frustrating is that there was momentum coming out of 2013. Despite the bowl loss, the Cougars were moving in a good direction. Heck, you won at the Coliseum … with defense!

I like Breske. I like his schemes. The Pac-12 blog isn’t in the business of speculating about hot seats – because for as much as we know, we don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

The defense didn’t play great against Rutgers, but it played well enough to win. And had it not been for a special-teams gaffe, Washington State probably would have. Against Nevada, a Connor Halliday interception gave Nevada a short field on its first score and the offense only produced one touchdown. It was a team loss.

Keep in mind when Breske & Co. came in, they were installing an entirely new defensive scheme. It takes time to recruit the genetics to fit that system. This coaching staff hasn’t even been through a full recruiting cycle.

I’m inclined to give this group another full season after this one – assuming things don’t get markedly worse on either side of the ball. But I don’t have fans or boosters to answer to.

 




James in Alameda, California, writes: (Question edited for length) Multiple outlets are reporting different recovery times for Taylor Kelly’s injury. Any chance we'll know the truth about the injury or do you think ASU will just continue to say Kelly's status is "uncertain" until he actually returns?

Kevin Gemmell: Having talked with sources at ASU, I can only relay what I know. And what I know is that he will miss the UCLA game (barring an amazing recovery), and anything beyond that is up in the air. It depends how quickly his body heals. How much physical therapy is required? Did he drink a lot of milk as a kid? Some guys are more resilient than others. There is no blanket statement that can be made about an individual’s broken bone. Only generalities.

The UCLA game is the first of three straight games against teams currently ranked in the AP top 20, followed by No. 17 USC and No. 16 Stanford. There’s a chance Washington will also be ranked by their Oct. 25 meeting. There's never a good time for an injured quarterback. But some stretches are worse than others. This is a bad one.

But remember, a lot of the Arizona State faithful were banking on Mike Bercovici to win the starting job when Todd Graham came in. And the Sun Devils do have the league’s leading rusher in D.J. Foster. All is not lost if Kelly can’t play for several games. But his accuracy and running ability certainly gave the ASU offense a little something extra.

 




JJ in Tumalo, Oregon, writes: Lady and gentlemen, in your respective opinion, do the Ducks have a chance to make it to the playoff with the injuries at tackle? Asking a LOT for a true freshman at right tackle and a walk-on at left tackle to hold up for the entire season. At this rate, Puddles might have to line up at tackle. Thanks for the great blog.

Kevin Gemmell: This is one of those crystal-ball questions to which the best answer is time will tell.

For all we know, Tyrell Crosby and Matt Pierson might be the next coming of Jonathan Ogden and Dan Dierdorf. Or they could simply be placeholders until others return from injury. I don’t know. Of course it’s a lot to ask. But I’m guessing they wouldn’t be wearing one of 783,360 possible uniform combinations for Oregon if they didn’t have the talent.

You obviously look ahead to some of the games against A-list defensive lines, such as UCLA and Stanford, and wonder. But those guys also have a couple of games to get acclimated.

A lot needs to happen for a team to win a conference. You have to stay healthy. But no one ever really does, so you need to have depth. And you need a little luck. A lot of that is unpredictable. But, for what it’s worth, I think Oregon is still in the best position of any Pac-12 team to reach the playoffs.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
8:00
AM ET
Come son of Jor-El. Kneel before Zod. Snootchie boochies!

Leading off

It's depth chart Wednesday! There are four teams on bye this week -- Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and USC -- so we won't update them until next week. Here are the updated depth charts for the other eight.
Some observations: Mark your calendars

The Pac-12 released the 2015 schedule on Tuesday and Kyle Bonagura broke it down last night. You can just scroll down, because it's the post right below this one. Or if you're really lazy, just click here.

Some of the key matches that jump out are Michigan's trip to Utah in a rematch of this weekend's game, Arizona State vs. Texas A&M at Reliant Stadium and a rematch of Oregon-Michigan State, with the Ducks traveling to B1G country this time around.

There's the usual matchups of Notre Dame vs. USC and Stanford, plus Oregon State travels to Michigan and Cal heads to Texas. And don't think the Cougars won't have vengeance on their mind when they go to Rutgers.

P-A-C vs. S-E-C

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News broke down the nonconference performances thus far of the Pac-12 and the SEC to find the answer to the question: Who is better?

He crunches the results, makes a couple of predictions, and leaves us with this result:
The Pac-12 hasn’t outperformed the SEC thus far in Power 5 results and has no discernible advantage going forward in the quantity or quality of its Power 5 games.
News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

Ever wonder what Mike Leach or Steve Sarkisian would look like if they were the subject of the Mona Lisa? We haven't either, thank goodness someone has.

Three times the jinx? We're kidding.

Pac-12 by the numbers: Week 4

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
7:00
PM ET
Here's another look at random stats pertaining to the Pac-12.

Hawaii at Colorado
  • WR Nelson Spruce has accounted for 39.7 percent of Colorado's receiving yards, the second-highest percentage in the conference.
  • The Buffaloes have picked up 43 first downs from pass plays, second most in the Pac-12.
  • Colorado is the only team in the Pac-12 that has been outscored this year (minus-25).
Utah at Michigan
  • Nine of Utah's 14 touchdown drives have taken two minutes or less.
  • Utah scores on 70 percent of drives where it gets the initial first down.
  • QB Travis Wilson is one of 10 players in the country with at least six touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Georgia State at Washington
  • Georgia State, a second-year FBS program, has never beaten a FBS team.
  • WR John Ross is averaging 37.3 yards per reception on six catches -- half of which have gone for touchdowns.
  • In two games with Cyler Miles at quarterback, Washington has averaged 51.5 points and 500.5 yards per game.
California at Arizona
  • Cal has lost 14 consecutive Pac-12 games, the second-longest conference losing streak in the country.
  • According to VegasInsider.com, Arizona opened as a 17-point favorite, but dropped to as low as nine points Tuesday morning.
  • Cal ranks third in the Pac-12, converting on 51.5 percent of its third-down chances.
  • Arizona ranks No. 8 nationally and No. 1 in the Pac-12 on offense, averaging 582.7 yards per game.
  • Cal ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in rush defense (113 yards per game) and Arizona is No. 3 (116.0)
San Diego State at Oregon State
  • Oregon State has allowed one more rushing first down (11) than via penalty (10).
  • San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion played against each other in the same high school league.
  • Mannion ranks No. 2 among active FBS quarterbacks with 11,064 career passing yards.
Oregon at Washington State
  • Oregon has scored at least 14 points in a national-best 68 straight games.
  • Both teams rank in the top 15 nationally in total offense: 10. Oregon (573.3); 15. WSU (557.0)
  • Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ranks third nationally averaging 11.35 yards per pass attempt.
  • Oregon safety Erick Dargan, who chose the Ducks over WSU, leads the nation with three interceptions -- tied with four others.
  • WSU teammates Isiah Myers and Vince Mayle are the only teammates that both rank in the top 15 in receptions -- Myers is No. 5 with 26; Mayle is No. 7 with 25.
National individual leaders

Passing touchdowns
t1. Connor Halliday, WSU — 12
t13. Sefo Liufau, Colorado — 8
t13. Marcus Mariota, Oregon — 8
t13. Cody Kessler, USC — 8
t13. Anu Solomon, Arizona — 8

RawQBR
4. Mariota, Oregon — 93.3
6. Taylor Kelly, ASU — 92.1
9. Jared Goff, Cal — 90.1
11. Travis Wilson, Utah — 87.5
14. Cyler Miles, Washington — 85.2

Rushing yards
3. D.J. Foster, Arizona State — 510
4. Nick Wilson, Arizona — 449

Rushing touchdowns
t8. Royce Freeman, Oregon — 5
t8. Foster, ASU — 5

Receiving yards
4. Isiah Myers, WSU — 423
10. Nelson Spruce, Colorado — 346

Receiving touchdowns
1. Spruce, Colorado — 6
t2. Myers, WSU — 5

Yards from scrimmage
1. Foster, ASU — 649
9. Wilson, Arizona — 470

Sacks
1. Danny Shelton, Washington — 6
t3. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington — 5

Defensive touchdowns
1. Shaq Thompson, Washington — 2

Field goals
3. Casey Skowron, Arizona — 7

Pac-12 team stats

Offensive touchdown drive percentage
1. Oregon — 56.8
2. Utah — 50
3. Arizona State — 45.2
4. Cal — 40.7
5. Arizona — 36.8
6. Washington State — 35
7. Washington — 34.2
8. Stanford — 33.3
9. USC — 30
10. Colorado — 25
11. Oregon State — 23.3
12. UCLA — 23.1

Defensive touchdown drive percentage
1. Stanford — 2.8
2. Oregon — 15.8
3. Arizona — 17.9
4. Arizona State — 18.6
5. Cal — 19.2
6. Utah — 19.4
7. UCLA — 20
8. USC — 20.5
9. Oregon State — 20.7
10. Washington State — 24.4
11. Washington — 26.3
12. Colorado — 35

Offensive 3-and-out percentage
1. Arizona — 5.3
2. Stanford — 6.1
3. Colorado — 10
3. Washington State — 10
5. Cal — 14.8
6. UCLA — 15.4
7. Oregon — 16.2
8. Washington — 18.4
t9. Oregon State — 20
t9. USC — 20
t11. Arizona State — 21.4
t11. Utah — 21.4

Defensive 3-and-out percentage
1. Utah — 45.2
2. Stanford — 38.9
3. Arizona — 35.9
4. Washington State — 31.7
5. Oregon State — 27.6
6. Washington — 26.3
7. UCLA — 25
t8. USC — 23.1
t8. Cal — 23.1
10. Arizona State — 20.9
11. Colorado — 20
12. Oregon — 15.8

Past weeks
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Pac-12 morning links

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
8:00
AM ET
Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.

Leading off

For the folks out there who were on the fence about whether Todd Graham was really committed to Arizona State, he's given you half a million reasons to get off it.

During a news conference on Monday, it was announced that the Graham family and the family of athletic director Ray Anderson would each pledge $500,000 toward the school's fundraising effort to "reinvent" Sun Devil Stadium. Graham came to Arizona State with a reputation for hopping programs -- especially after a quick departure from Pittsburgh. This move seems to solidify his place in Tempe.
It really wasn’t about that. Obviously this is something that makes a big statement about what our commitment is, as we surely wouldn’t make this kind of commitment if we had anything else in mind.

Sun Devil Stadium will undergo three phases of renovations over the next three offseasons, with construction slated to be complete in 2017. You can watch the complete news conference here.

That's the good news for ASU.

The bad news is that the quarterback Taylor Kelly will miss next week's South Division showdown against UCLA. Several outlets reported the news Sunday night and the Pac-12 blog confirmed from an ASU source Monday. Mike Bercovici told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic that he's ready for the challenge.

Eliminator

We told you last week if you haven't seen The Eliminator yet, you really should. As of right now, only Washington State and Colorado have been flagged as "eliminated" from the College Football Playoff. Arizona, ASU, Oregon and UCLA are listed as "still in contention" with the rest of the league "on the fence."

But before we get to the playoff, someone has to win their division first. Ted Miller hit on the South on Monday, which is a mess.

News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

If you only watch one video today of a Pac-12 mascot playing charades with Ashley Adamson, make it this one:

Injuries, implosion muddle South picture

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
AM ET
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait. That's been used before. But, with apologies to Dickens, it fits. The Pac-12 weekend was a tale of one division, two teams, two cities, two quarterbacks, and it was a day of thrills and it was a day of misery.

The plot certainly thickened in the Pac-12's South Division on Saturday, but not necessarily in a good way.

A week after posting a gritty upset at Stanford, USC was humiliated at Boston College, while UCLA cobbled together a win over Texas behind scrappy, ebullient backup QB Jerry Neuheisel. Neuheisel's services were required because Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. His status remains uncertain, though there was reasonable hope based on initial reports that his injury wasn't serious.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's shocking loss to Boston College underscored the vulnerability within the Pac-12 South division.
Our second city is Tempe, Arizona, where UCLA will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, squaring off with defending South Division champion Arizona State, which beat Colorado on Saturday but also lost its star senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who beat out Hundley for second-team All-Pac-12 last year. Seeing Kelly on crutches due to a foot injury -- and his body language -- probably won't fuel great expectations that he will be ready for the Bruins.

The UCLA-Arizona State game was one we eyeballed in the preseason as a major measuring stick in the battle for the South. A significant part of the appeal was the quarterback battle. That hasn't changed, only now the intrigue is whether it will be Neuheisel for UCLA and Mike Bercovici for Arizona State. A week ago, that quarterback news would have heavily favored the Sun Devils. While Bercovici isn't the runner Kelly is, he's got one of the best arms in the conference and is well-versed in the Sun Devils offense. He is expected to win the starting job as a fifth-year senior next fall. Neuheisel was widely viewed as a career backup with a well-known father -- former UCLA QB and coach Rick Neuheisel -- but his second-half performance against the Longhorns suggested he can be more than a rudimentary game manager.

Both teams have an off week, when they can either get healthy or retool their plans. The stakes continue to be high, perhaps more so after USC threw up on itself with a wet-noodle performance at Boston College. While a nonconference game doesn't affect the Trojans' Pac-12 standing, it certainly made them look extremely vulnerable heading into a much-needed bye week. Other than USC fans, the most miserable folks watching that game surely root for Stanford, which probably can't believe it lost to the Trojans just a week before.

What this implosion and these injuries reveal in a wider sense is vulnerability in the South. In the preseason, UCLA looked like a decisive South favorite. Then USC made a statement with a win over the Cardinal. Arizona State was lurking with a great offense and a questionable defense. At this point, however, none of these three teams is scaring anyone. And don't look now, but Arizona and Utah remain unbeaten and have shown flashes that suggest they might be factors in a divisional race that previously seemed limited to the aforementioned troika.

The Wildcats play host to California on Saturday. Lo and behold, the Bears also are unbeaten, and this game suddenly possesses some potential meaning it didn't seem to have in the preseason. If Cal gets the upset, it can fully erase last season's misery and start thinking bowl game. If Arizona gets the win, it will be 4-0 and eyeballing the Top 25 with a visit to No. 2 Oregon looming on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona appears suspect on defense, but the offense, with impressive redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon, a good O-line, deep corps of receivers and breakout freshman running back Nick Wilson, will make the Wildcats a threat to any foe.

Utah visits Michigan on Saturday. While the Wolverines don't look like they'll be hailing in much victory this season, a Utes win would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. While Utah's trouble hasn't been in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12, a 3-0 start would hint they are not a South afterthought, particularly if the offense continues to shine with QB Travis Wilson.

While Oregon's win over Michigan State coupled with Stanford's loss to USC only boosted the Ducks' status as North Division favorites, the South intrigue has seemingly spiderwebbed since the beginning of the season. The race appears more wide open and complicated. UCLA's visit to Arizona State remains a major measuring stick, but it's just as likely either team would sacrifice that game -- as horrible as that sounds -- to know it will get its starting quarterback back healthy for the rest of the season.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
8:00
AM ET
Roll down the window, put down the top;
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby;
Don't let the music stop;
We're gonna ride it till we just can't ride it no more.

Leading off

Yes, that would be "I Love LA." The Bruins and the Trojans were headliners this weekend for two very different reasons.

The Bruins lost their All-America candidate quarterback, Brett Hundley, to an elbow injury. But became the feel-good story of the weekend with Jerry Neuheisel leading a come-from-behind charge in the win over Texas.

The Trojans, however, stumbled on the road against Boston College for their first loss of the season.

Here are some reactions to those games:

UCLA
USC

Finally, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News offers up some thoughts and reactions from around the league in his weekend wrap.

Rank and file

As a result of USC's loss, the Trojans tumbled out of the top 10 in the AP poll and their "stock is down," per USA Today. Meanwhile, on the strength of its blowout win over Wyoming, the Ducks picked up another first-place vote in the AP poll and are locked into that No. 2 spot. Talking with a couple of voters on Sunday, they told the Pac-12 blog that USC's saving grace -- for now -- was that they still have a road win over an AP top 15 team (Stanford) and that their loss to BC came on the road. That was enough to keep them in the top 20. But another showing like the one they had Saturday will boot them out of the rankings.

Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 teams, with the AP rank first and the coaches poll second:

Oregon 2-3

UCLA 12-10

Arizona State 15-13

Stanford 16-15

USC 17-21

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Beast.


Aren't we past Labor Day?


As noted last week, I'm a sucker for great sports photography.

Oregon remains at No. 2; USC drops

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
3:01
PM ET
video
Oregon strengthened its hold on the No. 2 spot in the fourth AP poll of the season, but the Pac-12 is without two top-10 teams for the first time this season.

The Ducks picked up an additional first-place vote and are six points closer to top-ranked Florida State (42 behind) compared to last week.

USC took the biggest fall, dropping eight spots to No. 17 following its 37-31 loss to Boston College and is now one spot behind Stanford, which the Trojans beat on the road last week.

UCLA remains at No. 12 after squeaking out a win against reeling Texas, but was jumped by both Ole Miss and Michigan State. Through three games, UCLA remains undefeated, but none of its wins have done much to impress voters.

Next up for the Bruins is No. 15 Arizona State in Tempe on Sept. 25. The Sun Devils jumped Stanford this week -- largely because USC's loss to Boston College devalued the Cardinal -- after opening conference play with a 38-24 win against Colorado.

Washington (14) and Arizona (3) also received votes.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:00
PM ET
 

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:50
AM ET
Some things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 3:

Marcus Mariota should be your Heisman front-runner: On the strength of his 19-of-23 performance (82.6 percent passing) with two passing touchdowns and two on the ground during Oregon's 48-14 win over Wyoming, I challenge you to find someone more deserving three games into the season. He has 11 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has a signature win against a top-10 team and he's got a "Heisman moment" highlight. Whatever your criteria, Mariota meets it thus far.

Defensive POY up for grabs: Erick Dargan snagged a pair of interceptions against Wyoming. Shaq Thompson had two defensive touchdowns. Eric Kendricks, Danny Shelton, Leonard Williams and AJ Tarpley should be in the discussion. (I'm not going to name every player, so apologies if your favorite player or team feels slighted.) I have no clue who is going to win it. But it's going to be one of the fun storylines to follow as we start to flow into full-time conference play.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota passed for two touchdowns and ran for another two in the victory over Wyoming.
The Cardinal can rebound: Stanford improves to 8-0 following a loss under David Shaw. The Cardinal haven't lost back-to-back games since 2009 or back-to-back home games since 2007, which was Jim Harbaugh's first season. Their 35-0 shutout of Army was the second shutout of the season for the Cardinal and their sixth since the start of the 2010 season. Only Alabama has more. If Stanford can find a little more consistency on offense, there's no reason to rule it out of anything yet. But that's a big if.

USC: Dude.

USC (Take 2): Not sure what's more shocking about BC's 37-31 win over the Trojans. That USC lost a week after securing such a significant conference win for Steve Sarkisian, or that the Trojans were out-rushed 452-20. 20! Tailback R U kidding me? Not what we expect from a Sarkisian offense, nor is it what we expect from a Justin Wilcox defense. Twice the Trojans had a double-digit lead, only to cough it up. For a team that has shown a tremendous amount of fortitude through the first two weeks, it was severely lacking in Week 3.

Those gritty Bruins: Seeing Jerry Neuheisel carried off the field by his teammates, chanting "Jerry, Jerry" following the Bruins' 20-17 win over Texas in Dallas is exactly why college football is awesome. That was a brutal environment, and for the Bruins to fumble away the game with four minutes left, and then excel in all three phases -- defensive stop, huge punt return, clutch touchdown pass -- shows that this team is capable of putting it all together. If the Bruins can do it for 60 minutes, they will be a scary, scary team. The status of Brett Hundley's elbow will no doubt be much debated in the bye week.

The Cougs have a pulse: A 59-21 win over Portland State is a good start. Now do it against an FBS team. Washington State's offense is potent enough that every single Pac-12 North team should be wary.

The full Washington: When the Huskies put it together on both sides, they can be a pretty darn good football team, as evidenced by their 44-19 win over Illinois. They were balanced (245 rushing, 219 passing), the defense was nasty and the aforementioned Thompson (two defensive touchdowns) hauled in the first interception of the season for Washington after several missed opportunities the first two weeks. Another team that, when/if it all comes together, could shake things up in the North.

QB question marks? The bye week comes at a good time for UCLA and ASU. Their Thursday night showdown on Sept. 25 in Tempe has massive Pac-12 South implications. At least it has the last couple of years. But with Taylor Kelly nursing a foot injury (he was on crutches and in a boot) and Hundley's elbow injury, both teams could use the week off to get their high-profile signal-callers healthy. (We should also note another outstanding performance from ASU running back D.J. Foster, who had 147 yards on the ground and a score, and 59 yards receiving and a touchdown in a 38-24 win against Colorado.)

No more Paul Richardson questions: Though the Buffs fell to 1-2, they were fairly competitive against the Sun Devils and Nelson Spruce continues to emerge as one of the premier playmakers in the league. He entered Saturday as the league leader in receiving yards per game and he tacked on seven more catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns. The Buffs are going to shock someone this season.

Wildcats' backfield growing up fast: Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon tossed three touchdowns on 22-of-26 passing with one pick in the Wildcats' 35-28 win over Nevada. True freshman running back Nick Wilson rushed for 171 yards and two scores on 29 carries. Both have quickly developed into A-list playmakers in the Pac-12. And it's hard not to imagine them only getting better with experience. Really intriguing game next week with Cal coming to town.
video

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Without quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA could not win. It didn't matter that Texas was beaten up and beaten down. It didn't matter that Hundley was just one guy. He was The Guy, the face of the Bruins, the biggest reason some touted them in the preseason as national title contenders. Moreover, to put it gently, the depth chart behind him was unpromising.

Backup Jerry Neuheisel? Son of Rick Neuheisel, the guy who was fired before Jim Mora built the Bruins into contenders? The guy who some suspected got a scholarship only because his dad was the head coach? No way.

So when Hundley was surrounded by trainers after going down with an apparent elbow injury in the first quarter against the Longhorns, you could sense impending doom. You could sense the Bruins, who had struggled to beat Virginia and Memphis with Hundley, joining teams such as Ohio State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan State on the slag heap of exposed contenders.

[+] EnlargeJerry Neuheisel
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsBackup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel got a hero's exit after leading No. 12 UCLA to a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Texas.
Texas thought the same thing.

"[Neuheisel and Hundley] are two different quarterbacks," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "One guy is up for the Heisman and the other guy is someone we've never heard of."

Yet there was Neuheisel eyeballing Diggs' cornerbacking counterpart, Duke Thomas, in man coverage against receiver Jordan Payton with three minutes left in the game, sensing his moment had arrived.

"As soon as I saw [Thomas'] eyes, I thought, 'Oh, my God, this might just work,'" Neuheisel said.

The Bruins were down four on Texas' 33-yard line and pretty much hadn't allowed Neuhiesel to throw downfield since he came off the bench, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone expected man coverage and decided Payton might get free with a double move.

In fact, Thomas appeared to bite on Neuheisel's pump fake, and the ball arrived soft and sweet into Payton's hands. Touchdown. After the defense forced a four-and-done, the Bruins hoisted Neuheisel onto their shoulders. They'd won 20-17 without Hundley to improve to 3-0.

"I felt like it was going to be a little bit of a defining moment for us," UCLA coach Jim Mora said of when Hundley went down.

While it might seem to some like an ugly 3-0 for the nation's No. 12 team, it was a dream come true for Neuheisel. Literally. He told his teammates that at halftime. He grew up dreaming of following in his dad's footsteps as the UCLA quarterback, imagining throwing winning touchdowns in his backyard. The general expectation from fans and media, however, was the redshirt sophomore would remain on the bench behind Hundley, holding for field goals and then backing up whoever won the job next year when Hundley was off to the NFL.

Yet a point of emphasis from Mora and the Bruins after their victory was never doubting Neuheisel.

"We all expected it," Payton said.

Said Mora, "His team fricken' loves him. There was never any doubt."

Well, there was and is some doubt. What's next, for one, is a big issue. Hundley's status is questionable, to say the least. Mora would only say Hundley would be evaluated by UCLA team doctors back in Los Angeles. While beating a struggling Texas team with a backup QB is one thing, the Bruins visit Arizona State on Sept. 25 after a bye week. That's an entirely different deal, a critical South Division showdown. Of course, in an unfortunate twist of fate, both teams could be without their starting quarterbacks, as Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado on Saturday.

Neuheisel, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, could square off with Sun Devils backup Mike Bercovici in a game with major Pac-12, and even national, implications. The Bruins, however, were still operating inside the 24-hour rule Saturday, which means their primary concern is enjoying the present, not refocusing on the next foe.

Neuheisel is his father's son. He looks and sounds like Rick Neuheisel, and he's quick with a quip like his dad. When he walked into the postgame interview room, he noted, "Holders don't get this kind of publicity." After the elder Neuheisel led the Bruins to an upset of Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl, he cracked wise during a postgame interview about the Fighting Illini band blasting music behind him.

"I just talked to my dad," Jerry Neuheisel said. "He said, 'You did it. It's kind of a Neuheisel thing.'"

On a day when UCLA's crosstown rival, USC, wilted at Boston College, the Bruins found a way to dig deep, overcome adversity and win. UCLA might not be a beautiful 3-0, but it is 3-0 and that's what matters.

"They never flinched," Mora said. "They never blinked. That's kind of what we are trying to become. And we're getting closer and closer every day."

Mailbag: USC, Mariota, Coug expectations

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
6:00
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Trojan1981 from Office writes: Hey Ted, If USC keeps playing as well as they have ( I know there have only been two games) Where do you see them at the end of the season?

Ted Miller: Trojan1981! Where the heck have you been! Didn't someone tell you the good times are back?

Compared to most top-10 teams, it's more difficult to project USC forward. With fewer than 60 healthy players on scholarship, a fairly typical slate of injuries to starters over the next few weeks could derail the Trojans. It's not just about losing quality players, it's also a winnowing of rotations. When the Trojans line up against all the up-tempo teams in the Pac-12, you might start to see some struggles in the second half of games as fatigue becomes a factor. USC's own up-tempo offense won't help that, by the way.

I know USC won last year with a slim depth chart -- just 13 players seeing action on defense, for example -- but if you're talking about Pac-12 championships, that's the primary concern.

Call that my caveat in advance of calling USC now a co-favorite in the Pac-12's South Division, which means the Trojans have a legitimate shot at playing themselves into the College Football Playoff as the Pac-12 champions, though I'm still picking that honor for Oregon.

USC, after winning at Stanford, has one of the most forgiving schedules in the Pac-12, as it doesn't play Oregon or Washington. The Trojans will be favored in their next eight games before they visit UCLA, which still has to play Stanford and Oregon and visit Washington. They get Notre Dame at home to conclude the season.

If USC stays healthy and continues to progress, they've got as good a shot as anyone at going undefeated over the remainder of the regular season. I'm not predicting that. There figures to be at least one bump along the way. But I am typing that there is a chance.


Quackhead from Norfolk, Va., writes: Hypothetically someone other than Mariota puts up monster numbers, will Marcus' 3 years of consistent stats, living up the hype and good character give the nod to him winning the Heisman? Will that factor into the judges' minds or winning it is based purely on stats?

Miller: Stats are a big part of it, but Marcus Mariota's overall résumé will be a factor in many Heisman Trophy voters minds, even though the award is supposed to be purely about this season. It could operate, for example, as a tiebreaker.

Winning, however, is the key. Mariota fronting a 13-0 or 12-1 Oregon team with similar stats to last season will beat out another QB who has slightly better numbers but has lost two or three games. Most voters also will compare schedule difficulty and how Mariota compared to other candidates in big games. Already, Mariota has a shiny line on his résumé: Outstanding performance in win over good Michigan State team.

After dealing with controversial winners three of the past four years, many voters also probably will look kindly upon Mariota's squeaky-clean image.

My gist: Mariota is in great position to win the Heisman, but we've got lots of football ahead.


Peter from Denver writes: The best season in Oregon State football history (2000) started with a close home win against a FCS team then an 8 point win on the road against a bad team from the Mountain west. Then they had a bye week and played San Diego State at home, after that the Beavers played a highly ranked USC team. Let me know if this sounds familiar. Is this a crazy coincidence or could this be a good year for the Beavers?

Miller: Boy, that 2000 Oregon State team was something. Perhaps the most underrated and unknown great team in recent memory, despite a final top-five ranking in both polls.

I've long contended that crew the most talented team in the Pac-10 in 2000, in large part because of the NFL success of its former players -- WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, LB Nick Barnett, DE DeLawrence Grant, etc. A couple of Pac-12 assistant coaches -- QB Jonathan Smith at Washington and DB Keith Heyward at USC -- probably agree.

Are the 2014 Beavers as talented? Probably not. Certainly not at receiver or on either line (at least until stud O-lineman Isaac Seumalo returns to health).

At this point, Peter, you are dabbling in wishful thinking and coincidence.

But if the Beavers win at USC on Sept. 27, well, then maybe you will be carried through the streets of Corvallis and hailed as a genius.

(Read full post)

Pac-12 morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
AM ET
Happy Friday!

Leading off

As we turn the corner on Week 2 and look ahead to this weekend, folks are starting to weigh in with their picks.

The Pac-12 blog posted theirs yesterday. Not a lot of drama. In fact, I don't think the #4Pac disagreed on any games this week. We all like the Pac-12 teams playing nonconference games to win.

We're not the only ones. Here are some thoughts from Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel of Fox, who both pick the Los Angeles teams to pull off wins.

Feldman on UCLA:
The Bruins struggled in their first two games a lot more than most expected. Their O-line has been terrible, giving up more negative yardage plays than anyone in the country, but they are getting a little healthier and despite this one being played in Texas, UT is just way too undermanned on offense to knock off a Bruins team with a bunch of studs in its front seven.

Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman Review also lays out his picks for each Pac-12 game this week. (And he makes a few funnies along the way).

Friday leftovers

Part of the fun of this space is that I can put in whatever I want. I had some leftover quotes from the three coaches whose teams are on bye this week, and all three had a different take on the timing of the bye. Thought you'd like it, so I'm sharing.

Kyle Whittingham: "I would just assume play 12 straight every year." (So very Whittingham).

Sonny Dykes: "We had a pretty physical fall camp that grinded on our guys pretty good. I think we're all a little worn out physically and mentally as well ... football is a lot about momentum and getting in a routine and you hate to mess with those things. But you hope your players are mature enough to be able to handle it and stay focused and remember what's made them successful. It's probably not the perfect time, but at the same time it's probably needed."

Mike Riley: "I'm going to take advantage of it. One thing about going to Hawaii in the middle of the year, and I know people in that league have to do it all the time, that was an 11-hour trip for us. ... I'm glad we aren't playing. I gave the players [one] day off, we're going to get three games in. Because of that game and that location, I'm glad we have a bye.

It also gives Riley &Co. time to get out on the recruiting trail:

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Utah fans have to wait a week. Maybe this will hold them over.


Huskies mixing it up in the uni dept.

The question for Arizona State coach Todd Graham focused on his defense. This was not a new topic. The Sun Devils are pretty much completely rebuilding their defense after losing nine starters from the 2013 Pac-12 South Division champions, and it obviously had experienced some ups and downs against second-rate competition through two games.

"We’ve just got to eliminate the mental errors and the breakdowns," Graham said. "These guys are fast and we’re gaining depth on the inside on the defensive line. We have seven or eight guys we feel good about playing. Five corners we feel good about playing. We’re getting there."

Then, after a pause, Graham added his own footnote, one that probably anticipated what his listeners were thinking while he talked about his questionable defense.

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTodd Graham and ASU's explosive offense will face a Colorado defense that yielded an average of 34.5 points and 5.7 yards per play against Colorado State and UMass.
"Our offense has helped a lot, too," he said. "That helps a lot. Our offense is going to score a bunch of points."

The best defense, in ASU's case, at least in the early going, is going to be a good offense.

If you're looking for a reason why the No. 16 Sun Devils probably feel pretty comfortable about their trip to Colorado on Saturday, it's their offense. Though averaging 51.5 points per game against Weber State and New Mexico isn't exactly going to make the front page of the New York Times, it seems notable when that offense is facing a Buffaloes defense that yielded an average of 34.5 points and 5.7 yards per play against Colorado State and UMass. Against that weak schedule, those two numbers still rank last in the Pac-12.

The Buffs are young on defense and it has showed thus far, so there is no question where ASU holds a decided edge. Though second-year coach Mike MacIntyre said nice things about the Sun Devils' defense -- "I see a lot of athletes. I see a lot of players who can make plays," he said -- it's pretty obvious what is keeping him up at night this week. Asked about which player most concerns him on the Sun Devils' offense, he didn't feel a need to be specific.

"Shoot, all 11," MacIntyre said. "Their line is good, their running backs are good, their quarterback is excellent. Their receivers are big and their tight ends are good. Their offense is one of the most talented in the Pac-12, no doubt about it."

That is the issue for the Buffs as they struggle to find a way up in the South Division pecking order. They have struggled on both sides of the ball so far, and they probably need the Sun Devils' offense to devolve into a flurry of turnovers and miscues to have any chance Saturday. With running back D.J. Foster running well and receiver Jaelen Strong surrounded by a better supporting cast than last season and a physical, athletic offensive line, veteran quarterback Taylor Kelly probably feels like a lottery winner strutting down Rodeo Drive.

The Buffs are starting freshmen at both defensive ends, which is probably intriguing for Foster. That also probably means they will have to blitz to pressure Kelly, and that is dangerous because Kelly's back-shoulder fade to Strong versus man coverage is one of the most difficult plays to defend in the conference.

Still, this should be the stoutest test for the Sun Devils thus far. It is, after all, the conference opener for both. If they pass, then they can earnestly eyeball the critical Sept. 25 visit from UCLA. Both teams have a bye with which to give their preparations extra mustard.

SPONSORED HEADLINES