Pac-12: Bill Gates
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To the notes!
Fred from Portland writes: Your comments, re Barlkley, tho probably true, are disapointing. Theoretically, at least, the purpose of college is to gain an education. Your article implies that a good college athelete should go pro at the earliest possible opportunity. In truth, I can't argue with that, but it does imply that the concept of a student athlete, at least in terms of Football and Basketball, is a complete farce. I have long believed that "one and done" has seriously damaged College BB, and now, rather than trying to soften that, you are extending the concept to FB. I believe that athletes who accept college scholarships should be required to stay for 3 years. Incidentally, I believe that Barkley is a superlative qb and in time, his decision to stay, will become merely a footnote.
Ted Miller: Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Paul Allen entered the High Tech draft before their college eligibility was over?
Fred, let's say you are still in college. And a theater major.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone: Fred, we have a new Broadway musical, "Springtime for Cartman." We want you to star, but we need you now. We'll pay you $1 million and you can live at The Carlyle on us.
Fred: Sorry guys, I can't. I have Spanish in at 8 a.m. tomorrow and my fraternity formal is next weekend.
College is cool. For many, it's the best. It's a first taste of freedom without being free in the worrisome, "I've to pay my bills" sort of way. There's also a potential payoff if you care about your brain and being able to carry on an intelligent conversation at cocktail parties ("The 400 Blows? Oh, you mean, "Les quatre cents coups." Yes, it's wonderful, but my favorite Truffaut film is 'Jules et Jim.'").
It's a good time to learn stuff from smart people that you may or may not use in the real world. The social part of college can be pretty tasty, too.
But the less romantic side of college is career preparation. Most people want a degree because it will lead to a better career. Many athletes go to college to major in football or basketball. The majority of them will realize pretty early on that they need a fall-back plan that will be bolstered by a college diploma.
Let's not forget that the number of football and basketball players that leave early is fairly small. For football, where athletes are required to stay in school three years, a record 73 players entered the 2013 draft early. But that's out of more than 10,000 guys playing FBS college football.
Further, this year's draft had more cautionary tales than Barkley. Only 50 of those early-entries were drafted, leaving 23 probably wishing they had a Spanish class in the morning.
We are only talking about a small handful of NFL prospects leaving their books behind. And they will have ample opportunities to go back and finish their degrees.
My general position on this is pretty simple: If you can join the 1 percent before you turn 25, you should make your move.
And that's whether you play football, write computer code or act.
Daniel from Bend, Ore., writes: Why does it seem like there is such little national talk about Marcus Mariota? His numbers are comparable to Johnny Manziel, while Mariota was pulled from many games at the halftime. Is the quick scoring success of Oregon hurting his chances of being in the national spotlight?
Ted Miller: What do you want? A May Day parade? A graphic novel that will be turned into a blockbuster movie before the season begins?
(There is a rumor than Mariota will play himself in the next "Avengers" movie).
Should we make Monday a special day for our nation to pause and talk about Mariota in order to assuage Daniel's concerns?
Have you seen any list of top 2013 Heisman Trophy candidates that doesn't include Mariota?
He's No. 5 on this one. No. 7 on this one. He's among five listed here. He made the Heisman Pundit's list. Here's another.
The reason Manziel is getting so much hype is... he won the Heisman last year.
Yes, it does hurt Mariota that he wasn't needed to be statistically impressive in very many fourth quarters last year. And, no, Mariota's numbers were't comparable to Manziel's. Manziel led the nation with 393.5 yards of offense per game. Mariota was 43rd with 263.8.
As for his chances, I'd rate them pretty darn good. If Mariota even incrementally improves his 2012 numbers and the Ducks are national title contenders, he at least will be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Jimbo from Seattle writes: Very surprised no shout out to Bob Condotta leaving Husky Beat at the Seattle Times after over 15 years covering the Dawgs!
Ted Miller: Jimbo isn't following the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.
Bob has long been among the very best college football beat writers in the nation. So now he'll shortly become one of the best NFL beat writers in the nation.
But I'm pouting. His blog made it very easy to find a Huskies link for the Pac-12 blog, even during those dark days of June.
Sam from Nashville writes: Please note that "evaluative" is NOT an English word. The proper word to use is "Evaluation"
Ted Miller: Please note that you are wrong.
Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last season's versions here.
We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).
Up next: Washington
It wasn't an impressive 2-0 start, but the hope among Huskies fans was that Washington had kept a lot of scheme under wraps during wins over Eastern Washington and Hawaii. Most believe the Huskies will need to open up a bag of tricks to put on a respectable show against a motivated Nebraska team in Lincoln.
"I'm not taking anything away from Washington," Cornhuskers All-American defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "They beat us in the Holiday Bowl. But we weren't there emotionally. That's out fault, though. We'll be 100 percent focused when in Memorial Stadium. We expect to make a statement."
On the Huskies first play of the game, they try a flea flicker. Keith Price just misses the a wide-open Jermaine Kearse, who'd slipped behind the Cornhuskers coverage.
On second down, Chris Polk rushes for four yards. On third down, Polk rushes for six yards. On first down, Polk rushes for six yards. On second down, Polk rushes for six yards. On first down, Polk rushes for eight yards. On second down, he rushes for two yards. On first down, he rushes for one yard. On second down, he rushes for 16 yards. On first down, he rushes for four yards. On second down, he rushes for four yards. On third down, he rushes for four yards.
On first down, Polk rushes ... no, it's play action: 19-yard touchdown strike from Price to true freshman Kasen Williams.
"That was a physically dominant showing that I don't think many saw coming," ESPN GameDay's Chris Fowler says of the Huskies 28-10 victory. "Polk rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Price taking advantage with a couple of touchdown passes. And a bruising defensive showing on the road for a Pac-12 team."
"Did Alameda Ta'amu really eat Taylor Martinez?" Kirk Herbstreit replies. "I know that start out as just a silly rumor, but I'm hearing no one has seen Martinez since that third-quarter sack."
Martinez is later found safe in an airport bathroom in Lincoln.
The Huskies nip California 24-21 and rise to No. 12 in the rankings. But Price turns in his first poor performance at Utah in a 21-17 defeat, despite 140 yards and a touchdown from Polk. The Huskies bounce back with a home win over Colorado. Up next, a visit to No. 3 Stanford.
"Obviously, Andrew Luck is the leading Heisman Trophy candidate," says Fowler. "But what if Polk puts up a big number in a Huskies victory?"
Polk strikes an early blow, with first-half touchdown runs of seven and 28 yards, and the Huskies lead 14-10 at the break. Luck answers with two touchdowns in the third -- one running and one throwing -- and the score is knotted 24-24 with two minutes left in the game.
On a third-and-five from the Huskies 28, Luck scrambles away from pressure and finds tight end Coby Fleener wide-open in the endzone for a 31-24 lead. The Huskies have 40 seconds and one time out.
On third and 5 from the Washington 40, Price finds Polk on a hot route. Polk breaks a tackle and breaks away, sprinting all the way to the Stanford 17. Price lines up and spikes the ball.
There are eight seconds left. Price evades pressure, then shovels it again to Polk.
"Polk across the 10, to the five, breaks a tackle... dives... tttt... nooo," says Huskies play-by-play man Bob Rondeau. "He's ruled down inside the 1-yard line. Wow. The clock has expired. Unless the officials rule Polk got in, the game is over and Stanford wins."
"Chris Polk is the best player in college football," Luck says.
The Huskies take out their frustrations in a 35-20 win over Arizona, sacking Nick Foles five times. Up next, No. 1 Oregon.
"Yeah, I'm aware Oregon has won seven in a row against us, all by at least 20 points," Polk tells reporters. "I know this because Coach Sark has that factoid typed up and taped in all of our lockers."
Headline in the Eugene Register-Guard: "Will the Ducks overlook the Huskies?"
"We don't overlook anybody," Ducks coach Chip Kelly says. "We play a faceless opponent every week. Every game is a Super Bowl for us. We are not concerned with any outside influences. We have a vision for what this football program is supposed to be about and we prepare against that vision. We compete against that vision every Saturday and that's how we measure ourselves. Win the day."
Coach Steve Sarkisian gathers his team in the locker room. Above, Husky Stadium is throbbing.
"I don't need to tell you guys to play your hardest. I know you're going to do that. I don't need to tell you about this rivalry, or what that team over there has done against the Huskies for the past seven years. Sure you all know that. That's not what this is about. That's not why we're about to shock the nation. This is about us. What I want from you guys is to live in the moment tonight. I want you soak up every bit of joy from every moment of this game tonight. And I want you to take it from them. We have the players. We have the plan. We have prepared perfectly. It's going to be a lot of fun celebrating this victory, but our celebration won't be nearly as fun what will happen between the white lines, as we take this game from them, one play at a time. Go out there and take it, one play at time."
Oregon leads 28-24 with nine minutes left. A Jackson Rice punt rolls out of bounds on the Huskies 1-yard line.
On first down, Polk rushes for three yards. On second down, Polk rushes for eight yards. On first down, Polk rushes for four yards...
"Wow, this is tough to watch," Oregon play-by-play man Jerry Allen says. "16 plays, all Chris Polk runs. He's over 200 yards for the day, and the Huskies have first down on the Ducks 8-yard line with 40 seconds left."
Polk rushes for three yards. Polk rushes for two yards. Polk rushes for 2 yards. Polk scores the winning touchdown as time expires.
"Wow, Chris Polk just ripped the hearts out of Oregon fans everywhere!" says Allen.
The Huskies suffer a classic letdown the following weekend at USC, but roll over Oregon State and Washington State to finish the regular season 9-3 and earn a berth in the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State.
Polk finishes second to Luck in the Heisman vote, and wins the Doak Walker Award. The Huskies bury the Cowboys 38-20 and earn a final No. 10 ranking, their first top-25 ranking since 2001.
Oregon is blown out in the national title game by Alabama. Kelly bolts for the Oakland Raiders. The Ducks hire Joe Avezzano to replace him.
Polk opts to return for his senior season. Washington signs the nation's No. 5 recruiting class.
"Gee, I really like this team," says Bill Gates. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Maybe," replies athletic director Scott Woodward.
And in the rubber match, Nebraska was plenty motivated.
The Cornhuskers humble Washington 41-10, making Price's day a miserable one with five sacks. It doesn't help that Polk's status remains unclear after arthroscopic knee surgery during preseason camp.
"Things aren't going as fast as we would like," coach Steve Sarkisian says. "He could sure help us but we're not going to rush him back."
The Huskies fall at home to California 21-17, again without Polk, and drop to 2-2 on the year. They lose at Utah in overtime but, with Polk back in the lineup, beat Colorado 27-24.
Things get ugly -- again -- at Stanford, which blasts the Huskies 42-17. The Huskies even their record at 4-4 with a win over Arizona. Up next: No. 1 Oregon.
"Did Chip Kelly run up the score?" a reporter asks after the Ducks whip the Huskies 55-14 in Husky Stadium, their eighth victory in a row in the series, each by at least 20 points.
Sarkisian pauses, "Well, it's our job to stop them. And I guess he thought getting LaMichael James rushing for 300 yards would help his Heisman Trophy chances."
With Polk limited to just 10 carries, USC whips Washington 33-20, intercepting Price three times. Polk sits out, and the Huskies bow out at Oregon State, 28-17.
"No, beating Washington State won't make up for a tough season for us," Sarkisian said. "But there's always a lot to play for in rivalry games. And they're trying to get bowl eligible, so we can ruin their season."
With five seconds left, Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel takes on knee on the Huskies 5-yard line instead of added to a 35-24 victory. Huskies fans at CenturyLink Field bombard the Cougars with bottles and sundry trash as they leave the field.
"That's not who we are," Cougars coach Paul Wulff said. "We have classy fans. I guess the Huskies fans were frustrated. But we're excited about the postseason. What bowl is Washington going to? Kidding! I'm kidding."
Oregon wins the national championship. Washington State wins the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Joshua Garnett, Zach Banner, Jeff Lindquist and Cedric Dozier sign with Washington State, giving the Cougars their first top-25 class.
"Gee, I really like the Cougars," says Bill Gates. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Maybe," replies athletic director Bill Moos.
So it might be worthwhile to revisit each.
Next up is Washington, which finished 7-6 and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Best case: 10-3, final No. 9 ranking after beating Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
What was right: Not much, and the Jake Locker skeptics surely will want to crow. The Huskies did beat Syracuse, Oregon State and win their final three games. They did lose to Arizona and Stanford. They did win their bowl game over a Big 12 team. And Husky Stadium is being renovated.
What was wrong: Of the Huskies' first five games, only one -- Syracuse -- was projected correctly. The biggest miss, of course, was Locker's "tour de force performance" against Nebraska that inspired ESPN's Chris Fowler to say, "Guess the Locker skeptics will hush now." Er, no. There was no win at Oregon, no Heisman Trophy for Locker nor a final national ranking. And, no, Bill Gates didn't volunteer to fund a Husky Stadium renovation, which has been considerably scaled back from ambitious original models.
Worst case: 3-9.
What was right: Not a lot. An injury to Locker -- ribs -- did hamper him and cause him to miss one game, the blowout loss at Oregon. The Huskies did lose to BYU, Nebraska, Arizona, Stanford and the Ducks. They did beat Syracuse.
What was wrong: For one, the scenario is missing a game: UCLA, which was apparently projected as a win. So score one for stupid. The entire tone is off, considering the projection hangs on the Huskies being a one-man team, relying entirely on Locker. The key to the Huskies' turnaround in 2010 was becoming more than Locker. Losses to USC, Oregon State, California and Washington State were wrong. A win over Arizona State was wrong. The Huskies ended up winning a bowl game, which capped a four-game winning streak to end the season.
Conclusion: Is it just me or are both these scenarios just flat wrong? No, it's not just me. It's fair to say that the Huskies' moderately successful season -- first bowl game since 2002; first bowl win since 2000 -- played out in a way that surprised many, including me. The reality fell somewhere in the middle, and in an unanticipated way.
Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction.
Up next: Washington
Certainly Washington quarterback Jake Locker answers the bell at BYU after a summer of coast-to-coast publicity that perhaps pushed to the precipice of proper decorum, but the more interesting story is the quarterback who found himself contemplating Provo's beautiful Wasatch Mountains from a supine position most of the day.
"All I saw was purple," says BYU's true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, who hails from the Seattle area. "I mean, I know they were in their road white jerseys and everything, but after the sixth or ninth hit, things started to get fairly dark out there for me."
The Huskies ostensibly suspect defense sacks Heaps five times and harasses him throughout the day. Ends Kalani Aldrich and Everette Thompson, who sat out spring practices with worrisome injuries, both take down Heaps twice.
"It was a most illuminating performance," Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt says. "I told the lads to never give in. Never give in! Never; never; never; never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
Reporters are baffled as to why Holt suddenly sounds like Winston Churchill, but then Locker comes out for his interview and distracts them.
After easily dispatching Syracuse, Nebraska pays a visit to an overflowing Husky Stadium. With ESPN's "College GameDay" on campus, it's billed as a showdown between Locker and the Cornhuskers top-ranked defense. What it becomes is an electric moment when all observers witness the realization of extraordinary potential.
In a tour de force performance, Locker completes 26 of 32 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns and rushes for 93 yards and two touchdowns as the Huskies stun No. 7 Nebraska 31-24.
"Well," says ESPN's Chris Fowler afterward. "Guess the Locker skeptics will hush now."
The rejuvenated Husky nation comes back down to earth after a 35-27 loss at USC, but the Huskies bounce back to beat Arizona State and then announce themselves as Pac-10 contenders with a victory over Oregon State.
Still, while Locker is clearly ready for prime time, the Huskies remain a program clawing its way back into the national picture. An overtime loss at Arizona and a home loss to Stanford -- Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck and Locker each account for three TDs apiece in a duel of future NFL first-round picks -- knock the Huskies out of the national rankings. A visit to unbeaten and third-ranked Oregon doesn't look promising. The Ducks last lost to the Huskies in 2003 in the once-heated rivalry.
"Wow," says Rece Davis back in the ESPN studios after Washington rolls over the Ducks 41-17. "If Jake Locker isn't atop your Heisman Trophy contender list, I don't know what you're thinking. Who would have thought that Autzen Stadium would provide him such an accommodating stage to record a signature performance."
That victory becomes the first of a four-game winning streak, as Washington completes its return to national prominence.
Locker becomes the 76th Heisman Trophy winner and the first from Washington. A 31-24 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl earns the Huskies a 10-3 finish and a final No. 9 ranking.
The school announces that Bill Gates has agreed to fund a $450 million renovation of Husky Stadium.
"He told me he now wants to be to Washington what Phil Knight is to Oregon," Huskies athletic director Scott Woodward tells reporters. "Only he's got a lot more money than Phil Knight."
There are ankle sprains and there are "high" ankle sprains and then there are catastrophic ankle sprains.
The latter is what Locker suffers while diving into the end zone in the third quarter at BYU. The Cougars and Heaps come back from a 10-point deficit to earn the win.
"We hope Jake will be back soon," says coach Steve Sarkisian, "but he obviously has a future in this game, and we're not going to rush him."
With redshirt freshman Keith Price replacing Locker, the Washington offense does just enough to beat Syracuse, but gets dominated by Nebraska and USC. A 14-10 win over Arizona State provides some hope, particularly when rumors spread that Locker will be ready for Oregon State's visit the following weekend. But Locker aggravates his ankle while doing some light running, and the Huskies lose their next four, including a 51-10 loss at unbeaten Oregon.
"Embarrassing," says linebacker Mason Foster.
It's announced that Locker is done for the season.
The Huskies miss a late field goal and lose 21-20 at California, and they limp into the Apple Cup hoping to salvage some pride during a lost season. In Pullman, it's zero degrees and there's three feet of snow on the ground when the Huskies walk out for the opening kickoff.
Neither team can score a TD, and Washington leads 9-3 late. But an errant shotgun snap in the fourth quarter gets by Price and is recovered at the 1-yard line by Cougars defensive end Travis Long. On fourth down, Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel runs a naked boot and runs into Foster. The ball gets away. It rolls into the end zone. The Cougars recover for a touchdown, and the PAT gives them a 10-9 lead with two minutes left.
Price drives the Huskies to the WSU 10-yard line. But the snap for the potential game-winning field goal goes over the holder's head.
Cougars win. They finish 5-7. Washington is 3-9.
"We're heard a lot during the summer about Washington being back in the Pac-10 hunt," Long says afterward. "Well, they took our place in the cellar and we've got everyone coming back next year. So you tell me which program is on the rise?"
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Second in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.
Up next: Washington
No one could recall a losing effort receiving a standing ovation at Husky Stadium, but that's exactly what happened just moments after Washington quarterback Jake Locker's fourth-down toss into the end zone was knocked away by LSU safety Chad Jones.
"If that's a team coming off an 0-12 season," Tigers coach Les Miles said. "Well ... I'm impressed. That Locker is a heck of a player."
Locker, in his debut running a pro-style offense, completed 21 of 28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns in the Huskies' 24-20 defeat.
The Huskies' 15-game losing streak then ended with an exclamation point a week later after a 48-10 win over Idaho. The Huskies' defense can't handle USC's dominating offensive line the following weekend in a 40-21 loss, but an upset victory at Stanford gives the program its first conference win since 2007.
Washington, brimming with new-found confidence, then blows a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at Notre Dame. "This team is still learning to win," first-year coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Lesson learned during an upset win over Arizona. And forgotten after a poor effort at Arizona State.
Still, 72,000-plus packed Husky Stadium when No. 12 Oregon came to Seattle the following weekend. The Ducks had pounded the Huskies of late in what formerly was the Pac-10's most bitter rivalry, winning five in a row by a decisive margin.
But the Ducks, coming off a bye week, start slowly, allowing the crowd to whip itself into a froth. That froth bubbles over when Erik Folk boots a 54-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining, giving the Huskies a 38-37 victory.
On his way down to the field afterwards, a Pac-10 blogger breaks his tailbone when the concrete stadium steps crumble beneath him. Loyal blog readers Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Jeff Bezos express mutual chagrin in a statement and offer $350 million for a stadium renovation.
The Huskies then split a pair of road games, beating the UCLA Rick Neuheisels but losing at Oregon State.
A 45-35 triumph in the Apple Cup gives the Huskies a sixth victory, earning them bowl eligibility. A blowout loss to No. 2 California and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Jahvid Best is softened by an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl, where the Huskies beat Utah 31-24, completing one of the biggest turnarounds in FBS history.
The Steve Sarkisian Era begins with a thud when LSU pummels physically overmatched Washington, 38-10. Locker rushes for 88 yards, but he only completes 10 of 24 passes with two interceptions. He doesn't seem comfortable managing the Huskies' new pro-style offense.
The Huskies end their 15-game losing streak with a win over hapless Idaho the following weekend, but they promptly begin another streak with four consecutive defeats to USC, Stanford, Notre Dame and Arizona.
An upset win at Arizona State insures the Huskies won't go winless in the conference, but a blowout defeat at home to Oregon and road losses at UCLA and Oregon State leave Washington reeling.
Still, an Apple Cup win over Washington State would mean the Huskies avoided finishing last in the conference for a third consecutive season.
But five turnovers doom the Huskies, who lose their fifth Apple Cup in the past six seasons.
The season mercifully ends with a blowout loss to California in front of just 50,000 fans at Husky Stadium. Two wins are much better than zero, but it falls well short of the expectations of a frustrated fan base.
And quarterback Nick Montana decommits.