Pac-12: Chris Harper

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Previewing the 2014 season for the California Golden Bears:

2013 record: 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12.

Final grade for 2013: F. You don’t beat an FBS team, you don’t pass. It’s as simple as that.

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesJared Goff passed for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Key returnees: QB Jared Goff, WR Bryce Treggs, WR Chris Harper

Key losses: OLB Khairi Fortt, TE Richard Rodgers, DT Viliami Moala

Instant impact newcomers: WR Trevor Davis, RB Tre Watson, WR Erik Brown

Projected winning percentage (ESPN.com Stats & Information): .313

Chances to win the conference (ESPN.com Stats & Information): 0.0 percent.

Most important game: vs. Colorado, Sept. 27

Biggest question mark: Can they stop anyone? Defensively, Cal was historically bad in 2013 and unless that’s rectified, it won’t matter how potent the offense might be.

Best-case scenario: 4-8

Worst-case scenario: 0-12

Over/under win total (Bovada): 2.5

Upset special: Northwestern. Cal came within a few tipped passes of beating Northwestern last season and we have to allow for the possibility the Bears made the most of the offseason and start the season on the right foot.

They said it: "You know, in our profession, you are kind of what your record says you are. So you go from being pretty smart to being pretty dumb overnight, and it's a tough thing to live with.” — coach Sonny Dykes
Seven Pac-12 players were named to the 2014 Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List.

The Biletnikoff Award annually recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football. Any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.

Here are the Pac-12 players on the list.

California spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
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A recap of what we learned about Cal as it heads into its second season under coach Sonny Dykes.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Staying healthy. Without question the biggest contributing factor in Cal’s 2013 disaster was the relentless rash of injuries that left an already young team without a puncher’s chance. This was such a problem that just the fact that Cal survived spring practice without any significant injuries was arguably its most important accomplishment.

2. Depth at receiver. Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler figure to make a dangerous trio of receivers for the Golden Bears, but there is depth in the receiving corps beyond them. Trevor Davis, a transfer from Hawaii, is expected to make an immediate impact on the outside, along with Maurice Harris. Treggs spent the spring learning the inside position and will present a more versatile option this season.

3. Jared Goff ready to take next step. With no one to seriously challenge Goff for playing time -- Zach Kline is headed to Butte College -- he has settled into more of a leadership role. The rising sophomore has all the talent to eventually be among the conference’s best quarterbacks, but that could be dependent on the offensive line and running game.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Can they run the ball? Getting an accurate gauge of how improved the run game is won’t be an easy task until the season begins. Khalfani Muhammad, the team’s leading rusher from a season ago (74 carries, 445 yards), split his time between football and track during spring and will see competition from a pair of incoming freshmen -- Tre Watson and Vic Enwere.

2. Will the Bears stay healthy? If they don’t, there won’t be much reason for optimism. Cal isn’t in a place where it will have much success in the conference with less than its full compliment of weapons. The Bears have a lot of talented players, but their depth is lacking compared to others in what should be a loaded Pac-12 in 2014.

3. What is considered success? After going 0-for-FBS last season, it’s fair to say a four-win season should be looked at as a considerable improvement. The nonconference schedule includes a trip to Northwestern, home games with BYU and Sacramento State, and they miss Utah and Arizona State during conference play.

One way-too-early prediction:

Goff will finish in the top five in the county in passing yards. He has the receivers, is in the right system and has the talent. If this happens, there’s still the potential he finishes No. 3 in the conference behind Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and Washington State’s Connor Halliday, who finished No. 2 and No. 3 in the country last season.
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Headed into his second season at Cal, there's still a lot coach Sonny Dykes needs to learn about his team. Seemingly left with more questions than answers at the end of Year 1, it was clear the spring would be a fact-finding mission as much as anything.

Except at receiver.

There has been some minor tweaking going on during the first two-thirds of spring practice, but it's clear that the coaching staff is confident in the receivers -- perhaps more than any other group on the team.

[+] EnlargeChris Harper
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsChris Harper had 70 catches for 852 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.
'There's some [Pac-12 teams that] probably return, maybe more productive guys than we did, but we've got a lot of guys who can play," Dykes said. "I think our depth has got to be probably as good as anybody's in terms of guys who have played and guys who are starting to to come into their own."

It starts with the duo of Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs, who combined for 147 catches for 1,603 yards a year ago, but Kenny Lawler also was productive (37 catches, 347 yards, 5 TD) -- especially late in the season -- and several others are fighting for playing time.

Assistant head coach Rob Likens, who is responsible for the outside receivers, doesn't hesitate to call the receivers the team's strongest unit -- and that he tells them that every day.

"They have to put it on their shoulders," Likens said of the group's importance to the team. "Experience breeds confidence, and that’s the thing we were lacking last year.

"Obviously, when you’re running a new offense, that first year they don’t know what to expect in a game, how its all going to work out. So we’ve gone through that process already, so they know coming into the spring how [the rest of the conference] is going to play."

The most notable change has been Treggs' move from outside to inside receiver. The move was done as part of an effort to get him the ball more often and engineer more matchups against safeties and linebackers. Making the same position change is 6-foot-6 Drake Whitehurst, who provides the closest look to what the Bears had from Richard Rodgers a year ago.

On the right side, Stephen Anderson and Darius Powe are battling at the inside spot, but Likens said both struggled with too many drops last fall. With Treggs inside, the left outside receiver spot is a competition between Hawaii transfer Trevor Davis and junior Maurice Harris. They are splitting time with the first team.

With such a talented group of receivers and a promising young quarterback in Jared Goff, Cal certainly has the potential to evolve into a dangerous Pac-12 offense, but other deficiencies need to get cleaned up. Namely the running game.

"And we know that. We stressed that this spring," Likens said. "[Last year,] we got into games and we realized that everybody realized that we couldn’t run the ball, so it is a lot of pressure on some very young skill guys."

Likens said Cal will "rely heavily on" a pair of incoming freshman running backs, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere.

Cal will plays its spring game on April 26, at which point the coaching staff will turn the responsibility over to the players to get better. Most, if not all, are expected to be around for a majority of the summer.

"In this offense, that’s crucial," Likens said. "If you don’t do that, you don’t have a chance."

It's an expectation Lawler said the players have bought into, and only partially because of the 1-11 season.

Lawler doesn't believe the lack of success had anything to do with last offseason's effort -- "We actually worked out really hard," he said -- but admitted he's willing to work harder and give more things up this time around.
You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division.

We looked at the South Division offensive three-headed monsters on Monday. On Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the North Division offense.

Only Cal and Washington State return their three-headed leaders from last season. The other four teams have all had a change of some kind. And there are some big question marks surrounding a couple of schools -- especially the one in Seattle.

Let’s take a look:

1. Oregon

QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall, WR, Bralon Addison

The skinny: Heisman candidate + rising star + explosive playmaker = nasty. Though losing Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas, the Oregon offense should be explosive once again. Mariota led the nation in adjusted QBR last season to go with 31 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions. Marshall is a returning 1,000-yard rusher with 14 touchdowns last season, and Addison hauled in nine scores.

2. Stanford

QB Kevin Hogan, RB ?, WR Ty Montgomery

The skinny: The Cardinal get the No. 2 spot here based on experience at quarterback and the fact Montgomery is returning after a second-team all-league year. And whoever the “regular” running back is, be it Kelsey Young (the leading returner in yards), Ricky Seale, Barry Sanders or Remound Wright, he will be running behind a stellar offensive line. Worth noting that Hogan and Montgomery had more rushing yards last year than any of the listed running backs. But Stanford's success running the football leads the Pac-12 blog to give it the benefit of the doubt.

3. Oregon State

QB Sean Mannion, RB Terron Ward, WR Richard Mullaney

The skinny: Though the Beavers lose Brandin Cooks, Mannion has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country after throwing 37 touchdowns last year. Storm Woods had more carries and touchdowns, but Ward had more yards, so they’ll likely work in unison, again. Mullaney had 52 catches last season.

4. Washington State

QB Connor Halliday, RB Marcus Mason, WR Gabe Marks

The skinny: WSU gets the edge in the rankings over Washington (for now) because there are still a lot of question marks around the Huskies. Halliday tossed 34 touchdowns last year and threw for nearly 4,600 yards. Marks has blossomed into a bona fide playmaker and should be in the mix for all-conference honors. The Cougars don’t do much in the way of running the football. But when they did last year, Mason totaled 429 yards on 87 carries.

5. Washington

QB?, RB Jesse Callier, WR, Jaydon Mickens

The skinny: Washington is one of those programs that could end up in one of the top two spots by the end of the season. But for now, there is too much unknown. The status of QB Cyler Miles is still up in the air. Callier has the most returning attempts (one more than Dwayne Washington and five more than Deontae Cooper) and the Huskies expect Kasen Williams back by the fall at receiver. Mickens caught 65 balls and five touchdowns last year and the aforementioned RB trio combined for 10 touchdowns.

6. California

QB Jared Goff, RB Khalfani Muhammad, WR Bryce Treggs

The skinny: There is a lot of potential in this group. The Bears just need that potential to translate into points on the field. Goff threw for 3,508 yards in his debut season, and Treggs caught 77 of his passes. Though just one for a touchdown (Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler each caught five). Though the departed Brendan Bigelow had more carries, Muhammad outperformed him with more yards and touchdowns.
Spring is about rebirth and renewal, but for members of the California football program, it's going to include more dissecting of an ugly corpse than the Bears would like. The players and coaches are going to be asked about the 2013 season over and over again by reporters and fans. The redundant interview process will start off as painful, become boring and then transform into an annoyance.

Fortunately, the Pac-12 blog was Cal quarterback Jared Goff's first interview in advance of spring practices, which start March 31.

"I'm not too worried about [the questions]," Goff said. "Obviously, I don't want to answer them but I'm going to have to. It's something we did. Cal football did that last year. We're moving on from that, but it's something we did, and we're going to have to use it as motivation. We're going to get a lot better from it."

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillJared Goff and Cal are focused on putting last season's struggles behind them.
What Cal "did" last year was stink up the joint. The Bears finished 1-11 and produced their worst defense in program history. It was further deflating that the woeful campaign sapped fan enthusiasm that surrounded the hiring of Sonny Dykes, as well as curtailed the positive momentum produced by the program's shiny renovated stadium and upgraded facilities.

While the defense inspired the most forehead slapping last fall -- and cost coordinator Andy Buh and two other defensive coaches their jobs -- the offense, Dykes' specialty, wasn't exactly collecting accolades either. While Goff piled up passing numbers, ranking third in the Pac-12 with 331.4 yards per game, little else went well.

The Bears ranked last in the Pac-12 and 97th in the nation with just 23 points per game. While the total yardage numbers looked solid -- 453.6 yards per game -- they were deceiving. The Bears ranked last in the Pac-12 and 98th in the nation in yards per play (5.2 ypp). The Bears were last in the conference third-down conversion percentage and last in redzone offense.

Goff himself ranked 11th in the conference in passing efficiency and last in the conference in ESPN.com's Total Quarterback Rating.

Of course, completing 60 percent of your passes for 3,508 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions doesn't look as bad when you recall Goff was a true freshman playing behind a makeshift offensive line that offered up five different starting lineups over the course of the season.

Goff called the lost 2013 campaign "extremely disappointing." While it seemed that Cal, at least competitive early in the season, lost its confidence and motivation as the season went on, Goff said his confidence never flagged, and he approached every game believing the Bears were just a few plays from breaking through.

"I wouldn't say worn down," he said. "Obviously, we were tired of losing. We wanted to start winning. But as the season went on we never got over the hump, never broke through and made that play that could change the outcome of the game."

Let's also not forget the Bears suffered through epidemic injuries on both sides of the ball, the impact being compounded by many of those sidelined guys being the team's best players.

Citing injuries can be called an excuse. But, well, come on. Cal had 13 projected starters miss multiple games or suffer season-ending injuries, most falling into the latter category. The starting lineup for the season-finale against Stanford featured nine freshmen, seven sophomores and just two seniors.

Yes, it's an excuse, but it's a pretty good one.

"I tend to forget about that because you don't like to make that an excuse but that's a good point," Goff said." We had the worst luck. I hate to make that excuse but that just happens some times where the wrong guys get injured."

From a cynical perspective -- who us? -- Cal is almost certain to be better in 2014 because it can't be much worse. But from a not unreasonable optimistic perspective, Cal is almost certain to be better because it's got potential, despite several unexpected offseason defections to early-entry in the NFL draft or transfer.

For one, Goff is a second-year starter. He knows the speed of the game and has a year of seasoning with Dykes' scheme. Further, he has a strong and deep crew of receivers coming back. His top two receivers, Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper, a potentially A-list tandem, return after combining for 147 receptions last fall, and two other returning wideouts caught more than 25 passes in 2013. If Goff gets time to throw, the passing numbers will be there, and they should be attained with more efficiency.

"We're so deep across the board [at receiver]," Goff said. "Everyone is going to be contributing this year. It's ridiculous how deep we are at receiver. I feel we have three good players at every position."

Goff said he's put on "five or 10 pounds" onto his 6-foot-4 frame, though he also said he's tipping the scale at just 200 pounds, five below his listed weight in 2013. He said he feels stronger mentally and physically, both as a player and a leader. What transpired last fall feels like a distant memory.

"It feels like it was so long ago when we were playing," he said. "I watch film of myself, and that feels like years ago."

He said the offseason message from Dykes has been simple: Work hard. Get better. Improve. We have the players who can win.

Finding offseason motivation hasn't been difficult. Just recalling what happened last season is enough. And if anyone has pushed it out of his mind, interviews in advance of and during spring practices will provide regular reminders.

Goff sees a bright side.

"In the long run," he said, "when we do what we want to do, it's going to feel that much better, knowing where we came from."

Top 2013 performances: Chris Harper

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
5:30
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2013.

Up next: Haul-it-in Harper

[+] EnlargeChris Harper
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsIn a loss to Washington State, Chris Harper caught 14 balls for 231 yards and one TD.
Who and against whom: Despite a 44-22 loss to Washington State, California receiver Chris Harper put on one of the top receiving performances in the Pac-12 in 2013.

The numbers: Harper snagged 14 balls for 231 yards and a touchdown.

A closer look: Granted, it wasn’t that great of a season for Cal. In fact, it was a rough year all around. But that shouldn’t overshadow some great individual performances. And Harper’s performance against Washington State certainly qualifies. His lone touchdown reception went for 89 yards, which was the second-longest touchdown reception in school history (Zach Maynard and Keenan Allen hooked up for a 90-yarder in 2011) and the longest in the Pac-12 in 2013. Harper became the fifth player in Cal history to bank a 200-yard receiving game, and his 14 catches and 231 yards were personal bests. Both the yards and receptions rank third in single-game Cal history. The Cougars led wire-to-wire and jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but Cal battled back and Harper’s 89-yard score brought the Bears to within 14-12. Harper beat the defender down the sideline, tiptoed to stay in bounds, then juked another WSU player on his way to the end zone. The 14 catches matched the season high in the Pac-12 in 2013 (Brandin Cooks also had 14 against San Diego State) and his 231 receiving yards were the second highest in the conference last season (Cooks had 232 yards, ironically against Cal). Harper's day will rank as one of the best receiving performances in Cal history, and he provided plenty of highlights in a season that didn’t have many.

Highs & lows in Pac-12 statistics

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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There were many remarkable performances in the Pac-12 this year. And some remarkably bad ones. Of course, one team rolling is another team getting rolled.

Here are some high & low lights of the 2013 season (conference games only).

And some of these are intriguing because they say the opposite thing.

Such as …

Worst rushing performance: Washington rushed for negative-5 yards at Arizona State on Oct. 19 in a 53-24 defeat.

Best rushing performance: Washington rushed for 530 yards at Oregon State in a 69-27 win on Nov. 23.

Best yards per rush: Washington averaged 9.1 yards per carry at Oregon State.

Most points: Washington at Oregon State.

Most rushing TDs: The Huskies at seven rushing touchdowns at … well, you get the picture.

[+] EnlargeOregon Ducks
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesThe Oregon Ducks had plenty to celebrate when they piled up 755 yards against Colorado on Oct. 5.
Most yards: Oregon gained 755 yards at Colorado on Oct. 5.

Most yards per play: USC averaged 9.8 yards per play at California on Nov. 9.

Longest run: USC running back Javorius Allen had a 79-yard touchdown run at Cal.

Longest pass: Cal QB Jared Goff connected with Chris Harper for an 89-yard TD against Washington State on Oct. 5

Fewest pass completions: Utah completed just six passes against Arizona State in a 20-19 defeat on Nov. 9.

Worst completion percentage: Utes QB Travis Wilson completed 28.6 percent of his throws against the Sun Devils.

Best completion percentage: Arizona's B.J. Denker completed 86.4 percent of his throws -- 19 of 22 -- against Oregon on Nov. 23.

Most interceptions: Wilson threw six interceptions in the Utes 34-27 loss to UCLA on Oct. 3.

Shortest "long" pass in a game: USC's longest completion against Washington State on Sept. 7 went for 8 yards.

Longest field goal: Arizona's Jake Smith (vs. Cal) and Colorado's Will Oliver (vs. Arizona) both made 53-yard boots.

Longest punt: Utah's Tom Hackett posted a 70-yard punt against Arizona State.

Best punt average in a game: Cal's Cole Leiniger averaged 54.2 yards on four punts at Colorado.

Longest punt return: USC's Nelson Agholor returned a punt 93 yards for a TD at Cal. He also had a 75-yard TD on a punt return in that game.

Longest kick return: Stanford's Ty Montgomery went 100 yards for a touchdown at Utah on Oct. 12.

Most fumbles lost: Cal lost four fumbles at Oregon on Oct. 28.

Most sacks allowed: UCLA gave up nine sacks to Arizona State on Nov. 23.

Most sacks by a player in a game: Both Arizona State's Chris Young (vs. UCLA) and Arizona's Sione Tuihalamaka (vs. Arizona State) had three.

Most penalties: UCLA had 13 penalties for 100 yards at Utah.

Most penalty yards: The Bruins had 122 yards in penalties -- on 11 flags -- against Colorado.

Touchdowns in one game: Montgomery had five at California on Nov. 23 (four receiving, one rushing).

Most rushing yards in a game: Washington's Bishop Sankey gained 241 yards against Cal.

Most passing yards in a game: Washington State's Connor Halliday passed for 557 yards at Oregon. (Just don't remind Nick Aliotti).

Most passing touchdowns in a game: Oregon State's Sean Mannion threw six touchdown passes against Colorado.

Most receiving yards in a game: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks had 237 yards receiving at Cal on 13 receptions.

Most receiving TDs in a game: Montgomery had four against Cal.


Season review: California

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
4:00
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We continue our team-by-team review of the Pac-12 with California.

Offense: The first thing that jumps out, by the very nature of Sonny Dykes’ offense, is the passing yards. The Bears, behind true freshman quarterback Jared Goff, were third in the conference with 331.4 passing yards per game and 3,977 total yards in the air. So they were able to move the ball. What stands out next, however, is the scoring offense, which was last in the Pac-12 at 23 points per game. So despite moving the ball, the Bears weren’t able to generate points. And that’s the name of the game. When you look at the pass efficiency numbers, Cal was last in the league. On the year, the Bears scored just 32 touchdowns. They were last in third-down conversions (33.6 percent), last in turnover margin (-15) and last in red zone offense (72.1 percent). Khalfani Muhammad was actually pretty steady on the ground, averaging six yards per carry and 445 net yards to go with four touchdowns, but the running game wasn’t able to do enough to open up the passing game. Brendan Bigelow, who seemed poised for a breakout season, rushed for just 421 yards and four yards per carry. Goff completed 60.3 percent of his throws with 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions while totaling 3,508 yards. And he did break the school’s single-season passing record. Bryce Treggs had 77 catches for 751 yards and Chris Harper hauled in 70 catches for 852 yards. The foundation for an explosive pass offense is in place, but the Bears simply weren't able to put it all together in Year 1. Grade: D-

Defense: The Bears were last in the league in scoring defense, total defense, passing defense and 10th in rushing defense. Oh yeah, last in pass efficiency defense also. It was not a good year. Injuries played a major role with several projected starters -- including Mustafa Jalil, Stefan McClure, Nick Forbes, Brennan Scarlett and Avery Sebastian being lost for the year or missing significant time. This led to a lack of veteran leadership when things started to spiral and youngsters who should have been redshirting were forced into action. They gave up at least 40 points in nine games, yielded 30 points to FCS Portland State (Cal’s only win of the year) and were last nationally in points allowed at 45.9 (there were a few pick-sixes and special teams points sprinkled in there as well). No way around it, this was a bad, bad year for Cal’s defense. And as a result, defensive coordinator Andy Buh was demoted and the staff was shaken up. There were just five interceptions (from five different players) and the defense produced just 18 sacks on the year. Grade: F

Special teams: Kicker Vincenzo D’Amato was one of the more accurate kickers in league, converting on 17 of 20 kicks -- including a long of 51 yards against UCLA. His only misses were from 45, 46 and 50 yards -- though he did convert five kicks of 40 yards or longer. But Cal failed to return either a kick or a punt for a touchdown and gave up five punt returns for scores (including a blocked punt for a score) and one kick return for a touchdown. Their punt return average was last in the league and the kick coverage team was mediocre. Outside of D’Amato, the special teams were unimpressive. Grade: C-

Overall: Tough, tough first year for Dykes and Co. In some ways, it was the perfect storm of a new coach, a true freshman quarterback, a tough schedule and a rash of injuries the likes we haven’t seen in a long, long time that all contributed to Cal’s worst season since going winless in 1999. The Bears have now lost 16 straight games to FBS opponents and questions are already swirling about the future of the head coach and the decision-makers in the athletic department. The bright side is that, hopefully, the Bears will be healthier next year and a lot of the young players who were forced into action this season will gain from that experience. But if you’re a Cal fan, there’s not much to feel good about when you look at 2013. Grade: F

Stat attack! Some Week 11 Pac-12 numbers

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
1:00
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Some Pac-12 numbers for your review.

Number to the left is national rank.

Scoring offense

3. Oregon, 51.7 points per game
8. Arizona State, 43.7
T24. Oregon State, Washington, 37.2

Total offense

2. Oregon, 596.6 yards per game
10. Washington, 515.9
17. Arizona State, 490.4
25. Oregon State, 474.2

Rushing offense

7. Oregon, 301.5 yards per game
12. Arizona, 271.3
17. Washington, 229.0

Passing offense

2. Oregon State, 404.8 yards per game
7. Washington State, 365.0
8. California, 345.3
18. Arizona State, 304.8
20. Oregon, 295.0
25. Washington, 286.9

Note: Oregon's numbers took a dramatic fall after the loss at Stanford. The Ducks entered last week averaging 55.6 ppg., 632.1 ypg and and 331.5 rushing yards per game. Arizona State also went down after its tough win at Utah, but Washington used a blowout win against Colorado to perk up considerably.

Scoring defense

10. Oregon, 17.9 points per game
18. Stanford, 19.4
19. USC, 19.6
27. Washington, 21.8

Total defense

14. Arizona State, 332.7
17. USC, 339.5
20. Stanford, 348.8

Yards yielded per play (FBS foes only)

7. Oregon, 4.45 yards per play
11. Stanford, 4.75
20. USC, 4.93
23. Washington, 4.99
25. UCLA, 5.01
29. Arizona, 5.08
31. Arizona State, 5.10
35. Utah, 5.12

Pass-efficiency defense

8. Oregon
12. Washington
18. Arizona
20. Arizona State
21. USC

Note: The defensive numbers continue to be strong in the conference, with eight teams ranked in the nation's top 35 in yards per play, a great measure of a defense's efficiency. Further, five top-21 pass efficiency defenses is pretty incredible when you think about the QBs in the conference.

Rushing

2. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona, 152.6 yards per game
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington, 145.0
17. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford, 115.9
T23. Byron Marshall, Oregon, 102.8

Note: Carey lost the nation's lead because Boston College's Andre Williams piled up 295 yards at woeful New Mexico State. Gaffney has become the go-to guy in Stanford's offense, as the Cardinal has reclaimed its hard-nosed, run-first mentality.

Pass efficiency

7. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
14. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
18. Brett Hundley, UCLA
20. Keith Price, Washington

Note: Interesting that Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, as well as he is playing, is ranked 34th in passing efficiency. He's 11th in ESPN.com Total QBR.

Receiving yards per game

1. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, 149.3
5. Paul Richardson, Colorado, 117.9

Note: Lots of guys have fallen off among the national leaders here. Are these two the first-team All-Pac-12 receivers?

Sacks per game

T3. Trent Murphy, Stanford, 1.1
T15. Tony Washington, Oregon, 0.8
20. Devon Kennard, 0.8 (in 10 games)
T21. Trevor Reilly, Utah, .08

Note: Reilly is an underrated guy who is making a push for first-team All-Pac-12. Funny that picking the All-Pac-12 defense might be more challenging than the offense.

Random notes
  • Eight Pac-12 QBs are ranked in the top 44 of ESPN.com's total QBR: 2. Mariota, 11. Kelly, 13. Hundley; 17. Kevin Hogan, Stanford; 28. B.J. Denker, Arizona; 29. Mannion; 36. Price; 44. Travis Wilson, Utah.
  • With three regulars season games to play, a conference title game and bowl games ahead, nine Pac-12 players presently have at least four interceptions. Last year, nine players had at least four interceptions at season's end.
  • California has run 894 plays this year, most in the nation.
  • Washington has just five turnovers this year, tied for seventh fewest in the nation. Washington State's 27 turnovers ranks 122nd in the nation and last in the Pac-12.
  • Utah has just two interceptions. Only Kentucky has fewer.
  • USC and Arizona have recovered just three fumbles this year.
  • UCLA's Anthony Barr is tied for the nation's lead with Colorado's Chidera Uzo-Diribe with five forced fumbles.

Stat attack! Some Week 10 Pac-12 numbers

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
1:00
PM ET
Some Pac-12 numbers for your review.

Number to the left is national rank.

Scoring offense

2. Oregon, 55.6 points per game
6. Arizona State, 46.6
25. UCLA, 37.3

Total offense

2. Oregon, 632.1 yards per game
10. Arizona State, 515.1
15. Washington, 501.9
26. Oregon State, 474.2

Rushing offense

2. Oregon, 331.5 yards per game
12. Arizona, 275.4
22. Washington, 218.1

Passing offense

3. Oregon State, 404.8 yards per game
7. Washington State, 365.0
8. California, 351.1
17. Arizona State, 324.7
20. Oregon, 300.6
23. Washington, 283.8

Note: It's becoming clear that Oregon and Arizona State have the two best offenses in the Pac-12. It's also clear that Pac-12 offenses, on the whole, aren't terribly efficient. Oregon ranks second in the nation in yards per play at 8.09. The next conference team is Arizona State, way down at No. 27 (6.28 yards per play).

Scoring defense

7. Oregon, 16.9 points per game
13. USC, 18.7
19. Stanford, 19.4
26. Arizona, 20.9

Total defense

11. USC, 323.6
17. Arizona State, 343.4
23. Stanford, 353.4

Yards yielded per play (FBS foes only)

7. Oregon, 4.41 yards per play
11. Stanford, 4.69
T19. USC, 4.92
19. Arizona, 4.92
25. UCLA, 4.97
26. Washington, 5.0

Pass-efficiency defense

6. Oregon
14. Washington
15. Arizona
20. USC
26. Arizona State

Note: Arizona's improvement on defense has been remarkable, but that improvement will be strenuously tested by the upcoming schedule, starting with a visit from UCLA on Saturday. Also ahead: Washington State, Oregon and Arizona State. If the Wildcats maintain a top-25 defensive ranking by season's end, coordinator Jeff Casteel should be Assistant Coach of the Year.

[+] EnlargeTyler Gaffney
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsStanford's Tyler Gaffney is averaging 110.8 rushing yards per game.
Rushing

1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona, 153.1 yards per game
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington, 145.3
17. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford, 110.8
18. Byron Marshall, Oregon, 109.9

Note: Stanford will need Gaffney to hit this number if it hopes to beat Oregon on Thursday. And it needs to keep Marshall off his average, too. Carey will be challenged by a UCLA run defense that yields only 3.9 yards per carry.

Pass efficiency

5. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
16. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
21. Brett Hundley, UCLA
25. Keith Price, Washington
27. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
28. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

Note: Mariota fell to No. 2 in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR behind Baylor's Bryce Petty. Arizona State's Taylor Kelly has surged to eighth in the nation in QBR. Eight Pac-12 QBs rank among the top 43 in the nation in QBR.

Receiving yards per game

1. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, 149.3
5. Paul Richardson, Colorado, 123.0
30. Chris Harper, California, 91.2
31. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State, 90.0

Sacks

2. Trent Murphy, Stanford, 1.2 sacks per game
T10. Tony Washington, Oregon, 0.9
T21. Devon Kennard, 0.8 (in 9 games)
T27. Anthony Barr, UCLA, 0.9
T27. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington, 0.9

Note: Murphy has labored in Barr's shadow, but he can make a name for himself on Thursday if he can take down Marcus Mariota. Barr will be chasing Ka'Deem Carey and B.J. Denker on Saturday. Murphy is fifth and Barr tied for seventh in the nation in tackles for a loss (1.7 and 1.6 per game, respectively).

Random notes

  • Arizona State RB Marion Grice continues to lead the nation in scoring with 13.5 points per game. His teammate, kicker Zane Gonzalez, is fifth with 11.6 ppg.
  • Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is tied for sixth with five interceptions.
  • Stanford is 10th in the nation in run defense, so that obviously will be a strength-on-strength matchup on Thursday.
  • UCLA QB Brett Hundley leads the Pac-12 and ranks 13th in the nation with a 68 percent completion percentage.
  • Colorado's Chidera Uzo-Diribe leads the nation with five forced fumbles. Barr and Washington are tied for second with four.
  • Oregon State QB Sean Mannion still leads the nation with 31 TD passes. Arizona State's Taylor Kelly is tied for fifth with 23.
  • Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is fifth in the nation with 15.84 yards per completion.
  • Oregon State and Arizona State have both yielded three blocked kicks. UCLA and Stanford have both blocked three kicks.
  • Arizona State ranks first in the conference and eighth in the nation with just 31.88 penalty yards per game. Four Pac-12 teams are among the nation's most penalized teams: Oregon (116), California (118), Washington (122) and UCLA (123, which is last).

Saturday's Pac-12 slate

November, 2, 2013
11/02/13
7:00
AM ET
Here's a look at Saturday's games. All times are ET.

[+] EnlargeKa'deem Carey
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsKa'Deem Carey looks to add more superlatives to a great career Saturday as Arizona travels to Cal.
Arizona (5-2, 2-2) at California (1-7, 0-5) 3:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network: The series is tied 14-14-2, and they have split their last four meetings. This is the Bears and Wildcats first meeting since a 10-9 Arizona win in 2010. Wildcats junior RB Ka'Deem Carey is 80 yards shy of reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the season. When he reaches that mark, he’ll become the third running back in school history to post multiple seasons with 1,000 yards rushing. He’ll join Art Luppino (1954-55) and Trung Canidate (1998-99). Carey has an FBS-leading active streak of 10 consecutive games with 100 or more rushing yards, which ties Canidate’s school record set during the 1999 season. Carey has 39 career rushing TDs, second on the school’s all-time list and tied for 14th all time in the Pac-12. Cal freshman QB Jared Goff, who it appears will retain his starting job, has thrown for 300 or more yards in five games, while also attempting 50 or more passes in five games as well. He has connected 112 times with sophomore WRs Chris Harper (58 receptions) and Bryce Treggs (54 receptions) for 1,387 yards. Both should finish the season among the school’s top 10 list for single-season receptions. Ninth and 10th on Cal’s single-season list are notable alums Keenan Allen (61 receptions in 2012) and DeSean Jackson (59 in 2006).

Colorado (3-4, 0-4) at No. 20 UCLA (5-2, 2-2) 7:30 Fox Sports 1: UCLA leads the series 6-2, including victories the past two seasons in Pac-12 play. The Buffaloes' two wins came in 2002 and 2003. The Bruins blocked an Oregon punt that set up an early score in their game with the Ducks. It was the 11th blocked kick in 21 games under coach Jim Mora. The Bruins have played 32 freshmen (17 true/15 redshirt) this season. They played 26 (12 true/14 redshirt) last season. UCLA started three true freshman on the offensive line at Oregon: Alex Redmond at right guard, Caleb Benenoch at right tackle and Scott Quessenberry at left guard. Colorado's junior WR Paul Richardson now has 50 catches for 914 yards (18.3 yards per reception) with seven TDs. He’s inching closer to all the school season marks: 78 receptions (D.J. Hackett, 2003), 1,149 yards (Charles E. Johnson, 1992) and 11 TDs (Derek McCoy, 2003). His 75-yard TD reception was the sixth play of 50 yards or longer this season, tying the modern-day record for most plays 50 yards or longer in a year (and it was the 12th of his career). It was his fifth 100-yard game of the season, giving him eight for his career (records are six and 12, respectively); the latter is fourth all time at CU. His seven TD catches this year have covered 405 yards (57.9 per), and his 18 career have spanned 776 yards (43.1).

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
10:15
AM ET
A few storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12.

  1. Light week: Only four games on the Pac-12 docket this week, including one on Thursday (Arizona State at Washington State), one on Friday (USC at Oregon State) and two on Saturday (Arizona at California and Colorado at UCLA).
  2. Let's go bowling: Three teams, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State, are already bowl bound. Four others sit on the precipice and as many as seven others are still in the hunt (note, because of the 13-game schedule, USC needs seven wins to become bowl eligible). Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA can all become bowl eligible this week.
  3. [+] EnlargeBishop Sankey
    AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonBishop Sankey is one of four Pac-12 backs who average at least 100 yards a game.
  4. 1K club: Washington running back Bishop Sankey became the Pac-12's first 1,000-yard rusher this season and has 1,162 yards on the year. Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (920 yards) probably will break through this week against a Cal rush defense that yields an average of 189.1 yards per game. Carey leads the league with 153.3 yards per game, one of four backs who average at least 100 yards per contest (Sankey, 145.2; Tyler Gaffney, 110.8; Byron Marshall, 109.9).
  5. Scoreboard, baby: The Sun Devils have the top two scorers in FBS football in running back Marion Grice (15.4 points per game) and kicker Zane Gonzalez (11.4 ppg) and rank sixth in the nation with 45.4 points per game. Four times this year they have posted 50 or more points. That's the most since the 1973 team. Worth noting, too that Oregon State's Brandin Cooks is third nationally in scoring, making it a hat trick for the conference.
  6. Rubber arm: Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is on pace to set single-season school records in pass attempts and completions. Through eight games he has completed 273 passes on 428 attempts. Gabe Marks has been the primary recipient with 59 catches for 655 yards. But eight different WSU receivers have 20 or more catches.
  7. Remember, Reser: The Beavers have won three straight over USC in Corvallis, but the Trojans' defense, though injury-depleted, is having a fine season. The Trojans have held six of their eight opponents to fewer than 300 yards. They'll be tested by an Oregon State passing attack that, despite a loss last week to Stanford, is still one of the best in the nation. Cooks leads the FBS with 10.6 receptions per game and 157 yards per game. USC is tied for the conference lead with 27 sacks, which might not bode well for an Oregon State team that gave up eight sacks to the Cardinal last week.
  8. Off and running: The aforementioned Carey is 80 yards shy of reaching 1,000. When he gets there, he'll be just the third Arizona running back to post multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 straight games, which is the longest active streak in FBS. But it was quarterback B.J. Denker who led the Wildcats in rushing last week, posting 192 yards on 15 carries.
  9. Where's the points? Cal, still winless in conference play, is giving up a league high 44 points per game and scoring a league low 22.9 points per game. Moving the ball isn't a problem. The Bears rank sixth in the league in total offense, averaging 468.4 yards per game. But they have only scored 20 touchdowns on the year, second worst only to Colorado's 19. Receivers Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs have combined for 112 catches for 1,387 yards, but just six touchdowns -- five from Harper.
  10. Back to basics: The Bruins are looking to snap a two-game slide after dropping back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon. Keep in mind the Bruins have played 32 freshmen this year -- including 17 true freshman. Last year they played 26, including 12 true. Through the first five games, quarterback Brett Hundley averaged 293.8 passing yards per game, was completing 68 percent of his throws with 12 touchdowns to four interceptions. In the last two weeks he averaged just 128 yards and completed 63 percent of his throws with two touchdowns to four interceptions. The more comfortable he gets with his young, reshaped offensive line, and the fact that he's not playing two of the top teams in the league, should help him bounce back.
  11. Explosive potential: The Buffs rebuilding process has yet to produce a conference win. But that doesn't mean Colorado can't be explosive. Wide receiver Paul Richardson has 50 catches and 914 yards with seven touchdowns, and he's sneaking up on some Colorado single-season marks. He has six plays of 50 yards or longer this season. Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau is 1-1 as a starter and is completing 59 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and an interception.

Stat attack! Some Week 9 Pac-12 numbers

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
1:00
PM ET
Some Pac-12 numbers for your review.

Number to the left is national rank.

Scoring offense

2. Oregon, 55.6 points per game
6. Arizona State, 45.4
15. Oregon State, 40.1

Total offense
2. Oregon, 632.1 yards per game
14. Arizona State, 509.1
15. Washington, 501.9
22. Oregon State, 487.4
30. UCLA, 469.1

Rushing offense

2. Oregon, 331.5 yards per game
11. Arizona, 288.0
22. Washington, 218.1

Passing offense

1. Oregon State, 420.0 yards per game
6. Washington State, 373.1
8. California, 358.9
14. Arizona State, 332.0
20. Oregon, 300.6
24. Washington, 283.8

Note: The offensive numbers have been trending down. Why? Pac-12 defenses. You’ve got to respect the balance of Oregon and Washington, though the Huskies probably should be getting more than 34.5 points per game out of 502 yards of offense. By the way, Stanford ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense with just 389.6 yards per game, but the Cardinal's 6.2 yards per play is just below Arizona State, Washington and Oregon State's 6.3 ypp, which is tied for second in the conference.

Scoring defense

9. Oregon, 16.9 points per game
16. USC, 19.3
18. Stanford, 19.4
20. Arizona, 19.9

Total defense

11. USC, 317.9
21. Arizona State, 349.3
25. Stanford, 353.4

Yards yielded per play (FBS foes only)

7. Oregon, 4.41 yards per play
11. Stanford, 4.69
16. USC, 4.79
23. Arizona, 4.89
25. UCLA, 4.97
26. Washington, 5.0

Pass-efficiency defense

6. Oregon
12. Arizona
14. Washington
20. USC
29. UCLA
30. Arizona State

Note: Is this the year that defense eclipses offense in the Pac-12? As good as the top Pac-12 offenses are, the numbers for scoring and passing efficiency are better for defense than offense. Still plenty of football left, though. USC gave up 62 to Arizona State and 31 to Arizona, but when playing non-Arizona schools in its other six games, the Trojans have yielded 10.2 points per game.

Rushing

1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona, 153.3 yards per game
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington, 145.3
17. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford, 110.8
18. Byron Marshall, Oregon, 109.9
31. Tre Madden, USC, 95.9

Note: Who will lead the Pac-12 in rushing, and will that total end up winning the top spot in the nation? And, if so, how does that guy not get invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony? Also, do both All-American running backs come from the Pac-12?

Pass efficiency

5. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
13. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
28. Keith Price, Washington
29. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

Note: Mariota is still No. 1 in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR. Arizona State's Taylor Kelly is 38th in the nation in the NCAA pass efficiency rating but he is 11th in QBR. Price climbed from 35th to 28th on his numbers against California. UCLA's Brett Hundley has fallen to 36th in the nation.

Receiving yards per game

1. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, 157.0
3. Paul Richardson, Colorado, 130.6
21. Chris Harper, California, 99.5
25. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State, 97.9

Sacks

4. Trent Murphy, Stanford, 1.90 sacks per game
T10. Tony Washington, Oregon, 0.9
T18. Anthony Barr, UCLA, 0.9 (Barr's played in fewer games than Washington)
21. Keenan Graham, UCLA, 0.8

Note: The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award looks like a battle between Murphy and Barr. Barr is fifth in the nation with 1.90 tackles for a loss per game, while Murphy is tied for seventh with 1.70 per game.

Random notes: Arizona State is the Pac-12's least-penalized team. Washington is the most-penalized team. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in turnover margin. It's plus-13 for the season, having forced a conference-high 23 turnovers. Arizona has the fewest turnovers with eight. Washington State has the most with 25, including 19 interceptions, which is nine more than any other team. California, however, is 12th in turnover margin at minus-12. Stanford, USC and Utah are tied for first in the conference with 27 sacks. Arizona and Colorado are last in the conference with just nine sacks. Stanford has yielded the fewest sacks --nine in eight games. Cal has yielded the most sacks -- 27 in eight games. Oregon State leads the conference in third down defense, with foes converting just 32 percent of the time. UCLA is still No. 1 in third down offense (51.9 percent).

Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
5:15
PM ET
The Pac-12 has named Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota the offensive player of the week, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy its defensive player of the week and Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery the special teams player of the week.

Some more on the trio, per the Pac-12’s release:
Mariota, a sophomore from Honolulu, set a school record with 42 points accounted for in Oregon’s 57-16 win at Colorado on Saturday. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns. Mariota also ran for an additional 43 yards and two more scores. He is eighth in the country in passing efficiency (176.30 QB rating) and ninth in total offense (339.20 ypg), helping Oregon to a No. 2 national ranking in total offense (630.40 ypg).

Murphy, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., recorded six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in Stanford’s narrow 31-28 win over Washington at home on Saturday night. He also deflected a pass that led to a Stanford interception that ended a Huskies’ drive late in the fourth quarter. The forced turnover proved to be pivotal in the Cardinal’s three-point victory.

Montgomery, a junior from Tahlequah, Okla., set a school record with 204 kickoff return yards that included a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game against Washington. He added a 39-yard touchdown reception and ended the game with 290 all-purpose yards on nine carries (32.2 yards per touch). Montgomery currently ranks sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards (176.6 ypg).

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Brett Hundley of UCLA and Connor Halliday of Washington State; and wide receivers Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, Chris Harper of California, and Dres Anderson of Utah. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gillam of Colorado, Eric Kendricks of UCLA and Jared Norris of Utah; safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State; and defensive back Damarious Randall of Arizona State. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State, Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA and Andy Phillips of Utah.

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