Pac-12: college football

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
2:00
PM ET

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 6

October, 4, 2014
Oct 4
12:40
PM ET
A look at Saturday's schedule in the Pac-12. All times ET.

3:30 p.m.

No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame, NBC: One of six games in the country between teams ranked in the AP Top 25, Stanford takes the nation's top-ranked defense to South Bend, where the Irish have averaged 35.0 points per game over their first four games. The Cardinal's last trip to Notre Dame ended in a 20-13 loss in overtime, which preserved Notre Dame's undefeated record and later allowed it to play for the national title.

4 p.m.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
AP Photo/Eugene TannerSean Mannion and Oregon State will look to rebound against Colorado after a tough loss against USC.
Oregon State at Colorado, Pac-12 Networks: The Beavers are looking to get things back on track after a one-sided loss at USC, in which quarterback Sean Mannion was held to the lowest single-game passing total in a game he has started. Though Oregon State struggled on offense (and wasn't great on defense), Colorado's offense came alive at home against Cal. Quarterback Sefo Liufau tossed seven touchdown passes and threw for 455 yards, 179 of which went to receiver Nelson Spruce.

7:30 p.m.

Arizona State at No. 16 USC, Fox: A week ago, Arizona State looked like it had the potential to take a step toward winning the Pac-12 South, while there was reason for concern at USC. But the more we watch the more we realize that week to week, the Pac-12 can be a guessing game. This week, ASU is the team with the "can't tackle" label and USC, at home, will look to take advantage.

10:30 p.m.

California at Washington State, Pac-12 Networks: If you have ever wanted to see 1,000 passing yards in a game, this might be your chance. Cal coach Sonny Dykes was influenced heavily by WSU coach Mike Leach while on his staff at Texas Tech, and both quarterbacks -- Cal's Jared Goff and WSU's Connor Halliday -- have their respective offenses clicking. To be clear: 1,000 passing yards isn't hyperbole -- there is a legitimate chance that happens.

Utah at No. 8 UCLA, ESPN: When Oregon lost to Arizona on Thursday, UCLA instantly became the conference's best shot at making the College Football Playoff, and after last week's destruction of Arizona State, that label seems deserved. Quarterback Brett Hundley will look to help his Heisman campaign against a good Utah defense, but the game will likely hinge on what happens when Utah has the ball. The Utes' lackluster offensive performance against WSU last week raised red flags about their ability to compete in conference play. Can they flip the script at the Rose Bowl?
Without a doubt, every game matters.

With few exceptions, a single game doesn't define a season. A great victory can be deflated by an upset the next weekend, while a crushing defeat can be redeemed by an inspired effort later in the season.

While the Pac-12's national title contenders -- we won't name names -- need to win every game (or just about), before each season you can point to a stretch of games on the schedule that appears defining for every team. In terms of a team's goals, that stretch is most critical.

We've defined a "key stretch" as three games, though we will allow for those three games to come among four.

WASHINGTON STATE

Key stretch: Nov. 8 at Oregon State, Nov. 22 at Arizona State, Nov. 29 vs. Washington

Why it's critical: After reaching their first bowl game since 2003, expectations clearly are on the rise for the Cougars. It’s similar to 2007, when they were coming off a six-win season and had quarterback Alex Brink returning for his senior year (along with talented receivers in Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus). That season, of course, proved to be a letdown – they finished 4-7 -- and coach Bill Doba was ushered out the door.

Washington State starts with a favorable schedule -- it would be easy to argue a 5-1 start is on the table – before conference play really heats up.

At this point, you still have to say Washington State is a likely underdog in its final six games, but each game provides some intrigue. The final stretch of Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington should ultimately determine the Cougars’ postseason fate -- whether that’s the bowl location or a bowl game at all.

If anything, these games shouldn’t lack for excitement. If you like offense, watching fifth-year quarterback Connor Halliday on the same field with fifth-year quarterbacks Sean Mannion (Oregon State) and Taylor Kelly (Arizona State) could create two of the most exciting games of the year in the conference. Then there’s the first Apple Cup between Chris Petersen and Mike Leach, which needs no extra billing.

Other key stretches:

Key stretch: UCLA

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
9:00
AM ET
Without a doubt, every game matters.

With few exceptions, a single game doesn't define a season. A great victory can be deflated by an upset the next weekend, while a crushing defeat can be redeemed by an inspired effort later in the season.

While the Pac-12's national title contenders -- we won't name names -- need to win every game (or just about), before each season you can point to a stretch of games on the schedule that appears defining for every team. In terms of a team's goals, that stretch is most critical.

We've defined a "key stretch" as three games, though we will allow for those three games to come among four.

UCLA

Key stretch: Nov. 8 at Washington, Nov. 22 vs. USC, Nov. 28 vs. Stanford

Why it's critical: Expectations at UCLA haven't been this high in a very long time. The Bruins are legitimate Pac-12 title contenders and, as a result, they'll continue to be mentioned as possible playoff contenders until proven otherwise.

What that means is that there isn't a stretch any less important than another. One or two hiccups along the way could be enough to derail UCLA from reaching its ultimate goals.

No three-game stretch figures to be more difficult than the last three, nor more important. If UCLA is in good standing (with a 9-0 or 8-1 record) by the time it arrives in Seattle, that will mean little or nothing without a strong finish.

It'll also be interesting to see how losing early vs. losing late factors into how the selection committee decides the four-team playoff, but losing to Stanford in the regular-season finale could have harsher repercussions than a loss to Oregon on Oct. 11.

Other key stretches:

Key stretch: Stanford

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
7:00
PM ET
Without a doubt, every game matters.

With few exceptions, a single game doesn't define a season. A great victory can be deflated by an upset the next weekend, while a crushing defeat can be redeemed by an inspired effort later in the season.

While the Pac-12's national title contenders -- we won't name names -- need to win every game (or just about), before each season for every team you can point to a stretch of games on the schedule that appears defining. In terms of a team's goals, that stretch is most critical.

We've defined a "key stretch" as three games, though we will allow for those three games to come among four.

STANFORD
Key stretch: Oct. 18 at Arizona State, Oct. 25 vs. Oregon State, Nov. 1 at Oregon.
Why it's critical: We're at a point where the Stanford-Oregon game serves as somewhat of a default Pac-12 championship game until proven otherwise. The winner of that game has gone on to win the conference title game the last three years.

Before Stanford goes for its third-straight win against the Ducks on Nov. 1, it first must get through defending Pac-12 South champion Arizona State (which the Cardinal beat twice in 2013) and Oregon State (played Stanford to one-score games the last two years). It's a manageable build up to Oregon, but Utah showed last season that Stanford can be prone to an out-of-nowhere loss.

Just about every game in the Pac-12 will feature an intriguing quarterback battle, but having Taylor Kelly, Sean Mannion and Marcus Mariota to prepare for over a three-straight week span will be especially challenging and so will the venues. Sun Devil Stadium and Autzen are two of the best home-field advantages in the conference. A 3-0 stretch likely has the Cardinal in playoff discussions.

Following those three games, Stanford breathes a little easier -- vs. Utah, at Cal -- before a road game to UCLA to finish the season.

Other key stretches:

Barkley deep ball supports Heisman hype

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
3:22
PM ET

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesUSC quarterback Matt Barkley is on pace to become the school's all-time leader in passing yards, completions, and touchdowns.

Matt Barkley will begin the year for No. 3 Southern California as a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Barkley would be the seventh Trojan to win the award (excluding Reggie Bush), tying USC with Notre Dame and Ohio State for most all-time.

His stellar play during the past three seasons has fueled the Heisman speculation heading into his senior year. To date, he has amassed over 9,000 passing yards and 80 touchdowns in 36 career starts (27-9) and is on pace to become USC’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.

High expectations are nothing new for Barkley as he entered USC in 2009 as the No. 1 player in the ESPN 150. After enrolling early, Barkley won the starting job during spring practice and became the only true freshmen to ever start the season opener for the Trojans.

Barkley also showed as a freshman that he would not shy away from the big stage. In just his second-career start, he led the Trojans on an 86-yard game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against Ohio State in Columbus. Barkley finished the season with 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns, the most by a true freshmen in school history.

USC’s starting center Khaled Holmes said of Barkley, the Trojans first ever three-time captain, "Guys recognized not only his skill, but his work ethic, his willingness to learn and his mental strength as well."

It appears that Barkley's work ethic has paid dividends as his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passing efficiency have all improved in each of his three seasons. In 2011, Barkley finished with the third-most touchdown passes (39) and had the eighth-highest passing efficiency (161.2) in the FBS.

The area in which Barkley has made the biggest stride is his downfield passing. In 2011, he led the Pac-12 with 13 touchdown passes on throws that traveled 25 yards or more downfield.

That matched the combined total of fellow Pac-12 quarterbacks Andrew Luck (4), Nick Foles (4), and Darron Thomas (5)

The 13 touchdowns were also nine more than Barkley’s combined total from his first two seasons. Most impressively, his interceptions went down while the touchdowns went up. In 49 attempts 25-plus yards downfield, Barkley threw one interception in 2011. He had five such picks in the previous two seasons.

One factor that led to Barkley’s improved downfield passing was the emergence of wide receiver Marqise Lee. Lee provided another quality option for USC so teams could no longer focus solely on containing all-American receiver, Robert Woods.

As a freshman last season, Lee caught eight of Barkley’s 13 touchdowns on throws of 25-plus yards, and he had more receptions on such throws than the rest of the team combined. As a duo, Lee and Woods caught 26 total touchdown passes, including 12 on throws of 25-plus yards. Both receivers are back for the 2012 season.

If Barkley, Lee, and Woods continue to make positive strides in 2012, there’s no telling how far the Trojans can go.
ESPN.com college football writers and bloggers are writing about escalating facilities costs in college football and also ranking school facilities.

As they note, building, renovating and expanding stadiums can cost tens of millions of dollars. So how does all of that get paid for given how few athletic departments are financially self-sustaining?

The answer is not as exciting as watching De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon score a touchdown. But how costs are covered can certainly be more important to the program in the long run.

The most common way to pay for stadium improvements is the issuance of tax-exempt bonds. A bond isn’t all that different from a loan in the sense that it is, in its most basic form, a contract to repay borrowed money with interest at fixed intervals. Municipalities, counties and state governments can generally issue bonds, which are governed by federal and state law. The purchase of a bond by an investor provides the money needed for a stadium project, with the investor gaining tax-free interest payments in return.

(Read full post)

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