Pac-12: Colt McCoy

Bowl debate: Big 12 vs. Pac-12

December, 19, 2011
The Pac-10 and Big 12 nearly got married last year, but only Colorado ended up eloping with the now-Pac-12.

You know: The conference that can count!

But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.

Joy to the world.

So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.

Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!

Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.

David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.

But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.

I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.

These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.

As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeQuarterback Andrew Luck leads Stanford into its second consecutive BCS bowl, this season against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Miller: Not only is Oklahoma State better than Virginia Tech, it's still questionable whether this Stanford team is better than last year's. Since we're going all crazy and whispering about the SEC, there was a feeling out West that by the end of the 2010 season the Cardinal might not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but also in the nation. They were big and physical and quarterback Luck actually had a solid receiving corps with which to work. After a loss to Oregon in the fifth game, they didn't lose again until playing, er, Oregon in this year's 10th game. If we could go back in time and have the Cardinal play Auburn, I think Stanford would have won the national title.

But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.

The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?

David Ubben: Nope. Not really.

Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
Which, if you ask me, says plenty about both the defense and the power of RG3. They've got a lot of athletes on the defense, but when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs, well, you need a guy like RG3 to go 9-3.

The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?

How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?

Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.

How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.

The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.

Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.

Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.

David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.

As for Texas' struggles?

The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.

The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.

They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.

It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?

Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.

Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.

Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?

Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.

I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?

David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...

Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.

Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.

Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Unitas Award releases 25-man watch list

September, 28, 2011
Here's a consolation prize for Oregon State QB Ryan Katz, who recently lost his starting job: He nonetheless made the first cut on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award's new 25-player watch list.

Stanford's Andrew Luck and Arizona's Nick Foles are also on the list. It's curious that Oregon's Darron Thomas, second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, isn't.

Candidates must be completing their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior, on schedule to graduate with their class. Previous winners include Colt McCoy, Matt Ryan, Brady Quinn, and both Peyton and Eli Manning.

The 2011 winner will be presented with his award Dec. 9 in Baltimore, Md.

The list of this year’s top 25 candidates includes:

Scouting the nonconference games

May, 3, 2010
The post-spring power rankings are out, which means it's a good time to see where the A-list Pac-10 nonconference foes rank.


Sept. 18 vs. Iowa

Adam Rittenberg ranks the Hawkeyes second in the Big Ten. He writes: "A very good defensive line got better, players stepped up at linebacker, quarterback Ricky Stanzi worked on his interceptions and the offensive line saw some separation occur."

Arizona State

Sept. 18 at Wisconsin

Boy, Sept. 18 will be a Big Ten vs. state of Arizona challenge, eh? Rittenberg has the Badgers third in the Big Ten. Interesting note from Rittenberg here: "Injuries prevented the offensive line from truly coming together." Might this be a low scoring game because the Sun Devils should be pretty salty up front on D?


Sept. 11 vs. Colorado

Big 12 blogger David Ubben ranks the Buffaloes last in the Big 12, writing "... the defense gave up the second-most points in the conference last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be a lot better in 2010."

Sept. 17 at Nevada

The Bears better take the Wolf Pack seriously. First, it's not easy to win anywhere on the road. Second, Graham Watson ranks Nevada as the 10th-best non-AQ team in the nation. She writes, "... the defense still has a ways to go, but if the Wolf Pack can catch its defense up with its offense, it will be a tough team to beat this year."


Sept. 11 at Tennessee

This isn't your father's Volunteers. Chris Low dumps Tennessee into the 10th spot in the SEC, concluding "even getting to .500 next season will be a challenge for the Vols, who will have five new starters on the offensive line, a first-year starter at quarterback and no depth at defensive tackle."

Oregon State

Sept. 4 vs. TCU (Dallas Cowboys Stadium)

Welcome to the nation's toughest nonconference schedule. The Horned Frogs rank second in the non-AQ power rankings and sixth overall in the nation, according to Mark Schlabach, who writes, "Quarterback Andy Dalton and running backs Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley lead what should be a very potent running attack."

Sept. 11 vs. Louisville

Brian Bennett dumps Louisville into the cellar of the Big East: "The team got better and tougher this spring under Charlie Strong but still has a long way to go," he writes.

Sept. 25 at Boise State

Boise State is this season's likely BCS buster but on a grander scale than previous versions, considering they almost certainly will start the season ranked among the top-five. Schlabach has the Broncos second and notes, "Boise State could very well be in the BCS title game hunt at season's end. The Broncos return 23 of 24 players who started against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl."


Sept. 18 vs. Wake Forest

The Cardinal will want to take revenge for their loss at Wake Forest a year ago. Heather Dinich has the Demon Deacons ranked ninth in the ACC, noting "The Deacs will reveal a more run-based, option offense under their new quarterback. The interior defensive line remains a concern. "

*The Cardinal also play at Notre Dame, which wasn't ranked by Schlabach.


Sept. 4 at Kansas State

Another "what were they thinking?" nonconference schedule. Ubben has the improving Wildcats sixth in the Big 12. He writes, "The Wildcats aren’t built to win 10 games just yet, but if Nebraska and Missouri stumble, they’ll be there to slip into the North conversation just like last season."

Sept. 18 vs. Houston

Watson has the Cougars seventh among non-AQ schools. She writes, "[New defensive coordinator Brian] Stewart’s work paid dividends during the spring game when his defense had 12 sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery."

Sept. 25 at Texas

Schlabach ranks the Longhorns No. 4 in the nation. He writes, "The Longhorns have several pieces to replace from the team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, but replacing quarterback Colt McCoy doesn't seem as daunting after Garrett Gilbert's performance this spring."


Sept. 11 vs. Virginia

This shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Trojans, but it figures to be more of a challenge than it was in 2008, when they rolled 52-7 in Charlottesville. Dinich has the Cavaliers 12th in the ACC: "This will be a transition year with a new staff, new philosophies and possibly a new quarterback."

Sept. 18 at Minnesota

Rittenberg rates the Golden Gophers ninth in the Big Ten, and he suggests that Matt Barkley should be eager for this road game: "The Gophers had some setbacks on defense, including safety Kim Royston's broken leg, and still have to replace a whopping nine starters."


Sept. 4 at BYU

Is BYU rebuilding? That seems to be what Watson thinks, writing, "The Cougars had a lot of questions to answer this spring and they seemed to come out with more questions."

Sept. 11 vs. Syracuse

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker made an impressive debut three years ago at Syracuse. Bennett ranks the Orange seventh in the Big East, and his praise is faint: "Syracuse still should show improvement based simply on having more healthy bodies."

Sept. 18 vs. Nebraska

This should be a great matchup of Locker and a talented Huskies offense vs. a rugged Nebraska defense. Ubben ranks the Cornhuskers third in the Big 12, though with one reservation, "... don’t count on another 10-win season if the offense doesn’t improve."

Washington State

Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State

The Cowboys lose a lot of key pieces from their 2009 team, which is why they are rated eighth in the Big 12. Writes Ubben, "Oklahoma State should have an impact player at each level of the defense in defensive end Ugo Chinasa, safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Orie Lemon, but they’ll need the rest of the D to solidify for the Cowboys to climb to a higher rung of the South ladder."

Sept. 18 at SMU

The Mustangs are on the rise under coach June Jones, even though they gave -- literally, gave, see four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs -- Washington State its only win last year. Watson rates SMU fourth among non-AQ teams: "The Mustangs will be young for the second consecutive season, but a lot of that youth has experience."

Pac-10 lunch links: Gerhart has found a new BFF

February, 23, 2010
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

Arizona's O-line not afraid of Suh

December, 28, 2009
He may have grown up quick and grown up mean, but Arizona's offensive line is eager to challenge this boy named Suh.

Oh, the Wildcats have heard all the talk. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's 6-foot-4, 300-pounds defensive tackle, is unstoppable. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the AP Player of the Year and he may be the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL draft. Heck, against Texas in the Big 12 title game, he piled up 4.5 sacks, and the Longhorns are only playing for the national title.

Yes, they've heard it all and seen it all on film. Yes, Suh is very good. But if the Wildcats are scared, they are keeping it to themselves as they prepare for a date with Suh and the Cornhuskers in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Wednesday.

"We're not intimidated at all," center Colin Baxter said. "We respect what he can do. We know we have to be on top of our game. But I don't think they've really seen an offensive line like us."

Baxter was more colorful in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, apparently showing some signs of a new syndrome we'll call "Suh Questions Exhaustion."

"He's not some kind of Superman. He's a good player," Baxter told the Star. "The media talks it up a lot. You see the guy on 'SportsCenter' and some people get the idea that he's God or something. That he's Jesus as a football player, that he's just going to walk past the offensive line. He's a good player, and you have to respect that."

Suh is a little bit better than good. He's a spectacular athlete for a 300 pounder. He piled up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks despite near-constant double teams.

"Any time guys use bad technique or get out of position he makes them pay for it," Baxter said.

Baxter hastens to add that the Cornhuskers other tackle, Jared Crick, "is no slouch." Crick had 12.5 tackles for a loss.

"He's really good too," Baxter said. "You can't only focus on Suh. Their defensive ends are good too. It's really a whole defensive unit."

That makes sense. One man doesn't make a defense, particularly one that ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (11.23 ppg) and ninth in total defense (284.5 yards per game).

But Suh is where everything starts. He commands extra attention, which frees up others, including Crick. It's nearly impossible to run between the tackles against the Cornhuskers, and few quarterbacks have found things safe and secure inside the pocket -- see a wide-eyed Colt McCoy in the Big 12 title game.

The Wildcats ran the ball fairly well this year (167 yards per game) and will benefit from the return of starting tailback Nic Grigsby, who's missed much of the year with a shoulder sprain. But their forte is the quick passing game with quarterback Nick Foles. The Wildcats only gave up 11 sacks in large part because of Foles' quick release.

Coach Mike Stoops noted that the Wildcats screen game will be important and in many ways could substitute for a ball-control running attack because Foles completes 66 percent of his passes.

Still, Suh isn't a guy who's easy to scheme around.

"He's very disruptive. He's very smart. He's a very complete player," Stoops said. "He's all over the place. That tells me he's very instinctive and smart and can read things very quickly."

Sort of like he's superhuman!

Perhaps that sort of talk will be more motivation for Baxter and the Wildcats O-line.

Gerhart is a bridesmaid again

December, 22, 2009
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart keeps coming in second place.

First, Gerhart finished second to Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history.

Then he finished just behind Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year voting.

Suh received 26 first-place votes. Gerhart got 20. Ingram finished well behind, tied for third with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with six votes apiece.

Gerhart did, however, win the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's best running back. He and the Cardinal play Oklahoma in the Brut Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Suh was the first defensive player to win the AP award.

Gerhart was a unanimous All-American

December, 17, 2009
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart was a unanimous pick for first-team All-American while UCLA kicker Kai Forbath was a consensus All-American.

Here's the list as it will appear in the 2010 NCAA Football Records.


WR -- Jordan Shipley, Texas, 6-0, 190, Senior

WR -- *Golden Tate, Notre Dame, 5-11, 195, Junior

TE -- Dennis Pitta, BYU, 6-5, 247, Senior

OL -- Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6-6, 330, Senior

OL -- Mike Johnson, Alabama, 6-6, 305, Senior

OL -- *Russell Okung, Oklahoma St., 6-5, 300, Senior

OL -- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, 6-5, 318, Senior

C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida, 6-5, 318, Junior

QB -- *Colt McCoy, Texas, 6-2, 210, Senior

RB -- *Toby Gerhart, Stanford, 6-1, 235, Senior

RB -- *Mark Ingram, Alabama, 5-10, 215, Sophomore

PK -- Kai Forbath, UCLA, 6-0, 192, Junior

Returner/All-Purpose -- *C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 5-11, 195


DL -- Terrence Cody, Alabama, 6-5, 365, Senior

DL -- *Jerry Hughes, TCU, 6-3, 257, Senior

DL -- Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, 6-4, 297, Junior

DL -- *Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 6-4, 300, Senior

LB -- Greg Jones, Michigan St., 6-1, 228, Junior

LB -- *Rolando McClain, Alabama, 6-4, 258, Junior

LB -- Brandon Spikes, Florida, 6-3, 258, Senior

DB -- Javier Arenas, Alabama, 5-9, 198, Senior

DB -- *Eric Berry, Tennessee, 5-11, 203, Junior

DB -- *Joe Haden, Florida, 5-11, 190, Junior

DB -- Earl Thomas, Texas, 5-10, 197, Sophomore

P -- *Drew Butler, Georgia, 6-2, 203, Sophomore

* Indicates unanimous first team selection; Bold indicates consensus repeater from 2008

Here's an explanation of how the list was compiled from Jeff Williams, the NCAA's Assistant Director of Statistics:

The players listed had the highest number of points competing against players at that position only. A points system was used for the selections of the All-America team (three points for first team, two points for second team and one point for third team). Twelve players were unanimous choices by the five organizations used in the consensus chart -- American Football Coaches Association (First Team), Associated Press (First, Second and Third Teams), Football Writers Association of America (First Team), The Sporting News (First, Second and Third Teams) and Walter Camp Foundation (First and Second Teams). Note: Each of the five teams has a different way of listing the returner or all-purpose player. For the purpose of the Consensus All-America team those categories were treated as one position.

Opening the mailbag: How could you forget Ricky!

December, 11, 2009
Happy Friday.

To the notes.

Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: You must be as blind as the rest of the Pac-10 media leaving Ricky Elmore (who DID lead the Pac-10 in sacks) off your all conference team, right?

Ted Miller: First, making these teams is never easy. There are always reasonable arguments to support guys who got left off.

I picked California's Tyson Alualu and Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim as my two first-team All-Pac-10 ends over Elmore, who led the conference with 10.5 sacks.

Alualu finished third on the Bears with 60 tackles, which was the most among conference defensive linemen. He also had 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.

Elmore had 43 tackles, which ranked seventh on his team, with11.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.

There seem to be three sets of numbers out there for Te'o-Nesheim. The Huskies official website credits him with 11 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. The Pac-10 credits him with 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss. The NCAA with 10 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.


In any event, Te'o-Nesheim also had 37 tackles, which ranked seventh on his team. But this put him over the top with me: Five forced fumbles.

All three have good resumes, but based on the overall numbers -- and the scuttlebutt I pick up during the season -- Alualu and Te'o-Nesheim get the nod.

There's also this: Both of them are seniors. Elmore is a junior.

So we'll see him next year.

Jared from Portland writes: It seems to me that having the BCS rankings use the Coaches poll is a bad Idea. For one, the coaches are biased and benefit themselves when they rank their teams high. For example see Brian Kelly as the only coach to cast a No. 1 vote for Cincinnati. Point two is that while head coaches have a great understanding of how good other teams in their conference are, I don't think they know about the rest of the country. How many ACC games do you think Mike Riley watched this season? Why doesn't the BCS use the AP Poll which is written by guys whose job it is to watch and analyze college football 24-7?

Ted Miller: I'm with 'ya completely.

It's absurd that the sport information director, er, coaches vote is included in the BCS standings.

Back in ancient times -- you know, pre-BCS -- there wasn't a whole bunch of money at stake, so the voting wasn't viewed with as much skepticism.

Now, just imagine a coach sitting there knowing if he votes Team X two or three spots higher -- and demotes Team Y a couple of notches -- it might mean an extra $4.5 million for his conference.

That's why the coaches vote needs to remain transparent.

As for the AP poll, it pulled itself out of the BCS formula after the 2004 season.

Polls in themselves are nothing more than beauty contests that are laden with various sorts of regional biases and inconsistent methodology. Most voters spend a lot of time on their ballots and do their best. But some don't.

It's the system we have and I have little hope of it changing dramatically anytime soon.

So learn to love it.

Chris from Eugene, Ore., writes: How about the job Coach Greg Roman did for Stanford. Toby G is good, but they really did one amazing job running the ball. It always seemed Gerhart would have about 10 plays a game in which he was untouched for 5 yards downfield. Oregon, USC, ND and UW DC's had no answers and at times you wondered if it mattered who was running the ball.

Ted Miller: A good point. Stanford's young offensive line -- only one senior -- was dominating at times this year, and Roman and Tim Drevno deserve a lot of credit for that.

A lot of folks -- media and fans -- were wondering if the O-line would fall off when Chris Dalman left unexpected last year. It didn't.

Aaron from Miami writes: Why is it that voters (for all-conference teams, Heisman Trophy, etc...) are allowed to turn in the ballots before all the games have been played? I ask this because the Ducks only have one first team all-Pac 10 member. I would be curious if that would have been the case if the ballots were sent in after the Civil War. Would Masoli be first team ahead of Canfield, would it have been James ahead of Rogers? Maybe not, but it would have been nice to see. I don't want to take anything away from those two players they had amazing years and are very deserving (even after the Civil War was played), but the Ducks won the conference by two games!!! Also I have a feeling that this trend is going to end up giving the Heisman Trophy to an undeserving Colt McCoy (did you see that last game) because voters sent in their ballots early.

Ted Miller: The "why" is convenience and efficiency.

And let's face it. There are some folks who are going to vote for "their" candidate, no matter what the numbers say. Those are the sorts who got their ballots in early.

As for my take: I think all awards and honors should not be voted on before the final game. It's an award for the season, and the season is 12 games long. Waiting an extra day or two for results shouldn't be a big deal.

By the way, I think Gerhart should win the Heisman, but I'd stop well short of saying Colt McCoy is "undeserving."

Tom from Palo Alto writes: Thought you'd enjoy some number-crunching I've done on recruiting across the country -- it really validates the tough job Washington, Wazzou, Oregon, and Oregon State have.

Ted Miller: For the recruiting obsessed, Tom's considerable work will be very interesting.

Gerhart goes from long odds to Heisman finalist

December, 8, 2009
While it might seem like Stanford running back Toby Gerhart burst onto the scene late in the 2009 season, he started talking about winning the Heisman Trophy with his dad before the season even started.

"My father said, 'Hey, you know you are like 750-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy? Think I should throw $10 on you or something?'" Gerhart said.

It would have been a nice play.

The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Gerhart found out Monday, while surrounded by his Cardinal teammates, that he was one of five finalists invited to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

"It was super-exciting," he said. "Everybody was fist-pumping, chest-bumping. "

But Gerhart, a first-team All-Academic pick in the Pac-10, didn't get to celebrate long. He had to rush to an exam. In fact, he took two after he found out he was headed to New York.

What fun.

Gerhart said he hasn't been to Manhattan since he was "11 or 12," when he visited during a baseball tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Just because Gerhart is a Stanford guy doesn't mean he's going to get reservations at Per Se, go see the new David Mamet play and then hang out late at all the cool clubs.

"I don't know if I'd take the sophisticated route and go see a play," he said. "If I have any free time, I'll probably go hang out in Times Square."

He is looking forward to hanging out with his fellow finalists: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

After all the fun is over, Gerhart and Stanford need to get back to business: A Sun Bowl date on New Year's Eve with Oklahoma.

It was announced this week starting quarterback Andrew Luck is doubtful to play after surgery on the broken index finger of his throwing hand, but Gerhart said he and his teammates believe they can win with senior backup Tavita Pritchard, who has started 19 career games.

"It's definitely going to be different without Luck in the huddle but there's no doubt in my mind that Tavita is going to do well and excel," he said.

But first, he goes to New York with a chance to win the biggest individual award in college sports.

"It's something you dream about but never think you'll really get," he said.

Gerhart's going to NY for Heisman ceremony

December, 7, 2009
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart is a Heisman Trophy finalist, joining Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

It figures to be a tight race, and this is an outstanding fivesome.

Whatever happens, Gerhart always will have his trip to Manhattan.

The case for Toby Gerhart

December, 4, 2009
I can't take credit for the following research, which came from the great minds inside ESPN, but it clearly should give folks a clear picture of what Stanford running back Toby Gerhart has accomplished this year.
Toby Gerhart
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesToby Gerhart has been a battering ram all season for the Cardinal.

One of the uncomfortable parts of making the case for Gerhart is that it requires poking holes in the resumes for the other top candidate, specifically Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow.

McCoy and Tebow have played well this season. And both have had historical careers that won't be forgotten. One of them may win the national championship.

But there's simply not any question which player has had the best season while playing against the best competition. That's Gerhart.

Consider some notes, courtesy Chris Fallica, College GameDay researcher.

  • Gerhart has faced six of the top 46 rushing defenses and gained at least 123 yards against five of them. His low against those six teams was 96 yards against Oregon State. In those six games, Gerhart gained 881 yards (146.8) and ran for 14 TDs. That average of 146.8 YPG is actually higher than his overall season average of 144.7 YPG.
  • Gerhart has finished strong. In his last four games, three of which came against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 20, Gerhart rushed for 742 yards (185.5 YPG) and 12 TDs.
  • McCoy also has finished strong but in his last four games, Texas faced zero ranked teams -- two teams that went 1-7 in the Big 12 (Baylor and Kansas) along with Texas A&M and UCF (which are 111th and 112th nationally in pass defense).
  • Tebow has finished strong in his last five games but, again, none of those five opponents are ranked. The stretch consisted of Georgia (10th in SEC in scoring defense), Vanderbilt (2-10, winless in SEC), South Carolina, FIU (119th in nation in total defense) and Florida State (108th in nation in total defense).
  • In each of the last seven games, Gerhart has rushed for more, individually, than the opposing team has allowed against all other opponents. Some of the highlights: Gerhart gained 178 yards on a USC defense that has allowed 116.5 rush YPG vs all other teams. He gained 223 yards on an Oregon team which has allowed 118.3 rush YPG vs everyone else.
  • Gerhart was at his best when he played the best. In four games against teams currently ranked, Gerhart rushed for 158.3 YPG and 12 TDs (against unranked teams, Gerhart ran for 137.9 YPG).
  • Texas has faced only one team currently ranked this season (No. 22 Oklahoma State). McCoy threw for 171 yards on 16-of-21 passing and a TD in a game which the Texas defense/special teams accounted for two TDs.
  • Florida has also faced only one ranked opponent this year (No. 15 LSU). Tebow was 11-16 for 134 yards with a TD and Int, though that was his first game following a concussion suffered at Kentucky.
  • Gerhart didn’t pad his stats against bad teams. Against Washington State and San Jose State (two of the five worst rush defenses in the country), Gerhart gained “only” 121 and 113 yards – figures which represent two of his four lowest rushing totals this season.
  • 19 of Colt McCoy’s 27 TD passes and four of his five best passing games have come against teams which currently do not have a winning record. Against opponents with winning records, he's thrown for eight TDs and five Ints.
  • Tim Tebow’s last two games accounted for two of his three highest offensive outputs of the season (311 vs FSU, 317 vs FIU). As mentioned above, those teams are in the bottom 13 nationally in total defense.
  • Stanford faced only one team from a non-AQ conference this season (San Jose State). The other two non-conference opponents were Wake Forest (ACC) and Notre Dame. Stanford also faced nine Pac-10 opponents. Texas’ four non-conference opponents were UL-Monroe, Troy, UTEP and UCF – all from non-AQ conferences. Florida’s four non-conference opponents were Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International and Florida State – three of which are from non-AQ conferences.
  • The only comparison Gerhart loses? Florida and Texas are undefeated, while Stanford has four losses. Yet the losses weren’t Gerhart’s fault. In them, he ran for 109.3 YPG and 8 TD, while Stanford’s defense allowed 34.8 PPG. Tebow and McCoy had the luxury of playing with the No. 1 and No. 5 total defense (Stanford is 85th) and the No. 1 and No. 9 scoring defense (Stanford is 65th).

Again, this isn't about McCoy and Tebow not being good players or Texas and Florida not being good teams, even though both paths to undefeated were no where near as arduous as what Stanford faced.

It's simply this.

Gerhart is the most outstanding player in college football, which is what the Heisman Trophy is supposed to recognize.

Opening the mailbag: Oregon, Boise & Boise, Oregon

November, 6, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Lots and lots of mail on the Oregon vs. Boise State debate. Not sure how to handle this in the mailbag because it's a complicated issue that can be stated simply: head-to-head vs. body of work.

Not sure if you guys will be entertained by repeating that endlessly.

Or maybe you will be?

To the notes.

James from Springfield, Ore., writes: It's funny how many pollsters find it so difficult or downright impossible to rank Oregon over BSU because of the win in week one. John Hunt of the Oregonian polled some of the AP voters and at least 16 said they would not vote OR over BSU. Wanna guess how many voted UW over USC in week 4 when they had the same record? ZERO. 14 voted OK over BYU in week 2 (BYU 1-0 with win over OK, OK 0-1). Nine voted Cal over OR in week 5 despite the 42-3 beat down & a higher SOS

Jim from Cascade, Idaho writes: I sure hope that your vote at the end of the season to rank the Oregon Ducks ahead of the Boise State Broncos doesn't count for anything. You represent the Pac 10 and of course you want a Pac 10 team ahead of a lowly mid major. That is the problem of this BCS discussion that dominates the media to such foolishness. If the six major conferences had to share their money and prestige with someone else then pretty soon the mid majors could recruit equally. Besides when nothing else makes sense then follow the money. That is exactly why the majors won't share and pay the media to keep it that way. You act like a proper sheep.

Jon from Los Angeles writes: Is Boise State totally WAC? Sure, the Oregon win looks good now, but is there any chance one impressive victory against a great team on a bad night atones for twelve weeks of beating up on virtual DII teams? What's the debate?

Rob from Boise writes: Of course you will back OR in the polls, you are a blogger for the P10. But I question your mental and physical fortitude, because I doubt (strictly from your posturing during that v-blog) that you have ever been pitted against something hard, tough, or perceived better than you. Please don't take this as an ego boost, because if there were nothing to whom you have been physically challenged to then why the hell are you a writer for E(SEC)PN? Face to face matters most in sports, thats why we need a playoff. Have fun in your basement or study or wherever you videoed that, real men will be out on the field or in the arena. It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt - words you should take to heart Mr. Miller

Moreno from Suthelrin, Ore, writes: Oregon over Boise in the rankings no doubt. Must be nice to only have to train for ONE REAL SCHOOL all off season. then take the rest of the season off. Oregon proves week after week that they're the best. Boise sneaks past schools that my community college could beat.

Jason Mayer from "The Left Coast" writes: When the college football season is finished and Florida, Texas, and Alabama are all undefeated only two teams can play in the big game. How will this be decided, by looking at their body of work. Why, because they have not played any games head to head. You are crazy to think that body of work could ever trump head to head. Body of work is needed if there is no head to head. I would whole hardily agree that Oregon's body of work is light years ahead of Boise State, but it still doesn't trump head to head. Oregon had their chance to be the dominate team on the football field, not only this year but last year and they lost head to head both times. There is no justifying that away, can't be done without having your head in the sand.

Ted Miller: Hey, I did a video clip about this.

Funny thing: This is as much a debate among media sorts as among fans. I was among the gaggle of sportswriters arguing this very topic as we left Autzen Stadium. We were fairly animated.

It almost feels like we should make another distinction.

If it comes down between Oregon and Boise State for a national championship berth or, perhaps, an at-large BCS berth, maybe the Broncos should have the edge.

I think, in fact, that the Broncos non-AQ status helps them here. Say Arkansas lost on the road to a Big Ten team to open the season, then decisively beat Alabama, Florida and LSU and finished 11-1, while that Big Ten team went unbeaten, without playing, say, Penn State or Ohio State. My guess is Arkansas would get a lot of voter sympathy based on their body of work and voter doubts about the Big Ten.

There wouldn't be this sense of BCS systemic unfairness that is the subtext of much of the emotion here.

But beyond the BCS positioning, and only in the context of the national rankings, maybe Oregon should have the edge.

Why? Well, body of work.

And there's this: If you can't honestly say, "I think Boise State would beat Oregon tomorrow on a neutral field" then you are admitting that the body-of-work argument carries some heft.

Both arguments are compelling. In the end, if I have to choose one, I go with body of work.

Mike from Portland writes: Hey Ted! I read your blog every day! One thing I haven't seen you post about is the Pac 10's strength of schedule in hard numbers. Yeah everyone can debate that endlessly, but according the hard facts, aka Sagarin, 9 of the Pac 10 teams rank in the top 20 of his strength of schedule. NINE! And many of those teams are looking pretty good and are doing well with pollsters. I think the pollsters need to be more aware of the hard facts SOS.

Ted Miller: If you wish to see the Pac-10 love from the computers, feel free to go here, or particularly here.

The Pac-10 seems to have joined the SEC in the discussion of best conference this season. But keep in mind we've got lots of football left and then the bowl games. We shall see how things shake out.

Bentley from Bend, Ore., writes: I am a life-long Trojan fan, and I was at the game last weekend. I am definitely disappointed and crushed, but that is not what I want to ask you about. I want to know why the Pac-10 is getting absolutely no love in terms of players being recognized for the Heisman? I don't get it. The race seems wide open this year with Bradford going down and both McCoy and Tebow not performing like Heisman worthy players. What about James? He didn't even get many touches until the third game of the year and he is still almost at 1,000 yards. He has games of 118, 152 (twice), 154, and 184. He averages 7.0 yards a carry! No one is talking about this guy for Heisman? WHY!?!? Or what about JacQuizz Rodgers? He is more than a runner and almost has 1300 all purpose yards already. He averages more yards a game (162) receiving and rushing then Ingram does. Both JacQuizz Rodgers and LaMichael James are more impressive then Ingram in my mind. Why does the media not even talk about this?

Ted Miller: Dude, I've been so ringing the Jacquizz Rodgers bell!

And what if Jeremiah Masoli keeps Oregon rolling? Or what if Toby Gerhart rushes for 180 yards and two touchdowns Saturday and leads Stanford over the Ducks?

The race is still wide open.

For Rodgers, he needs the Beavers to start rolling and return to the national rankings. So does Gerhart.

Name recognition is critical. And it's hard to get that when playing for an unranked team.

Chris from South Korea writes: Do you think it's good for a team like WSU to travel to San Antonio for recruiting and/or a decent paycheck or does a bad defeat hurt their cause?

Ted Miller: The money, particularly for Washington State, which has some financial issues, is critical.

I'm not sure if it will help much in Texas recruiting, though there are Cougars from Texas.

What would help is winning the game. Losing in San Antonio probably does no more damage that losing in Martin Stadium. And judging from struggling attendance figures and frustrated fans, the Cougars may have enjoyed the trip more than a home game.

Vib from Fremont, Calif., writes: Wilner's post on Oregon-Stanford is really just creating hype for a game that will be interesting for only 15-20 minutes. The Stanford defense will be confused with the Ducks misdirection all day. They are running Kelly's offense at a very high level. I don't think the Stanford offense is very good. They just had a relatively easy early schedule. The Ducks defense will do enough and Masoli/James will run past the stumped Cardinal.

Ted Miller: You know Wilner used to routinely whip Anderson Silva? He's won the sportswriter UFC championships, like, 50 times. May want to be careful calling anything he writes "hype."

Because you know we media sorts hate the assertion that we'd ever "hype" something.

I liked his arguments. Thought they were interesting. Still think Oregon's going to win. But if Stanford pulls the upset, we may refer back to his list.

Chris from Parts Unknown writes: Cool article from USC ranking pac-10 away locker rooms.

Ted Miller: That is a cool article. And I'm not surprised about first and last.

Chris from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: Hey Ted, I really enjoy the blog. I have a question as to why Oregon has to make a recommendation to the Pac-10 about Blount. I thought it was the Univ. of Oregon that suspended him, not the Pac-10. If that's correct, why now does the Pac-10 have a say in this?

Ted Miller: The Pac-10 has final say both going in and going out.

Ryan Heredia from Cheney, Wash., writes: Hey Mr. Miller. I am doing a college paper on whether or not there should be a playoff system in college football. I was just wondering what your take is?

Ted Miller: Cheney! Funny story. Got caught in speed trap in Cheney while heading to Seattle Seahawks practice. Officer clocked me at 55 ... on an exit ramp. I was about 100 yards from highway where the speed limit was 75.

My thoughts on a playoff.

I think a playoff would be great. I don't think it will happen anytime soon because the folks who make these decisions don't want a playoff.

And, you know, college football doesn't exactly stink right now.

Derick from Portland writes: With University of Oregon doing so well the last few years (well until QB injuries occurred that is). What is the chance that we will pull in top defensive recruits and wide receivers? We haven't had a decent receiver since James Finley/Demetrius Williams and its been our biggest weakness offensively. Does Oregon stand much of a chance to land big names in this recruiting class?

Ted Miller: Oregon is about to finish in the top-10 for a second-consecutive season. Seems to me the Ducks should stick with their present recruiting strategy.

But this happens a lot with a fanbase. A team surges, and fans want to win in recruiting also. They want to compete with USC, Texas and Florida for guys!

I get notes like this from Oregon State fans, and I just feel such talk is nuts.

I don't get the feeling that Oregon is that bad off at receiver, based on my observations watching the Ducks gain 613 yards against one of the most talented defenses in the nation.

Aaron from Chicago writes: With all the injury issues USC has been having at RB, why isn't Marc Tyler getting playing time? Wasn't he the best RB in America in high school? Was his leg injury so bad that he just isn't the same back, or is there something below the surface that is affecting his playing time?

Ted Miller: It's below the surface... of his toe. He suffered a season-ending toe injury that required surgery.

I've got a feeling Tyler will be a factor next year, though.

Jacob from Beaverton, Ore., writes: My name is Jacob, a freshman at the University of Oregon, and I just had some questions about how you became a sports journalist/ESPN blogger (I think that is how you would classify your profession? yes/no?). I am an avid college football fan and having a profession in this sort of field would definitely interest me.Currently, I have not yet declared a major. I have always enjoyed history and political science, but there really isn't anything to do with those kind of majors in the economy today other than teaching, which doesn't appeal to me at all. This has sparked my initiative to find other career pathways which interest me, and lets be honest, who doesn't like sports!?So on to the questions:What did you major in at the University of Richmond? Did that major play any role in your current career?What do you recommend I major in to pursue a career similar to yours?Is sports journalism even a realistic career to pursue? How did you become one?

Ted Miller: My career advice is to have as much fun as you possibly can before you turn 25. At some point, you need to hang out in Amsterdam. And Barcelona. Then think about your career.

I was an English major. I wanted to be an English professor. And write a few novels and move to Barcelona. And Amsterdam.

Plans change.

I started at a small paper. Then moved to a bigger one. And so-on.

As for what I do for You can do the same thing right now. Just start writing a blog. Write for the school paper. Try to string for the local newspaper. Gather your clips. Try to get an internship.

It's not rocket science.

It's much, much harder and more important.

DuckVader from "Still Floating" writes: Okie Dokies Mr. Ted Miller. I think it's time to give Oregon's Defense some nifty little catch phrase name so we can keep promoting how amazing we are (Knock on Wood for the love of god). We might need it if we win out (see Texas national title game campaign). I'm thinking, call us the Carbon Curtain... yea? you like?PS Solid work with the new videos. My only comment would be loosen up a bit on them, maybe don't treat them like your a news caster. Your a hip, witty, blogger; so go with that! Be a silly son of a B, people dig that!

Ted Miller: Me silly? Bollocks!

As for a nickname for the Ducks defense, we might want to give it one more week, post-Toby Gerhart.

But you Duck fans out there should feel free to offer suggestions. I will then steal the best one and claim I invented it.

By the way, Duck Vader, do you know my boss, Darth Duffey? I think you Sith Lords run in the same circles.

What we learned in the Pac-10

September, 20, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

What did we learn from Week 2 of Pac-10 action?

1. Washington is nobody's patsy: A corpse was rolled out of Husky Stadium on Saturday evening. It was Sucky Husky, who went 12-47 from 2004 until 2008. He's been on life support since Steve Sarkisian was hired and injected him with enthusiasm and hope, which proved deadly for Sucky Husky, who finally succumbed when Erik Folk's short field goal gave Washington a 16-13 victory over No. 3 USC. Suffice it to say, the funeral will be sparsely attended. Washington once was the top alternative to USC in the Pac-10. It was once a program that groused about playing in the Sun Bowl. In a few years, it feels certain that Husky fans will once again grouse about playing in the Sun Bowl.

2. USC is vulnerable. Seriously. Well, maybe: Let's pause for a moment and be fair to USC. The Trojans, who lost at Washington were missing their starting quarterback, their two-time All-American free safety, their starting cornerback, their starting defensive end, their starting wide receiver and their nickelback. Still, this is USC; the Trojans are just supposed to plug-and-play. After the game, coach Pete Carroll talked about turnovers and penalties and pointed a finger at himself. The Trojans haven't looked this beatable since 2001. Oh, but don't be too hasty throwing a handful of dirt on them. Let's wait for them to lose a second Pac-10 game before we completely write them off. But feel free to practice saying this, "USC has accepted an invitation to the Holiday Bowl."

3. Jahvid Best is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate: It's not just that Best scored five TDs and eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the seventh consecutive time in the Bears' 35-21 win at Minnesota. It's that Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is hurt and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow haven't looked very good. Moreover, McCoy plays a weak schedule that won't help his cause, and -- fair or unfair -- there's a certain amount of "Tebow exhaustion" among the masses. Cal folks, by the way, might want to loosen the reins on Best. Best has a personality, but it seems like someone sent him the "Tyrone Willingham's Interview Techniques" DVD.

4. Did you write off Oregon? Not smart: After the Boise State debacle, Ducks fans seemed to panic, and Duck haters seemed ready to predict the certain demise of the Chip Kelly era after just one game. Those of us -- yeah, I'm taking credit for it -- who said, "Er, one game" and preached patience probably feel like gloating. But we won't because gloating is, well, often a lot of fun. It's not that Oregon doesn't have issues. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's continued struggles is chief among them. And this might not be a 10-win team. But the idea that the program was on the cusp of spinning into the morass was absurd. And I'm still not selling my Masoli stock.

5. The Pac-10 is 9 1/2-teams deep: Look at the Pac-10, top-to-bottom. It's fair to say now that nine teams presently are threats to win at least six games and earn bowl eligibility. And, heck, Washington State just beat a 2-0 SMU team, never mind the final statistics. Last week, it looked like the Cougs were the only automatic out, but now even they have shown signs of life. While the apparent depth is a good thing, it also suggests that going undefeated -- or even losing just once -- will be a heck of a task. Don't be surprised if we end up with co-Pac-10 champs who both own two conference defeats.

Best case-worst case: California

August, 12, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Ninth 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: California

Best case

Last year, California running back Jahvid Best blew a technicolor pizza on national television at Maryland. This year, he made the Terrapins nauseous.

In a tour de force performance that announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy like a bolt of lightning, Best rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 105 yards and a score -- most of which came on a 58-yard touchdown off a screen -- in a 44-10 victory.

Best produced touchdown runs of 55 and 68 yards but sat out the second half of a blowout victory over Eastern Washington.

The Bears overcame a shaky start at Minnesota and rolled in the second half for a 30-17 win.

That set up a marquee showdown for the No. 8 Bears at No. 5 Oregon with ESPN's College GameDay on location in Eugene.

Lee Corso donned the Duckhead. Kirk Herbstreit tapped the Bears.

"It's fair to say the winner of this game will send a player to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony," Chris Fowler said about Best and Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

The Bears led 17-10 at the half, a 76-yard run from Best being the difference.

With 3:05 left, the Bears led 24-20. From the Oregon 47, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley did a play-action fake to Best and launched a bomb.

But Ducks safety T.J. Ward didn't bite on the fake, and he out-leapt Marvin Jones for the interception.

Masoli drove the Ducks to Cal's 32, but faced a fourth-and-8 with 0:55 remaining.

Masoli set up to pass, but Bears end Cameron Jordan was on him. Masoli stiff-armed Jordan, and started to backpedal. Jordan was joined by Mike Mohamed in pursuit of Masoli, who reversed the field and started directing receivers downfield.

There was room to run. Masoli tucked and made a break, but just short of the line of scrimmage, he stopped and lobbed the ball into the corner of the endzone.

Tight end Ed Dickson leapt, but the ball was tipped away by safety Brett Johnson.

And onto the turf.

Autzen went silent.

"California might be the best team in the nation," Herbstreit said after the game.

"See you next week in Berkeley," Fowler concluded.

No. 2 USC vs. No. 4 California. Big. Perhaps the biggest game in Cal history.

"People have contemplated the origin and evolution of the universe since before the time of Aristotle," said George Smoot, Cal physics professor and Nobel Prize winner. "Very recently, the era of speculation has given way to a time of science. The advance of knowledge and of scientific ingenuity means that at long last, we can actually test our theories. But no body will be testing anything Saturday because the Bears are going to stomp 'SC. Go Bears! Whoooo! How 'bout another margarita!"

One piece of good news that emerged from the day as a sidebar was that Memorial Stadium, awaiting a major seismic retrofitting, proved it could withstand a minor earthquake.

We know that because the rumble inside Strawberry Canyon probably could have be heard across the Bay in San Francisco when Best went 75 yards for a touchdown on the Bears first possession, having outraced Trojans safety Taylor Mays the final 35 yards.

On the biggest stage, Best and Riley and an inspired defense pushed the Trojans around in a 40-17 victory, the worst loss of the Pete Carroll era.

Cal rose to No. 2 in the rankings. Texas coach Mack Brown complained. According to an poll, 78 percent of the college football nation believed he should quit whining.

When Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma Sam Bradford combined for six interceptions in a 10-7 Sooners victory on Oct. 17, the door opens for the Bears.

"It's the matchup everyone wants to see," Fowler says. "Florida vs. Cal, Tim Tebow vs. Jahvid Best. SEC vs. Pac-10. It's freaking beautiful."

The Bears rolled through their next seven games by an average of 24 points. The offense ranked third in the nation with 41 points per game, the defense fifth with 13 ppg.

On a technicality, however, Cal didn't play in its first Rose Bowl since 1959.

"While disappointed we're not playing in the Rose Bowl, it is some consolation to play for the national title in the Rose Bowl Stadium against a fine team like Florida," Cal coach Jeff Tedford sighs.

Best, already called the best player in the nation by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, won the Heisman.

During a pre-BCS title game press conference, a reporter asked Best whether he won the Heisman because folks were tired of hearing and reading about Tebow.

"I hope not," Best says. "Because that would mean people are really stupid. Tim Tebow is the greatest college football player in history. And he's a great person. And I use the term 'great' in its true sense, not as a casual compliment. Why would people get tired of hearing about a guy who does so much good? A guy who remains humble despite all the accolades? I don't care if you don't subscribe to his religion. I don't care if you don't like Florida. I certainly don't like Florida this week. But the idea that people are tired of hearing about such an outstanding person bothers me and it should bother you. It's the worst type of cynicism."

Florida nipped Cal 43-42 in triple-overtime when Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes tipped away a Riley pass on a 2-point conversion.

Worst case

California opened 2-0 with wins over Maryland and Eastern Washington, but a team that wanted to contend for championships had to win on the road.

And Cal still didn't prove that it can, which became clear when the Bears fell at Minnesota, 28-24, the program's fifth consecutive road defeat.

That, of course, didn't bode well for a visit to Oregon. This time the Bears were sharp to start, but Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli led a fourth-quarter rally and the Ducks prevailed, 27-24.

A home loss the following weekend to USC left a season that started with such promise on the brink of disaster. Coach Jeff Tedford announced he was benching quarterback Kevin Riley in favor of Brock Mansion.

While the passing offense continued to struggle, running back Jahvid Best and a tough defense led the Bears on a five-game winning streak.

But Best hurt his shoulder in the overtime win over Arizona, meaning he missed the Big Game vs. Stanford.

In the second overtime of the Big Game, needing a field goal to tie, Stanford called a flea flicker, and quarterback Andrew Luck found Richard Sherman, who was uncovered, for the game-winner.

Stanford improved to 9-3 and earned a berth in the Holiday Bow

Cal slipped Washington in the season-finale and headed to the Sun Bowl.

The Bears whipped Notre Dame 38-10.

The following day, Best, Jordan, Mohamed and cornerback Darian Hagan announced they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft a year early.

And Tedford was named the Oakland Raiders head coach.

Cal hired John Mackovic.