Pac-12: Cort Dennison

Last week we gave you our thoughts on a couple of Pac-12 players who went undrafted this year. It wasn't really a debate, since we both felt that Washington running back Chris Polk not getting drafted was the biggest surprise.

SportsNation

Outside of Chris Polk, who was the most surprising Pac-12 player to go undrafted?

  •  
    38%
  •  
    9%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    40%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,457)

So instead, we just opined on a couple of undrafted free agents.

Miller predicts that Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant is going to have a fruitful NFL career, though he wasn't all that surprised that he wasn't drafted.

Gemmell was slightly surprised that a team didn't take a chance on ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict given the NFL's history of drafting players with questionable character.

There were a few other players who we thought might have ended up as draft picks but didn't make the cut.

Washington linebacker Cort Dennison, for example, who led the Pac-12 in tackles last season and was a second-team all-conference selection.

Also, Stanford safety Delano Howell was predicted by many to go in the draft, but ended up as a free agent.

Then there was Arizona State wide receiver Gerell Robinson -- who had more receiving yards than any wide receiver in the conference last year.

Which player did you feel should have been drafted but wasn't?

Pac-12 recruiting needs: North Division

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
10:30
AM ET
Every team needs to hit every position group each recruiting season, but there are always priorities. It's not just positions where starters are lost or going to be seniors, it's about addressing weaknesses where a true freshman might be a better answer than a returning player.

Up next is the North Division.

California
QB
: Zach Maynard will be a senior, and it says something about the depth behind him that he never lost his job during his midseason swoon.
WR: Keenan Allen is back, but that's it in terms of returning production and experience.
S: Three of the top four safeties from 2011 are gone.

Oregon
Skill:
In Chip Kelly's offense, you can never have enough fast guys. Sure, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff are back, but there's a lot of youth and uncertainty after that at running back and wide receiver.
TE: His name is David Paulson, but he's gone. Colt Lyerla was a productive backup -- at least in terms of finding the end zone -- but after him things are uncertain. Tight end is one of the most underrated positions in the Ducks offense, so having more than one Kelly trusts is significant.
S: Eddie Pleasant is gone and John Boyett is a senior. Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson are next in line, but the young talent isn't as certain as it is at corner.

Oregon State
OL:
Oregon State lost three starters from a line that led the worst rushing attack in the conference and surrendered 27 sacks. Quarterback Sean Mannion has potential, but he needs time. And a running game.
DT: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. 'Nuff said.
LB: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. Almost enough said. Cameron Collins is gone, and all the contributors on the two-deep will be seniors, other than junior Michael Doctor.

Stanford
WR
: Perhaps the weakest position for the Cardinal in 2011, this need is augmented by the loss of Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu and the lack of up-and-comers other than sophomore Ty Montgomery.
DB: Three of four starters are gone, including both safeties. In the Cardinal's two losses -- to Oregon and Oklahoma State -- an absence of top-end athleticism in the back half was exploited.
OL: Three starters are back, but the losses are huge: Tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. And backup tackle Tyler Mabry and backup guard Matt Bentler also are gone. If coach David Shaw intends to remain a physical, downhill running team -- and he does -- he'll need to continuously stock up on linemen who can get the job done.

Washington
DB:
Lots of guys are back in the secondary, but the Huskies gave up 284.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 11th in the Pac-12. They couldn't cover anybody and often seemed out of position. So new blood might help.
DL: (See if you can notice a theme here that ignores questions at wide receiver and running back). Two starters are gone from a line that consistently underperformed based on preseason expectations.
LB: Second-team All-Pac-12 middle linebacker Cort Dennison is the only one of the eight men on the depth chart who won't be back, but he was the team's only consistent linebacker.

Washington State
DL:
Three of four starters are back, but all three will be seniors.
OL: Three starters are back, but to make the next step on offense, the Cougars need to run the ball better. They ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. And that might reduce a conference-high 3.3 sacks per game. Mike Leach's quick-hit offense also might help.
RB: 170-pound sophomore Rickey Galvin is back, as is senior Carl Winston, but the backs need to share responsibility for a 3.1-yards-per-carry average, worst in the conference (of course, losing 237 yards to sacks doesn't help).

Season recap: Washington

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:30
AM ET
WASHINGTON HUSKIES

Record: 7-5, 5-4 Pac-12

After blowing out of the gates -- winning five of their first six and six of their first eight, the surprisingly hot Huskies cooled down with a three-game losing streak against Oregon, USC and Oregon State. While their early victories were probably a little closer than they'd like, sophomore Keith Price quickly established himself as the brightest up-and-coming quarterback in the conference. In his first season as a starter, he tossed 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, threw for 2,625 yards and managed a very respectable completion rate of 67.4 percent. Junior running back Chris Polk provided the punch out of the backfield.

Washington looks to be on the verge of cracking into the upper echelon of the Pac-12. But to do that, it's going to have to learn to win sans Seattle. Washington went 6-1 in its hometown — with five of those victories at Husky Stadium and the Apple Cup win over Washington State coming at the Seahawks' CenturyLink Field — but just 1-4 away from home. To get to the next level, they are going to have to find ways to win games like Oregon State on the road -- even if there are injuries and adversity.

Offensive MVP: Running back Chris Polk went for more than 100 yards in nine of 12 games this season, netting 1,341 yards and 11 touchdowns. At 5-foot-11, 222 pounds, he's the perfect balance of speed and power and provided a brilliant safeguard for a new starting quarterback. He averaged 111.8 yards per game -- good for 16th nationally.

Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Cort Dennison had a terrific season, totaling 113 tackles. He had a monster game in Week 2 against Hawaii, coming up with 10 solo tackles -- and he also had an interception against Arizona. One of the most complete linebackers in the conference.

Turning point: Probably the Hawaii game -- which is when Price really arrived. He tossed four touchdowns -- including a touchdown drive following a 99-yard pick-six that cut Washington's lead to 21-14. He finished 18-of-25 for 315 yards.

Up next: Heisman finalist Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Huskies have seen elite quarterbacks already this season -- Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Darron Thomas -- but probably no one nearly as explosive as Griffin. A victory would pass last season's win total.

Stanford-Washington: Let's get physical!

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
12:00
PM ET
Sarkisian/ShawGetty ImagesWashington coach Steve Sarkisian, left, and Stanford's David Shaw both bring a physical brand of football into Saturday night's matchup.
Football folks often talk about a team being "physical." Or playing "physically." Yet those are general terms that don't tell us much, other than suggesting a team can run the ball and stop the run because it's solid up front.

You, of course, want specifics. What does it really mean?

"What's your deal?" That's what it means.

Harken back to the scene of beleaguered former USC coach Pete Carroll -- Carroll beleaguered! -- sharing an unhappy handshake in 2009 with former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who had just aggressively run up the score on the Trojans in a 55-21 win. That was physical football writ loud and large and in your face with no apologies. The Cardinal rushed for 325 yards -- 178 yards and three touchdowns from Toby Gerhart -- and scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns. And on the third one, Harbaugh had opted to go for two.

"What's your deal?" Carroll asked Harbaugh.

His deal, Pete, was physical football, which is about a team mercilessly imposing its will at the expense of its opponent. New Stanford coach David Shaw was the Cardinal's offensive coordinator that day when USC's homecoming was ruined by its worst home loss since 1966, a beatdown that required only 144 passing yards from Andrew Luck.

Stanford is always called "physical" these days, and Shaw immediately cited the 2009 USC bludgeoning as his favorite example of that well-deserved reputation.

"It was 55 to whatever and we probably ran the same play 12 or 13 times in a row," he said. "And about 25-30 times in the game."

That play was Gerhart up the middle.

Washington also knows about Stanford playing physical football. The 25th-ranked Huskies visit No. 8 Stanford on Saturday with a 41-0 beatdown delivered in Seattle last year still fresh in their collective noggins. Stanford, which led 28-0 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter, outgained Washington 470 yards to 107, the lowest total for the Huskies under coach Steve Sarkisian.

"They just out-physicaled us," Washington linebacker Cort Dennison said. "Just beat us down. Plain and simple."

Harbaugh shared that take, gleefully gloating to his players afterward in the locker room, according to Bud Withers of the Seattle Times:
"Dominating!" Harbaugh hooted at his players. "We kicked their ass every which way! One hell of a job on both sides of the line! Dominant, dominant!"

Then Harbaugh referenced Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and the UW head coach's defensive coordinator, Nick Holt, and said, "What are you guys, 5-1, 6-1 against that group [in his four-year tenure]? That's the highest-paid coaching staff around!"

No one wants to hear that sort of talk from an opponent. But what could the Huskies say in return?

"You want to bring it to them, but they're bringing it to us," Dennison said. "It was hard."

Thing about that game, though, is the Huskies haven't been the same since. Sure, they got ripped the next week at Oregon, with some obscure quarterback named Keith Price recording his first career start for an injured Jake Locker. But they are 9-1 since the Oregon game, and clearly playing more physical football.

How did Stanford build a physical football team?

"It's really pretty simple," Shaw said. "You have really, really physical practices and the cream rises to the top. The guys who are physical and tough by nature, they stand out. And the guys that aren't, they start to wilt."

How did Washington take the same course?

"I think you have to practice it and you have to coach to it," Sarkisian said. "It has to be talked to and you have to give living examples of it. And you have to play the game that way, and I think you need to call the game that way. We've tried to dedicate ourselves to that."

And the Stanford game was a turning point, in large part because Sarkisian decided it would be, even if that didn't go over well with some of his players at the time. That included a fairly embarrassing film session showing guys getting pushed around. That included more hitting -- and yelling -- in practices.

"The coaches after that week definitely tested our will as a team," Dennison said. "But we didn't ever want to see that happen again. It was pretty embarrassing. We took it to heart."

It appears that is true. Stanford ranks third in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (181.7 yards per game). Washington ranks fourth (173.7 ypg). Stanford ranks first -- and second in the nation -- in run defense (59.5 ypg). Washington ranks third -- 17th in the nation -- (97 ypg).

Of course, being physical doesn't mean you don't throw the ball; these teams have combined for 40 touchdown passes -- it just means balance creates efficiency: Stanford is No. 1 and Washington No. 2 in the conference in passing efficiency.

Further, Washington isn't there yet. It's improved on both lines but it's not yet grading roads like the Stanford does. It starts in recruiting with an emphasis on linemen. Sarkisian surely looks enviously at the Cardinal's line, which includes guard David DeCastro, who is not only the nation's best run-blocker, but also a product of Bellevue (Wash.) High School, which is a short drive from Husky Stadium.

It just so happens that the two most talked about recruits in the state of Washington this year are a pair of offensive linemen: Joshua Garnett and Zach Banner. Both have offers from just about everyone, and Sarkisian needs to sign at least one. If he gets both, well, that would be quite a deal.

But that's the future. The present is the Huskies trying to win a "hello, world" game at Stanford, and the Cardinal trying to record a quality win that boosts its national-title contender Q-rating among those ranking teams in the national polls.

Both coaches will talk about turnovers and mistakes and execution and all of that. But the first question for the Huskies is if they can match Stanford's physical play.

Said Sarkisian: "They've done a nice job of that and they've dedicated themselves to being a physical football team. I think we have as well. We'll find out how far away we are on Saturday."

Pac-12 lunch links: Bolden coming back?

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
2:30
PM ET
I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.
Stanford and Oregon were a combined 24-2 last year and both are presently ranked in the nation's top-10. They are the top of the Pac-12 North. The number of people who don't think one or the other will win the division is 17, and six of them are Norwegian, folks who as you well know are notoriously contrarian when it comes to college football analysis.

Looking up at the Ducks and Cardinal are four other the North teams, but the two top candidates for the three-hole will be in Seattle on Saturday scrapping it out for the right to become a "maybe" contender that could make the Norwegians look like giants of prognostication: California and Washington, neither of whom enjoy hearing about how great Stanford ("Blech," say the Bears) and Oregon ("Pfffftt," say the Huskies) are.

These two combined for 12-13 record last fall, with the Huskies managing to win seven games only because they pried No. 5 away from Cal on what suddenly -- wham! -- became the final play of the Bears season.

[+] EnlargeChris Polk
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezChris Polk's 1-yard touchdown with no time left lifted Washington past Cal last season.
That dramatic finish -- a fourth-down, 1-yard TD plunge from Huskies running back Chris Polk as time expired on a 16-13 victory -- was the cornerstone of what is supposed to be a transformative season for Washington.

It was not greeted so warmly in Berkeley, where the Bears found themselves saddled with their first losing record in nine years under coach Jeff Tedford. Bears fans, suffice it to say, grumbled a bit, and the Bears themselves weren't exactly clicking their heels over the program's slide, either.

Tedford, however, is only willing to obliquely note that Cal might come to Seattle with an added chip on its collective shoulder.

"It was motivation through the whole offseason and the summer time, but this is a different team and they're a different team," Tedford said before adding. "It was odd how that game ended. It was somewhere we've never been before."

As if last year's game isn't enough of a poke in the eye, Cal adherents also might recall that the last time the Bears were inside Husky Stadium, they got bombed 42-1o, perhaps Jake Locker's career-best game.

These teams will come at each other with similarities: New starting QBs who have mostly exceeded expectations. And differences: Cal's defense ranks among the conference leaders; Washington's among the conference laggards.

As for Cal's Zach Maynard, this will be his SECOND -- not first, SECOND -- major road test. He mostly passed his first during an overtime win at Colorado, but Husky Stadium is notoriously tough on visiting foes, though it doesn't appear the house will be full.

"I think Zach is on track to become a very good player," Tedford said. "He has a lot of ability. He probably can use his legs better than any quarterback we've had here, so that is an added dimension to our offense."

While Maynard has been solid, sophomore Keith Price has been stellar for the Huskies. He leads the conference with 11 TD passes and ranks fourth in passing efficiency, ahead of some notables such as Arizona's Nick Foles and USC's Matt Barkley.

"He's playing phenomenal football for us right now," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He's been lights out."

But Price will be playing against a tough Cal defense that has 11 sacks and ranks second in the conference in pass-efficiency defense.

Maynard will face a defense that ranks last in the conference in scoring (36.7 ppg) and 11th in total defense (452.0). Still, a review of the Huskies depth chart -- defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, defensive end Hau'oli Jamora, middle linebacker Cort Dennison, cornerback Desmond Trufant -- suggests this crew should be playing better.

Which is why much of the muttering in Seattle this week has been about well-compensated coordinator Nick Holt.

"I trust Nick Holt," Sarkisian said. "I believe in Nick Holt. I believe in our defensive staff. They are tremendous coaches. I've seen them coach for years. And we will get better."

How? Simple. Freaking stop dithering and go hit somebody.

"We're playing with some hesitation," Sarkisian said. "We're not letting loose and letting go. We're a little bit afraid to make a mistake."

The winner Saturday immediately announces itself as a top-half of the division team. And that is a necessary first step toward challenging Oregon and Stanford, who have finished one-two in the conference the previous two seasons.

The Norwegians have high hopes.

Pac-12 players of the week

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
3:45
PM ET
Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, Washington linebacker Cort Dennison and Huskies defensive tackle Everrette Thompson have been named Bank of the West Pac-12 Players of the Week.

Richardson, a sophomore from Gardena, Calif., caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns (66, 78 yards) in the Buffs 36-33 overtime loss to California. Ten of his 11 catches earned first downs (school record for a receiver), 162 of the yards came after the catch and he had 297 all-purpose yards including one rush for nine yards and a punt return for four yards. He set the Colorado record for the most receiving yards in a single game, and it third most all-time in Pac-12 history. Richardson now has six career plays of 50 yards or longer, and his 10 career TD catches have covered 362 yards.

Dennison, a senior from Salt Lake City, Utah, led all players with 12 tackles in the Washington’s 40-32 win over Hawaii. Ten of his 12 tackles were solo stops. Dennison also provided a key play when he stripped the ball from a Hawaii receiver on the UW 12-yard line at the end of a 34-yard reception. Washington recovered the fumble and drove for the game's first score.

Thompson, a senior from Renton, Wash., blocked two PAT attempts in the Huskies' win over Hawaii. The second was key to the game as Hawaii had just scored a touchdown with 1:39 remaining in the game to cut the score to 38-32. That blocked PAT was picked up and returned for a two-point defensive conversion by UW cornerback Desmond Trufant to give Washington an eight-point lead. Thompson also contributed three tackles, including a sack.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Zach Maynard of California, Darron Thomas of Oregon, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Keith Price of Washington, Marshall Lobbestael of Washington State, and running backs Derrick Coleman of UCLA and Marc Tyler of USC, and wide receivers Aaron Pflugrad of Arizona State and DeVonte Christopher of Utah. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Colin Parker of Arizona State, D.J. Holt of California, Michael Clay of Oregon, Chase Thomas of Stanford, Sean Westgate of UCLA, Dion Bailey of USC and Matt Martinez of Utah. Also nominated for special teams play were punters Josh Hubner of Arizona State and Bryan Anger of California, place kickers Will Oliver of Colorado, Jordan Williamson of Stanford and Kip Smith of UCLA, running back/punt returner LaMichael James of Oregon, and tackle Matt Kalil of USC.
SMU’s legendary "Pony Express" backfield, Craig James and Eric Dickerson, have teamed up again for an award that recognizes college football's best tandem -- on either side of the ball -- the "Pony Express Award."

[+] EnlargeCraig James and Eric Dickerson
AP File PhotoRunning backs Craig James, left, and Eric Dickerson were dominant at SMU in the early 1980s.
The award, the press release said, "will look at two- and three-player tandems from across the nation, ultimately honoring the combination whose work ethic, desire, on- and off-field leadership and playmaking ability best fuel their team."

The award will be "voted on by a blue ribbon panel of experts that will form the award’s board of directors," and will be announced at the end of the regular season.

“Eric and I were able to complement each other on the field in such a way that together we formed a much more potent weapon than even our individual talents would have suggested,” James said in the release. “We have remained life-long friends, and each season we have always had fun talking about the great tandems that were making an imprint on the game that season. We decided someone should recognize these great combinations, and that really became the genesis of the Pony Express Award.”

Said Dickerson: “You usually talk about football in terms of offensive and defensive units and the individual standouts on either side of the ball. But if you look at those units, usually there are a couple of guys who stick out and really form a very tough matchup. The most obvious would be a great quarterback and a standout receiver. In Craig and mine’s case, it was two great running backs. On defense, it might be a pair of great safeties. These are the types of tandems we will be looking at.”

The 48 tandems on the "Watch List" include seven from the Pac-12, including two from both Stanford and Washington.

Stanford: QB Andrew Luck, WR Chris Owusu, TE Coby Fleener
Stanford: OT Jonathan Martin, OG David DeCastro
Arizona: QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner
Oregon: QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James, RB Kenjon Barner
USC: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods
Washington: DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison
Wasington: RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse

Some that might have been worth adding:

Arizona State: LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Junior Onyeali
California: LB Mychal Kendricks, S Sean Cattouse
Colorado: RB Rodney Stewart, WR Paul Richardson
Oregon: CB Cliff Harris, S John Boyett
Stanford: LB Shayne Skov, S Delano Howell
Washington State: QB Jeff Tuel, WR Marquess Wilson

Top returning tacklers in Pac-12

April, 20, 2011
4/20/11
12:04
PM ET
Tackling is important in football. We can all agree on that, right?

The top three tackles in the Pac-10 last season -- and four of the top five -- won't be back for Pac-12 play in 2011.

[+] EnlargeShayne Skov
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireStanford linebacker Shayne Skov figures to be one of the Pac-12's top tacklers next season.
So who has their top tackler back?

UCLA: Strong safety Tony Dye led the Bruins and ranked fourth in the conference with 96 tackles -- 8.0 per game -- last season.

Arizona: Linebacker Paul Vassallo led the Wildcats and ranked sixth in the conference with 102 tackles -- 7.8 per game -- in 2010.

Stanford: Linebacker Shayne Skov led the Cardinal and ranked eighth in the conference with 84 tackles -- 7.6 per game.

Arizona State: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict led the Sun Devils and ranked ninth in the conference with 90 tackles -- 7.5 per game.

USC: Safety T.J. McDonald led the Trojans and ranked 11th in the conference with 89 tackles -- 7.4 per game.

Washington State: Strong safety Deone Bucannon led the Cougars and ranked 15th in the conference with 83 tackles -- 6.9 per game.

Utah: Linebacker Chaz Walker led the Utes with 74 tackles or 5.7 per game.

So who is the leading returning tackler for the other five teams and who might lead in 2011?

California: Inside linebacker D.J. Holt is the Bears leading returning tackler with 7.2 tackles per game, but don't be surprised if a move inside for Mychal Kendricks makes him the Bears' leading tackler.

Colorado: Safety Ray Polk was the Buffaloes' second-leading tackler in 2010 with 6.0 per game, but if linebacker Jon Major is healthy all season -- he was the leading tackler through seven games before going down with a knee injury -- he could become a 100-tackle guy.

Oregon: Safety John Boyett ranked 23rd in the conference and second to Casey Matthews for the Ducks last season with 6.0 tackles per game (his 78 tackles were just one fewer than Matthews). Matthews' replacement at middle linebacker, Kiko Alonso, probably finishes with the most tackles for the Ducks, though.

Oregon State: Safety Lance Mitchell was the Beavers' third-leading tackler behind linebacker Dwight Roberson and fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei. The Beavers would prefer that a leader emerge from the on-going competition at middle linebacker, but weakside linebacker Michael Doctor, who's stepping in for Roberson, looks like a good candidate to lead.

Washington: Middle linebacker Cort Dennison ranked third on the Huskies and seventh in the conference with 7.7 tackles per game in 2010 behind linebacker Mason Foster, the Pac-10's leading tackler -- No. 2 in the nation -- with 12.5 stops per game and safety Nate Williams (8.1). If he stays healthy, it's likely he'll lead the Huskies in tackles, particularly with the lack of experience surrounding him at linebacker.
On Friday, we looked at offensive three-headed monsters -- the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver troikas -- so it also makes sense to also look at their defensive counterparts, the best threesomes from each of the three levels of defense: defensive line, linebacker and defensive back.

Here's the tally from last season, if you are interested.

1. Arizona State

DE Junior Onyeali, LB Vontaze Burfict, CB Omar Bolden

The Skinny: No question on No. 1 here. Onyeali was the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Burfict is the nation's best inside linebacker. Bolden was unanimous first-team All-Pac-10.

2. Stanford

DE Matt Masifilo, LB Shayne Skov, SS Delano Howell

The Skinny: Masifilo, the lone returning starter on the Cardinal defensive line, was honorable mention All-Pac-10, as was Skov, who was playing as well as any linebacker in the conference over the final third of the season. Howell was second-team All-Pac-10.

3. California

DE Trevor Guyton, LB Mychal Kendricks, S Sean Cattouse

The Skinny: Guyton had 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks despite being a part-time starter. Kendricks was second-team All-Pac-10. Cattouse earned honorable mention.

4. Oregon

DE Terrell Turner, LB Josh Kaddu, CB Cliff Harris

The Skinny: Two solid returning starters and a second-team All-Pac-10 cornerback who figures to be a preseason All-American after earning second-team honors from the Associated Press and Walter Camp Football Foundation in 2010.

5. Washington:

DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison, FS Nate Fellner

The Skinny: Ta'amu earned honorable mention All-Conference honors and seemed to find himself over the latter half of the season. Dennison had 93 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two interceptions. Fellner tied for second in the conference with five interceptions.

6. Arizona

DT Justin Washington, LB Paul Vassallo, CB Trevin Wade

The Skinny: Washington's numbers fell off when he got banged up, but he still had 11.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks as a redshirt freshman. Vassallo was honorable mention All-Conference. Wade had an off year last fall, but was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2009.

7. USC

DE Armond Armstead, LB Chris Galippo, FS T.J. McDonald

The Skinny: This actually could be one of the best threesomes in the conference, but Armstead and Galippo have injury issues and only put up middling numbers last fall. McDonald was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010.

8. Washington State

DE Travis Long, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, SS Deone Bucannon

The Skinny: Long was honorable mention All-Conference, Bucannon, who started as a true freshman, and Hoffman-Ellis were the Cougars' top two tackles in 2010.

9. UCLA

DE Datone Jones, LB Patrick Larimore, SS Tony Dye

The Skinny: A solid threesome that is down here more because it gets an "incomplete." Jones missed all of last season with a foot injury, but, if healthy, he's an All-Conference sort. Larimore was solid in seven games before suffering a shoulder injury. Dye led the Bruins in tackles and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10.

10. Colorado

NG Will Pericak, LB Jon Major, FS Ray Polk

The Skinny: Pericak earned honorable mention All-Big 12. Major was the Buffaloes leading tackler before he blew out his knee in Game 7 (a knee injury also killed the junior's true freshman season). Polk was the second-leading tackler.

11. Utah

DE Derrick Shelby, LB Chaz Walker, CB Conroy Black

The Skinny: Honestly don't know how to rank the Utes here. Shelby and Walker are returning starters -- Walker earned second-team All-Mountain West honors. Black was the top backup cornerback last season. But Star Lotulelei might be the Utes' best defensive lineman, and Brian Blechen has moved from strong safety, where he was very good, to linebacker. How highly do the Utes think of him? They list him as an All-American candidate.

12. Oregon State

DE Dominic Glover, LB Rueben Robinson, S Lance Mitchell

The Skinny: Three returning starters, but none of them even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. Mitchell was the Beavers' third-leading tackler, Glover had 2.5 sacks, and Robinson split time with Tony Wilson.

Pac-12 recruiting needs: North Division

January, 27, 2011
1/27/11
10:00
AM ET
National signing day is now less than a week away. Time to take a final look at recruiting needs for the Pac-12, moving on to the North Division.

See the South Division here.

California

Defensive line: The Bears lost two starters -- end Cameron Jordan and noseguard Derrick Hill -- and you can never have too many D-linemen. This class is particularly strong in that area, with four of 18 commitments listed as D-linemen, including two tackles (Todd Barr, Viliami Moala) who are ESPNU 150 members.

Linebacker: The Bears lost two starters, including Mike Mohamed, and linebacker has been an inconsistent position the past couple of years in the 3-4. The Bears have commitments from two outside and one inside linebacker.

Running back: With the early but not unexpected departure of Shane Vereen, the Bears are uncertain at running back for the first time in the Jeff Tedford Era. Three running backs have already committed.

Oregon

Receiver: The Ducks need to restock at receiver with the departures of Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis. They have three commitments from players listed as receivers and three others listed as "athletes" who could end up at the position. They could end up with as many as six in this class.

Defensive line: Three of four starting D-linemen from 2010 are gone. So far the class includes two tackles and two ends, but one of the four players listed as an outside linebacker also could end up as a rush end.

Linebacker: Two 0f three starters and a key backup need to be replaced, though there's solid, experienced depth. Five of the 23 commitments are listed at linebackers, a position that one of the "athletes" also could end up playing.

Oregon State

Defensive line: The Beavers lost their two best defensive linemen -- DT Stephen Paea and DE Gabe Miller -- from a group that didn't play terribly well in 2010. That's why they have 11 incoming D-linemen -- eight listed as ends -- including four JC transfers, two of whom are already enrolled.

Offensive line: The line struggled last year and three projected 2011 starters are seniors. It's time to restock and upgrade. The Beavers top recruit, Darryl Jackson, is a 6-foot-7 tackle and one of three commitments from O-linemen.

Receiver: The Beavers are solid at receiver for 2011, particularly with the return of James Rodgers, but they need to restock depth. Five already have committed.

Stanford

Defensive backs: While Stanford welcomes back three of four starters in the defensive backfield, the secondary still is an area that needs an athletic and depth upgrade. Two safeties are among the Cardinal's 18 commitments. It would be ideal to add a cornerback or two.

Defensive line: Two of three starters are gone from the 2010 line, and end Matt Masifilo will be a senior. That's a good reason five of the committed players are D-linemen, including three tackles.

Receivers: Leading receivers Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen are gone, and Chris Owusu will be a senior. Some of the players expected to step up last year didn't. At present, the Cardinal have one commitment from a receiver, though Jordan Richards could end up as a corner or receiver (and address a need, one way or the other).

Washington

Quarterback: Jake Locker is gone and only two scholarship quarterbacks are presently on the roster: sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana. The Huskies lured Derrick Brown away from his Utah commitment, and would like to sign one more, with Florida prospect Jacoby Brissett being a dark-horse possibility.

Linebacker: The Huskies lost two quality senior starters in Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa, and middle linebacker Cort Dennison is a senior. The depth is young and uncertain. JC transfer Thomas Tugoti should immediately compete for playing time, and he is just one of five incoming linebackers.

Cornerback: Both starters are back, but Quinton Richardson is a senior and Desmond Trufant is a junior and there isn't much reliable depth behind them. Only one committed player is listed as a cornerback.

Washington State

Offensive line: It's not just that two starters must be replaced this season and two projected 2011 starters are seniors. The Cougars gave up 51 sacks last year and ranked last in the Pac-10 in rushing with 91 yards per game. Three O-linemen are committed, and two already are enrolled.

Defensive line: Two D-linemen and a top backup need to be replaced, and the Cougars only had 23 sacks and surrendered 220 yards rushing per game, with both numbers ranking last in the Pac-10. Seven of 23 current commitments are D-linemen.

Running back: While the Cougars lost top running back prospect Bishop Sankey to rival Washington, there are two running backs still in the class for a position that offers the possibility of immediate playing time.

Pac-10 did you know? Week 10

November, 5, 2010
11/05/10
11:15
AM ET
Some quick notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • The Sagarin Ratings this week ranked the Pac-10 as the nation's top conference. Seven teams were ranked in the top-25 by the computer rating, in large part because the conference has played by far the nation's toughest overall schedule. The nation's five toughest schedules are in the Pac-10 -- No. 1 Oregon State, No. 2 Washington State, No. 3 Washington, No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Arizona State -- as well as seven in the top-10 (No. 7 California and No. 10 USC). That said, the three teams ranked in the top-25: No. 1 Oregon, No. 13 Stanford and No. 15 Arizona have played the three easiest schedules: Nos. 42, 25 and 21, respectively
  • In Arizona's 43-38 win against Stanford in 2009, the teams combined for 1,137 yards, including 838 passing yards.
  • Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has nine touchdown passes in the first quarter this season, which is the second highest total in the nation. Luck’s first quarter pass efficiency is the best in the nation.
  • Luck has been great in the red zone this season, amassing a pass efficiency of 226.0, seventh best in the FBS (minimum 15 attempts). He's thrown 16 red zone TD passes with just one interception.
  • Arizona’s defense has allowed just one rush this season to go for 20 yards or more. Stanford comes into the game with 14 such running plays, tied for 19th in the FBS.
  • Wildcats receiver Juron Criner has caught 16 passes for 235 yards over the past two games with Matt Scott as the starting quarterback.
  • Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in five consecutive games. He is the only Pac-10 back who has done so.
  • Oregon's average time of possession on 51 touchdown drives this year is 1:43, quickest among all FBS teams.
  • Oregon’s offense is averaging more than 570 yards per game, and the Ducks gain their yards in chunks. They lead the nation with 40 plays of more than 25 yards, and 22 of those have gone for TDs, which also leads the nation.
  • LaMichael James has 13 rushes of 20-plus yards this season, which is second in the country behind Taylor Martinez of Nebraska, but nobody has more long runs than James since the start of last season. His 34 is 10 more than anyone else.
  • Washington has lost six consecutive games to Oregon, each by at least 20 points. The Huskies still lead the series 58-39-5.
  • The top three tacklers in the Pac-10 are Huskies: linebacker Mason Foster (12.5 tackles per game), safety Nate Williams (8.8 tpg) and linebacker Cort Dennison (8.6). On the downside, the Huskies rank ninth in the conference in total defense (429.8 yards per game) and rushing (212.1 ypg) defense.
  • USC has won 10 in a row vs. Arizona State, the longest current winning streak in Pac-10 play. The Trojans, who lead the overall series 17-9, have played the Sun Devils fewer times than any other Pac-10 team.
  • Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson is 1-7 against the Trojans, with the losses coming while at Washington State (1987), Oregon State (1999, 2001 and 2002) and Arizona State (2007, 2008 and 2009). His lone victory, in 2000 at Oregon State, however, was a biggie: It snapped the Beavers’ Pac-10 record 26-game losing streak to USC.
  • ASU freshman Deantre Lewis has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games, the first Sun Devil to do so since 2003.
  • Oregon State is the only team in the nation that has not lost a fumble. Its four total turnovers are fewest in the nation.
  • After getting just two sacks in the first three games, the Beavers have 16 in their past four.
  • Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who is now 14th on the Pac-10 list for career rushing yards (3,433), has scored a rushing TD in 12 straight games.
  • Oregon State has kicked just three field goals this year, fewest in the Pac-10.
  • UCLA had just three TD passes in its first seven games before Richard Brehaut threw two last weekend against Arizona.
  • The Bruins have scored 20 TDs this year, fewest in the conference. They rank last in total offense with 312.5 yards per game, passing offense (120 yards per game) and passing efficiency.
  • The Bruins have only four interceptions, fewest in the conference. Last year, safety Rahim Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions.
  • California is 0-4 on the road this year. Three of those were blowouts, with the Bears losing by 21, 34 and 28 points.
  • Cal quarterback Brock Mansion will be making his first career start at Washington State on Saturday. He came off the bench for Kevin Riley at Oregon State last weekend and completed 14 of 24 for 138 yards with a TD. He was sacked four times.
  • California running back Shane Vereen saw his streak of 33 consecutive games with at least one reception end at Oregon State.
  • Washington State's Reid Forrest is No. 1 on the Cougars all-time punting list with 256 punts for 10,879 yards.
  • The Cougars have lost 15 consecutive Pac-10 games, with their last conference victory coming in their final league contest of 2008, a 16-13 double overtime win against Washington in the Apple Cup.

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
2:09
PM ET
A look back on the week that was.

Team of the week: While Washington deserves recognition for its double-overtime win against Oregon State, it's hard to ignore what USC did to California. A week ago, many were questioning USC's fire, focus and motivation after consecutive last-second defeats in which the defense failed to stop game-winning drives. But the 48-14 win against Cal showed plenty of fire, focus and motivation. It might be premature to announce the Trojans are back, but that conclusion is more valid than at any time this season.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonWashington's Jake Locker threw five touchdown passes against Oregon State.
Best game: The Huskies 35-34 double-overtime win against the Beavers was exciting. And strange. Washington jumped ahead 21-0. The rout is on! Oregon State ties the game at 21-21. The Beavers are going to roll! Then neither team could score -- only one second-half TD -- as the defenses stepped up. Then both teams scored two TDs in OT. Huskies quarterback Jake Locker and Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers turned in star performances. Great finish, though a bit happier for the home fans.

Biggest play: No game is about one play, but a dropped 2-point conversion undid the Beavers when they made an aggressive move for the win in the second overtime. While H-back Joe Halahuni was covered tightly by Huskies linebacker Cort Dennison, the Ryan Katz pass was on the money and it would have won the game.

Offensive standout: There were three Pac-10 games this weekend, and two featured quarterbacks throwing five TD passes in Locker and USC's Matt Barkley. But Barkley gets the nod for completing 25 of 37 for 352 yards against what was supposed to be a good Cal defense.

Defensive standout: USC. You can review the numbers here -- no one player stands out -- but the Trojans held Cal to just 245 yards and 10 first downs. That's worthy of note, particularly for a unit that has struggled all season.

Special teams standout: Kiel Rasp averaged 48 yards on four punts vs. Oregon State. You might recall that Rasp, a junior, only became the Huskies punter when Will Mahan was lost for the year to a knee injury. Rasp is presently 7th in the nation with a 45.91 yards per punt average.

Smiley face: USC bounced back from consecutive last-second losses to announce that it will not be folding up its tent in Pac-10 play. And Washington, in desperate need for a win to keep its bowl hopes alive, outlasted Oregon State in Husky Stadium a week after a lackluster effort at home against Arizona State.

Frowny face: There is no excuse, Cal. Even if USC's blowout win was about the Trojans playing great, the Bears shouldn't have rolled over that easily. 42-zip at halftime? That's just embarrassing.

Thought of the week: With Arizona quarterback Nick Foles going down with a knee injury, the battle for first-team All-Pac-10 at quarterback looks like it will be between Barkley and Stanford's Andrew Luck. Or might Locker make a late run? Or might a darkhorse candidate -- Oregon's Darron Thomas -- still stake a claim?

Questions for the week: The Pac-10 again has a muddled middle. Who will emerge from the gaggle of Arizona State, California, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington?

Q&A: Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
3:57
PM ET
It's not just Washington coach Steve Sarkisian who is making a homecoming of sorts when the Huskies visit USC on Saturday. His defensive coordinator, Nick Holt, also was a long-time assistant under Pete Carroll and coached alongside Sarkisian and new Trojans coach Lane Kiffin.

Suffice it to say, the two staffs know each other well, which adds another layer of intrigue for what should be a revealing game for both teams. The Trojans certainly should be motivated after losing in Seattle last year, a game Kiffin seemed eager to talk about this past week.

Holt and the Huskies are coming off a bye week, which fell at a good time after the embarrassing 56-21 home loss to Nebraska. While quarterback Jake Locker caught most of the grief for the Huskies poor play, the defense didn't exactly shine.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Holt.

Probably not your favorite subject, but what did you learn about your team after reviewing the Nebraska game film?

Nick Holt: (Laughs) We didn't play as well as we can. We did stuff we haven't done in a long long time. Guys just not doing their fundamentals. A lot of it was guys just trying too hard to make a play and just not using good sound fundamentals. We just broke down. It wasn't just one guy. It was a different guy at each time trying to do too much, trying to cover for somebody. We broke down and we just weren't good. It was one of those days you look at the film and go, 'Golly, man, we just weren't ready to go.' And it's one of those days you want to get right back on the field and play it over right away, because you know you're better than that. But we learned. We came back and watched the film on Sunday. The kids saw it. They knew it right after. We just didn't play up to our capability. We just weren't right. We did some good things, but every time we kind of fought back into the game, which was late in the second quarter, they had some big plays and shut the door. It was a good learning experience that you have to take the care of business all the time and do the little things, the basic fundamentals, and get your mind ready to play every Saturday. It wasn't a very good job by myself.

How did your guys react during the bye week: Did you see any loss of confidence?

NH: No, I didn't. During the bye week we got guys who had been banged up healthy. And we went back to work. They had a good attitude. We had some really good practices. One of the big things that hurt us -- and we don't want to make excuses -- but our starting middle linebacker, who is one of our leaders [Cort Dennison], and one of our top tacklers, and one of our better players, he couldn't play because he got a mild concussion in practice on Wednesday before the game. He was out. He couldn't play. We had to play a true freshman at middle linebacker [Garrett Gilliland] and he did some good things, but I think quite honestly that affected some of the other guys. They just didn't play right. They just weren't as confident as they have been. So during the bye week we had some good practices and tried to get back to who we are. I think we feel a little more confident right now.

Who's been playing well for you?

NH: Our inside linebacker Mason Foster has been playing really well. Nate Williams, our strong safety, is doing a good job. Our corner, Desmond Trufant, has been doing really well. And our middle-backer, Cort Dennison, has been playing really well. And like I said he didn't get to play against Nebraska. And our noseguard [Alameda Ta'amu] has been playing well but he can play better. He's doing a decent job.

What about the young guys? Who do you see getting more playing time as the season goes on?

NH: One of our safeties, Sean Parker, will continue to get more reps in the games. He's a strong safety. Two of our defensive linemen. Sione Potoa'e is getting 20-30 reps in the games. He's getting better each week, more confident, making plays for us. He does a good job. Then Hau'oli Jamora, a defensive end, he had the most production of all our defensive linemen in the last game. He had a lot of nice plays. He's not the biggest guy [238 pounds] but he's a really good football player. Those three, along with one of our corners, Greg Ducre. Those guys are going to keep getting more reps as they continue to learn and grow.

Think you'll feel any sentiment coaching from the visiting sideline inside the Coliseum opposite USC?

NH: That side of the field will feel a little awkward, but not sentiment, no. It will be good to get back down there. I haven't been there a couple years. I love walking down that tunnel. It's a great venue to play in. One of the best if not the best, in my opinion, in the country. I'm looking forward to getting back down there and playing. Quite honestly, I'm just looking forward to playing again. It seems like we haven't played in so long. You come off a loss after a bye it seems like forever. It's such a long week. We're ready to get going again.

Tell me about USC's offense: What do you see on film?

NH: They run the ball extremely well. They are extremely balanced. They are solid upfront. They've got some good offense linemen. Their center [KristoferO'Dowd] has been starting for a million years. He's a good player. Heady, makes all their calls. Ronald Johnson is one of the better wideouts in the conference. Just a really good player. I like all their running backs, especially Stanley [Havili]. He's a complete running back. He can run, catch. He can block. And Matt Barkley is doing a nice job. They have some weapons. They are physical. They try to run the ball and they believe in it. Then they try to hit you with a big play passes. They do a nice job.

How much will you and Steve Sarkisian try to get inside of Lane Kiffin's head and do the ole: 'Lane likes to do this.' And, 'if we do this, he'll do that?'

NH: That's a part of the game and the strategy. But you've got to remember, Lane knows us too. He'll have his own ways of trying to get in our heads. So you don't want to get too caught up in all that stuff. You want to coach your guys. You want to do things they are really good at that they're confident in. You don't want to get into your own little mind games, or your own little battles. This is a team game. You got to make sure you're putting your kids in position to be successful, regardless of who you're going against.

I know you guys love to compete. Is there anything special calling defensive plays versus Kiffin, who calls the Trojans offensive plays?

NH: (Laughs) Kiff is one of the more competitive guys. He loves to win. Whether it's 7-on-7, or at high school camps, whenever it is. He's going to bring out all the stops. It will be fun to go against him.

Opening the mailbag: Can Locker, Huskies bounce back at USC?

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
6:58
PM ET
Ah, now the Pac-10 schedule starts in earnest.

You can follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Quinn from Issaquah, Wash., writes: Following last weeks embarrassment against Nebraska, do you feel that Jake Locker has enough moxie to bounce back and pull of the upset this weekend against an overrated USC team? The Huskies defense has holes left and right, but nonetheless this team as an entire unit is the toughest challenge thus far for the Trojans. USC allowed over 300 yards to both the worst team in the pac 10 (a pitiful WSU squad) and the worst team in the big 10 (bush league Minnesota). With the bye week to prepare and perhaps some added motivation/insight from Sark, this seems as opportune a time as they will have to beat a ranked team. Seattle keeps waiting for this program to take the next step.

Ted Miller: Yes, Locker has the moxie. And, yes, at USC would be a great time for him to turn in a big-time performance and hush his critics.

Now, I'm not so sure that USC is "overrated," particularly at 18th in the nation. There certainly aren't 17 teams in the nation that would be favored vs. the Trojans, nor would most AP voters put money where there ballots are on the teams they keep ranking ahead of the Trojans.

Folks: It might be a mistake to write the Trojans off yet. Of course, if the Huskies go into the Coliseum and pull the upset, well, then it might be time.

The bye week after the Nebraska disaster certainly should help Washington. For one, there's extra game planning. Second, they get back two starters who missed the Nebraska game: WR James Johnson and MLB Cort Dennison.

I'd rate the Huskies chances as decent, though I still favor the Trojans, who shouldn't be lacking motivation after last year's upset loss in Seattle.

As for the program taking the next step: Keep in mind you're only in year two with Steve Sarkisian, who already has taken recruiting a major step forward. And in 2008, the Huskies went 0-12.

The end of the 2009 season perhaps gave Huskies fans too much optimism, something that the upbeat Sarkisian did little to keep in check. The expectations for a ranked team competing in the top-half of the Pac-10 that developed might have been premature. We've got plenty of season to play, and the Huskies still might surge, but the early returns are they don't have the talent on either line to play with the elite on a weekly basis.

Mark from Sacramento writes: I know the pac-10 season in just starting, but at what point (number of losses) does Tedford start looking at playing the younger QB's to get them experience instead of senior Riley? Tedford has only recruited one good QB (A. Rodgers), so the so-called QB guru needs to step it up.

Ted Miller: Jeff Tedford is going to play the QB he thinks will give him the best chance to win this season. Clearly, he thinks that's Kevin Riley. He's not going to bench Riley -- whose numbers, by the way, really aren't bad -- and start looking ahead to 2011 anytime soon.

Now, if the losses start to pile up, and Riley isn't doing well, then Tedford might turn to Beau Sweeney to see if he could give the Bears a spark. But I'd rate the odds of that happening as small.

And, keep in mind Tedford the QB guru may have only had major success with Aaron Rodgers at Cal, but his QB pedigree is pretty darn strong from his years at Oregon and Fresno State.

John from Corvalis via Tokyo writes: I have respect for the Arizona St. defense. I am not even going to negatively comment on you picking the Beavers to lose to Arizona St. at Reser (a place where the Beavers have played fairly well recently). Arizona St. could win, I think it will be a good game. Yet I really feel like you have overrated them to say that their defense is as talented as Boise State's and TCU's. Boise St. shutdown the Ducks offense last year and returned nearly the whole team. TCU I believe has led the Nation in Defense two years running. Like I said, Arizona State has a good defense, but they had more blown coverage vs. Oregon than the Beavers had against Boise St. and I think Kellen Moore is a better passer than Darron Thomas (although ASU was selling out against UofO's run game for obvious reasons). Please explain this huge compliment that you have paid them.

Ted Miller: Last year, playing a Pac-10 schedule as well as a game at Georgia, Arizona State ranked 13th in the nation and Boise State 14th in total defense. TCU, of course, was No. 1, but it lost its two best players -- end Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington.

At present, Boise State is is third in total defense, TCU 12th. The Sun Devils are way down at 49th.

But! ASU has played Wisconsin and Oregon, which are presently ranked Nos. 3 and 13 in the nation in total offense, averaging 560 yards and 484 yards per game.

Oregon had 405 yards vs. ASU; Wisconsin 440 (but just 20 points).

Boise State held Oregon State to 237 yards and TCU held the Beavers to 255. But Louisville also held the Beavers to just 319 yards in Reser Stadium. Kentucky had 466 yards against that defense at Louisville. SMU had 361 yards vs. TCU. The Mustangs only had 420 vs. Washington State.

Are you drowning in numbers already?

My point is: Based on who Arizona State, Boise State and TCU have played, the numbers are comparable, though our sample size -- one quarter of the season -- is too small to make ultimate judgments.

So let's then lean on this then: Boise State and TCU play good team defense. More players from Arizona State, however, are going to get drafted by NFL teams.

And I think you'll get a good look at how good the Sun Devils defense is on Saturday.

Paul from Carpinteria, Calif, writes: After watching UCLA dominate the Longhorns last Saturday one thing was extremely clear. Akeem Ayers may the best defensive player in football and this guy has to be double or triple teamed on every down. Is it just me or is this guy a freak of an athlete who is going to be a top 10 pick next year.

Ted Miller: It is just you. Ayers is a pansy.

Kidding! Akeem, please. Kidding!

Paul, not sure if he requires a double- or triple-team every play but he's a leading candidate for Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. As for his NFL prospects, he's moved up from 18th to 11th on Mel Kiper's "Big Board."

Jonathan from Pullman, Wash., writes: As a student at Washington State University, I would just like to say this: PLEASE STOP GIVING US SO MUCH RESPECT!!! We are an utterly despicable, joke of a football team. Have you even seen us play? We have been the Bad News Bears for what is now the third consecutive year. So please stop saying we will be competitive in games, because we won't. UCLA will man handle us just like every other opponent we face.

Ted Miller: This is the first time I've been told to stop respecting a team so much.

OK, Mr. Sunshine, sounds like a guy needs a long night at "The Coug."

Spencer from Salt Lake City writes: You've got a feel for the hate between BYU/Utah now that the Utes are headed your way. Check this out, this is great. You'll love it.

Ted Miller: Not bad. Not sure our friends from BYU will like it much, but I guess that's the point.

Of course, now you've got to find someone to hate in the Pac-12. Any suggestions, folks?

Steve from Portland writes: You say in your article :"Just ask Oklahoma State, which the Ducks manhandled in the 2008 Holiday Bowl" .....this actually confirms my assumption that you are a MORON!!! First, Oklahoma State was "Man-handling" Oregon the entire first 1/2 until Dez Bryant went out with Injury ....and they narrowly escaped winning that game. The Ducks are a JOKE and have yet to win any big game against a seriously Physical team (and no I don't consider USC as a physical team). The Ducks have had arguably 2 truly tough tests in the last decade....Boise State and Ohio State and they failed miserably in both of them because they were playing good Defenses!! The only GOOD defense that Peter Carroll's USC came up against while he was there ...was TEXAS ...and well ...you know what happened in that National Championship .....The Pac 10 has always been weak in Defense up until the last couple years with Standford looking like a REAL Football team . My guess is the DUCKS get Whooped the the Cardinal .....other than the cardinal ...most of the PAC-10 is a joke ...and want a be conference.

Ted Miller: You had me at MORON, Steve!

Here is the box score from the 2008 Holiday Bowl. The key number is 565.

And here are Mike Gundy's comments.

And here is the box score USC's only game against a good defense, Texas, in the 2005 national title game: The key number is 574 (other than the final score, of course).

Joe from Roseburg, Ore., writes: Could you announce that we are having a black-out at Autzen for this weekends game, and that all the fans attending should try and wear some black duck apparel. Try and spread the word.

Ted Miller: No, I can't do that.

Now, if you went for a Lightning Yellow-out, I'd be all for that.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12