Pac-12: Garrett Grayson

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
AM ET
The regular season's grand finale is upon us. Here's a look through Black Friday and Closing Saturday in the Pac-12:

Friday, Nov. 28

12:30 p.m.

Stanford at UCLA, ABC: The Cardinal are the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, but they're now in a position to play spoiler to UCLA's title bid. A win locks up the South for the No. 8 Bruins and keeps them in contention for the four-team College Football Playoff. Stanford will be without offensive star Ty Montgomery (shoulder), so UCLA figures to have a good chance to beat the Cardinal for the first time since 2008.

[+] EnlargeNick Wilson
AP Photo/Steve DykesIn Arizona's last three games, RB Nick Wilson has rushed for more than 100 yards in each contest.
ASU at Arizona, Fox: If UCLA slips, the Sun Devils and Wildcats are both ready to pounce on the opportunity to win the Pac-12 South in this Territorial Cup. Let's rephrase that: If UCLA slips, this can turn into the biggest Territorial Cup ever. A division championship and a Levi's Stadium date with Oregon would be on the line. Key matchup here: Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson against ASU's volatile run defense.

Saturday, Nov. 29

10 a.m.

Utah at Colorado, Pac-12 Network: The Utes are slipping badly and the Buffs are 0-8 in Pac-12 play. There's certainly hope in Boulder after Arizona drubbed Utah 42-10 in Salt Lake City last week. Kyle Whittingham's club is staggering, and Colorado's Mike MacIntyre -- who strongly feels his program is making progress -- would love nothing more than an uplifting win entering a critical offseason.

12:30 p.m.

Notre Dame at USC, Fox: This is another contest pitting two clubs coming off losses. The 2014 season has taken a turn for the worse on both Figueroa St. and in South Bend, but one of college football's most storied rivalries is an intriguing watch regardless. The Irish will be playing this game without Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, their two best defensive linemen. They've given up 30-plus points in six straight games for the first time in their 126-year history. Yes, that's Javorius Allen licking his chops.

1:30 p.m.

BYU at Cal, Pac-12 Network: The Bears have one more crack at securing the bowl eligibility that will earn them vital December practice time. The opponent is BYU. The Cougars have won three straight games in their effort to salvage what once looked like a season of complete misery following Taysom Hill's injury. But those wins came against shaky competition: Jared Goff's unit should move the ball against a BYU defense that surrendered 55 points to Boise State.

5 p.m.

Oregon at Oregon State, ABC: There's plenty on the line in the Civil War: While the Ducks battle for a College Football Playoff spot and a Marcus Mariota Heisman trophy, the Beavers will scrap for bowl eligibility in Sean Mannion's final season. Remember the upset havoc that Reser Stadium can wreak. Oregon is certainly the better team, but nothing is guaranteed heading into Corvallis.

7:30 p.m.

Washington at Washington State, ESPN: The Cougars played well as they built up a 24-21 lead at ASU last week, but turnovers helped knock the wheels off in the second half. Still, Mike Leach's club smells opportunity here: This Apple Cup is in Pullman, and Washington is a weaker opponent than the Sun Devils. The Huskies' Cyler Miles played efficient football last week; Chris Petersen will ask for more of the same out of his quarterback so that Wazzu's Luke Falk (601 passing yards vs. ASU) stays on the sideline. Falk did turn the ball over last week, though, and the Huskies are known to generate takeaways from time to time (24 this season).

Washington State… well, as your rivals often joke, you "Couged it."

It was over when: Colorado State kicker Jared Roberts booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired, capping an epic meltdown by Washington State in a 48-45 Rams victory in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. The Cougars (6-7) surrendered 18 points in the final 2:52, fumbling twice to give the seemingly beaten Rams (8-6) new life.

Game ball goes to: Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs, who was nursing a turf toe injury, rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries with three touchdowns, including a 75-yard effort and a 1-yard burst that tied the game in the waning moments. He averaged 6.3 yards per rush.

Unsung hero of the game: Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson completed 31 of 50 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns, leading an offense that gained 595 yards against a Cougars defense that was surprisingly hapless and unsound.

Stat of the game: The Cougars rushed for minus-10 yards. And when they tried to run the ball in order to run out the clock, it became a comedy of errors. Just after replay officials saved the Cougars from a Connor Halliday fumble on a peculiar read-option keeper, Jeremiah Laufasa fumbled on the next play, setting up the tying touchdown and two-point conversion.

What it means: It means most of the momentum Washington State gained from playing in its first bowl game since 2003 reverts to frustration. The Cougars will almost certainly make every postseason bowl game review for being the bowl season's biggest chokers.

Instead of finishing 7-6, the Cougs finish with a losing record for the seventh consecutive season.

The final three minutes of the game were devoid of poise and execution. This one will bite at coach Mike Leach and his players for a long time, at least until the 2014 season opener.

It also means the Pac-12 loses its first game in 11 matchups this year against the Mountain West Conference.

Recall this week when Pac-12 fans were irritated with ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach for picking the Pac-12 to go 3-6 this bowl season? Well, he picked Colorado State to beat Washington State.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, click here.

Bowl primer: Gildan New Mexico

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
9:00
AM ET
Today we begin a look at each of the Pac-12’s opponents during the bowl season. We start with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and will do one a day through next Friday.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 21, 11 a.m. PT, ESPN
Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)

Colorado State Rams

Coach: Jim McElwain (second year)
Record: 7-6, 5-3 Mountain West
Combined opponents’ record: 62-95 (.394)
Common opponents: None, though Colorado State did lose to Colorado in the season opener.
Leading passer: Garrett Grayson, 266-428 (62.2) for 3,327 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Leading rusher: Kapri Bibbs, 254-1,572 (6.2 yards per carry), 28 touchdowns.
Leading receiver: Rashard Higgins, 64-795, six touchdowns.
Leading tackler: Max Morgan, 129. Though it's worth noting Shaquil Barrett has 20.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks.

What to know: Colorado State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. The Rams were worried they might be the odd men out of the Mountain West, which had seven bowl-eligible teams and six contracted agreements. In a six degrees of Kevin Bacon turn of events, it was the San Jose State Spartans who were left out. That’s Mike MacIntyre’s former team, and he picked up his first win as Colorado’s coach by beating the Rams in the season opener. So it all comes full circle.

Once regulars in the postseason under Sonny Lubick -- when they went to nine bowl games in a 12-season stretch -- the Rams hit a postseason dry spell.

Their resume isn’t particularly sparkling, but it’s hard to ignore Bibbs’ numbers. They only played one ranked team this season and it was No. 1 Alabama. And they lost 31-6. Their marquee win is probably a 38-17 win at home over Nevada. And they should be plenty familiar with Albuquerque, having won there on Nov. 16 when they topped New Mexico 66-42.

Key matchup: Stopping Bibbs has to be the top priority. The last time he was in New Mexico he rushed for 291 yards and six touchdowns. He leads the nation in rushing touchdowns and is top 10 in rushing yards and top 15 in carries. That puts the pressure on the Washington State front seven, which has yielded 22 rushing touchdowns and allows 184 rushing yards per game. But playing in the Pac-12, the Cougars are no strangers to elite backs. They gave up 132 yards and a touchdown to Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and 200 yards and a score to Washington's Bishop Sankey. Both are Doak Walker finalists.

Nonconference primer: Colorado

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
4:00
PM ET
We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.

Colorado

Colorado State, Sept. 1 (in Denver)
  • Coach: Jim McElwain (4-8), second year
  • 2012 record: 4-8, 3-5 Mountain West
  • Returning starters: nine offense, six defense
  • Offensive headliner(s): The Rams have a deep running back corps with Chris Nwoke (who led the team in rushing in 2011) and Donnell Alexander (who led the team in 2012) both coming back.
  • Defensive headliner: Cornerback Shaq Bell is the leader of a young secondary. He was all-league honorable mention last year after posting 66 tackles, a sack, a pick and he recovered three fumbles.
  • The skinny: The Rams went through a quarterback carousel last year (which should sound familiar to Colorado fans) but appear to be settling on Garrett Grayson, last year's original starter. Last season, McElwain became the first Rams coach to win his debut in 42 years. And it came against the Buffs after they failed to hold a 17-16 fourth-quarter lead in the season opener.
Central Arkansas, Sept. 7
  • Coach: Clint Conque (98-54), 14th year
  • 2012 record: 9-3, 6-1 Southland
  • Returning starters: eight offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: Quarterback Wynrick Smothers put up fantastic numbers last year, earning the league's Offensive Player of the Year honors while completing 64.9 percent of his throws for 3,103 yards with 31 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also rushed for 449 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Defensive headliner: Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Woodard earned the league's Freshman of the Year honors last season after posting 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in 2012.
  • The skinny: Conque is the winningest coach in school history. They hung with Ole Miss last year and took Louisiana Tech to overtime the year before that, so they won't be intimidated at the mere thought of playing an FBS team. And the Buffs, though I don't think anyone needs reminding, fell at home to FCS opponent Sacramento State last year.
Fresno State, Sept. 14
  • Coach: Tim DeRuyter (9-4), second year
  • 2012 record: 9-4, 7-1 Mountain West
  • Returning starters: seven offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: Senior quarterback Derek Carr was the 2012 MWC Offensive Player of the Year, setting a new league record with 4,104 passing yards. His 37 touchdowns last year were second all-time in league history and he has the second-highest career touchdown-to-interception ratio (63-16) of all returning FBS quarterbacks with at least 300 completions.
  • Defensive headliner: Nose guard Tyeler Davison -- a first-team all-league selection last year -- posted 43 stops last year, tops among the Bulldogs D-linemen. He also had seven tackles for a loss with three sacks and he was the only Fresno State defensive lineman to start every game last year.
  • The skinny: After taking a slice of the MWC title last year, the Bulldogs should be tough again -- though they are moving on without running back Robbie Rouse -- the school's all-time leading rusher. Interestingly enough, Rouse set the school record on a 94-yard touchdown run (his fourth touchdown of the first quarter) in a 69-14 win over Colorado last year.
Thoughts: Colorado lost two close games to open 2012 -- the first to Colorado State and the next week to Sacramento State -- and that essentially opened the flood gates for a horrific season (save the Washington State shocker). The Rams are one of CU's oldest rivals and just as the Buffs gave McElwain his first career win, Mike MacIntyre getting his first career win against CSU would add nice symmetry to the rivalry. As noted, Central Arkansas is no pushover. But both of those games should fall under the winnable category. They get Fresno State at home and should -- at least -- have a better showing than they did last year. I don't think asking for a 2-1 start is out of the question. But another 0-3 opening would kill any momentum Colorado has heading into the year with its new coaching staff.

You can see the rest of the series here.

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