Pac-12: Gary Patterson

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To the notes!

Costi from Phoenix writes: Ted, Pac-12 bias aside (if that is possible), how good will the conference be this year? We have repeatedly debated over it being the number 2 conference, is there any possibility of the Pac-12 being the best this year? Also, does a Pac-12 team have to win the national title to be crowned the best conference? Because lets face it, with as much talent as there is in the Pac, it is nearly impossible to go undefeated in this conference.

Ted Miller: No, you don't have to win the national title to be considered the best conference, but it sure helps. There were plenty of times the SEC didn't look all that strong, top to bottom, during its run of seven national titles, but arguing overall depth is just another highly subjective college football debate -- one that's easier to make when you're raising a crystal football over and over again.

As it is, the Pac-12 sets up this fall to be as strong as it's been in recent memory. While there's the typical offensive star power, what's more notable is the strength coming back on defense and the offensive line. From a preseason perspective, you have two legit national title contenders in Stanford and Oregon and seven teams that look top-25 worthy: the Ducks and the Cardinal, UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State and Washington.

The Pac-12 earning a "best conference" nod? Well, it starts with winning the nonconference games. Then it goes to getting two BCS bowl teams, preferably one playing for and winning the national title. And then it's overall bowl record.

If the Pac-12 posts a strong nonconference record, ends the season with five to seven nationally ranked teams and wins its bowl games, particularly the BCS ones, then folks might call the Pac-12 the best conference in 2013.

Jon from Portland writes: Brandin Cooks #22 ?!?!? I would provide written reasoning on why he should be higher, but writing them down will only frustrate me further.

Ted Miller: I suspect Cooks will be higher on the postseason list, but if you ranked him higher in the preseason, you'd be speculating, which we are trying to avoid too much of in the preseason.

The chief issue with Cooks: He needs to prove he can thrive without Markus Wheaton. Wheaton was first-team All-Pac-12 last year and Cooks only honorable mention for a reason. Wheaton has arrived as a true No. 1 receiver. Cooks was a No. 2.

And, by the way, only one receiver ranks ahead of Cooks on the list. Can you guess who that is?

Nick from Ottawa, Canada, writes: Question I saw on the big ten blog and I wanted to see what your opinion was: In a scenario where the top three teams at the end of the year are Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama, the first two teams are 13-0 and the Tide is 12-1. Is there any realistic scenario you see where an OSU team with a 25-game winning streak doesn't make it to the championship game? And if not, who would be their opponent?

Ted Miller: Oregon and Ohio State would play for the national title and Alabama would get left out, though there are some circumstances that might complicate things.

What if the rest of the Big Ten or Pac-12 has a horrible season while the SEC has six top-10 teams? What if Alabama's only loss -- say, a nailbiter with LSU on Nov. 9 -- happens with starting QB AJ McCarron out with an injury? And what if the Crimson Tide, having already won two consecutive titles, beats an undefeated, top-ranked Georgia team for the SEC title?

Ohio State plays a weak schedule. What if the Buckeyes are so unimpressive while winning that some pollsters drop them, particularly with sentiments that Alabama should have a chance to defend its title, not to mention that Oregon likely would be heavily favored against the Buckeyes.

As noted: Potential variables.

But those variables and how they play out with the computers and pollsters would have to be meaningful enough that they would outstrip an unbeaten team from an AQ conference. I'd rate that as unlikely.

Pete from Denver writes: It seems like a lot of people are very high on UCLA. I agree that there offense looks pretty good minus a RB, but the D is highly questionable especially the secondary. That coupled with a tougher schedule this looks like a team that could lose 5 or 6 games instead of 2 or 3. Is there something I am missing or do you agree that UCLA is a little overhyped?

Ted Miller: UCLA's schedule is a reason to speculate the Bruins might take a step back record-wise this year while actually being a better team than in 2012. Most notable: The Bruins play Oregon, while top South Division rivals USC and Arizona State do not. That's a significant advantage for the Trojans and Sun Devils. Further, some injury questions, particularly on defense, might give a prognosticator pause.

That said, the Bruins' front seven, led by the beastly Anthony Barr, looks strong, even with some voids on the D-line. The secondary will be young but may be more physically talented than the 2012 unit. On offense, it's hard not to put a "buy" rating on QB Brett Hundley.

I do think the range of what UCLA might do this year is pretty broad. I wouldn't be shocked by 10 wins. Or seven.

Ryan from Seattle writes: I know you have a take on this: What about LSU coach Les Miles bringing Jeremy Hill back, and the TCU coach blasting him for it?

Ted Miller: Good for Gary Patterson. And bad for LSU, the judicial system in Louisiana and Les Miles.

First of all: Watch the video. Hill didn't just get into a fight. He sneaked up behind someone who was either hurt or extremely intoxicated and cold-cocked him as hard as he could.

So Hill is: 1. A coward; 2. Cruel. Just imagine if the victim, whom Hill never acknowledges during his worthless and insincere apology, was a friend of yours or your son? Or, really, you.

Oh, and this is not his first moment of being a cruel bully. You could pretty much get a "ditto" from me on this Greg Doyel column.

What's almost as revolting is all the people around Hill who join in -- trading high fives and laughing. Where's the moral compass?

It makes me cringe to see Miles call call Hill "a good person." The overwhelming evidence is that he is not. Would Miles say the same if someone randomly clocked him from behind? Nope.

Now, we've got some discipline questions in the Pac-12, too, most notably with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who got a DUI in the spring. In some big-picture ways, a DUI is more serious than what Hill did, at least in terms of what could happen when a drunk person gets behind the wheel. It could -- and many times has -- led to multiple deaths.

Further, it appears Sarkisian is about to get hit with tons of media grief when he decides not to suspend Seferian-Jenkins for the season opener against Boise State. While Sarkisian's track record with discipline is strong -- and he was quick to dump defensive end Andru Pulu after he brutalized a guy at a party -- such a decision is going to smack of a "winning above all else" mentality.

Still, Seferian-Jenkins' DUI doesn't make him a toxic person. His was a horrible mistake in judgment that he can learn from.

With Hill, we have video proof that when he sees a hurt person, his chief reaction is to assault him. How can he not be viewed as a danger to society?

Pac-12 chat wrap

October, 5, 2012
If you missed my chat on Thursday, you can read the transcript here.

Here are some highlights.

David Smith (University of Washington (Seattle)) Are the huskies overrated? Do they really belong in the top 25 or is this just a one week stay like the other times in the past 4 years?

Ted Miller (3:02 PM) Maybe... we still don't really know who Washington is because we don't really know who Stanford is or USC for that matter. The LSU game was really ugly, too. If Washington is within 10 of Oregon on the road, that suggest to me this is a top-25 sort of team.

Robert (Seattle, WA) How much of the Beaver's success is due to the fact that Mike Riley took over the play calling from offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf this season?

Ted Miller (3:06 PM) Hard to estimate because my impression is he and coordinator Danny Langsdorf collaborate plenty... but when things go well, you tend to think that was a dramatic change. I'd suggest a lineup growing up, particularly the O-line, Mannion and WR Brandin Cooks counts for more...

Jesse (The District of Columbia) How much do you think the Huskies' extra two days to prepare for Oregon will factor in the game Saturday night @ 10:30pm EDT on ESPN? (see what I did there?)

Ted Miller (3:09 PM) I think it has to help just based on getting ready for the change of tempo and the misdirection. It's more time for a defense to train its eyes. It also helps because Stanford was a much different team. Further, the extra rest after a physical game helps, as does the time to get over the euphoria.

Noah (hollywood) Hi Ted. How terrible of a decision was it for the ACC to abandon its plans for a 9 game conference schedule next year?

Ted Miller (3:11 PM) Well, probably not terrible for ACC teams... helps them. It also puts further pressure on the Pac-12 to consider going back to 8 games. If the SEC, Big Ten & ACC are playing 8 conference games and the Big 12 and Pac-12 are playing 9, then three conferences have an automatic advantage at the beginning of every season. Just pure math.

Winston Free (Big Apple) UW's offense has not been in sync all season vs. FBS opponents. Was former Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier more valuable than previously thought?

Ted Miller (3:18 PM) Maybe... but Sark calls the plays. What Sark would like to do is to order up a couple more healthy, veteran offensive linemen. The Huskies have struggled up front, and it's difficult to do much of anything on offense when you're not blocking well.

Chris (Eugene) Is it fair to say that Oregon has one of the best if not the best Coaches in the game today?

Ted Miller (3:23 PM) yes.... Saban, Meyer, Kelly..

Jason (Phoenix) If Cal ponies up serious money to dump Tedford, who do you think would be a good fit? Season Professional a la raid another coach Petersen or TCU's Coach, Hired Gun Petrino, or go young up and comer IE Wilcox?

Ted Miller (3:30 PM) I try to be objective in how I cover things, but I've known Tedford for so long, it's extremely difficult for me not to root for him to get things turned around. So I felt a twinge this week when I first thought to myself: I need to consider who might be next. Petrino isn't happening. I don't think Petersen will leave Boise, nor Patterson TCU.... Wilcox, it seems to me, would be on the list. But it's difficult to project forward because you really don't know the money Cal could pay. $2 million is a baseline rate. To get an A-list guy to come to the super-expensive Bay Area, I'd say you'd have to ante up $4 million. And then you have to pay his staff. So I don't expect Cal to be able to go for a big name. And that might not be a bad thing.

Lance Romance (Winnipeg, Canada) If the devils can finish with 9 wins, meaning 2 conference losses, is that enough to get them into the Pac-12 title game?

Ted Miller (3:31 PM) If they beat USC... won't be easy in the Coliseum... they both would have 2 conference losses & the Sun Devils would own the tiebreaker.

John (College Station) Do you think Colorado's victoria solamente versus Wazoo will keep Embree his job for entire season? Would a loss have opened the exit door sooner?

Ted Miller (3:33 PM) I think folks recognize what Embree inherited. It would be a mistake to write him off after just 2 years. So I think he survives this season no matter what. He's a Buff after all, so he deserves a fair shot even more than an outsider would. Got to show respect within the family.

Kyle (Springfield) Do you think it is better to go into a rivalry game with the Chip Kelly every-game-is-the-same attitude, or do you like coaches playing to their players emotions for a rivalry?

Ted Miller (3:39 PM) I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I also think that Chip could humor folks -- fans, media -- on the topic a bit more while maintaining the team culture of "Every game is a super bowl." Overall, I think his approach is more the future. It's sound. But when the Ducks walk onto the field, and the crowd is charged more than it has been -- or probably will be -- this season, then the rivalry emotion will come into play. For a good team with a good culture, you don't need that during the week of preparation.

Herman (Tucson) The Wildcats started off the year looking pretty impressive, but have since lost their last two games. Would you mark that up to scheduling, lack of real ability, a little bit of both, or something else entirely?

Ted Miller (3:46 PM): Oregon is the No. 2 team in the nation, and the Beavers also have quality wins over Wisconsin and UCLA. So, yes, it seems to the Wildcats just lost to two good teams. But the schedule ahead is rugged, too, and the Arizona defense is thin up front. Doesn't help that they are going to face Stanford's tough front-7 without center Kyle Quinn. I think the Territorial Cup could be very interesting.... In the preseason, .500 looked like a good record with the available talent. That still might be the case.

Jim Mora (Westwood) I have the same players pretty much as last year's squad, but everyone around me says things are different. Quantify my success: __% better coaching __% better players (ie Hundley) __% better schemes

Ted Miller (3:49 PM) I think it's too early to make definitive statements. But the Bruins do seem better coached, Hundley is clearly a better QB (thanks to Rick Neuheisel for redshirting him) and the schemes are better because they are working... I think Mora's coordinators are much better, particularly because they are getting to run the schemes of their choosing,... so 20 %, 20 % and 18 %.

Trevor (Hillsboro, OR) Reynolds and Poyer. Wheaton and Cooks. Best CB and WR duos in the league? Coincidence?

Ted Miller (4:01 PM) That is a very strong foursome... you might be able to enter it in the "best in the nation" argument, in fact. But, of course, Mike Riley can't recruit. The game has passed him by... I think a lot of us in the media are enjoying the Beavers resurgence just because of how it silenced the absurd gripes about Riley.

Mailbag: Pac-12 culture vs. SEC culture

June, 24, 2011
Welcome to the last thing you must do before your weekend begins in earnest: Read the mailbag.

This is your brain. This is your brain if you follow me on Twitter. This is your brain if you don't.

To the notes.

Corey from San Francisco writes: So I watched the video about overtaking the SEC, and I find it sort of silly. Do you really think any conference will overtake the SEC any time soon? Will you at least admit the SEC is the best conference? And if so, I'd be curious about your explanation why.

Ted Miller: The SEC is the best conference during the BCS era. There is no way to argue the point: Five consecutive national championships and six different teams with BCS titles. No other conference boasts more than two.

Overtake the SEC? Hard to say. My first response is not anytime soon, at least not as college football is configured at present. If Larry Scott's grand vision of the Pac-16 had gone through, with Texas and Oklahoma among the Big 12 teams defecting to the Pac-10, things might feel very different today.

But this annual debate is a little redundant. So, Corey, I want to focus on the final part of your note: why?

I think it's about more than talent, fan frenzy and money. It's about culture. It's about the total buy-in at places where football is more important -- for better or worse -- than anything else.

There are a lot of good football teams out there as we head into 2011. Plenty of them are capable of winning every game. But the most challenging opponent for many top teams isn't the one on the opposite sideline. It's themselves. It's getting up for every game with maximum focus and preparation and not blowing one or two (or more) games to inferior foes.

My hypothesis is the football culture that surrounds SEC football, that most of the SEC players were raised in, provides that little extra bit of focus and dedication that helps a team avoid the Saturday brain cramp that turns a potential 12-0 team into an 11-1 team. Or a potential 11-1 team into a 9-3 team. Or worse.

The most obvious example in the Pac-10 would be the most successful program of the past decade: USC. The Trojans should have won more than its two national titles under Pete Carroll. In fact, the only defeat USC suffered from 2002-2008 in which you could say the Trojans weren't significant favorites was to Texas in the national title game after the 2005 season. And they were favored in that game. Go through the schedules yourself.

Further, I've also had numerous conversations with Pac-10 players through the years when they've talked about their team losing focus, taking a season for granted, partying too much, a locker room fracturing, etc. Those sorts of things happen everywhere in team sports, I just think they happen more in big city football out West than in the more insular enclaves in the Southeast. And I've lived long periods of time in both places, so I'm not just throwing mud at the wall here and hoping it becomes art.

Yet this cultural challenge -- some might offer that it's actually a healthy perspective -- is not insurmountable. Good coaches can create winning cultures. Let's start with something that might make you cynics roll your eyes: slogans and gimmicks.

The most important thing Chip Kelly brought to Oregon was not its up-tempo, spread option offense. It was this: "Win the day." Or, as the denizens of Autzen Stadium now know it, WTD.

And how many hokey things did Jim Harbaugh do and say at Stanford? "Enthusiasm unknown to mankind!" Gas station work shirts to demonstrate a blue collar attitude. Winning with "character and cruelty."

Even Carroll's "Win forever," was the endlessly repeated mantra of the USC dynasty.

That's why Cal fans may not want to mock coach Jeff Tedford's "Team matters" T-shirts this spring. It may prove to be a stroke of inspiration -- in multiple senses of the term.

You -- or players -- can be cynical about these sorts of things, or about an all-encompassing football culture, but how often does cynicism get cited as a foundational value of a successful venture? Other than a stand-up comedy.

The SEC has great talent, great coaches, big stadiums and lots of money. But its passionate football culture has played a role in the conference's rise.

Can the Pac-12 duplicate that? Probably not, top to bottom. But a program -- or programs -- can. They've just got to create their own obsessive, winning-is-the-only-thing-or-I-will-die, culture.

Ken from Bothell, Wash., writes: With the Pac 12 beginning to digest its new teams, what would be the next logical move for expansion? Obviously, a lot is likely to happen prior to the conference making a move, but do you see Mr. Scott trying to get into the Texas market again?

Ted Miller: Digest! Buffalo sounds tasty, but I'm not sure about Ute.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott believes there will be further conference expansion in the future, and his huge brain seems to be three steps ahead of everyone else, so I'm going to go ahead and agree with him.

In fact, he recently told John Henderson of the Denver Post this:
Do you see future expansion? “Long term I do. What I found in the process we went through, there were a lot more value for the schools that would be unlocked long term if there were further consolidation. I don’t think we’ll see anything in the next two years.”

Texas continues to be the big fish, but the Longhorns new network complicates its potential membership in the Pac-12. Still, the marketplace changes quickly. Who knows what the landscape will look like in 2020?

Tyrell from Salt Lake City writes: You were incorrect in regards to football profits last year for Utah. Utah was just shy of $5 million in profit (you can find the numbers from the same Sportsbiz website). That would have put them in ahead of a couple of PAC-10 schools, and considering they were receiving less than $2 million per year from the MTN West -- somewhat impressive. All that said, the new PAC-12 deal can't get here soon enough!

Ted Miller: Yeah, I messed that up -- didn't realize the list was only AQ schools and that's why Utah's numbers from the Mountain West were not included.

Sort of embarrassing because if I had considered it for a moment, there was no way that the Utes were running a $2 million-plus deficit in football. Dumb.

A number of notes on that oversight. Apologies.

Roger from The Woodlands, Texas writes: This was in Wednesday's lunch link regarding a [Publication name withheld] article: "Since the shakeout of last summer with Colorado and Nebraska's decisions to leave the Big 12 Conference, and subsequent frenzy that ultimately ended with only Utah joining CU in the Pac-10, word from several athletics administrators is that CU is having serious buyer's remorse. The splitting of divisions and even the playing of a league championship on home sites has been openly ridiculed within the new Pac-12. The conference in-fighting CU thinks it is leaving in the Big 12 has already ramped up at the Buffs' new home." Have you been hearing any of this? Are you holding out on us?

Ted Miller: It's notable that article is no longer posted. And didn't include a writer's name on it.

Have I heard anything like that? Nothing. Zero. Such sentiments do not exist.

If there is a person out there associated with Colorado experiencing buyers' remorse, please email me.

The only possible explanation would be that Colorado has to buy a new bank vault because its Big 12 version isn't big enough to store the soon-to-be incoming revenue from the RICHEST TV DEAL IN COLLEGE SPORTS HISTORY.

Or perhaps some are broken up about road trips to Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles instead of Lubbock, Waco, Norman, Manhattan and Ames?

L Wallace from Yuma, Ariz., writes: That stat about Wazzu being ranked ahead of 5 teams Utah played last yr was striking. I say the most underrated challenge for Utah will be the upgrade in Coaching. I think [Utah coach Kyle] Whittingham is the 3rd best Coach in the P12. However, he and [TCU coach Gary[ Patterson and [Boise State coach Chris] Petersen enjoy such a huge advantage over their peers in the MWC & WAC. In the P12 Utah will face OC's and DC's that are future HC's. They will face dozens of coaches with varying degrees of NFL and bigtime BCS experience. They will face programs that enjoy more resources, video, computer, scouting technology and tools. The "Schematic Advantage" that Whittingham enjoyed in the MWC will be severely tested in the P12.

Ted Miller: Interesting theory.

You would think that the richer programs in the Pac-12, which have more resources for preparation, including coaches who command better salaries, will present a more consistent strategic challenge on a week-to-week basis.

We shall shortly see, eh?

David from Beaverton, Ore., writes: Is it just me or do you notice college football fans start to emulate the characteristics of their team's coach over time? As a Beaver, I noticed Beav fans had a bit of a swagger when Erickson was our coach and for the most part, the fans are more even keeled with Mike Riley. At Oregon, Bellotti and Kelly can and have appeared, how should I put this "a little arrogant" at times and there is a large group of their fans that more than fall into that camp. Trojan fans seemed to have a confident swagger with Carroll, that previously was a quieter confidence in the McKay/Robinson eras.

Ted Miller: Hmm. My first reaction: What might have happened if Jim Harbaugh stuck around Stanford for another five years?

Maybe. But I don't know if I'm really feeling your theory. For one, I've never felt that Mike Bellotti seemed "arrogant." Not any more than any other successful coach.

Do a lot of Penn State fans look and act like Joe Paterno? Bobby Bowden was one of the true gentlemen in coaching; not sure if the Seminole fan base is known for the same. Just as Ohio State fans aren't really known for their senatorial bearing, like the coach formerly known as Jim Tressel was.

Are Arizona fans wound as tightly as Mike Stoops? Will Washington fans shortly adopt the California cool of Steve Sarkisian? How are Cal fans like Jeff Teford?

Or did you just want to drop in a tweak of Chip Kelly?

Oregon's Kelly is national Coach of the year

December, 6, 2010
Chip Kelly's head coaching career has begun fairly well. In his first season, he led the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. In his second, he guided them to the national title game opposite Auburn.

And now Kelly has been named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award by the Football Writers Association of America.

Kelly was a finalist for the award last year,when he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He's 22-3 in two years in Eugene, including a 17-1 record in Pac-10 play.

Kelly is the second Oregon head coach to receive the award named for Grambling’s legendary coach, joining 1994 winner Rich Brooks.

The other finalists for the award were Gene Chizik (Auburn) -- who Kelly will face on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., -- Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Stanford), Gary Patterson (TCU) and Chris Petersen (Boise State).

Kelly also has been named named regional co-coach of the year along with Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh by the American Football Coaches Association. The AFCA selects its national coach of the year following the bowl season.

Kelly, Harbaugh COY finalists

November, 23, 2010
The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, has announced eight finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, and two are from the Pac-10: Oregon's Chip Kelly and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh.

The other finalists are: Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Auburn's Gene Chizik, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, TCU's Gary Patterson and Boise State's Chris Petersen.

The winner will be revealed on Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

The FWAA coaching award is named after the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 years. He has more Division I victories (408) than any other coach in the history of college football. The FWAA has presented a national coach of the year award since 1957 and named the award in Robinson's honor in 1997.

Robinson, who passed away on April 3, 2007, won 70.7 percent of his games during his illustrious career. Robinson's teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers claimed nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.

TCU uses big stage to make statement

September, 5, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- TCU pushed Oregon State around inside palatial Cowboys Stadium. No getting around that. The sixth-ranked Horned Frogs rushed for 278 yards, which is more than the Beavers 255 total yards. Oregon State ran just 51 plays; TCU 81.

"Still," the glum head shakes from the Beavers said afterwards. They had the ball and a chance with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, but they made their biggest error of the evening. A miscommunication on a shotgun snap from senior center Alex Linnenkohl to sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who was making his first career start, sailed over a surprised Katz's shoulder, which forced Katz to kick the ball through the end zone for a safety.

Those would be the final points -- and the last time the Beavers touched the ball -- in a 30-21 defeat.

[+] EnlargeTCU Defense
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesRyan Katz and the Oregon State offense had a tough time with TCU's defense.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't give ourselves a chance on the drive at the end," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

What happened was this: Oregon State, down seven, had a first down on its 18-yard line. A draw play was called. Katz saw something he didn't like. He tried to change the play. Linnenkohl didn't get the message and snapped the ball.

The Horned Frogs got two points and the ball and they didn't give it back.

"The safety was a big deal," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You go up by nine and you play the game a lot different."

The biggest deal was TCU's running game and the Beavers lack of one. While Jacquizz Rodgers gained a tough 75 yards on 18 carries, the Beavers finished with just 73 yards on the ground. Three TCU runners gained at least 64 yards, topped by Ed Wesley with 134 on just 17 carries, which works out to a crisp 7.9 per rush.

Suffice it to say, the Horned Frogs option worked even though the Beavers knew it was coming.

"We just couldn't get off a block to make a play," Riley said.

Oregon State was still in the game in the fourth because of two interceptions of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton -- one by Lance Mitchell and the other by Dwight Roberson -- and a well-executed fake punt that netted 23 yards on a fourth-and-1. The fake punt set up the second of Katz's two touchdown passes, which gave the Beavers a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

Katz made some nice throws -- his TDs covered 30 and 34 yards -- but he only completed 9 of 25 passes for 159 yards. Nonetheless, it was a solid first start on the road. He didn't throw an interception and was mistake-free until the muddled shotgun snap.

The only plus coming from that play was Katz taking responsibility for the miscue, just like a veteran quarterback would.

"We should have just stayed with the [called] play," he said. "That's on me."

Riley agreed, by the way: "He didn't have to get out of it."

As for TCU, it got another win over a BCS conference foe. In the constant fight for respect, this was another notch on the musket. Seeing that the Horned Frogs are 14-3 in their past 17 games against teams from BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, they might need another musket.

"The national spotlight and national attention I think will pick up," Dalton said. "I think a lot of people will watch the game tonight and see how we play football."

One thing is for sure: TCU still enjoys seeing itself as an underdog. It didn't escape detection that ESPN GameDay analyst Lee Corso picked the Frogs to go down by "three touchdowns."

"I did text [Corso]," Patterson said. "You guys thought that was a bogus text. That was me. I asked Chris Fowler, 'Lee: Three touchdowns?'"

Big week for the Mountain West Conference, too. Utah beat Pittsburgh, the Big East favorite, on Thursday, and BYU's win over Washington -- along with Oregon's 72-0 win over New Mexico -- gave the conference a 2-1 Saturday vs. the Pac-10. Why is the conference in turmoil when it's so darn good?

Perhaps the most disappointed Beavers were the Rodgers brothers, who were playing their first -- and likely only -- game together in the state of Texas. Both turned in solid performances -- James Rodgers caught four passes for 75 yards and a TD -- but both only saw what they didn't do.

"We left a lot of plays out there," James Rodgers said.

For both programs, this big stage was an opportunity. Both are nationally respected -- see national rankings -- but both want to take the next step. TCU knows only perfection will get it into the national championship conversation -- or even BCS bowl contention -- while the Beavers want to climb toward the top-10 while they make a run at their first Rose Bowl since 1965.

For TCU, mission accomplished. For Oregon State, it's another nonconference loss to start the season, which fits into a pattern: The Beavers started 2-3 in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and 2-2 in 2009.

Of course, if any team knows that an early loss doesn't end the season, it's the Beavers.

"It's very frustrating, but we can't let that get to us," James Rodgers said. "We've got 11 more games."

That's 11 more games, including a date with Boise State on Sept. 25, in which to make a statement.

But on this night, TCU made the statement: Count us in the mix in the national championship chase.

Katz is ready for TCU's pressure

September, 3, 2010
Pressure? Pressure is your first career start at quarterback -- your first meaningful action, in fact -- coming against the nation's No. 6 team, one that's known for forcing quarterbacks to their backs, where they can look up at the lights and wonder if it's worth it to get up. And that pressure twists even tighter when it's not just a road game against that powerful foe, but it's also inside the palatial Cowboys Stadium, a$1.3 billion, look-at-me showcase of excess from Jerry Jones.

That's what Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz will face on Saturday when his 24th-ranked Beavers try to take down a TCU team with 27 seniors -- tied for most in the nation -- including a fifth-year quarterback, Andy Dalton, who's triumph in 29 career games means his next victory will push him past the legendary Slingin' Sammy Baugh on the Horned Frogs list.

[+] Enlarge Ryan Katz
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIOregon State's Ryan Katz will make his first career start against TCU.
Katz spent his first game week answering redundant questions about whether he was excited or nervous -- nervous or excited -- about making his first start (answers: yes to excited, no to the other). While he clearly seems ready to be done with the hype portion of preparation, he diplomatically insists "it wasn't that bad."

"I'm just going to play it cool and stay focused," Katz said.

We shall see. The biggest difference between these two teams, who are similar in that they are consistently successful without ever signing nationally-touted recruiting classes, is quarterback. Dalton has thrown more than 1,000 career passes and could become a Heisman Trophy candidate. Katz at this point is all projection, though his powerful arm has elicited more than a few "yowzas" during practices.

The good news for Katz is he won't be facing end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington, 2009 All-Americans who were picked in the first two rounds of NFL draft. Dalton and the offense have often had their way during preseason practices, so perhaps the Horned Frogs defense will take a step back this fall.

"Well, a little bit of it has to do with our offense -- they've really got things going with a senior quarterback," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.

Patterson's most obvious strategy is to gang up on Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers and then blitz Katz relentlessly, daring the sophomore to maintain his poise and find an open guy. It would be fair to say that the Beavers -- aware of the obvious -- have thrown every blitz package they can think of at their offense in order to get them ready.

"We've got to stay poised to pick up the right guy and then physically do the job so our quarterback can function," coach Mike Riley said. "But there is no way we can play this game without some balance."

Which means Rodgers gets -- or creates -- space to run. Recall that he did that with great fanfare versus USC in 2008, gaining 186 yards against what is widely considered the best defense of the past decade.

But the other Rodgers -- receiver James Rodgers -- has a secret: Katz seems comfortable with pressure and is capable of punishing a blitzing defense.

"Now, he can throw the deep ball," James Rodgers said. "Whenever we do pressure periods, he gets rid of the ball fast. I think his confidence has really gotten high. It will be pick your poison. You want to stop the run and load up the box, we have a lot of guys at receiver who can make plays. And vice versa if you want to double-up on the receivers. We have a running back who can make plays."

Katz is surprisingly breezy when talking about what he might face.

"The quickest way to get a defense to stop blitzing is to convert some big plays," he said. "There are some really big spaces there when a defense blitzes. There are going to be a lot of open throws downfield, I think."

Those are the basic Xs and Os. But other numbers stack up against the Beavers. For one, TCU regularly takes foes from the marquee conferences to the woodshed. It's 13-3 in its past 16 games against BCS conference teams. Moreover, Oregon State rarely posts Septembers to remember. It won 28 games from 2006-2008, but it started all three seasons 2-3. In 2009, the Beavers went 8-5 after a 2-2 start.

The slow starts have long been a source of "what might have been?" in Corvallis. To cure the ailment, Riley increased the intensity during spring practices and fall camp. There was a lot more full-contact work (though star players, such as the Rodgers brothers and defensive tackle Stephen Paea often took the scrimmages off). Further, other than Katz, this is a veteran team. It shouldn't need a few games to find itself.

All the talk is at an end, though. Katz said he expects to feel some butterflies when he first takes the field and early in the game. And he knows that TCU's vaunted defense is eyeballing him with all sorts of bad intentions.

"We just need to weather the storm and get past those first few plays," he said. "It's Cowboys Stadium, but after that first play, it just becomes football."

And it seems the Beavers coaches and players feel pretty confident that Katz will be just fine handling the football part of the evening.

Best case-worst case: Oregon State

July, 21, 2010
Eighth 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.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction.

Up next: Oregon State

Best case

TCU coach Gary Patterson looks at the scoreboard and shakes his head.

"We were lucky to win this one," he says. "Very lucky. That's a very good team and they pushed us around."

Nonetheless, a 24-23 loss doesn't offer Oregon State much consolation, even if it comes against the nation's No. 7 team. The Beavers outgain the Horned Frogs 435 yards to 305, but three turnovers -- two off tipped passes in TCU territory -- and a missed extra point explain the final tally. Jacquizz Rodgers' 135 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving and two TDs are only a footnote.

After a week off, the Beavers take out their frustration on overmatched Louisville. QB Ryan Katz throws two TD passes-- one to each Rodgers brother -- and Jacquizz rushes for 188 yards.

Up next: a visit to No.3 Boise State.

"We have a chance to do something special here and really get everything back from that tough loss to TCU," coach Mike Riley says.

That's exactly what the Beavers do. With the Broncos forced to double-team defensive tackle Stephen Paea inside, end Gabe Miller sacks Kellen Moore three times. The Broncos are unable to run the ball consistently, and the constant pressure gets to Moore, who's uncharacteristically off-target. Meanwhile, Katz plays a mistake-free game, distributing the ball to the Rodgers brothers and breaking off a handful of backbreaking first-down scrambles.

"[The Rodgers brothers] are the two most dangerous players in college football," Katz says afterwards "They make it easy for me. Jacquizz should win the Heisman, but what they really should do is give it to both of them."

What ensues is a six-game winning streak. The Beavers, at 8-1, ascend to No. 6 in the national rankings. With unbeaten, third-ranked USC coming to town, ESPN's "College GameDay" makes its first trip to Corvallis.

"I know Jacquizz Rodgers is the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at this point," GameDay's Chris Fowler says. "But isn't the bigger story that they may be the best brothers combination on the same team in college football history?"

Replies Lee Corso, "It probably won't happen, but wouldn't it be neat if they both were invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony?"

The Trojans jump ahead 14-0 in the first half, with Matt Barkley connecting on two long TD passes to Ronald Johnson and the defense bottling up the Rodgers brothers until Jacquizz slips away for a 56-yard scoring run just before the break. A 23-yard toss from Katz to James Rodgers ties the score in the third, but the Trojans retake the lead early in the fourth when Allen Bradford bursts in from 2-yards out.

Heisman Trophy winners typically produce a signature highlight. Jacquizz Rodgers already has potential candidates for that, but none more spectacular than the screen pass he transforms into a 62-yard, game-tying score with 1:10 left.

The only problem is Johnson silences the euphoric Reser Stadium crowd with a 65-yard kick off return to the Beavers 35-yard line. Three plays later, with five seconds left, Jacob Harfman boots the game-winner from 44 yards.

"This was a tough one," Riley says. "But we've still got a lot to play for. We've got to get re-focused quickly because if we don't Stanford is going to kick our butts."

The Rose Bowl is still up for grabs: The Beavers, Stanford and Oregon only have suffered one conference defeat. After the Beavers dispatch the Cardinal, 30-28, everyone knows the stakes: It's a Civil War for the Roses II.

Riley gathers his players in the locker room.

"Oregon State hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since 1965," he says. "That's going on 46 years. Every person in this stadium knows what's at stake. You carry the hopes of everyone who wears black and orange. Tonight you have an opportunity to make a permanent mark, to be remembered and to create a memory that you will be able to return to fondly for the rest of your lives. But that team over there in that other locker room has an advantage over you. They think they are better than you. They carry that confidence. It's a smirk, isn't it? They are smirking at us in our house. I want you to see that smirk in your mind's eye right now. Hold on to that. If at any moment tonight you start to doubt or start to falter, think of that smirk. Now let's go knock it off their faces."

Speeches don't win football games, though. The game plays out much like the 2009 version. With two minutes left, Oregon leads 27-23 and faces a fourth-and-3 from the Beavers' 33-yard line. Ducks coach Chip Kelly opts to go for it. Quarterback Nate Costa drops back and, under pressure from Paea, shovels the ball to LaMichael James, who breaks to his right toward the sideline. One yard. Two yards. But at the marker he meets safety Lance Mitchell, who blasts James backward inches short of the first down.

Fumble. Keith Pankey recovers at the 50.

On first down, Riley shocks everyone by running a draw play to Rodgers, who bounces outside and is forced out of bounds at the 7-yard line. With just under a minute left, Rodgers gains four yards up the middle. The Beavers use their final timeout. Rodgers goes for two. The Beavers hustle to the line. 11, 10, 9 goes the clock.

Rodgers. Touchdown. Rose Bowl. Pandemonium in Reser Stadium.

With his brother at his side, Rodgers wins the Heisman Trophy. And the Beavers beat Iowa 28-24 in the Rose Bowl and finish 11-2 and ranked fourth.

Worst case

A brutal nonconference schedule sometimes offers opportunity. But playing a pair of top-10 teams ultimately ends up meaning Oregon State is 1-2 heading into conference play.

The Beavers bounce back to beat Arizona State at home, but after consecutive road losses to Arizona and Washington, it becomes clear that sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz is a different player on the road, which is to be expected with a young, first-year starter. Teams crowd the line of scrimmage to stop Jacquizz Rodgers, run bracket coverages on James Rodgers and dare the offense to use other weapons to win. It can't, at least not consistently.

Still, after beating California and Washington State at home and UCLA on the road, the Beavers sit at 5-4 overall and are again in good position to play in a quality bowl game.

But the back-loaded schedule is brutal. USC whips the Beavers 30-17. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck throws four TD passes in a 35-24 win.

A final opportunity for redemption: Oregon and Stanford are tied atop the Pac-10 (USC also has one loss but is ineligible for the postseason). If the Beavers beat Oregon in the Civil War, it will knock the Ducks out of the Rose Bowl.

But LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher, outshines Jacquizz Rodgers, rushing for 193 yards and three TDs in the Ducks' blowout, 35-17 win.

"I don't get into that comparing myself to Rodgers -- I leave that to the media and fans," James says afterward. "But you guys did see the game, right?"

James wins the Heisman Trophy and the Ducks roll over Ohio State 27-14 in the Rose Bowl.

Beavers offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf is hired as the head coach at Nevada, while defensive coordinator Mark Banker is hired by Pete Carroll to run the Seattle Seahawks' defense.

Jacquizz Rodgers opts to leave a year early and join his brother in the NFL draft.

Pac-10 bowls: A way, way too early bowl projection

May, 10, 2010
What kind of idiot would do a bowl projection in May?

Cough, cough.

Let's call this: "The way too early and probably too optimistic Pac-10 bowl projection."

Too optimistic? Well, we've got two conference teams in BCS bowl games AND eight teams earning bowl berths. That's a huge long shot. Not to mention that a potential bowl ban for USC when the NCAA makes its ruling public -- this week, perhaps? -- isn't factored in.

Ah, but what the heck!

See a list of the bowl games here.

Dallas Football Classic

Arizona vs. Iowa State : The Kraft Fight Hunger bowl picks UCLA over Arizona, but Dallas is a decent place to mend hurt feelings.

[Note: This one was changed from Arizona against SMU in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl because that bowl has a tie-in with the Sun Belt Champion. My bad.]

Kraft Fight Hunger

UCLA vs. Nevada: The Bruins go 6-6 against a brutal schedule, with every game decided by a touchdown or less. The big news, however, is the series of round-off back handsprings coach Rick Neuheisel does down winding Lombard Street when linebacker Akeem Ayers, defensive end Datone Jones and safety Rahim Moore each announce they will return for the senior season.

MAACO Las Vegas

Washington vs. TCU: Jake Locker vs. a Gary Patterson defense. Great fun. Interesting twist, however, is how thrilled the Huskies are to be in Vegas, while the Horned Frogs, ranked 10th, are grumpy because they failed to reach grander visions.

Brut Sun Bowl

California vs. Clemson: A nice matchup of two ranked teams as second-team All-Pac-10 quarterback Kevin Riley tries to cap his up-and-down-and-up career with a win.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday

Stanford vs. Missouri: An intriguing matchup of top-20 teams, and a particularly strong matchup of quarterbacks with Stanford's Andrew Luck and the Tigers Blaine Gabbert.

Valero Alamo

Oregon State vs. Oklahoma: Most see this showdown as David vs. Goliath. Curiously, not the Beavers. Game showcases a pair of talented sophomore quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Oregon State's Ryan Katz.

Tostitos Fiesta

Oregon vs. Nebraska: Ducks lose tiebreaker to USC for the Rose Bowl berth but end up earning an at-large selection here against the Cornhuskers. Oregon starting quarterback [inaudible] leads the Pac-10's highest scoring offense against one of the nation's best defenses.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi

USC vs. Iowa: Ohio State plays Texas for the national title, but the Rose Bowl still maintains the traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup. During bowl preparations, Lane Kiffin shoots down rumors he's headed to the NFL and becomes media darling.

Del Rio out, USC moves to option No. 4

January, 12, 2010
Jack Del Rio has opted to stay with the Jacksonville Jaguars instead of replacing Pete Carroll at USC, making him the third candidate to apparently say no to the Trojans.

Del Rio follows Oregon State's Mike Riley and Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher.

Now what?

Move on to option four. And so on.

You can follow many of the rumors here.

The newest name on the list, as reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter: Steve Mariucci, the former California Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions coach.

Mariucci presently works for NFL Network and hasn't coached since 2005.

He leads a list that Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News made. Mariucci is followed by Herman Edwards, Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin on said list.

If it feels like reporters are starting to trot out a group of the "usual suspects," well, that's not an unjustified suspicion.

So you should probably should throw Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh in there, too.

The LA Times reported this morning that Boise State coach Chris Petersen and former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti are potential candidates.

USC doesn't seem like a good fit for Petersen -- too "big city" -- while Bellotti is recovering from double knee-replacement surgery.

Two outstanding coaches who probably would listen to overtures are TCU's Gary Patterson and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. It doesn't appear either has been contacted.

USC fans might want to ask why.

For Trojans fans, this has to feel like déjà vu all over again. In 2000, Mike Garrett was rejected by three candidates before settling on Pete Carroll.

Will No. 4 be a charm for him again?

How does USC move forward?

January, 9, 2010
USC fans will want to move on quickly from Pete Carroll's expected departure, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, to the good news of a big-name replacement.

It may not be that easy.

First of all, the early scuttlebutt points to three candidates: Oregon State's Mike Riley, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.

To those names, reporters will line up the usual suspects: Boise State's Chris Petersen, TCU's Gary Patterson, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and Utah Kyle Whittingham. Or maybe Herm Edwards? Or Tony Dungy? Or Mike Leach!

So there are some names. An impressive list, yes?

Ah, but there's a big issue in advance of pursuing candidates: Who's in charge of the search?

Will USC -- and its powerful boosters -- entrust this search to embattled athletic director Mike Garrett?

Early indications are Garrett will be in charge, but that might -- or should -- make Trojans fans nervous.

Let's first recall that Garrett's hire of Carroll, for which he has always enjoyed taking credit, wasn't entirely about a prescient and savvy evaluation of a man's character and a skill set. It was more like hitting a number on the roulette wheel or winning the lottery.

It was lucky.

Carroll was far from the first choice -- most accounts list him at No. 4 behind Riley, Dennis Erickson and Mike Bellotti -- and the hire was greeted with derision by many pundits, who saw the decision as a sign of desperation.

Obviously, the pundits were wrong, and Garrett deserves some credit for his desperation call hitting the jackpot.

But is there confidence that Garrett can hit the winning number twice, particularly when his own job is in jeopardy, as Michael Lev of the Orange County Register pointed out?

Sure, his hire of Carroll helped an athletic department that was hemorrhaging money balanced the books due to a boom in football revenue, but little else has gone well in the Trojans athletic department under his watch. Both the basketball and football programs are presently the subject of NCAA investigations, and the NCAA might look favorably on Garrett being held accountable for the questionable oversight in recent years.

(Just as the NCAA will look favorably on the next coach having impeccable character and, if he's a college coach, a clean sheet on NCAA compliance issues).

Moreover, with school president Steven Sample retiring in August, the new president might want to hire his own guy to oversee an athletic department in transition.

It's not unfair, therefore, to wonder if this critical hire is going to be made by a lame duck athletic director. And to question the wisdom of that course of action.

Still, the need to make a quick, decisive move is critical. There's less than a month until national signing day, and a new staff needs to be in place to fight for what appears at this point to be a good -- if not great -- recruiting class.

Know that Pac-10 and other coaches are eagerly dialing up players presently committed to USC, seeing if perhaps Carroll's departure will inspire a wandering eye.

Know that UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, in particular, senses that, hey, the football monopoly in LA might actually be over.

What's the ideal scenario for USC?

Identify a top candidate that will be met with widespread approval and will generate positive momentum for the program. Quickly ascertain if he wants the job in order to avoid the embarrassing rejections that preceded Carroll's hire.

Hire him.

Easier said than done.

Report: Carroll to Seahawks

January, 9, 2010
It appears that one of the great coaching runs in college football history is over.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
Kirby Lee/US PresswirePete Carroll compiled a 97-19 record as USC's coach.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that USC's Pete Carroll has reached an agreement to become the next head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Carroll was 97-19 with two national championships and seven Pac-10 titles as USC's coach. The Trojans went 6-6 his first season but would win at least 11 games over the next seven seasons, each of which ended with top-five rankings. Under Carroll, USC became the nation's pre-eminent college football program.

Of course, things trended down in 2009. The Trojans went 9-4, got blown out in losses to Oregon and Stanford and only returned to the national rankings after beating Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, the Trojans' first non-BCS bowl since Carroll's first season.

Moreover, off-field issues might be a concern for USC going forward, particularly with the NCAA and the Reggie Bush case.

Now Trojans fans' attention turns to who the next coach will be.

He will try to fill very big shoes.

Names that will come up: Oregon State's Mike Riley, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Boise State's Chris Petersen, TCU's Gary Patterson and Utah's Kyle Whittingham.

As well as current or former NFL coaches, such as Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio or former Buccaneers and Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

Recall that when Mike Garrett was trying to hire a coach in 2000, USC wasn't such a great job. Garrett's overtures were rebuffed by Riley, Dennis Erickson as well as then-Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.

It's a much different job now, but the monstrous shadow of Carroll's legacy as well as potential NCAA problems could give some big-name coaches pause before they accept the post.

Of course, if the offer is in the range of $4.4 million per season, which Carroll was making, then all the drawbacks won't seem so daunting.

Kelly a finalist for national coach of the year

December, 10, 2009
It's been a heck of a first season for Oregon's Chip Kelly.

Already named the Pac-10 coach of the year, Kelly is one of seven finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

The other six finalists are Texas' Mack Brown, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, Alabama's Nick Saban, TCU's Gary Patterson and Boise State's Chris Petersen.

The award is voted on by the Football Writers Association of America and will be announced at a reception on Jan. 5 in Newport Beach, Calif.

Washington wants next coach to make a big splash

October, 27, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Tyrone Willingham was nearly fired as Washington's coach following the 2007 season, so know that the folks in power -- both inside and outside the university -- have been cogitating about who the Huskies next coach will be for some time.

School president Mark Emmert loves his football. He was chancellor at LSU when he bypassed the authority of athletic director Joe Dean, fired coach Gerry DiNardo and lured a guy by the name of Nick Saban away from Michigan State.

  AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
  Washington president Mark Emmert, left, and athletic director Scott Woodward need the next Huskies football coach to revitalize the fading program.

Remind me: Did that work out for LSU?

Emmert hung around the football team so much when things started to turn around that Tigers beat reporters dubbed him "Jerry Jones."

With Emmert's long-time right-hand man Scott Woodward recently elevated to athletic director -- think Robin to Emmert's Batman -- know that the athletic department will speak with one voice.

And that voice both wants and needs to sing an inspiring tune to the beleaguered Huskies fan base.

Two names would be sweet music to most Huskies fans: Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Seattle Seahawks assistant Jim Mora Jr.

Both have ties to Washington and legendary coach Don James. And both would be expensive.

Some might wonder why Pinkel, a finalist for the job when Rick Neuheisel was hired after the 1998 season, would leave Missouri after building it into a national power, but more than a few connected folks believe Pinkel could be in play.

Of course, the Huskies will have to substantially beat the five-year contract extension that Pinkel signed last December that guarantees him $1.85 million annually.

Mora already has been announced as the Seahawks next head coach after Mike Holmgren steps down at the end of the season, and word is he'll pocket top NFL coaching dollar, previously reported as perhaps as much as $5 million annually.

It's likely that feelers were sent out weeks ago.

But, considering that word of Willingham's forced resignation didn't leak out until Monday's press conference began, it's clear that Emmert and Woodward, both extremely media-savvy, are working very hard to keep a lid on things.

So everybody is going to trot out the usual suspects to replace Willingham:

  • Other Pac-10 head coaches: California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley.
  • Respected mid-major head coaches: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Fresno State's Pat Hill, Tulsa's Todd Graham, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and TCU's Gary Patterson.
  • Hot coordinators: Texas' defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (who was LSU's defensive coordinator when Emmert was at LSU), Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and USC OC Steve Sarkisian.

It's also probably worth it to toss former Oakland Raiders head coach and USC assistant Lane Kiffin's name into the mix.

The general feeling is Emmert and the moneyed friends of the program will be willing to put together a hefty contract for the right guy.

The need to immediately generate positive momentum suggests they will be looking for a name that makes a splash, which means a salary between $2 and $3 million a year. Maybe even more, considering the high cost of living in Seattle.

Worrying about a "splash" might seem superficial -- just hire the right guy -- but it's not. This is a critical juncture for the Huskies. It's not just about restoring the fading tradition of winning, which could take a few years due to poor recruiting from Willingham.

The next coach will need to inspire a sagging fan base during an economic downturn to invest in a massive and necessary renovation of Husky Stadium.

The city of Seattle also needs something to get excited about.

With the Sonics bolting for Oklahoma City, the Mariners in disarray and the Seahawks sagging even in the milquetoast NFC West, Seattle is hungry for some good sports news.

The Huskies used to be the team that most reliably carried the winning banner, and they were always the team that generated the most passion -- and that includes hate coming from the city's Washington State minority.

Husky Stadium use to be one of the nation's most feared venues. Under Willingham, the Huskies have lost 13 of their last 15 home games.

In recent years, it wasn't just that Huskies fans felt frustration and even anger over the downturn. It was that some were turning away from the program.

The next Huskies coach needs to immediately inspire hope. And then he needs to win.

Opening the mailbag: Cal angst and some Washington candidates

October, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

First, let me give credit to Will from Central Oregon for pointing out the Sagarin schedule ratings that launched my post about Pac-10 scheduling.

Second, this is an interesting piece on the same issue.

To the bag....

Ben from Berkeley, Calif, writes: Another fact you don't mention (but strengthens your argument) is the extra conference game that the Pac 10 plays. This guarantees half the conference an extra loss and hurts their relative strength of schedule when you compare what the Big 12 or SEC do with that extra "weak" (ie, beat up on the Texas Art Institute for Recovering Drug Addicts... ). While I do believe the round robin is the most fair way to determine a champion, it does hurt the conferences teams compared to the other leagues with championship games and/or unbalanced schedules.

Ted Miller: A great point Ben, one that many offered. When the NCAA added the 12th game, only the Pac-10 made it a conference game. All other conferences opted to use it to grab an easy nonconference win. So that automatically means five more losses in the Pac-10, which factors into strength of schedule within the BCS standings. Meanwhile, in other conferences, you get situations like Kansas last year, when the Jayhawks got to claim they played in the rugged Big 12 but they didn't play Texas or Oklahoma. Or what about LSU "winning" the SEC last year without playing Georgia. Or, for a Pac-10 example before the round-robin format was adopted, Oregon not playing USC while the Trojans rolled to consecutive national titles in 2003 and 2004.

Frank from Redding, Calif., writes: Do you think Jeff Tedford will be on the hot seat this year as once again we are failing to meet expectations? Cal has the talent, but seems to be outcoached and outplayed by inferior teams.

Brett from Washington DC, writes: Ted, Why do you think Cal never lives up to its potential? I mean, 2004 looked like the breakout season for the Tedford era, where we would finally compete regularly with U$C, but each subsequent season has been a disappointment in one way or another. Last year obviously being the biggest. Why can't we go from a team that belongs on other teams Upset Alert list to an elite team in the country?

Jay from Berkeley writes: How detrimental do you think Jeff Tedford is to Cal football? He receives so much praise, yet his teams never seem to achieve to the level of their talent... What do you think of his decision to start Nate Longshore over Kevin Riley with Riley coming off of a 42-7 win, and then staying with Longshore after he characteristically caused the offense to sputter in the 2nd half 2 weeks ago against Arizona State? Wasn't his meager performance against Arizona this week predictable?

Ted Miller: Gahhhhhh!

Who stole Berkeley and made it into Clemson?

I just don't get this stuff. "Hot seat" for Tedford? "Never lives up to its potential?" Tedford as "detrimental?"

If you guys keep writing this stuff, I'm going to climb a tree outside your window and refuse to leave. And I'll play sitar music. Endlessly.

Hey, Washington fans, are you listening? Looks like a program wants to commit hari kari -- any interest in this lousy coach Jeff Tedford?

Has Cal had some bad moments with Tedford over the past few years? Yes. Have there been moments when he's opened himself up to fair criticism? Sure. Is his handling of the QB situation debatable? Without a doubt.

He's not perfect. But he's perfect for Cal.

Go to the bathroom. Flush the toilet.

That's my sound effect for the Bears if you run Tedford off.

(Read full post)



Saturday, 11/1