Pac-12: Georgia Bulldogs

Potential spoiler matchups for Alabama, Oregon 

November, 19, 2014
11/19/14
3:40
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The near upsets that TCU and Florida State went through in Week 12 show that no matter how strong College Football Playoff title contenders are, they always have to be on the lookout for spoiler teams that could end their championship dreams.

The bad news for the top two teams in the College Football Playoff rankings -- Alabama and Oregon -- is that both have a potential spoiler matchup that just might be an unfavorable one. Here's a look at games that could prevent both teams from making the playoff. (Note: Unless otherwise specified, all of the statistical totals below are in Power 5 games.)

Alabama Crimson Tide

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
6/18/14
10:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

REST OF “KICKER U” RANKINGS
46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Position U: Tight ends

June, 17, 2014
6/17/14
11:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Tight End U” for the 2000s?

1. Miami (84 points): While it has been relatively quiet since its positional heyday early in the 2000s, Miami still easily tops this list. With seven tight ends drafted, including first-round picks Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen, the Hurricanes far surpassed the next closest programs at the position. They don’t get extra points for this, but they also produced arguably the top tight end in the NFL today in 2010 third-round pick Jimmy Graham, who's now starring for the New Orleans Saints.

Award winners: Kellen Winslow, Mackey (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Kellen Winslow (2003).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Shockey (2000, 2001), Kellen Winslow (2002, 2003), Greg Olsen (2006).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jeremy Shockey (2002), Kellen Winslow (2004), Greg Olsen (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Everett (Round 3, 2005), Jimmy Graham (Round 3, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dedrick Epps (Round 7, 2010), Richard Gordon (Round 6, 2011).

2. Iowa (66 points): Dallas Clark leads the way thanks to a 2002 season after which he won the John Mackey Award and was a consensus All-American. But Iowa had a consistent run of tight ends in the 2000s, with first-round pick Clark and five others getting drafted -- most recently third-round pick C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was the fifth tight end selected this year.

Award winners: Dallas Clark, Mackey (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Dallas Clark (2002).
First-team all-conference: Dallas Clark (2002), Brandon Myers (2008), Tony Moeaki (2009), C.J. Fiedorowicz (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dallas Clark (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Scott Chandler (Round 4, 2007), Tony Moeaki (Round 3, 2010), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Erik Jensen (Round 7, 2004), Brandon Myers (Round 6, 2009).

3. Missouri (64 points): Missouri hasn’t had as much success placing tight ends in the pros as some of the other top programs on this list, but the Tigers have an award winner (Chase Coffman won the 2008 Mackey Award) and three consensus All-American tight ends (Coffman, Martin Rucker and Michael Egnew) since 2000. Not too shabby.

Award winners: Chase Coffman, Mackey (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Martin Rucker (2007), Chase Coffman (2008), Michael Egnew (2010).
First-team all-conference: Martin Rucker (2006), Michael Egnew (2010, 2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Martin Rucker (Round 4, 2008), Chase Coffman (Round 3, 2009), Michael Egnew (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.


4. Wisconsin (64 points): One All-American (Lance Kendricks in 2010, when he led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches), six first-team All-Big Ten picks (Kendricks, Garrett Graham twice, Mark Anelli, Travis Beckum and Jacob Pedersen) and six drafted players helped Wisconsin nearly earn the runner-up spot in the tight end rankings.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Lance Kendricks (2010).
First-team all-conference: Mark Anelli (2001), Travis Beckum (2007), Garrett Graham (2008, 2009), Lance Kendricks (2010), Jacob Pedersen (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Owen Daniels (Round 4, 2006), Travis Beckum (Round 3, 2009), Garrett Graham (Round 4, 2010), Lance Kendricks (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mark Anelli (Round 6, 2002), Jason Pociask (Round 5, 2006).

5. Georgia (62 points): It doesn’t have the national awards to show for it, but Georgia seems to boast an outstanding tight end nearly every season. The best example of that is how the Bulldogs keep placing tight ends in the pros – starting with Randy McMichael, Ben Watson and Leonard Pope and leading all the way up to Arthur Lynch, who just went to the Miami Dolphins in the most recent draft. The Bulldogs have built an impressive legacy at the position that looks to continue.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Randy McMichael (2001), Leonard Pope (2004, 2005), Martrez Milner (2006), Orson Charles (2011), Arthur Lynch (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ben Watson (2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Randy McMichael (Round 4, 2002), Leonard Pope (Round 3, 2006), Martrez Milner (Round 4, 2007), Orson Charles (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Arthur Lynch (Round 5, 2014).

6. BYU (56 points): Independents Notre Dame and BYU are hurt in these position rankings by not being members of a conference -- thus they couldn’t earn points for all-conference selections, although BYU did as a member of the Mountain West up through 2010. In fact, the Cougars earned 36 of their 56 points by having six tight ends named to the All-MWC team between 2001 and 2009. Notre Dame certainly belongs higher on the list, considering that it has had nine tight ends drafted, including first-round pick and 2012 Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Dennis Pitta (2009).
First-team all-conference: Doug Jolley (2001), Jonny Harline (2005, 2006), Dennis Pitta (2007, 2008, 2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Doug Jolley (Round 2, 2002), Dennis Pitta (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tevita Ofahengaue (Round 7, 2001), Spencer Nead (Round 7, 2003).

7. Virginia (54 points): Heath Miller is a one-man wrecking crew here, single-handedly accounting for 38 of Virginia’s 54 points thanks to a Mackey Award-winning season in 2004 when he was a consensus All-American and went on to become a first-round draft pick. Miller also won All-ACC honors in 2003.

Award winners: Heath Miller, Mackey (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Heath Miller (2004).
First-team all-conference: Heath Miller (2003, 2004), John Phillips (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Heath Miller (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chris Luzar (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Billy Baber (Round 5, 2001), Tom Santi (Round 6, 2008), John Phillips (Round 6, 2009).

8. Stanford (48 points): Stanford is arguably the top program for tight ends right now, but that’s a fairly recent development. Of the six Cardinal tight ends drafted since 2001, four have been since 2010, led by second-round picks Coby Fleener and 2012 All-American Zach Ertz. Stanford posted a rare double in 2013 when Ertz and Levine Toilolo were both picked in the draft’s first four rounds.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Zach Ertz (2012).
First-team all-conference: Alex Smith (2004), Coby Fleener (2011), Zach Ertz (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Teyo Johnson (Round 2, 2003), Alex Smith (Round 3, 2005), Coby Fleener (Round 2, 2012), Zach Ertz (Round 2, 2013), Levine Toilolo (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jim Dray (Round 7, 2010),

9. Colorado (46 points): Colorado hasn’t had much to brag about on the football field over the last several years, but the Buffaloes are still hanging on in the tight end rankings. Daniel Graham’s outstanding 2001 season (including a Mackey Award and a consensus All-America designation prior to becoming a first-round draft pick) is a big reason why Colorado makes the top 10.

Award winners: Daniel Graham, Mackey (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Graham (2001).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Graham (2001), Joe Klopfenstein (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Daniel Graham (2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Joe Klopfenstein (Round 2, 2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Quinn Sypniewski (Round 5, 2006), Nick Kasa, Round 6, 2013).

10. UCLA (46 points): As with its fellow No. 9 on the list, Colorado, UCLA can thank a single player for its spot in the top 10. Marcedes Lewis accumulated 32 of the Bruins’ 46 points with a 2005 season when he won the Mackey Award, was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 pick and then went on to become a 2006 first-round draft selection.

Award winners: Marcedes Lewis, Mackey (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Marcedes Lewis (2005).
First-team all-conference: Mike Seidman (2002), Marcedes Lewis (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Marcedes Lewis (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Mike Seidman (Round 3, 2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jeff Grau (Round 7, 2002), Bryan Fletcher (Round 6, 2002).

REST OF “TIGHT END U” RANKINGS
44 – Notre Dame; 40 – Clemson; 38 – Arizona State, Florida, Louisville; 34 – Oregon, USC; 32 – Minnesota, North Carolina, Purdue, Rutgers; 28 – Tennessee; 26 – Oklahoma; 24 – N.C. State; 22 – Kentucky, Washington; 20 – Arkansas, Maryland; 18 – Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech; 16 – Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas; 14 – Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State; 12 – South Carolina; 10 – California, LSU, Michigan State, Oregon State; 8 – Boston College, Northwestern; 6 – TCU, Utah, Duke, Syracuse; 4 – Alabama, Kansas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech; 2 – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Mississippi State; 0 – Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State, West Virginia
Experience matters. One of the reasons to be high on Georgia's offense this year is quarterback Aaron Murray is a talented guy with 41 career starts, which just happens to lead the nation.

So who leads the Pac-12 in career starts?

Well, the Arizona State sports information department crunched some numbers and provided the Pac-12 blog with a list (number is career starts):
35 Brian Blechen, LB/DB, Utah

35 Michael Philipp, OT, Oregon State

34 Evan Finkenberg, OL, Arizona State

32 Osahon Irabor, DB, Arizona State

30 Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

30 John Fullington, OL, Washington State

To me, this is more evidence of a position of strength this year in the Pac-12: Offensive line. That's also an area where experience often matters most.

Here's the national list -- the Pac-12 will see a lot of these guys in nonconference competitition.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL CAREER ACTIVE STARTS

41 Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

39 Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State

39* Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

39 Demarco Nelson, S, Tulsa

38 Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt

38 Tyler Larsen, OC, Utah State

38* Eathyn Manumaleuna, DL, BYU

38 Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville

38 Travis Swanson, OC, Arkansas

38 Mason Walters, OG, Texas

37 Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

37 Perry Simmons, OT, Duke

37* Brandon Wimberly, WR, Nevada

36* Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

36* Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe

36 Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke

36* James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

36 Derrell Johnson, LB, East Carolina

36 Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado State

36* Corey Robinson, QB, Troy

36 Sydney Sarmiento, DT, Duke

36* Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois

36 Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse

36 Dovante Wallace, OT, New Mexico State

35 Brian Blechen, LB/DB, Utah

35 Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State

35 Michael Philipp, OT, Oregon State

34 Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

34 Evan Finkenberg, OL, Arizona State

34 Ethan Hemer, DL, Wisconsin

34 Shawn Jackson, LB, Tulsa

34* Nicholas Kaspar, OG, San Jose State

34 Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest

33 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

33 Jon Halapio, OG, Florida

33* Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU

33 Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

33* Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College

33* Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State

33 Nikita Whitlock, NT, Wake Forest

32 Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech

32* Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue

32* John Hardy-Tuliau, DB, Hawai’i

32 Osahon Irabor, DB, Arizona State

32 Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State

32 Eric Schultz, OT, Utah State

31 Stetson Burnett, OL, Tulsa

31 Avery Cunningham, S, Central Michigan

31* Nosa Eguae, DL, Auburn

31 Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

31* Isaiah Newsome, S, Louisiana-Monroe

31* Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, Boston College

31* Nickoe Whitley, S, Mississippi State

30* Josh Allen, OL, Louisiana-Monroe

30 Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

30 John Fullington, OL, Washington State

30 Terrance Lloyd, DE, Baylor

30* Tavarese Maye, WR, Louisiana-Monroe

30* Chris Pickett, S, Troy

30* Austin Wentworth, OT, Fresno State

* non-consecutive
2013 may be the season of the quarterback in college football, because a lot of good ones are coming back.

In the SEC, there's Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Louisville has Teddy Bridgewater, and Clemson offers Tajh Boyd. In the Pac-12, there's UCLA's Brett Hundley, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and Arizona State's Taylor Kelley.

But the best one coming back is Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

How so? Well, for one, that was the assignment: Make a case for the best quarterback in your conference being the best in the nation.

But it's not too difficult to make Mariota's case.

As a redshirt freshman, he ranked seventh in the nation in passing efficiency. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

He threw a touchdown pass in every game and one interception in his final seven games. He was named MVP in the Fiesta Bowl after leading a blowout win over Big 12 champion Kansas State, which capped a 12-1 season and a final No. 2 ranking for the Ducks.

He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors after leading an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring (49.6 PPG) and fifth in total offense (537.4 YPG). The Ducks scored 11 points per game more than any other Pac-12 team.

The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Honolulu native is an extremely accurate passer who might be the fastest quarterback in the nation -- see his 86- and 77-yard runs last season. Against USC on the road, he completed 87 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He tied a school record with six touchdown passes against California. He rushed for 135 yards at Arizona State.

Of course, his 2012 numbers aren't mind-blowing. A lot of that isn't his fault. Oregon blew out so many opponents -- average halftime score of 31-9 -- that it didn't require many plays from behind center after the break. For the season, Mariota threw just 24 passes and rushed eight times in the fourth quarter, compared to 227 passes and 71 rushes in the first half.

Manziel, for the sake of comparison, threw 62 passes and rushed 33 times in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater threw 86 passes and rushed 13 times in the fourth.

The good news is folks are probably going to see a lot more of Mariota this season. With running back Kenjon Barner off to the NFL, the Ducks might skew more toward the passing game after being run-centric under Chip Kelly. New coach Mark Helfrich, who was the Ducks' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last year, is expected to throw the ball around more because he has an experienced quarterback and a strong, experienced crew of receivers.

That means more numbers for Mariota as he leads a team in the national title hunt. The potential combination of stats and wins might be enough to get Mariota to New York in December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Happy Friday. This is the mailbag (Say to self in James Earl Jones voice).

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

Oscar from Irwindale, Calif., writes: If and when USC and Lane Kiffin decide to part ways I know for a fact it will be the greatest day in LA. But something has me concerned, Pat Haden just can't hire any coach, it has to be a Jon Gruden or a Jack Del Rio kind of coach. If Pat hires the wrong guy I see USC going back tracking another 3-4 years. In a time where UCLA, Stanford and even Oregon are just cherry picking our recruits, it seems like USC doesn't have a sales pitch anymore. The past draft didn't help the cause either. I think these next few seasons are going to be interesting. Am I seeing the glass half empty?

Ted Miller: You do realize that Kiffin's recruiting classes ranked fourth, 13th and 14th in the nation the past three years, with the last two limited to 15 scholarships, 10 below the typical limit?

So, yeah, I do think you are seeing the glass as half-empty.

The Pac-12 blog, just like most media outlets, has taken some shots at Kiffin. Much of it has been justified. Just as the praise we gave him after the 2011 season felt justified.

My overall feeling is we still don't truly know if Kiffin is a good head coach. After the outstanding job he did in 2011, we were leaning in his favor. After 2012, we're leaning the other way. But what if the Trojans go, say, 11-2 this year and beat UCLA and Notre Dame? Or even go 10-3 and split with their rivals? That likely -- barring any of the off-field oddities and distractions that made 2012 even worse than its record -- would force us to re-evaluate him again.

Of course, no USC coach wins over his fan base until he wins a Rose Bowl. And even that provides no guarantees. USC is one of those programs where less than 10 wins and a conference title is a disappointment.

My advice to USC fans is to fully invest in this coming season -- in Kiffin and his players. Think positive. When you cross paths with suddenly enthused UCLA fans, don't rip your coach. That serves no positive purpose.

Is Kiffin on the hotseat? Absolutely. He can't afford another massively disappointing season such as 2012. Probably even a moderately disappointing one. But mentally firing him now is counterproductive.

As for looking ahead, the Pac-12 blog has a policy against speculating on a future coach when the present one is busting his rear end trying to make things right.




Peter from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Tell me what's different about 2013 for the Sun Devils. I'm tired of hearing about the sleeping giant that is ASU. Why should we be more excited about this year than, say, 2011? Also, my twin brother is a UA alumnus. Please structure your argument around our superiority. Thanks Ted. Also, you should start calling your videos "TED talks."

Ted Miller: "TED talks"? Well that's pithier than what I usually get: "A Guy Who Looks Like A Male Super Model Says Smart Things About College Football."

Seriously.

I think a better parallel for this season, if you're looking for a cautionary tale at least, is 2008. The Sun Devils started that season ranked 15th but finished 5-7. That high ranking was based on a 10-3 finish in Dennis Erickson's first year and the return of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, defensive end Dexter Davis, and cornerback Omar Bolden.

And little else.

The Sun Devils were particularly questionable on the offensive line that year, which was made clear when a couple of injuries hit. I recall watching practice before the much-hyped matchup with Georgia and observing poor redshirt freshman Adam Tello being inserted into the starting lineup. He looked like he was about 260, and he was about to square off with 300 pounders Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, UGA's monstrous defensive tackles.

It's a notable parallel because Todd Graham is entering his second season after a moderately successful 8-5 debut, one that greatly exceeded preseason expectations. And quarterback Taylor Kelly, defensive tackle Will Sutton, and linebacker Carl Bradford are cornerstone players for high 2013 expectations.

But this is a better team than 2008. The biggest difference? Not only are the Sun Devils strong on the offensive line, the depth is pretty solid.

As for structuring this argument around "superiority," I think the Sun Devils will finish higher than Arizona in the Pac-12 South this season. That's the best I can do, because it seems to me both programs are trending up under good coaching staffs.




Kenny from Portland writes: I'm going to assume your omission of Brandin Cooks as a potential 1,000 yard receiver for this year was just due to lack of coffee on your point, and not pure stupidity or hatred for Oregon State. We all know you love Oregon State, and you're not (incredibly) stupid, so how did you miss so much coffee? What gives Ted? BTW, didn't you hear? He ran a 3.86 40 recently in practice?

Ted Miller: Kenny, I'd like to introduce you to the top-half of that story. Goes like this:
The conference featured four 1,000-yard receivers last year. One is off to the NFL: Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. One is out for the season -- or at least a significant part of it -- with a knee injury: Arizona's Austin Hill. Two others are back:
That's a good start. Lee was a unanimous All-American and Cooks could push for such recognition this fall.

Did you notice anything?

The reason we didn't including Cooks as a potential 1,000-yard receiver is because he already has been one.

And, by the way, don't feel bad. A USC fan blasted me on Twitter and called me a "hack" for leaving out Marqise Lee.




Eric from Sammamish, Wash., writes: The Huskies have a QB returning in Price that has unbelievable potential (see 2011 Alamo Bowl), one of the best recieving corps in the Pac-12 with Williams, Johnson, Mickens, freshman Stringfellow. The best TE in the nation in ASJ, a returning 1400 yard rusher, and an O-Line much improved from last year. So the offense is going to be loaded. Lets say the defense manages to play at the same level they did last year, even though they lost Trufant. In my best-case scenario, I see the dawgs going 10-2, getting a BCS bowl from an at-large birth (Stanford is 12-0 playing in Nat'l Championship). Could you see, in the best case, this happening?

Ted Miller: I think 10-2 is a legitimate "best case" for Washington. But I'd rate it a longshot.

First, Washington needs to open the renovated Husky Stadium the right way: With a win against Boise State. That won't be easy.

But the schedule features a number of tough road games, which the Huskies haven't managed well of late: at Stanford, at Arizona State, at UCLA, and at Oregon State. And, of course, there's that little Oregon issue.

Can the Huskies go 4-2 in those games, as well as not get upset in games where they are a favorite? Maybe. But I see 9-3/8-4 as more realistic.

Of course, your first point is the linchpin. Will Washington get the Keith Price of 2011, the Alamo Bowl included? Or will it get the Keith Price of 2012? If it's the former, then 10 wins seems way more plausible.




Jim from Seattle writes: Can you explain to us how the SEC can justify a second team in the BCS or in the Future playoff with an 8 game conference schedule and a FCS cupcake game allowing the SEC to maximize the number of teams that can go post-season? Should the SEC be forced to sacrifice the FCS game or a second team being BCS eligible?

Ted Miller: It might surprise you to hear me type this, but I think we can all relax. Nine game conference schedules and tougher nonconference scheduling for the SEC? It's going to happen, if not in 2014, then soon.

My take-away from the SEC meetings isn't that the SEC coaches want to keep an eight-game schedule. That's mostly irrelevant. It's that commissioner Mike Slive strongly intimated that a nine-game slate is coming and that he wants teams to play a more challenging nonconference schedule.

For one, the SEC just signed a huge new TV deal and will be starting a network. That's motivation to provide a better quality product on a weekly basis.

The word out of the SEC meetings was teams should aspire to 10 good games. That's exactly what we should ask of all college teams in the mix for the new playoff.

So it's possible that the SEC will shortly kill one of my most frequent rants.

Sniffle.




Eric from Tempe writes: As a burgeoning football writer at ASU, I was curious as to what would be some good summer reading options to learn more about college football. In particular, I really wanted to learn more about how the NCAA works regarding infractions and violations but any great college football reading recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Ted Miller: Burgeoning! I'm burgeoning, too, but mostly around my middle.

I don't read that many college football books. When I get done today, I'm going to grab a cocktail and read a few pages in Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke." Expecting it to be really uplifting!

But I do have some recommendations, though not about NCAA cases.
  • "The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA," by Taylor Branch. This is a sobering account, though I take issue with some of its conclusions. For someone so inside college football, it's good to read what those on the outside think. And, of course, that also informs one of the weaknesses of the book.
  • "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan probably played a role in the, er, death of the BCS. If you write a book that presages change, you have accomplished something.
  • "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," by Bruce Feldman is a must-read to understand the recruiting process. Feldman gets incredible access, and you really get into the suspense of trying to land a highly touted guy. And then you want to take a shower.
  • "Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football," by John Bacon is one of those "this is what really happened" behind-the-scene stories. While it doesn't fully exonerate, Rodriguez, it does paint a sympathetic picture of a him in a mismatched marriage. It also reveals the real Lloyd Carr, and shows some discouraging examples of the media trying to force a story that really isn't there.
  • Stewart Mandel's "Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy That Reign over College Football," has become a bit dated just because of all the change in college football of late, but it hits on a lot of different issues in an intelligent, amusing way.

Oregon-Texas A&M not off ... yet

May, 31, 2013
5/31/13
3:15
PM ET
It appears that Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman got ahead of himself on terminating contracted football games, at least with Oregon.

Oregon sources went out of their way Friday to say that, at least on their end, the 2018-19 series is still on with the Aggies. Texas A&M later confirmed that to USA Today's George Schroeder.

Hyman more than likely stated his intent to the Houston Chronicle, an intention that has yet to become reality. But Oregon, which has been jilted by Kansas State and Georgia in recent years, apparently is awaiting the particulars, perhaps with a frowny face.

As for the USC series with Texas A&M for 2015-16, it appears to be off.
The 2013 NFL draft was terrible for the Pac-12. It was worse than any draft since 2000.

Well, other than 2012, when the draft looked a lot like the one last weekend, with 28 players also picked. The conference had 28 players picked in 2010, but that was a 10-team conference.

In short, the last two years haven't been good for the conference in terms of NFL love, and that matters in terms of national perception of how good the conference really is. Perception matters, both within our subjective systems for measuring college football teams against each other and for how recruits perceive conferences and teams.

Meanwhile, there's the SEC, which over the weekend probably posted the greatest numbers for a college conference in NFL draft history, with 63 selections, including 32 in the first three rounds. Even when you break it down by per team numbers, the SEC's 4.5 picks per team far outstrips the Pac-12's 2.33 players per team.

This is not old news, folks. The SEC hasn't long dominated the NFL draft, as some might try to convince you. The Pac-10, in fact, had decisively better per team numbers in 2008 (3.4 vs. 2.92) and was also better in 2009 (3.2 vs. 3.1).

Even last year, the SEC wasn't that far ahead of the rest of the FBS conferences. Remember the woeful Big Ten, much maligned for its terrible 2013 draft numbers? It had 41 players drafted in 2012, just one fewer than the SEC.

The SEC did have a huge 2010 draft with 49 players selected (4.1 per team), so the present momentum isn't entirely new. It's just the "Wow" factor this go-around seems more substantial as a pattern. And meaningful.

Yet this long lead-in, which might have glazed over some eyeballs, isn't about looking back. It's about looking ahead, with both hope and concern for the Pac-12 and, really, the rest of college football.

You might have heard this: The SEC has won seven consecutive BCS national titles. That makes it reasonable to view the conference as a favorite to make it eight in a row before we jump into a four-team playoff in 2014. And many believe the SEC will then dominate that playoff.

I feel I'm being optimistic for the other AQ conferences when I respond, "Maybe."

So I asked myself a question while being agog over the SEC draft numbers: That should come with a noticeable talent drain, correct? I know SEC recruiting also rates highly, but losing 4.5 NFL draftable players per team, with much of that coming from the perennial powers, has to have an impact.

Right?

Well, in terms of 2013 returning starters, the Pac-12 stacks up well with the SEC. While returning starters numbers are a bit fluid (and often overrated), my review has the SEC averaging 14.6 returning starters compared to 16.3 for the Pac-12.

But that's not the Pac-12's entry point.

It's this:
  • The SEC's top-six teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida and South Carolina) average 12.3 returning starters.
  • The Pac-12's top-six teams (Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State and Washington) average 16.5 returning starters.

So the Pac-12, generally regarded as the No. 2 AQ conference during the rise of the SEC, stacks up nicely.

Further, the Pac-12 looks like it will do far better in the 2014 NFL draft, though schools aren't eager to consider the potential early departures of players such as Oregon QB Marcus Mariota or Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

While SEC commissioner Mike Slive and SEC fans surely wouldn't agree, it would be good for college football for another conference to win the national title in 2013. It would send us into the College Football Playoff not fretting that the sport was becoming a handful of minor leagues surrounding the SEC.

At least not as much.

But just imagine if the SEC wins another title and then produces another draft of 60-plus players, a decidedly better total than everyone else. Yikes.

A few years ago, there were cracks in the "SEC rules!" argument. There were grounds for debate and ready-made ripostes. Now? Not so much.

As already noted more than a few times, the Pac-12 stacks up nicely for 2013. While "now or never" sounds a bit dramatic, it's not unreasonable to fear that if it's not now, it could feel closer to never -- or at least exceedingly rare -- as we begin the College Football Playoff.

Finalists for Broyles Award announced

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
5:57
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The five finalists for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to college football's top assistant coach, were announced Monday.

Two reasons you should care: 1. One was Stanford's defensive coordinator Derek Mason; 2. When you talk about potential hot coaching prospects, these five should be on your list.

The winner will be named on Dec. 4.

The finalists are:
Mike Bobo (Georgia -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)

Bob Diaco (Notre Dame -- defensive coordinator/linebackers/assistant head coach)

Kliff Kingsbury (Texas A&M -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)

Derek Mason (Stanford -- co-defensive coordinator/associate head coach)

Dan Quinn (Florida -- defensive coordinator/defensive line)


Pac-12 out of BCS national title picture

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
9:15
PM ET
BCS standings reaction: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | Notre Dame

Oregon led the Pac-12 at No. 5 in the latest BCS standings, but the Ducks and the conference have no chance to play for the national title.

Stanford, which ended Oregon's national title hopes with a win in Eugene on Nov. 17, is eighth. Oregon State is 15th and UCLA is 16th.

Stanford plays host to UCLA on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon is a likely at-large selection for a BCS bowl, most likely the Fiesta Bowl against the Big 12 champion.

The BCS national title game will match unbeaten, top-ranked Notre Dame against the once-beaten SEC champion, which will be decided on Saturday when No. 3 Georgia plays No. 2 Alabama.

Oregon 4th in coaches' poll

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
1:07
PM ET
The Pac-12 is out of the national title hunt, and it also lost two ranked teams over the weekend with losses by Arizona and Washington.

Oregon is No. 4 in the coaches' poll and No. 6 in the AP poll to lead the Pac-12. Both polls have Notre Dame, Alabama and Georgia as the top three. Alabama and Georgia will play in the SEC title game next weekend.

The AP poll ranks unbeaten but ineligible Ohio State fourth and Florida fifth. The coaches have Florida at No. 5, behind Oregon.

Stanford is eighth in the AP poll and ninth with the coaches. The Cardinal will play host to UCLA on Friday in the Pac-12 title game, with the winner playing the Big Ten champion -- Nebraska or Wisconsin -- in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon State is 16th and UCLA 17th in the AP poll. Their positions are reversed with the coaches.
Just when you think the plot twists are over, college football turns from Verbal Kint into Keyser Soze and gives you a wink.

Nos. 1 (Kansas State) and 2 (Oregon) upset on the same weekend? Who saw that coming?

So let's figure out where the Pac-12 stands, as of today.
  • Scenario No. 1: If Oregon loses at Oregon State on Saturday, Stanford and UCLA will play twice within six days. The first would be Saturday in Pasadena; the second would be at the house of the winner on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth. That also means Stanford could play at the Rose Bowl three consecutive games.
  • Scenario No. 2: If Oregon beats Oregon State, it will win the North Division if UCLA beats Stanford. That means Oregon would play host to the Bruins on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 title. That game could be for a Rose Bowl berth. Or something else ...
  • If Scenario No. 2 plays out, and USC beats Notre Dame on Saturday, enter "something else." The Ducks then could end up in the national title game opposite the SEC champion, Alabama or Georgia.
  • So, Ducks fans, you are big USC and UCLA fans this weekend.
  • If Stanford beats UCLA and wins the Pac-12 North Division, and Oregon beats Oregon State, then the Ducks likely head to the Fiesta Bowl, where they likely would end up opposite the Big 12 champion, which could be Kansas State. Hey ... wasn't that supposed to be the national title game?

Oregon's loss does bring some good news to the Pac-12, even if the Ducks can't finagle their way back into the national championship picture. It now seems likely that the Pac-12 will have two BCS bowl teams. That would mean an extra $6.1 million for the conference, which means a half-a-million-plus for every team.

Let's hear it for more money!

Further, two BCS bowl teams would mean the Pac-12 could fill out its seven contracted bowl spots perfectly. Because eight Pac-12 teams are bowl eligible, if there were only one BCS bowl team, then the conference would have to scramble to find a bowl with an available at-large spot.

So everybody should thank the Ducks for taking one for the team.

Further, the Pac-12 has eclipsed the Big 12 and is suddenly giving the SEC a run for its money as the nation's best conference, at least in terms of depth. Six Pac-12 teams have spots in the BCS standings, just as many as the 14-team SEC. Of course, the SEC's six teams are between Nos. 2 and 12, so that's a lot of front-line depth.

And there's even a plot twist for that Pac-12 depth angle: It doesn't include USC.

Just imagine if someone said to you in August: Six Pac-12 teams will be in the penultimate BCS standings, and that group won't include USC.

Of course, if the Trojans, the first team ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll to lose four games since Auburn in 1984, upset Notre Dame with backup QB Max Wittek on Saturday, they'll likely jump back into the BCS standings. If the other six hold serve, particularly Arizona and Washington, there would be seven Pac-12 teams in the BCS standings at the end of the regular season.

That's impressive depth. Then come the bowls to test that depth.

If the Pac-12 could win two BCS bowl games and finish with at least a 5-3 bowl record, that would significantly buoy the conference's national perception. That matters, because the final judgment on this Pac-12 season will have ramifications for next season.

That improved national perception, translated into 2013, likely would mean a lot of teams ranked in the preseason polls. At this point, I'd guess that Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Oregon State and Washington all likely would be ranked in the first 2013 AP poll. And Arizona State and Arizona likely would receive votes.

There's more to that than just feeling good about your conference. Just three Pac-12 teams were in the 2012 preseason AP poll, so perking up to six or seven would mean a more attractive Pac-12 product next fall.

Here's a guess that commissioner Larry Scott could use that as an alluring selling point as he tries to reach an accord with DirectTV and other recalcitrant cable companies to carry the Pac-12 Network.

Let's hear it for (maybe) more money!
BCS standings reaction: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | Notre Dame


Oregon's home loss to Stanford dropped the Ducks to No. 5 in the BCS standings.

Notre Dame is No. 1, Alabama is No. 2 and Georgia is No. 3.

That means if Notre Dame beats USC on Saturday, it almost certainly will play the SEC champion for the national championship.

If Notre Dame loses, however, things could get interesting.

Oregon is fourth in both national polls, but it it seventh with the computers, which is why it is ranked behind No. 4 Florida.

But if Oregon beats Oregon State on Saturday -- the Beavers are No. 15 in the BCS standings -- and No. 8 Stanford loses at No. 17 UCLA, the Ducks would get another quality foe in the Bruins in the Pac-12 championship game.

It's possible the Ducks could perk up enough in the BCS standings to earn a berth opposite the SEC champion, if, again, Notre Dame loses.

Further, the Pac-12 is doing well in the BCS standings overall, if not the polls.

Six Pac-12 teams are in the BCS top-25. Arizona is No. 24 and Washington is No. 25.

So imagine this: If Arizona beats Arizona State and Washington beats Washington State, both on Friday. That would be two more top-25 wins for Oregon. Toss in Oregon State and UCLA, and USC's perk after beating Notre Dame, and that could swing the computers the Ducks way.

Of course, that's a lot of stuff.

The point: Oregon isn't dead yet.

Oregon hope: Ducks fourth in coaches poll

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
1:46
PM ET
Despite the dispiriting home loss to Stanford, Oregon may yet have hope of finding its way into the national title game.

The Ducks fell from No. 1 to fourth Sunday in the coaches poll, which counts in the BCS standings, and fifth in the AP poll, which doesn't.

Notre Dame, the last unbeaten team, is No. 1 in both polls. Alabama is No. 2 and Georgia is No. 3.

Here's the good news for the Ducks: If Notre Dame loses at USC on Saturday, the Ducks could still move up to No. 2 in the BCS standings. The Fighting Irish likely would be punished in the polls for losing to a reeling Trojans squad, particularly if injured QB Matt Barkley doesn't play.

Alabama and Georgia will play for the SEC title. The loser will get a second loss and will be out of it.

So Oregon could move up to No. 2 in the final BCS standings if it beats Oregon State on Saturday. It also would help the Ducks' cause significantly if Stanford lost at UCLA on Saturday, thereby giving the Ducks the North Division title and making them the Bruins' host for the Pac-12 title game on Nov. 30.

Consecutive wins over nationally ranked Oregon State and UCLA would give the Ducks a big boost in the computer polls, and that might be enough if the Ducks are ranked No. 2 in the final coaches and Harris polls.

As for the rest of the Pac-12, Stanford moved up to No. 11 in both polls after beating the Ducks and taking control of its Pac-12 destiny. If Stanford wins out, it goes to the Rose Bowl.

UCLA, fresh off trouncing the Trojans, is 16th with the coaches and 15th with the AP. Oregon State is 17th with the coaches and 16th with the AP.

USC, which started the season as a top national title contender, is now unranked. It, Washington and Arizona are among teams receiving votes.

Video: Potential BCS matchups

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
2:35
AM ET

Lou Holtz, Mark May discuss the upsets of top-ranked Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon, and look forward to some potential BCS Championship matchups.

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