Pac-12: Isi Sofele

California Bears season preview

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
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We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the California Golden Bears.

California

Coach: Sonny Dykes 22-15 (First season at Cal)

2012 record: 3-9 (2-5 Pac-12 North)

Key losses: WR Keenan Allen, C Brian Schwenke, CB Steve Williams, DE Kendrick Payne, RB C.J. Anderson, RB Isi Sofele

[+] EnlargeSonny Dykes
Norbert von der Groeben/GoldenBearSports.comSonny Dykes will look to true freshman Jared Goff to lead a revamped Bears offense.
Key returnees: DE Deandre Coleman, RB Brendan Bigelow, LB Nick Forbes, K Vince D’Amato, WR Chris Harper

Newcomer to watch: We’ve been hearing some buzz around this true freshman quarterback named Jared Goff.

Biggest games in 2013: Take your pick. The Big Game (Nov. 23) is always the biggest, but there are plenty more with Northwestern coming for the opener (Aug. 31), No. 2 Ohio State a couple of weeks later (Sept. 14) and then Oregon two weeks after that (Sept. 28).

Biggest question mark: Regardless of who was going to take over at quarterback, he was going to be a rookie. But Dykes went with the youngest of the young in tapping Goff to be his guy. Considered the jewel of the 2012 recruiting class, Goff now becomes the face of the new-look Bears and their “Bear Raid” offense. And with youth and inexperience come questions. How will he handle Cal’s brutal schedule? How does he handle the highs and lows of the position? Can a true freshman be a leader? Perhaps the biggest question of them all: Did Dykes make the right call? Wins and/or competitive performances against some top-notch teams will go a long way to answering that. This decision will likely define Dykes’ first season as Cal’s head coach.

Forecast: A look at the schedule shows a potentially gloomy forecast. Northwestern and Ohio State paired with a Pac-12 North docket and USC and UCLA from the South seems daunting even if they had a veteran-heavy team, which they don’t.

But bear in mind it took Dykes some time to get things moving at Louisiana Tech. In his first season, the Bulldogs were 5-7 and ranked 59th nationally with 29.1 points per game. In 2011, they improved to 8-5 and jumped to 42nd in scoring offense (30 points per game). Last season, they were 9-3 and led the country with 51.5 points per game, and they were two points shy of knocking off Texas A&M.

And this is a team loaded with potential -- especially at the wide receiver spot, at which Goff will have a host of talented young playmakers at his disposal. From Harper and Kenny Lawler to Darius Powe and big-bodied Richard Rodgers (and about four or five others), there is no shortage of talented pass-catchers for Goff to target. And many are excited to see what Bigelow can do at running back with more opportunities and touches.

Defensively, the Bears are going against the trend in the conference and switching to an even-front defense under Andy Buh. Coleman is an A-list defensive linemen, though his contributions often get lost in the shuffle in a league with other A-list defensive linemen. The return of Stefan McClure -- a highly touted cornerback who missed last season with an injury -- quietly boosts what could be a sneaky good defense.

A new coaching staff brings hope and excitement, and that’s a good thing for a program that could use a little of both. But expectations are best tempered as the Bears undergo a complete overhaul on both sides of the ball and grow with their true freshman quarterback.

The top 25 list is coming!

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
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Today we begin the Pac-12's preseason countdown of the league's top 25 players. As always, this is a brutally difficult list to make.

The preseason list is more about what a player has already accomplished with a dusting of speculation, not a straight forward projection of who we think the top 25 players are. For example, a player like Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson will likely end up on the postseason top 25, but might not start off on the preseason list. The Pac-12 blog is confident he'll end up being one of the top 25 players in the league in 2013, but there are others with stronger credentials as of today. Same for someone like USC's Dion Bailey, who might end up being one of the best safeties in the country. But since he's spent the past couple of seasons at linebacker, we give the nod to a few of the league's more established safeties. Oregon State's Isaac Seumalo and Storm Woods also fall into this category.

It's a fairly similar approach with what we took last season. For example, we had Isi Sofele and Curtis McNeal on the list because they were coming off 1,000-yard seasons the year before. Then someone like Ka'Deem Carey comes along and blows away the country in rushing. Chase Thomas was highly rated in the preseason, but Trent Murphy got the postseason nod. And, unfortunately, someone like John Boyett (No. 16) was rated in the preseason, but injury kept him off the postseason list. Anthony Barr and Will Sutton overshadowed preseason players like T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey.

We had a feeling Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley would be special, but wanted to wait until they proved it. And they did, which is why they ended up on the postseason list.

So expect the list in January of 2014 to look a lot different.

As a reminder, there 12 players coming back from last season's postseason top 25.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State

Here's some breakdowns from the postseason list:

By Team
  • Arizona: 2
  • Arizona State: 2
  • California: 0
  • Colorado: 0
  • Oregon: 5
  • Oregon State: 3
  • Stanford: 6
  • UCLA: 3
  • USC: 2
  • Utah: 2
  • Washington: 0
  • Washington State: 0
By Unit
  • Offense: 13
  • Defense: 11
  • Special teams: 1
By Position
  • Quarterback: 5
  • Offensive line: 1
  • Running back: 4
  • Receiver: 2
  • Tight end: 1
  • Inside linebacker: 1
  • Outside linebacker: 4
  • Defensive tackle: 2
  • Defensive end: 1
  • Safety: 1
  • Cornerback: 2
  • Kick returner: 1

No. 25 will post later today. Ted is eager to hear all of your thoughts here.

Pac-12's top 25 is coming!

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
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On Tuesday, the Pac-12 blog will begin its countdown of the conference's top 25 players.

As we go on, send your complaints here. Kevin is in charge of those.

He made making this list much more difficult than previous years. From 2008 through this preseason, the list was always perfect because I made it alone. Now, the process has been injected with more intelligence, insight and discernment than past years. And, really, who the heck wants any of that?

It did lead to some amusing disagreements. I suspect many of you would be interested in our give and take, which was substantial, even at the very top of the list. That likely will be presented when the list is complete.

Both of us started with a list of about 35 players. It was mostly the same 35 players, but our pecking orders, from top to bottom, were very different. The compromise process was painful. Our "Michael Clay!" "Kiko Alonso!" back and forth was like an old Miller Lite commercial: "Great taste!" "Less filling." (Everyone knows "Great taste!" should prevail, but Kevin "Less filling!" Gemmell is a tenacious debater).

What is most interesting is that, more than any previous year, the postseason list is WAY different that the preseason list.

You can review the preseason top 25 here. And you can review the entire list of bios and notes here.

And here's the preseason list.

No. 1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 2: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

I see little wrong with that list if I re-enter my August self. But from today's perspective, our expectations were way off.

You can imagine the USC presence goes down a bit this go-around.

Beavers roll over Bears

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
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Making his first start since the ill-fated trip to Washington, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion tossed four touchdowns and the Beavers blew up the visiting California Bears 62-14.

Mannion, starting in place of the injured Cody Vaz, threw touchdowns to four different receivers. Markus Wheaton led all players with seven catches for 99 yards while Terron Ward carried 14 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

After Wheaton’s 11-yard score put the Beavers (8-2, 6-2) up 7-0 in the first, Cal answered with a 9-yard Isi Sofele run. That was as close as the game would get because the Beavers would go on to score six unanswered touchdowns. Cornerback Jordan Poyer also picked up his sixth interception of the season.

“We were aggressive … we mixed in some runs nicely and the guys blocked them pretty well and we made some big plays,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “That helped a lot.”

The 62 points was Oregon State’s highest point total in more than four years. Cal ends the season on a five-game losing streak, 3-9 overall and 2-7 in Pac-12 play. Allan Bridgford, making his second start at quarterback for the injured Zach Maynard was 18-of-31 for 132 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

At question is the status of Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who according to numerous reports will meet with athletic director Sandy Barbour on Sunday to talk about his future. Ironically, it was Riley who started the season potentially on the hot seat.

Oregon State hosts the Ducks next week in the Civil War.

Kelly breaks the ice on Bama loss

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- There were some nerves. There was some trepidation. As Chip Kelly put it, there was some fear that “Coach Kelly’s head might fall off.”

Yes, the Oregon players knew what happened to No. 1 Alabama before they took the field Saturday night against California. And when Kelly gathered the team around for the final meeting, he could feel the tension.

So he broke it, and as a team they talked about it.

“Everyone has a phone,” Kelly said following his team’s 59-17 victory over the Bears at Memorial Stadium. “They were all looking around, so I said, ‘I’ll tell you, Alabama lost.’ I think people were afraid to talk about it. Just because they won or lost shouldn’t affect us. I felt like I had to address it so they didn’t know if we talk about it or not talk about it. I didn’t want them worried that Coach Kelly’s head would fall off if we talk about it. I told them and said, ‘Hey, they lost, what does that have to do with us?’

“The outcome of that game shouldn’t affect us. Our deal is did we have a good Monday? Yes. Did we have a good Tuesday? Yes. Did we have a good Wednesday? Yes. That’s what’s going to help us play well tonight, not the fact that somebody else in another part of the country lost a football game.”

Said linebacker Michael Clay: “It was like walking on egg shells. And when he addressed it, it was like a huge weight off of our shoulders. It was very freeing.”

And for quarterback Marcus Mariota, it served as both ice-breaker and crucial reminder.

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff, Kenjon Barner
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireJosh Huff (1) and Kenjon Barner celebrate the first of Huff's three touchdown grabs in Oregon's rout.
“You could feel the relief,” he said. “It was kind of a tense thing because you already have so much stuff on your mind. It really reminded us that every game counts and we have to understand that other games don’t affect us and we have to take care of our own business.”

And Mariota did just that. The redshirt freshman matched an Oregon record by tossing six touchdowns on 27-of-34 passing for 377 yards with no interceptions.

With the Bears selling out to stop the run, the Pac-12’s top rushing team managed just 180 yards on the ground. But Mariota picked up the slack, finding Josh Huff three times for scores and tight end Colt Lyerla twice for touchdowns.

“He’s a special player,” Kelly said of his quarterback. “He keeps getting better and better. They did some things today where we felt like they were going to try to take away the run game and play some zone coverage on us. He’s got to do a good job figuring out what they are in, and it seemed like he was on target and making the right reads and making good decisions. You keep seeing him better and better each week.”

So instead of blowing a team out in the first 30 minutes, it took Oregon 45 against a Cal squad that challenged an injury-depleted Oregon defensive line. Isi Sofele rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown against a front that -- at one time -- featured three true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.

“Normally, Oregon backs break for 75-yard runs, but it wasn’t happening today,” said Cal linebacker Chris McCain. “I felt like defensively we did pretty well to stop their run, but the passes got to us.”

None bigger than Mariota’s 35-yard touchdown to Huff midway through the third quarter. Cal had narrowed the gap to 24-17 in early in the third quarter. A few possessions later, Allan Bridgford was intercepted by Boseko Lokombo at the Cal 35. On the next play, Mariota connected with Huff to put Oregon ahead 31-17.

“I thought that two-play sequence might have been the game-changing part of it,” Kelly said. “It was kind of a back-and-forth game. I felt like we got some distance.”

From there, Oregon scored four more second-half touchdowns. And as the Bears were forced to go to the air, the young defensive line started to get some pressure up front.

“You hear people talk about, ‘Well, we’re young.’ Too bad, you gotta go,” Kelly said. “We’ve recruited kids and told them they’ll have an opportunity to play. They’ve prepared for it. ... They don’t act like young guys, and that’s something we’re looking for. I think this young group is more mature than any young group I’ve been around.”

Huskies win an ugly one at Cal

November, 3, 2012
11/03/12
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There’s ugly. And there’s whatever that was Friday night in Berkeley, Calif.

But when all the turnovers had been recovered and all the yellow laundry had been cleared from the field (on one play, there were four separate penalties), the Washington Huskies emerged with a 21-13 victory over California. It was Washington’s first road win of the season and snapped a six-game road losing streak for the Huskies. The win moves Washington (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) one step closer to bowl eligibility.

Cal (3-7, 2-5) is officially eliminated from postseason contention for the second time in three seasons -- and questions surrounding the future of coach Jeff Tedford are sure to heat up with this latest loss.

The teams combined for eight turnovers (four apiece) and 19 penalties for a total of 168 yards (12 for 108 from Washington).

But amid the sloppiness, there were bright spots. Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- playing on a bum ankle -- turned in a gritty performance with eight catches for 151 yards and a score. Bishop Sankey had a season-high 189 yards on the ground for Washington to go with a pair of scores.

However, it's hard to overlook a stretch in the fourth quarter in which four consecutive drives ended in turnovers -- including four turnovers over a span of 11 snaps.

The Huskies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when they turned an Isi Sofele fumble into an 11-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard Sankey touchdown run.

The Bears battled back to match the score in the second quarter when Chris Harper scored on a 14-yard end-around. Cal then took a six-point lead in the third following a pair of Vincenzo D’Amato field goals.

But Seferian-Jenkins -- who came out of the locker room at halftime limping badly -- made his presence known late in the third quarter. He made a leaping 43-yard reception that later helped set up his jumping 29-yard touchdown from Keith Price that gave Washington a 14-13 edge at the end of the third quarter.

Price completed 16 of 29 passes for 237 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His Cal counterpart, Zach Maynard, was 15-of-29 for 175 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. C.J. Anderson led Cal on the ground with 160 yards on 22 carries.

The loss also puts a damper on an outstanding game from Cal linebacker Nick Forbes, who tallied 10 tackles with an interception and two fumble recoveries.

It was a Maynard interception in the fourth that set up Sankey’s second touchdown run of the game and gave Washington the final margin.

Making matters worse for Cal, Maynard was sidelined near the end of the game with what appeared to be a knee injury. He was helped off the field and then carted to the locker room. Allan Bridgford relieved Maynard on Cal’s final drive but was unable to get the Bears into the end zone.

Instant analysis: Stanford 21, California 3

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- If the Stanford defense always played the way it did Saturday against Cal, Cardinal fans could get used to the Big Game being played in October.

The 115th meeting between the two Bay Area schools epitomized the type of game coach David Shaw would like to see each week as the Cardinal rode a physical running attack and a stout defense to a 21-3 win.

Here are a few highlights from the Cardinal's third straight win against Cal:

It was over when: Cal running back Isi Sofele was dropped for a loss of two yards on a fourth-and-1 from the Cal 42-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Stanford QB Josh Nunes ended up throwing an interception a few plays later, but it was clear Cal wasn’t going to come back trailing 21-3.

Game ball goes to: Stanford defense. Ben Gardner, Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas and just about everyone on the unit contributed positively as the Cardinal kept Cal out of the end zone.

Stat of the game: Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor passed Toby Gerhart for No. 2 on the school’s all-time rushing list. He finished the game with 28 carries for 189 yards and has run for 3,616 yards in his four-year career. With five regular-season games left, Taylor needs to average 84 yards a game to pass all-time leader Darrin Nelson (4,033).

Unsung hero: Gardner. Gardner has quietly become one of the steadiest forces in the Pac-12. His physical play up front sets the tone, which the rest of the defense feeds off of.

What it means: First, it means the Cardinal are not immune to offensive touchdowns on the road. Before a 7-yard touchdown run by Taylor in the first quarter, Stanford had not scored a road offensive touchdown this year. Its previous offensive touchdown during a road game came at Oregon State on Nov. 5, 2011. With games against Washington State and Colorado coming the next two weeks, Stanford will expect to be 7-2 (4-1 Pac-12) when it hosts No. 8 Oregon State on Nov. 10.

Early games: Colorado fizzles vs. Sac State

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
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The Pac-12 should stop scheduling Sacramento State. And Colorado might want to rethink its ideas about FCS teams.

Sacramento State, which won at Oregon State in the 2011 opener, beat Colorado 30-28 with a 30-yard field goal as time expired.

Colorado, 0-2 after losing to Colorado State in the opener, is now 1-2 all-time against FCS teams. It lost to Montana State in 2006.

The Buffaloes didn't just lose, they got beaten. They jumped to a 14-0 lead, but the Hornets didn't back down. They outgained the Buffs 466 yards to 341. While Sac State did most of its damage through the air, it still outrushed Colorado 154 yards to 153.

But the biggest difference was at quarterback. Sophomore Garrett Safron threw for a career-best 312 yards on 25-of-37 passing for the Hornets. He also was 4-for-5 for 53 yards on the game-winning drive.

Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb was just 12 of 24 for 160 yards. In Webb's defense, it's clear the Buffs don't have much talent at receiver.

The lone bit of good news for Colorado was freshman fullback Christian Powell, who ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

Colorado was hoping to get its young team off to a fast start against a very soft early schedule. Now that the Buffs are 0-2 against that soft schedule, it's not easy to see where victories -- even a victory -- will come.

A notoriously bad team on the road, Colorado will be at Fresno State next weekend.

California 50, Southern Utah 31: California led just 20-17 in the third quarter, but the the Bears erupted in the fourth quarter to post an easy win. Quarterback Zach Maynard completed 17 of 23 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Isi Sofele rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries, and wide receiver Keenan Allen had two touchdowns, one on a 69-yard punt return. It was the Bears' first victory inside newly renovated Memorial Stadium. A week after looking terrible in a loss to Nevada, the Bears piled up 518 yards, scoring 30 points in the fourth quarter. Still, it was hardly an impressive win. The Bears defense, expected to be strong, surrendered 371 yards. The Thunderbirds had just 209 yards in a 34-3 loss to Utah State the previous week. Cal is at Ohio State next weekend.

Washington State 24, Eastern Washington 20: Mike Leach has his first win coaching the Cougars, but his offense is still not clicking. Jeff Tuel threw a pair of touchdown passes to Isiah Myers, but the Cougs were outgained by the FCS Eagles 469 yards to 355. The Cougs' highlight, in fact, was a 60-yard field goal just before halftime from Andrew Furney. Tuel completed 20 of 26 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He may have cemented his hold on the starting job, as backup Connor Halliday completed just 5 of 11 for 76 yards with an interception. Washington State is at UNLV on Friday.

Notes on the preseason Pac-12 top 25

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
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Our listing of the Pac-12's top 25 players concluded on Friday, just in time for the season.

You can review the entire list here.

And here are some notes you might find interesting.

By unit
Offense
: 16
Defense: 9

The 2011 postseason list broke down with 19 offensive players and six defensive players. The league does feel like it will be better on defense this year.

By team
USC ... 8
Oregon ... 4
Stanford ... 3
California, Utah, Washington, Washington State ... 2
Arizona State, Oregon State ... 1
Arizona, Colorado, & UCLA ... 0

USC dominates the list, and really there's no one you could make a decent argument doesn't belong on the list. On the 2011 postseason list, Stanford had six and Oregon five. If I were a gambling man, I'd wager Oregon might add two or three players to the 2012 postseason list.

As for the teams with no players: Who would you make a case for? Kevin and I discussed Colorado offensive lineman David Bakhtiari, who was second-team All-Pac-12 in 2011, and UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin. Arizona has QB Matt Scott and a couple of nice guys in the secondary.

By position
QB ... 3
WR ... 4
RB ... 7
OL ... 1
TE ... 1
LB ... 3
DE ... 1
DT... 1
CB ... 2
S ... 2

There were five QBs and four running backs on the 2011 postseason list, so maybe the league will be more run-based this fall. There were three offensive linemen on the postseason list -- I bet you can name them. Every position group -- other than special teams -- got at least one player. That happens in large part because while making the list you think, "Who's the best guy in the conference at this position?"

Fourteen guys from the 2011 list are back, and five of them are from USC. Here they are with their old ranking.

2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
5. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
7. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
8. Robert Woods, WR, USC
11. Keith Price, QB, Washington
12 De'Anthony Thomas, WR-RB, Oregon
13. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
15. Keenan Allen, WR, California
16. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
19. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
20. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
21. John White, RB, Utah
23. Nickell Robey, CB, USC
24. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

New guys on the list include:

No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

So who moves up the list? Or gets knocked off? You can expect the postseason list to be very different.

And, by the way, far more meaningful. It will reflect actual performance rather than projection.

Cal, Colorado stumble in openers

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
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Rough Saturday so far for the Pac-12.

NEVADA 31, CAL 24: Cody Fajardo, Stefphon Jefferson and the Nevada Wolf Pack spoiled the grand re-opening of Memorial Stadium.

Fajardo, Nevada's quarterback, rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown and also completed 25 of 32 balls for 230 yards. Jefferson carried the ball 34 times for 145 yards and three scores.

The Bears fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter after Jefferson capped a 16-play drive for the Wolf Pack and then Fajardo scored on a 49-yard run. The Bears were kept off the scoreboard until 4:38 in the second quarter and struggled to keep drives going, converting just 3 of 14 third-down attempts.

Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, who didn't start the game because he missed a tutoring session during the summer, came in late in the first quarter and finished the game 17-of-30 for 247 yards and two touchdown passes; one to Bryce Treggs and another to Chris Harper. Keenan Allen (five catches, 69 yards) scored on a 39-yard reverse.

C.J. Anderson took the bulk of the carries for Cal, carrying 14 times for 66 yards. Isi Sofele, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, carried five times for 21 yards.

With the score tied at 24-24, Cal took over at their own 2 with 5:44 remaining and a chance to drive for the lead. But the Bears couldn't get past their own 12. Nevada took the punt and marched 61 yards for the winning score, a 2-yard run by Jefferson.

Cal's defense -- which has been tops in the conference the last two seasons -- gave up 450 yards, including 220 on the ground from Nevada's pistol offense.

COLORADO STATE 22, COLORADO 17: Speaking of spoilers, the Colorado State Rams muscled their way to victory over Colorado in Denver, wrecking the debut of Kansas transfer Jordan Webb, who won Colorado's starting quarterback job after just a month on campus.

Webb ran hot-and-cold most of the night, missing his first four passes as the Buffaloes fell behind 3-0 on a Jared Roberts 47-yard field goal.

Then Webb put it together in the second quarter, coordinating a nine-play, 81 yard drive that ended with a 15-yard dart to Nelson Spruce and a 7-3 Colorado lead. Later in the quarter, Tyler McCulloch scooped up a one-handed grab on a 9-yard throw to give Colorado a 14-3 advantage.

But Colorado State's pursuit of Webb was relentless, sacking him five times and putting him on the ground several more. He finished 22-of-41 with 187 yards. Tony Jones did the bulk of the work on the ground for Colorado, carrying the ball 16 times, but managed just 43 yards. As a team, Colorado mustered just 58 rushing yards and was out-gained by the Rams 298-245.

Colorado re-took the lead in the fourth quarter when Will Oliver's 30-yard field goal gave the Buffs a 17-16 advantage. But Roberts converted back-to-back field goals to give CSU the lead and extend the score to 22-17.

Colorado had a chance to drive for the win in the closing minute, but failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 at the Colorado State 39.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 1

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:00
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Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 concludes today.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

2011 numbers: Completed 69.1 percent of his throws (308 of 446) for 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 2

Making the case for Barkley: Drum roll please. ... No? No drum roll? We don't have that sound file? OK, so this isn't exactly a "who shot J.R. moment" for the Pac-12 blog. I think it's safe to say we all saw this coming. And why not? Matt Barkley is by far the most complete quarterback in the country. With A-list wide receivers flanking him on either side, a phenomenal ground attack that includes two 1,000-yard rushers, fantastic tight ends, a solid offensive line and a stellar defense to get him the ball back, Barkley should produce credentials worthy of Heisman consideration and a high first-round NFL draft pick. He put the spotlight on himself when he made his declaration of "unfinished business," but if you know Barkley, you know he's not one to shrivel in the spotlight. And there is a bright one on him and his team this year as they enter the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. He earned second-team all-conference last year and is on every major preseason All-America team this year. Assuming all goes to plan, Barkley will be in New York for the Heisman presentation. He can go a long way toward making his case if he can produce similar numbers to last year and keep his team atop the rankings all season.

No. 2: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 2

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
5:30
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2011 numbers: Recorded 44 total tackles, with nine coming for a loss. He had 1.5 sacks, a pass break-up, forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 7

Making the case for Lotulelei: Lotulelei, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, is not only the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12, he might be the best defensive lineman in the nation. The consensus preseason All-American won the Pac-12's Morris Trophy last year, an award voted on by opposing offensive linemen. He also, of course, was first-team All-Pac-12. But, I know, Pac-12 fans like numbers, and the above numbers -- or numbers for any interior defensive lineman -- won't blow anyone away. So we have to go with what folks think of Lotulelei's chances at the next level. Here's what ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper writes about Lotulelei after ranking him the No. 9 overall NFL draft prospect: "Safest DT in class right now based on consistency. Demands double-teams, clogs up the middle of the field. A great sense for disrupting the run game, with power to bull rush. Explodes off the ball, with great upper-body strength."

Scouts Inc. ranks him sixth overall, giving him a grade of 94, which is the same grade they give the No. 1 prospect, a certain USC QB. In its evaluation, it praises Lotulelei's skills as a run stopper and his "motor." A popular comparison? Former Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. He has been named to the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy, Lott Trophy and Maxwell Award watch lists.

No. 3: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 3

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
6:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

3. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon

2011 numbers: Rushed for 595 yards and seven TDs, averaging 10.8 yards per carry. He caught 46 passes for 605 yards and nine TDs. He averaged 27.3 yards per kick return with two TDs.

2011 postseason ranking: 12th (tied with Oregon QB Darron Thomas!)

Making the case for Thomas: Thomas was very good last year as a true freshman -- you saw the Rose Bowl, right? -- but this high ranking here is more a projection forward. If Thomas doesn't get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony this winter, he should in 2013. Simply, Thomas is the most explosive player in the conference, perhaps the nation. If you asked a defensive coordinator who you'd least like to see in open space, it would be Thomas. In that Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, he probably previewed things to come with a team-high 314 all-purpose yards, carrying the ball twice for 155 yards and two TDs, including an are-you-kidding-me? 91 yard bolt. He was the Pac-12 co-offensive freshman of the year and earned first team All-Conference honors as a kick returner. He was the only player in the nation with at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning. He ranked 11th nationally in all-purpose yards with 147.8 ypg. He earned numerous freshman All-American honors. The expectation here is he will take a big step forward in 2012. Heck, he might even move up this list.

No. 4: Robert Woods, WR, USC
No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 4

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
12:00
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

4. Robert Woods, WR, USC

2011 numbers: Caught 111 balls for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 8

Making the case for Woods: No one had more receptions in the Pac-12 last year than Woods. No one had more receiving touchdowns than Woods. And the scary thing is his numbers are probably going to get better. With quarterback Matt Barkley returning for another season, an A-list counterpart across from him in Marqise Lee and two tight ends that are the envy of most teams in the nation, Woods is going to see a lot of single coverage. And if you bracket Woods, you run the risk of getting beat deep by one of the others. And if you still decide to bracket Woods, chances are you are still going to get beat by one of the others. He's that good, and USC's offense is that good. There are maybe two guys in this conference who can run consistently with Woods in man-to-man ... and one of them already plays for the Trojans (see No. 14). And that's why Woods, a first-team All-Pac-12 and AP All-American last year -- headlines a talented group of wide receivers in the conference. At 6-1, 190 pounds, he's one of the truly special players in the Pac-12.

No. 5: Keith Price, QB, Washington
No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2012: No. 5

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
5:30
PM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players in 2012 continues.

Most of this looks back, but, of course, there also is a good dose of projecting forward. A lot of good players, as it happens every year, won't make the preseason list. It is in their hands to make the postseason list.

You can review our 2011 postseason top 25 here.

5. Keith Price, QB, Washington

2011 numbers: Threw for 3,063 yards on 242 of 362 passing (66.9 percent) with 33 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also rushed for three touchdowns -- all of them coming in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor.

2011 postseason ranking: No. 11

Making the case for Price: After a defensive detour to close out last week, we turn our attention back to offense and one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the country. There's a reason Prices' name is being whispered as a potential Heisman candidate -- it's because he's really good. Only Andrew Luck posted a higher efficiency rating in the conference last season -- which means Price makes the most of his attempts. Nagging injuries -- and the fact that Washington had an A-list running back in Chris Polk -- were two of the reasons we didn't really see Price show off his athleticism. That's likely going to change this year as the coaching staff finds new and exciting ways for Price to make plays with his feet while also distributing the ball. We at the Pac-12 blog are on record as saying that if Price can make it through the first six weeks of the season with solid numbers, he could springboard from dark horse to legitimate Heisman contender.

No. 6: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
No. 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
No. 8: Keenan Allen, WR, California
No. 9: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 10: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
No. 11: Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
No. 12: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 13: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 14: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
No. 15: John White IV, RB, Utah
No. 16: John Boyett, S, Oregon
No. 17: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 18: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
No. 19: Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
No. 20: Dion Bailey, LB, USC
No. 21: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
No. 22: Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
No. 23: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 24: Isi Sofele, RB, California
No. 25: Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State

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