Pac-12: Jake Locker

Misbehavior ends Petersen's honeymoon

February, 7, 2014
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There are many things that can derail a college football team. Poor to middling talent. Poor to middling coaching. Complacency. Inexperience. A lack of focus. Poor conditioning. A couple of bad apples in the locker room.

And knuckleheaded behavior.

[+] EnlargeCyler Miles, Bishop Sankey
Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY SportsLeadership would be needed from Cyler Miles (10) next season, but that is now in question.
That, of course, comes in many varieties, but a couple of Washington players allegedly have tried to win the "College Football Knuckleheads of the Year Award" before we're much more than a month into 2014.

According to police reports, two Huskies -- likely 2014 starters, in fact -- apparently were unhappy the Denver Broncos went rear end over tea-kettle in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. So they, allegedly, beat up a Seattle Seahawks fan.

Yes, players from Seattle's major college football team allegedly beat up someone because he was a fan of Seattle's NFL team.

Further, the two players being investigated in connection to the incident are Washington quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow. We know this because both have been suspended indefinitely by new coach Chris Petersen. Neither player has been arrested or charged, at this point.

Let us first welcome Petersen back from his UW honeymoon, which ended upon his getting the phone call about this one.

Now before we delve too deeply into the meaning here, both for the team and in the bigger, societal picture, it's important to acknowledge that the story is incomplete. We have not heard Miles' and Stringfellow's side of things. Every time we engage the early reports of an incident such as this it's imperative we use two words to give us pause: Duke lacrosse.

That said, there's only one way this becomes a substantial issue for the Huskies in 2014: If Miles and Stringfellow are kicked off the team.

Washington is going to start the 2014 season 4-0 -- see the schedule here -- whether these two play or not. The only potential early pratfall is a visit from Illinois, a team the Huskies beat by 10 on the road last year and that finished 1-7 in Big Ten play.

So Petersen could suspend both for a third of the season, look tough on discipline, and then get his guys back in time for the rugged Pac-12 slate. He also could suspend them for three games and then play them against Georgia State, a glorified FCS team, in order to help them shake the rust off. Or, perhaps, Jeff Lindquist plays so well that Miles doesn't get his job back.

In any event, Husky fans probably don't need to panic yet about the prospects for 2014, though it now becomes more critical for talented receiver Kasen Williams to hasten a healthy return from a major leg injury.

Beyond practical matters, however, this story also combines two awful things, which makes it particularly notable: 1. Athletes behaving badly; 2. Fans behaving badly.

We start with the sense of entitlement many college athletes have -- "I can do whatever I want because I'm a star football player" -- and then move on to the irrationality of the most buffoonish fans -- "Those who root against my team should be punched in the face."

Sportswriters know all about this. We cover the entitled athletes and are constantly excoriated by the buffoonish fans, who will fill our inboxes with profane and garbled tirades because we didn't pick their team to win. Don't feel sorry for us, though. Without either, it would be more difficult to pay our bills.

From the Seattle Times:
According to a police report, a man told police he was assaulted around 8:30 p.m. Sunday on the 2300 block of NE 55th Street after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The man said two suspects jumped out of a car and asked the man if he was a Seahawks fan. According to the police report, the man said “something like yeah of course, are you Broncos fans?”

The suspects then “came at” the man and “started punching (him) in the face,” according to the report. The man and a friend identified the two suspects by looking at the UW football roster online.

Again, if true, this is worse for Miles, who, yes, hails from just outside of Denver. He's supposed to take the keys to the offense and be a leader, replacing Keith Price as the Huskies quarterback. Price was rock-solid as a person and leader, just like the guy before him (Jake Locker) and the guy before him (Isaiah Stanback).

Miles would have a ways to go before anyone refers to him as "rock solid." He's got talent and has already hinted that he can be an A-list quarterback with limited play stepping in for an injured Price. But how many good quarterbacks have this sort of thing on their resume?

This figures to be the first test of Petersen as a disciplinarian. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.

As for this fall, it's way premature to start downgrading Washington's stock, which potentially was headed for a preseason ranking. But it's fair to say it won't regain a "buy" rating until this incident is resolved.
You're my assistant. You're supposed to back me up and go get me juiceboxes whenever I want. Now go get me a juicebox!
Happy Friday.

Keith Price promises 'A-game' for LSU

September, 6, 2012
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After Washington's 21-12 win over San Diego State -- a mediocre but hardly dreadful performance -- quarterback Keith Price looked like a guy who'd lost a football game. And his wallet. And his best friend. And his dog.

"I haven't played that bad a ball game in a long time," he said.

Said coach Steve Sarkisian, "That's what makes 17 special. He's got a standard he holds himself to."

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireKeith Price and Washington will likely have to be nearly flawless to win at LSU on Saturday.
Price will need to meet his high standard for Washington to have a chance Saturday at LSU, which is 28-0 in nonconference, regular-season games under coach Les Miles. If he does, an upset over the third-ranked, SEC power would announce the Huskies' return to national relevance and would elevate Price from long shot Heisman Trophy candidate to a legitimate contender.

Of course, the challenge in Baton Rouge is about as tough as it gets. The Huskies defense will be challenged by a physical Tigers running game. The Huskies offense will be challenged by one of the nation's best defenses, one that has speed at every position, including a pair of A-list ends in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.

Another challenging element: The elements. It's going to be hot and humid and thundershowers are possible, which would typically benefit the team that prefers running the ball.

Oh, and there's 93,000 nutty, well-lubricated LSU fans in Tiger Stadium, perhaps the nation's loudest venue.

Further, the Huskies have taken a number of injury hits. They lost two starters from their offense against San Diego State, RB Jesse Callier, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and RT Ben Riva, who's out indefinitely with an arm injury. On defense, it was announced that end Hau'oli Jamora's fall camp knee injury was a season-ender.

LSU will be without LT Chris Faulk, but the Tigers are deep and experienced on their O-line.

So, yes, the Huskies are up against a lot.

Yet recall 11th-ranked LSU came a-calling to Husky Stadium in 2009, Sarkisian's first year in Seattle. That Washington team was coming off a winless season. It was widely considered QB Jake Locker and a bunch of stiffs. What transpired was a highly competitive game, with the Tigers prevailing 31-23.

What does Sarkisian remember from that matchup?

"Hopefully, we look a little better in pregame warmups," he said. "I was a little kind of looking at their side and looking at our side and it didn't feel like this was a great matchup in pregame warmups."

LSU is notorious for looking good getting off the bus, not unlike USC. But that game surely registers among the Huskies veterans, and probably some of the Tigers who were around then. It wasn't the physical mismatch it had been drummed up to be. Afterwards, the LSU players were highly complimentary of the Huskies.

"We have a lot better team than we did three years ago," Price said. "I'm sure they're not overlooking us. They know we're going to bring it to them. And they are going to bring it to us."

Price is where it will all start. He can't afford to make mistakes, but he's going to have to be aggressive and take his shots. The Huskies won't be able to grind the ball down the field. Price needs to get rid of the ball quickly, but he also can't obsess about LSU pressure and cut short his progressions and dash from the pocket.

"I'll be in the pocket a lot more regardless of if they bring heat or not," Price said. "I'll just be under duress."
Price isn't the only Husky who can make a name for himself. Budding stars such as receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join Price for a "Hello World" moment.


As for the defense, one word: tackle. The Huskies looked improved on defense against San Diego State, but Sarkisian noted the Aztecs had 90 yards after initial contact. The 225-pound Spencer Ware leads a crew of physical, athletic Tigers running backs could double that number if the Huskies don't tackle well.

If the Huskies defense can contain the LSU running game -- a big if -- it's uncertain just how well the Tigers will be able to throw. New QB Zach Mettenberger has a live arm, but he was kicked off the team at Georgia after a number of off-field incidents, and, after a single game against North Texas, already has seemed rattled by the scrutiny at LSU. It's reasonable to question how he will react to adversity if the screws tighten in the fourth quarter.

Price, as cool as a pint of Häagen-Dazs, isn't going to be rattled.

"They're good," Price said. "But we will be on our A game. Trust me."

Alright then. But will that A game be enough to pull the upset?

Pac-12 practice reports

August, 13, 2012
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Some news and notes from around the conference:

Cal

Cal started double-day workouts over the weekend. And while head coach Jeff Tedford was pleased with the morning session Saturday, he said he felt like the late session lacked some pop.

“I was not pleased with the afternoon practice,” he said. “We started out very slow. The defense played well, but offensively we didn’t execute very well in the first half of the second practice. We picked it up towards the end.”

Offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee said even though the two-a-days are tough, it's a good chance for the younger guys to get acclimated to the college game.

“This is kind of a big day for us,” Rigsbee said. “We’ve been in camp but we’ve had school so this is really the first day we’ve been able to come together and crank out a two-a-day, and teach the young guys what it’s about to compete. You’re going to be uncomfortable and it’s going to be a grind, but that’s what football is about. We’re going to be a tough team.”

USC

Matt Barkley completed 7 of 16 passes for 109 yards -- including a 40-yard touchdown strike to tight end Randall Telfer at the Trojans' first intrasquad scrimmage Friday afternoon.

“It was our first time out in the Coliseum and it was good to see the guys in action, although the young players made some mistakes,” said third-year USC head coach Lane Kiffin. “The defense was ahead of the offense a lot of the time. But we got in some good work.”

Robert Woods led all receivers with four catches for 55 yards.

Running back Silas Redd carried the ball twice for 45 yards, including a 43-yard run. D.J. Morgan had the team high in carries and rushing yards, with 10 totes for 69 yards.

Washington

After a "physical" afternoon practice in full pads on Saturday, the Huskies took a field trip to see former Washington players Jake Locker and Devin Aguilar of the Tennessee Titans play against the Seahawks.

But before that, running back Jesse Callier shined in a goal-line drill and freshman Cyler Miles connected with Kasen Williams on a touchdown pass. That was enough to earn the team a trip to CenturyLink Field.

"It's a great team bonding activity that we like to do every year," said head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "... It's a little bit of reward. These guys are working their tails off. This has been a physical week of work and guys have been grinding away -- the meetings, the studying of stuff. ... It's hopefully a way I can reward them. It's something fun to do so that they continue to enjoy the experience of being here. For a bunch of these guys this [was their] first time going to an NFL football game."

Washington State

As you'd expect, the reports out of Pullman are about touchdowns. Passing touchdowns. Lots of them. In a scrimmage over the weekend, projected starting quarterback Jeff Tuel tossed four touchdowns, Connor Halliday threw three touchdowns and David Gilbertson tossed another.

Tuel finished the session 14-of-19 for 183 yards and an interception. Halliday was 12-of-20 for 223 yards and Gilbertson was 5-of-11 for 59 yards.

Marquess Wilson caught for balls four 65 yards that included a 34-yard touchdown from Tuel and a 3-yard touchdown from Halliday.
Recruiting is out of control.

Surely you heard the big news today. Kevin Gemmell, who is supposed to be sharing the Pac-12 blog with me going forward, has committed to Oregon -- for the class of 2017, reportedly because joining the Ducks seemed like a cool way to celebrate his 40th birthday.

And that paragraph is only slightly more fantastical and fatuous and phony than this recent uptick in middle schoolers committing to big-time programs.

The latest is this: Rising eighth grade quarterback Tate Martell of San Diego has "committed" to Washington.

And by "committed," we mean an exchange took place with all the depth and meaning of a pronouncement of affection from a Kardashian.

This really has nothing to do with a recent trend in recruiting. It has to do with a recent trend of attention grabs and a belief in the awesomeness of any sort of publicity.

Martell might end up at Washington. And he might end up at Eastern Washington. Or he might end up playing baseball. Or deciding he prefers theater. Or he may join the circus. Nothing he does in football this year matters. And, really, nothing he does until his junior season of high school matters.

The only way he gets a scholarship to play football at Washington is if he proves to be good enough when he is a mature high school player. And, along the way, he might decide he'd rather play for Michigan, Texas, Oregon State or Florida.

My point: Nothing in the universe of college football changed today. Martell is no closer to a football scholarship to Washington than he was yesterday, nor is he bound in any way to go to Washington.

I wrote the same when David Sills committed to USC as a 13-year-old in 2010. Utterly meaningless. I continue to believe the odds are remote that Sills will ever play quarterback at USC.

So why does this happen? The best answer is also the worst: Why not? Just because a gesture is meaningless doesn't mean it won't produce a momentary media tempest in a teapot.

The other answer is this: Steve Clarkson, prep quarterbacks guru, loves publicity. And he's the common denominator here. From the ESPN.com story:
While the early commitment certainly caught most of the college football world off guard, Clarkson said plenty of thought went into it from Martell and his family. The 14-year-old is close with Sills, who made a commitment to USC as he was entering the eighth grade.

"The family followed that situation," Clarkson said. "He's seen how that unfolded. But that's kind of the trend. The landscape has changed."

No, it hasn't. It matters not a whit what these guys look like now.

Steve Clarkson
Kevin ShepardHigh school QB guru Steve Clarkson has tutored Tate Martell and David Sills, very early commitments both.
Clarkson has the respect of many folks in football. His track record is strong tutoring quarterbacks. He's a proven commodity. But he's also a businessman. He knows this story sells him more than anything else. And, well, feel free to read into what Clarkson calls himself on his website: "Dream maker."

While many folks slap their foreheads over 13- and 14-year-olds "committing" to big-time college sports teams, there also are a number of, er, highly involved daddies and mommies who are looking at their cherished little sprout as he tosses a Nerf ball around the living room thinking, "I got to get me some Steve Clarkson!"

From Mitch Sherman's story:
According to Clarkson, it's the wave of the future. Athletes are more specialized today, often spending three times as many hours per year on football than the players of a generation ago. They ought to be ready to make such decisions much earlier, he said.

"The next time a sixth- or seventh-grader commits," Clarkson said, "you've already been doused with the frozen water, so the shock is gone."

Clarkson said programs like his, which identify and groom quarterbacks barely into their teens, are growing in prominence as high school football loses some of its power in recruiting.

Let me tell you something without an iota of doubt: No, this is not the wave of the future. An annual blip? Sure. A trickle? OK. No wave here, though. Mostly because it makes no sense to conduct business this way. For one, so much can change in five years. For example, one of the reasons Martell liked Washington was that former quarterback Jake Locker was his favorite player. Well, what happens is Locker never pans out in the NFL? Will that thinking still hold for Martell?

So, you say, what do Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian get out of this? Ah, glad you asked. For one, they have nothing to lose. But recruiting is a spiderweb of intrigue. The public looks at one spot getting touched and don't take note of more notable vibrations elsewhere.

Kiffin, you might already have deduced, is crazy-smart like a fox in recruiting.

Guess who Sills just happens to be teammates and good buddies Insider with? Kenny Bigelow, the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, who is committed to USC for the 2013 class, and Khaliel Rodgers, a four-star offensive guard who also is committed to USC in 2013. Now those are two meaningful commitments.

How connected are these three guys? When Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, Del., decided to to become more of a school with a football team than a football team with a school, all three transferred Insider to Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy.

Some might counter that Kiffin didn't know about these two in 2010 when Sills committed. Fine. My response: Kiffin is crazy-smart like a fox in recruiting. Funny how this is working out so well for him, eh?

Yes, recruiting is out of control. It has been for some time. But the next wave isn't 13-year-olds committing. Something irrelevant can be quirky or even interesting and inspire some media rubbernecking, but it ultimately will fail to hold sway in a high-stakes game based on a real-live bottom line.

Pac-12 lunch links: Kiffin has grown up

June, 26, 2012
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John X. Shade had long believed the key to life was cue ball control, but lately his stroke was so imperfect on cue balls and life alike that his existence had come to seem far too much like the stark moral to a cautionary homily he'd chosen to ignore.

Top QB Browne will commit Wednesday

April, 3, 2012
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Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), one of the nation's top quarterback recruits, will announce his commitment Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT, according to ESPN Recruiting, which reports, "Browne has narrowed his choices to Alabama, Oklahoma, USC and Washington, although with recent visits to see the Sooners and Trojans, most think it will come down to those two programs."

So USC or Oklahoma for the 6-foot-5, 205 pounder?

Browne leaving for the Sooners would be a blow for the hometown Huskies, who are struggling to build the proverbial "wall" around their home state. During the 2011-12 recruiting season, most of the elite, local prospects crossed state lines to play football. The state featured five elite recruits: Offensive linemen Zach Banner and Josh Garnett, running back KeiVarae Russell, receiver Cedric Dozier and QB Jeff Lindquist. Only Lindquist signed with the Huskies.

Of course, the Huskies did much better in 2011 when they signed TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Kasen Williams, DT Danny Shelton -- three players who, by the way, lived up to their recruiting hype as true freshmen.

Still, in order to return to the nation's elite, Washington must win most of the recruiting battles for in-state prospects most years. That's part of the reason coach Steve Sarkisian was willing to pay top dollar to lure ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi away from California.

While some prospects go in search of a warmer, sunnier climate, and there's little coaches can do to charm them out of that thinking, part of getting the Huskies back into the nation's top 25 is making elite recruits want to stay home. For every Jake Locker who decides to play for the Huskies, there are too many guys like Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Stephen Schilling (Michigan), Taylor Mays (USC), David DeCastro (Stanford), Deandre Coleman (California) and Jake Heaps (BYU).

As for Browne, the situation at Washington would seem ideal for him. Keith Price would be a senior his redshirt freshman year, giving him a year to acclimate himself before fighting for the job in 2014.

From ESPN Recruiting: "Browne completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,034 yards and 45 touchdowns as a junior. He plans to enroll early at his school of choice and has a good shot to be recognized as the top quarterback in the class of 2013."

It will be a big loss for the Huskies if he opts to cross state lines.

Season grade: Washington

January, 24, 2012
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The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Washington

Offense: The Huskies ranked seventh in the Pac-12 with 410 yards per game and fourth with 33.4 points per game. The surprising news is those numbers were both substantially better than 2010 — 363 ypg and 22 ppg — with first-year starter Keith Price, a sophomore, than they were with senior Jake Locker, who was picked eighth overall in the 2011 NFL draft. While RB Chris Polk had another strong season, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors, the Huskies were not great running the football — 154.31 ypg — and they surrendered 2.62 sacks per game, which is a likely reason Price was banged up most of the year. And Price was the biggest positive story of the season, ranking seventh in the nation in passing efficiency, completing 67 percent of his passes with 33 TDs and 11 interceptions.

Grade: B.

Defense: The Huskies defense struggled mightily — see the Alamo Bowl disaster against Baylor — which is why coordinator Nick Holt was fired at the end of the season. The Huskies ranked 106th in the nation in total defense (453.3 ypg) and 108th in scoring defense (35.9 ppg). They ranked last in the conference in third-down conversion defense, with foes converting 49.1 percent of the time. They were surprisingly mediocre in passing efficiency defense, ranking sixth in the conference, and rushing defense, ranking 6th (142.6 ypg). But the bottom line is the overall numbers, which were bad. Second-team All-Pac-12 LB Cort Dennison was the only Husky to earn All-Conference honors on defense, which showed a number of players regressed from their promise of 2010.

Grade: F.

Overall: Last year, the Huskies started slowly and finished strong. This year, it was the opposite: They were 5-1 when they went to Stanford on Oct. 22. That 65-21 beatdown started a run where they won just two of their final seven games. The Huskies were consistently outclassed when they played ranked foes, losing to Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and USC, by at least 13 points, and they lost a late-season game at woeful Oregon State by 17 points. There has been a lot of positive momentum this offseason due to coaching hires, particularly defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi. But the 2011 season slowed down some of the positive momentum created by coach Steve Sarkisian's previously impressive rebuilding project.

Grade: C

Mailbag: Tosh & Thomas reactions

January, 20, 2012
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It is Friday. Can we get some emergency college football tomorrow? How about a USC-Alabama scrimmage? Anyone? Anyone?

No. Drat.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Shawn from Albany, Ore., writes: You recently stated, "USC just became the strong front-runner in the Pac-12."... Why? You can't tell me you really think that just because Thomas is bolting for the NFL, that its going to make the Ducks any less competitive in the PAC-12 next year... Apparently you didn't pay much attention when True Freshman Bryan Bennett played this last year... Yes it will be his first year as our starter, but if you recall, Thomas took us to the National Championship game his FIRST year as starter... And if you ask me, Bennett's not only faster than Thomas, but has a better arm... That kid can sling a pigskin! Anyway... I'd be careful about stating anything that has to do with USC being somehow more dominant than us based simply on the fact we'll no longer have Thomas at the helm... It's time for a new era of Oregon Football... The Bennett Era!

Ted Miller: Well, I had USC as a slight front-runner in the Pac-12 in any event based largely on the fact that Oregon must play at USC on Nov. 3 and not vice versa. The Ducks' loss of Thomas just makes the Trojans front-runner status clearer.

With or without Thomas, Oregon is the clear front-runner in the North Division. I will be shocked if the Ducks don't play in the 2012 Pac-12 championship game. And I'd be more than a little surprised if they have more than two losses when they do so.

And yet the loss of Thomas does change things, whether Oregon fans want to admit it or not. Thomas is a given. You know what you will get from him. And, more important, so does Chip Kelly. When a coach really knows his quarterback, particularly a Dr. Strange offensive savant like Chip Kelly, it helps him engineer the offense to suit him in every detail. Kelly knows what Thomas likes and dislikes. He knows how he will react to just about every situation. He won't know that about Bryan Bennett.

Heck, we don't even know that Bennett will be the starter, though I feel strongly he will be. It seems some are intrigued by redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota.

Bennett played well coming off the bench when Thomas got hurt against Arizona State. And he did a good job in his start at Colorado. But, well, the Buffs' defense wasn't exactly LSU.

How will Bennett -- or whoever starts -- react to adversity? Or prosperity even? Will he be durable? Will he protect the football? Will he be able to make consistent reads? Will he get overwhelmed by the spotlight? Can he digest the entire offense? Will be be able to counterpunch on his own when defensive coordinators start to get a feel for him?

How will be react to 94,000 fans at the Coliseum on Nov. 3?

These are questions Thomas already answered. Sure, he wasn't the perfect quarterback. But he was 23-3 as a starter, including 1-1 in BCS bowl games. If he started in the Coliseum on Nov. 3, he'd be smirking and eyeballing Matt Barkley thinking, "I'm better than him."

It's perfectly reasonable to have high expectations for Bennett. My hunch is he'll play well, perhaps even match or exceed Thomas' numbers. He, particularly, looks like a better runner.

Still, when you remove a starter who was 23-3, you insert unknowns. There's no way around that.

To Chip Kelly this: Bennett is a hypothetical. And we don't do hypotheticals.


Ken from Portland writes: Ted First off, I think Mike Leach is going to be a fantastic coach in Pullman. I think he is just what the Cougs need, and I don't really look forward to playing them in the future. My question though is this: Pullman does not have all that different of weather than the Midwest. Every analyst and their mom, it seems like, always points to the "weather" as the reason a pass heavy offense wouldn't work in the Big10 (and Big 10 fan's #1 excuse for losing to teams from the South, "well hey buddy, come try that offense in Ohio in November!") But everyone loves the Leach hire in Pullman? Would they be saying the same thing if he were hired at say, Indiana?

Ted Miller: Pullman's weather has never stopped the Cougars from being pass-heavy before, why would it be different for Leach's offense? The Cougars, with a long tradition of elite quarterbacks who fling the ball all over the place, ranked ninth in the nation in passing last season. If you look at this list of top passing offenses, you'll see plenty of teams that play in the snow and cold.

There are two reasons the Big Ten hasn't become more pass-heavy through the years. The first does involve geography: It seems like there are more big-time athletes -- offensive playmakers -- in the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast than in the Midwest. Recruiting lists tend to bear that out.

But, just as important: A deeply ingrained Midwest football culture. Michigan and Ohio State, the two flagships of the Big Ten, have long traditions of playing great defense and running the ball. You could say the same for their "new" flagships, Penn State and Nebraska. And that was Barry Alvarez's blueprint for building Wisconsin into a Big Ten power.

By the way, it's also notable that when Wisconsin signed up quarterback Russell Wilson, a highly capable passer transferring from N.C. State, it became a very good passing team, which helped it become an even better running team.

That deeply ingrained culture was a big reason Rich Rodriguez failed at Michigan. Many Michigan insiders -- most specifically former coach Lloyd Carr -- couldn't stand Rodriguez's spread offense, and that motivated them to undermine him at every turn.

Think about the Northwest: Rain, not cold, is the most difficult condition for passing the football. But Northwest teams have strong traditions of throwing the football. The culture of West Coast football wins out over the weather.

I'm not sure if anyone can build a consistent winner at Indiana. But if Mike Leach were hired at Michigan State -- or Penn State or Michigan -- and fans and administrators were 100 percent supportive, he'd build a highly successful passing offense. For better or worse, the Big Ten continues to play old-school, run-first offense mostly by choice.


Will from Novato, Calif., writes: I just saw the video you posted on Tosh's departure from Cal. You nailed it on the head. You will probably be lambasted on our fan boards, but oh well. You state it correctly when you say that it is a business. It's deeply painful for Cal fans. We haven't gone to the Rose Bowl for what now seems like forever and a day. What's more, these past few seasons have, well, been less than hopeful. Whatever hope we had when Tedford first came on the scene has started to dissipate, and fast. With Chip Kelly and Oregon on the rise; with USC seemingly always having our number, and with Stanfurd suddenly looking rock solid, the hope is diminishing. EXCEPT, we had Tosh. With Tosh, we felt that we were finally going to get the kind of recruiting studs that would help propel us forward. With a front four of Moala, Jalil, Armstead and McCarthy, I don't think opposing OL's would know what to do. So hope emerged...and then was squashed. You've followed the sport longer than I, but yes, all of the rancor that's out there is perhaps explained though this. Anyway, thought compelled to shoot you this comment. Thanks for laying things out with a unbiased view. I'm sure you get enough hate mail from angry fans, perhaps a "good job" email would be nice evey so often.

Bret from Washington D.C., writes: If Cal's recruiting class falls apart due to Lupoi's departure, how much blame does Jeff Tedford shoulder? Shouldn't the recruits want to play for him, not the D-Line coach? After all he is the head coach and is responsible for the health of his program. I wonder how Cal fans will treat him if we turn in another sporadic 7-5 season and a disgraceful bowl performance on National TV. I was a freshman for the 1-10 Holmoe season, and sat through every blow out. But I have to admit I'm starting to turn on Tedford, who can't seem to take the team to the next level

Ted Miller: Cal fans, meet Chicken Little.

Chicken Little: The sky is falling.

Cal fan: I know. Tosh just left for Washington. WAAAAAAA!

Chicken Little: Are you going to eat that seed?

Cal fan: Only if it's a Prozac. We're DOOOOOOOOMED.

Chicken Little: I think you might be overreacting.


First off, as of today, Cal is still ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 in recruiting, and the only recruit who decommitted after Lupoi left said his decision had nothing to do with Lupoi. We might want to hold off on the mass harakiri until, you know, signing day on Feb. 1.

Further, Tedford has long felt the intense celebration of Lupoi as a recruiter was overblown. That might explain that ridiculously low -- by industry standards -- $164,000 salary. Now that will be tested. If the Bears finish strong and maintain a top-20 class, you'd have to give credit to Tedford and his staff. Of course, next year will probably be a bigger measure of the Lupoi Effect.

As for the big picture with Cal, as we've previously stated, this is a big season for Tedford. Scattered pockets of impatience the past few years have solidified. He's officially on the hot seat. And losing two coaches to Washington, including one who fans celebrate -- rightly or wrongly -- such as Lupoi, doesn't help the mood around the program.


Erick from Seattle writes: I recall hearing a few months ago that the UW game at LSU was going to be a night game in Death Valley. Any truth to this? I can't find anything online about the game time being announced.

Ted Miller: While it's still a "TBA," my guess is it will be a night game. Night games in Tiger Stadium are fun for two reasons: 1. Incredible, intense atmosphere; 2. That incredible, intense atmosphere is brought on by perhaps the nation's best tailgate.

Yes, there's a good deal of lubrication, but the food at an LSU tailgate rates as good as any in the nation.

Here's one for any LSU fans reading this: The last game I covered in Tiger Stadium was the Cecil "The Diesel" Collins vs. Dameyune Craig showdown. Great game.


Champ from California writes: Your hatred and prejudice of Stanford is not hidden in your writing. Typical jealous sportswriter... hates people with the courage to have brains.

Ted Miller: I just included this because, with this note, I have now received hate mail from all 12 Pac-12 teams.

Of course, Champ, if you are referring to this, then I might be taking credit for something from my colleague, Kevin Gemmell.

Bowl debate: Big 12 vs. Pac-12

December, 19, 2011
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The Pac-10 and Big 12 nearly got married last year, but only Colorado ended up eloping with the now-Pac-12.

You know: The conference that can count!

But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.

Joy to the world.

So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.

Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!

Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.

David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.

But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.

I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.

These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.

As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeQuarterback Andrew Luck leads Stanford into its second consecutive BCS bowl, this season against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Miller: Not only is Oklahoma State better than Virginia Tech, it's still questionable whether this Stanford team is better than last year's. Since we're going all crazy and whispering about the SEC, there was a feeling out West that by the end of the 2010 season the Cardinal might not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but also in the nation. They were big and physical and quarterback Luck actually had a solid receiving corps with which to work. After a loss to Oregon in the fifth game, they didn't lose again until playing, er, Oregon in this year's 10th game. If we could go back in time and have the Cardinal play Auburn, I think Stanford would have won the national title.

But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.

The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?

David Ubben: Nope. Not really.

Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
Which, if you ask me, says plenty about both the defense and the power of RG3. They've got a lot of athletes on the defense, but when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs, well, you need a guy like RG3 to go 9-3.

The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?

How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?

Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.

How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.

The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.

Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.

Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.

David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.

As for Texas' struggles?

The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.

The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.

They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.

It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?

Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.

Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.

Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?

Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.

I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?

David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...

Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.

Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.

Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.

Who's next at QB?

November, 2, 2011
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ESPN analyst Brock Huard points out that college football is about to lose a lot -- a stunning group, really -- of quarterback talent.

In fact, the Pac-12 is hot on that list: Arizona's Nick Foles, Stanford's Andrew Luck and USC's Matt Barkley are shortly off to the NFL (though Barkley, a true junior, could return if he wanted, as could Luck, a redshirt junior, but Luck has already said this is his last year).

But the reality of college football is that one group of stars will shortly be replaced by a new group.

So Huard takes a look at the next wave. On his list, he includes Washington sophomore Keith Price, who is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 23 TD passes and is rated third in passing efficiency in the conference.

Writes Huard:

Filling the shoes of top-10 NFL draft pick Jake Locker seemed like a formidable task at the beginning of the season, until the guy teammates call "Teeth" (because all he ever does is smile) decided to throw 23 touchdown passes in his first eight games and play at a level of efficiency Locker never realized while at UW.

Price sounds like Avery Johnson when you talk to him but plays like Charlie Ward when you watch him (the latter comparison being one that Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has used often in describing his star sophomore).


In general, the Pac-12 seems like it will still be fairly stocked at QB in 2012, if not as star-studded. Besides Price, Arizona State's Brock Osweiler, Oregon's Darron Thomas, Oregon State's Sean Mannion, Utah's Jordan Wynn and Washington State's Jeff Tuel will be back.

Arizona will be in good hands with Matt Scott, who looks like he will successfully redshirt this year, or Tom Savage, a former starter at Rutgers. California and UCLA will have plenty of experience at the position, just a bit much of the wrong kind.

Colorado, Stanford and USC will be breaking in green starters.

Washington needs to be (almost) perfect

October, 22, 2011
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STANFORD, Calif. -- Washington can beat Stanford.

Only the No. 25 Huskies will have to be at their absolute best, and No. 8 Stanford will have to slip at least slightly below its optimum level. And, by the way, that exact scenario plays out many times a year in college football.

Last year in Seattle, Stanford played well, the Huskies did not, and the result was a 41-0 stomping that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. But that loss seems to have served as a critical moment for the Huskies.

They've gone 8-2 since, while playing a more physical brand of football on both sides of the ball. That meant relying on running back Chris Polk more than the passing game during a 4-0 run to conclude the 2010 season, including an impressive Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.

Then Keith Price arrived this fall -- literally and figuratively. The sophomore has given the Huskies passing game a significant upgrade -- see 21 touchdown passes, more than Jake Locker threw all of last year -- and that has translated to an offense that has scored 30 or more points in every game this season.

Price has Polk, a solid offensive line, a deep crew of receivers and a dangerous tight end. These guys can move the ball on just about anyone.

Defense? Well, giving up 401 yards and 28.5 points per game is nothing to celebrate, but the Huskies rank 17th in the nation in run defense, giving up just 97 yards per game.

And stopping the run is the first thing a team must do against Stanford. Yes, Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in college football. But he's unstoppable when the Cardinal running game is gaining yards in four, five and 10-yard chunks.

The Huskies have the size on their interior D-line to at least force Stanford to the perimeter. Alameda Ta'amu, Semisi Tokolahi and Danny Shelton all tip the scales at more than 330 pounds. While Stanford guard David DeCastro is one of the best, mauling run blockers, center Sam Schwartzstein and guard David Yankey are first-year starters. This will be their biggest test thus far.

The Huskies need to create second- and third-and-long situations and then hope they can mute Luck and perhaps force a mistake or two. Sacking Luck almost never happens -- just twice this year -- but perhaps the UW pass rush can get just enough pressure to disrupt his timing.

On the other side of the ball, Price and his strong supporting cast of skill guys won't be able to do much if the offensive line gets whipped. The Cardinal leads the Pac-12 with 23 sacks and ranks No. 2 in the nation in run defense (59.5 yards per game).

Stanford is not only riding a 14-game winning streak -- longest in FBS -- it's on the cusp of being historically dominant.

It has won each of its past nine games by at least 25 points, becoming the first FBS team to do so since Boise State in 2002. In the poll era (since 1936), no team has won 10 consecutive games by at least 25 points. To put that in perspective, there have been 370 winning streaks of at least 10 games since 1936, and nobody has won 10 straight by 25+ points.

During that nine-game streak, Stanford’s scoring margin is +34.2 PPG. Overall in their 14-game win streak, Stanford’s scoring margin is +27.9 PPG.

So there are a lot of reasons not to believe the Huskies can win.

But there is never certainty in college football.

Keith Price: The 'most underrated player'

October, 20, 2011
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ESPN.com's KC Joyner likes Washington quarterback Keith Price. And he wants more people to share the high esteem he holds for the Huskies' signal-caller, who ranks second in the nation with 21 touchdown passes and 110th in the nation in name recognition.

We just made up that latter factoid, but Joyner writes that Price "has proven through the season's first six games to be the most underrated player in college football."
Price has the fifth-highest passer rating in the nation, ranking behind Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck. Also, according to CFBstats.com, Price has the third-highest passer rating against FBS teams, which vaults him ahead of Moore and Luck to trail only Wilson and Griffin. In other words, Price is the nation's most efficient passer through six games to not be considered a Heisman contender.

He's also tossed 21 touchdown passes, tied for second in the nation, and his 21-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio is identical to Moore's.

Why is Price mostly unknown nationally? Writes Joyner: "Simply put, it's a tough year to be a relatively unknown QB trying to make a name for yourself in the Pac-12."

Of course, he could make a name for himself Saturday at Stanford.
If Price can put together good games against Stanford and the rest of the Huskies' Pac-12 foes, and fans begin to latch onto his terrific back story (he went to live with his grandmother in high school so he could escape the violence he encountered in L.A.'s south side, and his nickname is "Teeth" because he's upbeat and smiling all the time), then perhaps he'll start getting the acclaim and honors he deserves.

The story also includes some cool charts and graphs that show just how good Price has been, as well as an evaluation from NFL draft guru Mel Kiper. Worth checking out.

Stanford-Washington: Let's get physical!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That play was Gerhart up the middle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did Stanford build a physical football team?

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

How did Washington take the same course?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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