Pac-12: Jermaine Kearse

Pac-12 players in the Super Bowl

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
5:30
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Another Super Bowl is in the books, and Pac-12 alumni played a major role in the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. Is it any surprise that the team with the most Pac-12 players won the game? (Hint, hint, Mr. Elway).

In all, there were 16 active players on both rosters: 11 for the Seahawks and five for the Broncos. There are other Pac-12 players on the rosters or practice squads, but they were either injured, suspended or inactive for XLVIII.

The standout was former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was named MVP for an inspired defensive performance. The Pac-12 had hit a bit of an MVP dry spell. After John Elway (Stanford) won the MVP in 1999, the league went more than a decade without having an MVP. Now it has two in the last four years after Aaron Rodgers (Cal) was MVP of XLV, and now it's Smith's turn.

Here’s a look at how the the Pac-12 alumni performed.

Seattle Seahawks
  • Doug Baldwin, WR, Stanford: Started at wide receiver. Led the Seahawks with five catches for 66 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. Also had an assisted tackle on special teams.
  • Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA: Recorded one tackle on special teams.
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Caught four balls for 65 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal: Started at running back. Carried 15 times for 39 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
  • Brandon Mebane, DT, Cal: Posted three tackles, including a tackle for a loss.
  • Zach Miller, TE, ASU: Started at tight end. Had one catch for 10 yards and recovered an onside kick.
  • Mike Morgan, LB, USC: Appeared, but did not record any stats.
  • Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Started at left cornerback. Posted three tackles (two solo) with one pass defended. Left game with an injury in the fourth quarter.
  • Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Crowned Super Bowl MVP. Returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to go along with 10 tackles (six solo) and a defended pass.
  • Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon: Started at cornerback. Posted three tackles (one solo).
  • Max Unger, C, Oregon: Started at center.
Denver Broncos
Every team has a strength -- that one position group that can make a play on offense or make a big stop on defense when needed.

Based on what happened this spring, we're going to look at the strongest position group for each school. It could be on either side of the ball -- and it could be subject to change after fall camp goes into full swing.

We're going in reverse alphabetical order.

Washington

Strongest position group: Tight ends

Headliner: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (41 catches, 538 yards, 6 touchdowns)

Supporting cast: Michael Hartvigson (8/30/1), Evan Hudson (1/2/1).

The skinny: I went back and forth a bit with the Huskies, teetering between the tight ends -- my first instinct -- and defensive backs. There's some good depth in the secondary -- and I think a legitimate argument can be made. But after speaking with one coach and swapping a few emails with everything-Washington-guru Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, they confirmed my initial thoughts.

Stanford head coach David Shaw once described Seferian-Jenkins as "the next great tight end in the conference." Considering he uses the tight end more than any FBS coach in the nation, that's high praise. And rightfully so. Seferian-Jenkins will be an invaluable weapon for quarterback Keith Price as he adjusts to life without receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar (though, ultimately, I think he'll be just fine with Kasen Williams and James Johnson as his wide receivers).

Coach Steve Sarkisian singled out his tight ends first and foremost when giving his post-spring evaluation, and has been big on Hartvigson of late. Hudson, a former walk-on who earned his scholarship, is a solid blocker in jumbo sets.

The conference has been trending of late toward more multi-tight end packages, and Washington's trio gives the Huskies the opportunity to run some diverse formations. All are 6-foot-6, ranging from 254 to 258 pounds, and there aren't many safeties than can cover that kind of size. They fit the West Coast scheme perfectly, and should be significant contributors.
We're looking at the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2011.

Up next: KP1 goes all RG3.

Who & against whom: Washington quarterback Keith Price turned in a jaw-dropping performance in the Alamo Bowl vs. Baylor, but the Huskies still fell to the Robert Griffin III-led Bears 67-56.

The numbers: Where to start? Price threw for 438 yards on 23-of-37 passing and accounted for seven touchdowns -- four through the air and three on the ground. One of those passing scores was an 80-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse. He also rushed for 39 yards. The seven touchdowns matched a Washington record established in 1919.

A closer look: Price had been labeled as a "scrambling" quarterback, but injuries kept him in the pocket the entire season. That helped him refine his game as a pocket-passer. When finally healthy, he was able to unleash his legs to score his first three rushing touchdowns of the season. Oh yeah, the other quarterback in this game -- Heisman Trophy winner Griffin III -- had 295 yards passing, one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown. The performance elevated Price into the national conversation as an elite quarterback, but the result of the game spawned an overhaul of the Washington defensive staff.
Taking a look back at some of the best and worst moments from the Pac-12's bowl season.

Best overall performance (team): We're a field goal away from flipping a coin between Stanford and Oregon. But the Ducks won, and to the victor go the spoils. Say what you want about Wisconsin being overrated; Oregon beat a very good team with one of the most productive college running backs in history, and the Ducks did it on a major stage.

Best offensive performance (individual): Keith Price outdueled Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, passing for 438 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for three more scores. And the Huskies lost! Someone on the Washington defense better be carrying his books around campus until the start of next season.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireWashington's Keith Price passed for 438 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for another three touchdowns in a losing effort against Baylor.
Best offensive performance (team): As good as Washington's offensive show was against Baylor, Oregon did it against a tougher opponent and under a brighter spotlight. LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas both went for more than 100 yards, Lavasier Tuinei turned in season highs in catches (eight) and yards (158) to go with two touchdowns and the offensive line had its way with Wisconsin.

Best defensive performance (individual): In the conference's five losses, teams gave up an average of 41 points. Still, Cal first-team all-conference linebacker Mychal Kendricks did all he could to limit Texas to 21, notching nine solo tackles (10 total) and 1.5 tackles for a loss.

Best defensive performance (team): Pass.

Best offensive performance in a losing effort: Andrew Luck's one interception was the lone stain on an otherwise fantastic performance, in which he completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. He was 15-of-15 on all of Stanford's scoring drives and 4-for-4 on the final drive that set up the almost-game-winning field goal.

Worst offensive performance: Both Cal and UCLA faced fairly tough defenses in Texas and Illinois, respectively, and their 24 points combined reflected that. (For the record, Washington had 35 by halftime and Oregon had 28 at the half.) But the nod goes to Cal for 7 rushing yards on 36 attempts. That's 0.2 yards per carry. ASU was actually worse with minus-11 rushing yards, but at least it put up 24 points (well, 17 if you take away Rashad Ross' 98-yard kick return).

Worst defensive performance: As a conference, Pac-12 teams gave up an average of 455 yards in their bowl games. Washington was the worst offender with 777 yards yielded.

Best bang for buck: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. Two carries, two touchdowns, 155 yards and a 77.5 yards-per-carry average.

Best supporting cast: While Price was fantastic, lest we forget that Chris Polk ran for 147 yards, Jermaine Kearse caught five balls for 198 yards and a score and Devin Aguilar added two receiving touchdowns.

Best holiday spirit: Cal certainly got into the season, giving the ball away five times to Texas.

Best "Oh jeez" moment: Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart taking out teammate Ty Montgomery after he tried to run a kickoff out of the end zone. Stewart, a fifth-year senior, stopped the true freshman right at the line and dropped him, much to the chagrin of 69,927 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Worst "Oh jeez" moment: Watching Dennis Erickson try to call a timeout when ASU had fourth-and-goal at the Boise 1-yard line. Then watching his face as Jamar Taylor picked off Brock Osweiler and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.

Who led the top-25?

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
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Our countdown of the Pac-12's top-25 players is over.

You can view the final list here.

We also previously went over players who just missed the countdown, and therefore are top candidates to fight their way onto to postseason list.

And let's face it, postseason rankings are more important than preseason rankings.

Here's the final per-team tally.

Stanford: 6
Oregon: 4
USC: 4
Washington: 3
Arizona: 2
Washington State: 2
Arizona State: 1
California: 1
Colorado: 1
UCLA: 1
Oregon State, Utah: 0

Stanford fans who groused about their numbers after the 2010 season -- two -- probably are happier with this ranking. Utah and Oregon State fans probably aren't.

Feel free to send me your thoughts and quibbles on who should have made it but didn't. Just make sure you state your case AND perhaps suggest who they should replace and why.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 1

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
9:00
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Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players concludes in a not unexpected way.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireStanford's Andrew Luck passed for 32 touchdowns last season.
You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2010 numbers: Luck ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency. He threw for 3,338 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions, completing 70.7 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 453 yards and three scores.

2010 ranking: No. 1

Making the case for Luck: Well, Luck is the No. 1 player in college football this season. And even if the 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up doesn't take home the award this fall, he's still almost certain to be the top overall selection in next spring's NFL draft, just as he would have been last spring if he'd not chosen to return for his redshirt junior season. There, really, are no holes in Luck's game. He can stand in the pocket. He can run out of it. He's huge -- 6-foot-4, 237 pounds -- and athletic. He can make all the throws. He's a good leader. He's smart. He's humble. He's competitive. He's poised. He led the Cardinal to its best season in the modern era: a 12-1 finish and a dominant Orange Bowl win against Virginia Tech, in which Luck threw four touchdown passes and earned MVP honors. But Luck, like all of us, is not perfect (at least not yet). He had two mediocre games last season: He threw two interceptions in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Oregon. But over the final eight games he threw 19 touchdown passes and just four picks. If there is any question heading into this season, it's about his supporting cast: He lost his top two receivers and three starting offensive linemen. He might be under more pressure in the pocket this fall and he might not have targets that are as reliable catching the ball. Still, if he exceeds -- or, really, just matches -- last season's numbers, it's hard not to see another special season on the Farm.

2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
3. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
4. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 2

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
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Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
AP Photo/Rick BowmerOregon's LaMichael James led the nation in rushing last season.
2010 numbers: James led the nation with 1,731 yards rushing -- 144.25 yards per game -- and ranked second with 21 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He also caught 17 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

2010 ranking: No. 2

Making the case for James: James probably would be No. 1 in any other conference. Why? Well, he was a 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist, a unanimous first-team All-American and the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's best running back. But the guy ahead of him was the Heisman runner-up and will be rated No. 1 by the NFL next spring. James, a junior who also was first-team All-Pac-10 academic in 2010, set Ducks freshman and sophomore records for rushing and is on the short list of Heisman candidates this fall. He blends outstanding speed with good instincts and surprising physicality. He also became a better receiver last year, a part of his game that was missing in 2009. It's possible, however, that his numbers will go down this fall, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He likely will be a better back in a bowl game if he doesn't carry the ball 294 times, which he did last year because talented backup Kenjon Barner missed significant action with injuries. With Barner back healthy, and some true freshmen who are too talented to sit, James might get fewer touches in 2011, which should help him not wear down as he did a bit in 2010.

3. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
4. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Who just missed the top-25?

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
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With the No. 3 name -- Oregon QB Darron Thomas -- now published on our countdown of the top-25 players in the Pac-12, it's probably fairly obvious who are going to be Nos. 1 and 2.

Make that really obvious, considering the top-two players from the 2010 postseason list are back in 2011.

So who just missed?

We'll tell you. But before we do, some perspective.

Here are the 11 players who returned from the final 2010 tally.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
13. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington

Obviously, they weren't going to get dropped from the list, unless, as with Arizona State CB Omar Bolden, they suffered a serious injury before the season began. So that meant 10 of 25 spots were already taken. Divvying up just 15 remaining spots among 12 teams is almost certain to chafe a few fans.

So here's the slate of folks who were considered and will be candidates to earn their way onto the postseason list.

Justin Washington, DT, Arizona
Paul Vassallo, LB, Arizona
Garth Gerhart, C, Arizona State
Junior Onyeali, DE, Arizona State
Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado
John Boyett, S, Oregon
Lance Mitchell, S, Oregon State
James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Tony Dye, S, UCLA
Nickell Robey, CB, USC
Nick Perry, DE, USC
Jordan Wynn, QB, Utah
Tony Bergstrom, OT, Utah
Chaz Walker, LB, Utah
Hau'oli Jamora, DE, Washington
Travis Long, DE, Washington State
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

That's a heck of a list, eh.

Who were the last cuts? In no particularly order: Bergstrom, Boyett, Miller, Onyeali and Wynn.

If Oregon State receiver James Rodgers had been healthy this preseason, he would have ranked in the top-10. He was sixth in the preseason last year, after all.

In fact, a review of last year's preseason list should help smooth the feelings of Beavers fans, who are surely aware no Oregon State player made the preseason top-25. With three of the top-six in 2010, including No. 1 Jacquizz Rodgers, it's probably unreasonable to believe I have a bias against ranking the Beavers.

Utah fans also expressed some frustration because no Ute was on the list. But who would they knock off this top-25? Bergstrom, who made our preseason All-Pac-12 team, and Walker earned only second-team All-Mountain West honors in 2010. Wynn didn't get honorable mention, which surprised the heck out of me.

If Utah surges in its first year in the Pac-12, it's almost certain a Ute will be on the postseason list.

Further, plenty of guys not listed above are already on the radar, guys like Colorado receiver Paul Richardson and Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton. I'd bet $1 that at least one member of Oregon's rebuilt front-seven ends up on the postseason list, and Arizona's secondary has some intriguing young talent.

Auditions for the postseason list start, by the way, on Sept. 3.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 3

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
9:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

3. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon

2010 numbers: Thomas completed 61.5 percent of his throws for 2,881 yards with 30 touchdown passes. He also rushed for 486 yards and five scores. He ranked second in the Pac-10 and 17th in the nation in passing efficiency.

2010 ranking: No. 4

Making the case for Thomas: Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior, wasn't supposed to be Oregon's starter last year, and we're not just talking about incumbent QB Jeremiah Masoli getting suspended and then kicked off the team. He was supposed to get beaten out for the starting job by savvy senior Nate Costa. But Thomas won the job, led the Ducks to an unbeaten regular season and second-consecutive Pac-10 championship and turned in a gutty performance in the national title game, overcoming two early interceptions to pass for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Auburn. But Thomas isn't ranked this high just because his team did well in 2010. No, he earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors -- behind Stanford's Andrew Luck -- because he accounted for 35 total touchdowns last season, while skillfully leading the Ducks spread-option offense. He showed uncanny poise as a sophomore, playing on an increasingly big stage each weekend. And it's notable the offense became more reliant on him as running back LaMichael James showed signs of wear-and-tear. So what's the encore? The Ducks might not run as well as they did in 2010 with a rebuilt offensive line, but there also are questions at receiver. More will fall on Thomas this year. If he comes through and improves on his performance from 2010, however, he could end up an All-American and see a happy ending in the final game of the season.

4. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Best case-worst case: Washington

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
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Seventh in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last season's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: Washington

Best case

It wasn't an impressive 2-0 start, but the hope among Huskies fans was that Washington had kept a lot of scheme under wraps during wins over Eastern Washington and Hawaii. Most believe the Huskies will need to open up a bag of tricks to put on a respectable show against a motivated Nebraska team in Lincoln.

"I'm not taking anything away from Washington," Cornhuskers All-American defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "They beat us in the Holiday Bowl. But we weren't there emotionally. That's out fault, though. We'll be 100 percent focused when in Memorial Stadium. We expect to make a statement."

On the Huskies first play of the game, they try a flea flicker. Keith Price just misses the a wide-open Jermaine Kearse, who'd slipped behind the Cornhuskers coverage.

On second down, Chris Polk rushes for four yards. On third down, Polk rushes for six yards. On first down, Polk rushes for six yards. On second down, Polk rushes for six yards. On first down, Polk rushes for eight yards. On second down, he rushes for two yards. On first down, he rushes for one yard. On second down, he rushes for 16 yards. On first down, he rushes for four yards. On second down, he rushes for four yards. On third down, he rushes for four yards.

On first down, Polk rushes ... no, it's play action: 19-yard touchdown strike from Price to true freshman Kasen Williams.

"That was a physically dominant showing that I don't think many saw coming," ESPN GameDay's Chris Fowler says of the Huskies 28-10 victory. "Polk rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Price taking advantage with a couple of touchdown passes. And a bruising defensive showing on the road for a Pac-12 team."

"Did Alameda Ta'amu really eat Taylor Martinez?" Kirk Herbstreit replies. "I know that start out as just a silly rumor, but I'm hearing no one has seen Martinez since that third-quarter sack."

Martinez is later found safe in an airport bathroom in Lincoln.

The Huskies nip California 24-21 and rise to No. 12 in the rankings. But Price turns in his first poor performance at Utah in a 21-17 defeat, despite 140 yards and a touchdown from Polk. The Huskies bounce back with a home win over Colorado. Up next, a visit to No. 3 Stanford.

"Obviously, Andrew Luck is the leading Heisman Trophy candidate," says Fowler. "But what if Polk puts up a big number in a Huskies victory?"

Polk strikes an early blow, with first-half touchdown runs of seven and 28 yards, and the Huskies lead 14-10 at the break. Luck answers with two touchdowns in the third -- one running and one throwing -- and the score is knotted 24-24 with two minutes left in the game.

On a third-and-five from the Huskies 28, Luck scrambles away from pressure and finds tight end Coby Fleener wide-open in the endzone for a 31-24 lead. The Huskies have 40 seconds and one time out.

On third and 5 from the Washington 40, Price finds Polk on a hot route. Polk breaks a tackle and breaks away, sprinting all the way to the Stanford 17. Price lines up and spikes the ball.

There are eight seconds left. Price evades pressure, then shovels it again to Polk.

"Polk across the 10, to the five, breaks a tackle... dives... tttt... nooo," says Huskies play-by-play man Bob Rondeau. "He's ruled down inside the 1-yard line. Wow. The clock has expired. Unless the officials rule Polk got in, the game is over and Stanford wins."

Play stands.

"Chris Polk is the best player in college football," Luck says.

The Huskies take out their frustrations in a 35-20 win over Arizona, sacking Nick Foles five times. Up next, No. 1 Oregon.

"Yeah, I'm aware Oregon has won seven in a row against us, all by at least 20 points," Polk tells reporters. "I know this because Coach Sark has that factoid typed up and taped in all of our lockers."

Headline in the Eugene Register-Guard: "Will the Ducks overlook the Huskies?"

"We don't overlook anybody," Ducks coach Chip Kelly says. "We play a faceless opponent every week. Every game is a Super Bowl for us. We are not concerned with any outside influences. We have a vision for what this football program is supposed to be about and we prepare against that vision. We compete against that vision every Saturday and that's how we measure ourselves. Win the day."

Coach Steve Sarkisian gathers his team in the locker room. Above, Husky Stadium is throbbing.

"I don't need to tell you guys to play your hardest. I know you're going to do that. I don't need to tell you about this rivalry, or what that team over there has done against the Huskies for the past seven years. Sure you all know that. That's not what this is about. That's not why we're about to shock the nation. This is about us. What I want from you guys is to live in the moment tonight. I want you soak up every bit of joy from every moment of this game tonight. And I want you to take it from them. We have the players. We have the plan. We have prepared perfectly. It's going to be a lot of fun celebrating this victory, but our celebration won't be nearly as fun what will happen between the white lines, as we take this game from them, one play at a time. Go out there and take it, one play at time."

Oregon leads 28-24 with nine minutes left. A Jackson Rice punt rolls out of bounds on the Huskies 1-yard line.

On first down, Polk rushes for three yards. On second down, Polk rushes for eight yards. On first down, Polk rushes for four yards...

"Wow, this is tough to watch," Oregon play-by-play man Jerry Allen says. "16 plays, all Chris Polk runs. He's over 200 yards for the day, and the Huskies have first down on the Ducks 8-yard line with 40 seconds left."

Polk rushes for three yards. Polk rushes for two yards. Polk rushes for 2 yards. Polk scores the winning touchdown as time expires.

"Wow, Chris Polk just ripped the hearts out of Oregon fans everywhere!" says Allen.

The Huskies suffer a classic letdown the following weekend at USC, but roll over Oregon State and Washington State to finish the regular season 9-3 and earn a berth in the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State.

Polk finishes second to Luck in the Heisman vote, and wins the Doak Walker Award. The Huskies bury the Cowboys 38-20 and earn a final No. 10 ranking, their first top-25 ranking since 2001.

Oregon is blown out in the national title game by Alabama. Kelly bolts for the Oakland Raiders. The Ducks hire Joe Avezzano to replace him.

Polk opts to return for his senior season. Washington signs the nation's No. 5 recruiting class.

"Gee, I really like this team," says Bill Gates. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Maybe," replies athletic director Scott Woodward.

Worst case

And in the rubber match, Nebraska was plenty motivated.

The Cornhuskers humble Washington 41-10, making Price's day a miserable one with five sacks. It doesn't help that Polk's status remains unclear after arthroscopic knee surgery during preseason camp.

"Things aren't going as fast as we would like," coach Steve Sarkisian says. "He could sure help us but we're not going to rush him back."

The Huskies fall at home to California 21-17, again without Polk, and drop to 2-2 on the year. They lose at Utah in overtime but, with Polk back in the lineup, beat Colorado 27-24.

Things get ugly -- again -- at Stanford, which blasts the Huskies 42-17. The Huskies even their record at 4-4 with a win over Arizona. Up next: No. 1 Oregon.

"Did Chip Kelly run up the score?" a reporter asks after the Ducks whip the Huskies 55-14 in Husky Stadium, their eighth victory in a row in the series, each by at least 20 points.

Sarkisian pauses, "Well, it's our job to stop them. And I guess he thought getting LaMichael James rushing for 300 yards would help his Heisman Trophy chances."

With Polk limited to just 10 carries, USC whips Washington 33-20, intercepting Price three times. Polk sits out, and the Huskies bow out at Oregon State, 28-17.

"No, beating Washington State won't make up for a tough season for us," Sarkisian said. "But there's always a lot to play for in rivalry games. And they're trying to get bowl eligible, so we can ruin their season."

With five seconds left, Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel takes on knee on the Huskies 5-yard line instead of added to a 35-24 victory. Huskies fans at CenturyLink Field bombard the Cougars with bottles and sundry trash as they leave the field.

"That's not who we are," Cougars coach Paul Wulff said. "We have classy fans. I guess the Huskies fans were frustrated. But we're excited about the postseason. What bowl is Washington going to? Kidding! I'm kidding."

Oregon wins the national championship. Washington State wins the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Joshua Garnett, Zach Banner, Jeff Lindquist and Cedric Dozier sign with Washington State, giving the Cougars their first top-25 class.

"Gee, I really like the Cougars," says Bill Gates. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Maybe," replies athletic director Bill Moos.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 4

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
11:30
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

4. Chris Polk, RB, Washington

2010 numbers: Polk ranked second in the Pac-10 with 1,415 yards rushing -- his 108.9 yards per game ranked 13th in the nation -- and he scored nine touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 180 yards.

2010 ranking: No. 7

Making the case for Polk: Polk, second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, became a dominant running back over the home stretch of the 2010 season, when the Huskies won four in a row, including their first bowl victory since 2000. It was Polk, not QB Jake Locker, who ended up being the Huskies most important player. He rushed for 138 yards against UCLA, 86 at California -- including the winning fourth-and-1 plunge on the game's final play -- and 284 yards at Washington State, the second-best rushing total in school history. Then, in the Holiday Bowl against a good Nebraska defense, he rushed for 177 yards on a career-high 34 carries and was named the offensive MVP. His 260 total carries ranked second in the Pac-10 and were third-most in school history. The rising junior's second-consecutive 1,000-yard season pushed him to No. 6 on the Huskies all-time rushing list with 2,561 yards. Polk has become an all-around back. He's a good receiver, has break-away speed and is highly physical, gaining most of his yards after contact. The Huskies are breaking in a new QB -- Keith Price -- and the depth at running back is banged up. It's likely Polk will shoulder even more of the load in 2011, and he could put up numbers that earn him All-American and even Doak Walker Award consideration.

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 5

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
9:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

2010 numbers: Burfict led the Sun Devils -- and was ninth in the Pac-10 -- with 90 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss. He also forced two fumbles.

2010 ranking: No. 13

Making the case for Burfict: Burfict might be the best linebacker in college football. The true junior might be the first linebacker taken in this spring's NFL draft. And the "might" qualification has nothing to do with talent questions. When Burfict is just playing football, he's a dominant, physical presence who plays sideline-to-sideline with uncanny speed and instincts on a solid 6-foot-3, 252-pound frame. But Burfict still hasn't mastered his own emotions. For the most part over the previous two seasons, that's been about stupid penalties -- unsportsmanlike conduct and personal foul penalties. The talk during the spring and offseason was of newfound maturity and leadership. But a locker room fight with 200-pound receiver Kevin Ozier the first week of preseason camp clouded that a bit. Is Burfict ready to grow up and into a great player, one who could win the Butkus Award? Burfict, though only second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, earned All-American attention last fall and is a consensus preseason All-American. ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper ranks Burfict the No. 1 junior linebacker in the country, writing, "There are some scary hitters on this list, starting with Burfict, who was most productive against ASU's toughest competition last season. The guy was a force, quite literally, the moment he stepped on campus." But can Burfict become an entirely positive force, one who always helps the Sun Devils win? Or will he continue to do things that help them lose?

6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 6

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
9:00
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

2010 numbers: Barkley ranked 31st in the nation and third in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency in 2010. He completed 62.6 percent of his throws for 2,791 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

2010 ranking: No. 14

Making the case for Barkley: Barkley improved dramatically from his true freshman to his sophomore year, so it's not difficult to project big things for him his junior season. He's a big-time talent, which is why ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper -- and just about everyone else -- rates him the No. 2 junior quarterback in the nation and a likely first-round selection this spring. It helps that he will be surrounded by an outstanding collection of skill players in 2011, though it's also an extremely young collection. Barkley can be streaky -- good and bad. Twice in 2010, he threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions (Hawaii and California). And he did fall off last season after a fast start. On Oct. 18, he ranked eighth in the nation in passing efficiency. He then threw eight of his 12 interceptions over the final five games. Expectations will be high for him taking another step forward in his second year in coach Lane Kiffin's system. If he does, he might even generate some Heisman Trophy buzz.

7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 7

August, 19, 2011
8/19/11
11:30
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

7. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona

2010 numbers: Foles led the Pac-10 with 290 yards passing per game. He ranked fourth in passing efficiency -- 34th in the nation -- completing 67 percent of his passes with with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

2010 ranking: No. 18

Making the case for Foles: Foles, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior, could play his way into the first round of this spring's NFL draft with a good season. He already has established himself as the best quarterback in Wildcats history, and he could re-write the team's passing record book this fall, particularly considering he's going to be leading a pass-first offense with a deep and talented crew of receivers. Yes, Foles' lofty rank here is a bit of a projection. Recall he was slightly demoted on our 2010 post-season ranking compared to his preseason ranking. But the Pac-12 blog likes Foles' skills and makeup (both now and in the NFL). Sure, he had a bad Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State -- see three interceptions from a guy who never threw more than one pick in any other game. But he also led clutch fourth-quarter drives to beat both Iowa and California, and it appeared he had done the same to beat arch-rival Arizona State before Alex Zendejas' PAT was blocked with 27 seconds left in regulation. Further, Foles' numbers would have been better if he didn't suffer a dislocated knee cap that knocked him out of two games, and he showed plenty of toughness by returning quickly and surviving a consistent beating due to an underachieving offensive line. Sure, Arizona had a terrible slide, losing its final five games, but that clearly wasn't Foles fault. In the Wildcats final three regular season games, he threw nine touchdown passes with just one interception, while passing for 353, 448 and 262 yards.

8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 8

August, 18, 2011
8/18/11
11:30
AM ET
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

8. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona

2010 numbers: Criner led the Pac-10 in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,233), and ranked second with 11 touchdown receptions. His yardage total ranked ninth in the nation.

2010 ranking: No. 6

Making the case for Criner: Criner earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010 and was clearly the conference's No. 1 receiver. He's received preseason All-American attention and is on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's top receiver. The 6-foot-4, 215 pounder's 94.8 receiving yards per game was 10 more than anyone else in the conference last fall. He has 20 TD receptions over the past two seasons. He improved substantially from his sophomore to his junior season. Will he do the same as a senior? If he does, he will earn plenty of post-season honors and bolster his NFL draft status. Two potential questions, though: 1. The Wildcats depth at receiver, as well as opponents focusing more on Criner, might cause his numbers to slip, or at least not go up; 2. There was a brief hullabaloo this summer when there were questions whether or not Criner would play this season, due to a family issue. One hopes that won't come into play again, but it is out there as a potential concern.

9. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
10. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
19.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

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