Pac-12: Jimmy Clausen

Instant QB impact at Arizona?

January, 29, 2013
Arizona's biggest question heading into 2013 is at quarterback. Not only are the Wildcats replacing Matt Scott, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and was sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game, but the options on hand this spring are decidedly unproven.

There's 2012 backup B.J. Denker, a JC transfer who was a late addition last summer. And there's Jesse Scroggins, another JC transfer who had academic issues at USC after signing in 2010.

Both have some skills. Neither, however, would be considered a sure-thing, particularly when you consider how valuable Scott was in 2012.

It's possible then that coach Rich Rodriguez might consider a third, youthful option, and it turns out that he's received a commitment from a quarterback that Sports Illustrated believes might have an "instant impact": Anu Solomon.

SI ranks Solomon No. 1 among incoming freshmen QBs in terms of potential "instant impact":
Solomon was a four-year starter at Bishop Gorman. Over that span, the Gaels went 57-3 and won four state championships. Solomon passed for 10,112 yards and 138 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions throughout his career, and he participated in nationally televised showcases against high school powerhouses from California, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland. He told analyst Dallas Jackson in October, "The coaches have told me that they want me to come in and compete for the starting job."

Arizona fans are rightfully excited about Solomon, who seems like a nice fit for Rodriguez's spread-option offense.

But the Pac-12 blog would like to insert a "Be Careful What You Wish For." The Wildcats might be better off if Solomon ends up redshirting. At the very least, it would be better for Solomon to see spot action rather than take over the starting job.

Why? Well, the history of true freshman QBs is pretty spotty, other than Jamelle Holieway, who won a national championship as a true freshman at Oklahoma in 1985. And, of course, Holieway's best season was his first for the Sooners.

Few true freshmen QBs start from Day 1, and most are forced into action, rather than winning the job outright. Holieway only stepped in due to an injury to Troy Aikman. Same with Peyton Manning at Tennessee. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Georgia's Matt Stafford all became the starters when more senior players faltered.

Chad Henne went 9-2 as a true freshman leading Michigan in 2004, but he was surrounded by a lot of talent. We can all agree Robert Griffin III became a spectacular player, but Baylor went 4-7 with him as a true freshman QB.

The best recent example of a true freshman QB in the Pac-12 is USC's Matt Barkley in 2009. He was the first true freshman to start at QB for a top-five team since Michigan's Rick Leach in 1975. That USC team finished 9-4, losing three of its final four regular season games. The Trojans had lost seven games the preceding six seasons. Barkley threw 14 interceptions and 15 TD passes.

We've seen a number of freshmen QBs play really well of late. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and in the Pac-12 Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley posted outstanding seasons this past fall, with Mariota winning first-team All-Pac-12. And, of course, there's Andrew Luck. He turned out OK.

But they all were redshirt freshmen when they became starters.

It's also notable that a lot of true freshmen QBs, such as Barkley, enroll early and participate in spring practices. That gives them a significant advantage in terms of getting use to the speed and complexity of the college game.

Solomon won't report until fall camp.

Solomon might indeed become a revelation for the Wildcats next fall. He could win the job, play admirably and three years later become an All-American.

But history suggests he won't be immediately ready, and that the best course is patience. It seems like at least a year of seasoning really helps create a tastier quarterback.

Pac-10 lunch links: Matt Moore vs. Jimmy Clausen

May, 19, 2010
Murdock ... I'm coming to get you!

Pac-10 lunch links: ASU's Hargis has surgery

May, 6, 2010
Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin.

Gerhart makes his Heisman statement

November, 29, 2009
Toby Gerhart: Strike a pose?

In perhaps the most impressive Heisman Trophy statement of the season, Toby Gerhart rushed for 205 yards on 29 caries, scoring three rushing touchdowns and passing 18 yards for another in Stanford's thrilling 45-38 comeback win over Notre Dame.

Gerhart -- oh, he also caught a pass for 33 yards -- was simply a beast, repeatedly punishing the Notre Dame defense. He never went down on first contact, and it's certain that more than a handful of Fighting Irish defenders are going to be worse for wear Sunday morning.

Jason O. Watson/US PresswireStanford's Toby Gerhart rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame. He also threw for a touchdown.

This was Notre Dame's fourth consecutive defeat, so the program already was hurting. The Irish finish the season 6-6, with all six loses coming by seven or fewer points. Coach Charlie Weis is almost certainly going to be looking for work this winter.

But this one was about Gerhart and Stanford, which finishes the season 8-4 and will be heading to its first bowl game since 2001. The Cardinal, by the way, went 1-11 in 2006, the season before coach Jim Harbaugh arrived.

Notre Dame took a 14-10 lead in the first quarter and didn't trail until Gerhart's final TD run with a minute left -- a run in which the Irish appeared to let him score in order to get the ball back.

The Irish drove to the Stanford 24, but couldn't punch in a tying TD.

For much of the game, the offenses dominated the opposing defenses. Notre Dame countered Gerhart with Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate, a pass-catch combination that had the Cardinal secondary on its heels. Clausen completed 23 of 30 passes for 340 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Tate hauled in 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

But the Cardinal defense got the game's critical stop with six minutes left. On a third-and-2 from the Irish 35, running back Robert Hughes was stopped for no gain.

Stanford took over. Or Gerhart took over. He rushed seven times for 54 yards on the 10-play, 72-yard game-winning drive, treating the Irish defenders like they were pinball bumpers.

At this point, it's impossible to imagine that Gerhart won't be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. This performance, however, may have made this a two-man contest with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, though a couple of fellows playing in the SEC championship game on Dec. 5 might make their own counter-statement.

Gerhart has rushed for 1,736 yards this season -- 144.67 yards per game. His 26 rushing touchdowns lead the nation and are a new Pac-10 record.

Moreover, in an age when speed kills, Gerhart reminds us that sometimes power ain't much fun to stop either. Not that Gerhart is slow. He hates it when folks doubt his speed, and we don't want to get on his bad side.

He's a hard man. Some defenders might swear he's made of bronze.

Stars shining for Stanford, Notre Dame

November, 28, 2009
The offenses are in control as Notre Dame leads Stanford 24-20 at halftime.

The big names -- Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart, Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen -- have all made their plays, as expected.

The biggest surprise might be this: Stanford owns the rushing advantage by only 1 yard -- 81-80.

Gerhart scored his 24th touchdown on the season -- which ties the Pac-10 record -- and has 73 yards on 14 carries.

Clausen is 11-of-16 for 151 yards, with most of the damage going to Tate, who has six receptions for 108 yards with two touchdowns.

Tate and Michael Floyd are giving Stanford's struggling pass defense more trouble than Gerhart is giving the struggling Notre Dame run defense.

The theory is that Gerhart starts to wear a defense down. We'll see.

Just about every game Notre Dame has played this season has been decided in the waning moments.

This one might, too.

Harbaugh focused on Irish, not coaching gossip

November, 25, 2009
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was greeted this week with questions about his coaching philosophy, the architectural plan he used to reconstruct the Cardinal football program and a couple of Rorschach ink blots intended to evoke the deep Harbaughian essence.

[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
Steve Conner/Icon SMICoach Jim Harbaugh maintains he's not interested in leaving Stanford to coach elsewhere.
"That's one of those deep, probing questions," he responded to an inquiry about his coaching influences. "I'm just a coach trying to win a game."

It's not surprising reporters tried to tap into the Mind of Harbaugh this week. His Cardinal are playing host to Notre Dame on Saturday, and you may have heard that lots of intrigue surround the Fighting Irish and coach Charlie Weis at present.

As in: Most believe Notre Dame will be shortly looking for a new coach.

Some feel that Harbaugh might be a candidate, though Harbaugh has pooh-poohed such talk as only he can, telling the San Jose Mercury News this week, "I love Stanford, I'm only talking Stanford, and I will be at Stanford. God willing."

It's also not the best moment for Harbaugh during this mostly charmed season. A week ago, Stanford was the nation's hottest team after dispatching Oregon and USC on consecutive weekends. Then it lost the Big Game to resurgent California, taking a thorough statistical beating even though it only lost 34-28.

That dispiriting loss, which knocked the Cardinal out of the national polls and down a notch in the Pac-10 standings, did allow Harbaugh to share with reporters a behind-the-scenes look at his life.

He told of getting into his car with his family after the defeat and his son turning to his young daughter and saying, "Grace, you're only as good as your last game."

Ah, the life of a college football coach. They love you one week. Not so much the next.

But Harbaugh and his Cardinal can bounce back Saturday against the sagging Irish, who are riding a three-game losing streak that likely cut the thin rope tethering Weis to employment in South Bend.

Stanford (7-4, 6-3) is done with Pac-10 play. It will end up either second or third in the conference standings -- most likely in a tie for either spot. It already has qualified for its first bowl game since 2001. A win would just make it more appealing to bowl selectors as well as a national audience.

This one should feature some offense. Notre Dame has quarterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Golden Tate, who may feast on a Cardinal secondary that ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense.

Stanford counters with Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart, who should secure at least an invitation to New York with an impressive performance. Gerhart leads the nation with 23 rushing touchdowns and is third in rushing with 139.18 yards per game.

Notre Dame ranks 80th in the nation against the run.

While Weis' goose is likely cooked, Harbaugh knows what he needs to do to restore the momentum of his rebuilding project.

"We know we've got to rise again, rise from that adversity," Harbaugh said. "This team has risen from adversity before."

Pac-10 Q&A: USC defensive coordinator Rocky Seto

October, 30, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

USC's defense ranks 16th in the nation in scoring and total defense. That's pretty good. But two weeks ago, it ranked fourth in scoring and sixth in total defense and hadn't surrendered a touchdown pass.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto said mental lapses were to blame for the big plays the Trojans have given up recently.
Over the past two weeks, in wins over Notre Dame and Oregon State, the Trojans have surrendered five touchdown passes. And 849 yards and 63 points.

That's not so good.

The No. 5 Trojans visit No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in the Pac-10 game of the year. The Ducks' offense ranks 16th in the nation with 34 points a game, despite scoring just eight in their season-opening loss at Boise State.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Trojans first-year defensive coordinator Rocky Seto.

So give me your general impression of how the defense has played so far?

Rocky Seto: Pretty well, considering all the new faces we've got in there. But we need to continue to get better. But I've been pleased and I just thank God for the type of coaches and players we have. The coaches have done an awesome job of teaching and the players have done an awesome job of learning. There have been a lot of new experiences for a lot of players, so it's been really neat to see.

You guys have given up some yards the past two weeks, particularly in the passing game. Is that a concern and what's going wrong?

RS: Certainly, we'd like to improve in that way. We've really examined it. We've played two really good quarterbacks in [Jimmy] Clausen, a really experienced guy, and [Sean] Canfield, with two excellent coaching staffs. The big thing about it is usually when the breakdowns have happened, we've made a few mental errors. We've talked to them about focusing on not giving those things up. It's been a big emphasis for us.

Who's playing particularly well right now?

RS: You know who's doing a really good job is the defensive line. It's putting pressure on the quarterback. In the linebacking corps, Mike Morgan is doing a really good job. It's been neat to see. Taylor [Mays] has done a really nice job of staying on top and taking care of the deep ball. Kevin Thomas, our left cornerback, has really come around the last couple of weeks.

Has anything surprised you about the defense, or your personnel this season?

RS: I don't know if it's a surprise or shock because we base our performance on how we practice, how we play in practice. Our offense is really talented, so we feel if we can practice really well against them we should expect to play well. In spring practice and fall camp, these guys really performed well. So I don't know if it's a surprise or not, but it's been neat to see the young guys, the new starters, perform and fit into their new roles.

How does it work between you and Pete Carroll on game days? What role do you play in terms of calling the defense?

RS: Coach [Carroll] calls the defenses and basically I add as much input as I can when he asks me. We have a conversation that keeps going on. Really, it's been pretty neat. Ever since I've been a graduate assistant with him, eight or nine years ago, he's been a mentor for me and has taken time to have conversations with me. It hasn't changed much really since we've gotten together. It's been such a blessing to me. It's a constant conversation throughout the game and throughout the week.

What's he like during a game: Is he all business or does he joke around and act like the Pete Carroll most of us see on a day-to-day basis?

RS: He's pretty much on business. However, he'll slip in his personality. He's very poised. He doesn't change too much. But he is very serious on game day, but not to the point he doesn't do much. His personality certainly shows up.

He seems to be enjoying himself during games -- a lot of coaches adopt the stone face.

RS: No doubt. He gets fired up when the offense or defense makes a nice play. It's something he demands from our players -- that they have a good time. If you watch our sidelines, our guys are pretty in tune to what's going on and get pretty fired up. It's just how we conduct ourselves -- our meetings, our practices. It's based on coach's personality.

Give me a scouting report on Oregon.

RS: These guys are an excellent running team, a spread-option team. [Quarterback Jeremiah] Masoli has done a really nice job of running the offense. He looks really poised and composed in there. And he's a fiery guy. He's really impressive. He does some really nice play-action passes where he's been able to hit his targets well, particularly the tight end and [receiver Jeff] Maehl. They do a nice job of running the ball really well and throwing the ball, all of it. A bunch of screens. They get you spread out and try the wide-receiver screen, the tight end screen to Ed Dickson. They've mixed all those concepts really well together.

Who's going to win? Week 9 Pac-10 picks

October, 29, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Went 4-1 last week. Maybe Oregon fans can remind me which game I got wrong? Season record is now 35-14.

Oregon 27, USC 24: The freaks will be out Saturday n Eugene on Halloween night, and the Ducks' home-field advantage will the difference. That and a big game from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Oregon State 28, UCLA 17: Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield is hot. UCLA's quarterbacks are not. And the Rodgers brothers won't make it easy for the previously rugged Bruins defense to regain its mojo.

California 27, Arizona State 20: Arizona State's defense will mostly redeem itself after its letdown at Stanford, but the Sun Devils offense will make Cal's disappointing defense look stout again.

Notre Dame 42, Washington State 20: Remember the Alamo? Well, the Cougars' strange trip to San Antonio will be fairly forgettable when Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen picks apart a vulnerable defense dealing with injury issues.

What to watch in the Pac-10

October, 29, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

The big one is in Eugene but every game matters. Three teams are chilling at home.

1. Matt Barkley thinks Autzen Stadium is going to be a barrel of monkeys: Matt Barkley told the LA Times that he's looks forward to playing in Autzen Stadium -- "the energy is going to be awesome and it's going to be a cool atmosphere, especially on Halloween night," he said. Hmm. You know, maybe all this talk about how intimidating and loud Autzen Stadium is a bollocks. This whole, really cool "blackout" thing is just a rumor, after all. Hey, wear yellow! That will be scary. Oregon fans aren't really loud. They're very nice, actually. Cuddly even.

2. Were Arizona State's defensive numbers a mirage? Last weekend, Stanford piled up 473 yards -- 237 yards rushing -- against the Sun Devils, who entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in total defense (248 yards per game) and second vs. the run (58 yards per game). It's fair to ask if the Sun Devils' previously impressive defensive numbers were a function of the middling-to-poor offenses they faced during the early going. They can answer that question by shutting down -- or at least slowing down -- California and running back Jahvid Best.

3. Oregon State can't afford a "USC hangover:" The Beavers have a right to be disappointed with their close-but-no-cigar effort at USC last weekend. But if they spend too much time wondering what might have been, the Bruins might steal one in Reser Stadium. UCLA has enough athletes that, despite a 0-4 Pac-10 mark, it remains dangerous.

4. Washington State may shock the world: It's entirely possible that Notre Dame is going to run over the Cougars like a Mack truck rumbling through a garden party. And yet upsets -- even big ones -- happen all the time in college football. All it's going to take for the Cougars is a combination of their best effort and a team, such as the Fighting Irish, taking a victory for granted. At some point this season, that could happen, and it might as well be against a Notre Dame crew that has endured a series of emotional games and may be due for a letdown.

5. Who wins the trenches in Autzen? In terms of pure talent, Oregon doesn't match up on either line vs. USC. The Trojans' offensive line is athletic and experienced. It should be able to handle the Ducks' speedy D-front. The Trojans' defensive line isn't experienced, but neither is the Ducks' O-line. And the Trojans' front seven, despite its youth, has been dominant against the run and has been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks with just four pass-rushers. The Ducks have surrendered only 11 sacks this year. USC leads the nation with 29 sacks. This is one area where USC has a decided advantage. Or appears to.

6. Riley must be sharp in Tempe: Arizona State is going to gang up against Cal's run game, and the Sun Devils have enough talent and speed to make things hard on Best and the Bears' offensive line. That means, however, that there are going to be opportunities in the passing game. Can Cal QB Kevin Riley take advantage? He's been hot and cold much of the season. This would be a good time for some consistent execution. Of course, ASU ranks third in the nation with 13 interceptions.

7. Bruins try a two-quarterback system: It seems there's a split between UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel and his offensive coordinator, Norm Chow. Chow doesn't like to play two quarterbacks and he thinks Kevin Prince is the man. Neuheisel doesn't necessarily have a problem with Prince but the Bruins' offense is struggling and he wants to get a look at Richard Brehaut. So both will play at Oregon State. Who plays better? Or do both play badly? And what does it mean for the future? And are Neuheisel and Chow at loggerheads? We shall see.

8. Jeremiah Masoli must attack the USC secondary: No one has consistently run well against USC. The Trojans, however, have of late been fairly vulnerable against the pass. That may be due to playing against a couple of good quarterbacks in Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Oregon State's Sean Canfield. Or maybe there are some things that a balanced offense can take advantage of. Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli isn't chopped liver, and he's thrown well over his past three starts (he missed the UCLA game with a sprained knee). He will need to make plays downfield in order to keep the Trojans defense honest.

A quick look at this week's games

October, 27, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Lining up this week's action.

No. 5 USC (6-1, 3-1) at No. 10 Oregon (6-1, 4-0)

USC beat Oregon 44-10 last year... The Trojans lead the series 37-16-2... Oregon ranks No. 16 in the nation in scoring offense (34 ppg).... USC ranks No. 16 in scoring defense (15.14 ppg)... USC is 13th in the nation in total offense (440.43 ypg).... Oregon is 19th in the nation in total defense (297 ypg)... The Ducks defense has allowed only three TDs in four conference games... The Trojans rank last in the conference in turnover margin (minus-3). The have forced only nine turnovers on the season... Oregon ranks third in turnover margin (plus-5). The Ducks have forced 19 turnovers, tied for the most in the conference... USC is tied for No. 1 in the nation with 29 sacks.... Oregon ranks 10th with 22... Trojans defensive end Everson Griffen leads the Pac-10 with eight sacks. Oregon end Kenny Rowe is tied with USC's Nick Perry for third with seven... USC hasn't won in the state of Oregon since 2005... Ducks redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James is one of four conference runners averaging over 100 yards rushing per game (105)... USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley leads the Pac-10 in passing yards per game (256.7) and pass efficiency... Oregon has scored six non-offensive touchdowns this year.

No. 24 California (5-2, 2-2) at Arizona State (4-3, 2-2)

California beat Arizona State 24-14 last year... The series is tied 14-14... Cal leads the conference in rushing offense (216 yards per game), yards per rush (5.7) and rushing TDs (20)... Arizona State ranks sixth in the nation in run defense (83.43 yards per game) but the Sun Devils surrendered 237 rushing yards against Stanford... Bears linebacker Mike Mohamed leads the conference with 8.9 tackles per game... Cal QB Kevin Riley has thrown just two interceptions, which is tied for fewest in the conference... The Sun Devils lead the conference with 13 interceptions. When they didn't pick off a pass against Stanford, it ended a streak of 14 games -- the longest in the nation -- with at least one pick... Cal ranks eighth in the conference in pass efficiency defense... ASU ranks eighth in the conference in pass efficiency... Cal has made just five field goals this season, fewest in the conference... The Sun Devils rank No. 1 in the conference in turnover margin (plus-8); Cal ranks second (plus-7)... The Sun Devils are the conferences most penalized team (86 yards per game). Cal is the second-least penalized team (45.6 ypg).

UCLA (3-4, 0-4) at Oregon State (4-3, 2-2)

Oregon State beat UCLA 34-6 last year... UCLA leads the series 39-14-4... Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield is completing 68.2 percent of his passes. The school record for completion percentage is 60.6, set by Matt Moore in 2006... UCLA kicker Kai Forbath missed his second field goal of the season against Arizona from 52 yards out. He's now 19 of 21 on the year. Both misses came from outside of 50 yards... Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers ranks second in both rushing yards per game (115.7) and receptions per game (6.0). He leads the conference with 15 TDs... UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price leads the conference with 11.5 tackles for a loss...Receiver James Rodgers leads the conference in all-purpose yards (182.1 ypg)... Bruins punter Jeff Locke ranks No. 1 in the conference with a 46.5-yard average... OSU lost its first fumble of the year at USC, but the Beavers five turnovers for the season is the fewest in the conference... Bruins safety Rahim Moore ranks No. 1 in the nation with seven interceptions... UCLA ranks ninth in the conference in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring.

Washington State (1-6) vs. No. 23 Notre Dame (5-2)

Notre Dame leads the series 1-0... The Fighting Irish beat the Cougars 29-26 in overtime in 2003... Notre Dame ranks 11th in the country in total offense (438 ypg)... Washington State ranks 10th in the Pac-10 in rushing, passing, total and scoring defense... Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, is second in the nation pass efficiency. He's thrown 16 TD passes with just two interceptions... Washington State ranks 10th in the Pac-10 in rushing, total and scoring offense... Notre Dame ranks 97th in the nation in total defense (409.43 ypg) ... The Cougars lead the Pac-10 with 11 fumble recoveries... WSU's freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against Cal last weekend... The Cougars have sacked opposing quarterbacks just seven times. Cougars QBs have been sacked 35 times, second-most in the nation.

Arizona (5-2, 3-1), Stanford (5-3, 4-2) and Washington (3-5, 2-3) are all off this week. Arizona plays Washington State, Stanford plays Oregon and Washington is at UCLA on Nov. 7.

Pac-10 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 18, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Who stood out in week 7? It was the return of Pac-10 quarterbacks!

Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Barkley completed 19 of 29 for 380 yards with two touchdowns in the Trojans 34-27 win at Notre Dame. He outplayed his friend and rival Jimmy Clausen, and he has now won on the road at Ohio State and Notre Dame as a true freshman.

Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: In his third career start, Foles completed 40 of 51 for 415 yards with three TDs in the Wildcats 43-38 comeback win against Stanford. He didn't throw an interception or surrender a sack.

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Helmet stickers typically go to winners. Luck gets one because he completed 21 of 35 passes for 423 yards with three TDs and one interception. The redshirt freshman combines with Foles and Barkley to make the Pac-10 QB future look bright.

Danny Sullivan, QB, Arizona State: Enough about the young guys -- how about an embattled senior stepping up? Sullivan completed a 50-yard TD pass with five seconds to play to beat Washington 24-17. On the night, he completed 21 of 35 passes for 263 yards with no interceptions. That figures to be enough to hold onto the starting job.

Kevin Riley & Jeff Tedford, QB and head coach, California: Riley, after a bye week that featured some extra work with Tedford, completed 14 of 23 for 205 yards and three TDs in Cal's 45-26 win over UCLA. That win was Tedford's first in eight games in southern California as the Bears head coach.

USC survives

October, 17, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Wow... a classic. Again. Almost as dramatic as the "Bush Push."

This one will be called "It Ain't Over Until It's Over."

And then it was.

USC prevailed 34-27, but Notre Dame made things more than interesting at the end. Very interesting.

The Trojans celebrated their victory twice with the Fighting Irish just 4 yards away from tieing the game.

The first time, an official review put one more second on the clock. Both times, though, Jimmy Clausen was unable to complete another magical pass.

But Clausen and the Irish surely earned USC's respect, rallying from a 34-14 deficit early in the fourth quarter. This certainly was much different than the last two games, won 38-3 and 38-0 by USC.

Matt Barkley mostly outplayed Clausen, but he threw a critical interception that ignited the Irish comeback.

Barkley completed 19 of 29 for 380 yards with two touchdowns and the pick. Clausen, out of sync most of the game, found his rhythm during the comeback and ended up completing 24 of 43 for 260 yards and two touchdowns.

It would appear the rivalry is close to being hotly contested again.

Nonetheless, USC won its eighth in a row in the series. The Trojans return home next weekend to face a foe they might take seriously: Oregon State, the team that handed USC its only loss in 2008, comes to town.

Halftime report: USC 13, Notre Dame 7

October, 17, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Notre Dame is beating USC 7-13 at the half.

Don't think that makes sense?

The Trojans have doubled up Notre Dame's yardage and Matt Barkley is outplaying Jimmy Clausen and yet the Fighting Irish need only a touchdown and extra point to tie this one.

Advantage Irish.

Sure, the Trojans defense is controlling things, but Clausen seemed to find his rhythm before the half after a slow start. Here's a guess he is sharper in the second half.

And following a brilliant 88-yard touchdown drive to get the scoring started, the USC offense has struggled in the redzone, twice having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.

That's been the Irish's way this year -- bend but don't break.

And, you may recall, Clausen and Notre Dame also have been pretty tough in the fourth quarter.

The Trojans shouldn't feel comfortable and probably don't in the halftime locker room.

They are the superior team, but if they let the Irish hang around, that might set the stage for an upset.

Opening the mailbag: Responding to unhappy Notre Dame fans

October, 16, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

Gonna be on the road to Tucson in a bit.

But first your notes!

I hope this first one doesn't become a trendy name for newborns.

Ted Miller Hater from Philadelphia writes: After reading your one sided article I know why you have a one sided wrote for the PAC-10...looks like you have a man crush for Pete Carroll. ND will beat USC Saturday...And if Barkley views Jesus number one, then why didn't he go to ND? Maybe because he didn't want to be behind #7. I also love how you put Barkley's GPA in the article. Whats USC's team GPA?? Compare that to ND! Also compare graduation rates of the football players. Its a joke and not even close!

Matt from New Jersey writes: Ted, Are you sure you aren't a graduate of USC? Its a shame I am taking a lunch break from my stress-filled job, and I go to read an article about an intriguing "behind the lines" story, and I get this biased non-article. You should probably let up on Clausen a little bit, as you probably made some mistakes due to immaturity as a younger man yourself. I know I have.

Troy from Warren, Mich., writes: Ted, must be tough waking up with so much hatred for a college kid whose done nothing to you personally. Your article about Jimmy Clausen is absolutely ridiculous and completely uncalled for. Maybe you are just a closet USC fan and just never got over the fact that a blue-chipper didn't want to attend the mighty USC. Either way, congratulations, you have stooped to a whole new level with your hatred over all things ND. Dying to hear what you have to say when ND wins this Saturday.Troy

Ted Miller: Got a lot of these, some with colorful language.

I didn't anticipate this reaction because I thought these two paragraphs summed up the entire point of my story.

So, clearly we have a good guy -- a West Coast Tebow -- and a self-absorbed brat.

Great news. It's more complicated that that, more nuanced. To spoil the potential cliffhanger: The folks who actually know Clausen seem to like him. And, you know, maybe he got some bad advice on how to handle his commitment and that one moment shouldn't entirely define him as a person.

In other words, the public perception doesn't appear to match the private reality. And even if it did at one point, maybe he's grown up since then and deserves a break.

My intentions with the story's tone from the get-go -- from my purposefully windy and hyperbolic first paragraph to noting Barkley turned down an invitation to join the X-Men -- were to be playful with the general perceptions of Clausen and Barkley and the media hyperventilating (yes, hello Mr. Black Kettle, I'm Pot) over two young men who became famous for throwing the football well as teenagers.

Clausen is widely seen as cocky and self-aggrandizing. That perception is longstanding. It's not hard to find negative takes on him. The perception of Barkley is the complete opposite. Feel free to introduce evidence to the contrary, but I couldn't find any.

Operative word in both cases: perception.

Part of the disconnect, I suspect, comes from Notre Dame fans who don't want to acknowledge what Clausen's public image is outside the fanbase and who are annoyed at any revisiting of the look-at-me show he put together when he committed to Notre Dame.

So, running with the perception contrast, I felt quotes from Clausen, Barkley and USC LB Chris Galippo did a fairly good job of saying, 1. Clausen has grown up; 2. He's a good dude.

Is Clausen cocky? The question didn't irritate Galippo so much as arouse a linebackery defense.

"No, not at all," Galippo said. "If anything, he's an extreme competitor, which we all are. Regardless of the vibe he gives people, the guy is an awesome football player. He's a guy who goes out and works his tail off. He's easily the best quarterback in the nation right now."

Anthony from Pittsburgh writes: I just wanted to let you know that the ND students and Alumni are attempting to plan an impromptu "Green Out". Since its not an official one run by the University they haven't sent out an official press release and will not be handing out green shirts at the door. I was hoping you could help give the cause a little publicity in your blog.

Ted Miller: Only if you promise to get Notre Dame fans to be nice to me.

JC from Eugene, Ore., writes: I'm a little nervous about Oregon's trip to the Husky Homecoming game. After this weekend Oregon will have played 3 conference teams with a combined Pac-10 record of 1 and 10!!! Add what amounted to essentially last second victories over Purdue and Utah. How many more wins does the defense have left?

Ted Miller: You should be nervous. Got a feeling that will be an intense atmosphere at Husky Stadium -- just like the good ole days of hate between Oregon and Washington -- particularly if the Huskies win at Arizona State on Saturday.

Not sure, however, if I buy your numbers. UCLA was good enough to win at Tennessee, which whipped Georgia. Neither of those teams would finish in the top-half of the Pac-10, but they are respectable programs.

Utah is 4-1 and ranked 24th. California won at 4-2 Minnesota by two touchdowns, and the Bears may be 0-2 in the Pac-10 because they played USC and Oregon. Purdue is clearly struggling, but it took a last-play comeback for Notre Dame to beat it.

Don't think Oregon's D is the problem. The Ducks need to get quarterback Jeremiah Masoli back and healthy.

Darrell from Portland writes: I'm frustrated. I understand that the PAC teams have been beating each other up but I still feel slighted in the rankings. I think everyone can agree that the PAC is better top to bottom than it was last year. I mean, all but 2 of their nonconference losses so far were to teams that will likely, or could possibly, win their conference. The average margin of loss in all of those games combined is just over 9 points. If you take the Washington schools out of play then it looks really good. I just can't believe that only 2 of the PAC's teams are worthy of the top 25. Last year we had more teams but were a weaker conference.

Ted Miller: Let's lay blame here where it belongs: On the Pac-10 teams that lost last weekend.

If UCLA, Arizona or Stanford won last week, it -- or they -- probably would have been ranked. All three lost. That they did had little to do with East Coast bias.

So when pollsters looked at the results Saturday night, who deserved to enter the top-25?

The conference is stronger, top-to-bottom, than last year. My guess by the end of the year is at least three or perhaps four teams will be in the top-25.

Alex from Corvallis, Ore., writes: Do you think things are starting to look good for Oregon State? What do you think the chances are that they could at the very least give USC a run for their money? They do have a bye week before they play them, and in the past, the Beavers have played very well after a bye week.

Ted Miller: The short answer is yes.

The Beavers appear to be making their annual turnaround after a mediocre start, only this year they are ahead of schedule, seeing that they didn't fall to 2-3 for the fourth consecutive year.

As for the visit to USC: I will not pick the Beavers to win. The Trojans have won 11 in a row and 35 of 36 in the Coliseum. Even though they will be returning from a long, hyped trip to Notre Dame, my guess is the Beavers will have their attention, based on a little matter from 2008.

Of course, my not picking the Beavers might be a good thing, as some of you might recall.

The biggest obstacle for Oregon State making a big run, however, is the schedule: Starting with USC on Oct. 24, four of the Beavers final six games are on the road.

Peter from San Jose writes: Noooooooooooooooooooo! Why, why, why did you pick my Sun Devils to beat Washington? Are you trying to punish Sun Devil fans? You have been on a cold streak with your picks and that might have been the kiss of death versus a talented Washington team. Although, you did pick Arizona to beat Stanford, so hopefully that will end up being one of your (or your only) incorrect picks this week.Keep up the great work.

Ted Miller: Now that is just mean. Have you been talking to Oregon State fans?

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Pac-10 Q&A: USC assistant Jethro Franklin

October, 16, 2009
Posted by's Ted Miller

USC assistant Jethro Franklin isn't terribly long-winded -- as you shortly will find out in this Q&A -- but he's good with a defensive line and he's awesome on the slip-and-slide.

Franklin out-slipped and out-slided offensive line coach Pat Ruel this week in two rounds on the Trojans rain-soaked field, which served as a tiebreaker between the offense and defense for the day. So things weren't too uptight during Notre Dame week.

Franklin is in his second tenure at USC. He was the D-line coach in 2005, and also coached the position for the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans.

Despite replacing three starters on his line -- only tackle Christian Tupou returned from the record-setting 2008 unit -- the Trojans presently rank among the national leaders in all major defensive categories and are getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- see 21 sacks through five games vs. 29 all of last year.

Franklin and his line have their eyes set on chasing down Heisman Trophy contender Jimmy Clausen on Saturday. Seemed like a good time to check in.

Five games into the season, what's the biggest surprise for you?

Jethro Franklin: The biggest surprise? I don't know. We've still got a ways to go. I haven't had a chance to reflect on it in that manner. I don't know. I just take them one at a time. I'd like to answer that one but I really can't.

Has the defensive line exceeded your expectations?

JF: Well, we're making progress. As long as we can continue to go up the ladder and not take any steps backwards then I'm satisfied. So far, we just keep plugging away and improve week-in and week-out. We look forward to doing things right, finishing plays and basically not having any steps backwards on the ladder of success.

Who's playing well?

JF: They are all playing hard. I would say they are all playing with pretty good consistency. We just have to continue to improve and don't let anything that is sub-par or any thing that is just OK -- we've got to continue to get better.

If there was one thing you could improve coming into the game at Notre Dame, what would it be?

JF: We can always improve on our effort. That's something we can always improve on. We can always improve on assignments and being consistent and doing things right. We can always improve on our technique.

Notre Dame has put up some good offensive numbers: Is this the best offense you guys have faced this season?

JF: They're doing a heck of a job over there. We respect the heck out of those guys. We know in order for us to do what we want to accomplish we've got to go out there and play our hearts out. We've got to play our best performance so far.

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Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25