Pac-12: Keenyn Crier

Preseason position reviews: punter

July, 6, 2011
7/06/11
6:00
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Punters often don't get much respect, but if you understand the value of field position, you understand the value of a good punter.

California and UCLA might be offensively challenged this fall, but if their defenses step up, they might be able to steal a few games by being opportunistic after their punter creates a field-position headache for their opponents.

So how does the entire conference stack up? Read on.

Great shape

California: Bryan Anger, first-team All-Pac-10, is on the short list for the Ray Guy Award. Huge foot. Averaged 45.6 yards per boot in 2010, which ranked sixth in the nation. Twenty one of 62 punts downed inside 20-yard line.

UCLA: Jeff Locke is also a leading Ray Guy candidate. He led the conference in punting last fall at 45.8 yards per punt and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors. Twenty four of 64 punts went for 50-plus yards.

Washington: The Huskies actually have two good punters. Will Mahan averaged 40.6 yards per punt in 2009 and got off to a good start in the 2010 opener at BYU -- 45.2 yards per boot -- before getting hurt. Then Kiel Rasp stepped in and averaged 43.8 yards per punt. An "or" was between the two on the post-spring depth chart.

Good shape

Oregon: Jackson Rice averaged a solid 42.3 yards per punt in 2010, with 18 of 40 punts downed inside the 20.

Stanford: Dan Zychlinski didn't punt much last season -- see a conference-low 27 punts -- but he averaged a decent 41.8 yards per attempt.

Oregon State: Johnny Hekker averaged 41.7 yards per punt, which ranked eighth in the conference.

Utah: Sean Sellwood, a South Africa native, was solid last season with a 41-yard average. Ten of his 33 punts were downed inside the 20. On the worrisome side, three of his punts were blocked.

We'll see

Colorado: Zach Grossnickle is back. That's good. His 35.7 yards per boot average from 2010 is not. Potentially more good news: Mark Brundage, a transfer from Rice, averaged 44.2 yards for 26 punts in 2009. They will compete for the starting job.

Washington State: Dan Wagner averaged 51 yards per punt last season. On one punt. Of course, he backed up one of the nation's best punters in Reid Forrest and had a solid spring.

Arizona State: Josh Hubner is a touted junior college transfer. At 6-foot-4, 230, he looks like a tight end.

USC: Kyle Negrete was No. 1 on the depth chart after spring practices. Incoming freshman Kristopher Albarado was one of nation's top recruits at the position.

Arizona: Kyle Dugandzic takes over for Keenyn Crier, which might be a good thing because Crier was the worst punter in the conference last season.
Arizona starts spring practice today, which means it can stop licking the wounds of a five-game losing streak to end 2010 and start looking forward to 2011.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireArizona enters the upcoming season with lofty expectations, thanks in part to returning quarterback Nick Foles.
But if taking a step forward toward 2011 is the carrot, a lingering backwards glance to 2010 is the stick. The Wildcats should be plenty motivated.

"The kids know we are close, but we need to do some things better to take that next step," coach Mike Stoops said. "We've gotten to this point. We need to go further."

On the one hand, the losing streak happened against a brutal schedule: Stanford, USC, Oregon, Arizona State and Oklahoma State combined for a 49-15 record. But the Wildcats aspire to being a team that wins those sorts of games.

"We just need to be stronger in some ways, stronger against stronger teams," Stoops said.

The Wildcats have intriguing talent coming back -- with quarterback Nick Foles and perhaps the Pac-12's best group of receivers leading the way -- but they also have two glaring holes: offensive line and defensive end. All the 2010 starters at those positions are gone.

Here are some notes:

Out of spring: Just two starters will not participate in full-contact work: defensive tackle Justin Washington and cornerback Shaquille Richardson. Both had shoulder surgery. Receiver Bug Wright was given the boot for repeated team rules violations.

Offensive line questions? All five starters are gone on the offensive line. Sophomore Mickey Baucus and redshirt freshman Fabbians Ebbelle are the front-runners at the tackles. Kyle Quinn, who started the Alamo Bowl for Colin Baxter, is the leader at center, though mid-year transfer Addison Bachman could make a challenge. Sophomores Chris Putton, Trace Biskin and Eric Bender-Ramsay are in the mix at the guards. Redshirt freshmen Trent Spurgeon and Carter Lees and junior Shane Zink also are in the mix. With a new offensive line coach -- Robert Anae -- there could be plenty of mixing and matching.

End of the line? Senior Muhammed Usman and redshirt freshman Dan Pettinato will be with the first unit to start spring, but defensive end might be an even bigger question than offensive line. The Wildcats are deep at tackle -- Washington, Sione Tuihalamaka, Willie Mobley, Chris Merrill, Dominique Austin, Jowyn Ward, Aiulua Fanene, etc. -- so it's possible things might be fluid on the defensive line. One of the more athletic tackles might move outside to become a big, strongside end. And junior college transfer Lamar de Rego arrives in the fall.

Good to receive: The Wildcats welcome back potential preseason All-American receiver Juron Criner, but the big news is the overflow of enthusiasm for Texas transfer Dan Buckner, who will give the Wildcats a second speedy, 6-foot-4 target on the outside. Said Stoops, "I think he gives us the two best outside receivers maybe in the country. Having [Buckner] and Criner on opposite sides is going to create problems for people." When you toss in Dave Roberts, David Douglas and Richard Morrison on the inside, you have a deep crew that Stoops called "the best receiving group we've ever had, without question." Oh, and don't forget: Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton, Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin. Lots of competition for touches here.

Backed by seven: The Wildcats welcome back all three starting linebackers and a talented secondary. Sophomore Marquis Flowers and junior Adam Hall figure to offer an upgrade in the secondary -- both saw plenty of action in 2010. Robert Golden, Trevin Wade, Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight provide talent and experience at cornerback. And Stoops thinks Wade, who suffered through a notable slump last fall, is going to bounce back: "Trevin has had a much better out-of-season already. I think he learned a great deal from some of his mistakes a year ago as well as his preparation. I look for him to come back strong." He added, "This is the most athletic back-seven we've had. Best group of corners we've had."

Not special: The Wildcats didn't get much from their kicker Alex Zendejas and punter Keenyn Crier last season. Zendejas is back, but he needs to step up. Said Stoops: "Zendejas needs to become a much better player... we need more out of him." Junior college transfer Jaimie Salazar arrives in the fall. Junior college transfer punter Kyle Dugandzic was signed to start, so he needs to come through.

Redshirt or backup for Scott: Stoops wants to redshirt backup quarterback Matt Scott, which means he could return for a redshirt senior season in 2012. But that might not be doable. Said Stoops, "In a perfect world, we'd love to redshirt him. But we've got to keep him ready to play if things slide or something happens to Nick." Junior Bryson Beirne would make things easier on his coaches with an inspired effort this spring.

This is Foles' team: Foles has been a good quarterback for two years. If he becomes an All-Conference or even All-American quarterback as a senior, the Wildcats could climb to the top of the Pac-12 South Division. Stoops expects a lot out of Foles. "Nick has to have total control of this team and this offense," he said. "He's a premier starter who will become, hopefully, a first-round NFL draft pick. He needs to assert himself in every way possible as a leader."

Arizona can't handle prosperity

October, 10, 2010
10/10/10
9:58
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- There is only one certainty from Arizona's 29-27 loss to Oregon State: The Wildcats won't go undefeated in 2010. That puts them in the same boat with Alabama. That's one way to look at things.

Another way to look at it? There they go again.

Just when it seemed like the ninth-ranked Wildcats were ready to take a major step forward -- beating then-No. 9 Iowa, riding a high national ranking -- they take a step back.

"Tonight was a tough night in a lot of ways," coach Mike Stoops said. "When you look at the entire game, we just weren't there."

The feeling entering the game was the Wildcats were on the cusp of a potentially special season. It still might turn out special. Only not as special as it could have been. The first loss is often the hardest, but it's even harder when it comes at home to a two-loss team, and when it feels like a lot of football was played badly.

"I don't think it's a wake-up call," linebacker Paul Vassallo said. "It's disappointing with two weeks of prep."

Vassallo is a JC transfer, so he hasn't been around the program long. But it's good he's not leaning on the idea of this team needing a "wake-up call." The Arizona program is awake. It's just sometimes confounding -- see Vassallo's noting of how the Wildcats played after getting two weeks to prepare for the Beavers.

It's hard to put much blame on Nick Foles and the offense, which gained 541 yards, including 311 in the second half. Foles passed for 440 yards and three touchdowns and led scoring drives of 57, 66, 66 and 80 yards.

Special teams weren't special. Kicker Alex Zendejas missed a 37-yard field goal just before halftime and had a PAT blocked. Struggling punter Keenyn Crier blasted a beautiful 47-yard punt in the fourth quarter -- only he blasted it into the end zone for a touchback instead of pinning the Beavers deep in their own territory. Oregon State then drove for the decisive TD.

And that was telling -- yielding a 10-play, 80-yard, nearly five-minute drive when the screws were tightening . Ultimately, the predominant blame falls on the unit that had been so dominant this year: the defense.

The Wildcats entered the game ranked among the nation's leaders in nearly every major defensive statistical category. The Beavers had been struggling on offense. But the Wildcats gave up 486 yards, including 393 yards passing to the Beavers, who were 10-of-15 on third-down plays.

"We played sloppy tonight," end Ricky Elmore said after the game.

And, considering the Wildcats visit Washington State next weekend, it probably cost them a 7-0 start and all that might have brought -- such as a potential top-five ranking.

Of course, a top-five ranking eight weeks into the season isn't really all that great. It doesn't include a trophy or a bowl invitation. It's always about how you finish.

"I don't really know if we just lost our edge or took for granted what we had or what, but it's going to be a very long season," Stoops said.

That's good, because Saturday was a long and mostly unpleasant night for the Wildcats; the first time that's been the case this season.

Preseason position reviews: punter

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
4:12
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The Pac-10: A conference of punters.

You have both the first- and second-team All-Pac-10 punters back, two on the seven-man Ray Guy Award watch list and three that ranked among the nation's top 21 in punting last year.

Oh, and every team welcomes back their punter from 2009.

Any of the six teams in "Great shape" here could produce an All-Pac-10 punter.

Great shape
  • California: Bryan Anger, first-team All-Pac-10 in 2009, might be the nation's most talented punter. Though he ranked fourth in the conference with a 42.3-yard average, he led the conference with 24 punts downed inside the 20 with only four touchbacks, which means he's got great touch.
  • Arizona State: Trevor Hankins led the Pac-10 with a 44.2-yard average. His 18 punts of 50 or more yards tied for most in the conference.
  • UCLA: Jeff Locke, who's on the Ray Guy watch list, earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009. His 43.6-yard average ranked second in the conference.
  • Washington State: Reid Forrest punted 86 times in 2009 -- 16 more boots than anyone else in the league -- and averaged a stout 43.2-yards per punt.
  • Oregon: As a true freshman, Jackson Rice, despite an unimpressive 40.5-yard average, downed the second-highest percentage of punts inside an opponent's 20-yard line in the conference (37.7).
  • Oregon State: Johnny Hekker, one of seven punters on the Ray Guy watch list after being a semifinalist in 2009, doesn't have a huge foot but he did down 19 of his 51 punts inside his opponent's 20-yard line, which means he did so at a higher rate than Anger.
Good shape
  • Arizona: Keenyn Crier was first-team All-Pac-10 as redshirt freshman in 2007 and honorable mention pick in 2008, but he fell off a bit last year.
  • Stanford: David Green doesn't have a big foot -- only two punts went for more than 50 yards -- but he dropped nearly half (15) of his 33 punts inside an opponent's 20.
  • Washington: Will Mahan is a solid if unspectacular punter.
We'll see
  • USC: A touted JC transfer, Jacob Harfman ranked last in the Pac-10 last year with a 39.8-yard average. Only nine of his 48 punts pinned a foe inside its 20-yard line.

Pac-10 players of the week

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
5:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Oregon senior tight end Ed Dickson, Arizona senior cornerback Devin Ross and Stanford sophomore kick returner Chris Owusu are the Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Dickson caught a career-high 11 receptions for 148 yards and three touchdowns, which covered 26, 9 and 36 yards in Oregon’s 42-3 win over sixth-ranked California. He also was named National Offensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Ross had a game-high 12 tackles -- seven solo -- and picked off a pass in the waning moments to seal the Wildcats’ 37-32 win at Oregon State.

Owusu returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in Stanford’s 34-14 win against Washington. It marked the second week in a row Owusu returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown. In just four games, Owusu has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, which ties the Pac-10 single season record (Anthony Davis, USC, 1974, and Matthew Slater, UCLA, 2007). Owusu leads the nation in kickoff returns with a flashy 59.2-yard average.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Nick Foles of Arizona, wide receiver Damian Williams of USC and running backs Toby Gerhart of Stanford and Dimitri Nance of Arizona State. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Clinton Snyder of Stanford and Michael Morgan of USC, safety Jarrell Holman of Arizona State and end Kenny Rowe of Oregon. Also nominated for special teams play were punters Keenyn Crier of Arizona and Jacob Harfman of USC and kicker Morgan Flint of Oregon.

Pac-10 lunch links: Tedford picks over carcass of Cal's loss

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

Tedford has a lot of Anger

August, 5, 2009
8/05/09
7:15
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Ray Guy Award watch list, which honors the nation's best punter, was announced Wednesday, and it's no surprise that California's Bryan Anger is among the nine names on the list.

It's hard to imagine any punter in the nation owns a bigger foot than the 6-foot-4, 199-pound sophomore.

"He's a phenom," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "And he's just a puppy, too. He's going to get better. We were at a spring scrimmage and he gets the biggest ovation. I've never seen that anywhere for a punter.  He punts the ball and everybody goes 'oohhhhh.'"

Anger, who was named a first-team Freshman All-American by The Sporting News, College Football News and Rivals.com in 2008, ranked third in the Pac-10 and 18th nationally with a 43.1 yard per punt average, and 26 of his 71 punts were downed inside an opponent's 20-yard line.

But it's not just the numbers. When Anger punts from his own territory -- meaning he's a full-go to blast the ball -- the results can be epic. He had 16 50-plus-yard punts last year, including the three longest punts in the Pac-10 (76, 75 and 72 yards).

It is a little surprising, however, that Arizona junior Keenyn Crier, who was second in the Pac-10 with a 43.9 average last year, didn't also make the Guy watch list.

Sorting out the Pac-10 middle

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Results of the annual Pac-10 media poll will be announced on July 30, but here's a guess at how most ballots will look:

1. USC; 2. California; 3. Oregon; 4. Oregon State... 9. Washington; 10. Washington State

And from five to eight all heck breaks loose.

Now, some -- such as Phil Steele -- think Oregon will tumble. Some have issues with Oregon State. And some think Washington will be a surprise team.

But a plurality figures to vote these six teams as they appear above and then throw the other four into the air and leave it to the college football spirits to decide.

So where do you rank Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA?

I wouldn't be completely shocked if any of those four actually broke into the top four. I also wouldn't be astonished if any finished ninth.

I think I've written at various times that all four should end up bowl-eligible, even though eight conference teams with a .500 record or better is difficult to pencil out. (It did, however, happen in 2006 -- and Washington even finished 5-7).

I changed my own 5-8 a number of times. I won't tell you how I voted yet. My boss threatened to tear off my arm and beat me with it if I did. He's done it before so I believed him.

Why the difficulty?

For one, each of the Unfixed Four will break in a new quarterback, though Stanford and UCLA both have their starters back from 2008.

(Read full post)

Pac-10 and preseason All-American lists

June, 16, 2009
6/16/09
4:21
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

All-American lists have been and will be trickling out in the coming weeks, and count on most being variations of what you see here.

These list don't tend to be very creative.

What has struck me, though, is how the Pac-10 is likely to have at least one player seriously considered for preseason honors at just about every position. Other than -- golly, how things have changed -- quarterback (and probably linebacker).

And, if guys don't make preseason lists, I've got a $1 bill here that says a handful of other guys will earn honors when things count most: After the season.

Consider.

* Means this position almost certainly will produce a first- or second-team All-American.

RB*

Jahvid Best, California

Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State

LeGarrette Blount, Oregon

Toby Gerhart, Stanford

TE*

Rob Gronkowski, Arizona

OL*

Kristofer O'Dowd, USC

Jeff Byers, USC

Charles Brown, USC

WR

Damian Williams, USC

James Rodgers, Oregon State

S*

Taylor Mays, USC

CB*

Syd'Quan Thompson, California

Walter Thurmond III, Oregon

Alterraun Verner, UCLA

DT

Brian Price, UCLA

DE

Dexter Davis, Arizona State

K*

Kai Forbath, UCLA

Thomas Weber, Arizona State

P*

Bryan Anger, California

Keenyn Crier, Arizona

As far as quarterback goes, it certainly wouldn't be that much of a stretch to think Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli -- or even Washington's Jake Locker -- could roll up pass-run numbers that would earn national notice, but it's going to be hard to slip past Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy.

At defensive end, if someone could guarantee that USC's Everson Griffen would continue the positive momentum of his strong spring and go 100 percent every play in 2009, you could almost pencil him in as an All-American. He's as gifted as any end in the nation.

Moreover, there are a handful of other guys who could play their way into national notice.

Arizona spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona Wildcats
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 5-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Nic Grigsby, C Colin Baxter, CB Devin Ross, DE Brooks Reed, DT Earl Mitchell, P Keenyn Crier

Key losses

QB Willie Tuitama, WR Mike Thomas, OT Eben Britton, LB Ronnie Palmer, FS Nate Ness, K Jason Bonzio

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Nic Grigsby* (1,153)
Passing: Willie Tuitama (3,088)
Receiving: Mike Thomas (825)
Tackles: Ronnie Palmer (85)
Sacks: Brooks Reed* (8)
Interceptions: Trevin Wade* (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Central Michigan
Sep. 12 Northern Arizona
Sep. 19 at Iowa
Sep. 26 at Oregon State
Oct. 10 at Washington
Oct. 17 Stanford
Oct. 24 UCLA
Nov. 7 Washington State
Nov. 14 at California
Nov. 21 Oregon
Nov. 28 at Arizona State
Dec. 5 at USC

1. Golden at strong safety: Sophomore Robert Golden, a marquee 2008 recruit, probably would have become a good cornerback but he's got a chance to be special at strong safety. Because that transition went well this spring, Cam Nelson could move to free safety from strong -- replacing the departed Nate Ness -- with Trevin Wade and Devin Ross giving the Wildcats a strong combination at corner.

2. No doubting Thomas can be replaced: Whoever wins the quarterback job, he'll have plenty of capable guys to throw to, even with the departure of four-year starter Mike Thomas. For one, Rob Gronkowski might be the best tight end in the nation. Second, Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner combined for 96 receptions and nearly 1,200 yards receiving last year. Third, William "Bug" Wright appears capable of being a playmaker at Thomas' slot position.

3. Got your 'backer: Sure, two of three starting linebackers, including leading tackler Ronnie Palmer, are gone. But the play during spring suggested that the Wildcats might be more athletic at the position in 2009, with Sterling Lewis, Xavier Kelley and Vuna Tuihalamaka. These three also will be helped by what appears to be a deep and talented defensive line providing plenty of cover up front.

Fall questions

1. Replacing Willie: While sophomore Matt Scott may have emerged with a slight lead over sophomore Nick Foles coming out of spring, the competition to replace quarterback Willie Tuitama is far from over. Scott is a great runner and good passer. Foles isn't a bad runner but is more of a drop-back passer. It's possible both could play in the first two games to sort out a final pecking order in advance of a visit to Iowa.

2. What's left at tackle? It's still not clear how the offensive line will end up, particularly at left tackle, where the departure of Eben Britton left a sizable void. JC transfer Jack Julsing might be the answer. Or the emergence of junior guard Conan Amituanai might allow Mike Diaz to move outside from left guard. If Phillip Garcia comes back successfully from knee surgery in the fall, he also could be a factor.

3. The next step: Winning a bowl game was huge for a program that's been looking to regain its mojo for a decade. But the question now is sustaining and building on success. Coach Mike Stoops believes a winning attitude is developing. The way to prove that is another bowl berth. And maybe a better bowl berth.

Arizona winning statistically, but not on scoreboard

December, 6, 2008
12/06/08
9:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Lots of interesting stuff in Tucson in the Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State.

  • Arizona had a 98-yard touchdown drive.
  • Nine minutes into the game, the teams had combined for seven penalties for 52 yards, which slowed the pace to a slog.
  • Arizona punter Keenyn Crier, one of the Pac-10's best punters, suffered an incredible brain cramp when he allowed his knee to touch the ground on a low snap, giving the Sun Devils the ball on the Wildcats 19-yard line. That set up the go-ahead TD.
  • That interception by Omar Bolden to close the first half? Sort of what we expected from Bolden this year, but haven't seen very often.
  • Arizona outgained ASU 185-66, but trails 10-7.

Wildcats quarterback Willie Tuitama is outplaying his counterpart, Rudy Carpenter, but Carpenter has the advantage on the scoreboard -- just like Carpenter has in the QBs previous three meetings.

The Pac-10: Conference of the Punt Team

November, 7, 2008
11/07/08
12:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Remember when UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told a national television audience that "punting is winning" as he headed to the halftime locker room during the Bruins game with Tennessee?

Oh, if only it were. Then the Pac-10 might rule college football.

The Pac-10 features four punters ranked among the nation's top 25:

8. Keenyn Crier, Arizona 44.70
10. Aaron Perez, UCLA 44.39
14. Bryan Anger, California 43.89
23. Josh Syria, Oregon 42.49

That's more than the SEC (3), Big 12 (2) and Big Ten (2) and the ACC (zip).

The Big East also has four.

But the tiebreaker for becoming the one, true Conference of Punt Team is punt returns.

The Pac-10 features five punt returners ranked among the nation's top-25.

8. Kyle Williams, Arizona State 15.56
10. Jairus Byrd, Oregon 15.58
12. Mike Thomas, Arizona 13.43
15. Stafon Johnson, USC 12.82
25. Syd'Quan Thompson, California 11.27

That's more than anyone else. So there you have it.

The league formerly known as the Conference of Quarterbacks and sometimes called the Conference of Centers is now the Conference of the Punt Team.

It's not as catchy but it's something, right?

What to watch in the Pac-10, Week 11

November, 7, 2008
11/07/08
8:49
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. California's offensive line will struggle vs. USC's D-front: Every offensive line struggles with USC's defensive front. But consider that four players -- including guard Noris Malele, who is questionable -- from the Bears first unit during the preseason won't play Saturday. We harped on this before the Oregon game and the replacement line did fine. But Oregon's defense doesn't rate the same as the Trojans, unquestionably the nation's best crew.

2. Arizona is going to run. And run. And run. Washington State ranks 118th in the nation in run defense, yielding 275 yards per game. The Cougars have surrendered 323, 362 and 344 yards on the ground in their last three games, so things are actually trending downward. So Arizona tailbacks Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin should have a lot of fun in Pullman.

3. UCLA jinx vs. UCLA jinxed: Oregon State coach Mike Riley has never beaten UCLA. He is 0-5 vs. UCLA as Oregon State's coach and was also 0-4 while offensive coordinator at USC (1993-96). He's beaten every other Pac-10 team at least twice, including USC. But injury-riddled, struggling UCLA just suspended three players for, according to multiple reports, failing a drug test. That's not good for team morale. So which bad juju is more powerful?

4. Stanford's Tavita Pritchard vs. Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli: These two quarterbacks rank eighth and ninth in the Pac-10 in passing. Pritchard has throw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (8), while Masoli is barely completing 50 percent of his passes. It's possible that passing will be a non-factor in this matchup between two of the conference's best running offenses. But it's also possible that the quarterback who throws better -- or less worse -- will have a significant say in the final score.

5. Will Nate Longshore rise to the moment? It's still possible that Kevin Riley, who was sidelined in the Oregon game with a concussion, will start. But if Longshore gets the call, there's the potential for a storybook ending for his tumultuous career. Longshore as a sophomore looked like a future NFL draft pick. But his tendency to throw bad interceptions at inopportune times soured Bears fans on him. He played well in relief of Riley in the big win over the Ducks, but beating USC is a whole different cup of yogurt. If he leads Cal to the upset, he'll have his legacy win that enshrine him in Golden Bears lore.

6. Good Mark Sanchez vs. Bad Mark Sanchez: The truth is most teams would take any Sanchez. He leads the Pac-10 in passing yards per game, pass efficiency and touchdown passes. It's only that when you play quarterback at USC you're expected to be spectacular just about ALL THE TIME! With a college football nation seemingly salivating over the notion of eliminating USC from the national title hunt, it would be an auspicious time for Good Sanchez to help the Trojans make a dominant statement vs. Cal. The Bears, who lead the nation with 17 interceptions, are hoping for Bad Sanchez.

7. Arizona State's offense will break out at Washington: Washington has the worst pass defense in the country, so Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter should feast on the Huskies wide-eyed secondary. But coach Dennis Erickson probably would like to see more progress in the running game, seeing that running back Shaun DeWitty just last week gave the offense its first 100-yard rushing game. Don't worry: There's plenty Huskies defense to go around. So share the bounty.

8. Can Craft find consistency? UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft is two weeks removed from his worst all-around performance of the season -- a 17 for 35, four interception effort in the Bruins loss at California. He threw four interceptions earlier this season against Tennessee, but he also led the Bruins to a shocking comeback victory. The enduring image of the Cal game is UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel going haywire each time Craft slogged to the sidelines after a turnover. If the Bruins woeful offense is going to have any chance against Oregon State, Craft's going to have to be more careful with the football.

9. Field position is boring but so, so important: Cal coach Jeff Tedford noted this week how important field position will be against USC. He probably was thinking that after watching film of USC's tight 17-10 victory over Arizona. In that game, Wildcats punter Keenyn Crier averaged 50.3 yards on seven punts, four of which were downed inside the 20-yard line. Arizona made USC play on a long field, which prevented the Trojans from mounting one of those demoralizing, explosive scoring flurries -- the game is close; now it's not! -- that they've become accustomed to. Just so happens the Bears have a good punter, too: Bryan Anger, who averages 44 yards per boot.

10. Any road warriors out there?: Pac-10 teams have been mostly terrible on the road this year -- at least when they aren't playing Washington or Washington State. Visitors in conference games are 8-19, with five of those wins coming in Seattle or Pullman. Well, Arizona is playing for bowl eligibility in Pullman, while Arizona State is trying to end a six-game losing streak in Seattle. They should be plenty motivated to notch the easy win. But what about Cal at USC, trying keep alive its Rose Bowl hopes? Same goes for Oregon State at UCLA. And Stanford could earn bowl eligibility if it upsets Oregon. In other words, there's a lot at stake for road teams this week.

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
7:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and kicker Matt Evensen of Oregon and California linebacker Mike Mohamed have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Masoli, a sophomore from Daly City, Calif., accounted for 232 yards total offense and two touchdowns in Oregon's 54-20 win over Arizona State. He completed 17 of 26 passes (.654) for 147 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass. He also led the Ducks in rushing with eight carries for 85 yards (10.6-yard average) and one touchdown. The Oregon offense piled up 537 yards total offense (304 rushing, 233 passing) and punted only two times.

Evensen, a senior from Portland, Ore., connected on two of three field goal attempts, including a career-long 52-yarder, was 5-5 on PATs and had five of his 10 kickoffs go for touchbacks. This is the second player of the week honor for Evensen this season.

Mohamed, a sophomore from Brawley, Calif., had nine solo tackles, with two tackles for loss and a sack (-7), and he returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown in the 41-20 win over UCLA. California limited UCLA to one offensive touchdown, 11 first downs, 16 yards rushing on 22 carries, 253 yards of total offense, posted three quarterback sacks and intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week were tailbacks Stafon Johnson of USC and Jahvid Best of California. Nominees for defense were linebackers Rey Maualuga of USC and Sterling Lewis of Arizona and Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond. Arizona punter Keenyn Crier, California kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and UCLA punt returner Terrence Austin were nominated for special teams play.

Pac-10 Morning: What is Neuheisel pointing at?

August, 27, 2008
8/27/08
10:51
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

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