Pac-12: N.C. State Wolf Pack
First, here's a look at his projections:
- Washington (Pac-12 No. 7) vs. Air Force (MWC No. 4) in the New Mexico Bowl
- Utah (Pac-12 No. 5) vs. Boise State (MWC No. 1) in the Maaco Bowl
- UCLA (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 5) in the Holiday Bowl
- Cal (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
- Stanford (Pac-12 No. 2) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 No. 3) in the Alamo Bowl
- Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 4) vs. NC State (ACC No. 4) in the Sun Bowl
- USC (BCS Pac-12 No. 1) vs. Wisconsin (BCS Big 10 No. 1) in the Rose Bowl
- Oregon (BCS at-large) vs. USF (BCS ACC No. 1) in the Orange Bowl
Some quick thoughts:
- I agree that Oregon and USC will both be in BCS games -- though I think one of them is going to end up in the national championship game. I don't know which one, but I'm pretty confident one of them will be there.
- Some pretty lofty projections for Oregon State and UCLA. I don't have any issue with projecting either them to the postseason, but I think their predicted finishes are too high. The Beavers still have significant holes on the offensive line. And though there is promise of an improved running game, I'm going to have to see it before even considering them in the same class as Utah, Cal and Washington. Likewise for the Bruins -- who need to figure out who is going to be their quarterback before we anoint them to a mid-level bowl game.
- Washington, Stanford, Cal and Utah are tough to predict because they could all land anywhere between the two and five hole. Washington to the New Mexico Bowl though is a head-scratcher. I'd likely reserve that spot for Oregon State, UCLA or even Washington State -- who I would say is probably more bowl ready than either the Bruins or the Beavers.
- Guessing USF (a Big East team) ends up in the Orange Bowl since Florida State (an ACC team) is tabbed for the national championship? However that math worked out, if it actually comes to fruition that Oregon plays USF, the Ducks will make last year's Orange Bowl (West Virginia 70, Clemson 33) look like a nail biter.
Chow, widely considered one of the best offensive minds in college football history, got plenty of interviews, most notably of late at Stanford in 2005, and made plenty of "candidates" lists during the annual coaching carousel. He also turned down the head coaching job at Kentucky in 2002 to remain at USC. But, in reputation and reality, he was the perennial bridesmaid.
You'd hear things, of course. All the why-nots. He wasn't terribly good at interviews. He was an Xs-and-Os guy who didn't have people or management skills. Most schools wanted a dashing, young, charismatic guy who could slap backs, enticing a flood of elite recruits and booster checks. Chow was never reputed to be much of a recruiter, something he doesn't particularly enjoy.
It also was perfectly fair to wonder if Chow's being Asian-American had anything to do with the critiques and whispers. His hiring at Hawaii, after all, makes him the first Asian-American head coach of a major football program.
First. That's pretty big, folks, even if most FBS rosters have little to no Asian presence, though if you go with that old standard "Asian/Pacific Islander" category, things change dramatically there.
Not only is Chow, after 39 years as an assistant coach, finally getting his shot as a head coach, he's going home to do it. He was born in Honolulu and is a Punahou School alum. He began his coaching career as head coach at Waialua High School on the North Shore of Oahu from 1970-72. This seems like a good fit, though coaching at Hawaii has built-in challenges, starting with geography.
Chow will serve as Utah's offensive coordinator in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on Dec. 31 before officially taking over the Warriors. For the Utes, it's a blow, but not a crippling one. Coach Kyle Whittingham brought Chow aboard to install a pro-style offense with a downhill running game, replacing the spread the Utes had long used. After quarterback Jordan Wynn went down in the fourth game against Washington with another shoulder injury, Chow's chief task was managing an extremely conservative, almost run-exclusive offense that didn't mess things up for a very good defense.
Chow did a good job of making running back John White into an effective weapon even when everyone knew he and his 24 carries a game were coming. But the Utes never got the full Chow offense. The expectation here is that Whittingham will look for a guy who believes in the same pro-style, run-first concepts. The Utes don't figure to go back to a spread, though that does seem to be the thing in the Pac-12 after the hiring of four new coaches who all run a version of it.
Utes fans should be more concerned about who's going to play quarterback in 2012. Whittingham is going to make a good hire at OC.
And this day is about Chow.
He's a three-time national assistant coach of the year. He's served as offensive coordinator for three national championship teams (Brigham Young, 1984; USC, 2003 and 2004). He has tutored three Heisman Trophy winners (Ty Detmer, BYU; Carson Palmer, USC; Matt Leinart, USC) and six NFL first-round draft picks.
His resume has always been impressive. Just not impressive enough to overcome the things whispered about him.
Over the past decade, he's been portrayed as a bit of a nomadic mercenary, but keep in mind he was a bastion of stability most of his career, coaching at BYU for 27 years before things turned sour and he bolted to N.C. State in 2000, the first of five jobs he'd hold over the next 11 seasons before landing at Hawaii.
Chow is coming home to get his big chance. No matter what happens at Hawaii, his coaching legacy is secure. But, let's face it, if he retires a big winner in 10 years, he'll surely enjoy at least thinking "I told you so" through a big grin.
He's going to look for answers -- tough answers if need be. The one he immediately came up with Monday is announcing the quarterback job will be split between Ryan Katz, the 2010 starter, and redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
Mannion played well in the loss to the Hornets; Katz did not. Ergo, the potential shakeup, though it's unclear how things will be rotated when the Beavers visit No. 8 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Yeah, Wisconsin. Not good. The Badgers are a big, physical team with a new, impressive dual-threat QB in Russell Wilson, a transfer from NC State. The Beavers lost at home to an FCS team. Now they are going on the road to play a national title contender.
The first issue: What went wrong for the Beavers against the Hornets in a 29-28 overtime defeat?
Riley isn't certain. And he admitted he didn't see such a flat performance coming.
"We trusted this team's work ethic," he said. "They were really good in fall camp. Everything up to that was positive. Why all of a sudden would you doubt what they are all about as far as getting ready to play?"
What's most worrisome: Riley thought the Beavers seemed tight, though they were playing at home against a supposedly overmatched foe. Sure, eight true freshmen and eight redshirt freshmen saw their first career action, in large part due to epidemic injuries, but that still doesn't fully explain a listless performance.
What does Riley expect -- hope? -- to see in front of 80,000 fans in Camp Randall Stadium?
"Poise is No. 1," he said. "We had some stage fright in our opener. It looked like we played with not much emotion but I sensed it was a fear."
Unfortunately, the injury luck still hasn't turned positive, even with the return of DT Kevin Frahm (knee) and potential return of DT Dominic Glover (academics). The lone bright spot from the Sacramento State game was true freshman running back Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for a nation-leading 223 yards. He's now doubtful for the visit to Wisconsin because of a hamstring injury suffered Tuesday.
The hits keep coming. The injury situation has been so bad that Riley made a decision he knew would inspire criticism: He opted to selectively enforce preseason player suspensions because of the thinness of the depth chart.
Fact is, it could get ugly at Wisconsin. It would be a tough matchup for the Beavers even at 100 percent. But with several key starters out -- most notably WR James Rodgers, TE Joe Halahuni and CB Brandon Hardin -- it's probably going to be a challenge for Riley to just restore his team's confidence.
There is a silver lining, though. The Beavers have a bye next week. Halahuni is likely back for UCLA's visit on Sept. 24. And Rodgers could be back, too. That will be a big boost in terms of skill and leadership, particularly in the passing game.
The hope is things will sort themselves out at QB this weekend -- and here's a guess Riley would prefer for Katz to reassert himself -- and the momentum will take a positive swing as Pac-12 play opens.
Otherwise, the Beavers could be looking at consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1997-98.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted MillerTEMPE, Ariz. -- The overwhelming focus on the West Coast concerning No. 3 Georgia's visit to Arizona State on Saturday will be the super-vicious SEC defense -- insert "Grrrrrr" here -- vs. Sun Devils QB Rudy Carpenter.That's not unreasonable.
But let's pause for a moment and politely, respectfully and with humble purpose engage in a bit more discussion on the topic.
Georgia's offense struggled last week at South Carolina, particularly its young offensive line. It gained just 252 yards and surrendered four sacks.
The explanation provided by just about every source, from the players to the coaches to the media?
The Bulldogs had to play against a super-vicious SEC defense."
[The offensive line] went up probably one of the best defenses in the country last week," Georgia QB Matthew Stafford said.
The Gamecocks did shutout NC State to open the season. But the Wolfpack haven't scored an offensive TD in their last three games against FBS competition.
From ESPN.com's crack research department: "[NC State] scored late in the third quarter against Wake Forest on Nov. 17, 2007, and since then, the Wolfpack have run 208 offensive plays versus Wake, Maryland, South Carolina and Clemson without reaching the end zone. They've punted 21 times and turned the ball over 9 times during that span.
Now South Carolina did put up a doughty effort in a 24-17 loss to ... er ... Vanderbilt. But should allowing four yards per rush to a team that ranks 118th in the nation in passing earn a defense a rose between its teeth?
The Gamecocks did welcome back 10 starters from its 2007 defense, but it's a crew that gave up 209 yards rushing per game (110th in the nation), tied Temple, SMU, Louisiana-Monroe, Rice and Iowa State for 88th in the nation with 20 sacks and gave up an average of 41 points the final three games of the season (And, yes, to be fair, there were a few injuries, including to LB Jasper Brinkley in Week 4, but -- come on! -- those numbers just aren't very good).
This isn't about picking on South Carolina, though.How about Auburn's defense in a 3-2 victory over Mississippi State?
Well, Mississippi State only scored 14 points in a loss to Louisiana Tech ... and rushed for only 91 yards.
Are we sure we didn't just see two incompetent offenses? Wipe off those Foster Grants and check again.
Tennessee's defense got shredded in the second half by UCLA, which got shut out at BYU.
Arkansas gave up 24 and 27 points to Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe.
Ole Miss gave up 54 points in its first two games before holding its third opponent to 10 -- that would be FCS team Samford.
LSU might have a great defense, but the Tigers aren't allowed to even enter the discussion with their very soft nonconference schedule -- thus far, Appalachian State and North Texas, which had lost by 39 and 30 points to Kansas State and Tulsa before losing by 38 to LSU.
Florida's defense is loaded with talent, no doubt. And it held Hawaii to 241 total yards. Of course, 1-2 Oregon State held Hawaii to 211 yards
Alabama's defense? Well, dadgumit, the Tide look really good to me against Clemson, so I can't think of anything snappy to say.
As ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel pointed out this week: Eight SEC teams are in the top 30 in total defense.
But how many elite offenses have SEC teams faced so far? Check out the schedule. I'll wait here.
And it's not like those SEC defenses will face elite offenses in conference play, as Ivan also pointed out, "Four SEC teams rank among the top 50 in total offense, and only four rank among the top 59 in passing efficiency."
Now what can be said about SEC defenses when they've encountered Pac-10 offenses in the recent past? Let's take a look.
LSU 22, Oregon State 21: This game is remembered as the one when Oregon State mostly controlled the action but was done in by three missed extra points. The Beavers outgained LSU 315-302. That Tigers defense went on to rank third in the nation (257 ypg).
LSU 35, Arizona State 31: This game was rescheduled from an LSU home game to Arizona State because of Hurricane Katrina. Arizona State outgained the Tigers 560-434, but lost the game because LSU converted a blocked field goal and blocked punt into TDs and LSU QB JaMarcus Russell led a brilliant TD drive in the waning moments.That LSU defense also finished ranked No. 3 in the nation (267 ypg).
Folks down in Baton Rouge often excuse this defensive performance because of Katrina. The problem with the theory is that the LSU players and coaches -- before and after the game -- said that had nothing to do with it.
USC 70, Arkansas 17: USC gained 736 yards against the overmatched Razorbacks. But things got better for the Arkansas D once SEC play started, and the unit ended up ranked 34th in the nation (342 ypg).
USC 50, Arkansas 14: The Razorbacks spent the entire summer talking about revenge. They just missed getting it by 36 points, but they did hold USC to 472 yar
ds. Of course, the Razorbacks overcame 88 points worth of Trojan butt kicking over two seasons to win the SEC West, and their defense finished the season yielding just 299.64 yards per game.
California 45, Tennessee 31: The Bears outgained the Vols 471-382. Now, it's fair to say this was not a great Tennessee defense, but Cal did gain 68 more yards than the Vols' season average.
(And, yes, LSU fans, I'm ignoring the Tigers twin decimations of Arizona -- just like I'm leaving out Oregon's sweep of Mississippi State -- because we're not looking at games against one or the other conference's bottom-feeders).
Now, Georgia has a good defense, no doubt. Any NFL scout will tell you so.
And Arizona State, like Georgia, is inexperienced on the offensive line (and those inexperienced players aren't as talented as Georgia's line).
So the Bulldogs may -- finally -- show the Sun Devils and the Pac-10 what this "SEC defenses rule!" barking is all about by making life miserable for Rudy Carpenter.
But -- and we mean this with all due respect -- folks out West have heard plenty of the talking.
We just ain't seen much of the walking.