Pac-12: Ndamukong Suh

Opening the mailbag: Doubts about Luck?

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
8:12
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Sorry I'm late. Stuff happens.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Tracy from Memphis writes: On your answer to Burke from Boise on the chat, don't be so dogmatic on this Andrew Luck thing. Sometimes the best pro prospect isn't the best college player. A great example of that was about 15 years ago when Peyton Manning was at Tennessee and Tommie Frazier was at Nebraska. Making the case that Manning was a better college player than Frazier when he wasn't even the best QB in the SEC East (Danny Wuerffel was) is ridiculous. So, it isn't just stats with Clemson's Tajh Boyd (who by the way was run off from Tennessee by LANE KIFFIN). Clemson is 8-0 (when they were 6-7 last year), Boyd is playing through a bad hip with underclassmen at WR, TE and RB and is carrying a sieve of a defense. Ditto Robert Griffin III, who has an incredible 205.7 passer rating (22 TDs, 2 INTs, 78% completions) without anywhere near the talent around him that Andrew Luck has. Luck is pretty mobile, but no way he has 2250 total yards and 24 TDs behind Baylor's offensive line. And not having to play TCU, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas like RGIII does really helps Luck's cause too. Yes, Luck will be drafted much higher than Boyd, Griffin, Kellen Moore etc. but Tommie Frazier wasn't drafted at all. This is COLLEGE so it helps to have a more open mind.

Paul from Eugene, Ore., writes: Ted, the Heisman is not supposed to be "for the best player in college football" as you said in your chat today. It is the equivalent of the MVP award in any pro sport. Being the best player means nothing if you don't put up great numbers. You can go to the Heisman trophy official website if you still don't understand. Are you really going to tell me that people thought Troy Smith was the best player in college football? By your logic people should vote for the Heisman winner based on who they think will be drafted highest.

Ted Miller: Here's the exchange in question:

Burke (Boise): if "Luck plays for a team that runs more than it throws," how is he the Heisman front-runner?! He will be a great pro, he's a great college player, but in terms of THIS season (disregarding last season as you must do) Moore, Boyd, RG3 and Wilson are having as good or better seasons. That doesn't even take into account Richardson. Oh, and Stanford has played NO ONE.

Ted Miller (3:35 PM): The Heisman Trophy is supposed to be for the best player in college football. If you held a COLLEGE FOOTBALL draft, every coach in the nation would pick Luck first. For me, the fact that Luck calls running plays at the LOS instead of passing plays because he sees things like a coach instead of a player who wants fancy stats is another reason to give him the Heisman. The award shouldn't just be about numbers. Though I personally like your boy Kellen Moore because I think he deserves a "career achievement" honor.


First, Tracy, you've thrown a lot of stuff at the wall, some of which sticks and some doesn't. And, Paul, yes, lots of folks, including me, voted for Troy Smith for Heisman because we thought he was the best player in college football. (I gave up my vote after joining ESPN.com).

Again what I typed in the chat: "If you held a COLLEGE FOOTBALL draft, every coach in the nation would pick Luck first." I even did ALL CAPS to emphasize I wasn't talking about his NFL prospects.

The Heisman Trophy vote is different things to different people. For one, it's for all practical purposes an Offensive Player of the Year Award. If it wasn't, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh would have won in 2009.

It also often becomes a "Best Player on the Best Team Award." The thing that makes Peyton Manning a bad comparison is his "Florida problem." A huge chink in a Heisman candidate's armor is losing important games.

And so it is with Luck. I don't think Luck wins the Heisman Trophy if the Cardinal doesn't at least win the Pac-12. And I think he's a certainty if the Cardinal finishes 13-0.

There are a lot of Heisman voters and a lot of different ideas about criteria. Statistics? Absolutely. Winning? Crucial. How "good" a guy REALLY is? Can't ignore it. Intangibles/character? For me, that's a part of it, but others feel differently.

If I were debating someone who finds Luck's passing numbers -- outstanding, efficient but not spectacular -- lacking compared to someone else, I'd merely point out that Stanford has won 15 games in a row, the last 10 by 25 or more points, which hasn't happened in the modern era of college football. Luck is supported by one of the nation's best defenses, so he's not desperate to pile up points and passing yards. Further, he calls his own plays at the line of scrimmage, more often than not checking down to a running play that gains 10 yards instead of a passing play against two deep safeties who are quaking in their boots.

I love Tajh Boyd and Robert Griffin and Trent Richardson, and I was a major part of the "character rebellion" that inspired the FWAA to selected Kellen Moore as the first-team All-American QB in 2010 over other candidates with troubling off-field questions.

But, folks, Luck is special in so many ways -- numbers, talent, character, brains, humility, a righteous off-season beard -- that if Stanford wins out there should be exactly zero question who gets the stiff-arm trophy in December.

Justin from Portland, Ore., writes: Thanks Ted! You picked OSU to lose, again, which means we'll win. No Jordan Wynn = a LONG day for Utah, especially with OSU's D coming on. (Sean) Mannion will probably have some mistakes in this game against a good D, but not enough to cost the game as Utah struggles to do anything on O. Payback for the game we gave away to Utah in 2008. Utah isn't going to rally... They are a complete dumpster fire at QB without Jordan Wynn. I totally respect Utah's program (unlike the national media) and what they've done over the past years. Just glad its this team and not the 2008 team that's opening up their first year in the Pac-12, because that 08 team would have made some noise.

Ted Miller: Justin gets respect because he tells me I'm wrong BEFORE the game is played.

Lots of notes gloat about my wrongness after the game, which is sort of silly.

Justin, you have full trash-talking rights if the Beavers win, which they always do when I don't pick them.

Cats from New York writes: What is the likelihood Arizona hires Chris Petersen and or another big-time coach like Gus Malzahn - someone that can get rid of the spread and run a pro-style game?

Ted Miller: That seems like two pretty extreme examples on the "big-name" list.

Petersen is an absolute home run. Huge long shot. But his consistent success, which has included a substantial upgrade in the talent at Boise State, to me makes him a much different candidate than Dan Hawkins was back in the day. I think Petersen is just one of those coaches, to quote Bum Phillips, "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."

Gus Malzahn? Not the same thing. You might want to study the post-Cam Newton Auburn numbers here. If you're going to go the coordinator route, I'm on record as a big fan of Wisconsin's Paul Chryst.

But the likelihood of a big name coming to Tucson is directly related to the likelihood that Arizona will pay someone more than $2 million a year, as well as promise at least that much to pay a nine-man staff.

David from Sacramento writes: There's no question that CAL hasn't been the same since the 2007 Oregon St. Kevin Riley scramble. Anywho, This is the way i look at cal. They haven't gone to the Rose Bowl since the 50's and obviously haven't been much of a factor in the conference in the last 50 years. Are they cursed like the Red Sox were? I mean, was Kevin Rileys scramble in 2007 the Bill Buckner of 1986 ????? And is watching SC win titles and Rose Bowls like watching the Yankees as a Red Sox fan? What is it? "The Curse of the great Pappy Waldorf" or how bout "The curse of the great Nate Longshore getting hurt so Kevin Riley scrambled" or maybe "The curse of the Great Mack Brown" Please come up with something witty to describe this torture of being California Golden Bear supporter.

Jerris from Queens, NY, writes: The Bears should roll over UCLA, which is awful on defense? After reading that as an Old Blue, I completely expect Cal to be shut out by a shockingly adept and inspired UCLA defense. That's just how it works.

Ted Miller: I have no biases among Pac-12 teams. But I do love Cal fans.

They send me notes like these. Per capita, they send the fewest, "You're a &%$ idiot" notes and the most 2,000-word essays. I love the earnestness. And humor. If the ultimate Cal fan were played in a movie, Adam Goldberg would get the part: Smart, hopeful, neurotic but in the end mostly centered. (And before Cal fans take offense he dated Christina Ricci. 'Nuff said, eh?).

David, give me some time to think about it. Cal fans deserve the effort.

Jack from Washington, D.C., writes: Why all the love for Woods in the PAC-12 Superlative tracker and Heisman watch and no mention of Allen. Woods is a top-shelf talent, no doubt, but Allen has equal yardage and ypg on fewer receptions and doesn't have the benefit of Barkley throwing to him. His one-handed grab last week alone should get him at least an honorable mention.

Ted Miller: Keenan Allen is a great player. He and (Robert) Woods look like the first-team All-Pac-12 receivers.

But! Woods team is 6-1 and Allen's is 4-3. And Woods has eight touchdowns to five for Allen.

Let the season play out. If Allen leads the conference in receiving yards, and the Bears win seven or eight games, he'll get plenty of notice.

Peter from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Please make my birthday wish come true and answer this question: Looking at ASU's remaining schedule, it looks like they'll win out (at least on paper). Who do you think poses the biggest threat to a 10-2 regular season record? I'm going to defer to the rivalry aspect and pick UofA but I'm curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

Ted Miller: The obvious answer is either Arizona or California, which look like the two toughest games.

But good teams often blow it on the road against teams they overlook (see USC through the years). That's why you should fret road games at UCLA and Washington State the first two weekends of November. Those strike me as worrisome.

And happy birthday.

Don Hallstrom from Denver writes: I wanted to see if you could give me some information about Cal Football recruiting? I recently saw a listing of top 50 projected classes and Cal wasn't even in the list. How is their recruiting going?Do you think the new facilities will ultimately help with the recruiting?

Ted Miller: Here's Cal's list of eight commitments, which looks fairly solid to me.

It's too early to panic about a recruiting class. From what I can tell -- recruiting is not really my bailiwick -- the Bears are in on a number of top players. Coach Jeff Tedford has signed consecutive strong classes, so there's no reason to expect a decline for the 2012 class, particularly with USC only allowed to sign 15 players, per NCAA sanctions.

And, yes, I think shiny new facilities will further boost the Bears' efforts.

Jay from Encinitas, Calif., writes: You may want to check again about the all-time record between UCLA and Cal. The Bruins lead the series 49-31-1, including winning 18 straight during the 70's and 80's. The Bruins are 10-4 versus Cal at the Rose Bowl, winning 4 of the last 5 games played there.

Ted Miller: Correct. Got a lot of notes on this, including a number from some potty mouths.

I could whine that the info was wrong on the OFFICIAL PAC-12 RELEASE, but if I had paused and thought, "Hmm, does Cal REALLY lead its series with UCLA 50-29-1?" I would have then double-checked.

So my bad.

Kearse eager for Nebraska challenge

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
1:27
PM ET
Washington receiver Jermaine Kearse's final stats looked pretty good after the BYU game. He caught five passes for 108 yards, among them a 43-yard reception and a 19-yard TD. That shouldn't be surprising. Kearse is one of the best receivers in the Pac-10 and quarterback Jake Locker's favorite target.

[+] EnlargeJermaine Kearse
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesWashington receiver Jermaine Kearse is quarterback Jake Locker's favorite target.
But the stat box doesn't include drops. Or "what ifs." As in: What if the normally sure-handed Kearse didn't drop three passes? Might that have changed the ultimate number -- the scoreboard reading a disappointing 23-17 in favor of BYU?

"I put too my pressure on myself," said Kearse, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior when asked to diagnose what went wrong on the drops. "It's the first game and you have so much adrenaline going on in the first game."

The dreaded dropsies can be the ruin of a receiver. So it wasn't unfair to wonder how Kearse might respond when the Huskies played host to Syracuse last weekend. It was enough of a concern, in fact, that coach Steve Sarkisian gave his second-team All-Pac-10 receiver a brief pep talk.

"I said, 'Don't try too hard.' Sometimes when a guy doesn't have the best game of his career -- you know, he struggles a little bit -- he can come out and try too hard," Sarkisian said. "I just said, 'Just let the game come to you. You're going to get your opportunities.' And I thought he did that.''

Oh yes he did. Kearse earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors after hauling in a career-high nine passes for 179 yards with three touchdowns. And no drops. As for the three TDs, each involved him making a play with the ball to get into the endzone. The best one came on the first play of the third quarter, when he transformed a short pass into a 57-yard TD, which sparked the Huskies rout.

Said Locker, whose numbers were far shinier due to Kearse's efforts: "I think Jermaine took it upon himself to really come out and be dominant [against Syracuse] and he was. It was really fun to watch. He expects a lot out himself, and I think you were able to see that [last] Saturday."

Ah, but Locker, Kearse and the Huskies face a far tougher test on Saturday: No. 8 Nebraska. And it's not just that the Cornhuskers are a top-10 team. For Locker and Kearse, it's a matter of facing an elite defense whose strength is the secondary, which might be the best unit in the nation, led by cornerback Prince Amukamara.

While Nebraska lost five starters from last season's dominating defense, including extraordinary tackle Ndamukong Suh, coach Bo Pelini hasn't been shy about saying this year's crew should be better. The Cornhuskers, who often employ seven defensive backs at a time, already have six interceptions.

"You'd like to think you have better odds of running the football, but they hold up pretty well," Sarkisian said. "The minus [for an offense] is, they've got defensive backs not only covering your receivers but covering your tight ends and covering your running backs out of the backfield. So they're able to stay close to guys. There's not a lot of room for error, not a lot of room to throw balls. So there's a real onus on the quarterback to know what coverage it is and anticipate throws and be accurate.''

In other words, Nebraska will pose a major test for Locker to prove he's improved his accuracy. If Locker can complete 60 percent of his passes vs. Nebraska, he can do it against any college defense. And NFL scouts will take note.

And Kearse is Locker's go-to guy, even though the Huskies are deep at receiver. Kearse is third in the nation with 143.5 yards receiving. No. 2 receiver, junior Devin Aguilar, averages 69 yards per game.

"I think we have enough playmakers to make them defend the whole field," Kearse said.

That includes trying to get the running game going with Chris Polk. That might be a significant challenge vs. the Cornhuskers, particularly with a shuffling on the offensive line this week that might make true freshman Erik Kohler a starting guard.

In other words, the Huskies must be consistent in the passing game to win. If Locker makes his national breakthrough, that likely also will mean Kearse posts a "hello world" performance.

"Obviously, I have personal goals," Kearse said. "But those will come with helping the team win."

That means walking off the field with an impressive box score as well as no "what ifs."

NFL can wait for Beavers' Paea

April, 9, 2010
4/09/10
11:20
AM ET
A few years ago, Oregon State's Stephen Paea didn't know anything about football. A few months ago, however, he was deciding whether it was going to make him rich this spring.

Despite a deep draft class at defensive tackle, it's hard to believe Paea would have lasted past the third round. His pure power and explosiveness suggest tremendous upside, even more so when you consider he didn't start playing the game until his senior year of high school.

"He is one of the best tackles I've coached at any level," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

[+] EnlargeStephen Paea
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIDefensive tackle Stephen Paea will use another year at Oregon State to prepare for the NFL.
But he opted to come back for his senior season for a variety of reasons.

"I just don't feel it was my turn to go to the league," Paea said. "I feel like I owe Oregon State a favor to come back and finish school. ... If not for Oregon State, I don't think I'd have these honors."

His honors include the Morris Trophy, which is given annually to the Pac-10's top defensive lineman as voted on by opposing offensive linemen.

Paea's numbers are good but won't blow anyone away. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded 19.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. But he's faced double-teams much of the time and still managed to be a disruptive force in the middle.

Not that he can't get better. He's been watching film of soon-to-be top-five picks Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh (On Suh: "He's a playmaker. He's a linebacker in a three-point stance.") as well as NFL Hall of Famer John Randall, trying to learn the finer points of playing defensive tackle.

Much of what he needs to do to get better should come just from seeing more action. He arrived at Oregon State after two years of junior college -- one as a redshirt -- but nonetheless broke into the starting lineup.

"I feel like my eyes need to get better," he said. "Sometimes the play is right there but I don't come off the block and make the play. I see how Suh and Gerald McCoy do that. That's their experience."

One things is certain: The now 310-pound Paea will test well at the NFL combine. He was recently captured on YouTube bench pressing 225 pounds 44 times. The NFL combine record is 45 repetitions, which is shared by three players, including former Arkansas offensive lineman Mitch Petrus this year. And the former rugby star is not just a meathead. His quickness is nearly as impressive as his strength. His highlight videos offer many examples of him running down plays.

But Paea said the NFL isn't front and center. The Beavers should again be in the thick of the Rose Bowl race, and he knows that he's a big reason why.

If he produces up to expectations, then he and the Beavers should thrive. And the NFL will be watching.

"I'm going to forget about the league and just play," he said. "Film doesn't lie. I've got to stay hungry and play every play like it's fourth-and-1."

Pac-10 lunch links: Cal's stadium plans move forward

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
2:30
PM ET
McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?

Defensive NFL ROY has Pac-10 flavor

January, 7, 2010
1/07/10
12:15
PM ET
I know this is a day late, but take a gander at this:


What do you notice?

That the former Pac-10 defensive players went one, two, three in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Not too shabby.

Five Pac-10 defensive players are candidates to be drafted in the first two rounds this spring: UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, USC safety Taylor Mays, USC defensive end Everson Griffen, California cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. Oregon State's junior defensive tackle Stephen Paea would join that list if he opts to enter the draft.

Wonder if any of them will challenge Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry or Gerald McCoy for 2010 Rookie of the Year honors?

Holiday Bowl preview

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
9:43
AM ET
Breaking down the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl between No. 20 Arizona (8-4) and No. 22 Nebraska (9-4).

WHO TO WATCH: Arizona quarterback Nick Foles doesn't have great mobility -- though his supposed lack of mobility is overplayed -- but the reason he wasn't sacked many times this year is his quick release in the Wildcats' short passing game that emphasizes spreading the field with four or five receivers, hitting screens and quick hitches and trying to beat one-on-one matchups. The key to slowing down one of the best defenses in the country -- the Cornhuskers rank second in the nation in scoring defense (11.23 ppg) and ninth in total defense (284.5 yards per game) -- is to distribute the ball before the pressure arrives. That's Foles' job and he's done it well most of the year. But can he do it against Nebraska?

WHAT TO WATCH: Can the Arizona offensive line handle the Nebraska defensive front? Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh is the best defensive tackle in the country -- he might be the best overall player in the country after rolling up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks despite near-constant double teams. And the guy beside him, Jared Crick, isn't chopped liver, either. Few teams have had any success rushing against the Cornhuskers, particularly between the tackles. The interior of the Wildcats' offensive line -- center Colin Baxter and guards Conan Amituanai, Herman Hall and Vaughn Dotsy -- will face its biggest challenge of the year. Of course, the return of slashing running back Nic Grigsby from a shoulder injury means the Wildcats' running game may seek the perimeter and use cutbacks to keep the aggressive Cornhuskers at bay.

WHY TO WATCH: It's a showdown between ranked teams from BCS conferences, and both programs are trying to maintain upward momentum heading into the offseason. It's also fair to say both teams should be happy to be in the Holiday Bowl, even though both were close to bigger bowl games. The Cornhuskers were nipped by Texas in the last moments of the Big 12 title game, while Arizona was only a play or two away from the Rose Bowl. Further, Suh will be playing his last college before heading off to the NFL, where he could be the No. 1 overall pick this spring.

PREDICTION: Don't expect a lot of points. Nebraska's great defense should be able to slow Arizona's good offense, while the Wildcats' solid defense should be able to contain Nebraska's struggling offense. The key for Arizona is Foles' quick release and the defense stopping the run and putting pressure on Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee to make plays passing. And turnovers. Never forget those. The game hints at being tight throughout, but it seems that Arizona's balance on both sides of the ball should help it prevail 23-20.

Arizona's O-line not afraid of Suh

December, 28, 2009
12/28/09
6:01
PM ET
He may have grown up quick and grown up mean, but Arizona's offensive line is eager to challenge this boy named Suh.

Oh, the Wildcats have heard all the talk. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's 6-foot-4, 300-pounds defensive tackle, is unstoppable. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the AP Player of the Year and he may be the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL draft. Heck, against Texas in the Big 12 title game, he piled up 4.5 sacks, and the Longhorns are only playing for the national title.

Yes, they've heard it all and seen it all on film. Yes, Suh is very good. But if the Wildcats are scared, they are keeping it to themselves as they prepare for a date with Suh and the Cornhuskers in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Wednesday.

"We're not intimidated at all," center Colin Baxter said. "We respect what he can do. We know we have to be on top of our game. But I don't think they've really seen an offensive line like us."

Baxter was more colorful in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, apparently showing some signs of a new syndrome we'll call "Suh Questions Exhaustion."

"He's not some kind of Superman. He's a good player," Baxter told the Star. "The media talks it up a lot. You see the guy on 'SportsCenter' and some people get the idea that he's God or something. That he's Jesus as a football player, that he's just going to walk past the offensive line. He's a good player, and you have to respect that."

Suh is a little bit better than good. He's a spectacular athlete for a 300 pounder. He piled up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks despite near-constant double teams.

"Any time guys use bad technique or get out of position he makes them pay for it," Baxter said.

Baxter hastens to add that the Cornhuskers other tackle, Jared Crick, "is no slouch." Crick had 12.5 tackles for a loss.

"He's really good too," Baxter said. "You can't only focus on Suh. Their defensive ends are good too. It's really a whole defensive unit."

That makes sense. One man doesn't make a defense, particularly one that ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (11.23 ppg) and ninth in total defense (284.5 yards per game).

But Suh is where everything starts. He commands extra attention, which frees up others, including Crick. It's nearly impossible to run between the tackles against the Cornhuskers, and few quarterbacks have found things safe and secure inside the pocket -- see a wide-eyed Colt McCoy in the Big 12 title game.

The Wildcats ran the ball fairly well this year (167 yards per game) and will benefit from the return of starting tailback Nic Grigsby, who's missed much of the year with a shoulder sprain. But their forte is the quick passing game with quarterback Nick Foles. The Wildcats only gave up 11 sacks in large part because of Foles' quick release.

Coach Mike Stoops noted that the Wildcats screen game will be important and in many ways could substitute for a ball-control running attack because Foles completes 66 percent of his passes.

Still, Suh isn't a guy who's easy to scheme around.

"He's very disruptive. He's very smart. He's a very complete player," Stoops said. "He's all over the place. That tells me he's very instinctive and smart and can read things very quickly."

Sort of like he's superhuman!

Perhaps that sort of talk will be more motivation for Baxter and the Wildcats O-line.

Who's going to win: Middle bowls

December, 28, 2009
12/28/09
8:54
AM ET
These picks will take us up to the Rose Bowl presented by Citi on Jan. 1.

Went 2-1 with the early bowls -- Cal, drrrrr! -- which leaves the season record at 57-20.

EagleBank Bowl, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. (ET) ESPN

UCLA 24, Temple 17: Though the Bruins' defense wasn't great against the run, it should have enough to slow down Temple's tough rushing attack, while the struggling offense should have enough to provide the winning margin. While the Owls, playing in their first bowl game in 30 years, figure to show up with plenty of passion, it's hard to get past their 35-17 loss to Ohio in the season finale that knocked them out of the MAC championship game.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ET) ESPN

Arizona 23, Nebraska 20: Arizona quarterback Nick Foles gets rid of the ball quickly, which will be critical against Ndamukong Suh and a tough Nebraska defense. The bigger question might be whether the Cornhuskers will be able to run the ball against the Wildcats. The Wildcats would love to force quarterback Zac Lee to beat them. Arizona looks to have a slight advantage in both areas.

Brut Sun Bowl, Thursday, 2 p.m. (ET) CBS

Oklahoma 30, Stanford 21: Even if Andrew Luck is able to play with a surgically repaired finger, he won't be 100 percent, and that means the Sooners' outstanding defense will gang up on Toby Gerhart. Moreover, the Sooners have enough speed at the offensive skill positions to exploit a middling Stanford defense that lacks overall athleticism.

Gerhart is a bridesmaid again

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
2:39
PM ET
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart keeps coming in second place.

First, Gerhart finished second to Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history.

Then he finished just behind Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year voting.

Suh received 26 first-place votes. Gerhart got 20. Ingram finished well behind, tied for third with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with six votes apiece.

Gerhart did, however, win the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's best running back. He and the Cardinal play Oklahoma in the Brut Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Suh was the first defensive player to win the AP award.

Dykes says he's staying and other Arizona notes

December, 18, 2009
12/18/09
9:41
AM ET
This notebook from Ryan Finley is overflowing with interesting Arizona news and notes.

  • Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes denies the rumors that he's going to follow former Wildcats athletic director Jim Livengood from Arizona to UNLV and become the Rebels' head football coach.
  • New co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown, formerly Colorado's secondary coach, is attending practices. He will team with linebackers coach Tim Kish to replace Mark Stoops, who was hired by Florida State.
  • Running back Nic Grigsby (shoulder) and receiver David Douglas (thigh bruise) are feeling much healthier and should be ready to play against Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
  • Linebacker Sterling Lewis isn't going to party before this bowl game. He learned his lesson on that last year.
Being healthy on offense -- and having Dykes in place -- will be critical against the outstanding Cornhuskers defense, which, of course, is led by otherworldly defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Brown was a longtime NFL coach, specializing in the secondary, before joining Dan Hawkins' staff four seasons ago. Read his bio here. Stoops will coach the Wildcats through the Holiday Bowl.

Gerhart was a unanimous All-American

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
2:16
PM ET
Stanford running back Toby Gerhart was a unanimous pick for first-team All-American while UCLA kicker Kai Forbath was a consensus All-American.

Here's the list as it will appear in the 2010 NCAA Football Records.

Offense

WR -- Jordan Shipley, Texas, 6-0, 190, Senior

WR -- *Golden Tate, Notre Dame, 5-11, 195, Junior

TE -- Dennis Pitta, BYU, 6-5, 247, Senior

OL -- Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6-6, 330, Senior

OL -- Mike Johnson, Alabama, 6-6, 305, Senior

OL -- *Russell Okung, Oklahoma St., 6-5, 300, Senior

OL -- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, 6-5, 318, Senior

C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida, 6-5, 318, Junior

QB -- *Colt McCoy, Texas, 6-2, 210, Senior

RB -- *Toby Gerhart, Stanford, 6-1, 235, Senior

RB -- *Mark Ingram, Alabama, 5-10, 215, Sophomore

PK -- Kai Forbath, UCLA, 6-0, 192, Junior

Returner/All-Purpose -- *C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 5-11, 195

Defense

DL -- Terrence Cody, Alabama, 6-5, 365, Senior

DL -- *Jerry Hughes, TCU, 6-3, 257, Senior

DL -- Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, 6-4, 297, Junior

DL -- *Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 6-4, 300, Senior

LB -- Greg Jones, Michigan St., 6-1, 228, Junior

LB -- *Rolando McClain, Alabama, 6-4, 258, Junior

LB -- Brandon Spikes, Florida, 6-3, 258, Senior

DB -- Javier Arenas, Alabama, 5-9, 198, Senior

DB -- *Eric Berry, Tennessee, 5-11, 203, Junior

DB -- *Joe Haden, Florida, 5-11, 190, Junior

DB -- Earl Thomas, Texas, 5-10, 197, Sophomore

P -- *Drew Butler, Georgia, 6-2, 203, Sophomore

* Indicates unanimous first team selection; Bold indicates consensus repeater from 2008

Here's an explanation of how the list was compiled from Jeff Williams, the NCAA's Assistant Director of Statistics:

The players listed had the highest number of points competing against players at that position only. A points system was used for the selections of the All-America team (three points for first team, two points for second team and one point for third team). Twelve players were unanimous choices by the five organizations used in the consensus chart -- American Football Coaches Association (First Team), Associated Press (First, Second and Third Teams), Football Writers Association of America (First Team), The Sporting News (First, Second and Third Teams) and Walter Camp Foundation (First and Second Teams). Note: Each of the five teams has a different way of listing the returner or all-purpose player. For the purpose of the Consensus All-America team those categories were treated as one position.

Locker No. 1?

December, 14, 2009
12/14/09
9:25
AM ET
ESPN.com's NFL draft guru Todd McShay has published his first 2010 mock draft, and Washington fans may not be thrilled by who sits on top.

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker, who's still considering whether he wants to return for his senior season, is projected as the No. 1 overall pick.

Yes, Locker is slotted to go to the St. Louis Rams, ahead of such luminaries as Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Tennessee's Eric Berry.

Locker has until Jan. 15 to make his final decision, but Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian said he expects his quarterback to decide before the deadline. He also said he was "optimistic" that Locker will decide to return.

Pac-10 lunch links: Gerhart should win the Heisman

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
2:30
PM ET
You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, "You're gonna like this guy. He's all right. He's a good fella. He's one of us." You understand? We were good fellas. Wiseguys.

Ranking the Pac-10 bowls

December, 10, 2009
12/10/09
10:20
AM ET
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach ranked this year's bowl games, and here's how the Pac-10 games fared:

3. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi
No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Oregon
4:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1

7. MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
No. 18 Oregon State vs. No. 14 BYU
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 22

11. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
No. 20 Arizona vs. No. 22 Nebraska
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 30

13. Brut Sun Bowl
No. 21 Stanford vs. Oklahoma
2 p.m. ET, Dec. 31

14. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
No. 23 Utah vs. California
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 23

18. Emerald Bowl
Boston College vs. No. 25 Southern California
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 26

33. Eagle Bank Bowl
Army/UCLA vs. Temple
4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 29

This seems mostly reasonable to me, though this is as subjective as you can get.

Besides the Rose Bowl, which I think is going to come down to the final minutes, I'm curious how Arizona will handle Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who's an extraordinary player.

I'm also extremely curious to see how USC looks vs. Boston College. The talent disparity between the programs is gaping, but the Golden Eagles are going to come out swinging, hungry to prove themselves vs. a program that probably inspires a little awe in them.

Please note: I typed "program." BC won't be in awe once they watch game tape, particularly the Stanford game.

USC? We'll find out how much heart this team has.

Gerhart goes from long odds to Heisman finalist

December, 8, 2009
12/08/09
5:53
PM ET
While it might seem like Stanford running back Toby Gerhart burst onto the scene late in the 2009 season, he started talking about winning the Heisman Trophy with his dad before the season even started.

"My father said, 'Hey, you know you are like 750-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy? Think I should throw $10 on you or something?'" Gerhart said.

It would have been a nice play.

The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Gerhart found out Monday, while surrounded by his Cardinal teammates, that he was one of five finalists invited to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

"It was super-exciting," he said. "Everybody was fist-pumping, chest-bumping. "

But Gerhart, a first-team All-Academic pick in the Pac-10, didn't get to celebrate long. He had to rush to an exam. In fact, he took two after he found out he was headed to New York.

What fun.

Gerhart said he hasn't been to Manhattan since he was "11 or 12," when he visited during a baseball tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Just because Gerhart is a Stanford guy doesn't mean he's going to get reservations at Per Se, go see the new David Mamet play and then hang out late at all the cool clubs.

"I don't know if I'd take the sophisticated route and go see a play," he said. "If I have any free time, I'll probably go hang out in Times Square."

He is looking forward to hanging out with his fellow finalists: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

After all the fun is over, Gerhart and Stanford need to get back to business: A Sun Bowl date on New Year's Eve with Oklahoma.

It was announced this week starting quarterback Andrew Luck is doubtful to play after surgery on the broken index finger of his throwing hand, but Gerhart said he and his teammates believe they can win with senior backup Tavita Pritchard, who has started 19 career games.

"It's definitely going to be different without Luck in the huddle but there's no doubt in my mind that Tavita is going to do well and excel," he said.

But first, he goes to New York with a chance to win the biggest individual award in college sports.

"It's something you dream about but never think you'll really get," he said.

SPONSORED HEADLINES