Pac-12: New Mexico State Aggies

Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.

Video: No. 13 UCLA 58, New Mexico St. 13

September, 22, 2013
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Steven Manfro and Jordan James each scored two touchdowns in UCLA's 59-13 win over New Mexico State.

Nonconference primer: UCLA

June, 28, 2013
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We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.

UCLA

Nevada, Aug. 31
  • Coach: Brian Polian, first year
  • 2012 record: 7-6, 4-4 Mountain West
  • Returning starters: seven offense, five defense
  • Offensive headliner: Cody Fajardo returns at quarterback after finishing 10th nationally last year in total offense, averaging 325.6 yards per game. He has a career completion percentage of 67.7 percent and accounted for 32 touchdowns last year.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Brock Hekking returns after earning second-team all-league honors last year. He posted eight sacks on the year and was third on the team with 75 tackles.
  • The skinny: How dangerous is Fajardo? Against two Pac-12 teams last year (Cal and Arizona) he completed 74 percent of his throws (47 of 63) and rushed for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He can play. It's a new era following the (second) retirement of Chris Ault, father of the Pistol. But if Polian learned anything from his time at Stanford, you don't fix what's not broken. And Nevada knows how to score. Defense, however, is a different story as the Wolfpack allowed more than 33 points per game in 2012.
at Nebraska, Sept. 14
  • Coach: Bo Pelini (49-20), sixth year
  • 2012 record: 10-4, 7-1 Big Ten
  • Returning starters: seven offense, five defense
  • Offensive headliner: Uber-athletic quarterback Taylor Martinez is on pace to become just the second quarterback in FBS history (joining Colin Kaepernick) to throw for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in a career. He accounted for 33 touchdowns last year, 23 in the air, 10 on the ground, while throwing for 2,871 yards and rushing for 1,019.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Jason Ankrah will be called upon to be the leader of the front seven. He's started 18 games the past two seasons and last year he tallied 26 tackles with six for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
  • The skinny: The Huskers have enjoyed five straight years of at least nine wins and 10 wins in three of the past four years. The Bruins are a team still learning how to handle success. Last season's home victory was a coup for the Bruins. A win in Lincoln would carry even more weight. The Huskers are 19-2 at home in the past three seasons, falling to Texas in 2010 and Northwestern in 2011.
New Mexico State, Sept. 21
  • Coach: Doug Martin, first year
  • 2012 record: 1-11, 0-6 WAC
  • Returning starters: seven offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Despite the poor record, wide receiver Austin Franklin was still a semifinalist last year for the Biletnikoff Award -- which says something coming from a 1-11 team. He caught 74 balls for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns. He was first-team All-WAC and SI.com named him an All-American honorable mention.
  • Defensive headliner: A second-team all-league selection, linebacker Trashaun Nixon started all 12 games last year, recording 96 tackles with 9.5 for loss and three sacks.
  • The skinny: The Aggies enter the season on an 11-game losing skid (their only win last year coming against FCS Sacramento State, the same one that beat Colorado) and they have dropped 14 in a row against FBS competition. After a four-year record of 10-40, DeWayne Walker (formerly of Cal, USC, and UCLA among others) opted to return to the NFL where he's the DB coach for Jacksonville.
Thoughts: There are only three quarterbacks in FBS football who have passed for 4,000 yards and rushed for 1,500 yards over the last two seasons. The Bruins face two of them in Martinez and Fajardo. With the exception of New Mexico State, this is a considerably vigorous nonconference slate. Nevada will test the defense at home in the first week (though it's a test that's passable). Nevada's defensive struggles of late, however, suggest taking the over in this game. Combined rushing yards for Brett Hundley and Fajardo? 250? Then the Bruins get a week off to tweak and correct before making the trip to Lincoln, which will provide a stiff test. And for those who love the chess match aspect of scheming, it's probably worth noting that Nebraska will likely be studying that Nevada game film closely to see what the Bruins do to try and contain Fajardo. (I can tell you right now what the game plan is: Unleash Anthony Barr. Rinse. Repeat). We'll know exactly how much this team has matured by the time New Mexico State comes to town. 3-0 would be outstanding. 2-1 would be respectable. 1-2 would be viewed as a step backward for a program trying to build its brand under Jim Mora.
We're taking a look at the can't-miss games of the 2013 Pac-12 season. The Ultimate Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 4.

Saturday, Sept. 21
  • Arizona State at Stanford
  • Utah State at USC
  • New Mexico State at UCLA
  • Utah at BYU
  • Oregon State at San Diego State
  • Idaho State at Washington
  • Idaho at Washington State
My choice: Arizona State at Stanford

Why: Utah fans, you are excused this week. We understand. Enjoy the BYU rivalry one last time before it goes on holy hiatus. Go forth with the blessing of all other Pac-12 fan bases. May your gang be the jolliest that we have ever seen.

We're also aware of the elevated tensions in the already heated turf war between Idaho and Washington State. So if you feel you feel pulled toward Pullman, you too are excused.

As for the rest of the conference, the ASU-Stanford matchup might end up being a preview of the Pac-12 championship game. Of course, there is a lot that can happen between Week 4 and Thanksgiving, so we're not going to get too far ahead of ourselves.

Still, if the Sun Devils are who we think they are -- and if the Cardinal are who they have been -- then look out, because this could prove to be one of the marquee matchups of the 2013 season.

For starters, you have two extremely efficient quarterbacks in Taylor Kelly and Kevin Hogan -- both of whom operate different schemes, but both seem tailor-made for their systems. But the real storyline is going to be up front (as it often times is, but not always talked about).

The Cardinal have arguably the best defensive front seven in the league. ASU would argue that. But the Cardinal also have an offensive line that few would argue is inferior to anyone else in the conference, maybe the country. So you have the Stanford front trying to keep the likes of Will Sutton and Carl Bradford at bay. There is always a bit of trickery and nuance from week to week with the Cardinal attack, but for the most part, you know what's coming. They are going to run the power straight ahead and beg you to try and stop it. David Yankey vs. Will Sutton. May the best All-American win.

Meanwhile, ASU's offense will do what it can to confuse the Cardinal defense, splitting out Marion Grice and D.J. Foster while slipping Chris Coyle underneath -- all the while trying to keep Ben Gardner and Trent Murphy from greeting Kelly with their face masks. It's going to be a fun chess match with some of the league's top playmakers on both sides of the ball.

The Cardinal will be coming off their long road trip from Army while ASU will be recovering from their home game against Wisconsin. This is the second in a brutal four-game stretch for the Sun Devils (USC and Notre Dame await in the next two weeks). It's also their chance to stand up and show they deserve a seat at the table with the conference big boys.

This one qualifies as not to be missed. Unless you're a Utah fan. We get it.

Search for outrage here!

December, 7, 2009
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The final coaches poll ballots are out.

My favorite: Outgoing Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie didn't rank LSU.

Oregon fans can get mad at Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Texas A&M's Mike Sherman and New Mexico State's DeWayne Walker. They voted the Ducks 10th.

Arizona, Oregon State and Stanford will find plenty of opportunities for annoyance.

Pac-10 coaches will love Jim Harbaugh's vote: He ranked Oregon fifth, his Cardinal 12th, Oregon State 13th, Arizona 14th and USC 25th.

Will UNLV or San Jose State hire a Pac-10 assistant?

November, 18, 2009
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Most assistant coaches want to be head coaches, but it's hard to make that jump because there are only 120 FBS jobs and only 66 of them are in BCS conferences (and Notre Dame).

And only half of those BCS posts are any good.

So when head coaching jobs open up, even for perennial losers, most assistant coaches will raise an interested eyebrow.

That's why the openings at UNLV and San Jose State may cost a Pac-10 team an assistant.

UNLV fired Mike Sanford this week, and California offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt are potential candidates, according to this article.

Serious candidates? Probably not. But still.

Here's a guess that San Jose State, which just accepted the resignation of Dick Tomey, also might vet a few Pac-10 assistants.

The problem for Ludwig or Holt -- or Arizona's Sonny Dykes or Oregon State's Mark Banker -- is knowing when to pull the trigger.

If you wait too long, you might never get a shot -- "old" assistants struggle to get respect from programs looking for "hot, young, up-and-comers." But if you jump at a bad job, it may ruin your reputation when you inevitably fail.

Bob Stoops was so highly thought of as a defensive coordinator at Florida that he was able too wait around for programs like Iowa and Oklahoma to fight over him.

Urban Meyer did the steady climb -- Notre Dame assistant, Bowling Green head coach, Utah head coach, multiple national title winner at Florida.

Former UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker was so convinced that he had bucked the "great coordinator but not head coach material" label that he took the top spot at New Mexico State, which is like betting you can survive a tumble into a black hole.

Of course, I thought the same when former Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey was hired at Idaho, but Akey's Vandals are 7-4 and likely headed to a bowl game.

That surprising success might get some bigger-name programs to take a look at Akey.

So succeeding in a supposed black hole could lead to a big opportunity later.

Or it can lead to your disappearance from head coaching candidate lists for the rest of your career.

Stay tuned, because there are sure to be other openings -- and other rumors. And possibly a hiring.

Washington, Washington State: If not now, when?

September, 7, 2009
9/07/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Is this the weekend that both Washington and Washington State break through?

Should be. But you never know.

Washington is riding a 15-game losing streak -- the nation's longest -- after playing a surprisingly competitive game with LSU. Idaho, picked to finish near the bottom of the WAC, comes next to Husky Stadium on Saturday.

Washington State went 2-11 last year, its only wins coming against FCS program Portland State and, yes, the Huskies. The Cougars, who showed some flickers of hope in a 39-13 home loss to Stanford, will square off with Hawaii in Seattle's Qwest Field on Saturday. The Warriors were picked to finish in the bottom half of the WAC.

The Pac-10, with Oregon's loss at Boise State, is already 1-1 against the WAC, by the way. [Edit note: As some noticed, I forgot about USC's victory over San Jose State -- even though, duh, I was there].

Washington State lost 24-10 at Hawaii last year. The Warriors needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Central Arkansas -- an FCS team -- 25-20 in their opener.

Idaho, which beat New Mexico State 21-6 on Saturday, is the team the Huskies didn't have on the 2008 schedule -- a patsy.

Washington is a 20 1/2-point favorite.

Washington State is a 2-point underdog. Hmm. (I wouldn't be shocked to see that one swing around).

The Cougars play host to SMU the following weekend. That likely will be the only other time the Cougs won't be big underdogs this season.

If the Huskies take the Vandals lightly and get embarrassed at home, then all the goodwill inspired by the strong showing against the Tigers goes poof.

If the Cougars are going to inject any momentum into the season and convince their fans the program is on an uptick, they need to win.

Therefore, it's fair to say both games are must wins.

Walker to New Mexico State

December, 30, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

UCLA apparently needs a new defensive coordinator.

DeWayne Walker, the present leader of the Bruins defense, apparently will be named the new head coach at New Mexico State on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com's Joe Schad.

This is a significant hit not only for the Bruins defense but also for their recruiting.

USC coach Pete Carroll, who formerly employed Walker at USC, said he was "thrilled" for Walker, who becomes the seventh black head coach in FBS football.

"I wish in some regards those guys would have stayed with us because I think they might have had a chance a couple of years ago with all the good fortune we've had," Carroll said.

Might Walker and Verner leave UCLA?

December, 22, 2008
12/22/08
6:47
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker's name continues to bounce around. He's talked to New Mexico State about its head coaching vacancy and he's apparently on a short list to become LSU's next defensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, the Bruins second-team All-Pac-10 junior cornerback Alterraun Verner is considering his NFL prospects.

Needless to say, these are potentially two big blows to the UCLA defense in 2009.

Walker should think long and hard before taking a dead-end job like New Mexico State, though the fact that he's seriously considering it shows how desperate some of the top black assistant coaches are to get head coaching jobs.

Turner Gill had long been a head coaching candidate who kept coming in second or third place, so he took the Buffalo job, which most saw as a doomed-to-failure decision. By force of will and personality, he made it work.

And he almost got the head coaching job at Auburn.

Perhaps Walker envisions going all Dr. Frankenstein over New Mexico State would be the final star on his already-solid resume so he could get a good head coaching job.

As for Verner, he's no can't-wait-to-ditch-the-books rube: He's a two-time, first-team All-Academic selection in the Pac-10.

Pac-10 lunch links: Sarkisian will bring back emotion to UW

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Last lunch links of the regular season!

  • Steve Sarkisian is a good call for Washington. Perky is important, says Art Thiel.
  • Tyrone Willingham to Chicago Tribune: "Maybe Notre Dame got it right" on Charlie Weis.
  • Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter got booted out of a high school girls basketball game.
  • Deposed California quarterback Nate Longshore opens up and admits things haven't been good for him. The Emerald Bowl strikes a deal for California, which means it's Vegas for the Arizona-Arizona State winner.
  • Oregon and Chip Kelly are talking contract.
  • Oregon State will get either Pitt or West Virginia in the Sun Bowl -- unless UCLA upsets USC.
  • UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow has seen an offense as bad as his before -- at USC. And USC hasn't been the same since Chow was run off.
  • USC assistant Ken Norton doesn't want to talk to New Mexico State.

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