Pac-12: Nick Ekbatani
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To the notes!
Nick from Boise writes: Will the Pac-12 take a step forward or backward this year in its relative power ranking with the other conferences?
Ted Miller: Interesting question. My guess from today's vantage point is it will remain the same. Most folks probably would rate the Pac-12 as the No. 3 or 4 conference behind the No. 1 SEC and No. 2 Big 12, which perks up considerably with the addition of West Virginia and TCU. The Pac-12 and Big Ten seem to be fighting for the third spot.
I'd rate the conference No. 3, ahead of the Big Ten, but not with an overbrimming confidence I was correct.
It seems pretty clear the Pac-12 has two elite teams: USC and Oregon. The conference can gain ground in the national pecking order if those two play as expected and at least a couple other teams notch some nice nonconference wins and climb into the top 25.
Stanford gives the Pac-12 a third top-25 team in the preseason. Washington, Utah and California look like three teams that, if things fall into place, could also make a move. UCLA also might be an interesting team to watch.
It also would help if the bottom picks up and the conference produces eight or so bowl-eligible teams.
Some of you are slapping your foreheads, just wanting me to shill for the conference -- as I am accused of doing by many fans in other conferences when I question their preconceptions. But this debate really isn't about the Pac-12 blog's position. It's about observing what's out there, even though perception is hardly inviolable. The best way for the conference to improve its power ranking is winning nonconference games and bowl games. Going 2-5 in bowl games doesn't help, even if a made Stanford field goal in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State would have changed perceptions.
How can the Pac-12 gain ground? Well, what if Washington upsets LSU? Or California wins at Ohio State? Or UCLA celebrates the arrival of Jim Mora with a victory over Nebraska?
There are a lot of those games: Arizona has a shot against a rebuilding Oklahoma State team at home. Arizona State has Illinois and Missouri, which would allow the conference to backdoor a win against the SEC. Oregon State has Wisconsin visiting Corvallis. Notre Dame and BYU both have multiple Pac-12 games. And it would help if no nonconference foe notches an upset against the conference -- say Colorado at Fresno State or San Diego State at Washington.
Of course, the Big Kahuna is the national title. If a Pac-12 team left a bootprint on the forehead of the SEC champ, that would help perception.
Ty from Salt Lake City writes: What are the chances John White IV becomes a serious contender for the Heisman?
Ted Miller: I get asked this sort of question a lot. So the following answer works for any of your favorite potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
White is a good running back who, nonetheless, enters the season as a decided darkhorse when you talk about Heisman candidates. How he gets into the Heisman race is simple: 1. Win; 2. Pile up big numbers.
Let's say that White, after averaging 150 yards and scoring six touchdowns in his first four games, takes center stage for a Thursday-night ESPN showdown with top-ranked USC. The game previews would undoubtedly focus on him and a fellow on the other sideline by the name of "Matt Barkley."
An introduction: Juan Blanco Cuatro, this is opportunity. Opportunity, this is Juan Blanco Cuatro.
And let's say White, with the nation watching, and SEC fans rooting for USC to lose so their team doesn't have to get whipped by the Trojans in the national title game, goes nuts, rushing for 188 yards and two scores in a Utes' upset win.
Somewhere near the top of the Pac-12 blog game story -- and everyone else's -- it would say: "And John White now becomes Heisman Trophy candidate, Ty from Salt Lake City."
Malamute from Quack Hell, Wash., writes: I'm curious about what [Pac-12 commissioner Larry] Scott thinks about the following but wondered your thoughts on these as well: - Will OOC S.O.S [out-of-conference strength of schedule] play a part in the new playoff scenario? - What do you think about the Hancock's involvement in the selection committee and playoff process? I think it's bad news. He oversaw the system that we just ditched. On what planet does it make sense to have the same guy involved in a new process? - Do you have any concerns about any biases that may rear up during the playoff process against PAC 12 teams? - Will you come up to Seattle to check out both the team and the new stadium?
Ted Miller: "Quack Hell, Washington?" I lived in Seattle for nine years and never got to visit.
- Will OOC S.O.S play a part in the new playoff scenario? Yes, nonconference scheduling and overall strength of schedule will matter. Hopefully a lot. The question is how. This was a key issue for Larry Scott. Conferences, such as the Pac-12, which play nine conference games and a tough nonconference schedule need to get a bonus when compared to conferences that play eight conference games and a weak nonconference schedule. The "Our conference is too tough to play a tough schedule" argument needs to be discarded because it's stupid and unfair.
- What do you think about the Hancock's involvement in the selection committee and playoff process? BCS executive director Bill Hancock is a really good guy who has a thankless job. He's not unlike a defense lawyer hired to represent an obviously guilty person. In the end, it would be more dubious for him not to do his best, which is what Hancock did when standing up for the BCS. Further, he's an administrator. Ultimate decisions about the BCS and now the four-team playoff weren't his. He merely is the guy who does the bidding of the presidents and conference commissioners. In other words, most of the dirty work, such as dealing with the media. I think he'd do a fine job administrating the next chapter of the college football postseason if that happens.
- Do you have any concerns about any biases that may rear up during the playoff process against PAC 12 teams? Yes. And so does Scott. Folks with some influence in the process from the West Coast side of things need to remain vigilant and fight to make sure potential biases are confronted.
- Will you come up to Seattle to check out both the team and the new stadium? Hopefully. Kevin and I go where the winning teams are. If the Huskies start winning, we'll be there.
Blue from San Francisco writes: Ted, just thought you should know that Top Dog is setting up shop inside Memorial this year. Get excited.
Ted Miller: I just gained five pounds thinking about that.
By the way, a Cal spokesperson told me this might not yet be a done deal. Keep your fingers crossed.
Bryan from Torrance, Calif., writes: Hi Ted, Just wanted to let you know that the Nick Ekbatani Fund has reached it's goal of $50,000. Here is the link. I first heard about this through this blog, so I want to thank you and everyone who sent a donation for this cause. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to your posts about the upcoming football season.
Ted Miller: Awesome. Our hopes and prayers are with Nick.
- Arizona has played against some good defensive players. Not sure if any are as good as Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh.
- In the end, it was the Bad California Bears that left the biggest mark on the season. What went wrong? Just about everything.
- Oregon has a fancypants offense, but Ohio State might have the best defense the Ducks have faced this season.
- Paul Buker: Oregon State didn't show up. The Beavers future, despite the Las Vegas Bowl debacle, looks bright.
- Transcript to an interesting interview with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh here. Harbaugh is at his colorful best talking about running back Toby Gerhart.
- UCLA safety Rahim Moore is thrilled to play in the EagleBank Bowl. Nick Ekbatani gets a shot to go out on top.
- USC's defense wants to end a disappointing season on a high note.
- Washington will hold its spring game at night under the lights.
- Jon Wilner considers the Pac-10's horrible start to the bowl season.
UCLA's starting center Kai Maiava and reserve freshman receiver/tight end Morrell Presley are academically ineligible to play against Temple in the EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 29, while troubled freshman offense guard Stanley Hasiak has left the team and returned home to Hawaii for personal reasons.
The Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register reported that Hasiak, an elite member of the Bruins' 2009 recruiting class, is unlikely to return to the team.
Jake Dean will move from guard to center and replace Maiava, a transfer from Colorado, and Nick Ekbatani will start at guard.
On the plus side, it appears that quarterback Kevin Prince, who hurt his shoulder against USC, is healthy and will start.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
There are some high-profile injuries in the conference right now. Here's an update.
- Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski (back): He's trying to practice this week in order to play at Iowa but the guess here is the best-case scenario is Gronkowski seeing only a handful of snaps. Coach Mike Stoops might opt to rest him hoping he'll be ready when the Pac-10 games start on Sept. 26. And, if Gronk plays, keep in mind he missed almost all of preseason camp. As good as he is, there should be some rust.
- Arizona State DT Lawrence Guy (biceps): It appears Guy will play against Louisiana-Monroe. Dennis Erickson told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday: "I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's pretty close."
- Oregon FS T.J. Ward (ankle) & LB Spencer Paysinger (elbow): While Oregon coach Chip Kelly calls all his injured players "day-to-day" -- thereby forcing all haggard sportswriters to reply, "Aren't we all, coach?" -- Ward seems far closer to doubtful than questionable for the Utah visit. Paysinger practiced Tuesday, so he sounds probable.
- Oregon State WR Darrell Catchings (wrist): Catchings was catching Tuesday, so let's upgrade his status to questionable. If he's ready to go that should elevate the Beavers passing game with a tough Cincinnati squad coming to Corvallis. Some other injury info here.
- Stanford DT Matt Masifilo: Masifilo suffered a knee injury at Wake Forest and will be out six weeks. The good news is backup Sione Fua has experience.
- UCLA RB Christian Ramirez (ankle), DE Reginald Stokes (knee), OL Nick Ekbatani (knee) & WR Gavin Ketchum (hamstring): Though it's unlikely any of these four will be available for Saturday's game with Kansas State, all four are at least doing light running, meaning they could be ready after the bye week for the Pac-10 opener vs. Stanford on Oct. 3.
- USC QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) & FS Taylor Mays (knee): Barkley didn't throw during Tuesday's practice, so it's becoming increasingly possible that sophomore Aaron Corp will start at Washington. That might make things interesting if Corp is lights out. Mays is a senior and a two-time All-American who came off the bench in his first game as a true freshman and has started every game since. He's from Seattle. Odds are that Mays will play, even if he sits out all week.
- Washington DT De'Shon Matthews (knee) & DE Darrion Jones (knee): Both are decidedly questionable and closer to doubtful. The reason that this is big is because USC has a dominating offensive line -- one that is surely unhappy with how it performed at Ohio State. The Huskies aren't deep on the D-line in any event.
- Washington State LB Andy Mattingly (concussion, thigh): The Cougars are banged up -- it was too complicated to list here. With another run-and-shoot offense -- SMU -- coming to town, the defense can't afford to be missing many starters, such as Mattingly, who is questionable.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Based on news reports and this this useful Web site: The latest on injuries heading into week one.
TE Rob Gronkowski, back, questionable
OG Vaughn Dotsy, finger, probable
WR Delashaun Dean, hamstring, probable
OT Tom Njunge, biceps, questionable
C Garth Gerhart, toe, questionable
C Thomas Altieri, concussion, probable
OG Zach Schlink, knee, out
DT Lawrence Guy, biceps, probable
DE James Brooks, suspension, out
RB Jahvid Best, toe, probable
TE Tad Smith, knee, out
OT Mitchell Schwartz, leg, probable
S Marcus Ezeff, ankle, questionable
WR Michael Calvin, knee, probable
LB Robert Mullins, knee, out
TE Skylar Curran, ankle, probable
WR Rory Cavaille, shoulder, out,
OT Bo Thran, knee, questionable
WR Darrell Catchings, wrist, out
WR Markus Wheaton, NCAA Clearinghouse, questionable
WR Geno Munoz, abdominal, questionable
QB Lyle Moevao, shoulder, out
RB Ryan McCants, knee, out
CB Brandon Hardin, leg, out
OT Timi Oshinowo, knee, out
LB Tony Wilson, knee, out
S Josh LaGrone, knee, out
S Lance Mitchell, hamstring, probable
OT Allen Smith, knee, out
S Taylor Skaufel, knee, out
OT Chris Marinelli, shoulder, probable
LB Alex Debniak, knee, out
OG Micah Kia, knee, out
OL Nick Ekbatani, knee, out
DE Reginald Stokes, knee, out
DT Jess Ward, knee, doubtful
RB Christian Ramirez, ankle, questionable
DE Chinonso Anyanwu, hip, out
WR Gavin Ketchum, hamstring, questionable
OG Stanley Hasiak, stinger, probable
FB Chane Moline, hip, probable
CB Shareece Wright, knee, academics, questionable
WR Ronald Johnson, collarbone, out
DE Armond Armstead, foot, out
C Kristofer O'Dowd, knee, doubtful
DT Averell Spicer, ankle, questionable
OG Nick Howell, ankle, questionable
LB Luthur Brown, academics, out
TE Blake Ayles, heart condition, probable
QB Aaron Corp, leg, questionable
QB Mitch Mustain, illness, probable
CB Patrick Hall, knee, out
CB Justin Glenn, knee, questionable
DT Cameron Elisara, shoulder, probable
RB Johri Fogerson, ankle, probable
RB Chris Polk, concussion, probable
WR James Johnson, ankle, probable
DE Darrion Jones, illness, probable
TE Kavario Middleton, hamstring, probable
DE Everrette Thompson, ankle, questionable
S Jason Wells, Achilles, doubtful
WR Jeshua Anderson, hamstring, probable
RB James Montgomery, knee, probable
CB Brandon Jones, ankle, probable
WR Jeffrey Solomon, ankle, probable
LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, foot, questionable
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
UCLA's chief concern entering preseason camp was its offensive line. That's still the case, particularly with another potential starter going down to injury.
Senior guard Micah Kia hurt his knee during Wednesday's practice. He left the field on a golf cart, according to reports, and will have an MRI, results of which should be available Thursday.
The line previously lost backup center Nick Ekbatani, who is out at least four weeks because of a knee injury.
Also, starting center Kai Maiava missed the last portion of practice with a sore shoulder.
If Kia, who started seven games last year, is out for an extended period of time -- the initial diagnosis was a knee sprain -- that would open the door for touted true freshman Stanley Hasiak to start against San Diego State on Sept. 5.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Some say bad things happen in threes and that's the case with a UCLA injury report this afternoon.
Defensive tackle Jess Ward's MRI Monday showed an MCL sprain in his right knee. He is expected to miss two to three weeks.
Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani's MRI showed a sprain of the MCL in his left knee. He will be sidelined four to six weeks.
Defensive end Reggie Stokes' MRI on his right knee showed torn cartilage. He's out indefinitely. No decision has yet been made on treatment, according to the school.
Ward backed up Jerzy Siewierski. Eckbatani was listed as the No. 1 right guard, with Darius Savage as his backup. Stokes was listed behind Datone Jones.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The 2006 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.
Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses.
In the big picture, USC ranked No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., behind No. 1 Florida (sorta makes sense, eh?). UCLA, at No. 19, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.
Scout.com ranked USC No. 1 in the nation, Arizona 19th, UCLA 20th and California 23rd. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Arizona State (32nd in nation), Washington (35th), Stanford (38), Oregon State (41), Washington State (45) and Oregon (52).
Oregon last? Hmm.
Anyway... here's an overview
How many are expected to start in 2009: Nine (CB Devin Ross, DT Earl Mitchell, FS Cam Nelson, WR Terrell Turner, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore, WR Delashaun Dean, OG Conan Amituanai, C Colin Baxter)
Misses: QB Tyler Lyon, RB Derke Robinson
Verdict: This is an underrated class -- even guys who aren't listed as starters are projected to contribute in 2009. It's also notable that the few who didn't pan out -- or were problems, such as DE Louis Holmes -- were the big names.
Misses: DE Jermaine Williams, RB Rodney Glass
Verdict: A solid class when you consider that nine of the 24 signees were JC players who have already moved on -- a group that included RB Ryan Torain and S Troy Nolan, who were the class's most elite performers.
How many are expected to start in 2009: Six (CB Darian Hagan, DT Derrick Hill, QB Kevin Riley, C Chris Guarnero, DE Tyson Alualu, LB Mike Mohamed)
Verdict: Ratings, smatings. Montgomery, Slocum and Prueitt were highly rated, Alualu and Mohamed barely registered. Overall, a solid class.
How many are expected to start in 2009: Five (C Jordan Holmes, LT Bo Thran, RT C.E. Kaiser, DT Brandon Bair, LB Spenser Paysinger)
Verdict: Decidedly mixed. One thing is for sure: This class bolstered the Ducks offensive line. Also interesting, Bair and Paysinger transitioned to their current positions from tight end and receiver, respectively.
2:00 PM ET Hawaii Colorado 3:30 PM ET Utah Michigan 6:00 PM ET Georgia State Washington 10:00 PM ET California Arizona 10:30 PM ET 2 Oregon Washington State 10:30 PM ET San Diego State Oregon State