Pac-12: Nigel Burton

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

California

Northwestern, Aug. 31
  • Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (50-39) eighth year
  • 2012 record: 10-3, 5-3 Big Ten
  • Returning starters: eight offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Venric Mark returns after rushing for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns -- enough to earn him second-team all-conference. But he also makes his mark on special teams, where he was an All-American punt returner last season.
  • Defensive headliner: Safety Ibraheim Campbell is an all-league candidate after posting 89 stops last year with two interceptions and a team high 12 breakups.
  • The skinny: Since 2008, Northwestern is 17-10 on the road. With a good chunk of talent returning from last year's team -- which won its first bowl game since 1949 -- most are projecting the Wildcats to be a preseason top 20 team ... maybe even top 15. Sonny Dykes' first game as head coach won't be easy.
Portland State, Sept. 7
  • Coach: Nigel Burton (12-21, fourth year)
  • 2012 record: 3-8, 2-6 Big Sky
  • Returning starters: six offense, five defense
  • Offensive headliner: Quarterback Kieran McDonagh returns at quarterback after completing 54.5 percent of his throws last year with 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions as a freshman. He also ran 89 times for 406 and nine touchdowns and he even caught a 22-yard touchdown.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker is the top returner on defense after posting 70 tackles -- including a team-high 12 for a loss -- last season.
  • The skinny: The Vikings have been a familiar foe to the league in recent years -- having played Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State, ASU and Washington since 2005. They lost to Cal 42-16 in 2006. After a nice 2011 season, when they went 7-4, they took a step back last season. Part of that was holes in the pass defense. Cue up the Bear Raid.
Ohio State, Sept. 14
  • Coach: Urban Meyer (12-0) second year
  • 2012 record: 12-0, 8-0 Big Ten
  • Returning starters: nine offense, 4 defense
  • Offensive headliner: Quarterback Braxton Miller is going to get plenty of Heisman hype -- especially if he can keep the Buckeyes perfect. Last year he threw for 15 touchdowns and 2,039 yards ran for 13 touchdowns and 1,271 yards.
  • Defensive headliner: Cornerback Bradley Roby is considered one of the best in the country at his position. He broke up 17 passes last year with two interceptions and was third with 63 tackles.
  • The skinny: The Buckeyes will enter the season likely as the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country. They ran the table in 2012 -- including a late fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Bears in Columbus. The schedule sets up nicely for them to make another run at perfection -- and possibly a BCS championship.
Thoughts: Dykes knew it wasn't going to be easy when he took this job -- and this nonconference schedule, save Portland State, is vicious. He'll get two top 20 teams -- and potentially the No. 1 team in the country -- in his first three weeks. Throw in a quarterback who will be getting his first collegiate playing time and a defense transitioning to a new scheme and it could make for a couple of long Saturdays. Then again, they did give Ohio State a run last season and they get all three games at home. At least they get a whole week off before traveling to Oregon to start league play in the 28th. A 1-2 record seems the most reasonable. Beating either Big Ten team would be a massive confidence boost and 3-0 would send shockwaves through the rankings. 0-3 would be a disaster. The Bears aren't exactly lacking in talent -- and Dykes' system has shown it can work. At question is whether or not Cal is mature enough to handle such a demanding schedule so early in this time of transition.

Did you know? Pac-12 week 3

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
10:00
AM ET
Some notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • Dating to last season, Arizona has won four in a row. The Wildcats have not won five in a row since winning the final seven games of the 1998 season, which they finished 12-1.
  • Arizona quarterback Matt Scott has 836 yards of total offense in two games, tied for most in the FBS along Syracuse signal-caller Ryan Nassib. Scott’s 418.0 yards-per-game average is tied for second in the FBS, behind Louisiana-Monroe QB Kolton Browning, who compiled 481 in his only game (Saturday's upset of Arkansas).
  • South Carolina State is 0-9 all-time vs current members of the FBS, getting outscored by a combined total of 319-60 (average loss margin: 28.8 PPG).
  • The Arizona State-Missouri series is split 3-3, with the Sun Devils winning 37-30 in overtime last season in Tempe. ASU is 0-2 in Columbia.
  • The Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC this season, and the Sun Devils are 0-5 all-time against SEC schools.
  • Last time California and Ohio State played, Ohio State won 35-18 in Berkeley in 1972. That was Archie Griffin’s freshman season at Ohio State.
  • California has forced 24 negative plays this season, tied for second-most in FBS (Oklahoma State leads with 26).
  • Ohio State QB Braxton Miller has averaged 8.0 yards on scrambles during his career, with 17 of his 51 runs gaining 10 yards or more.
  • This will be the sixth meeting between Colorado and Fresno State, but the first between the two schools at Bulldog Stadium. Colorado leads the series 4-1. The Bulldogs' only victory came in 2001, 24-22, behind quarterback David Carr.
  • Through its first two games this season, Oregon has come out with a vengeance, only to let off the gas in the second half. Oregon is outscoring opponents 85-16 in the first half; in the second half, the Ducks have been outscored 43-14.
  • Since the start of 2010 season, Oregon leads FBS in touchdown drives of two minutes or fewer (97); one minute or fewer (45) and three plays or fewer (41). In two games this season, Oregon has seven touchdown drives that lasted two minutes or fewer, tied with UCLA for most against FBS opponents (fourth-most overall; the top teams played Savannah State).
  • Marcus Mariota is completing 80 percent of his passes on third down, tied with USC quarterback Matt Barkley for the best in the Pac-12 (minimum 10 attempts).
  • Kenjon Barner is averaging 7.9 yards per rush inside the tackles this season (5.4 in 2011).
  • Stanford has owned its series with USC recently, winning four of the past five meetings.
  • It's not always useful to blitz Barkley. He has thrown 119 consecutive passes against five or more pass-rushers without an interception.
  • As a team, USC has gained 361 yards after the catch this season. Since the start of 2009, Barkley’s first season as a starter, the Trojans are 23-3 when they have at least 100 yards after the catch and 6-8 when they do not. Two of the three losses were Stanford (2010, 2011) and the other to Oregon (2010). Marqise Lee has gained 73.4 percent (193/263) of his yards after the catch this season.
  • Last season, Stanford had the fewest three-and-out drives and negative plays in FBS with Andrew Luck under center. Through two games, Stanford is ranked in the bottom half of FBS in yards per play (tied for 80th), negative plays (T-61), three-and-outs per game (T-75) and third-down conversion rate (T-109).
  • UCLA has been nearly unstoppable moving the ball offensively. The Bruins followed up a 646-yard performance against Rice with a 653-yard effort against Nebraska -- good for two of the top 10 games in school history in terms of total offense. They currently rank third in FBS with 649.5 yards per game, and will be going against a defense in Houston which ranks 115, allowing 521.0 per game.
  • Defensively, the Bruins pass rush has excelled. UCLA has eight sacks so far this season (tied for seventh in FBS), a far better pace than last season, when the team finished with 14 sacks (tied for 112th) and didn’t get its eighth sack until the eighth game of the season.
  • Running Johnathan Franklin had 217 rushing yards on 26 attempts in UCLA’s upset of Nebraska. It was his second consecutive 200-yard rushing game and third of his career. Franklin’s 215.5 rushing yards per game leads FBS this season and is more than 90 teams. For the season, Franklin leads FBS with six runs that gained 20 yards or more and is one of two players with two 60-plus-yard touchdown runs.
  • David Piland did not go down quietly in Houston’s loss to Louisiana Tech. Piland attempted 77 passes, completing 53 for 580 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 77 attempts were sixth-most in FBS history; Drew Brees owns the record with 83 attempts against Wisconsin on Oct. 10, 1998.
  • The BYU-Utah rivalry is called the “Holy War” and this will be the 69th consecutive meeting between the teams. The rivalry will be put on hold after next season, however: Utah won’t host BYU again until 2016.
  • There have been a lot of close games in this rivalry, especially over the past 15 seasons. In that span, 12 of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less with seven of those 12 decided by a field goal or less.
  • BYU QB Riley Nelson is completing 73.1 percent of his passes in shotgun this season (38.5 percent when under center).
  • Last season, Utah went on the road and dominated BYU 54-10, its biggest win in the series in 89 years. It was also the biggest win in the rivalry by either team since 1983. It was the seventh time in the past 10 meetings that the Utes beat the Cougars.
  • Washington and Portland State are meeting for the first time.
  • Two-time Huskies captain Nigel Burton is in his third season as head coach at Portland State. Two former Huskies are on his staff, linebackers Lester Towns and Ikaika Malloe.
  • If Washington State QB Jeff Tuel can't play due to a knee injury, redshirt sophomore Connor Halliday will replace him. Halliday went 5-for-11 passing with no touchdowns and an interception in the fourth quarter last week against Eastern Washington. Halliday saw limited action in the Cougars' 59-7 victory over UNLV last season, finishing 5-for-6 with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and this would be the second start of his career. He has starred in relief before, passing for a Pac-12 freshman record 494 yards and adding four touchdowns without an interception last season against Arizona State after Marshall Lobbestael was injured early in the game.
  • UNLV has lost seven consecutive games dating back to last season, which is tied for the third-longest active streak in FBS. Both Rebels losses this season came by three points, including a loss to FCS school Northern Arizona last week, when NAU scored 17 unanswered points in the second half.
  • UNLV is 6-25 against current Pac-12 schools, with the last victory coming in 2008 against Arizona State. Washington State has won all five previous meetings by double digits.

SPONSORED HEADLINES