Pac-12: Purdue Boilermakers

Lunch links: Watch out for Mr. Anderson

August, 3, 2012
8/03/12
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Pac-12 lunch links: League in the money

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
2:30
PM ET
It has to start somewhere
It has to start sometime
What better place than here
What better time than now.

A few more pregame notes

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
7:39
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The navy rally towels are out in full force, with Notre Dame fans waving them throughout the Fighting Irish band's pregame performance.

The same probably cannot be said for defensive end Ethan Johnson, who is dressed but did not take part in most warmups with his fellow defensive linemen. Johnson was cleared to play this weekend after spraining his right ankle three weeks ago at Purdue, but it looks like Notre Dame will take few, if any, chances with the senior tonight. Expect freshman Aaron Lynch to start in his place.

The national anthem is about to begin, meaning kickoff is just a few moments away. Be sure to keep it here throughout the evening.
Michael Floyd, Robert WoodsUS PresswireCan Michael Floyd and Notre Dame make it two in a row against Robert Woods and USC?

USC-Notre Dame, the nation’s best intersectional rivalry, kicks off for an 83rd time on Saturday in South Bend under the lights, and it feels like the Trojans' recent dominance might be at an end.

The Fighting Irish won a tight one, 20-16, last year in the Coliseum, ending an eight-game Trojans' winning streak. While Notre Dame got off to a slow start, it seems to have righted the ship in Year 2 under Brian Kelly. Meanwhile, USC, though 5-1, has as many questions to answer as it plays through its second year under coach Lane Kiffin, yoked with NCAA sanctions, including a postseason ban.

Seems like a good time to check the pulse of the rivalry, so the Pac-12 blog and Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna decided to have a little intersectional chat.

Ted Miller: Matt, there were high expectations to start the season for Notre Dame. Things got off to a slow, and sometimes controversial start -- see Kelly getting red-faced with rage on the sidelines -- but things seem to be on the uptick. First, why did the Irish struggle and, second, what are they doing better now?

Matt Fortuna: Ted, I think my face would have also turned a couple different colors had I been in charge of this team at the beginning of the season. Ten total turnovers, two quarterbacks and a fourth-quarter collapse at the Big House made this team a must-watch ... for everyone but Irish fans. I'm not convinced we would have seen such complete performances in recent weeks without the sting of those early defeats, though. The defense really took an edge with it, both into press conferences and into games, and it has helped set the tone for a team that knows it cannot afford to slip up any more this season. Offensively, Tommy Rees has continued to clean up some sophomore mistakes and the running game is better than anyone could have possibly hoped for at the beginning of the season.

I'm curious about how the Trojans see this rivalry. I know Lane Kiffin called last year's defeat his toughest as a head coach, but then he referred to this game as the Irish's Super Bowl because it comes after a bye. Did last year's game really re-charge this rivalry, or does USC look at that as an aberration to what has pretty much been a one-sided contest for the past decade?

TM: Well, if USC sees last year as an aberration it may be alone. What a lot of folks see is a re-energized Notre Dame program that finally hired a good coach -- big fan of Brian Kelly here, red face or not -- while the Trojans are about to negotiate the loss of 30 scholarships combined over the next three recruiting classes due to NCAA sanctions.

The feeling in Heritage Hall is they blew last year’s game and would have won if QB Matt Barkley had played. But woulda, coulda, shoulda, you know? The Trojans have no excuses this year. They have yet to be hit by scholarship reductions. While they got killed last year by transfers, they’ve had a year to adjust to their new personnel. What I suspect USC fans might see is their best chance to notch a win -- at Notre Dame, no less -- during a period when the Irish look to be rising and the Trojans sagging. Further, with no postseason chances -- also due to NCAA sanctions -- this big rivalry game away from home almost functions as a midseason bowl game.

So I think USC is taking this one very seriously.

I’ve been hearing about how much better the Notre Dame defense is. What do you think the Irish have planned for Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods, who had an off-game against California and figures to be highly motivated this weekend?

MF: In Week 4 Michael Floyd was held to just four catches at Pitt. He responded with a 12-catch, 137-yard performance at Purdue. I think the Irish have that in mind and understand that whatever Cal did to contain Woods this past week, there really is no blueprint for shutting down an elite receiver like that.

Going off the woulda, coulda, shoulda theme, this defense has been very good for 23 of 24 quarters this season, with the fourth-quarter collapse at Michigan being the lone --- albeit gigantic -- blemish. Manti Te'o, who once looked like a sure thing to attend USC, may just be the best inside linebacker in the country, and the rest of the front-seven has been outstanding against the run. The secondary is less established, which is why I think getting to Barkley early and often will make life a lot easier defending the passing game.

OK, prediction time. Who do you got, Ted?

TM: The Trojans believe Matt Barkley will be the difference this go-around. I don’t. I think the Notre Dame defense will do enough to contain him and receiver Robert Woods and the Trojans' inconsistent rushing attack. And the Irish defense looks superior to USC’s, which has continued its mediocrity in year two under Monte Kiffin.

So I’m picking the Irish, 28-24.

What about you?

MF: I think the Trojans have enough offensive firepower to stay within striking distance, but I don't think their defense, despite its progress at Cal, will be able to contain Notre Dame's offense, which was on a tear before the bye week.

I expect more of the same from the Irish this Saturday, and I'm picking them to win, 35-24.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
10:15
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Ten issues to consider heading into the second week of games.

1. Foles versus Weeden: It's possible we'll have 750-800 yards passing in Arizona's visit to Oklahoma State. It's a showdown of two marquee quarterbacks in the Wildcats' Nick Foles and the Cowboys' Brandon Weeden, though the showdown of marquee receivers -- Juron Criner and Justin Blackmon -- doesn't look like it will happen because Criner has missed practices with an undisclosed illness. The Cowboys bombed Arizona in the 2010 Alamo Bowl 36-10, which was the last of five consecutive season-ending losses for the Wildcats. The Wildcats want redemption, but for them to have any chance, Foles must outplay Weeden.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Chris Morrison/US PresswireArizona quarterback Nick Foles completed 34 of 42 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns in Week 1.
2. Play smart, Arizona State: Missouri is one team that can claim as many injuries to key players as Arizona State -- the Tigers are down six starters. It's possible that the Tigers will play things fairly close to the vest with new QB James Franklin, who's a better runner than passer, perhaps waiting for the Sun Devils to make mistakes. And that strategy has worked in the past for teams facing the Sun Devils. ASU has long been penalty- and turnover-prone. The Sun Devils have the talent to win this game outright ... as long as they don't blow it. If ASU wins the turnover battle and is at least close to even in penalties, it should be a happy Friday night in Tempe.

3. Play loose, attack, Oregon State: The Beavers odds are pretty darn bad at Wisconsin. Even without significant injuries, or a loss to Sacramento State in the opener, few would be predicting an upset. Most likely, the best-case scenario for Oregon State is a respectable performance that includes no new injuries. Still, the Beavers need to reclaim their pride and confidence. They need to enjoy the big stage and regain some swagger. To do that, they will need to play loose and take some chances. Throw deep. Run some trick plays. Blitz. Try to have some fun, because that's exactly what didn't seem to happen last weekend.

4. Can Colorado block Cal? You might have noticed that I picked Colorado to upset California. If you want to know why that pick may end up making me look bad, it's the matchup of the Buffaloes' offensive line against the Bears' strong front seven. Hawaii pushed the Buffs around, recording seven sacks and holding them to 17 yards rushing. Cal has a more talented front seven than Hawaii, so that's a huge issue worth watching during the early going: Are the Buffs able to protect Tyler Hansen and create some gaps for Rodney Stewart? Playing at home will help, but the Colorado O-line is where an upset will start. Or end.

5. Oregon's fire: The last time the Ducks suffered a disappointing season-opening loss in a marquee nonconference game was in 2009 at Boise State. You might recall the Ducks didn't play particularly well the next two weeks against Purdue and Utah, though they managed to win both games. While the players will talk about trying to get the bad taste of the LSU game out of their mouths, it's easy to imagine the Ducks coming out flat against Nevada. This is not the same Nevada team that went 13-1 in 2010, but the Wolf Pack are good enough to steal one if Oregon takes too long to wake up.

6. Man-up, Washington: The Huskies played soft on both sides of the ball in a weak effort against Eastern Washington. That performance won't beat Hawaii, which pushed Colorado around on both lines and is coming to Seattle expecting to win. If Washington thinks it can coast into its visit to Nebraska the following weekend, it's going to get embarrassed. Two key issues: 1. QB Bryant Moniz is the Warriors' offense as both a runner and passer. He must be contained. And hit. 2. The running game must get going with Chris Polk. The Hawaii front seven had its way with the Buffs. Are the Huskies next?

7. Lucky numbers: While everyone knows Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the best player in college football, he's going to have to put up some numbers to win the Heisman Trophy. 171 yards passing -- his total in the opener -- won't get it done. Duke should offer an opportunity for Luck to pad his stats a bit. While the Cardinal's chief interest is getting their running game going -- it sagged a bit against San Jose State -- Luck throwing aggressively downfield is also a good thing.

8. Lobbestael as starter: It's one thing to come off the bench and play well. There's no thinking time. It's all about instincts. But with the injury to QB Jeff Tuel, Marshall Lobbestael now knows he's Washington State's starter for at least six weeks. He's had time to process that -- and perhaps overthink and get nervous about that. The Cougars have the players to beat UNLV at home without Tuel. But Lobbestael needs to be a good game manager. He's not going to be asked to throw for 350 yards. He needs to avoid mistakes, go through his progressions and take what the defense gives him.

9.Utah's secondary vs. USC's Matt Barkley and Robert Woods: Utah completely rebuilt its secondary this offseason, replacing all four 2010 starters. While reviews were solid during preseason practices, we have no idea how good the unit is. We will have some idea after it faces Barkley and Woods, two future high NFL draft choices. If there is one matchup where it looks like the Trojans can exploit the Utes, it's in the passing game. Utah's first job is to contain Barkley and make things uncomfortable for him in the pocket, which might not be too difficult with an uncertain Trojans O-line.

10. Reproduce the second half at Houston: UCLA played terribly at Houston for a half, which left it down 31-14. But the Bruins were pretty good on both sides of the ball in the second half. First, that shows that they fought back, which is a good sign. But it also shows the Bruins can get it done on both sides of the ball. If the Bruins play like they did in the second half for all four quarters against San Jose State, they will romp the Spartans and build some confidence for Texas' visit the following weekend.
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.

But before we move on as a 12-team league, let's look back at the best of a 10-team league.

On Wednesday, we looked at the best players. Thursday, it's the best teams.

We've listed 12 teams because that's the new magic number (Arizona fans, see if you can guess who came in 13th).

Again, no team before 1978 -- when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 -- was considered.

1. 1991 Washington: The Huskies finished 12-0 and split the national title with Miami.

Best player: Defensive tackle Steve Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.

Point differential: Washington outscored its foes 495-115.

Best win: Whipped Michigan 34-14 in Rose Bowl. Wolverines finished ranked sixth.

Comment: Four wins over teams that finished ranked in the final top 25, including road victories at No. 15 Nebraska and at No. 8 California. Featured one of the great defenses in college football history, yielding just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. Eight Huskies earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

2. 2004 USC: While the NCAA and BCS have nixed it in their own ways, the Trojans finished 13-0 and won the national title on the field.

Best player: Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: USC outscored its foes 496-169.

Best win: Crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the national title game.

Comment: Basically a push for dominance with 1991 Washington. Beat four teams that finished ranked in the top 25, including the bludgeoning of Oklahoma. Eight Trojans earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

3. 2003 USC: The Trojans finished 12-1 and split the national title with LSU. Their only loss came in triple overtime at California.

Best player: Receiver Mike Williams was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 534-239.

Best win: The completely dominant 23-0 victory at then-No. 6 Auburn in the opener set the tone for the season -- and caused many Pac-10 fans to question how good these highly rated SEC teams really are.

Comment: The Trojans finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but lost out playing in the BCS title game because of the computer polls. LSU fans have been thanking the computers for that glitch ever since.

4. 2005 USC: A 34-game winning streak came to an end with a nail-biting loss to Texas in the national title game. The Trojans finished 12-1.

Best player: Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 638-297.

Best win: The 34-31 win at Notre Dame -- the "Bush Push" game -- was one of the all-time greats.

Comment: Perhaps the best collection of offensive players in the history of college football: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Taitusi Lutui earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. And don't forget LenDale White, Winston Justice, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd.

5. 1978 USC: Finished 12-1 and split national title with Alabama. Lost to Arizona State, 20-7.

Best player: Charles White was a unanimous All-American.

Point differential: 318-153

Best win: A 24-14 win over the team that "claimed" the other half of the national title.

Comment: Split national title -- coaches liked the Trojans; AP the Crimson Tide -- despite a decisive 24-14 USC at Alabama. So much for head to head.

6. 1979 USC: Finished 11-0-1 and No. 2 behind Alabama. Tied Stanford 21-21.

Best player: Charles White won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 389-171

Best win: The 17-16 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, in which White ran for a record 247 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with just more than a minute remaining.

Comment: Team featured four future College Football Hall of Famers in White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lot and Brad Budde. By the way, THAT undefeated, untied Alabama team was really, really good: Outscored foes 383-67. So no sour grapes on that one.

7. 2001 Oregon: The Ducks finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 in both polls. The only loss was 49-42 versus Stanford (a really, really weird game, if you recall).

Best player: Quarterback Joey Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 412-256.

Best win: A 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.

Comment: The Fiesta Bowl victory caused plenty of folks to bemoan the Nebraska-Miami matchup in the BCS title game, considering Colorado had blown out Nebraska the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Stanford loss, the typically straightforward AP noted the game had "everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."

8. 1984 Washington: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 behind BYU. Lost to USC ,16-7.

Best player: Defensive tackle Ron Holmes was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 352-145

Best win: Shocked Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl. Sooners finished ranked sixth.

Comment: A controversial season. Before the Orange Bowl, Sooners coach Barry Switzer lobbied hard for the winner to be declared the national champion. As it was, BYU won the national title after beating a bad Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Does anyone believe BYU was better than the Huskies? No.

9. 2010 Oregon: The Ducks finished 12-1 and No. 3 in both polls, losing the national title game to Auburn.

Best player: Running back LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 611-243

Best win: The Ducks handed Stanford its only loss, 52-31, after trailing 21-3 early. Cardinal finished ranked No. 4.

Comment: An innovative, exciting team to watch, one that played faster than perhaps any big-time college team in history.

10. 1996 Arizona State: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in both polls. Lost Rose Bowl -- and potential national championship -- to Ohio State, 20-17.

Best player: Quarterback Jake Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 488-216

Best win: The Sun Devils trounced top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Nebraska, 19-0.

Comment: The Sun Devils lost one of the most dramatic Rose Bowls, when the swashbuckling Plummer was out-swashbuckled by Joe Germaine, who was raised in Arizona as an ASU fan.

11. 2000 Washington: The Huskies finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3, their only loss coming at No. 7 Oregon. They beat Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl.

Best player: Marques Tuiasosopo finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 387-270

Best win: Beat Miami, 34-29. Hurricanes finished ranked No. 2.

Comment: This is not the most talented team on the list. In fact, some have rated the 2000 Oregon State team -- see below -- ahead of the Huskies. And based on NFL results, the Beavers were more talented than the Huskies. But head to head matters, and the win over Miami is better than anything Oregon State did.

12. 2000 Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4, their only loss a 33-30 decision at Washington, which finished ranked No. 3.

Best player: Running back Ken Simonton was first-team All-Pac-10.

Best win: Beat Oregon 23-13 in Civil War. Oregon finished ranked seventh in the coaches poll.

Comment: One or two more plays at Washington, and the Beavers would have played for the national title. And they, by the way, were more talented than the Oklahoma team that did win the title. Notable Beavers: Ken Simonton, Chad Ochocinco (the Chad Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Gibson, DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson, Dennis Weathersby and Eric Manning. They spanked Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.

USC taps receivers coach

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
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USC has hired Nebraska receivers coach Ted Gilmore to fill the same position for the Trojans, the school announced Thursday.

He replaces John Morton, who was hired away by the San Francisco 49ers.

Gilmore, 43, who was also the Cornhuskers recruiting coordinator, has been at Nebraska six years. In 2008, he was given the title of assistant head coach for offense.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Ted Gilmore to the Trojan football family,” coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. “For years, he has been regarded as an outstanding recruiter and wide receivers coach. He comes to us highly recommended by a number of very prominent coaches. I’m excited for him to start working with our talented group of receivers.”

Gilmore arrived at Nebraska after spending the 2003 and 2004 seasons at Colorado. Before that, he spent two years at Purdue, one at Houston, one at Kansas and four at his alma mater Wyoming -- the first two as a GA -- where he played receiver from 1988-89.

Senior Bowl: Cal's Jordan shines

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
10:31
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It appears that California defensive end Cameron Jordan is on his way to the first round of the NFL draft.

Jordan was one of the stars of the first day of Senior Bowl practices, earning "top performer" honors from ESPN.com's Steve Muench, who wrote:
No one was able to move Jordan today. Even Nate Solder, who dominated everyone, had a tough time with Jordan in run periods. Jordan did an excellent job of staying low coming out of his stance and jacked up Solder, effectively taking away his power base and gaining control in the battle. We wouldn't say he has violent hands, but he has a strong upper body and gets good hand placement so he can control guys. That's what you look for in a five-technique guy. He slid in to play DT, where he looked a little quicker, and he is certainly big and strong enough to play that position at the next level. We'd like to see him battle some of the top offensive linemen some more this week, but he's off to a strong start and is the top five-technique guy here and probably the best one in this class.

ESPN draft guru Todd McShay also called Jordan and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan "the best defenders here."

As for the Jake Locker watch, here's the Day 1 report.
Washington's Jake Locker's day was a little bit like a microcosm of his career. He made some unbelievable throws, like one fade route in the back of the end zone. Perfect timing, perfect touch and dropped it right in. He nailed a couple skinny posts where he led the receiver and put it in the perfect spot for yards after catch. And maybe his best throw of the day was a sideline comeback route where he just drilled it with perfect timing. But he can't bottle it up and do it consistently. He had a handful throws that he made one time, but didn't do it the next time. It's that inconsistency that is frustrating. If it was just today and you saw something else on film, you could attribute the inconsistency to just being Day 1. But if this pattern continues, this isn't going be the week he needs it to be. Still, he did not have a bad day. In fact, he had the best day of the QBs here and there is no doubt who is the most naturally talented QB here.

More on Locker's first day here.

There was a battle between a big, bad SEC lineman and a little ole Pac-1o one.
Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod's tightness in hips and his lack of mobility was exposed by Arizona's Brooks Reed. Twice Reed beat Sherrod with quickness -- once to the outside and once using a double move. Reed has a quick get-off and uses his hands well.

This practice report is very high on Jordan and former Washington linebacker Mason Foster, calling Jordan "unblockable" and Foster a "riser," noting he may be the "best linebacker in this year's draft at dropping back into coverage."

Also, Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster.

Oregon impressed by Stanford

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Stanford's 40-12 whipping of Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl was meaningful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it made what happened in Autzen Stadium on Oct. 2 the best victory of the 2011 regular season.

Stanford, which finished 12-1, is almost certain to finish ranked in the top-four in the nation in the final polls. But that day at Oregon, the Cardinal got overwhelmed 52-31, despite taking an early 21-3 lead. Stanford, a big, physical team, couldn't keep up with the Ducks' across-the-board speed and offensive tempo.

Auburn has played a tougher overall schedule than Oregon, but the Tigers haven't beaten a team that will finish ranked as highly as Stanford will, particularly after Arkansas was exposed by Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. No Tigers foe will finish with fewer than two defeats.

And, yes, the Ducks were watching the Orange Bowl. And, yes, they were rooting hard for their Pac-10 rival.

"I was a Cardinal that night," linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.

Paysinger said his sentiments had added depth because he's friends with Stanford O-linemen Derek Hall and Johnathan Martin.

"For them to go all the way to Florida and rep the Pac-10 like that speaks volumes for them," Paysinger said.

In fact, there was no gloating from Oregon players about beating Stanford in Oct. 2. Instead, there seemed to be a lot of respect.

"Stanford, they have been playing as good as anyone lately," linebacker Casey Matthews said. "I mean, obviously people are going to say we beat them by 21, [but] it doesn't really carry over into other games. It's all about matchups and how teams perform and just their simple fundamentals. Last year, [Ohio State, which beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl] lost to USC and Purdue and we beat both of them. We can't really compare scores. Obviously seeing Stanford be that dominant is definitely exciting to see and for the Pac-10 as well. Hopefully we get a little more respect."

Holiday Bowl notes

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
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ESPN Stats & Information has some interesting notes on the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Thursday.
  • Nebraska leads the all-time series with Washington 4-3-1, including a 56-21 victory on Sept. 18.
  • This is the Huskies first bowl game since 2002, when they lost to Purdue 34-24 in the Sun Bowl.
  • Entering Nebraska’s game against Missouri on Oct. 30, Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez led the country with 14 rushes of 20 yards or more. However, during the first half of the Missouri game, Martinez suffered a leg injury. He has not produced a run of over 20 yards since then. In the first seven games, he averaged 112 yards rushing. In the last four, he's averaged 32.8 yards per game.
  • When Martinez is throwing the ball well, Nebraska is very tough to beat. The Cornhuskers are undefeated when he completes better than 50 percent of his throws that travel 10-plus yards downfield (5-0). He was 4 for 6 on such throws in the first meeting with the Huskies.
  • Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. has seven runs of 50 yards or more this season, all resulting in a touchdown, making him one of the most explosive rushers in the college game. Since 2004, only Ryan Mathews has posted at least seven 50-plus yard touchdown rushes in a single season.
  • Nebraska’s pass defense has been outstanding on third down this season, and Huskies quarterback Jake Locker will need to be better on third down against Nebraska than he was in September (1-7, 6 yards). Overall, opponents are completing just 42.5 percent of their passes on third down, which ranks No. 1 in the nation. The Cornhuskers rank No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency defense on third down.
  • Washington running back Chris Polk has been outstanding in the Huskies’ last three games, averaging 169.3 rushing yards per game and leading the team to three straight wins. In the Huskies six wins this year, he's rushed for an average of 137 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. In the Huskies six defeats, he averaged 69.3 yards and 4.4 yards per carry.
  • Locker had a terrible game passing from the pocket in the first game with Nebraska, but he's actually thrown well in the pocket this year, completing 61.1 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and five interceptions.
  • Locker’s ability to handle the blitz has played a major role in Washington’s success this season. Against Nebraska’s added pressure in September, Locker completed just 1-of-5 passes. In Huskies wins, however, he completing 63 percent of his passes with four TDs and one interception when facing an opposing blitz.

Best Pac-10 rivalry over past 10 years?

November, 19, 2010
11/19/10
10:00
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The Big Game between California and Stanford -- or is it Stanford and California? -- kicks off our season-ending series of rivalry weekends, so the Big Bosses in the palace in Bristol, Conn., wondered: What has been the best rivalry in each conference from 2000-2009?

As usual, when my bosses ask anything of me, I was thrilled to cogitate over the assignment. My reply: The Civil War. Without question.

Start with this: It's competitive. Oregon and Oregon State have split their last 10 games.

Further, it's been important, starting on Nov. 18, 2000, which was a horrible, no-good, rotten, very bad day for the Ducks. Not only did the Beavers win the Civil War 23-13, the loss knocked the Ducks out of the Rose Bowl. And not only did the Ducks get knocked out of the Rose Bowl by their in-state rival, their loss allowed the hated Washington Huskies, whom they had beaten, to go to the Rose Bowl instead. Meanwhile, the Beavers went on to whip Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, the Huskies won the Rose Bowl over Purdue, and the Ducks had to settle for beating Texas in the Holiday Bowl. Ah, but things haven't always been rosy for the Beavers in the rivalry. Not by a long shot. In the last two Civil Wars, an Oregon State win would have earned it a Rose Bowl berth for the first time since the 1964 season. The Beavers lost both. In 2008, the Ducks blew out the Beavers in Corvallis, 65-38. In 2009, with the Rose Bowl going to the winner, the Ducks again prevailed, but this time in a 37-33 nail-biter.

Elite quarterback commits to Oregon

June, 14, 2010
6/14/10
3:07
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The Oregon Ducks have ventured into Florida to find its future quarterback.

Oregon got a commitment Insider from Jerrard Randall of Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, Fla.). The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Randall is ranked 139th on the ESPNU 150 and rated No. 8 nationally among quarterbacks. He picked the Ducks over offers from Florida State, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida International and Florida Atlantic, among others.

Randall passed for 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,074 and 14 TDs as a junior.

Pac-10 teams of the decade

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
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Yes, there are lots of USC teams in our list of the "best Pac-10 teams of the decade."

Not sure how you get around that. From 2002 to 2008, the Trojans finished ranked in the nation's top four. During that span, no other conference team topped the Trojans in the national rankings.

One team not listed, however, merits special mention: Oregon in 2007.

That team was 8-1, ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings and appeared to be headed for a showdown with LSU for the national championship. Then quarterback Dennis Dixon blew out his knee at Arizona -- he'd actually hurt it the week before vs. Arizona State -- and the Ducks subsequently lost to the Wildcats, the first of three consecutive losses before a blowout victory over South Florida in the Sun Bowl.

More than a few people -- not just Ducks fans -- believe that team would have won the national title if Dixon had remained healthy.

Of course, if wishes were fishes then cows would fly.

10. USC, 2007: A toss-up between this squad and the Trojans 2006 team. The '07 team finished ranked third in the AP and second in the coaches poll, while '06 finished fourth in both. '07 lost to 41-point underdog Stanford and at Oregon, see above about the Ducks. '06 lost at Oregon State and at UCLA, a 13-9 defeat that cost it a spot in the national title game. That last detail iced it for '07.

9. USC, 2002: More than a few pundits watching Carson Palmer and company pound Iowa in the Orange Bowl opined that, by season's end, this might be the nation's best team in 2002. After a 3-2 start in Year Two of the Pete Carroll Era, the Trojans won eight in a row to finish 11-2 and ranked No. 4.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Don RyanAaron Rodgers and the Golden Bears only had one regular-season loss in 2004.
8. California, 2004: Sure, the Bears laid an egg vs. Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl -- quick Cal fans: how many receivers were missing due to injury? And what do you think of Mack Brown? -- but Aaron Rodgers and company put on quite a show. The only regular-season defeat came in a thriller at USC -- see below -- 23-17, when the Trojans held strong after the Bears had a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line with less than two minutes left.

7. Oregon State, 2000: If not for a crazy finish at Washington in a 33-30 defeat, the Beavers might have played Oklahoma for the national championship. They went on to blister Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished ranked fourth in the nation. Go back and look at the roster: Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, DeLawrence Grant, Dennis Weathersby, LeDarius Jackson, Ken Simonton, etc. This was hardly a scrappy, little team.

6. Washington, 2000: This crew of Huskies was hardly dominant but they just found a way to win week after week, led by quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. The 11-1 season included a victory over Miami, which finished ranked No. 2, a loss at No. 7 Oregon, and a Rose Bowl win over Drew Brees and Purdue.

5. USC, 2008: This crew paired one of the best defenses in college football history with a quarterback who's playing in the AFC championship this weekend. Yes, it's fair to ask how the horsepucky this team didn't win the national championship. Oregon State fans care to explain?

4. Oregon, 2001: How strange was the Ducks 49-42 loss vs Stanford, their only defeat of the season? The normally staid AP said this in the game story, it was "a game that had everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf." The Ducks led by 14 in the fourth quarter before a blocked punt and interception from Joey Harrington allowed the Cardinal to take the lead. While Oregon fans mostly remember getting BCSed out of the national title game by Nebraska, the Stanford game prevented them from playing Miami in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks blasted Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 2, still the program's best final ranking.

3. USC, 2003: A dominant team that lost only in triple-overtime at California. Only a BCS computer glitch forced the Trojans, ranked No. 1 in every poll, to share a portion of the national title with another squad.

2. USC, 2005: The offense was a thing of beauty -- 580 yards, 49 points per game -- but a young defense, which featured a true freshman and four sophomore starters, cost the Trojans in the thrilling BCS title loss to the University of Vince Young.

1. USC, 2004: Unbeaten, undisputed. Dominant. Best team of the decade in all of college football? Perhaps, though folks could make a strong argument for Miami in 2001. An extraordinary array of talent on both sides of the ball. And defense was the difference vs. 2005. It ranked sixth in the nation in total defense and third in scoring. The Trojans battered Oklahoma 55-19 for the national title.

Oregon season recap

December, 9, 2009
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It didn't start out like it was going to be one of the greatest seasons in Oregon football history, but every coach will tell you it's not where you start, it's where you finish.

And Oregon finished atop the Pac-10 and is headed to the Rose Bowl to play Ohio State.

It's testimony to good leadership from first-year coach Chip Kelly and a solid locker room that the Ducks held together after being embarrassed at Boise State, both by the performance during the game and by LeGarrette Blount's performance afterward.

But the Ducks won seven in a row after that, including a 47-20 beatdown of USC. And when they slipped at Stanford, they immediately bounced back with wins at Arizona and against rival Oregon State to win the conference title.

Offensive MVP -- Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli

It's understandable why so many Oregon fans are bent about Masoli not being first-team All-Pac-10. He's about more than his numbers running the Ducks' spread-option offense. Masoli completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,066 yards with 15 touchdowns and he rushed for 659 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Defensive MVP -- Defensive end Kenny Rowe

This was a tough one because Oregon played great team defense this season. Still, Rowe's numbers stood out. He led the Ducks with 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. He also forced three fumbles.

Turning point -- Oregon bounced back from its terrible performance at Boise State with wins over Purdue and Utah, but the Ducks truly broke through when they whipped No. 6 California 42-3 on Sept. 26.

What's next -- The Ducks should start the 2010 season ranked in the preseason top five, particularly if they beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Nearly the entire two-deep returns, topped by Masoli and LaMichael James -- both of whom figure to make a number of preseason Heisman Trophy lists. A Sept. 11 visit to Tennessee should be intriguing.

Who will win the Roses?

December, 3, 2009
12/03/09
7:30
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EUGENE, Ore. -- It's going to be crisp and dry for the biggest Civil War ever.

By now, everyone with even a middling interest in college football knows the stakes: The winner goes to the Rose Bowl and plays Ohio State.

Suffice it to say, the recession in Oregon recently ended for purveyors of roses and fine rose products.

The Ducks, 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Pac-10, are ranked seventh in the BCS standings. The Beavers (8-3, 6-2) are 16th. This is just the third time in the 112-game series that both teams are nationally ranked.

The second time was last year, when the Beavers needed a victory over the Ducks to earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1965. They didn't get it. In fact, they got whipped 65-38 and gave up nearly 700 yards in front of their home fans in Reser Stadium.

"It was very disappointing," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "We're on to a new year. Hopefully we can gain some thoughts about that game and use them for the preparation for this game both strategically and mentally."

The other time both teams were ranked was 2000, a banner year for Northwest football. That season, the No. 8 Beavers prevented the No. 5 Ducks from playing in the Rose Bowl with a 23-13 victory in Corvallis. The win earned the Beavers a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, where they dismantled Notre Dame, and sent the Ducks other bitter rival -- Washington -- to the Rose Bowl.

Despite that unhappy result for the Ducks, Oregon went on to beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl, the Huskies beat Purdue in the Granddaddy and three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the top-seven of the final AP poll.

Ah, but the dusty pass is not relevant, as both coaches will tell you.

Things like this are: Only three times has an opponent gained at least 20 yards on a running play against Oregon State's defense in 2009. Oregon running back LaMichael James leads the country with 18 rushes of at least 20 yards (that's courtesy of ESPN.com's Stats & Analysis).

So if James breaks a long one -- or two -- know that the Ducks are winning that battle of trends.

The redzone is also an issue. Oregon is lethal when it reaches the redzone, and that is where a generally good Beavers defense has faltered this season. The Ducks have scored 34 touchdowns in 46 redzone opportunities, and that 73.9 TD percentage is ninth-best in the nation. Meanwhile, the Beavers have allowed opponents to score TDs on 26 of 33 redzone penetrations, and that 78.8 TD percentage is worst in the nation -- 120th.

On the plus side, Oregon State is outstanding on third down, ranking ninth in the nation and first in the Pac-10 with a 48.4 conversion percentage.

So the Beavers best defense might be just stringing together first downs and keeping Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James on the sidelines.

In 1983, the Ducks and Beavers both entered the Civil War with losing records and no national respect. That rain-soaked game, soon to be known as the "Toilet Bowl," ended in a 0-0 tie and featured 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals.

Obviously, this one is much different. One set of players will walk out with roses clenched between their teeth.

And the losing team will feel worse than it ever has in the rivalry.

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