Pac-12: Sterling Lewis
To the notes.
Donald from Eugene writes: If the PAC10 actually does expand to 12 teams, the conventional wisdom is they would create North and South divisions. However, that would leave NW schools with the distinct possibility of not traveling to Southern California for two straight seasons thus killing recruiting (see Big12 North.) Wouldn't it make more sense to try the "AFC/NFC" split and put for instance UW, UO, Stan, UCLA, UA and CU in one division and the other six in the other? The teams would still play their traditional rival, it just would be out of division. That way every team will be assured of traveling to the Bay Area and SoCal on a regular basis.
Ted Miller: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
I've been a bit surprised by how so many people have pooh-poohed the idea of Pac-10 expansion -- read: Colorado and Utah -- simply because of the supposedly calamitous results of a North-South split.
How will the Northwest schools survive without an annual visit to recruiting hotbeds in California [insert sob]!
As Donald notes: Fine, then forget the whole North-South thing and let's go with much more felicitously named "Ted" and "Donald" divisions.
My division is USC, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon State.
Donald's division is UCLA, California, Washington, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon.
(Please, that was random. Don't read anything into which teams I selected).
Each Pac-12 team plays five divisional games as well as its traditional rival in the other division annually (we announce the first annual hate-fest between Utah vs. Colorado!). Each team then rotates two games among the other five teams in the other division.
Note how the Oregon-Washington rivalry gets preserved! And how we kept Jim Harbaugh and Lane Kiffin in the same division, which I am certain will be great fun.
That's eight conference games, which means teams then can load up on patsies for their four-game nonconference schedule -- if they wish -- which would mean more bowl-eligible teams and more seasons with two BCS bowl teams.
Sure, some conference hits and misses will provide an advantage. But that's how it is in every conference that doesn't play a round-robin schedule.
In a few years, media pundits would go, "Sheesh! The Pac-12 has 10 bowl-eligible teams! What a conference!"
What about losing the convenience -- and cost-effectiveness -- of regional travel provided by North-South divisions? Well, travel would remain mostly like it is now. So big deal.
By the way, though Donald and I are clearly brilliant, this has been done before. There's an obscure constellation in the college football universe know as the "Atlantic Coast Conference," which is broken up into the the "Heather" and "Dinich" divisions. Or they might be the "Atlantic" and "Coastal" divisions, I forget.
And, by the way, as a son of the South, I can tell you that there ain't no coast near Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke or Virginia.
Kevin from Phoenix writes: I have to take issue with the Spring Rankings. Arizona replaces 12 starters? I'd be curious to know what math you used to get 12 out of nine.
Ted Miller: OK.
Arizona's departing 2009 starters, per its depth chart.
Offense (5): WR Terrell Turner, OT Mike Diaz, OG Herman Hall, OT Adam Grant, HB Chris Gronkowski.
Defense (7): DT Earl Mitchell, NT Donald Horton, LB Sterling Lewis, LB Vuna Tuihalamaka, LB Xavier Kelly, FS Cam Nelson, CB Devin Ross.
The list doesn't including TE Rob Gronkowski because he sat out the entire season.
Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: I don't understand your logic in your spring power rankings. Putting USC, Oregon State, Cal, UW, & Stanford all above Arizona. Is it because of the Holiday Bowl performance? Ok well let's remember what happened during the Pac-10 conference season: Arizona beat USC in LA, Oregon St. in Corvallis, Stanford in Tucson.
Ted Miller: The Holiday Bowl performance was fairly yucky. But that's not why I rated Arizona seventh.
As you will note from above, the Wildcats lose three starting offensive linemen, three linebackers, both defensive tackles and two very good defensive backs.
And most of those guys weren't just starters -- they were mainstays (five second-team All-Pac-10 guys, including four on defense).
That's a lot to replace, particularly with two new coordinators. And keep in mind that the Wildcats will be using two pair of co-coordinators in 2010 after using just one guy in each role last year.
There may be a period of adjustment there.
It's perfectly reasonable to believe the Wildcats will plug-and-play and away they will go. But I will put them at No. 7 -- in a very deep Pac-10 -- until I see what those plugs might look like.
And I will be in Tucson during spring practices, so perhaps I will be impressed. I typically am when I watch a Mike Stoops team practice.
Kai from Castro Valley, Calif., writes: If someone were to go back in time and tell the 2000 Ted Miller how much teams have changed (i.e. number of bowl appearances in 2000-2009 compared to 1990-1999), which team do you think you wouldn't believe changed this much? In other words which team had the most phenomenal change good or bad from the start to the end of the decade? (Personally it's WSU for me).
Ted Miller: If the 2000 me met the 2010 me he tell me to get to the gym and lay off the beef and bourbon.
There are so many surprises in the decade.
The biggest surprise would be Washington, the 11-1, 2000 Pac-10 champion, winning 12 games from 2004-2008.
The second biggest surprise would have the rise of USC under Pete Carroll -- "USC hired Pete Carroll?" the 2000 me would ask. "That surely was a colossal failure!"
The third biggest surprise would have been the rise of Washington State: 30 wins, three consecutive top-10 rankings from 2001-2003. And Mike Price leaving the Cougars for Alabama. And how that turned out.
The fourth biggest surprise would be Oregon State's sustained success. I mostly thought that 2000 was a brilliant flash of football serendipity. It wasn't.
Gordie from Pasadena, Calif., writes: Let's say the Pac-10 picks up Utah and Colorado, and the Big Ten picks up Missouri. So does that mean the Big 12 becomes the Big 10 and the Big Ten becomes the Big Twelve (since it already has eleven teams)?
Ted Miller: Ha! Nice.
Gary from Portland writes: Recruiting revealed, the layers peeled back like an onion.
Ted Miller: Hit that link: You will be amused.
Ethan from San Francisco writes: You win... I have no idea where your Thursday quote [above the "Pac-10 lunch links"] came from.
Ted Miller: Glad you asked because it comes from one of my all-time favorite novels: Don DeLillo's "Underworld."
It's a dense, 800-plus-page read, so it won't be everyone's favorite brew, but the first 60 pages are set around Bobby Thomson's home run -- "The shot heard round the world" -- to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers and win the New York Giants the 1951 National League Pennant.
Go to a bookstore and read those 60 pages. It's some of the best writing you will ever read.
- 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.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Just about every Pac-10 team feels good about its linebackers.
Not an easy position to rank.
- UCLA: Senior Reggie Carter was second-team All-Pac-10, up-and-coming sophomore Akeem Ayers and senior Kyle Bosworth man the two outside positions, while sophomore backup Steve Sloan started nine games last year.
- Oregon State: Keaton Kristick was second-team All-Pac-10, and the two-headed monster on the weakside -- Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey -- is back. Sophomore David Pa'aluhi -- a mixed martial arts fighter -- is promising in the middle.
- USC: Yes, USC gets the benefit of the doubt, despite three new starters. By season's end don't be surprised if Chris Galippo, Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith look like the conference's best unit.
- Oregon: Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews return, and Eddie Pleasant steps in for Jerome Boyd on the outside. There's good depth and good speed here.
- Arizona State: The Sun Devils have a lot of experience as well as young talent, but the starting crew of Travis Goethel, Gerald Munns and Mike Nixon doesn't possess top-end speed. And sophomore Shelly Lyons is hurt and the NCAA Clearinghouse hasn't yet cleared spectacular true freshman Vontaze Burfict.
- California: On the outside, Mike Mohamed and Eddie Young have plenty of experience. Inside, Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt are promising but green. The depth is solid.
- Arizona: The Wildcats are fast with Sterling Lewis, Xavier Kelly and Vuna Tuihalamaka, and Lewis and Kelly have starting experience. There's a pretty fair drop-off to the second unit.
- Stanford: Clinton Snyder will lead a solid crew that includes Will Powers and Chike Amajoyi. The uncertain status of Alex Debniak (knee) hurts.
- Washington: The Huskies have a solid triumvirate. E.J. Savannah returns after missing all of 2008 due to a suspension. He'll play outside opposite Mason Foster with Donald Butler in the middle. Depth is an issue.
- Washington State: Andy Mattingly's return on the strongside from defensive end should help. Jason Stripling is a senior on the weakside, but isn't terribly experienced -- he missed almost all of 2008 with a shoulder injury. JC transfer Alex Hoffman-Ellis will man the middle. He redshirted last year. It would help if undersized but quick Louis Bland was 100 percent because he would add much-needed speed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.
- Arizona linebacker Sterling Lewis is a harder hitter with good instincts.
- A defensive shakeup at California, with end Cameron Jordan demoted due to a poor scrimmage.
- After a day of rest, Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield came back strong.
- Turns out Stanford started scouting quarterback Andrew Luck a long time ago.
- Who is UCLA's fastest player?
- The Sun Bowl will match the Pac-10 and ACC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
And finally there were linebackers. Or a lack thereof.
All three first-team All-Pac-10 linebackers are gone. USC and California both lost three starting linebackers from elite units.
The only team that welcomes back an intact crew is Washington, which is a mixed blessing when a defense is among the worst in the nation the previous season.
That said: No one is completely rebuilding.
Each linebacker unit, other than USC, has at least one starter back, and the Trojans crew has seen significant playing time and is probably as talented as any in the Pac-10.
- UCLA: This is a position of strength for UCLA, with a lot of experience and athletic ability, led by middle linebacker and leading tackler Reggie Carter, who was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago. Akeem Ayers and Kyle Bosworth man the two outside positions, while Steve Sloan started nine games last year.
- Oregon State: Keaton Kristick, second-team All-Pac-10, leads another solid corps of Beavers linebackers from the strongside. Middle linebacker Bryant Cornell is gone, but he only ranked fifth on the team in tackles. Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey are back on the weakside, while David Pa'aluhi is slated to replace Cornell.
- USC: Sure, all three starters are gone, but we just can't pull the trigger and downgrade the Trojans. The general feeling that Chris Galippo inside with Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan on the flanks will be as physically talented as any crew in the conference. Each saw significant action last year and recorded double-digit tackles, with Morgan leading the way with 24, including five for a loss.
- Arizona State: Lost second-leading tackler Morris Wooten but the Sun Devils get everyone else back, including Gerald Munns, who left the team early last season due to personal issues. Moreover, young players such as Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee will push for playing time.
- Arizona: Lost leading tackler and leader Ronnie Palmer in the middle, but Sterling Lewis (five starts) and Xavier Kelly (eight starts) are back and Vuna Tuihalamaka, who is slated to replace Palmer, saw a lot of action in 2008.
- Stanford: Pat Maynor is gone, but Clinton Snyder leads an experienced crew that includes Chike Amajoyi, Will Powers and Nick Macaluso.
- California: Lost three of its four starting linebackers, but both Eddie Young and Mike Mohamed started games last year, with Mohamed ranking third on the team in tackles.
- Oregon: Jerome Boyd is gone but second-leading tackler Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews are back. Eddie Pleasant likely steps in for Boyd.
- Washington: Because the Huskies defense was so bad last year, it's hard to rank them in good shape just because all three starters are back. But the addition of 2007 leading tackler E.J. Savannah, who was suspended by former coach Tyrone Willingham, makes this an area of least concern on a team with many concerns.
- Washington State: It might seem like we're picking on the Cougars by leaving them alone down here but here's the situation. WSU lost its best defensive player and leading tackler, middle linebacker Greg Trent, from the nation's worst rushing defense (248 yards per game). Undersized weakside linebacker Louis Bland, who had nine tackles for a loss in 2008, is back, and word is Andy Mattingly might move back to linebacker from end. If that happens, the position upgrades substantially.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
TUCSON, Ariz. -- First things first: Arizona's first spring practice Wednesday afternoon will be open.
When a reporter asked coach Mike Stoops after his pre-spring meet-and-greet with reporters whether practice would be open, he replied, "Yeah, sure. Whatever."
He then added he'd close things when reporters started annoying him again.
Anyway, how about this new, mellow Mike Stoops, eh? Bowl victories and new contracts sometimes have that effect.
- The pre-spring depth chart stacks the offensive line, which lost three starters, like this: left tackle Phillip Garcia, guard Mike Diaz, center Colin Baxter, right guard Vaughn Dotsy and tackle Adam Grant. As far as former starting center Blake Kerley, he's sitting out while recovering from a knee injury suffered last fall, and Stoops implied that he'll have a tough time dislodging any of the interior three. Stoops seemed particularly high on Dotsy, a sophomore. Grant is good to go after knee surgery, while Garcia will be limited this spring for the same reason. "This line can be every bit as productive as we had a year ago," Stoops said.
- Three JC transfers will participate in spring practices: offensive linemen Shane Zink and Jack Julsing and cornerback Marcus Benjamin. Benjamin will battle Trevin Wade to start at one corner, while Zink and Julsing likely will provide depth on the line.
- Former starting receiver Terrell Reese, who was suspended indefinitely last year, has been given the boot. Running backs Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons and defensive tackle Hans Philipp also won't be back in 2009.
- Stoops has high hopes for his defense, which welcomes back seven starters: "This is the best group that we have had coming back," he said. "This defense will be the most athletic we've had ... We have the potential to be a great defense."
- Two linebacker spots need to be filled. The first unit on the depth chart has Sterling Lewis on the strong side, with Vuna Tuihalamaka in the middle and Xavier Kelly on the weak side. Lewis started five games last year; Kelly eight. Tuihalamaka played in 13 games and recorded 23 tackles.
- The general theme with the quarterback competition between Matt Scott and Nick Foles was this: The runner, Scott, has a better arm than he gets credit for, and the same can be said for the mobility of the pocket passer, Foles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Eight things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.
1. Moevao at 75 percent or backup Canfield at 100? Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao didn't look fully healthy last weekend against California, though he managed the victory fairly well. He hasn't practiced much this week; his strained throwing shoulder is still bothering him. Sean Canfield is not a typical backup. He's more physically talented than Moevao -- he was projected as a future star when he signed in 2005 -- and started nine games last year. He played well during the seven quarters he had to step in for Moevao. But the screws are significantly tighter on the road in front of the rowdy Arizona fans with a Rose Bowl berth just two wins away.
2. California's beleaguered offensive line vs. Stanford's blitz-happy D: Cal quarterbacks have been sacked 19 times in the last five games. For comparison, Stanford quarterbacks have gone down 17 times -- all season. The Cardinal defense also is tied with Oregon for the Pac-10 lead in sacks, averaging three per game. A good running game would slow down the Stanford pass rush, and the Cardinal is not great against the run, ranking seventh in the conference in run defense (141 yards per game). But Cal has struggled to run of late, averaging just 81 yards on the ground in the last three games. Reports are that speedy tailback Jahvid Best is feeling healthy. But will he have space to get fancy?
3. Out of the misery, will a star -- for at least an afternoon -- rise out of the Apple Cup? Both Washington and Washington State rank among the nation's worst on defense. On the other hand, they also rank among the nation's worst in offense. Neither team boasts a statistically impressive player who will receive All-Conference consideration. That's how it is when two teams combine for a 1-20 record. Yet one will win this game. And rivalry games often feature a special individual performance that fans remember for years to come. So who among the Cougars and Huskies rises to the occasion?
4. Arizona LBs vs. Jacquizz Rodgers: Everyone knows that Rodgers is coming, but no one has stopped him yet (see seven 100-yard games). He hides behind a wall of blockers then shoots through the hole, and it seems like it takes a defense time to figure out his tendencies. The Wildcats' linebackers, particularly leading tackler Sterling Lewis and Ronnie Palmer (8.5 tackles for a loss), will have their hands full. And the Beavers may lean on Rodgers even more than usual, considering the questions at quarterback.
5. Riley will need to rally: In his past two games, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has completed 15 of 41 passes with two interceptions and a touchdown. He's seemed skittish at times since he was knocked out of the Oregon game with a concussion. While Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard can lean on a power running game, it's likely the Bears will need to throw well to consistently move the ball and keep the Cardinal defense honest. Playing at home should help, and Stanford's weakness is pass defense. That means Riley shouldn't complete less than 50 percent of his passes.
6. Beavers must ground Gronkowski: Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski has 34 receptions and eight touchdowns, which means he hits pay dirt once every 4.3 receptions. If he catches nine passes against Oregon State, that could be the difference. And the Wildcats will try to get him nine balls. Gronkowski is too athletic for most linebackers, so Beavers safeties Al Afalava and Greg Laybourn need to make Gronkowski work for every catch and, most important, get him down on first contact instead of letting him rev up his 260 pounds in space.
7. Cal LBs vs. Stanford power running: Cal's 3-4 defense has been mostly a success this season. It ranks third in the conference in scoring (21.9 points per game) and fourth in rushing (124.3 ypg). It has, however, sometimes struggled against the run, see 144 yards from Jacquizz Rodgers and 149 from Arizona's Keola Antolin. But both of them were smaller, slashing, scatback types. Stanford runs right at a defense with 230-pound Toby Gerhart and 210-pound Anthony Kimble. That power attack has worked against just about every defense, see 200 yards rushing vs. USC. How will Cal's four outstanding linebackers match up?
8. How can the loser of the Apple Cup possibly get motivated for another game? One team will walk away from the Apple Cup with something warm and reassuring to cling to -- a victory. Of course, the other will see its season-long misery only increase with the knowledge that it will be widely viewed as the nation's worst BCS conference team. Yet both have another game to play. Washington visits California, while Washington State heads to Hawaii. Neither figures to win. But it's hard to imagine the loser will be able to muster much intensity and focus for a 12th and final embarrassment.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and kicker Matt Evensen of Oregon and California linebacker Mike Mohamed have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week.
Masoli, a sophomore from Daly City, Calif., accounted for 232 yards total offense and two touchdowns in Oregon's 54-20 win over Arizona State. He completed 17 of 26 passes (.654) for 147 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass. He also led the Ducks in rushing with eight carries for 85 yards (10.6-yard average) and one touchdown. The Oregon offense piled up 537 yards total offense (304 rushing, 233 passing) and punted only two times.
Evensen, a senior from Portland, Ore., connected on two of three field goal attempts, including a career-long 52-yarder, was 5-5 on PATs and had five of his 10 kickoffs go for touchbacks. This is the second player of the week honor for Evensen this season.
Mohamed, a sophomore from Brawley, Calif., had nine solo tackles, with two tackles for loss and a sack (-7), and he returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown in the 41-20 win over UCLA. California limited UCLA to one offensive touchdown, 11 first downs, 16 yards rushing on 22 carries, 253 yards of total offense, posted three quarterback sacks and intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week were tailbacks Stafon Johnson of USC and Jahvid Best of California. Nominees for defense were linebackers Rey Maualuga of USC and Sterling Lewis of Arizona and Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond. Arizona punter Keenyn Crier, California kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and UCLA punt returner Terrence Austin were nominated for special teams play.