Pac-12: team wraps 011514

Season wrap: Arizona

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The Wildcats matched last season’s record, and they did it without several of their star receivers and the quarterback who got them to eight wins last year. Yes, they lost again to Arizona State, which is a ding.

But they also knocked off No. 5 Oregon at home in one of college football’s biggest upsets of the season and showed they have offensive staying power despite injuries and attrition. Plus, the defense was one of the most improved in the league.

Ending the season with a blowout bowl win over a BCS conference team should give the Wildcats plenty of steam moving forward into a year where several explosive playmakers are coming off the injured list or scout team.

You can read our graded review of Arizona here.

Offensive MVP: Running back Ka’Deem Carey was one of the most dominant, explosive players in the country, earning the Pac-12’s offensive MVP honor. He rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns on 349 carries and leaves the school as its all-time leading rusher. Dating back to last season, Carey rushed for at least 100 yards in 16 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in FBS football.

Defensive MVP: Jake Fischer had another strong season with a team-high 99 tackles. But Marquis Flowers really elevated his game, posting 93 stops and 11 tackles for loss. He also had a sack, an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries. The defense as a whole gets a gold star for its drastic improvement from 2012.

Best moment: No question -- it was Arizona’s shocking 42-16 pummeling of the Ducks. Within that game was a four-touchdown performance from Carey and a dazzling interception when Shaquille Richardson tipped Marcus Mariota’s pass back inbounds to Scooby Wright. It was one of the top plays in the college football and one of the year’s biggest upsets.

Worst moment: It’s not just that they lost to Arizona State -- again. It’s how they lost, falling behind 30-7 before the bands took the field. Last year against the Sun Devils, they coughed up a fourth-quarter lead. This year, they just got beat. Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job in his first two years. But fans won’t fully be happy until he starts winning a few Territorial Cups.

Season wrap: Arizona State

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Arizona State had a good season that had a bad ending.

The Sun Devils finished 10-4 against one of the nation's toughest schedules and won the Pac-12 South Division in coach Todd Graham's second year. They finished ranked 21st in the nation. They beat four teams that ended up nationally ranked. They beat archrival Arizona for a second consecutive season. They were effective on both sides of the ball.

But, golly, that was a horrible performance against what should have been an outmanned Texas Tech team in the National University Holiday Bowl. That shocking 37-23 whipping reminded the Sun Devils that they haven't not yet arrived.

You can read our graded review of Arizona State here.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Taylor Kelly took a step forward as a junior to become one of the nation's best quarterbacks. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,635 yards with 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 608 yards and nine scores. He ranked 25th in the nation in's Total QBR measure of a quarterback. There's certainly room for him to get better in 2014, but he skillfully guided an offense that ranked among the Pac-12 and national leaders in 2013.

Defensive MVP: While defensive tackle Will Sutton's numbers were not as spectacular in 2013 as 2012, he still was one of the nation's dominant defensive players. That's why he won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year again this year. He finished with 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four passes defended. He was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.

Best moment: The Sun Devils’ 58-21 stomping of rival Arizona surely warmed the hearts of Arizona State fans everywhere. The Sun Devils dominated from bell-to-bell, leading 30-7 at the half, as Graham improved to 2-0 against Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, with whom he doesn't share a warm relationship. Retaining the Territorial Cup also gave the Sun Devils a seventh win in a row and 10th of the season. Further, the victory earned the Sun Devils home-field advantage for the Pac-12 title game, though, of course, that didn't end up mattering.

Worst moment: The Holiday Bowl was just awful, far more embarrassing than the two losses to Stanford or even the curiously uninspired performance against Notre Dame. The defense looked helpless, allowing Texas Tech freshman Davis Webb to pass for 410 yards and four touchdowns, while the offense was sloppy and out of sync against a mediocre-to-poor defense. The coaching wasn't that great either, something that was acknowledged by Graham after the game. A prime example of that would be the horrible clock management at the end of the first half which probably cost the Sun Devils a touchdown.

Season wrap: California

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
There's no sugar coating what happened in Berkeley. Sonny Dykes' first season in charge was an unmitigated disaster.

Zero wins against FBS competition, the nation's second-worst scoring defense and, perhaps more troubling for Cal fans, the Pac-12's worst scoring offense. The list goes on.

When Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour brought Dykes in from Louisiana Tech, where he guided the nation's top scoring offense, her pitch to the fan base centered on Dykes' exciting brand of football. There were flashes of what could be -- true freshman quarterback Jared Goff piled up big numbers -- but unless the defense makes a significant improvement it won't matter.

You can read our graded review of Cal here.

Offensive MVP: Goff. Among the single-season schools records the true freshman quarterback broke were passing yards (3,508) and passes completed (320). He set a school record with 504 yards passing against Washington State and was named honorable mention All-Pac-12.

Defensive MVP: DL Deandre Coleman. Coleman's selection as an honorable mention All-Pac-12 was the lone defensive honor given to a Bears defensive player. He led the team in tackles for loss (9) and ranked third in sacks (2.5).

Best moment: Season-opening touchdown drive against then-No. 22 Northwestern. Before a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium the Dykes era couldn't have gotten off to a better start. The Bears marched 82 yards on 10 plays on the first series of the season and scored on a fake field goal.

Worst moment: Losing 44-22 at home to WSU on Oct. 5. After a 1-3 start including three wins against ranked teams, including Ohio State and Oregon, it still wasn't clear just how bad the Bears would be. Getting routed by WSU at home was the real sign of what was to come.

Season wrap: Colorado

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The first-season returns on new head coach Mike MacIntyre are positive. And they should be. The Buffs showed improvement in almost every aspect offensively and defensively and won three more games than they did the year before.

Critics will say that two of those victories were against FCS teams. And that’s fair. But it’s also two more FCS teams than they beat last season. Just saying. Baby steps.

MacIntyre has a clear vision for how to rebuild a program. And while Colorado might not yet be up to Pac-12 standards on either side of the ball, you saw a team that was more competitive in 2013. Some losses were still lopsided. And that will take time. But they also got a small taste of victory, which can carry a team into the offseason and beyond.

You can read our graded review of Colorado here.

Offensive MVP: With 83 catches and 1,343 receiving yards, Paul Richardson was everything Colorado hoped he would be and more in his return from a knee injury that kept him out of 2012. He hauled in 10 touchdowns and was one of the best stretch-the-field threats in the country. Without question, he deserved a spot on the first-team all-conference squad.

Defensive MVP: There were a lot of young players who gained valuable experience last season, but no one expected freshman Addison Gillam to storm onto the scene like he did in 2013. The freshman All-American posted 119 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks. Of his 119 stops, 78 were unassisted.

Best moment: There is probably no better feeling than a new coach winning his debut. And to do it against an in-state rival probably feels extra good. The 41-27 season-opening win over Colorado State snapped an eight-game losing streak and put a little wind in the sails of the MacIntyre era.

Worst moment: For all the positive momentum, Colorado was still on the sour end of a lot of blowouts. But on the road at Utah in the season finale, the Buffs fought off a 21-0 halftime deficit and came within one score in the fourth quarter. With 2:01 remaining, they had a chance to drive for the tie, but Sefo Liufau was picked off on the first play of the drive, securing a 24-17 win for the Utes.

Season wrap: Oregon

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Oregon was ranked No. 3 before the season, therefore an obvious national title contender. Oregon was 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings in Week 11, and the general consensus was that if the Ducks won out, their Pac-12-fueled strength-of-schedule would earn the Ducks a berth in the national title game.

Of course, we all know what happened. First, the loss at Stanford, when the Cardinal pushed the Ducks around at the line of scrimmage, and quarterback Marcus Mariota was severely limited by a knee injury he suffered the previous week in a win over UCLA.

The Ducks were still in the Rose Bowl and/or BCS bowl hunt. At least until they were blown out at Arizona on Nov. 23.

An 11-2 campaign and final No. 9 ranking is typically nothing to sniff at for any team. But there's nonetheless a feeling the Ducks, who finished in the top five the previous three seasons, slipped a little in coach Mark Helfrich's first season.

You can read our graded review of Oregon here.

Offensive MVP: Mariota, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy until the Stanford loss, completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 715 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, with nine TDs. He finished ranked No. 1 in the nation in's Total QBR rating. After he decided to return for his redshirt junior season, he figures to be near the top on just about every preseason Heisman Trophy list.

Defensive MVP: While cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the Ducks' most talented defender, there's a reason that teammates voted defensive end Taylor Hart the Ducks defensive MVP. Hart was the, er, heart and soul of the Ducks' defense. He finished with 75 tackles, which ranked fourth on the team, with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He also had five pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Best moment: While the Ducks were riding high after a dominant fourth quarter gave them a 42-14 victory over UCLA on Nov. 2, the 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl was the best moment. Or, at least, the most sentimentally satisfying moment, as the Ducks said goodbye to longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti with a dominant defensive effort, holding the Longhorns to 236 yards and 13 first downs. Further, until he started suffering cramps in the second half, the nation got to see what Mariota can do when healthy. The Ducks, after a tough final third of the season, went out with a solid win, one that should boost spirits heading into the offseason.

Worst moment: While the Stanford loss probably hurt the most, the worst moment was the horrid effort at Arizona during a 42-16 loss. After a week in which receiver Josh Huff and running back De'Anthony Thomas expressed disappointment at the idea of playing in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks looked unmotivated and sloppy while taking a beating in Tucson, Ariz., a defeat that knocked the Ducks out of Rose Bowl contention. Mariota threw two of the four interceptions he threw all season, and the defense yielded 482 yards.

Season wrap: Oregon State

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
At the midway point, we pointed out Oregon State's season was clearly divided into an easier portion (the first seven games) and a decidedly more difficult portion (the final five).

Other than the surprising upset to FCS Eastern Washington in the season opener, the Beavers held serve in the former -- reaching bowl eligibility by their seventh game.

And the latter? A much different story.

Oregon State dropped its final five games of the regular season to mar a season that featured standout performances from receiver Brandin Cooks and quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion, who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards, will return for his senior season.

The Beavers ended on a high note with a win against Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

You can read our graded review of Oregon State here.

Offensive MVP: Cooks. The Biletnikoff Award winner set single-season Pac-12 records with 128 catches and 1,730 yards. He finished his career with a school-record 24 touchdown receptions, including a single-season school record 16 in 2013. After the season, Cooks announced he would head to the NFL.

Defensive MVP: DE Scott Crichton. Crichton finished the season with 19 tackles for loss, which was tied for third in the Pac-12, and he led the team with 7.5 sacks. Like Cooks, Crichton made himself eligible for the NFL draft. He is the first Oregon State defensive player to leave early for the NFL since Brandon Browner in 2005.

Best moment: Winning 51-48 in overtime at Utah on Sept. 14. Mannion tossed five touchdowns, including the game winner to Cooks in the first overtime in one of the most exciting Pac-12 games of the season. Without the win, Oregon State would have been home for the holidays.

Worst moment: Losing 69-27 at home against Washington on Nov. 23. It wasn't that they lost, it's how they lost. The Beavers fell behind 48-0 through the first three quarters in one of the worst performances of Mike Riley's tenure.

Season wrap: Stanford

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Just how far has Stanford come?

After winning its second straight Pac-12 title and advancing to a third consecutive Rose Bowl, there was still a large faction of the fan base that thought the Cardinal underachieved.

While they probably should have beaten Utah and USC, under no scenario should a conference title and a Rose Bowl berth ever be looked upon as anything but successful on the Farm.

Stanford ended the BCS era as the only team to appear in BCS bowls the last four seasons.

You can read our graded review of Stanford here.

Offensive MVP: RB Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney finished the season seventh nationally with 1,709 yards rushing after a one-year hiatus to pursue professional baseball. He was given the program's Irving S. Zeimer Memorial Award as the team MVP. Gaffney's rushing total was the second-highest in school history, behind Toby Gerhart's 1,871 in 2009.

Defensive MVP: LB Trent Murphy. An first-team All-American, Murphy led the nation in sacks (15) and tackles-for-loss yardage (147). The outside linebacker was twice named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and led a defense that finished the season ranked 10th nationally in scoring.

Best moment: Beating then-No. 3 Oregon 26-20 on Nov. 7. A case can be made for its win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship, but without the Thursday night win against Oregon, a Pac-12 title wouldn't have been possible. Beating the Ducks also carried more national significance and ended with the student body rushing the field at Stanford Stadium.

Worst moment: Losing 27-21 at Utah on Oct. 12. The Utes finished conference play 2-7 and 5-7 overall and joined Colorado and Cal as the only Pac-12 teams not to play in a bowl. The previous occasion the Cardinal lost to a team that finished with a losing record was in 2009, when they lost at Wake Forest (the Demon Deacons finished 5-7).

Season wrap: UCLA

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The UCLA Bruins weren’t able to advance to the conference championship game for a third straight year, but it was far from a disappointing season.

Struggling with the death of a teammate early in the year, UCLA coach Jim Mora kept his team poised but always compassionate to the situation. They went 2-3 against ranked teams but dominated Virginia Tech in their bowl game. Mora and his key coaches have been locked up, Brett Hundley is coming back for another year and things are definitely looking up in Westwood.

Oh yeah, UCLA is 2-0 against USC under Mora. That in itself is reason for Bruins fans to feel pretty good.

You can read our graded review of UCLA here.

Offensive MVP: Without question, it’s Hundley, who threw for 24 touchdowns (to nine interceptions) and also lead the team in rushing with 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. Not to be forgotten is that he also caught a touchdown. I think he also punted, once. He’s an electric athlete who should get considerable Heisman buzz next season. In fact, UCLA has already kicked off his campaign with a #Hundley4Heisman push.

Defensive MVP: On a team loaded with a lot of good defenders, which way do you go? Is it tackling machine Eric Kendricks and his 106 stops? Jordan Zumwalt and his understated 93 tackles and three forced fumbles? Cassius Marsh and his 10.5 tackles for a loss? All are good options. But every offensive coordinator feared Anthony Barr, who had 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also forced five fumbles and recovered four of them.

Best moment: Watching the final 30 minutes of the Nebraska game. When you consider the emotional strain the team had been under, it was hard not to get a little choked up as the Bruins erased a 21-10 halftime deficit en route to a 41-21 victory. Then again, I know UCLA fans also enjoyed the 35-14 win over USC at the Coliseum. The best moment of all, however, might have been this.

Worst moment: Off the field, the answer is obvious. And the Pac-12 blog can’t give Mora & Co. enough credit for the job they did. On the field, you have to look at the failed comeback and subsequent loss at home against Arizona State. The Bruins trailed 35-13 at the half and made a game of it in the 38-33 loss. But the final drive was marred with holding penalties and sacks.

Season wrap: USC

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The big news for USC's 2013 campaign wasn't the season itself but the firing of coach Lane Kiffin. That, however, also was the transformative moment of the season, as the Trojans bounced back from a dispiriting 3-2 start to finish 10-4 and rank 19th, rallying under interim coach Ed Orgeron.

The Trojans went 6-2 under Orgeron, but his hopes for earning the full-time job were likely dashed by two losses to Notre Dame and UCLA, USC's two chief rivals.

The second big news for the Trojans was the hiring of Steve Sarkisian away from Washington, which received a mixed reaction. But that points toward the future. Our concern is the 2013 season.

You can read our graded review of USC here.

Offensive MVP: The Trojans' offense struggled much of the season, ranking ninth in the conference with 29.7 points per game, but its most consistent weapon was receiver Nelson Agholor. With Marqise Lee in and out of the lineup with injuries, it was Agholor, a sophomore, who led the Trojans with 918 yards receiving and six touchdowns. His 16.4 yards per reception also was tops among the team's receivers. Further, he led the conference and ranked second in the nation with a 19.1-yard average on punt returns, which included two returns for touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end Leonard Williams became one of the nation's best defensive linemen as a true sophomore. He ranked second on the Trojans with 74 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks. He also had four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles and was named a first-team All-American by and third-team by the Associated Press. He is almost certain to be a 2014 preseason All-American.

Best moment: No. 4 Stanford had rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to tie the score at 17-17, and it had the ball with more than three minutes remaining on its 40-yard line. There was plenty of time to drive for the winning field goal, but Stanford QB Kevin Hogan threw his second fourth-quarter interception to Su'a Cravens at the USC 44. The Trojans then got a 47-yard field goal from Andre Heidari, who had struggled for much of 2013, with just 19 seconds left to notch the upset, and recorded the fourth and best win of what would become a five-game winning streak under Orgeron.

Worst moment: While the 10-7 loss at home to Washington State was horrible -- the Trojans had just 193 total yards -- and was the beginning of the end for Kiffin, the 62-41 loss at Arizona State was the defeat that ended his tenure. Athletic director Pat Haden was so dismayed with the white-flag performance -- the Trojans gave up 612 yards -- that he fired Kiffin at LAX in the early morning hours of the next day. Of course, that low moment seems to spur the season's transformation so some may see Kiffin's firing as a good thing.

Season wrap: Utah

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Utah’s season can be defined by two halves. There was leading up to and including the Stanford upset, and then everything after that, which was mainly the injury to Travis Wilson and the subsequent downfall that comes with losing a starting quarterback.

The Utes were 4-2 and seemed poised to crack the postseason. But Wilson’s injury kicked off a five-game slide (he played sparingly in three of the first five before a possible career-ending brain condition was uncovered). There were highlights, but all in all, missing the postseason for another year has left a lot of Utah fans -- and its coach -- feeling frustrated. Offseason changes have already occurred, but questions about Wilson’s long-term health linger.

You can read our graded review of Utah here.

Offensive MVP: Though he missed the final three games and was injured for three more, the numbers still point to Wilson, because when he was at his best, the gettin' was good. The Utes averaged 37 points per game when Wilson was at full strength, but 21.3 in the games he was injured or missed. That is, by definition, the most valuable player.

Defensive MVP: No question it's DE/LB Trevor Reilly, who had a team-high 100 tackles to go with 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had an interception, defended three passes, forced a fumble and recovered another. He was well deserving of his spot on the first-team all-conference squad.

Best moment: Wilson takes a knee, flashes the “U” symbol to the MUSS and the students storm the field following a 27-21 win over Stanford. It was that signature Pac-12 win that everyone had been waiting for since the Utes joined the conference, and it was arguably the biggest regular-season win in school history. Diehards will argue the win over BYU was more important -- and they might be right, given that the Holy War goes on hiatus. I’d listen to that argument.

Worst moment: You could argue that pretty much every other game that followed, save Colorado, qualifies. But when you look back at the six interceptions against UCLA in a 34-27 loss, or the 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State -- both at home -- it’s easy to see where one or two plays make all the difference between going bowling and staying home.

Season wrap: Washington

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Washington's goal when the season began was to do better than 7-6, its final record the previous three seasons. So, with a final mark of 9-4, that primary mission was accomplished.

Of course, that improvement being registered, the surprising end game of the Huskies' season was winning the Fight Hunger Bowl in dominant fashion under interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo, a Huskies legend who later joined former coach Steve Sarkisian at USC.

While Sarkisian's departure was a stunning conclusion to the season, it seemed most Huskies fans were pretty happy with their new head coach, Chris Petersen, who built Boise State into a national power.

You can read our graded review of Washington here.

Offensive MVP: While the return to form of quarterback Keith Price was critical to the Huskies' success, running back Bishop Sankey was simply one of the nation's best offensive players. He rushed for 1,869 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and scored 20 touchdowns. His 143.8 yards per game ranked fourth in the nation. He also caught 28 passes for 304 yards. He was named second-team All-America by both the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Football Foundation and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha made an inspired return from two knee surgeries by leading the Huskies and ranking third in the nation with 13 sacks. He also had 70 total tackles, three forced fumbles and three pass breakups. The junior earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and will enter the 2014 season as an All-American candidate.

Best moment: It's rare to call a season-opener a season's best moment, but the Huskies' 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State was one of the highest moments for the program in years. That's because it was the first game played in remodeled Husky Stadium, a venue that is now worthy of its scenic location. The Huskies, under considerable pressure to win, turned in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. The victory was the first win in a 4-0 start that surged Washington into the national polls.

Worst moment: When Arizona State whipped Washington 53-24 on Oct. 19, we didn't realize that the Sun Devils were in the midst of a run that would carry them to the Pac-12 title game. But that doesn't excuse perhaps the most shocking beatdown delivered in a conference game this year, one that gave Washington a three-game losing streak and had fans starting to again grumble about Sarkisian. The Sun Devils outgained the Huskies 585 yards to 212. ASU outrushed Washington 314 to minus-5 yards. Sankey rushed for 22 yards on 13 carries (1.7 yards per rush). For whatever reason, Washington didn't look ready to play, and the finger was pointed at Sarkisian. The Huskies went on to win five of their next six games to salvage the season.

Season wrap: Washington State

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
The Cougars reached a bowl game for the first time since 2003 despite the Pac-12 featuring more top-to-bottom depth than at any point in the past decade.

In coach Mike Leach's second season, WSU won as many conference games (four) as it did under his predecessor, Paul Wulff, in four seasons from 2008 to 2011.

That's what should be remembered, not the meltdown at the end of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Moving forward, WSU has a lot to be excited about. All 10 players who had at least 25 catches this season will return next year. That's a lot of returning weapons for quarterback Connor Halliday in his senior season.

You can read our graded review of WSU here.

Offensive MVP: Halliday set the school single-season record passing record with 4,597 yards. He went to sleep three times as the Pac-12 single-season record holder, too, before Oregon State's Sean Mannion eclipsed his total in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Halliday's 34 touchdown passes tied Ryan Leaf for the single-season school record.

Defensive MVP: Safety Deone Bucannon led the Pac-12 with 109 tackles during the regular season and was the first WSU player since 2007 to receive first-team All-Pac-12 honors. The hard-hitting safety led WSU with five interceptions, a total that was tied for fourth-best in the conference.

Best moment: The game-winning touchdown pass from Halliday to Isiah Myers against Arizona. It would be easy to pick the victory at then-No. 25 USC, but that was early in the season and Halliday's pass to Myers delivered a victory in what basically amounted to a win-or-no-bowl situation. A week later, Arizona beat Oregon on the same field.

Worst moment: The final 2 minutes, 52 seconds of the New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars had a 45-30 lead before Colorado State scored 18 points in the game's final 172 seconds to pull off a remarkable comeback. For WSU, it will be remembered as a mind-boggling collapse made possible by a pair of fumbles and questionable clock management.