Pac-12: Tennessee Titans

You're my assistant. You're supposed to back me up and go get me juiceboxes whenever I want. Now go get me a juicebox!
Stanford's recent success just about Andrew Luck? That's just silly talk.

If ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay is on target with his mock 2012 NFL draft, plenty of evidence to the contrary will be produced on draft day. Insider
McShay projects that Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick, of course, but he also projects that Luck will be joined by three teammates in the first round.

How many other teams will produce that many first-round picks? One: National champion Alabama.

The Pac-12 has seven first-round picks in McShay's mock draft.

Here's how McShay sees things, with some comments included.

1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford (Indianapolis Colts)

2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC (St. Louis Rams)

13. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Arizona Cardinals)
This might seem a bit high for a guard, but DeCastro was the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the nation in 2011 and has a chance to develop into one of the elite NFL players at his position. Offensive tackle is also a need area, but DeCastro is a much better overall player than the top available tackle. Cornerback could also be a consideration, but both Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) carry off-field baggage.

18. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (San Diego Chargers)

20. Nick Perry, DE, USC (Tennessee Titans)
The Titans have three defensive ends set to become free agents and need a dynamic pass-rusher to complement Derrick Morgan. While Perry is raw, he has good initial burst and natural pass-rush skills. Cornerback, safety and offensive line are also need areas, but Perry makes the most sense in this situation.

26. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (Houston Texans)
The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.

29. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State (Baltimore Ravens)
Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He's a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing cornerback Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.

Here's McShay's player rankings. Insider

Here's Kiper's Big Board. Insider

And here's Kiper's top-five by position, Insider which is chock full of Pac-12 players.

Most interesting: Kiper ranks former Arizona State's Brock Osweiler No. 3 among the quarterbacks, ahead of former Arizona's Nick Foles, who is fifth. Luck, of course, is No. 1 and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is No. 2.

If Osweiler ends up getting picked on the first day -- first two rounds -- it certainly will validate his surprising decision to enter the NFL draft.

Kiper's first mock NFL draft

January, 18, 2012
ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. projects that five Pac-12 players will be among the 32 picks of the first round of this spring's NFL draft.

Here's how Kiper sees things going.
The Burfict pick to the Ravens feels perfect. If anyone can reach Burfict and screw his head on straight, it's Ray Lewis, Burfict's favorite player.

Kiper also rates the top-five players by position. Luck is the No. 1 QB, Kalil is the No. 1 OT and DeCastro is the No. 1 OG.

Some other Pac-12 players who made the top five.
  • Martin is the No. 3 OT. Perry is the No. 5 DE. Burfict is the No. 2 ILB.
  • Arizona's Nick Foles is the No. 3 QB.
  • Oregon's LaMichael James is the No. 4 RB. Washington's Chris Polk is the No. 5 RB. Ducks and Huskies fans seemed very focused on who might go first in the draft.
  • Colorado's Ryan Miller is No. 5 at OG.
  • USC's Rhett Ellison is the No. 2 FB. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Ellison could play tight end or H-back, too.
  • Stanford's Coby Fleener is the No. 3 TE.
  • California's Mychal Kendricks is the No. 5 ILB.
  • Cal's Bryan Anger is the No. 2 punter.

Report: Chow to be named Hawaii's coach

December, 20, 2011
It appears that Norm Chow will finally get a chance to run his own program.

Chow, presently the offensive coordinator at Utah, is expected to be named Hawaii's next head coach, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

It would be a homecoming for Chow, 65, a native of Hawaii who has interviewed many times for positions but never been a head coach.

Before coming to Utah last spring, Chow was the offensive coordinator at UCLA, the Tennessee Titans, USC, North Carolina State and BYU.

The Utes' defensive coordinator, Kalani Sitake, also interviewed for the job, as did Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Updating Pac-12 in NFL draft

April, 30, 2011
Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 through three rounds of the NFL draft.

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanforrd: Carolina

Through three rounds by conference (with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12):

SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Note: The old Pac-10 has 13 without two first-round picks from Colorado. Big Ten has 12 without Nebraska. Big 12 has 12 if Colorado and Nebraska are included.

Opening the mailbag: Locker vs Tuiasosopo

April, 29, 2011
Welcome to the weekend that ends spring football and sends us -- officially -- into the offseason.

I know: Yikes!

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Brian from Portland writes: Ted, can you please compare and contrast Jake Locker with Marques Tuiasosopo? I recall Tuiasosopo putting up impressive numbers at UW, including a 300/200 passing/rushing game, yet he was drafted late in the second round. What did Locker show scouts that Tuiasosopo didn't?

Ted Miller: Interesting question. My first response is Locker and Tuiasosopo are fairly similar, only Locker is slightly better -- bigger, stronger, faster -- by most physical measures. Oh, and their supporting casts at Washington were a bit different.

Tuiasosopo was not a great "pure" quarterback. But he was something more important: He was a winner, a guy who was at his best when the pressure was on. Yet while he finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2000 -- the Huskies finished ranked No. 3 in the nation after winning the Rose Bowl -- his numbers were fairly pedestrian. He ranked 66th in the nation in passing efficiency, completing just 52.6 percent of his throws for 2,146 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 picks. He also rushed for 394 yards and six scores.

This past season, Locker had a higher efficiency rating -- 124.2 versus 115.9 -- but ranked 73rd in the nation. He competed 55.4 percent of his passes for 2,265 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 385 yards and six touchdowns.

Note: Locker's official stats include 13 games, compared to just 11 for Tuiasosopo (bowls didn't count in 2000; including the Rose Bowl, Tuiasosopo passed for 2,284 yards, competed 53.9 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 11 INTs and rushed for 469 yards and seven touchdowns ).

So these numbers are comparable, practically a push.

Tuiasosopo was 6-foot-1, 220. Locker is 6-3, 230. Both were good, physical runners, but Locker is more of a weapon -- faster, more elusive. Recall that Locker rushed for 986 yards in 2007. He runs as well as a running back.

They also are very similar in "makeup." Both came from great families. Both are humble, team-first, high-character guys who were the unquestioned leader in the locker room.

So what's the biggest difference? Well, for one, they played in different eras of the Pac-10 and of Huskies football. Washington was a national power in 2000. At that point, the program hadn't suffered a losing season since 1976. Tuiasosopo played behind a far better offensive line (though you could make a case Locker had better skill players surrounding him, at least this past season).

But the thing that separates them in the eyes of NFL scouts is simple: Upside. Locker has a better arm and better physical skills than Tuiasosopo.

Tuiasosopo played in the NFL from 2001-08, but he never really got to showcase his chief attribute: Finding ways to win. He only passed for 554 yards and two touchdowns in six seasons. I always wondered what might have been if he'd landed in the right situation.

I honestly have no idea what Locker will do in the NFL. While more than a few folks have made me out to be some sort of booster for Locker, I was fairly shocked when the "top pick in the draft" talk started in 2009 after the upset of USC. Obviously, folks who know a lot more about football than me think he'll do pretty well, starting with the Tennessee Titans.

Duber1 from Junction City, Ore., writes: congrats on getting jake locker drafted 8th,,,,,, dont mean you were not an ass about the flat world comment. I know i have been an ass,,,,,,,, & it doesnt mean i wont continuously call you out on your husky crap,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, have a nice day,,,,,,,,,,,,, sincerely comma guy.

Ted Miller: The comma guy!

I had little to do with Locker getting drafted eighth, though it would be great if he'd send a check, believing I did.

As for the "flat world" line, I've never understood why it so fired up a couple of folks, such as the ubiquitous Mr. "Duber." My point was always this: A. Just about every football expert thought highly of Locker heading into the 2010 season; I was merely reporting what they were saying. B. The most vocal Locker doubters, those who constantly ranted about Locker on the blog, had a single common characteristic: They were big Oregon fans.

My feeling was that none of the "Locker stinks!", "Locker is overrated!" noise that was being sent my way emerged from an objective, unemotional position of "Here's what I think...." It was all, "Huskies stink!" So it didn't feel valid.

It's just like Washington fans taking shots at Joey Harrington. Harrington was a great guy and a great college quarterback and most of us were surprised he never broke through in the NFL. But if a Washington fan had gone nuts railing about Harrington being terrible back in 2001, I also would have identified that as a "the world is flat" opinion.

Aaron from Pacific City, Ore., writes: I enjoy you blog but what's the deal?? You have had a ton of coverage of spring football on almost every team in the Pac-12 not named Oregon State. Are you even going to make it up here this spring, we only have one more practice/scrimmage?

Ted Miller: I visited eight Pac-12 schools this spring but didn't go to the Northwest.'s Ivan Maisel, you may have noticed, is making a Northwest swing, which resulted in stories on Washington, Oregon State and an upcoming one on Oregon.

Hopefully, I will be able to get to the Northwest during preseason practices.

Rob from Phoenix writes: Ted, A. Is Arizona headed into underrated/sleeper status going into this year?B. Do you think that the schlerotic playcalling will improve on offense? They put up a ton of yards when Foles was able to decide who to throw to, but they had just as many ineffective drives that led to punts where they ran the ball poorly or proscribed Foles, generally excellent, decision making by throwing an innumerable number of WR screens or quick outs. Our offense was in the big money or the poor house and rarely in between.

Ted Miller: "Schlerotic playcalling"? Did you mean schlieric, which would be an interesting way of saying "streaky." Or sclerotic, which means "hardened"?

As for the Wildcats being sleepers: Maybe. But most will project Arizona in the middle of the Pac-12 South Division until we get a look at how the five new starters on the offensive line look. And it doesn't help that the Wildcats lost two defensive starters -- linebacker Jake Fischer and free safety Adam Hall -- to knee injuries this spring.

As for the play calling, coach Mike Stoops told me this: "We were trying to mix and match too much last year. We got discombobulated, I think. We got exposed late in the year on some things. [Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell] has to grow into this position and have total control with Nick. We need to all be on the same page."

It sounds like there were some discussions between Stoops and Littrell about play calling, and Littrell said as much to me, his operative word being "simplify."

My guess is the Wildcats are going to look a bit like old-school Texas Tech under pass-happy Mike Leach this fall, with Foles passing for over 4,000 yards. Will that put them in the thick of the South race? It might, but my present position is wait and see.

Jeremy from Salem, Ore., writes: I remember when this whole conference realignment thing was going on there was talk about moving the annual Utah-Colorado game to the beginning of the year so that Utah could play BYU and Colorado could play Colorado State at the end of the year. Then I haven't heard anything else about it since then. Did that fall through or something? Do you know anything else about it?

Ted Miller: One problem with that plan: Colorado and Colorado State have already scheduled early-season games through 2015. Further, there's a bit of a back-and-forth going on between Utah and BYU over their rivalry. It's only contracted through 2012.

The odds of BYU and Utah ending their annual game, one of the nation's great rivalries, seems remote, particularly with BYU now afforded the scheduling flexibility of an independent team. But there are a lot of moving parts to scheduling, so the scenario you write about may take a while to put in place -- or if the parties involved will even try to work it out that way.

Paul from Eugene, Ore., writes: hey ted i just wanted to share this story with you because it isnt a hugely publicized story on a few of oregon's players.

Ted Miller: Duly noted.

Most Pac-12 teams do a lot more in the community than they are given credit for. Good job, Cliff Harris, Darron Thomas and Dion Jordan.

A Pac-12 review of NFL draft's first round

April, 29, 2011
Five Pac-12 players were picked in the first round, with Jake Locker going higher than some projected and Cameron Jordan going lower.

Here's the draft order:

No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Here's analysis by Mel Kiper. And here's more on the first round.

Kiper also projects the second round, which starts Friday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (3 p.m. PT).

Kiper has Arizona DE Brooks Reed going first in the second round -- 33rd overall -- to New England. Other Pac-12 players in his second round: UCLA safety Rahim Moore to Houston at No. 42, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea to Oakland at No. 48 and Utah CB Brandon Burton to Philadelphia at No. 54.

Who is missing? Well what about UCLA LB Akeem Ayers, who was once considered a sure first-round pick.

Todd McShay also projects the second round, and he has Reed going first and Ayers going second, to the Buffalo Bills.

The rest of McShay's second round: Paea to Denver at No. 36, Moore to Minnesota at No. 43, Washington LB Mason Foster to Denver at 46 and USC DT Jurrell Casey to Seattle at No. 57.

Some draft links:

Smith goes, well, where everyone thought

April, 28, 2011
More than a few folks projected USC OT Tyron Smith going to the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 9 pick. And they are smiling right now.

The Trojans lineman, who is all about upside, was picked by Dallas with the No. 9 pick.

Smith was the second top-10 pick from the Pac-12, following No. 8 Jake Locker, who went to the Tennessee Titans.

Locker surprise pick at No. 8 for Titans

April, 28, 2011
Jake Locker's draft slide didn't really end up going that far from 2010 to 2011.

The former Washington quarterback was projected by many as the No. 1 overall pick if he entered the NFL draft last spring, but a disappointing senior season didn't destroy his draft status after the Tennessee Titans picked him with the eighth overall pick in the draft Thursday.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers. So Locker ended up the second QB drafted.

So let the debate begin: Did the Titans reach? Or is Locker just too good a talent to pass up?
One half of USC coach Lane Kiffin's Tennessee feudin' is over.

Kiffin, USC and the Tennessee Titans have settled their differences. The Titans last July filed a lawsuit against Kiffin and USC for interfering with the contract of running backs coach Kennedy Pola, who was hired to be the Trojans running backs coach.

Most observers (perhaps it was just me) believed the Titans were acting like big babies -- litigious and disingenuous ones at that -- so it's nice to put this to bed.

Here's a joint statement from USC and the Titans on the matter:

"We are pleased to be able to conclude a mutually satisfactory arrangement between the University of Southern California and the Tennessee Titans that concludes the litigation involving the hiring of Kennedy Pola. The settlement terms are private, but include opportunities for both parties to avoid future disagreements and disputes over employment of persons who are already employed by either party. With this amicable resolution, the Tennessee Titans and the University of Southern California have restored their long-time mutual relationship, and anticipate that the suit will be dismissed within the next few weeks."

Kiffin continues to have his NCAA issues based on his brief but colorful tenure coaching the Tennessee Volunteers, who volunteered Kiffin as their fall guy for rules violations.

Byrne: Akina leaving Arizona

February, 14, 2011
Duane Akina is reversing course.

A month after leaving Texas for Arizona, which was widely viewed as a homecoming to a program he'd coached for 14 seasons, he's returning to the Longhorns, citing "family considerations," according to a tweet from Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne.

Byrne tweeted: "Although disappointed because of the commitment we had made we respect Coach Akina’s decision based on family."

Texas lost secondary coach Jerry Gray this weekend when he was named the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator, so that's likely the void Akina falls into.
While both Utah and Colorado are joining the Pac-10 to make the conference the Pac-12 this season, Utah might be the more interesting addition.

Colorado comes from the Big 12, an AQ conference. While the Buffaloes have struggled in recent years, they arrive having a pretty good idea what the competition will be like in the Pac-12.

[+] EnlargeUtah Utes
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesHow will the Utah Utes handle the competition in an automatic qualifying conference?
Utah is coming from the Mountain West Conference. While the MWC has long been thought of as the best of the non-AQ conferences, there's still a bit of AQ snobbery out there that questions how well the Utes might handle the grind of a nine-game schedule in an AQ conference.

We'll soon find out, but before we do, national and non-AQ blogger Andrea Adelson and Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller decided to chat about it.

Andrea Adelson: Ted, today marks a momentous milestone. You get custody of Utah, which leaves the ranks of the Little Sisters of the Poor to join the all-mighty Pac-12. Congratulations. So how about a little back on forth on how you think Utah may fare as an automatic qualifying team? We know the Utes were the original BCS busters from among the non-AQs. What are your biggest concerns for Utah headed into uncharted waters?

Ted Miller: Andrea, glad to take hold of the Utes! Welcome to the new Pac-12 blog! The immediate measure is testing the old axiom that was consistently used against non-AQ schools in the past: While they can beat even an elite AQ team on any given day, they couldn't successfully negotiate the rigors of playing a full slate of games in an AQ conference. The idea is that playing BYU and TCU is tough, but when you throw in Wyoming, New Mexico and UNLV life is much easier. It's about getting ready to play USC one week, Oregon the next and Arizona the week after. Washington State a patsy? Well, the Cougars are a Pac-10 patsy -- at present -- but they won't feel like that after playing Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington. That week in, week out grind is what separates the AQ and non-AQ conferences. At least, that's the theory. And if the Utes go 8-1 or even 6-3 in Pac-12 play in 2011, they could take a big step toward invalidating that theory.

So, knowing what you know about Utah, what do you think will happen? How high are the expectations in Salt Lake for the Utes in Year 1 of Pac-12 play?

AA: I agree, Ted, I think there is a great unknown about how a non-AQ will do in an AQ conference. I have dismissed those "grind in, grind out" arguments in several debates with other bloggers and Mark Schlabach as well, but there is no question folks will be watching to see how Utah handles better competition on a week-to-week basis. I may be overly optimistic but I have Utah at 9-3 at this point. A lot of it depends on Jordan Wynn and how he recovers from his shoulder surgery. Utah gets kudos for hiring Norm Chow to help with the transition. I think Utah fans are very optimistic about their school's chance for success from the outset because of how the Utes have handled themselves against AQ teams in non-conference and bowl games. Utah posted a 21-12 record against teams from AQ conferences since the BCS began in 1998. That is tops among all non-AQ teams. I know the "grind" argument comes into play there, but Utah is generally well-coached and solid in all phases. The one thing that concerns me is the way the Utes played in losses to TCU, Boise State and Notre Dame last season. There were breakdowns all over the field, very uncharacteristic for a Kyle Whittingham team. I saw you had Utah at No. 7 in your way-too-early Pac-10 preseason 2011 rankings. Can you give us a more in-depth sense of why you have Utah there?

[+] EnlargeNorm Chow
Chris Williams/Icon SMINorm Chow will lead Utah's offense after three seasons at UCLA.
TM: The good news is Utah will provide an answer to the "grind it out" theory. I'm sure Boise State will be rooting for the Utes to prove the AQ snobs wrong. As for Utah being No. 7 in my power rankings, perhaps that's my AQ bias coming out. But there's annually a little of the ole "throw them into the hat" in the middle of the Pac-12. It's easy to see a top (Oregon and Stanford) and bottom (Colorado and Washington State), but the middle is a bit of a muddle, and that's the case most years. Utah seems to have some questions on both sides of the ball. Sure, Wynn is back, but most of his top weapons are gone at running back and receiver. The defense also takes some personnel hits, particularly in the secondary. As for Chow, well, he's a legend. But his previous three jobs -- USC, Tennessee Titans and UCLA -- ended badly. Is he still really "Norm Chow?" We'll see. I go through Utah's schedule and see 6-6 and think every win over .500 should feel like gravy. It is worth noting that not playing Oregon and Stanford seems like some serendipitous scheduling for Year 1! The schedule was not factored into my power rankings.

Tell me why the other 11 teams should fear the Utes?

AA: I understand where people say that about Chow given what happened in his past few stops. But he does bring a knowledge of the Pac-12 that nobody else on the Utah staff has, and that should be able to help when it comes to scouting and game planning. Receiver DeVonte Christopher showed flashes last season, and the incoming running backs, Harvey Langi and John White, have great potential. Defensively, safety Brian Blechen had a terrific season as a true freshman, and linebackers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez return, and JJ Williams should be healthy. I think a lot depends on how the offense does under Chow. Will it be radically different from the spread Utah generally runs, and runs well? Can Utah actually score against good teams, something it had trouble with last season? Does Utah have the depth to be able to compete in an automatic qualifying conference? There are definitely personnel questions and questions about joining one of the bigger conferences, so it is impossible to know for sure exactly what will happen. Your guess is as good as mine.

TM: A couple of things we can agree on. First, it's going to be interesting. If Utah goes 9-3, as you predict, there will be a lot of cheering and a lot of "I told you so" from non-AQ conferences. Particularly since Utah looks like it is in a moderate rebuilding phase with just 13 starters coming back. Neither of us root for teams, but more than a few folks would view that as a positive for college football, increasing respect for some of the so-called "have-nots," even as one of their own becomes a "have." It also will be interesting to see how Utah changes with a seat at the big table. Does recruiting get a big boost? Does Utah get treated differently in the national polls? The Pac-10 becoming the Pac-12 is a significant alteration of the college football landscape. It will be fun to see how things play out.

UCLA QB struggles? Now it's on Neuheisel

January, 23, 2011
And so the uncomfortable Norm Chow-UCLA-Rick Neuheisel tango ends. Chow is off to Utah after reaching a "mutual agreement on the terms of their separation with the school," and the Bruins' offense moves on with Mike Johnson as offensive coordinator in what appears to be a make-or-break season for Neuheisel.

Neuheisel's staff vacancies aren't all filled, however, which is why he and former Miami coach Randy Shannon are going to chat about a vacancy at defensive coordinator.

Chow and his new team will play host to their new Pac-12 South rivals on Nov. 12 in a game primed for media folk -- who me? -- who like to stir things up.

Everyone put a good face on this weekend. Neuheisel and Chow expressed their admiration for each other as well as disappointment that their pairing failed to create even mediocre offenses.

"We're disappointed it didn't turn out the way we hoped it would, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort or a lack of teamwork," Chow told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles. "Rick and I are friends. I feel like we worked very, very well together and it's just unfortunate that the results didn't show that.

"I told Rick, when all this settles down, the four of us [Chow and his wife, Diane, and Neuheisel and his wife, Susan] should all go out to dinner. "

For Utah, it looks like a big win. It gets an offensive coaching legend who knows the Pac-12 and really knows the Bruins' personnel, which will help in the head-to-head meeting.

But Utes fans shouldn't do a celebratory back flip just yet. You may want to wait for results. Start with this from the Salt Lake Tribune:
Terms of [Chow's] contract and salary with the Utes are unknown, as is the fate of current Utah co-coordinators Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick.

Chow will be the fourth coach to serve as Utah’s offensive coordinator under [head coach Kyle] Whittingham, who just completed his sixth year as the Utes’ head coach.

Two Utes assistants will either get dumped, demoted or leave on their own (both are highly thought of). Or, if Schramm and Roderick stay, how will the offensive staff mesh? The lack of offensive continuity also is notable.

Further, Chow, 64, has now completed his third uncomfortable exit, starting with USC in 2005 and the Tennessee Titans before he arrived at UCLA. His three years at UCLA were not successful. He is one of the all-time greats, without question, but he hasn't been his all-time great self for a while.

As for UCLA, this probably feels like old news because it was reported here weeks ago. Still, there is a notable takeaway. While the headlines were about Chow leaving and the "chemistry issues" that caused it, the more important change going forward is Neuheisel taking over as his own quarterbacks coach.

Think about that for a moment. The best way to illustrate Neuheisel's frustration with the offense (Chow) the past two seasons is by playing highlights of him constantly berating his quarterbacks after they trudged off the field. Neuheisel has said this offseason that he recognizes he needs to change that -- yelling at struggling QBs typically is a recipe for disaster -- but now he'll have to hold up a mirror when he wants to hand out blame.

Chow and Neuheisel clearly had different ideas about the position. Now there's one less person at whom to point the finger.

The chief reason UCLA is 15-22 in three seasons under Neuheisel is poor QB play (poor offensive line play is a close second, which is a horrible combination to have). Neuheisel will be coaching two guys -- Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut -- with starting experience (Prince might not be 100 percent this spring after knee surgery). A third option is true freshman Brett Hundley, an elite recruit who is already enrolled and who is the future of the program.

That means Neuheisel, as head coach and QBs coach, faces a huge question this spring and preseason that might ultimately decide his fate: Who's his QB? Does he go with experience, which should be more reliable if less talented, or does he go with youthful upside that might be infuriatingly inconsistent when his job status is almost entirely about the present?

Neuheisel likely needs seven or eight wins to coach into his fifth season. The single-biggest factor in whether the Bruins get there is likely QB play.

And that will be on Neuheisel.

Pac-10 lunch links: Is Marecic 'perfect'?

August, 2, 2010
I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.