Pac-12: Trevor Hankins

A year ago, Arizona State headed into spring practices with lots of questions, and most projected the Sun Devils were bound for the bottom third of the Pac-10. This week, the Sun Devils begin spring practices with few questions and expectations that they should win the first Pac-12 South title.

Expectations do not win football games, but 18 returning starters from a team that went 6-6 and pushed three top-10 teams to the brink -- Wisconsin, Oregon and Stanford -- is a reasonable foundation for optimism.

Of course, there are still issues, starting with quarterback Brock Osweiler asserting himself as the leader of the offense after Steven Threet was forced to retire due to recurrent concussions. Threet is serving as a student assistant this spring.

"I'd love to have Steven, but without having him, I think it kind of identified who our leader is," coach Dennis Erickson said.

Some notes:

Who's out: Arizona Republic writer Doug Haller was at the first practice Tuesday and provided this list of players who were out or limited: "... defensive end Junior Onyeali, receiver Mike Willie, safety Keelan Johnson, safety Eddie Elder, cornerback Deveron Carr, receiver Aaron Pflugrad and running back Deantre Lewis. Linebacker Brandon Magee was with the baseball team and didn't practice."

Haller also provided a depth chart from the first day.

Osweiler then who? With Threet, Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy, the Sun Devils had three quarterbacks with starting experience. Without Threet and Szakacsy, who left the team to pursue other interests, the Sun Devils have a first-team quarterback with two career starts and no experience behind him. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly and big-armed true freshman Mike Bercovici are competing for the backup role, which is often a key spot seeing how often starters get hurt and miss action.

O-line competition: If you're looking for a major reason the Sun Devils have high hopes, look no further than the line, which welcomes back, well, just about everybody from the two-deep. This will be a veteran unit led by senior center Garth Gerhart, younger brother of Toby. More than five guys have starting experience, so there may be some mixing and matching and shuffling as players fight for first-unit spots.

DT is the question: Both starting defensive tackles, Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola, are gone. The ideal rotation would be Corey Adams and Will Sutton starting, with Bo Moos and Toa Tuitea providing depth. But can Adams stay healthy? Sutton was academically ineligible last year, so he's high on talent and low on experience. Developing depth this spring will be critical. And might the Sun Devils use more three-man fronts? Said Erickson, "We're a 4-3 team," while still leaving the option open.

Can Burfict be perfect? Of course, no one can be perfect, but Burfict, a junior linebacker likely spending his final season in Tempe, will play himself into becoming a first-round NFL draft pick in 2012 if he saves all his nutty behavior for between the whistles, not after. He needs to lead in word and deed, which means growing up and acting and playing like a man. The way-early returns this offseason are positive. "I'm trying to get us to a national championship," Burfict told the Republic, "and to do that, I feel like I need to become more of a leader."

Just for kicks? The Sun Devils must replace kicker Thomas Weber and punter Trevor Hankins. Alex Garoutte and Parker Flynn are competing at kicker, with Garoutte the front-runner. JC transfer Josh Hubner is expected to win the punting job. Will the Sun Devils get quality or merely warm bodies here?

Pac-12 recruiting needs: South Division

January, 27, 2011
National signing day is now less than a week away. Time to take a final look at recruiting needs for the Pac-12, starting with the South Division.

Arizona Insider

Defensive end: The Wildcats lost two All-Conference starters, Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, as well as No. 3 defensive end D'Aundre Reed. They have commitments from four players listed as DEs, but are any ready to play in 2011?

Linebacker: Last year, the Wildcats were replacing all three starters, so this was a dire need. And JC transfers Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls did a solid job stepping in. The issues here is depth and the future: Coach Mike Stoops doesn't want to be in the same position as 2010 when he had no experience at the position.

Running back: This position is mostly set for 2011, though an explosive newcomer could earn playing time because this has not proven to be a durable position for the Wildcats. Two of the top-four commitments so far are running backs.

Arizona State Insider

Linebacker: The Sun Devils might have the best group of linebackers in the Pac-12 next fall, but Brandon Magee, Shelley Lyons, Oliver Aaron and Colin Parker are seniors and likely preseason All-American Vontaze Burfict is probably headed for the first round of the NFL draft in 2012. So the Sun Devils need young linebackers who can pick up some seasoning before getting thrown into action. They've gotten commitments from two so far and would like to add a third.

Quarterback: Steven Threet is a senior, Brock Osweiler a junior and Samson Szakacsy left the program. The Sun Devils want to sign two and have commitments from two, but Michael Eubank is exploring his options, with Utah, particularly, making a push.

Punter: It appears this need -- Trevor Hankins is gone -- will be filled by JC All-American Josh Hubner.

Colorado Insider

Speed: When new coach Jon Embree watched film of the Buffaloes, he found this lacking, regardless of position. And overall team speed will be more important in the Pac-10 than the Big 12. The Buffaloes were an elite team in terms of team speed during the glory years of 1988-96.

Cornerbacks: The Buffaloes not only lost two starting cornerbacks, they lost two guys -- Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown -- who are expected to be early NFL draft picks. And six of the other seven CBs listed on the 2010 depth chart, which includes a nickelback, will be seniors next fall. Two of 13 commitments so far are corners.

Wide Receivers: The Buffaloes lose all-time receptions and touchdowns leader Scotty McKnight and at present have only three receivers on scholarship, one of whom is a senior. Only one commitment is from a receiver thus far.

UCLA Insider

Offensive line: Four starters from 2010 graduated as well as top backup Micah Kia (left tackle Sean Sheller is appealing to NCAA for sixth year of eligibility; center Kai Maiava miss 2010 with a fractured ankle). The Bruins would like to sign five and have commitments from three so far.

Quarterback: The Bruins have their man here: Brett Hundley is already enrolled in school, attending classes and participating in off-season workouts.

Defensive line: The Bruins want to sign three D-linemen. End Sam Tai is already enrolled in school, attending classes and participating in offseason workouts.

USC Insider

Linemen: The Trojans need to stock up on linemen on both sides of the ball; as we all know they are playing an interesting numbers games with NCAA sanctions. So far, so good, but not done. The Trojans have commitments (or have already signed) six defensive linemen (including five ends) and four offensive linemen.

Linebackers: It's odd that USC is weak at linebacker but it is, particularly in terms of depth. Four commitments are LBs and a few others could end up there.

Numbers: USC is stocking up for whatever the NCAA ultimately rules on the Trojans appeal of NCAA sanctions. That's why it used scholarships for a kicker, punter and long-snapper: Secure those positions for the longterm so limited scholarships going forward can be used for bigger needs. That also means athletes -- defensive backs, receivers and running backs -- who have options in terms of where they end up.

Utah Insider

Running back: With two seniors who split the rushing load -- Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata -- gone, the Utes need running backs, and four of their 19 commitments are listed as such.

Pass catchers: The Utes must replace four of their top five receivers from 2010, which included Wide and Asiata. They've got commitments from three and are in the hunt for at least one more. Also, the class has no tight end as of yet.

Quarterback: The Utes had a commitment from quarterback Derrick Brown Insider out of Murrieta, Calif., but he switched to Washington, so there are presently no QBs in the class. Jordan Wynn will be a junior next fall, but there is no experience behind him.

Pac-12 makes impact at Shrine Game

January, 19, 2011
Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl are at the Shrine Game practices and are sending notes throughout the workouts on who's doing well and who's struggling.

Their Day 1 material had some observations about three Pac-12 guys.

Arizona offensive tackle Adam Grant gets a thumbs-up, while Oregon DE Kenny Rowe gets a thumbs-down in this practice review.

And Arizona DE Ricky Elmore was a "top performer" on Day 1.

There will daily updates from these guys, and with 15 Pac-12 players in the game, there should be plenty of info on players of interest.

These are the Pac-12 players in the game.

Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon
Jordan Cameron, TE, USC
David Carter, DT, UCLA
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
Adam Grant, OT, Arizona
Trevor Hankins, P, Arizona State
Alex Linnenkohl, C, Oregon State
Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
Mike Mohamed, LB, California
Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah
Justin Taplin-Ross, SS, Utah
Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford
Nate Williams, SS, Washington
Zach Williams, OG, Washington State
Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon*

* Playing for East team.

Arizona-ASU: Present, future at issue

December, 1, 2010
On page 13 of Arizona State's weekly release you find the team's depth chart. You don't need to review it now. We'll come back to that in a bit. The immediate business at hand for the Sun Devils is their game Thursday with rival Arizona.

The matchup is meaningful, and not just because it's a rivalry game that divides the state. It's also meaningful because the Sun Devils are still angling for a bowl berth.

While there are already 70 bowl-eligible teams, and Arizona State can't win seven games, the amount required by NCAA rules on bowl eligibility when you play two FCS teams, as the Sun Devils have, they nonetheless have submitted a waiver to the NCAA Legislative Relief Committee for review, and the Pac-10 office is backing that appeal with "emails and phone calls," according to a conference spokesman, Dave Hirsch.

"It is our hope that the waiver receives full consideration," Hirsch wrote in an e-mail. This was first reported by the Arizona Republic.

[+] EnlargeDennis Erickson
Kyle Terada/US PresswireArizona State coach Dennis Erickson only has 13 seniors on his 2010 roster.
So the Territorial Cup may or may not serve as a launching point for the Sun Devils in 2011. For one, they could lose; they are the underdogs in Tucson, where the 'Zona Zoo can be a bit of a problem. And, if they win, it might not be their last game, with the Holiday, Sun or Las Vegas bowls being potential options if the NCAA grants the waiver.

But now let's return to that depth chart. Just two likely starting position players against the Wildcats are seniors: receiver Kerry Taylor and defensive tackle Saia Falahola, who is listed as a co-starter with Bo Moos. In fact, the Sun Devils only have 13 total seniors. The only area in which graduations hits hard is with the specialists: both kicker Thomas Weber and punter Trevor Hankins are seniors.

That youth, coupled with a 5-6 record that includes four defeats by four or fewer points, suggests the Sun Devils could be pretty salty in 2011. As in: Top-25, top-third of the Pac-12 salty.

But, alas, coach Dennis Erickson wouldn't play along with this line of thinking -- Thursday as a potential launching point for promising 2011 campaign -- which is probably wise. He does have a game to get ready for, you know.

"I don't know if you can look at it as that. You've got to look at it as what it is," he said. "We're worried about what is going to happen Thursday, not next year. But when they're young like that, with some of the guys we've got coming back, you look forward to the next year -- when this year is over with."

As for the Wildcats, the present situation is they are headed to a good bowl game, but they'd like to show up at that game without a sign saying "Four-game losing streak!" blinking over their collective heads. A win, and they likely head to the Alamo Bowl. A loss, and they might end up the Holiday Bowl if Washington beats Washington State.

Coach Mike Stoops doesn't beat around the bush when assessing why his team's fortunes have been sagging of late after they played into the nation's top-10 earlier in the season.

"We've played better teams down the stretch, teams that emphasize running the football," he said. "Our inability to stop the run consistently has led a little bit to our demise."

The last three foes -- Stanford, USC and Oregon -- each rushed for more than 200 yards in wins over the Wildcats, including 389 yards on the ground from the Ducks. But the Sun Devils, not unlike the Wildcats, are a passing team. Arizona ranks No. 1 (314 yards passing per game) and the Sun Devils second (288.2 yards per game) in the Pac-10 in passing.

Speaking of passing, both teams have interesting quarterback situations, which will be interesting heading into the offseason and spring practices as well.

When Sun Devils starter Steven Threet suffered a concussion early against UCLA, Brock Osweiler came off the bench and was brilliant, passing for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He'll start Thursday, and if he plays well, expect there to be another tight QB competition in Tempe before the 2011 season.

As for the Wildcats, Nick Foles is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and likely will get preseason All-American attention in 2011. He threw for a career-high 448 yards at Oregon last week. Still, backup Matt Scott did enough in two starts while Foles was hurt to make a big impression on Stoops.

"It will be a conversation for another day how we move forward with both of these players moving into their senior year next year," Stoops said.

In other words, he wants Scott to anticipate playing a role next fall as more than a pure backup.

Last year's game between these two was a defensive-minded thriller, a 20-17 Arizona victory that was heartbreaking for the Sun Devils. ASU receiver Kyle Williams made a spectacular catch in the end zone to tie the game at 17, but just moments later he muffed a punt that set up the Wildcats' game-winning field goal. Afterwards, their was a brief fight at midfield as tempers flared.

Expect another tight one in this underrated rivalry.

"They are much improved football team than they were a year ago," Stoops said. "They are way better offensively. They have an identity."

If Stoops' team prevails, it figures to return to the national rankings -- it's already No. 23 in the BCS standings -- and then play in a quality bowl game against a nationally ranked Big 12 team.

It's not yet certain what a win would mean for the Sun Devils in terms of the postseason. But an upset victory might be viewed this way in the big picture: As a launching point for justifiable optimism heading into 2011.

Pac-10 lunch links: Foles talks about bouncing back

November, 9, 2010
They resent the slightest application of control as intolerable tyranny, and in their resolve to have no master they end by disregarding even the law, written or unwritten.

Pac-10 players of the week

November, 1, 2010
Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl, Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali and Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer have been named Pac-10 players of the week.

Maehl, a senior from Paradise, Calif., caught eight passes for a career-best 145 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks' 53-32 win at USC. Each of his three touchdowns came at times Oregon was trailing and gave the Ducks the lead. Over the past three games, he’s collected 26 receptions for 371 yards. Maehl has 148 career receptions and needs 14 more to reach the top five on Oregon’s all-time list.

Onyeali, a freshman from Denver, Colo., made his third career start in the 42-0 shutout of Washington State. He collected four tackles for a loss, including a career-high three sacks. He also forced two fumbles. The Sun Devils limited Washington State to 264 yards of total offense.

Fischer, a sophomore from Oro Valley, Ariz., helped preserve a Wildcat lead with his special-teams play in the second half of Arizona’s 29-21 victory at UCLA. The Bruins, who had just cut a 12-point deficit down to five points, forced Arizona to punt from its own 27-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The Wildcats called for a fake punt on fourth-and-3, which Fischer turned into a 29-yard gain to maintain possession and ultimately flip the field position on the Bruins. After that, UCLA started each of its final two drives from inside its own 30-yard line. The Bruins netted minus-6 yards of offense on those two possession. On the Wildcats kickoff coverage teams, he recorded two tackles in the second half. Each of Fischer’s kickoff coverage tackles kept the Bruins inside their own 30-yard line.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Matt Scott of Arizona, quarterback Steven Threet of Arizona State, running back Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford and wide receiver Randall Carroll of UCLA. Also nominated on defense were defensive end Brooks Reed of Arizona, linebacker Spencer Paysinger of Oregon, linebacker Keith Pankey of Oregon State, linebacker Chase Thomas of Stanford and safety Tony Dye of UCLA. Also nominated on special teams were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, linebacker Bosko Lokombo of Oregon, kicker Nate Whitaker of Stanford and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.

Pac-10 did you know? Week 7

October, 22, 2010
Some quick notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • Arizona is looking for its first 6-1 start since 1998, when the Wildcats finished 12-1.
  • The Wildcats defense has held opponents to single digits in four of six games this season. Overall, Arizona is allowing 13.3 PPG, seventh best in FBS.
  • Quarterback Nick Foles is out with an injury for Arizona, meaning junior Matt Scott will be behind center. Scott has 220 pass yards and a TD on the season, seeing action in three games.
  • The Arizona offensive line has allowed 17 sacks in six games. The Wildcats allowed 13 all of last season.
  • Washington faces a ranked opponent for the second straight game and for the four time in the last five games. The Huskies lost to 8th-ranked Nebraska, defeated 18th-ranked USC and beat 24th-ranked Oregon State last week.
  • Arizona State hasn't won at California since 1997. Bears coach Jeff Tedford is 6-1 vs. the Sun Devils.
  • In its last 42 home games, Cal is 36-6 (.857).
  • Arizona State punter Trevor Hankins leads the nation with an average of 48.5 yards per punt.
  • The Sun Devils are looking to post back-to-back road wins for the first time since besting Stanford and Washington State in 2007.
  • Since 2000, ASU is 5-5 after the season's first bye week.
  • In the victories against UC Davis, Colorado and UCLA, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley completed 63 percent of his passes for 538 yards, with eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer efficiency rating of 182.65. In three losses to Nevada, Arizona and USC, Riley completed 55.4 percent of his throws for 586 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions for a passer efficiency rating of 106.66. All the wins were at home; all the losses on the road.
  • Riley posted one of his best career games at Arizona State in 2009, passing for 351 yards -- his second-best single game total -- and two TDs in a 23-21 victory that featured a late drive for the game-winning field goal.
  • Stanford is looking to start 6-1 for the first time since 1970, when the Cardinal started 8-1. A win would mark the third time since World War II in which Stanford won six of its first seven games (started 9-0 in 1951). The last 4 times Stanford was 5-1, the Cardinal lost its seventh game.
  • Stanford won the last two meetings with Washington State by a combined score of 97-13. This includes a 58-0 win the last time they played in Palo Alto in 2008.
  • Cardinal debut at 12th in the BCS standings, the highest the school has been since finishing ninth in the final BCS standings of 2001.
  • Andrew Luck is second in the Pac-10 and is 9th nationally in passing efficiency at 166.86. He is 15th in FBS in total offense (296.7 YPG). He has passed for two or more TD in five of six games this season.
  • Washington State is 0-4 to begin its conference season. In 2009, the Cougars went 0-9 in Pac-10 play and started 2008 0-8 before defeating rival Washington. Overall, that’s 13 consecutive losses and 1-21 in the last 22 Pac-10 games. The Pac-10 record for most consecutive conference losses is 20 by Oregon State from 1979-82.

Some Pac-10 numbers to chew on

October, 5, 2010
Some numbers that might interest you.
  • In four games last weekend, Pac-10 teams averaged 487 yards and 34.4 points per game. No conference team scored fewer than 28 points.
  • Three conference running backs rushed for more than 200 yards: Oregon's LaMichael James (257 yards vs. Stanford), USC's Allen Bradford (223 vs. Washington) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (216 yards vs. Washington State).
  • A conference of QBs? Four Pac-10 teams rank among the nation's top-25 in rushing: No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 UCLA, No. 15 USC and No. 24 Stanford. But only two are among the top-25 in passing: No. 9 Arizona State and No. 11 Arizona.
  • Arizona is the only conference team that ranks in the top-25 in rushing and pass defense. The Wildcats are No. 2 in the nation in total defense (230.75 yards per game). The Wildcats have not allowed a TD in three of four games. They've surrendered zero rushing TDs.
  • USC QB Matt Barkley is No. 1 in the Pac-10 and 14th in the nation in passing efficiency.
  • Three Pac-10 kickers have yet to miss a field goal attempt: Stanford's Nate Whitaker (9 for 9, long of 46 yards), Washington's Erik Folk (7 for 7, long of 54 yards) and Oregon's Rob Beard (5 for 5, long of 42 yards). The longest field goal so far this year came from Washington State's Nico Grasu, who connected from 56 yards (vs. Oklahoma State).
  • Washington LB Mason Foster leads the conference with 48 total tackles and 12 tackles per game.
  • Oregon DT Brandon Bair leads the conference with 8.5 tackles for a loss.
  • Oregon CB Cliff Harris leads the conference with four interceptions and eight pass breakups.
  • Four Pac-10 teams rank among the top-15 in the nation in turnover margin. Oregon is No. 1 (2.20), Oregon State is No. 2 (2.0), California is No. 12 (1.0) and Stanford is 15th (0.80). The Beavers are the only team in the country that hasn't turned the ball over.
  • Four Pac-10 punters rank among the top-14 in the country. Arizona State's Trevor Hankins is No. 1, UCLA's Jeff Locke is No. 10, Washington's Kiel Rasp is No. 12 and Washington State's Reid Forrest is 14th.
  • On the downside for punters, five conference punt returners also rank among the top-14 in the country: Oregon's Harris is No. 1, Oregon State's James Rodgers is No. 4, USC's Ronald Johnson is No. 6, Oregon's Kenjon Barner is No. 11 and Cal's Jeremy Ross is 14th.

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 4, 2010
Oregon running back LaMichael James, Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris and Washington kicker Erik Folk are the Pac-10 Players of the Week.

James, a sophomore from Texarkana, Texas, led No. 4 Oregon to a 52-31 victory over No. 9 Stanford, carrying the ball 31 times for a career-high 257 yards and three touchdowns. His 76-yard touchdown run came on his final carry as he sealed the game with 1:10 remaining. It was his second 200-yard rushing performance this season.

James also was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week.

Harris, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., collected five tackles to go along with two second-half interception and a pass breakup. His second interception occurred in the end zone when Stanford had a first and 10 on the Ducks 11-yard line. It’s the second Player of the Week honor for Harris -- he won for special teams after game one.

Folk, a junior from Woodland Hills, Calif., came through for Washington for the second straight time against USC as he hit a game-winning field goal to beat the 18th-ranked Trojans. This time, his 32-yarder split the uprights as time expired, giving the Huskies the 32-31 win over No. 18 USC. He was 4-for-4 on field goals for the evening, hitting from 23, 41, 35 and 32 yards. He also made both PAT attempts, accounting for 14 of the team’s 32 points. Last season, it was Polk’s 22-yarder with three seconds to play that made the difference in a 16-13 win over No. 3 USC.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were running backs Deantre Lewis of Arizona State, Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, Stepfan Taylor of Stanford, Johnathan Franklin of UCLA, Allen Bradford of USC, and quarterback Jake Locker of Washington. Also nominated on defense were defensive tackle Stephen Paea of Oregon State, safety Taylor Skaufel of Stanford, defensive tackle David Carter of UCLA and linebacker Mason Foster of Washington. Also nominated for special teams were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, place kicker Rob Beard of Oregon, kick returner Jordan Poyer of Oregon State, and place kicker Kai Forbath of UCLA.

Pac-10 did you know?: Week 5

October, 1, 2010
Some quick notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.

  • This is the first time since the Pac-10’s inception in 1959 (formerly called AAWU) that the conference has had four 4-0 teams ranked this highly in the AP poll at this point in the season. Oregon, Stanford, Arizona and USC are all 4-0 and ranked among the top 18 teams in the poll.
  • This is the 74th meeting between Stanford and Oregon, but Saturday will mark the first time both have been ranked at game time.
  • Oregon has its highest AP ranking since the 2007 season, when the Ducks reached No. 2 in the November 11th poll before losing three straight games.
  • Of Oregon's 24 scoring drives that ended in touchdowns, 11 of them lasted less than one minute. The average time of those 11 drives is 33 seconds. Oregon ranks 91st nationally in time of possession.
  • Oregon has yet to allow a point at home this season, outscoring opponents 141-0 in two games. But that was against New Mexico and Portland State.
  • Oregon has won 12 straight home games since losing to Boise State in 2008. The Ducks have also won nine straight home Pac-10 games, last losing to Oregon State in the 2007 Civil War.
  • The Ducks already have 14 rushing touchdowns this season. There are 64 current FBS teams that don’t have 14 TOTAL touchdowns yet.
  • Stanford won last year’s shootout 51-42 snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Ducks. Oregon has won the last four meetings in Eugene, outscoring the Cardinal 159-52.
  • Stanford is enjoying its best AP ranking since finishing the 1992 season also ranked 9th. This is also the first time that Stanford has faced an opponent when BOTH teams are ranked in the AP top 10 since Sept. 12, 1970 when 10th ranked Stanford beat 4th ranked Arkansas 34-28.
  • The last time Stanford was ranked in the top 5 was the Sept. 28, 1970 poll (3rd). That year was also the last time Stanford was this highly ranked entering October (3rd).
  • Since 2000, Stanford is 4-3 when facing top 5 teams. That includes a stunning upset at No. 2 USC in 2007. Last season, Stanford went 3-0 when facing a ranked opponent.
  • If the Cardinal can win on Saturday, it will be their first 5-0 start since the 1951 team started the season 9-0.
  • The Oregon-Stanford game will be the fourth consecutive top-10 Pac-10 matchup in Eugene, and Oregon is 3-0 in the previous games: Oct. 27, 2007 -- No. 5 Oregon defeated No. 9 USC, 24-17, at Eugene;Nov. 3, 2007 -- No. 4 Oregon defeated No. 6 Arizona State, 35-23, at Eugene; Oct. 31, 2009 -- No. 10 Oregon defeated No. 4 USC, 47-20, at Eugene (factoid courtesy of Arizona State).
  • Stanford has scored 192 points through its first four games this season. That’s the school’s most points over a four-game stretch since the first four games of the 1923 season (206 points). Oregon’s 231 points scored are the most in school history over any four-game stretch. Oregon and Stanford rank first and fourth respectively in scoring offense this season.
  • USC was No. 3 when it got upset by Washington last season, and it was held to just 13 points and a 110 pass yards -- a low in the Pete Carroll era. Prior to last year’s loss, the Trojans had won seven straight meetings with Washington by an average score of 40-16 (includes vacated win in 2005).
  • USC's Lane Kiffin will attempt to become the third USC coach to start 5-0. Harvey Holmes (started 5-0 in 1904) and Jess Hill (started 7-0 in 1951) are the only two to do it.
  • USC has won 32 straight home night games, but three of those wins were vacated by the NCAA.
  • Washington LB Mason Foster leads the Pac-10 and is third in the nation with 12.7 tackles per game.
  • Arizona State leads its series with Oregon State 24-11-1, but the Beavers have won three of the last four.
  • Arizona State QB Steven Threet leads the Pac-10 and is fourth in the nation in passing with 307 yards per game.
  • Sun Devils punter Trevor Hankins is No. 1 in the nation with an average of 51.1 yards per boot.
  • ASU freshman RB Deantre Lewis rushed for 127 yards on just 11 carries vs. Oregon (11.5 yards per carry). He's expected to start at Oregon State.
  • With 100 all-purpose yards vs. Boise State, James Rodgers moved to No. 1 on Oregon State's all-time list with 5,630 total yards, passing Ken Simonton.
  • The Beavers are road warriors this early season. This is just their second home game and they won't be home again until Oct. 30 vs. California, but that begins a string of four home games over the final six games.
  • UCLA leads its series with Washington State 37-18-1, but the Cougars have won six of the last 10.
  • The Bruins win at No. 7 Texas was their first road victory over a ranked team since beating No. 19 Oregon State 38-7 in 2001.
  • UCLA is 20th in the nation in rushing with 218.75 yards per game. Last year, the Bruins finished 97th in rushing (114.62).
  • Washington State QB Jeff Tuel has thrown for more than 200 yards in all four games. The only other Pac-10 quarterbacks to do that are Arizona's Nick Foles and Arizona State's Steven Threet.
  • The Cougars rank last in the Pac-10 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total defense, rushing offense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks against and red zone offense.

Some Pac-10 numbers to chew on

September, 28, 2010
Some numbers that might interest you.
  • The Pac-10 is 10-4 vs. other BCS conferences.
  • The Pac-10 is 2-4 vs. the WAC and Mountain West.
  • The conference's overall record vs. FBS foes is 15-9 (.624).
  • Arizona ranks fourth in the nation in total defense (230.75 yards per game) and is tied for third with Oregon in scoring defense (11 ppg).
  • Three Pac-10 QBs rank in the nation's top 25 in passing efficiency: No. 11 Andrew Luck of Stanford, No. 14 Matt Barkley of USC and No. 25 Nick Foles of Arizona.
  • Four Pac-10 teams rank among the top 15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense: No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Stanford, No. 11 Arizona and No. 15 California.
  • Oregon is No. 1 in the nation with 57.75 points per game. Stanford is No. 4 with 48 ppg.
  • Oregon and Stanford have both allowed only one sack so far this year. Stanford leads the conference with 14 sacks. Oregon is tied for second with 11.
  • Stanford is tied for No. 1 in the nation with a 100 percent scoring rate in the red zone. Its 26 red zone opportunities -- 18 TDs -- also is the most in the nation.
  • Oregon RB LaMichael James is No. 2 in the nation with 158.83 rushing yards per game. Cal's Shane Vereen is 22nd with 106.5 ypg.
  • Arizona's Travis Cobb is No. 1 in the nation in kickoff return average (37.83 ypr).
  • Oregon's Cliff Harris is No. 1 in the nation in punt return average (28.14 ypr).
  • Arizona State's Trevor Hankins is No. 1 in the nation in punting, averaging 51.07 yards per boot.
  • Oregon is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (2.75). The Ducks have forced 18 turnovers -- three more than any other team -- and lost seven.
  • Oregon State is the only team in the nation that has yet to lose a turnover.
  • The Beavers rank 119th in the nation in third-down defense. Opponents are converting 58.7 percent of third-down plays into first downs. Meanwhile, the Beavers' offense is 115th in the nation in third down conversion percentage (26.5 percent).
  • Arizona State ranks last (120th) in the nation in penalty yards per game (93.8 ypg). USC ranks 118th (90 ypg).

Pac-10 players of the week

September, 27, 2010
UCLA's big win over No. 7 Texas continues to earn kudos as two Bruins earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.

Bruins center Ryan Taylor and linebacker Sean Westgate earned offensive and defensive honors, while Stanford place kicker Nate Whitaker earned the nod for special teams.

Taylor, a senior from Denison, Texas, keyed the Bruins running attack that accounted for 264 yards against the nation's No. 1 rushing defense in the 34-12 win at Texas. UCLA’s ground game was instrumental in the Bruins eating up 35:29 on the clock, compared to 24:31 time of possession for Texas. Taylor is the first lineman to earn the Pac-10 weekly offensive honor since Oregon tackle Adam Snyder claimed the award on Sept. 20, 2003.

Westgate, a junior from Oak Park, Calif., collected a career-high and team-high 11 tackles (seven solos) and forced a fumble on a punt to set up UCLA’s first touchdown of the game. The Bruin defense limited Texas to 85 yards rushing and 264 yards passing (85 passing yards came on Texas’ final possession of the game). Westgate leads the team with 32 tackles and ranks tied for seventh in the Pac-10, averaging 8.0 per game.

Whitaker, a senior from San Diego, Calif., matched a single-game Stanford record with five field goals. He was successful on all five attempts: 24, 41, 36, 33, and 29 yards. He added two PATs to tally 17 points in the Cardinal’s 37-14 win at Notre Dame.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were wide receiver Juron Criner of Arizona, and running backs Deantre Lewis of Arizona State and Shane Vereen of California, quarterback Darron Thomas of Oregon, and running backs Stepfan Taylor of Stanford and Stanley Havili of USC. Also nominated on defense were defensive tackle Justin Washington of Arizona, defensive back Chris Conte of California, linebacker Casey Matthews of Oregon, linebacker Shayne Skov of Stanford, and cornerback Nickell Robey of USC. Also nominated for special teams play were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, punter Jackson Rice of Oregon, wide receiver/returner James Rodgers of Oregon State, punter Jeff Locke of UCLA and defensive end Wes Horton of USC.

Locker tumbles on Kiper's 'Big Board' (sort of)

September, 22, 2010
A Pac-10 QB is atop Mel Kiper's "Big Board," but it's no longer Washington's Jake Locker.

It's Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Here's what Kiper has to say about Locker's terrible game vs. Nebraska:
Still, it's hard to ignore the dreadful showing Jake Locker had against Nebraska. While I noted in Stock Watch that the totals were worse than the tape -- Locker was facing a loaded secondary, and was constantly harassed and forced to simply dump the ball -- he's still due for a fall. It's a developmental issue. NFL evaluators still see significant talent, but they are hesitant to take a QB as high as No. 1 overall if they think he needs significant tutoring at the NFL level. They simply can't have the patience because of the tenuous nature of their own jobs. So Locker takes a hit this week.

Kiper therefore drops Locker to No. 4, though he still lists Locker as the No. 1 senior QB.

Also on the Big Board: The UCLA duo of LB Akeem Ayers and S Rahim Moore are rated 18th and 24th, respectively.

Other top Pac-10 seniors:
  • Stanford's Owen Marecic and USC's Stanley Havili rate as the top two fullbacks.
  • USC's Ronald Johnson is the No. 2 receiver.
  • USC's Kristofer O'Dowd is the No. 3 center.
  • Oregon State's Stephen Paea is the No. 2 DT.
  • UCLA's Kia Forbath is the No. 1 kicker. Arizona State's Thomas Weber is No. 3.
  • Arizona State's Trevor Hankins is the No. 2 punter, while Washington State's Reid Forest is No. 5.

As for Pac-10 non-seniors:
  • Luck is the No. 1 QB. Arizona's Nick Foles is No. 4.
  • Kiper lists Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon's LaMichael James and California's Shane Vereen as the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 RBs.
  • Cal's Anthony Miller, Oregon's David Paulson and USC's Rhett Ellison are the Nos. 2, 4 and 5 tight ends.
  • USC's Jurrell Casey is the No. 3 DT. Arizona State's Lawrence Guy is No. 5.
  • USC's Chris Galippo, who doesn't start, rates as the No. 5 inside linebacker.
  • Ayers is the No. 1 OLB. Moore is the No. 1 safety.
  • Washington's Erik Folk is the No. 2 kicker.
  • Cal's Bryan Anger is the No. 1 punter

Pac-10 stock report

September, 15, 2010
Who's running with a bull market? Who's battling the bears (not the Golden ones)?

Stock up
  • Kenjon Barner & LaMichael James: Barner leads the nation in scoring -- 18 points per game -- and James' 72-yard TD run might be the best play you'll see all year.
  • Jermaine Kearse: The Washington receiver ranks third in the nation with 143.5 yards receiving per game, and his four TD receptions are tops in the Pac-10.
  • Pac-10 QBs: Five rank among the nation's top-22 in passing efficiency, topped by California's Kevin Riley, who ranks third overall and has thrown seven TD passes with no interceptions.
  • Trevor Hankins: He has punted five times in two games for Arizona State and his shortest boot is 49 yards. He averages 53.2 yards per punt, which would be tops in the nation but he hasn't had enough punts.
  • Defense: Five Pac-10 teams rank among the top-17 in the nation in total defense, including California, which ranks No. 1 (160 yards per game). The other four are No. 3 Arizona, No. 7 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon and No. 17 Arizona State.
  • Oregon's offense: It ranks second in the nation in total offense (583.5 yards per game) and second in scoring (60 ppg).
  • California's pass rush: The Bears wanted to put more pressure on opposing QBs. Well, they've recorded eight sacks in two games, which leads the conference.
Stock down
  • UCLA's offense: The Bruins were shut out at home 35-0 vs. Stanford and rank 111th in the nation in total offense (273 yards per game) and 115th in scoring (11 ppg).
  • Washington State's defense: The Cougars are yielding 475 yards per game, which ranks 110th in the country.
  • Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford: After rushing for 154 yards on 17 carries for USC vs. Hawaii, Tyler had just 67 yards on 18 carries vs. Virginia. And coach Lane Kiffin didn't give him a strong endorsement when he told the LA Daily News that "As of today Tyler is the starter." Bradford began fall camp as USC's starting running back. He had three carries for 10 yards against Virginia.
  • Washington on fourth down: The Huskies are 0-3 on fourth down this season.
  • Penalties: Arizona State ranks 118th in the nation with 112 penalty yards per game. USC? It ranks 119th with 120 penalty yards per game.
  • Shane Vereen: He's battled nagging injuries since fall camp, but Vereen is only averaging 63 yards rushing per game and his 4.2 per carry average is tied for ninth among the conference's top-10 rushers. His long run so far is 12 yards.

Preseason position reviews: punter

August, 11, 2010
The Pac-10: A conference of punters.

You have both the first- and second-team All-Pac-10 punters back, two on the seven-man Ray Guy Award watch list and three that ranked among the nation's top 21 in punting last year.

Oh, and every team welcomes back their punter from 2009.

Any of the six teams in "Great shape" here could produce an All-Pac-10 punter.

Great shape
  • California: Bryan Anger, first-team All-Pac-10 in 2009, might be the nation's most talented punter. Though he ranked fourth in the conference with a 42.3-yard average, he led the conference with 24 punts downed inside the 20 with only four touchbacks, which means he's got great touch.
  • Arizona State: Trevor Hankins led the Pac-10 with a 44.2-yard average. His 18 punts of 50 or more yards tied for most in the conference.
  • UCLA: Jeff Locke, who's on the Ray Guy watch list, earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009. His 43.6-yard average ranked second in the conference.
  • Washington State: Reid Forrest punted 86 times in 2009 -- 16 more boots than anyone else in the league -- and averaged a stout 43.2-yards per punt.
  • Oregon: As a true freshman, Jackson Rice, despite an unimpressive 40.5-yard average, downed the second-highest percentage of punts inside an opponent's 20-yard line in the conference (37.7).
  • Oregon State: Johnny Hekker, one of seven punters on the Ray Guy watch list after being a semifinalist in 2009, doesn't have a huge foot but he did down 19 of his 51 punts inside his opponent's 20-yard line, which means he did so at a higher rate than Anger.
Good shape
  • Arizona: Keenyn Crier was first-team All-Pac-10 as redshirt freshman in 2007 and honorable mention pick in 2008, but he fell off a bit last year.
  • Stanford: David Green doesn't have a big foot -- only two punts went for more than 50 yards -- but he dropped nearly half (15) of his 33 punts inside an opponent's 20.
  • Washington: Will Mahan is a solid if unspectacular punter.
We'll see
  • USC: A touted JC transfer, Jacob Harfman ranked last in the Pac-10 last year with a 39.8-yard average. Only nine of his 48 punts pinned a foe inside its 20-yard line.