Pac-12: Yvenson Bernard
- Warning, Oregon! Warning, Oregon! A team ranked in the BCS top two has lost its final game of the regular season 13 times in the previous 12 years. The last time neither of the top two teams lost on the first weekend of December was 2005.
- That said: Oregon State definitely doesn’t have history on its side in the Civil War. In the history of the AP poll, AP's No. 1 is 95-3-1 when playing a game in November or December against a team which entered the game with a losing record. The last time the AP No. 1 failed to win a game in November or December against a team with a losing record was Nov. 8, 1980, when 7-0 Notre Dame went to 1-7 Georgia Tech and tied the Yellow Jackets 3-3. Since that tie, AP No. 1 is 36-0 in this situation with only five games decided by a TD or less. The average score in those games: 44.3 to 9.9.
- Oregon was the first top-ranked team in the BCS standings to drop in the final four weeks of the season without losing.
- Oregon leads the nation with 50.5 points per game. The Ducks have scored a school-record 555 points and are on pace to score 656 points this season in 13 games, including their bowl game. The record for most points scored by a team in a 13-game season is 652 (2005 Texas Longhorns). The Horns averaged 50.2 PPG that season. In order to break that record, Oregon would need to score 98 points the rest of the way (49.0 PPG).
- Oregon’s 42 touchdown drives in under two minutes is more than 74 FBS teams have in total offensive touchdowns. The Ducks have 11 more drives that lasted less than two minutes than Oklahoma State, which ranks second in the nation.
- The Ducks also have 23 TD "drives" that took three or fewer plays. Auburn is No. 2 in that category at 19.
- Oregon also leads the nation with 30 TDs of 20-plus yards. Auburn in second with 26.
- Oregon State QB Ryan Katz's downfield passing might be a key to the Beavers' success. In their five wins, Katz has completed 48.7 percent of his passes of 15-plus yards with four TDs and no interceptions. In the Beavers' six losses, he completed 34 percent of his downfield throws with five TDs and five INTs.
- Oregon actually has a better winning percentage against the Beavers in Corvallis (.573) than at home (.519).
- Oregon is trying to beat Oregon State for the third straight time. No team has won more than two straight in this series since Oregon won four in a row from 1994-97.
- Oregon State has won five of the last six Civil Wars in Corvallis.
- Beavers junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers has 3,793 career rushing yards. If he rushes for 129 yards against the Ducks, he will move past Arizona's Trung Canidate and former Beaver Yvenson Bernard into sixth place on the Pac-10's all-time list.
- If the Ducks beat the Beavers, they will become the first Pac-10 team to go undefeated in a nine-game conference schedule.
- Oregon State, which is trying to avoid its first losing season since going 5-6 in 2005, will be wearing Nike Pro Combat Uniforms. It will be a tribute to the Beavers “Giant Killers” team of 1967 that beat top-ranked USC, second-ranked Purdue and tied second-ranked UCLA. That team went 7-2-1 and finished seventh in the AP poll.
- This is the 103rd edition of the Apple Cup. Washington leads the rivalry 65-31-6, including a 33-15 record since the Apple Cup trophy began being awarded in 1962. The series dates back to 1900.
- Washington becomes bowl eligible with a win. The Huskies haven’t been to a bowl game since the ’02 Sun Bowl.
- Washington State ranks 117th in rushing offense (89.3 YPG), 109th in scoring offense (18.8 PPG), 115th in both rushing (211.6 YPG) and total defense (457.6 YPG) and 111th in scoring defense (35.9 PPG).
- The Cougars won their last game, three weeks ago against Oregon State and have not won two straight since the 2007 season (vs. San Diego State and Idaho). The Cougars have not won consecutive Pac-10 games since 2006 (vs Oregon and UCLA).
- A win would be the Cougars' third this season. Over the 2008-09 seasons, Washington State went 3-22.
- This is the 80th meeting between USC and UCLA, but the first since 2000 that neither is ranked for the game. USC has won 10 of the last 11 games (although they vacated the 2004 and 2005 wins). The Trojans’ only “on-field” loss came in 2006, when they entered the game as No. 2 in the AP poll and were upset 13-9 by unranked UCLA.
- Both teams will wear their home jerseys. These teams play for the Victory Bell and the winning school paints the bell with their school colors. The bell is painted cardinal red right now thanks to USC’s 28-7 win last year.
- Lane Kiffin is looking to win his eighth game in his first year as USC head coach. The last coach to win more in his first year with USC was John Robinson, who went 11-1 in 1976. Pete Carroll won six games his first year.
- USC would be bowl-eligible this season were it not for the NCAA sanctions that prevent it from going to a bowl, so the Trojans will miss out on a bowl this season for the first time since 2000. That was the last year with Paul Hackett as head coach and the year before Pete Carroll arrived.
- UCLA will miss out on a bowl for the second time in three years under Rick Neuheisel. UCLA went to a bowl every year in Karl Dorrell’s five seasons.
- Will Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski join his two teammates at the NFL combine? Odds are he will.
- California season review: special teams. Not so special.
- Oregon season review: receivers.
- Oregon State's most important fan knew Mike Riley wasn't leaving before the rest of us did. Class act Yvenson Bernard wants to help out in Haiti.
- With all of the coaching intrigue, will coach Jim Harbaugh be long for Stanford?
- UCLA QB Kevin Prince talks about possibly losing his coach, Norm Chow, to USC.
- Nice story here from Shelly Smith on USC's biggest fan and his disappointment over Pete Carroll's departure.
- Running back C.J. Gable is returning to USC instead of entering the NFL draft.
- Some Washington State roster updates.
The last time Washington visited Oregon State, the game was so ugly the Pac-10 released a statement the following Monday announcing the game was an embarrassment.
"This was not a game representative of the best of Pac-10 football," then-Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said.
A number of fights broke out during the game. Four players were ejected. Eight personal fouls were called. In a sobering moment, Huskies quarterback Jake Locker was knocked out of the game on a helmet-to-helmet hit and was taken to the hospital by ambulance (he later returned to the field in street clothes and a neck brace). The officials made a number of terrible calls, including one on a so-called fumble at the goal line by Oregon State running back Yvenson Bernard that was so mind-numbingly bad the instant replay crew was later reprimanded for not stopping the game to review the buffoonery.
Beavers fans, with considerable justification, were so torqued in the fourth quarter when it appeared the Huskies might come back and win, it's not a stretch to say a riot was a possibility.
But, of course, the Huskies didn't win. They don't, of late, do that against teams from the state of Oregon.
For old-time Pac-10 football fans, that observation will seem absurd, but the Huskies at present are zero for their last 11 vs. Oregon and Oregon State. They swept the Ducks and Beavers in 2003 but haven't beaten either since. Nine of those 11 defeats have been by double-digits.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley grew up in Corvallis and knows how stunning the recent reversal of fortunes might feel for folks who started watching Northwest football back in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, but he also senses that Washington is on the uptick under new coach Steve Sarkisian.
"It's amazing the cycle of life in football," Riley said. "I don't think anybody would have thought of Washington where they were last year, ever. But we've seen the transformation of a team."
That's true to some extent. The Huskies are much better than last year when they went 0-12. But they've lost five of six after beating USC and earning a national ranking and once reasonable bowl hopes are now fading.
Still, Sarkisian rejected the notion that his team's once-soaring confidence could waning, which could lead to a tepid performance in Corvallis.
"We'll address it head on, straight-up," he said. "It won't happen. We'll come out and play hard.''
Sarkisian also noted the Pac-10's apparent parity. The Beavers have lost two conference games: USC and Arizona. "Those happen to be our two conference wins," he said.
Of course, the Beavers are in the midst of their annual surge. After a 2-2 start, they've won four of five and looked impressive on both sides of the ball during their 31-14 win at California last weekend.
Oregon State's passing offense with quarterback Sean Canfield looks like a particular mismatch vs. Washington. Canfield owns the second-highest completion percentage in the conference -- 69.55 percent -- while the Huskies rank ninth in the conference in pass efficiency defense, with opponents completing 66.4 percent of their passes.
As it does most weeks, the Huskies chances hinge on Locker's play-making. He was injured and didn't play in the 34-13 loss to the Beavers last year, and further good news is he has no recollection of the travesty that was the 2007 game.
"The whole on-the-field experience is kind of cloudy for me," he said.
The biggest improvement for the Huskies is overall competitiveness. Four of their six defeats have come by eight or fewer points. In 2008, nine of 12 defeats came by 20 or more points.
That's the good news. It's also the bad news for a team that no longer leans on being better than '08 as a badge of honor.
The Huskies are trying to learn how to close the deal.
"It'll probably go down to the fourth quarter again and the key is for us to go out and execute in the fourth quarter when the game's on the line," Sarkisian said.
If the Huskies finish strong with three consecutive wins, they could earn an improbable bowl berth.
If the Beavers finish strong with three consecutive wins, they could earn a Rose Bowl berth.
So there are considerable stakes for both teams. Let's just hope, whoever prevails, that things are prettier than in 2007.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
- This former Arizona Wildcat has become a Bengal Tiger.
- Oregon might get the Munchie(s). My experience is Louisiana isn't a bad place to get those.
- Is Oregon State getting a look from Yvenson Bernard's touted little bro? Yves. And it got a commitment from a quarterback.
- Checking in with former UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis.
- USC coaches will take their NCAA compliance test today. Here's a link for a practice exam if you want a taste.
- Some notes from Bob Condotta reveal that Washington's new graduate assistant is Brent Miller, who may be familiar to Arizona State fans. Nice gesture here by Steve Sarkisian.
- Washington State picks up a commitment from a defensive back.
- Ryan Leaf is now in police custody.
- Looking at some of the "Bests" in the Pac-10.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The mailbag will be a regular feature. It allows you to ask questions, tell me I'm cracked or provide restaurant/movie/book recommendations. Or you might suggest a football topic I should pursue.
With the mailbag feature open a week, most of the mail has simply welcomed the blog and said nice things. That has been gratifying. Praise is always appreciated.
But the Pac-10 blog also will be hospitable to criticism and feedback. Even a little wisecracking.
I've been particularly amused thus far by you Duck fans who seem to be fighting through my former Seattle affiliation.
As Kevin in Portland wrote:
Ted, as a devout ducks fan, I was frequently disappointed by your writing for the [Seattle Post-Intelligencer] and for ESPN in Seattle...but I want to thank you for the new blog. It seems very balanced and informative. I want to commend you for the job you have done so far.
Kevin, thanks for the second chance.
Of course, you can't please everyone...
R.J. in Seattle wrote:
Ted, How can you justify ranking Mark Sanchez ahead of Jake Locker. Sanchez played sparingly last year in clean-up duty. He was hyped out of high school -- big deal --Pete Carroll wanted Jake but he turned him down. I have the sense if Jake was at USC you would have voted him 2nd or 3rd. Please explain.
That's not an unfair point. But let me ask you: Who do you think will finish the season with better passing numbers?
Sanchez didn't see only spot duty last year: he started three games and completed 60.5% of his throws for 695 yards and 7 touchdowns with 5 interceptions. Locker, which a group of veteran receivers, completed 47 percent of his passes for 2,062 yards with 14 TDs and 15 interceptions. Last season, Sanchez was a far more refined passer. Both will improve in 2008, but my guess is Sanchez will still be more advanced throwing the ball by December.
Further, Sanchez has a deep group of veteran receivers while Locker is breaking in an entirely new crew of sophomores and freshmen. There's a lot of young talent, but it doesn't set up as an offensive explosion out of the gate. Now, obviously, Locker is a way better runner after nearly reaching the 1,000-yard benchmark a year ago. My guess is his rushing numbers will go down this year (in large part for his own protection). He also doesn't have a dominant defense that will force a lot of three-and-outs and get the ball back in his hands.
Locker might finish with 3,500-plus yards of total offense, but he's got to prove he can raise his completion percentage and not throw the ball to the wrong guy. I'd be surprised if Sanchez doesn't finish with over 3,000-plus yards passing with 25 TDs.
And you are right about this: If Jake were at USC, he might be No. 2 or 3. Or even No. 1. That would be a function of supporting cast and an expectation of the higher numbers that would help generate. Of course, that also would hinge on him beating out Sanchez.
Chaz in Portland wrote:
Mr. Miller, Your "Who's number 1" article is somewhat difficult to comprehend. Your ranking of Oregon State at #6 in the Pac-10 is by far one of the worst predictions I've seen in a long time. Once again the Oregon State football program gets no respect!!
Wow... "by far one of the worst predictions" you've seen in a long time? That's a really bad prediction. Here's my reasoning:
- Oregon State welcomes back 10 starters, fewest in the Pac-10, where the average is 14.
- Among the departed: The entire front seven of the Beavers outstanding 2007 defense.
- Among the departed: Tailback Yvenson Bernard who accounted for 41 TDs and more than 3,800 yards rushing over the past three seasons.
- Among the departed: Two starters on the offensive line (and we really don't know how healthy guard Jeremy Perry will be).
- Also at issue: quarterback, where Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao combined for 21 interceptions and just 11 TDs a year ago.
Of course, in my prediction I wrote: "It's tempting to rank the Beavers higher because they almost always exceed expectation, a fact their fans quite reasonably relish."
So I certainly won't begrudge you adding little relish to my crow at the end of the season if the Beavers chew up the competition.
All for now... keep the letters coming.