Pac-12: Andrew Luck

Poll: Oregon versus the North

July, 6, 2012
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Yesterday we looked at a pair of impact games in each of the Pac-12's divisions. We went with USC at Utah in the South and Stanford at Washington in the North.

As I mentioned in the North post, picking the impact game for that division was a tough call because there are really three teams chasing Oregon -- maybe four depending on how quickly things come together at Washington State. The Cougars are still probably a notch below Washington, Cal and Stanford, but there is potential there for them to climb the power rankings quickly.

SportsNation

Which of these Oregon opponents will be the most intriguing divisional matchup?

  •  
    18%
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    7%
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    13%
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    33%
  •  
    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,883)

While I still think Stanford at Washington is the impact game in the North, it got me wondering which of Oregon's games within the division is the most intriguing. And therein lies today's poll question. You don't have to answer right away. Sleep on it. Take the weekend to mull it over. Have a Friday afternoon beverage and really, really think about it. All sarcasm aside, I think each matchup presents its own interesting and unique draw.

Here are your options:

Oregon at Washington State on Sept. 29: This one could get interesting. This is Mike Leach's first divisional game and he's probably not going to tip too much of his hand in the first four games. Washington State's greatest asset (other than Jeff Tuel and Marquess Wilson) is the power of the unknown which makes this game intriguing.

Washington at Oregon on Oct. 6: Teams that try to play methodical, slow-down ball against the Ducks usually fail. Washington has shown that it has the potential to be explosive. We know about the recent history of the rivalry (I'll leave it to you to drum it up in the comments section), but do the Huskies have enough to keep up this year?

Oregon at Cal on Nov. 10: If this game were at Autzen, it probably wouldn't even make the poll. The Ducks have crushed Cal the last two times they've hosted them. But because it's at Memorial Stadium, there's just enough recent film to question if the Bears and their tough defense can pull off the upset.

Stanford at Oregon on Nov. 17: The Cardinal couldn't get it done at home last year with Andrew Luck running the show. They were under the spotlight and they turned the ball over, had drops and missed tackles. Henry Heimlich couldn't have saved them. Now they go on the road with a first-year starter. Does this game even come close to matching last year's hype?

Oregon at Oregon State on Nov. 24: Regardless of the records, does this one still carry more weight than every other game?

Have a great weekend.
Welcome back to the road trip. We're taking a week-by-week look at the entire Pac-12 schedule and picking out the game we feel is the marquee matchup of the week. If you have the time and means, this is the game you want to see.

Week 12

Saturday, Nov. 17
  • Arizona at Utah
  • Cal at Oregon State
  • Stanford at Oregon
  • USC at UCLA
  • Washington at Colorado
  • Washington State at Arizona State
My choice: Stanford at Oregon

Why: This will be the third week in a row that we're picking a game involving Oregon, but this is our first trip of the year to Autzen Stadium.

We're assuming that the Ducks escaped from Berkeley with a win last week, figured out Washington State's offense in late September and extended their streak over Washington back in October. Nine times? Nine times.

So this game represents the best chance for someone in the North to knock off the Ducks. (I'm not holding my breath for it to happen next week in the Civil War).

Last year's matchup in Palo Alto was billed as one of the biggest games in Stanford football history. Billings don't always live up to the hype. Stanford wilted under turnovers, missed tackles and they couldn't match the speed of Oregon.

Logic dictates that if Stanford couldn't get it done last year at home and with Andrew Luck, why could they possibly do it this year on the road with a first-year starter at quarterback. And that logic is perfectly sound. The biggest difference between Stanford last year and this year -- aside from the aforementioned Luck and the three other players who went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft -- is that the Cardinal have far less to lose. Last season, they were the ones who were undefeated, riding a 17-game winning streak and pursuing a trip to the national championship game. All of the pressure was on them, and the end result was a 53-30 whooping at home.

This year, that role is reversed. However, unlike last year's Stanford team, Oregon is used to the scrutiny and the weighty expectations of being a national contender. That's a role Stanford still hasn't fully embraced.

The Ducks will score on Stanford. Probably a lot. That's just a fact. While the Cardinal's defense should be better than last year, you have to question if Stanford is explosive enough on offense to go blow-for-blow with the Ducks. The Cardinal tried the drag-it-out, methodical approach last year and ended up punting four times and turning the ball over five times. There are no bonus points for winning time of possession.

Whoever is running Oregon's offense will be salty vet by this point in the season -- having faced tough defenses in USC and Cal on the road in the previous two games. De'Anthony Thomas can put an exclamation point on his Heisman campaign by going through/behind/or around a very talented Cardinal front seven and the Ducks can all but wrap up the division.

You can check out the rest of the road trip here.

Impact game: Pac-12 South

July, 5, 2012
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Across the blog network and in conjunction with Blue Ribbon's previews today, we're taking a look at the impact game in each conference. We'll start with the South Division and hit the North a little later this morning.

Impact game: USC at Utah, Oct. 4

Significance: This is a game we've written about a few times already and will continue to write about until it's played because the Utes represent the biggest roadblock to USC sweeping through the Pac-12 South. And much of that roadblock has to do with the Utes' average starting weight of 284 pounds across the defensive line.

The Pac-12 blog believes that Week 3 at Stanford will be a statement game for USC, considering the quality of Stanford's defense and its recent success over the Trojans. But even if USC wins, the rest of the nation probably won't give it much credence because it's an Andrew Luck-less Cardinal squad -- even though it would be a win over a top-20 team on the road. Those who follow the conference closely know what kind of defense Cal will throw at the Trojans in Week 4 -- a formidable one -- but Cal lacks the national reputation, so only people in the know will understand that beating Cal is also a quality win.

Utah, however, is catching some national buzz as a team on the rise because of standout defensive tackle Star Lotulelei -- a potential top-five pick in next year's draft.

From the Utah perspective, this is all about making a splash. It's a Thursday night game on national TV, and if the folks in Park City can't hear the noise from Rice-Eccles, then something is wrong. The Utes can't do much to help their national credibility with wins over Northern Colorado, Utah State, BYU or Arizona State. But I expect them to be 4-0 and a Top 25 team by the time USC comes to town. A victory for the Utes doesn't completely derail USC's national title hopes, but it puts a healthy dent in them. It's a chance for the Utes to not only say they've arrived in the conference, but that they are ready to be a national player.

Or the Trojans can just tear them apart with their passing game, and all of this hype would have been for nothing. But I don't see that happening, and I don't think Lane Kiffin or Kyle Whittingham see that happening either.

The Trojans certainly have it tougher the first four weeks than Utah. So either they'll be beaten up or battle-hardened. If it's the latter, expect this to be one of the best games on the Pac-12 docket this season.

Lunch links: Beavers also to play Michigan

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
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You go into the office and take a book or two from the shelves. You read a few lines, like your life depended on reading 'em right. But you know your life doesn't depend on anything that makes sense, and you wonder where in the hell you got the idea it did; and you begin to get sore.

Pac-12 ultimate road trip: Week 8

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
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Welcome back to the road trip. We're taking a week-by-week look at the entire Pac-12 schedule and picking out the game we feel is the marquee game of the week. If you have the time and means, this is the game you want to see.

Week 8

Thursday Oct 18
  • Oregon at Arizona State
Saturday Oct. 20
  • Washington at Arizona
  • Colorado at USC
  • Utah at Oregon State
  • Stanford at California
My choice: We're Big Gaming -- in October, no less.

Why? Why? You ask why? Because it's the Big Freaking Game! In October, no less. And in brand spanking new Memorial Stadium, which I can attest after touring it this spring is going to be fairly righteous.

Further, the Bay Area in mid-October is pretty righteous, too. If you review our Best Restaurants & Bars in the Pac-12 here, you can get some good ideas for kicking it around Berkeley. If you want to run into me before the game -- and, you know, give me a piece of your mind (and if you went to Cal or Stanford, I'd take it) -- it's become nearly impossible for me to avoid this place on game day. I don't eat a lot of hot dogs, but Top Dog just isn't fair. Bring the dog up to the Bear's Lair, the on-campus pub, to soak up some local color.

As for the night before, my suggestion is to call this place on Sept. 20. You can make reservations at Chez Panisse up to one month in advance, and my sad, sad experience is you probably will need it to eat at one of the landmark U.S. restaurants. If the hoity-toity stuff isn't your bag, Berkeley is overbrimming with outstanding cheap eats. Right now, a bunch of Cal fans are jumping up and down chanting Zachary's Pizza, which is quite good, but I'm not sure you shouldn't go ethnic, because the choices and range of flavors around campus are pretty extraordinary -- including this.

Oh, and then there's this little football game, which comes at a critical time for both programs.

Stanford is trying to prove it can excel post-Andrew Luck. Another top-25 season also would put distance between coach David Shaw and the shadow of former coach Jim Harbaugh. And continued dominance in the Bay Area is at stake.

Over at Cal, coach Jeff Tedford is trying to win back the confidence of his fanbase, and he enters the season sitting on a fairly warm seat. After winning seven of his first eight Big Games, he's lost two in a row and watched the Cardinal play in a pair of BCS bowl games and finish ranked in the top 10.

Just about everyone projects Stanford as the North Division's No. 2 team behind Oregon. It obviously would be far more likely the Bears could eclipse the Cardinal for that spot with a win here. Fair to say that Tedford could really use a win, instead of a third straight Big Game defeat inside his remodeled stadium.

The Big Game is always a big game, but it might just be a little bigger this season. In October, no less.

Vote for the 2012 ESPYS!

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
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Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the five ESPYS nominees for Male College Athlete of the Year, and you can vote for him here.

Heck, you can vote for someone else, if you wish. Luck is up against former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who beat Luck out for the Heisman Trophy, as well as Jack Connolly (Minnesota Duluth hockey), Anthony Davis (Kentucky basketball), and Mike Zunino (Flordia baseball).

And there are many other categories where you can provide your vote.

As P. Diddy/Puff Daddy told us, "Vote or die."
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. And there was much rejoicing.

Here's how we do this: We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know. California and Utah were both "We'll see" at running back in 2011, and both produced 1,000-yard rushers.

You can review last year's rankings here. Plenty of hits. And plenty of misses.

And away we go.

Great shape

USC: Matt Barkley is the best returning QB in the nation and the leading Heisman Trophy candidate. The only concern might be that none of his backups have game experience.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireHuskies quarterback Keith Price passed for 3,063 yards and 33 TDs last season.
Washington: Keith Price ranked second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency in 2011, completing 67 percent of his throws with 33 TDs and just 11 interceptions. No experience behind him, though.

Washington State: For one, if Mike Leach is your coach, you can count on good quarterback play. But having the talent and experience of Jeff Tuel is big. Further, backup Connor Halliday shined when he played last year.

Oregon State: Perhaps this is a leap of faith for Sean Mannion, but there are three reasons for Beavers fans not to worry about quarterback: 1) Second-year starters tend to do much better under Mike Riley; 2) Mannion has a good crew of receivers; and 3) Mannion, who passed for 3,328 yards last year, has plenty of talent.

Good shape

Utah: It's tempting to switch Oregon State and the Utes here. If Utah gets 12 games from Jordan Wynn, who's suffered shoulder injuries the past two years, he's going to be a better-than-average -- perhaps even legitimately good -- quarterback. The depth features experience (Jon Hays) and potential (Travis Wilson).

California: If Zach Maynard plays like he did over the final four games of the regular season, then the Bears are in great shape at quarterback -- at least if they can find some guys to complement Keenan Allen at receiver and a center who can deliver a shotgun snap. Allan Bridgford looked good this spring, and true freshman Zach Kline has franchise potential.

Arizona: Matt Scott redshirted last year but he played well coming off the bench for Nick Foles in 2010. He seems like a perfect dual-threat quarterback for new coach Rich Rodriguez's offense. Only issue is the depth behind him is inexperienced and suspect.

Oregon: This is a case of Chip Kelly earning the benefit of the doubt. We saw Bryan Bennett play and play well last year when Darron Thomas was hurt. So if Marcus Mariota is good enough to eclipse him, then he must be pretty darn good.

UCLA: Bruins have plenty of experience with Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince, but neither has played well consistently. They also have an intriguing talent in Brett Hundley. We don't know who will win the job, but it seems there's a strong possibility for at least adequate play here -- and perhaps more if offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone works the same magic he did at Arizona State.

We'll see

Stanford: My general feeling is Stanford will be fine here with Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes, but Kevin is such a dark cloud of doom -- a maelstrom, really -- that the Cardinal get relegated to this category. I may be exaggerating Kevin's negativity a bit.

Arizona State: Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank and Taylor Kelly are each promising in their own way, but the issue is they are very different quarterbacks with little to no experience.

Colorado: A wide-open battle here between Connor Wood, Nick Hirschman and Kansas transfer Jordan Webb. Or, heck, perhaps even incoming freshman Shane Dillon.
Welcome back to the road trip. We're taking a week-by-week look at the entire Pac-12 schedule and picking out the game we feel is the marquee game of the week. If you have the time and means this is the game you want to see.

Week 5

Thursday Sept. 27
  • Stanford at Washington
Saturday Sept. 29
  • Arizona State at Cal
  • Oregon at Washington State
  • Oregon State at Arizona
  • UCLA at Colorado
My choice: Stanford at Washington

Why: No funny fiction today since Stanford and Washington were on bye last week. Instead, let's get right to this pivotal matchup in the Pac-12 North.

No fiction, but here's a little reality. Neither team probably needs to be reminded of last year's 65-21 thumping -- where the Cardinal ran for a school record 446 yards. Over on the Stanford blog last October, I predicted a 42-17 Stanford win -- and my, oh my, how the Washington fans came at me. Some pretty hateful stuff. I get it. No one likes to see their team called out on the naughty end of a spanking. Of course, I was writing for a Stanford-centric audience, and the Washington fans and I weren't as tight as we are now. I forgive you. We're cool now. The muffin basket won't be necessary.

It's premature, bordering on irresponsible, to offer up any sort of prediction on this game until we've 1) seen what Washington's defense looks like and 2) seen what Stanford's quarterback situation looks like. But there are a few things we can be confident about; Keith Price is going to be a better quarterback, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is going to be a better tight end and Stanford's front seven is going to be better than it was last season. This has the fixings for a pretty good football game.

Both teams take a hit in the running game -- Washington because of who it lost running the ball and Stanford because of who it lost blocking for the guy running the ball. And, of course, no Andrew Luck, who once described last year's contest as the best of his career. Both teams enter the season with questions on the offensive line, but hopefully those are sorted out by the fourth game of the season. Washington's only real offensive success in last year's game was with Chris Polk, who rushed for 143 yards in the first half. Then again, he finished with 144 yards for the game. You can do the second-half math.

Important to note that whoever gets the starting quarterback gig for Stanford, this will be his first collegiate start on the road. I don't care how seasoned of a back-up you are, how good you look against San Jose State or Duke or even USC for that matter. Playing away from home -- especially the first time -- is extremely difficult.

And anyone who thinks Washington will be looking over the horizon to next week's showdown with Oregon is insane. Following this week, the Huskies travel to Oregon and then are home to USC -- capping a ridiculous first half of the season where they may very well have faced the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the country (or even the No. 1 team twice). This game could define Washington's season. And starting with this game, Stanford plays three of its next four on the road. The new guy had better learn how to handle things away from The Farm or it could be a tough stretch.

Last season there was a clear 1-2 pecking order in the division with Oregon on top and Stanford at No. 2. This year, it's a little murkier with Oregon still the class of the North, but a three-way haze exists between Stanford, Washington and Cal. This game will go a long way toward helping establish 2012's hierarchy.

You can check out the rest of the road trip here.
What? Friends listen to "Endless Love" in the dark.
Welcome back to the road trip. We're taking a week-by-week look at the entire Pac-12 schedule and picking out the game we feel is the marquee game of the week. If you have the time and means this is the game you want to see.

Week 3

Friday Sept. 14
  • Washington State at UNLV
Saturday Sept. 15
  • Arizona State at Missouri
  • Cal at Ohio State
  • Tennessee Tech at Oregon
  • Portland State at Washington
  • USC at Stanford
  • Colorado at Fresno State
  • BYU at Utah
  • Houston at UCLA
  • South Carolina State at Arizona
My choice: USC at Stanford

Why: Tough decisions have to be made this week. I know we're all still in a state of giddy shock after last week's 17-13 Washington upset win at LSU. Bishop Sankey to Keith Price for a 23-yard touchdown out of the Wildcat in the final minute -- gutsy, gutsy call, Sark.

Cal fans will argue the Ohio State game is the game of the week. And that's valid. It has some conference implications and could be a statement game for the Bears. Utah fans will argue the Holy War is the game of the week. And that's valid -- at least to Utah fans. But the "conference" game of the week falls to the first conference game of the season -- and it involves two teams high up in our power rankings, one team likely in the top 15 and another likely in the top 3.

Stanford has been the proverbial thorn in USC's side for the past three years and the previous two games have been absolute thrillers; a last-second field goal in 2010 and then last year's beyond-entertaining triple-overtime game.

For USC, this kicks off a challenging four-game swing that includes Cal at the Coliseum and then back-to-back road games at Utah and Washington in the coming weeks. For Stanford, it's the first legitimate test (sorry San Jose State and Duke fans) without Andrew Luck running the offense. The Cardinal want to ground and pound. USC will be happy to air it out.

USC receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee had pretty good games against Stanford last season. Lee caught seven balls for 94 yards and a score. Woods had nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. No reason not to think those two won't get a lot of work against the Cardinal. Stanford's front seven is phenomenal, but a revamped secondary has question marks.

Will be interesting to see if it's the nail biter we've had the past two years with the Cardinal squeaking out a win -- or whether Matt Barkley and Co. unleash three years of frustration on The Farm.

You can check out the rest of the road trip here.
Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind.
Over on the Big 12 blog, David Ubben decided to go through all the teams in the conference and see how they've done against the Top 25 since 2008.

That sounded like a ton of fun, so here's a look at the Pac-12 results. For seasoning, I added a best/worst category against Top 25 teams, which is very subjective and, as always, open to debate.

Since 2008 the Pac-12 is 52-105 against Top 25 teams. Utah and Colorado records prior to 2011 are not factored in, but we'll still look at them in the team-by-team breakdown.

Oregon carries the flag for the conference with a robust .705 winning percentage while Washington State has a Blutarsky.

Here's how the entire conference shapes up:

Oregon

Record vs. Top 25: 12-5 (.705)

Best win: The Stanford victories in consecutive years put the Cardinal back in their place (and last year, signified the clear leader in the North), but the 45-38 win over No. 10 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year was a breakthrough for the program. It put an end to the "can they win the big one" questions and was critical for the legitimacy of the league. Oregon to the rest of the conference: You're welcome.

Toughest loss: The Boise State loss in 2009 was a stinger. But anytime you lose in the National Championship game to the No. 1 team -- and the way it went down in those obscure final two minutes -- it's tough. That loss brought about some of the questions the Ducks were able to answer with the Rose Bowl win.

USC

Record vs. Top 25: 9-5 (.642)

Best win: The 35-3 win over Ohio State in 2008 stands out. But the victory at No. 4 Oregon last year bloodies the water for this year's much-anticipated showdown.

Worst loss: Also from last year, the triple-overtime loss to No. 6 Stanford shouldn't have ended the way it did. Maybe Stanford still would have won -- but that game was too epic to end on a fumble.

Stanford

Record vs. Top 25: 7-6 (.538)

Best win: The '09 win over Oregon stands out because the Ducks were a Top 10 team on a seven-game winning streak. Toby Gerhart ran wild -- picking up 223 yards and three scores. It was really Stanford's declaration that they'd arrived in the conference under Jim Harbaugh.

Worst loss: Many will think it's the Fiesta Bowl last year because the wound is still fresh and the manner in which it went down. But losing the Big Game 34-28 to No. 25 Cal in 2009 -- especially after notching back-to-back wins over Oregon and No. 9 USC -- is simply deflating. If the Oregon game was a declaration of arrival, the Cal game was a reminder of how deep the conference can be.

Utah

Record vs. Top 25: 4-5 (.444)

Best win: The 2008 Sugar Bowl. Big, bad 'Bama gets bounced by a tiny little non-AQ, leaving most West of the Mississippi with a great-big smile.

Worst loss: An overtime loss hurts. An overtime loss to a rival hurts more. An overtime loss when the opposing quarterback gives you a verbal smack down following the loss is just brutal. The 2009 Holy War loss to No. 19 BYU will always sting.

Arizona

Record vs. Top 25: 4-10 (.285)

Best win: Willie Tuitama was simply prolific in carving up No. 16 BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, throwing for 325 yards, two touchdowns and running for another in a 31-21 win. It was Arizona's first bowl win in a decade.

Worst loss: The double-overtime loss to Oregon in 2009 was tough, but the 33-0 beat down by No. 22 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl that same year was a real stinker.

Oregon State

Record vs. Top 25: 5-15 (.250)

Best win: Jacquizz Rodgers busted out 186 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 27-21 stunner of No. 1 USC in 2008. Doesn't get much sweeter than an unranked knocking off a No. 1. Though the 3-0 win over No. 20 Pitt. in the 2008 Sun Bowl gets a tip of the cap simply for the novelty.

Worst loss: The Beavers were shutout 38-0 by No. 6 Stanford in '10. That came a week after a 36-7 win over No. 20 USC. Talk about highs and lows.

Washington

Record vs. Top 25: 5-15 (.250)

Best win: Because of the record the previous year and because it was Steve Sarkisian against Pete Carroll, the 16-13 stunner over No. 3 USC in 2009 is one worth re-living over and over if you're a Washington fan. Erik Folk was so clutch.

Worst loss: Anything from 2008 will do.

UCLA

Record vs. Top 25: 4-12 (.250)

Best win: Maybe No. 7 Texas was looking ahead to the showdown with Oklahoma. Oh well, don't turn the ball over four times in the first 30 minutes. Great performance from Johnathan Franklin in the 34-12 win in 2010.

Worst loss: Toss up between the 35-0 loss to No. 25 Stanford at home in 2010 or the 59-0 loss to No. 18 BYU in 2008. Both were brutal -- but the BYU one probably stung more since the Bruins had clipped No. 18 Tennessee in overtime just 12 days earlier in the season opener.

Cal

Record vs. Top 25: 3-10 (.230)

Best win: What's bad for the Cardinal is generally good for the Bears. The 2009 Big Game win at No. 17 Stanford was extra tasty -- especially when a late Andrew Luck interception in the red zone sealed the deal. Shane Vereen was on fire with 193 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

Worst loss: The No. 6 Cardinal reclaimed the axe the following year with a 48-14 thrashing in Berkeley. Stepfan Taylor produced three touchdowns and Luck produced a Stanford fan's dream highlight with his forearm deflection of Sean Cattouse.

Arizona State

Record vs. Top 25: 3-11 (.214)

Best win: The USC and Missouri wins last year were pretty big, but there is nothing sweeter than beating a rival, in double-overtime, on the road, when they are ranked and you aren't. That was the case in 2010 with a 30-29 win over No. 23 Arizona. James Brooks will always be remembered for blocking an extra point near the end of regulation to force overtime. And then blocking a second extra point -- seriously -- to lock up the win. As bizarre as it was magnificent for the Sun Devils.

Worst loss: The loss to No. 7 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl last year was completely uninspired and capped a horrific end to the season. The Sun Devils went into a tailspin and Todd Graham has to pull them out.

Colorado

Record vs. Top 25: 2-12

Best win: In his first career start in 2009, Tyler Hansen threw for 175 yards, a touchdown and ran for another to spark an upset win over No. 17 Kansas. That was Colorado's last win against a Top 25 team. The Buffs are 0-7 since.

Worst loss: Back in the day before they joined the Pac-12, Colorado had a little rivalry with a midwest school named Nebraska. The No. 15 Cornhuskers sent Colorado into the Pac-12 with an ugly 45-17 loss in 2010.

Washington State

Record vs. Top 25: 0-12

Best win: You have to think the streak ends under Mike Leach -- and sooner rather than later.

Worst loss: Tragically, there are so many choices. But we'll go with the 69-0 to No. 6 USC in 2008 because at the time, WSU was riding the nation's second-longest streak without being shutout (280 games). That came to an end in a very embarrassing fashion. While Mark Sanchez threw for five touchdowns, the Cougars managed just 116 yards of total offense.
ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel takes a look at the teams that played in this past season's Fiesta Bowl -- Stanford and Oklahoma State -- and points out it's not a matchup many would have predicted, say, five or six years ago.

Both teams have risen from the heap of faceless programs to the nation's elite. Notes Maisel, a Stanford graduate, "Stanford has gone to major bowls in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1969-70."

Next issue: Can they stay there?

Writes Maisel:
But there's a difference between a seasonal rental and a permanent home. Climbing to the top is a story that writes itself, full of sentiment and that can-do element that resides in the American DNA. Staying there is a task devoid of the Hollywood ending.

I know that many Cardinal players and coaches are using doubts about their ability to maintain their newfound status as motivation. If you look at the roster and recent recruiting, there are plenty of reasons to believe Stanford will remain, at least, a top-25 program.

For one, the spoils of winning are adding up. Writes Maisel:
Both programs are reveling in the spoils that go to the football well-to-do. In the Pac-12 television contract that expired last season, the conference doled out money based on appearances. In 2007, the year after the Cardinal went 1-11, the program received $3 million, last in the league. In 2011, Stanford tied for second at $7.3 million.

Overall athletic fundraising at The Farm hit $50 million, including the funds to build an $18 million, 27,000-square-foot addition to the athletic administration building that will include new locker rooms, meeting rooms, coaches' offices and a player lounge -- all of the latest from the collegiate arms race catalog. The project is in the building-permit stage, and shovels may go into the ground as early as midsummer.

This isn't the Stanford of Buddy Teevens. Or even Tyrone Willingham. There is a commitment to football that wasn't there previously.

Still, as Maisel points out, climbing to the top of the mountain is a feel-good story. Staying there requires unsentimental resolve.

Luck arrives in Indy smelling like first pick

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
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I smell like coffee, a fried egg burrito with hot sauce and befuddlement. New Indianapolis Colts savior Andrew Luck smells differently.

Said former USC tackle and new Luck protector, Winston Justice: “He has that aroma of being the first-round pick.”

ESPN.com's AFC South blogger Paul "Special K" Kuharsky was on hand for Luck's first workout -- his arrival had been delayed because of a rule that keeps players away from team work until their college class finishes its semester -- but there were few surprises to report.

Luck looks the part. Check. He throws well. Check. He carries himself well. Check. He's certain to be the best QB of ALL TIME!

Well, we're going to have to wait on that. It might help if Indy bolsters a deeper roster around him.

What was clear is the NFL-Luck won't go about his business much differently than the Stanford-Luck. He will be unassuming, focusing on the task at hand instead of the hullabaloo that surrounds top overall draft pick, one generally viewed as perhaps the most NFL-star-ready rookie QB in a generation.

From Kuharsky:
As the voice in the middle of the offensive huddle, he showed nice command, teammates said.

That’s not as hard as it may sound, Luck countered.

“It’s always assumed when the quarterback is stepping in the huddle, you’re going to listen, so that part’s easy,” Luck said. “A big part of playing quarterback too is just faking like you know what you’re talking about even if you don’t know it. But I think it is somewhat of a slow process, because he knows what happens when a game starts? I could totally flub it and lose the respect of everybody. You try to build that confidence and trust as practices go on.”

That's vintage Luck, batting away a question that asks him to celebrate himself.

Luck will be on display for the first time during a public afternoon practice Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It's hard to imagine he won't look like the guy Indy believes can replace future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning.

Not that Luck sees himself that way.
“I think I have to earn the face of the franchise stuff,” he said. “I try to come in here and learn as much as I can, do my best job so I can help all the guys that are here get back to the playoffs, get back to being a championship team. I don’t know if that will ever sink in. I just try to go about my job and not get too caught up in anything else.”

Yep. Same ole Luck.

By the way, you can see video of him throwing and chatting here.

Poll: Pac-12's biggest loss

June, 8, 2012
6/08/12
7:00
PM ET
We closed last week with one of the meatier offseason discussions we've had on the Pac-12 blog -- whether running back LaMichael James or quarterback Darron Thomas was a bigger loss for the Ducks.

SportsNation

Which player is the biggest loss to his team?

  •  
    18%
  •  
    4%
  •  
    64%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,455)

While the folks at Athlon Sports, who prompted the original question, tend to lean toward the side of Thomas, many readers (and myself) think James will be the bigger loss.

But let's broaden the spectrum as we close another week and look at a few other of the marquee players who left us this past year.

We're going to keep James and Thomas on the list for a couple of reasons. 1) It sparked the original debate. 2) Ducks fans, who have been known to dominate Pac-12 polls regardless of the question, will actually be forced to split their vote based on the options. (And if you actually vote Andrew Luck, Duck fan, more power to you).

So which departed Pac-12 player is the biggest loss for his team?

You have James, an 1,800-yard rusher who is in the conversation for most explosive back to play in the conference in the last decade.

Thomas was a very dynamic athlete who was plugged in and was an instant winner. And traditionally quarterbacks are bigger losses than running backs.

Luck was Luck. One of the best college quarterbacks the conference has seen and a major catalyst for Stanford's tremendous rise over the last three seasons.

What about Washington running back Chris Polk? A true workhorse runner who had speed and power.

And if you're looking at importance, you certainly have to consider losing an immovable left tackle like Matt Kalil at USC.

Vote your conscious and have a great weekend.

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