Pac-12: Jeff Tedford's series on FBS coaches continues with this question: Which coach in the Pac-12 provides the biggest bang for the buck?

That's tough to answer for a number of reasons.

  1. There are four new coaches in the Pac-12 this season.
  2. There were two new coaches last season.
  3. USC and Stanford, as private schools, don't provide salary information for their coaches, though USA Today reported that Lane Kiffin made $2.4 million in 2010, way less than had been widely reported.

Two years ago, it would have been easy to say that Oregon State's Mike Riley provided the most bang for the buck. Riley won 36 games from 2006-09 before the Beavers tumbled to consecutive losing seasons. And he did that with a fairly modest salary.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezChip Kelly may be the Pac-12's highest-paid coach, but he's worth the money.
Here are the latest numbers.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, $2.8 million

Lane Kiffin, USC, $2.4 million*

Jim Mora, UCLA, $2.4 million**

Jeff Tedford, California, $2.3 million

Steve Sarkisian, Washington, $2.25 million

Mike Leach, Washington State, $2.25 million

Todd Graham, Arizona State, $2 million

Kyle Whittingham, Utah, $2 million

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona, $1.91 million

Mike Riley, Oregon State, $1,313,471

Jon Embree, Colorado, $725,000
*It's perfectly reasonable to posit that Kiffin made more than this in 2011 and also will in 2012.

**Mora's number is an average of his five-year, $12 million contract. He'll likely make less than this figure this season.

By the way, David Shaw's salary at Stanford has been estimated at $1.75 million. It seems, in any event, that it's too early to rate Shaw and Colorado's Embree as second-year coaches. And it makes no sense to look at the track record of the four new coaches, because the past doesn't mean anything for the new schools, though you could say Arizona got Rodriguez at below market value.

So who provides the most bang for the buck? I have two answers: Whittingham and Kelly.

Why? Well, name the two coaches on the above list who have won BCS bowl games at their present job.

Whittingham is 66-25 (.725) at Utah, including double-digit wins in three of the past four seasons. His worst season in seven years was 7-5 in 2005. After an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play last fall, he rallied his team behind a backup QB who transferred from Nebraska-Omaha, and the Utes nearly won the South Division. Oh, and he's 7-1 in bowl games.

Further, Whittingham has been loyal to Utah. He's had opportunities to leave but he's stuck around.

Kelly is the Pac-12's highest-paid coach by a fairly wide margin. He was guaranteed $2.8 million in 2011 and will make $3.5 million this season, according to USA Today. So why does he rate highly in terms of bang for the buck? Well, there's a 34-6 (.850) record, including a 25-2 mark in Pac-12 games (.926). And there are three consecutive conference titles. And an undefeated regular season in 2010, after which the Ducks fell just short of beating Auburn for the national title. And there's the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin in January.

Kelly has delivered a super-elite level of performance in his three seasons. If you were to name the nation's best coaches, you wouldn't have to wait long after Nick Saban and Urban Meyer to get to Kelly.

He gets big bucks, yes, but he has delivered unprecedented bang to the Ducks' program.

Any Oregon fans think he's overpaid?
Does a coach define your program? Think Alabama and Bear Bryant, Penn State and Joe Paterno and Florida State and Bobby Bowden.

Does he cast a shadow that's hard to escape? Or is your all-time winningest coach mostly incidental?

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesCoach Jeff Tedford is Cal's winningest coach of all time, but is he the face of the program? is looking at the winningest coach for each FBS program today, and the results from the Pac-12 are interesting.

Some teams are trying to regain the past glory of a legendary coach (Arizona State and Frank Kush, Colorado and Bill McCartney, UCLA and Terry Donahue and Washington and Don James).

Some teams all-time wins leader paved the way for present glory (Oregon and Mike Bellotti and USC and John McKay).

Some are just names on a list, Hall of Famers or otherwise, men glaring at us from black and white photos (Pop Warner for Stanford, Lon Stiner for Oregon State, Ike Armstrong at Utah and Babe Hollingbery for Washington State).

And for some teams, well, things are complicated.

For one, Jeff Tedford, who has been hot-seated by many reporters and California fans, is the Bears all-time winningest coach. Then there's Oregon State's Mike Riley, who most feel is sitting on the second-warmest seat in the Pac-12. He needs just three victories to eclipse Stiner as the Beavers winningest coach.

A guy who might identify: Arizona's winningest coach Dick Tomey. Tomey went 12–1 in 1998 but was forced out in 2000.

Hey, look at this patch of grass. It's lovely. Not perfect, though. Is that a clover? Hmm. What about the grass ... over there?

The most interesting names, of course, are Kush, McCartney, Donahue and James. Each is the standard for his program. Even fans too young to have witnessed their tenures know who they are. While these coaches' programs have experienced varying degrees of success both before and after them, no one has been able to duplicate their consistency. And those who have tried over the past couple of decades seem as though they shriveled up under the shadow of the legends who preceded them.

While fans fervently cling to the "It happened before, so it can happen again" position, the truth is comparisons are sometimes unfair. College football is much different than it was before the BCS era, which none of these four experienced.

But that doesn't keep fans from hoping for a second-coming.
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 11

Saturday, Nov. 10
  • Colorado at Arizona
  • Utah at Washington
  • Arizona State at USC
  • Oregon at Cal
  • Oregon State at Stanford
  • UCLA at Washington State
My choice: Oregon at Cal

Why: What will Oregon's mentality be heading into this game? Will they be flying high after knocking off USC in the Pac-12's regular season game of the year? Will they be down in the dumps, doubting themselves after falling to the Trojans? The answer is no or no. Regardless of what happened the week before, the Ducks are one of the most level-headed teams in the conference.

They have only lost back-to-back games once under Chip Kelly and it wasn't even in the same season; the national championship game at the end of the 2010 season to No. 1 Auburn and then the season opener last year against No. 4 LSU. Not offering a prediction on the USC-Oregon game, but I don't think either outcome changes how the Ducks approach Cal.

And Cal will be coming off what many expect to be a slugfest with Washington the previous week in a battle for Pac-12 North pecking order. All of that builds up to a game that may very well determine the Pac-12 North champion. If Cal took care of business against Stanford and Washington (and there's certainly no promises it did) this game could send the winner to the conference championship.

Something to note: This will be Cal's second straight home game and third in the last four weeks. On the flip side, Oregon will have been on the road three of the last four weeks. For those of you who buy into trends, this isn't exactly a game-changer, but it's still worth consideration. Recent history shows the Bears are much tougher against Oregon at home. The Ducks crushed Cal 42-3 in '09 and 43-15 last season. But there was the 15-13 Oregon win at Memorial Stadium in 2010, where the Bears held the Ducks to just one offensive touchdown and Cal won the 2008 meeting at home, 26-16.

Cal's defense is one of the best in the conference -- and it will get a chance to showcase just how good it can be against what will likely be its toughest test to date.

Also worth noting that this caps a four-game stretch for the Bears where they would have played Stanford, Utah, Washington and then Oregon. If they haven't taken care of the aforementioned business you have to wonder about the toastiness of Jeff Tedford's seat by this point in the season.

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

Pac-12 ultimate road trip: Week 8

June, 28, 2012
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.

Pac-12 coaches hot seat ratings

June, 25, 2012
Who's on the hot seat entering the 2012 season? And just how hot is that seat.

CBS' Dennis Dodd provides his annual ratings here. His range is from 0.0 to 5.0, from coolest to hottest. Just two coaches received the dreaded "5" rating: New Arkansas coach John L. Smith and third-year Tennessee frontman Derek Dooley. Two coaches have a "4.5" rating: New Mexico's State's DeWayne Walker and Central Michigan's Dan Enos.

Here's how Dodd stacks up the Pac-12.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona, 0.5

Todd Graham, Arizona State, 1.0

Jeff Tedford, California, 3.5

Jon Embree, Colorado, 3.0

Chip Kelly, Oregon, 3.0

Mike Riley, Oregon State, 3.0

David Shaw, Stanford, 0.0

Jim Mora, UCLA, 2.5

Lane Kiffin, USC, 1.0

Kyle Whittingham, Utah, 1.5

Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 1.0

Mike Leach, Washington State, 0.0.

My first thought: Seats aren't terribly hot this summer. Second: Chip Kelly and Mike Riley have the same rating -- termed by Dodd "On the bubble, feeling pressure"? Really? Perhaps Dodd believes the NCAA will hammer Oregon over the Willie Lyles affair and that Kelly's seat will heat up because of that. I disagree. Three consecutive Pac-12 titles and a Rose Bowl win provide Kelly plenty of security, whatever the NCAA does.

Further, some see Riley's situation as precarious -- as in a third consecutive losing season could bring change to Corvallis, an inconceivable thought just two years ago.

Mora starting out at a 2.5 at UCLA seems a bit high, but Dodd is picking up on the general impatience in Westwood, particularly with things again going well across town.

At Stanford, Shaw is certainly secure, but there also is a fair degree of pressure to continue winning post-Andrew Luck.

What do you guys think? Should Tedford be higher? Or Embree and Whittingham lower?
ESPN Insider Travis Haney looks at programs with untapped potential that could break through  into the nation's elite over the next few years, and he taps Arizona as a Pac-12 school that could move up in the national pecking order.

Writes Haney:
The Wildcats have been close in the past, just missing the Rose Bowl in 1993 and 1998. The commitment seems strong, with a $72 million football facility set for completion in 2013. "That sends a message right there," new coach Rich Rodriguez said this week. Coming from Michigan, Rodriguez added that he sees favorable weather as a strong selling point for the school, which will draw from recruiting-rich areas such as Phoenix and Southern California.

Haney leads his story with TCU, a program that appears poised to move up from non-AQ giant killer to just being one of the giants as it joins the Big 12.

As for the Wildcats, you probably could put a number of Pac-12 teams into that category, particularly the ones with new coaches.
  • Arizona State has long been burdened with the title of "sleeping giant." Is Todd Graham going to awake the Sun Devils?
  • UCLA has been successful before and there is no reason the Bruins can't surge under new coach Jim Mora. It wasn't too long ago when the Bruins, in fact, dominated their rivalry with then-faltering USC.
  • Mike Leach is just one of those coaches who gets more from less -- see what he did with Texas Tech. And Washington State has proved it can win in the Pac-12 -- see two Rose Bowl berths since 1997 and three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001 to 2003. If Mike Price can do it, Mike Leach can do it.

Further, Washington is a team that seems to be putting it together -- A-list coaching staff plus good recruiting plus upgraded facilities. It certainly feels like the Huskies are close to challenging Oregon and Stanford atop the Pac-12 North.

And here's one that might seem strange: California.

While many Cal fans are frustrated with a present plateau of mediocrity under Jeff Tedford, it's not ridiculous to wonder what Tedford might get done now that he's been given long -- long! -- promised facilities upgrades. If the recent uptick in recruiting continues -- yes, even without Tosh Lupoi -- then the Bears could quickly get into the North mix.
Happy Friday.
We asked which coach you hated most in the Pac-12. You have spoken with much bile. Congrats.

It was sometimes hard to figure out exactly which coach you hated the most in your notes, as many of you listed several coaches. Some of you listed several coaches and provided many details on the sources of your hate.

In total, you named more than 20 different coaches. Even Oregon State's Mike Riley got a vote. So did legendary coach Bill Walsh (Huskies!).

The only sitting Pac-12 coaches to not get a vote? Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Colorado's Jon Embree. Guess you guys don't know them well enough to hate them. Yet.

The race for most hated was far closer than I thought it would be. (And this was hardly scientific because I only used votes that were specific and unambiguous. And I may have skipped over some of the 1,500-word essays).

Your most hated coach? Here's the nip and tuck final tally from the mailbag.

Chip Kelly: 29

Lane Kiffin: 30

Third place went to Rick Neuheisel with 19, though that's misleading because he was mentioned by many of you in some fashion, mostly in the line of, "I used to hate Neuheisel the most but now I hate..."

I was surprised that Washington's Steve Sarkisian got 11 votes, but I guess I shouldn't be because some Cal fans aren't happy with him (Tosh Lupoi, now at Washington after bolting Berkeley, got a bunch of votes but he didn't count because he's an assistant coach).

New Arizona State coach Todd Graham got five votes. New Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez got two. New Washington State coach Mike Leach got three. New UCLA coach Jim Mora got two.

For those who chose to look back, former USC coach Pete Carroll got 10 votes and plenty of mentions. Former Washington coach Tyrone Willingham got two. Former USC coach John McKay and former Washington coach Don James also got a handful of votes.

The most surprising vote -- other than Riley -- was one for former UCLA coach Bob Toledo.

Here are some comments. Obviously, some comments aren't appropriate for a family Pac-12 blog.

Steve from Seattle writes: By far the most hated coach is Chip Kelley. He certainly personifies the Oregon Fans with his snide comments to the media and better than everyone else attitude. Would love to see hard sanction get put on him and his institution!

Jack from Oakton, Va., writes: I cannot stand Chip Kelly. That smug grin he carries around as if he's the smartest guy in the world just makes me want to smack him.

Glenn from Renton, Wash., writes: Most Hated Coaches in the Pac-12: Chip Kelly. He's a smug jerk, but if I was an AD I would hire him in a New York minute.

Doug from Salt Lake City writes: The coach I hate the most is undoubtedly Oregon's Chip Kelly.Yes, he's a fantastic coach among the nation's elite. But he's a total jerk.The last straw for me came last season when, on live TV, he took time out from his postgame interview to scream at his own fans, "shut the hell up!"

Adam from San Francisco writes: Why is this even a question? Lane Kiffin.As for his new recent strides toward "maturity" - if I were a betting man, I'd bet a large portion of my heart, soul, and life savings that we all end up laughing at those statements by the time his tenure at Southern Cal is all said and done

Kent from Davis, Calif., writes: Coaches We Love to Hate: Lane Kiffin. The guy has less credibility and integrity than John Edwards. He's the only person in the world who could have made the late Al Davis look like upright and ethical. How this arrogant, imperious guy keeps getting plum jobs is beyond me but clearly you don't have to produce results on the field but simply keep wearing the "up and coming innovative offensive genius" tag to make it work.

Paul from San Francisco writes: No Pac-12 coach makes my blood boil more than Lane Kiffin. But it's not just his cavalier attitude and inexplicable career climb that drive me over the edge. It's his history against my Ducks. If you include his stint as USC's offensive coordinator from 2005 and 2006, Kiffin is 3-1 against Oregon, including last year's untimely win at Autzen that ended the longest home winning streak in the country. Needless to say, Nov. 3, 2012 has been circled on my calendar ever since

Kevin from San Francisco writes: Pete Carroll. I hate Pete Carroll. Everyone outside of USC hates Pete Carroll. He was classy in interviews, gave the other teams in the Pac 10 respect; in fact called the Pac 10 conference games the toughest part of his schedule. The reason why he is hated is because he was the leader of the most arrogant, abrasive group of fans and players to grace the Pac 10 in the last decade. Everybody is glad we no longer have to listen to Matt Leinart tell us that he doesn't think he's a celebrity, just everyone else in the world does. After every USC game we had to listen to the fans explain that "of course we knew we were going to win, just we thought it be over by the first quarter." And probably the part that irritates me and my Cal brethren the most is that despite a campus culture of a lot of drinking and little studying, students we met from USC always attempted to equate the academics to Cal. They aren't the worst school, but Cal is in another league.

Chris from Othello, Wash., writes: for us Oregon fans (And fans elsewhere in the conference), Rick Newheisel will always be a historical coach to hate. Growing up in the early 90's, I was consistently reminded about how that "New - weasel" in Seattle had consistently and infamously harmed our program throughout his various coaching positions. Even if he tried to turn a leaf while in UCLA, his history was never forgotten in Eugene.

Dee Dee from Portland writes: There is no possible way any coach in the Pac is hated more than Rick Neuheisel. The Weasel is universally abhorred by no fewer than THREE Pac12 fanbases. I don't even think UCLA fans like him that much any longer, and he's an alum. As a matter of fact, opinion on Slick Rick is the ONLY thing that Oregon and Washington fans have in common

Evan from Seattle writes: I must say, Steve Sarkisian is the lowest of low, slimiest of slime. Other than the obvious manner in which he talks, like a fake politician, he has a long list of shameless acts.

Dan from Spokane writes: I hate Steve Sarkisian more than any other Pac-12 coach and it's not just because of his ridiculous adherence to wearing a visor in the rainy northwest. His twitter account is insufferable. "Woof" every time a new recruit commits? Give me a break! He should tweet "whimper" every time the dawgs opponent hangs more than 50 points on them.Go Cougs!

Pete from Missoula, Mont., writes: When Utah first entered the Pac12, I instantly did not like Lane Kiffin. However, when I saw the class of not only him but the USC fans when my beloved Utes played them last year, my hatred shifted a bit. I decided that I need to stick with the hate that I already know. Hating Coach Sark from the Washington Poodles. You see Ted, it is easy to hate something you have hated before. I remember the years of hating Sark as the Team Down South, byWHO quarterback. I will always love to HATE byWHO, even if we do not play them anytime soon after this year. So Ted, this is the reason I hate Sark. It comes very naturally

Tana Vea from Sandy, Utah writes: Most hated coach in the Pac-12. Todd Graham hasn't coached a game yet but I already hate his guts. But I use to hate Chip Kelly, not as much anymore.

Henry from slymar, Calif., writes: Why limit your hating coaches column to head coaches? What about assistant coaches? I hate Tosh Lupoi mainly because he betrayed his alma mater for a boat.

Tim from Austin, Texas writes: Nobody outside of Tucson likes Richy Rod!

Sar from Tacoma, Wash., writes: regarding your request for all-time most hated coach. As a washington fan the answer is easy : 1992 Stanford Cardinal coach Bill Walsh. His well-timed (for him) block to the back of the Huskies football program is what I hold responsible for Don James' departure and a downward spiral to an eventual 0-12 season for the Huskies.

David from Tucson writes: In order to answer which coach I hate the most I have to exclude any and all ASU coaches because, in my humble opinion, that football program is the worst thing to happen to college sports since...ever. So, that being said I'd have to say that I hate Jim Mora the most, and for a purely trivial reason: his smile makes me want to punch babies.

David from Calgary writes: I hate Coach Mike Riley. Only because I was raised a Duck, and he's really like-able. So I hate that I can't hate him.
A couple of unfortunate discipline notes to get to.

First, Cal has dismissed linebacker Cecil Whiteside from the team for violating team rules.

Head coach Jeff Tedford made the announcement this morning, but no further information or the nature of the violation was made available. To get booted off the team, though, you have to assume it was probably worse than missing a study hall session.

Whiteside was expected to add depth to a very good Cal front seven. Last season he had 17 tackles -- including three sacks -- in 10 games.

Also, the recent slew of arrests at Oregon State has prompted head coach Mike Riley to issue the following statement:

"We have had a few legal issues as of late with a handful of members of our football team. This behavior is totally unacceptable and the appropriate discipline started immediately with each event and future incidences could result in exclusion from our football program.”

The most recent incident involves standout cornerback Jordan Poyer, who was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal trespass. Worth noting that Poyer says the incident was blown out of proportion. And in my limited conversations with him, this seems extremely out of character.

All in all, this hasn't been a very good offseason for the conference when it comes to bad behavior and run-ins with the law.

This is why it's important to write stories about USC going to Haiti, Oregon honoring the military in its spring game, Washington players visiting a children's hospital and Stanford players working with Habitat for Humanity.

Those stories don't drive blog traffic as much -- but they are a lot more fun to write about and a good reminder that there is also a lot of good being done by players in the conference.

Most important game: Stanford

May, 23, 2012
Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.

We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.

We're going in alphabetical order.


Most important game: at California, Oct. 20

Why it's important: Well, for one, it's the Big Game, even if it's been dumped into the middle of the season.

There are games that would resonate more nationally for the Cardinal. Beat USC on Sept. 15, and everyone immediately forgets Andrew Luck. Win at Oregon on Nov. 17, and pack up for a special season as Stanford unloads two years of frustration. But Stanford will be substantial underdogs in both games. If things go as most will project, Stanford will lose both games. So, sure, either would be a big win for the program, particularly post Luck, but they would be fairly shocking.

The visit to Cal feels important because it something more approximating a "must-win." Start with the fact that Stanford, Washington and California seem like a troika that falls together -- in that order -- below Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division pecking order. This could serve as a separation game for the Cardinal, which will have already visited Washington on Sept. 27. Stanford has dominated the Huskies lately, so a win over Cal may be enough to ensure at least a second place finish in the North -- with a puncher's shot still remaining in Autzen Stadium. So this is a rivalry game with significant North Division ramifications.

But it's even more than that. Stanford has won two Big Games in a row and played in two consecutive BCS bowl games. It has taken over the Bay Area after years of struggling versus Jeff Tedford and the Bears. Some Cal fans might try to write off the Cardinal surge as something produced by a serendipitous aligning of the college football planets. As in by the flash-across-the-sky tenures of charismatic former coach Jim Harbaugh and a once-in-a-generation quarterback. If Cal wins this game, it could claim exactly that with justification. "Ah, the Bay Area pecking order has been righted," Bears fans might say. "Stanford's reign of terror is at an end. Ad perpetuam memoriam! Or not. And ad victoriam!"

But if Stanford were to win a third Big Game in a row -- inside the newly remodeled Memorial Stadium no less -- it would send a simple message: With or without Luck, the Cardinal own the Bay Area.

Villainy rampant in Pac-12

May, 22, 2012
The Pac-12 is supposed to be a collegial league. Folks throw the ball a lot and mostly get along. There are strong rivalries, but no real villains.

Or not!

Heck, the new Pac-12 is loaded with villainy. At least it is when my bosses tell me to write a story about the top coaching villains in the Pac-12 as part of our "Love to hate!" series this week.

Villains? Iago, Darth Vader and Loki have nothing on Pac-12 coaches.

  • New Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez ruined a great Michigan program. Well, it was him and a bad administration, bad players and a bad streak of duplicitous jealousy from former coach Lloyd Carr. But it's more fun to just blame Rich Rod. And Greg Robinson.
  • New Arizona State coach Todd Graham left Pittsburgh high and dry after just one season to take over the Sun Devils. His rosy-cheeked players cried for days, though it's possible they were more upset about hearing the truth about the Easter Bunny -- he's doing 5-to-10 in New Jersey State Prison for vandalizing gardens.
  • [+] EnlargeChip Kelly
    Kyle Terada/US PresswireOregon's Chip Kelly might be considered a villain in the Pac-12, because he can be abrasive with the media, and he wins a lot.
  • California coach Jeff Tedford has failed to build on the incredible success of his predecessor, Tom Holmoe.
  • Colorado coach Jon Embree made his team play 13 consecutive games last season with no bye. Wait ... that wasn't his fault? Oh. Well, I heard Embree yell at practice once.
  • Oregon coach Chip Kelly fails to have a sunny disposition around reporters on a consistent basis. Dante reserved a special level of hell for coaches who aren't nice to the media.
  • Oregon State coach Mike Riley... Er. Hmm. Well, one might smile, and smile, and be a villain, yes?
  • Stanford coach David Shaw is always throwing his Stanford-ness in your face. You know the, "Oh I played receiver for Stanford," "Oh, I've got a B.A. from Stanford," "Oh, I'm the coach of Stanford," "Oh, I didn't get rejected by Stanford's graduate English program like you did," etc, etc.
  • UCLA coach Jim Mora wasn't all rainbows and roses with Doug Gottlieb in a radio interview once.
  • USC coach Lane Kiffin? Lane Kiffin! Don't listen to revisionist history. He's still Lane Freaking Kiffin!
  • Utah coach Kyle Whittingham might act all soft-spoken and nice, but he sports a gotee and he's buffed up like a linebacker. He's clearly just waiting for everyone to turn away so he can snap your spine over his knee. And don't act like you haven't thought the same thing.
  • Washington coach Steve Sarkisian? Two words: Coach thief.
  • Washington State coach Mike Leach shot Yogi the Bear. Or was it Boo Boo?

So who is the top coaching villain in the Pac-12?

The easy answer is Kelly. He's gruff. He's closed practices. He flirted with the NFL. And, well, he wins too much.

But watch out for Kiffin. If USC again climbs back to the top of college football, that success might inspire Kiffin to again tweak his critics and adversaries. Not unlike Kelly, Kiffin has a pretty amusing, sarcastic sense of humor that isn't for everyone and sometimes doesn't translate well to print. Can he really keep that muzzled forever?

In fact, the Pac-12's biggest villain likely will be the winning coach when Kiffin and Kelly square off in the Coliseum on Nov. 3. The winner likely will be front-and-center in the national title race.

And no one likes a winner.

Pac-12 spring breakout players

May, 17, 2012
Every spring, players break out. Here are a few that stood out in the Pac-12.

Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Carey was a hyped recruit from Tucson -- Canyon del Oro High -- and the local boy seems likely to make good this year after rushing for 425 yards as a freshman. He led a solid crew of backs this spring.

Brice Schwab, OT, Arizona State: It's been a long time coming for Schwab, who has gone from heralded junior-college transfer to bust to likely starting right tackle. Schwab's problem when he arrived was conditioning: He was huge but it wasn't good weight. And he was way too weak. He started four games in 2010 and struggled, then redshirted last season in order to get in better shape. Once a 340-pounder, he's now 6-foot-7, 295. And he's a better player.

Deandre Coleman, DE, California: Said coach Jeff Tedford of the 6-5, 311-pound junior: "He may be one of the best that we've ever had." That about sums it up. Coleman dominated this spring, looking like an all-conference candidate.

Tony Jones, RB, Colorado: Replacing the highly productive Rodney Stewart was a spring priority and Jones, a sophomore, answered the bell. Jones is built a little like the diminutive "Speedy" -- 5-7, 175 pounds -- and he has a versatile range of skills, just like Stewart. With questions at quarterback, he will be asked to do a lot. Just like Stewart.

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: Lyerla should be a big weapon for whomever wins the Ducks' quarterback job. The 6-5, 238 pound sophomore should step in for the departed David Paulson and could end up as one of the Ducks' leading receivers. He caught just seven passes last year, but five went for touchdowns. He's a special athlete with a year of seasoning, which often is the foundation for a breakout.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Cooks has speed and quickness and will play opposite one of the best receivers in the conference in Markus Wheaton. He caught 31 passes for 391 yards and three TDs last year while being extremely raw. He's less raw now and has good upside. And it will help that defenses will obsess over Wheaton.

James Vaughters, LB, Stanford: The coaches have said they are going to let the leash off of this aggressive, physically imposing linebacker and see what happens. We know he'll be at middle linebacker (as opposed to just a third-down specialist last year) where he's expected to wreak havoc.

Steven Manfro, RB, UCLA: Speed and quickness. There is a difference, but Manfro has both. He excelled in the spring sessions and though he sits third on the UCLA depth chart, he might work his way into carries if he continues to show explosive breakaway ability.

Isiah Wiley, CB, USC: Wiley quietly started the final six games in 2011 and played fairly well. While he's a senior, this is only the JC transfer's second year in the program. This spring, he took a step forward and seems likely to start opposite Nickell Robey.

V.J. Fehoko, LB, Utah: With possibly the best defensive line in the conference in front of him and offenses keying in on Trevor Reilly, Fehoko could be in position to be extremely productive filling the shoes of Chaz Walker. Similar build as Walker, who tallied 118 tackles last year.

James Johnson, WR, Washington: After an injury-plagued career, Johnson is finally healthy and in the starting lineup. The physical tools are all there and the quarterback is in place for him to put up some solid numbers -- if he can stay on the field.

Andrei Lintz, WR, Washington State: This converted tight end was the talk of WSU's spring session. He has the hands and size to be effective over the middle and he showed great chemistry with Jeff Tuel during the 15 practices. The more attention Marquess Wilson draws, the more opportunities there will be for Lintz to excel.

Most important game: California

May, 17, 2012
Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.

We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.

We're going in alphabetical order.


Most important game: at Ohio State, Sept. 15

Why it's important: While a midseason Big Game against Bay Area rival Stanford would be the obvious choice -- particularly one in newly remodeled Memorial Stadium -- we're going to be contrarian. Our starting point is this: When was the last time the Bears won an, er, big game on the road? You could say perhaps the win at Stanford in 2009 counts, but driving an hour or so south hardly qualifies as a road trip. By our calculations, it was 2007, when the Bears nipped Oregon 31-24 in an Autzen Stadium thriller (a really, really entertaining game). That was back when everyone thought Jeff Tedford was one of the nation's best coaches and Nate Longshore was a sure-thing NFL prospect. Do Cal fans recall what happened next? I'm a little fuzzy. Ranked No. 2, about to jump to No. 1 after LSU lost. Oregon State in Strawberry Canyon. Kevin Riley's scramble. Tedford's infuriated stomp! OK, no need to go on (losing six of seven!). You could make the case that victory in Eugene hardly served a positive purpose, seeing what happened thereafter, but sometimes big wins are springboards into someplace other than the abyss. You know: Like a good season. Winning at the Horseshoe, one of the toughest places to play in the nation, would make a significant statement, nationally as well as within the Pac-12. If the Bears are able to beat a vulnerable but likely nationally ranked Ohio State squad, they almost certainly would take a 3-0 record and their own national ranking to USC the next weekend. The Bears would start the Pac-12 schedule with confidence. Quarterback Zach Maynard would have a marquee road win under his belt. The fanbase would stop wringing its hands over Tedford's hotseat and start imagining the program getting back on track. Even if the Bears lost to the Trojans, three winnable conference games follow before Stanford comes to town. Facing the Cardinal at 6-1 would make the Big Game worthy of its name. But a loss at Ohio State, particularly a lopsided one -- think horrible trips east against Tennessee and Maryland -- would add pressure to the visit to the Coliseum, where good things have not happened for the Bears of late. At 2-2, the leading topic among Bears fans would be Tedford's future. That would not be the case at 3-1 with a win over Urban Meyer.

Ranking coaches, Nos. 1 to 124

May, 10, 2012
Kyle WhittinghamBoyd Ivey/Icon SMIUtah's Kyle Whittingham is 6-1 in bowl games, including a Sugar Bowl win over Nick Saban.
Again, we love lists. We love rankings.

The Sporting News goes all out with its latest: Ranking all FBS coaches from Nos. 1 to 124. From No. 1 Nick Saban -- no argument -- to UMass' Charley Molnar in last place.

How does the Pac-12 rate? Oregon's Chip Kelly rates No. 6 overall and first in the conference -- no argument -- and 11 of the 12 rank among the top 75. Colorado's Jon Embree is rated No. 106, but, of course, that's entirely based on him being a first-time head coach in just his second year taking over a major rebuilding project.

The Pac-12 coaches go like this:

6. Chip Kelly, Oregon
17. Mike Leach, Washington State
20. Lane Kiffin, USC
21. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
30. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
32. David Shaw, Stanford
39. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
55. Mike Riley, Oregon State
57. Jeff Tedford, California
68. Jim Mora, UCLA
75. Todd Graham, Arizona State
106. Jon Embree, Colorado.

Kevin and I ranked the Pac-12 coaches a few weeks back -- you can see our lists here.

Such lists are, obviously, subjective and highly fluid. You can bet any such ranking of coaches will look substantially different in mid-January. So I'm not going to quibble much with TSN's list, even if I did slap my forehead a few times.

Not too much.

Whittingham and Rodriguez are too low.

For one, it's cloudy how BYU's Bronco Mendenhall, ranked 15th, is ahead of Whittingham. They have nearly identical records in seven years and Whittingham is 4-3 against Mendenhall. He also has a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama -- and Saban -- and is 6-1 in bowl games. And, er, did anyone at TSN see last year's Holy War in Provo?

As for Rodriguez, too much is made of his Michigan tenure, a mismatch from the beginning where everything was stacked against him. And it's not only his success at West Virginia, which included four Big East titles and two Coach of the Year awards, that should push him into the top 25. It's also what he did at Glenville State -- practically (re)inventing the spread option offense -- and as the offensive coordinator at Tulane and Clemson.

As for the Pac-12 in general, TSN notes its average ranking of coaches is 43.8, which ranks third behind the Big 12 (27.2) and SEC (43.8).
Some quotes from the Pac-12 coaches conference call earlier today.
  • Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez on how his players grasped his philosophy: "I think they grasped it pretty well from the progress from the first practice to the last. We tried to coach them up and educate them on how practice is going to run and the tempo we were going to go out and the things we wanted to achieve in each and every practice. For the first practice, which was tough on guys, about halfway through they were gassed and done and struggling to the end, to the last practice of spring they were moving around a little better ... I think they saw a whole other level of continuing we have to be in just to get through practice, let alone to play at the pace we want to play at."
  • ASU coach Todd Graham on the quarterback situation: "Obviously, we're a lot closer than what it appears probably from the outside. It was a great evaluation for us. And to be honest it's very difficult to rep three guys and I was very impressed that we were able to install the amount of the offense that we did install and we did it with three different guys."
  • Cal coach Jeff Tedford on the progress of quarterback Zach Maynard: "I thought he did a nice job. We were so far ahead of last year when he was new into the system. We were able to do much more on offense this spring and move along and much more efficient. You could really tell his experience from the season had really paid off with the speed of the game and the management of the game. He really improved obviously through a year. Spring was very effective for him."
  • Colorado coach Jon Embree on splitting quarterback reps this fall: "With two to three going after it you have to be creative. We'll do some different things to make sure they get quality reps. It may be by day, it may be by drill ... if it's a clear cut deal, I'm not going to waste time. I think it's important that the team knows and that quarterback know that they're going to be leading the team."
  • Oregon coach Chip Kelly on quarterback Bryan Bennett after the spring game: "He was fine. I saw him Monday and he was good. There's not much we can do about the games of the past. He's getting in and watching film on his own because we're in that part of the season. I saw him in there watching tape and getting ready for camp coming up. Everything is a learning experience for everybody in our program. It was a good learning experience for Bryan to go through."
  • Oregon State coach Mike Riley on Sean Mannion's progress: "To summarize it, I think he had a very valuable freshman year. He's a tremendously hard worker. Conscientious. So what we're looking for is just continued growth. Quarterbacking is a never-ending story of decision making, getting the ball out of your hands. Getting it to the right guy. I thought he had an excellent spring that way. He'll take all of that work into the summertime and be prepared for fall camp so we're just looking for bigger and better things."
  • Stanford head coach David Shaw on The Big Game in October: "I think the biggest change is all of the activities around the game, it's going to be hard to do all of those because they're not at the end of the season. The last couple of years it's been the second to last game of the regular season. But now, so early in the season, we've got too much work to do. We can't afford to have too many distractions. I've talked to coach Tedford and we're going to try to organize that week to where we can still do some of the traditional things, maybe just earlier in the week. We're just mid-season. We can't have too many other things going on."
  • UCLA coach Jim Mora on the need to cut scholarships (he said they need to cut three): "Probably a combination of both [grayshirting and current players]. I've talked to all our recruits and all our current players about their futures at UCLA."
  • USC coach Lane Kiffin said he wants to see improvements in the running game: "I think we did improve in the second half of the season comparable to the first half ... obviously we lost our left tackle Matt Kalil, so that will be tough to replace. But Curtis coming back after a 1,000-yard season. He's coming into his senior year. I'm looking for him to improve with D.J. Morgan going into his second year of playing with us. We aren't very deep, but we would like to definitely improve our rushing stats."
  • Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on what he learned in the first year in the Pac-12: "I don't know if we learned anything new. We had an idea going in that it was going to be very competitive ... it was very apparent on tape that there was a lot of good athletes in this conference and some great coaching and that was the case. I can't say that anything surprised us."
  • Washington coach Steve Sarkisian on finding a third wide receiver: "We know who Kasen Williams is. We know who James Johnson is. Who's going to be the third guy that's a consistent contributor. Can Cody Bruns get healthy and do it? Can a young guy? Can a Jamaal Jones, DiAndre Campbell, a Marvin Hall, one of those types of guys, step up. That will be big."
  • Washington State defensive coordinator Mike Breske on the new system: "Speaking for my first go-around with coach Leach going through spring ball, it was a little bit unusual in terms of 70-75 percent of the balls in the air from a defensive perspective. Growing process, [it was] coaches learning kids, kids learning about their coaches and how to practice, that type of thing. Once we got to practice 15 we accomplished a lot of the things we were looking for going into the spring."