Pac-12: Kevin Sumlin
- The Arizona defense eyeballs UCLA QB Brett Hundley.
- Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle is catching fewer passes, in large part because the offense around him is better.
- News and notes for California in advance of USC game.
- Colorado's true freshman LB Addison Gillam is having a record-setting season.
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota doesn't have time for pain. There are plenty of regrets for the Ducks.
- Oregon State needs a young WR to step up.
- Stanford just ground down Oregon. The revenge of the nerds was complete.
- UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy is starting to reach his potential.
- USC might be eyeballing Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
- Utah will need to slow down Arizona State RB Marion Grice.
- Washington's offense needs to pick up the pace.
- Washington State has signed a running back.
USC should never be a proving ground for head coaches. It should only be a place for a head coach who already has demonstrated the ability to win at this level.
That should be athletic director Pat Haden’s mantra as he begins the coaching search that will dictate the Trojans’ football future.
Get a proven guy. Don’t gamble with someone who looks the part. Go with someone who already knows the part.
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"It's always good seeing your school do something great," he said. "We watched them dominate. They basically made Mississippi State submit. That's how we teach football -- to make our opponents submit."
The Pac-12 blog will submit that life is pretty darn good these days in sunny Westwood. Not only did the school win its 109th national title -- first in baseball -- it also is cuddling up every night with the Victory Bell after beating arch-rival USC 38-28 last fall, ending a five-game losing streak in the series.
That starts with the win over USC, particularly when you consider where the programs stood at the end of 2011. USC beat the Bruins 50-0 and finished 10-2. Just about everyone projected the Trojans as 2012 national title contenders. Meanwhile, the Bruins were mocked for playing in a bowl game with a losing record and a fired coach. The hiring of Mora was not immediately embraced by a skeptical fan base who were dreaming of Kevin Sumlin.
Beating the Trojans -- the telling image being linebacker Anthony Barr's monstrous fourth-quarter sack of Matt Barkley -- transformed an enduring dynamic, with the Trojans strutting and the Bruins simmering with jealousy.
"It means the world," Evans said. "After 50-0, man, I didn't know if I wanted to be here any more. But after beating them, it was a great feeling. We knew if we beat them, the floodgates open for this program. You could tell with recruiting, people leaving them to come to us. It changes our program around. And it's going to keep going forward."
Still, the Bruins have flashed potential before, only to stumble back into an inconsistent pattern.
Former coach Rick Neuheisel notched a 27-24 upset over Tennessee in 2008, his first game as the Bruins coach. They lost their next game 59-zip at BYU. A 3-0 start in 2009 yielded to a five-game losing streak. The Bruins posted a physically dominant blowout win at Texas in 2010 but lost two weeks later 35-7 to a California team that would finish 5-7, the first of three consecutive losses.
Up and down. Up and down. Which always ends up, at season's end, feeling mostly down because it invites, "What could have been?" navel gazing.
Evans, a fifth-year senior, is well-aware of this. Even last year, there were some bafflingly disappointing performances -- a 43-17 loss at Cal and the faceplant against Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.
"The buzz around campus is good but we are not satisfied with what we did last year," he said. "9-5 is obviously an upgrade from 6-8, but we felt like we should have gone 12-2. This year, we're trying to go 14-0."
Evans will be a key piece if the Bruins are going to approach such high aspirations. He quietly posted a strong season last year, catching 60 passes for 877 yards with a stout 14.6 yards per catch. But in a conference laden with so much talent at receiver, that only ranked 11th (62.6 yards per game).
Further, Evans knows exactly where he fell short statistically, "Touchdowns!" he said before the question was finished.
Evans caught just three, in large part because tight end Joseph Fauria was the go-to guy in the red zone.
"I understood last year that if you've got a guy who is 6-foot-8 and you're in the red zone, he's going to be your primary target," Evans said.
Evans knows this is the year -- his final year before the NFL draft -- in which he needs to show his stuff. And with the departure of Fauria and running back Johnathan Franklin, as well as the expected maturation of quarterback Brett Hundley, Evans should be in position to become a 1,000-yard receiver.
And that likely would include more opportunities to peacock in the end zone (within the parameters of NCAA no-fun rules, of course).
For both Hundley and Evans, that's about refining their respective games. Evans mentions blocking and route running for himself, and accuracy, decision-making and command of the offense for Hundley.
After all, it's an obsessive focus and daily attention to details that will prevent the program from being inconsistent.
"I really believe we are past that," Evans said.
The test of that will be who ends up atop the South Division at season's end. And who owns the Victory Bell.
Athlon Sports graded each first year head coach, and the new Pac-12 coaches generally did well.
UCLA's Jim Mora ranked fifth and received an A-. Arizona State's Todd Graham was eighth and received a B+, while Arizona's Rich Rodriguez was just behind at ninth -- darn that Territorial Cup! -- and received a B+ also.
Washington State's Mike Leach lagged behind, ranking 18th, receiving a D. It wasn't a great first year for Leach in Pullman, but the Apple Cup win over Washington provided something positive to build on heading into the offseason.
Here's what was written about each.
Jim Mora, UCLA
What Went Right: Mora wasn’t the first choice for UCLA, but his debut season was very successful. The Bruins improved their win total by three games, claimed another Pac-12 South crown and defeated rival USC 38-28. Overall, not a bad season. UCLA returns most of its core next season, and the Bruins should be the early favorite to win the Pac-12 South for the third consecutive year.Todd Graham, Arizona State
What Went Wrong: The Bruins closed with three consecutive losses, including a disappointing 49-26 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. Mora’s strong suit is defense, but UCLA finished eighth in the Pac-12 in total and scoring defense. The Bruins are on the right track, but Mora and his staff still have plenty of work to do.
What Went Right: The Sun Devils were on the doorstep of playing for the Pac-12 Championship. A 45-43 loss to UCLA in late October was the tiebreaker for the South Division title, but Arizona State still finished with eight wins and a huge victory over rival Arizona. The Sun Devils also crushed Navy 62-28 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. One of Graham’s biggest accomplishments was bringing discipline to the roster, as Arizona State finished 10th nationally in fewest penalties per game – a big improvement after ranking last in college football in 2011.Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
What Went Wrong: Just like many of the coaches in the top 10 of this ranking, it’s hard to criticize Graham for anything at Arizona State in 2012. Statistically, the Sun Devils have room to improve against the run and need to cut down on the sacks allowed next year. Barring any unexpected injuries, Graham has Arizona State positioned to start in the top 25 next season.
What Went Right: Rodriguez was one of the best hires of last offseason and didn’t disappoint in his first year in Tucson. After winning four games in 2011, the Wildcats rebounded to post eight victories, including a New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada. Arizona nearly knocked off Stanford, defeated USC and beat Oklahoma State for a solid non-conference win in Week 2.Mike Leach, Washington State
What Went Wrong: With the Wildcats having to adjust to Rodriguez’s scheme on offense and the personnel issues on defense, an 8-5 record was Arizona’s best-case scenario. Failing to score in a loss to Oregon was a disappointment, but the only real negative mark this year was a defeat to rival Arizona State.
What Went Right: The season got off to a rough start for Washington State, but it rebounded to win its next two games to start 2-1 before Pac-12 play. The Cougars recorded only one victory within the conference, defeating rival Washington 31-28 in overtime.
What Went Wrong: There’s no doubt Leach was the biggest disappointment of college football’s new coaches for 2012. Washington State was predicted by some to reach a bowl game, and Leach’s high-powered offense never really got on track. The Cougars also had a horrible loss to Colorado and suffered blowout defeats to Arizona State, Utah, Oregon and BYU.
Generally fair assessments. None of the four posted a season without hiccups, but Mora, Graham and Rodriguez produced higher win totals than just about anyone projected. Each program probably feels plenty of optimism for the future, which is the best thing a new coach can produce.
As for Leach, he, more than the others, was burdened with high expectations. Of the four, he was the only one who was expected to produce more wins with his new team than it got in 2012. That didn't happen. The Cougars play took a step backwards this season, one that included plenty of controversies.
While the enthusiasm for Leach is more muted -- realistic? -- now among Cougs, the odds remain strong he'll get things turned around. His track record speaks for itself.
And it's important to remember a good -- or bad -- first year only means so much. Or a second, for that matter.
Recall that Larry Coker nearly won consecutive national titles his first two years at Miami in 2001 and 2002. He was fired after going 7-6 in 2006. Pete Carroll went 6-6 his first year at USC and lost to Utah in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl. Things went on an uptick after that.
There were 12 coaches whose teams improved from 2011 to 2012, including three from the Pac-12. There were seven coaches who did worse, including Washington State's Mike Leach. And there were eight who did about the same (we didn't count Charley Molnar at Massachusetts whose team stepped up from FCS to FBS this year).
Who made the most notable positive jumps? Urban Meyer at Ohio State (12-0 from 6-7), Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin (11-2 from 7-6), Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter (10-4 from 4-9) and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze (7-6 from 2-10).
The crash-and-burn list, of course, is topped by Ellis Johnson, who was fired after one season when Southern Miss declined from 12-2 to 0-12. Other notable regressions: Houston (5-7 from 13-1),Arkansas (4-8 from 11-2) and Illinois (2-10 from 7-6).
Here's the complete list (2011 record):
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: 12-0 (6-7)
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 11-2 (7-6)
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: 10-3 (10-3)
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: 9-4 (4-9)
Matt Campbell, Toledo: 9-4 (9-4)
Kyle Flood, Rutgers: 9-4 (9-4)
Jim Mora, UCLA: 9-5 (6-8)
Bill O'Brien, Penn State: 8-4 (9-4)
Larry Fedora, North Carolina: 8-4 (7-6)
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: 8-5 (4-8)
Todd Graham, Arizona State: 8-5 (6-7)
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: 7-6 (2-10)
Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh: 6-7 (6-7)
Tony Levine, Houston: 5-7 (13-1)
Jim McElwain, Colorado State: 4-8 (3-9)
John L. Smith, Arkansas: 4-8 (11-2)
Justin Fuente, Memphis: 4-8 (2-10)
Bob Davie, New Mexico: 4-9 (1-11)
Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic: 3-9 (1-11)
Garrick McGee, UAB: 3-9 (3-9)
Norm Chow, Hawaii: 3-9 (6-7)
Mike Leach, Washington State: 3-9 (4-8)
Curtis Johnson, Tulane: 2-10 (2-11)
Tim Beckman, Illinois: 2-10 (7-6)
Charley Molnar, Massachusetts: 1-11 (NA)
Terry Bowden, Akron: 1-11 (1-11)
Charlie Weis, Kansas: 1-11 (2-10)
Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss: 0-12 (12-2)
These are interesting factoids, but the more substantive — and better — news is that they are of secondary importance to this: Sumlin was the first African-American to be a certifiable "hot" coaching candidate.
If Sumlin hadn't had his heart set on A&M, he could have become the head coach at Arizona State. And he also could have become the head coach at UCLA. He didn't have to fight and claw to get his toe in the door at an AQ school. Big-time football programs sent a limo to pick him up and were waiting with their finest meats and cheeses when he arrived.
Read more from Ted Miller by clicking here.
— Also, read Adam Rittenberg's story on how the Big Ten lacks coaching diversity.
Shaw annouced Friday that Pete Alamar, a Pac-12 veteran of Cal and Arizona, would be Stanford's new special teams coordinator.
"Pete came highly recommended by people who I respect in the coaching profession," Shaw said in a statement. "He is one of those rare coaches who can coach not only scheme, but also the technique of snapping, punting and kicking."
Alamar replaces Brian Polian, who left Stanford last month to join Kevin Sumlin's staff at Texas A&M.
Alamar was the special teams coach at Cal from 2003-09. He was on staff at Arizona in 1993 and again from 1995-99. He spent the past two years coordinating special teams and coaching the tight ends at Fresno State. He has also worked as a running backs coach, on the offensive line and was the offensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan from 2000-02.
Stanford was neither bad nor great at special teams last year. Within the Pac-12, the Cardinal ranked 10th in punting, fourth in kickoff coverage, third in punt returns, fifth in field goals and seventh in PAT kicking.
There are some holes on the special teams units to fill. Punter David Green is gone, as is long-snapper Andrew Fowler. Kicker Jordan Williamson was second-team All-Pac-12 as a freshman. Ty Montgomery emerged as a solid kick returner and Drew Terrell, who was All-Pac-12 honorable mention, will likely continue punt return duties.
The hiring leaves Shaw with one vacancy on the staff. He said yesterday that he expects to name an inside linebackers coach sometime next week. He added that the new coach would not serve as co-defensive coordinator, as was the case with former coach Jason Tarver, who left earlier this month to be the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Derek Mason will have full defensive coordinator responsibilities next season.
The Cardinal open the first of two spring football sessions on Monday.
"The big story," he said conspiratorially,"is all these new coaches."
Well, it's the big story now as the Pac-12 turns its attention away from the 2011 season and toward 2012 spring practices. And, of course, Kelly is part of a reason there are four new coaches in the conference. Mike Stoops, Dennis Erickson, Rick Neuheisel and Paul Wulff -- fired at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, respectively -- never beat Kelly and, in fact, came within double digits of his Ducks only once (Arizona, with a 44-41 loss in 2009).
But the story isn't just four new coaches. It's four new coaches whom folks have heard of, each of whom is getting a big-boy salary that would fit in among the SEC or Big Ten. Big salaries are the new normal in the Pac-12 after the conference signed a $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox.
The chief idea is obvious: Pac-12 schools are paying for an upgrade in coaching talent, and there are high expectations for getting their money's worth. And, by the way, there's an added bonus for each hire: Each new coach has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
- In 2010, Rodriguez was ingloriously dispatched at Michigan after three tumultuous and unsuccessful years. Athletic director Greg Byrne is betting that Rodriguez is far closer to the highly successful coach he was at West Virginia than the one who got run out of Ann Arbor, and Rodriguez surely wants that impression to be his legacy. It helps that he got his man, Jeff Casteel, to run the Wildcats' defense, which he failed to do at Michigan.
- Graham took a lot of heat from a pandering, sanctimonious media and a whiny Pittsburgh fan base for how he left the Panthers. "He didn't even say goodbye," they collectively sobbed. "Waaah." Of course, Graham does have an unfortunate habit of describing every job as his "dream job." All that stuff is mostly hogwash, though. What matters is winning, and if Graham does that, the media will all come down en masse to Tempe pretending they didn't trash Graham's character for taking a better job, in a better conference, in a better place to live while making his family happy in the process.
- Mora was fired in 2009 after only one season with the Seattle Seahawks, and he's bided his time looking for another head-coaching job. Seeing that he was two or three names down UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero's coaching list -- Chris Petersen! Kevin Sumlin! -- some Bruins fans reacted with disappointed smirks to Mora's hiring. Then Mora hired an outstanding staff. Then he reeled in an outstanding recruiting class. Some of those frowns are turning upside down.
- Leach was fired at Texas Tech in 2009. He's one of the best offensive minds in the nation, and the almost universal reaction is athletic director Bill Moos hit a home run with this big-name hire. The Pirate Captain looks like the perfect match for Pullman and the Cougs, and he'll be plenty motivated to prove his critics wrong and erase the bad ending in Lubbock.
It's fair to say these four hirings have generated positive momentum for these programs, though, of course, to varying degrees. There's a hope among the fan bases that these four can create quick turnarounds.
And that also leads into another major coaching story entering the spring: The Pac-12's most senior coaches, California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley, sit on the hottest seats.
Tedford enters his 11th season in Berkeley having followed up his first losing campaign -- 5-7 in 2010 -- with a middling 7-6 finish in 2011. Riley, the man deserving the most credit for making one of the worst programs in college football respectable, enters his 12th year in Corvallis -- two tenures wrapped around an ill-fated stint with the San Diego Chargers -- burdened by consecutive losing seasons, including a 3-9 finish that felt so 1987.
Spring practices for Tedford and Riley will be about setting up turnaround season that give their frustrated fan bases hope -- and keep their athletic directors from issuing dreaded votes of confidence while checking their coaching Rolodexes.
Meanwhile, Kelly and USC's Lane Kiffin, still relative coaching newbies in the conference, enter spring likely trying to tone down the positive hype. Both will begin the 2012 season ranked in the top 10. USC could be preseason No. 1. Both are overwhelming favorites in the North and South Divisions. And their meeting on Nov. 3 in L.A. could have national title implications.
But that's looking ahead.
The big story this spring in the Pac-12 is newness and rebirth. One-third of the conference's teams hope that newness at the top of their programs will create a rebirth in the Pac-12 standings.
Sanford, now in his second season with the program, fills the void left by special teams coach/recruiting coordinator Brian Polian, who left last month to take a similar position on Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Texas A&M.
Sanford’s new role takes effect immediately.
“Mike Sanford is a proven recruiter who truly loves and understands Stanford University,” Shaw said in a statement. “He works extremely hard and develops great relationships.”
Sanford played an instrumental role in Stanford landing one of the top recruiting classes in the country, which included six players on the 2012 ESPNU 150 list.
In his first year as the Cardinal’s running backs coach in 2011, Sanford oversaw a rushing attack that ranked 18th nationally with an average of 210.6 yards per game.
The move comes on the heels of running game coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren being named one of the top recruiters in the country and the No. 1 recruiter in the Pac-12. To round out his staff, Shaw still has to find a special teams replacement for Polian and someone to replace co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Jason Tarver, who was hired earlier this month as the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders.
Sanford, a 2005 graduate of Boise State, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UNLV. He served at Stanford as an offensive assistant from 2007-2008 before moving to Yale in 2009 (tight ends, fullbacks, recruiting coordinator) and Western Kentucky in 2010 (passing game coordinator, running backs).
He likes Mike Leach to Washington State — a lot — and Rich Rodriguez to Arizona. He's not so impressed with Todd Graham to Arizona State and Jim Mora to UCLA.
Here are his Pac-12 grades and takes.
Washington State (Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach): A+
AD Bill Moos looked past the controversy surrounding Leach's bizarre 2009 ouster in Lubbock and focused more on his 84-43 record and 10 straight bowl trips. The quirky offensive mind is a perfect fit in remote Pullman and already has the quarterbacks (rising senior Jeff Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday) he needs to lead the dormant Cougars to their first postseason berth in nine years.
Arizona (Rich Rodriguez, former Michigan head coach): A-
AD Greg Byrne knew exactly who he wanted, pouncing early (Nov. 21) in naming Mike Stoops' replacement. While Rodriguez's three-year tenure in Ann Arbor did not end well, the pressure is much lower in tradition-starved Tucson. He's reunited the majority of his staff from West Virginia, where he led the Mountaineers to two BCS bowls. Arizona is still waiting on its first.
UCLA (Jim L. Mora, former Seattle Seahawks head coach): D
After striking out with Chris Petersen, Al Golden and Sumlin, AD Dan Guerrero turned to an unemployed NFL lifer. Mora has assembled a nice staff and will likely make initial waves in recruiting, but history does not bode well for NFL-bred coaches. UCLA hopes Mora will become its Pete Carroll, but odds are much higher he emulates Bill Callahan, Charlie Weis, Chan Gailey, Mike Sherman ...
Arizona State (Todd Graham, Pittsburgh head coach): D
Forget the unseemly way he exited Pitt. Why exactly Graham is a hot commodity to begin with? It's certainly not due to his one 6-6 Big East season. He had three 10-win seasons at Tulsa, but much of the credit belongs to respected offensive coordinators Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. His one season without either, he went 5-7. But perhaps his fourth dream job in six years will be the one.
These divergent grades shouldn't be surprising. Just about everyone — yes, there is always some contrarian wackiness — believes Washington State and Arizona made great hires. And both Mora and Graham have baggage.
A lot of rating a coaching hire is about process: Did the AD get his or her first choice? Washington State and Arizona appeared to do just that and UCLA and Arizona State didn't. The lesson, taught over and over and over again, is that ADs always need to have a solid list of coaching candidates and Plan Bs in their desk drawer, and they need to move proactively and aggressively from the moment they decide to fire their coach — even taking steps in advance of the pending termination.
And, most important, the fewer people involved in the process, the better. The best search committees are made up of one person — see ADs Greg Byrne at Arizona and Bill Moos at Washington State.
Mandel also looks at "Ten impact coordinators/assistants," and two from the Pac-12 make the list, as well as a former conference head coach and QB.
Jeff Casteel, Arizona (defense): Defense was the bane of Rodriguez's existence at Michigan. It was critical he reunite with his highly effective former West Virginia coordinator.
Mike Stoops, Oklahoma (defense): Bob's brother returns to Norman, where he produced some of the nation's most dominant units from 1999-2003. The Sooners needed him.
Tosh Lupoi, Washington (defensive line): Steve Sarkisian sent shock waves through the Pac-12 by luring away Cal's ace recruiter, considered the best on the West Coast.
Jonathan Smith, Boise State (quarterbacks): Petersen tabbed the former Oregon State standout and Montana offensive coordinator to help mold Kellen Moore's successor.
Here's some skinny.
At UCLA, ESPN LA's Peter Yoon reported that interim head coach Mike Johnson would like to be considered for the job. Here's his update on other candidates:
UCLA has been turned down by Boise State coach Chris Petersen, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions, and eliminated Houston coach Kevin Sumlin as a candidate after meeting with him on Saturday, according to a source. Al Golden of Miami is considered the next top target, though Golden recently signed a four-year contract extension at Miami.
There's some chatter out there about former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora, Jr. My take: That would be a good hire. While things went badly for Mora in Seattle, let's recall that he was the first choice to replace Tyrone Willingham at Washington. He's a charismatic guy with an NFL sensibility that would translate well at UCLA. Recall that the last time a team in LA hired a charismatic guy with an NFL sensibility who had folks scratching their heads turned out OK.
Here's Jon Gold's take in the LA Daily News.
Sources have said that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who met with Sumlin in Houston on Saturday, is essentially rebooting the search and at this point, there are no clear-cut favorites. Miami head coach Al Golden, whom Guerrero interviewed for the job during the post-Karl Dorrell vacancy, is among the candidates, along with SMU head coach June Jones. Sources indicated on Saturday that there was minimal interest in former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti.
UCLA has been the sort of job that more than a few folks thought might lure Bellotti back into coaching. But it doesn't seem, at least at this point, that he's high on the Bruins' list.
Meanwhile, at Arizona State, it appears that Sumlin might not be completely out of the picture, but that SMU coach June Jones' name is front-and-center at present. Still, there are plenty of other names in the rumor swirl. Writes Doug Haller:
Arizona State officials on Saturday met with SMU coach June Jones for more than three hours in Texas.
A report surfaced Sunday that ASU was in position to announce Jones' hire shortly after the university learned of its bowl destination. That wasn't true. According to a source, the Jones push slowed Sunday night. That doesn't mean it's over, but it could be an indication that ASU is having second thoughts.
Sources confirmed Sunday that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora is still in the mix. Baylor coach Art Briles has emerged as a candidate.
I continue to hear ASU likes Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Also, despite reports that ASU has backed off Sumlin, he still could be in play, especially if Texas A&M goes another direction in its quest to replace fired coach Mike Sherman.
In other words, neither coach search has moved -- at least according to reports -- decisively in one direction.
So stay tuned.
It's Oregon: In the preseason it was "Oregon or Stanford." When Oregon lost to LSU, it became "Stanford or Oregon." But when the fog -- man, Eugene, you do have some fog -- cleared, it was the Ducks. Again. For a third consecutive time. Oregon overcame an early loss, injuries and the Andrew Luck Phenomenon to win the first Pac-12 title game. Now can the Ducks beat ...
It's Wisconsin: The first question of the bowl season is who does the conference champion play? Rose Bowl or national title game? Well, Oregon's loss to USC knocked it out of the national title debate, so that leaves the Ducks headed to the Rose Bowl. And, in a thrilling Big Ten title game, Wisconsin outlasted Michigan State. So it's Ducks and Badgers, which will be simplistically billed as speed versus power, as most Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups are.
USC-Oregon would have been fun to see: It's become an accepted fact among informed college football observers that the NCAA sanctions against USC were a travesty of justice, and the NCAA's refusal to revisit that travesty are a massive act of cowardice on the part of the organization. That's the take of all clear-thinking people. (NCAA folks, just admit you blew it. The NCAA would take a huge step toward wiping away dumbfounding hypocrisy with a moment of honest self-reflection.) We, again, point out the obvious because it would have been electric to see two top-10 teams play in Autzen Stadium on Friday to truly figure out who the best team was in the Pac-12.
Cougs are relevant again: Washington State's hiring of Mike Leach gives the program instant credibility. He's a top-20 coach who knows how to win without elite, across-the-board talent. The Cougs were already taking steps forward the past two years under Paul Wulff. Wulff collected talent that can be competitive in the Pac-12. Leach immediately puts the program back into the North Division discussion.
Uncertainty at Arizona State and UCLA: Arizona State wanted Kevin Sumlin and UCLA wanted Chris Petersen. It appears that neither is going to get its first choice. Rumors are swirling, but there is nothing of substance for either program yet. While Washington State quickly filled its post, it's uncertain whether either the Sun Devils or Bruins will hire a coach quickly. That may be due to insecurity for both athletic directors. Prolonged coaching searches are not good. Both programs need to figure things out and quickly.
- Arizona old and new: Rich Rodriguez will shortly fill out his staff, while former coach Mike Stoops is a hot coaching commodity.
- If it's not going to be Kevin Sumlin, who will the next Arizona State coach be?
- Not much bowl intrigue for California and Stanford. Cal is likely headed to the Holiday Bowl -- or maybe the Sun -- Stanford to the Fiesta.
- Oregon running back LaMichael James made what is almost certainly his final game for the Ducks a standout goodbye. The Ducks' win over UCLA was sloppy but convincing.
- How did the Stanford offensive line play this year?
- Considering plan B for UCLA after Chris Petersen said no.
- Reviewing USC's top 10 moments.
- Will Utah have quarterback intrigue this spring?
- Is Washington coach Steve Sarkisian a possibility at UCLA?
- New Washington State coach Mike Leach speaks.