We checked out some early "odds" and ends from a Pac-12 perspective.
First week betting lines (obviously not all games are included).
UNLV at Arizona (-25.5)
Colorado State (pick 'em) at Colorado (in Denver)
Washington (-21.5) at Hawaii
Odds to win 2014-2015 BCS National Championship (from 5 Dimes, unless otherwise noted)
Arizona State 75-1
California 500-1 (Bovada)
Oregon State 300-1
Washington State 300-1
Odds to win the Heisman Trophy from Bovada (23 total players were listed)
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: 5-1 (No. 2 overall behind 2013 winner Jameis Winston: 5-2)
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: 14-1
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State: 28-1
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: 28-1
Myles Jack, LB-RB, UCLA: 33-1
What’s the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this spring?
Bralon Addison injury: The Ducks lost one of their top receiving threats when Addison tore his ACL in spring practice. There are options for the Ducks, who are never wanting for offensive talent. But Addison seemed poised to build off an outstanding 2013 after catching 61 balls for 890 yards and seven touchdowns -- not to mention his prowess as a return man. This is the third-straight spring a marquee receiver has gone down (Paul Richardson, 2012; Austin Hill, 2013).
USC quarterback: Cody Kessler is USC’s starting quarterback, for now. New coach Steve Sarkisian announced before the spring game that the incumbent had continued to distance himself from challengers Max Browne and Jalen Greene. It wasn’t a total shock -- given Kessler’s year of experience and the fact that he came on strong in the second half last fall. But USC quarterbacks will always garner national attention.
Quarterback questions marks: While 10 Pac-12 coaches have the luxury of having their QB in place already, two schools are still looking for their starter. Arizona has a host of quarterbacks to choose from. And spring has brought little clarity to the situation. At Washington, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams split the snaps, but we won’t know much until Cyler Miles returns from his suspension.
ASU’s defense: Every team has to replace a few key players, but the Arizona State Sun Devils essentially have to replace its entire starting defense. With nine starters gone from last season’s defense gone -- including two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton -- the competition level was upped to see who is going to step in.
Stanford's RBs: Being a starting running back at Stanford means big production. The Cardinal have had a 1,000-yard rusher every year since 2008, so whoever replaces Tyler Gaffney is probably in for a big season. Though coach David Shaw told the Pac-12 blog earlier this month he’d prefer to have a committee approach, a natural No. 1 will likely emerge. Who that is, however, remains a question.
- Arizona's offense is a work in progress after spring practices.
- Former Arizona State QB Jake Plummer remembers Pat Tillman.
- California gets another commitment.
- More on a recent Colorado defensive end commitment.
- Unlike many teams, Oregon's spring game will resemble an actual game.
- Oregon State's talented safeties are focusing on communication.
- Which Stanford freshman has the best chance to make an impact?
- UCLA announces its spring game rosters.
- USC AD Pat Haden chats with Trojans QB Cody Kessler.
- More thoughts on potentially changing "Utah Man."
- Who are Washington's most indispensable players.
- Analyzing Washington State's skill position production.
The Pac-12 not only welcomes back 10 starting QBs, it welcomes back 198 total starts, topped by 31 from Oregon State's Sean Mannion. Seven of the returning Pac-12 QBs have more than one season's worth of starting experience, too.
The Big Ten features 10 returning QBs and a cumulative 158 starts. The 14-team SEC only welcomes back five starting QBs with a combined 68 starts. Ohio State's Braxton Miller has the most career starts among returning quarterbacks with 32.
Further, notes Hawkes, "Also notable is that aside from Miller, Rutgers' Gary Nova (28 starts), Mannion (31), Taylor Kelly (27), Brett Hundley (27) and Marcus Mariota (26) are the four most seasoned QBs among all BCS teams (along with Bo Wallace at 26 starts at Ole Miss)."
Here's the list.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State: 31
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State: 27
Brett Hundley, UCLA: 27
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 26
Kevin Hogan, Stanford: 19
Connor Halliday, Washington State: 19
Travis Wilson, Utah: 16
Cody Kessler, USC: 14
Jared Goff, Cal: 12
Sefo Liufau, Colorado: 7
Total: 198 starts
Big Ten (10)
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: 32
Gary Nova, Rutgers: 28
Devin Gardner, Michigan: 21
Joel Stave, Wisconsin: 19
Connor Cook, Michigan State: 13
Jake Rudock, Iowa: 13
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: 12
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana: 8
Danny Etling, Purdue: 8
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota: 4
Total: 158 starts
Big 12 (8)
David Ash, Texas: 21
Bryce Petty, Baylor: 13
Jake Waters, Kansas State: 13
Jake Heaps, Kansas: 9
Sam Richardson, Iowa State: 8
Clint Trickett, West Virginia: 7
Davis Webb, Texas Tech: 6
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: 5
Total: 82 starts
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss: 26
Nick Marshall, Auburn: 14
Brandon Allen, Arkansas: 12
Justin Worley, Tennessee: 10
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: 6
Total: 68 starts
Anthony Boone, Duke: 15
Jameis Winston, Florida State: 14
David Watford, Virginia: 12
Terrel Hunt, Syracuse: 10
Total: 51 starts
American Athletic (5)
Paxton Lynch, Memphis: 12
John O'Korn, Houston: 11
P.J. Walker, Temple: 7
Mike White, South Florida: 5
Casey Cochran, Connecticut: 4
Total: 39 starts
Get your dreams just right, and let them slip away.
- Some discussion about Arizona's quarterback situation.
- An ASU commit has some versatility.
- Catching up on Cal recruiting.
- Watch this Colorado recruit give his commitment to Mike MacIntyre over the phone.
- Oregon walk-ons power through despite unknown future.
- Richard Mullaney ready to lead the OSU receiving corps.
- Five Stanford players who could have breakout seasons.
- Owa Odighizuwa looking forward to getting back on the field.
- A photo gallery from USC's spring game (No. 13 is my favorite, though No. 18 is awfully sweet).
- The Utah fight song will be changed.
- Washington's new coaching staff focused on chemistry.
- No more annual Seattle Game for Wazzu?
Here’s a look at where each school stands in the recruiting game.
2015 commits: 4
Player(s): Taren Morrison, RB, Mesa, Ariz.; Darick Holmes Jr., RB, Westlake Village, Calif.; Ricky McCoy, TE, Fresno, Calif.; Finton Connolly, DT, Gilbert, Ariz.
2015 commits: 5
Player(s): Morie Evans, WR, Huntsville, Texas; Bryce Perkins, QB, Chandler, Ariz.; Nick Ralston, RB, Argyle, Texas; Tony Nicholson, Ath., Grand Prairie, Texas; Raymond Epps, TE, Yuma, Ariz.
2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Austin Aaron, WR, Napa, Calif.; Malik Psalms, CB, Chino Hills, Calif.
2015 commits: 3
Player(s): T.J. Fehoko, DE, Salt Lake City; N.J. Falo, OLB, Sacramento, Calif.; Dillon Middlemiss, OG, Arvada, Colo.
2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Zach Okun, OG, Newbury Park, Calif.; Jake Breeland, WR, Mission Viejo, Calif.
2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Tyrin Ferguson, OLB, New Orleans; Treshon Broughton, CB, Tustin, Calif.; Kyle Haley, OLB, Anaheim, Calif.
2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Arrington Farrar, S, College Park, Georgia; Christian Folau, ILB, Salt Lake City; Rex Manu, DT, Mililani, Hawaii.
2015 commits: 6
Player(s): Josh Rosen, QB, Bellflower, Calif.; Alize Jones, TE-Y, Las Vegas; Tevita Halalilo, OG, Moreno Valley, Calif.; Jaason Lewis, ATH, Virginia Beach, Va.; Victor Alexander, OLB, Jacksonville, Fla.; Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB, Clovis, Calif.
2015 commits: 4
Player(s): Chuma Edoga, OT, Powder Springs, Ga.; Ricky Town, QB (PP), Ventura, Calif.; David Sills, QB (PP), Elkton, Maryland; Taeon Mason, CB, Pasadena, Calif.
2015 commits: 7
Player(s): Jake Grant, OT, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tuli Wily-Matagi, ATH, Kahuku, Hawaii; Donzale Roddie, WR, Paramount, Calif.; Chayden Johnston, K, South Jordan, Utah; Brandon Snell, WR, Miami; Corey Butler, WR, Wilmington, Calif.; Zach Lindsay, OT, Kaysville, Utah.
2015 commits: 3
Player(s): Jake Browning, QB, Folsom, Calif.; Trey Adams, OT, Wenatchee, Wash.; Myles Gaskin, RB, Seattle.
2015 commits: 2
Player(s): Thomas Toki, DT, Mountain View, Calif.; Austin Joyner, RB, Marysville, Wash.
- A roundup of Arizona after it completed spring practices.
- The Arizona Republic remembers Arizona State -- and American -- great Pat Tillman.
- California's Kyle Boehm is happy to be back at QB.
- RB Terrence Crowder is glad to be getting another chance at Colorado.
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota talks about the Ducks scrimmage.
- Oregon State FB Tyler Anderson is feeling good.
- An NFL draft profile of Stanford OG David Yankey.
- UCLA coach Jim Mora wants his team to exit spring healthy.
- USC hits Georgia for a big-time O-line commitment.
- More on the debate -- and pending vote -- over the Utah fight song.
- Has Chris Petersen taken some early missteps as Washington's coach?
- Checking in with Washington State defender Toni Pole.
But not always, especially in the sometimes-backward Pac-12, where the offense is fast and furious and the defense is underrated.
An examination of turnover margin in the league the last three seasons reveals some very interesting results, trends and trend-busters.
Here’s how Pac-12 teams have shaped up the last three seasons:
Some intriguing takeaways (pun intended):
- Stanford, the two-time defending conference champion, is well known for its hard-nosed defense. Yet in 2013, it had a turnover margin of zero (19 takeaways, 19 turnovers) and the Cardinal are in the lower half of the league the last three seasons in total turnovers generated. Worth noting, however, that Stanford also takes care of the ball better than anyone in the league, with a conference-low 54 turnovers in the last three seasons.
- Oregon has more takeaways than any team in the conference the last three seasons, including a robust turnover margin of plus-21 for the 2012 season (tops in the league for a single-season over that three-year stretch). Wait a second: Doesn’t Oregon catch flak for not playing defense? Huh. The Ducks are second in the league behind Stanford with just 57 turnovers over the last three seasons.
- Only Arizona State, Oregon and Washington had a positive turnover margin in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
- Only California, Colorado and Washington State had a negative turnover margin in all three seasons.
- Stanford is the only team to have a zero margin in a season during the last three years.
- ASU is the only team in the league to have at least 30 takeaways in all three seasons.
- During that three-year stretch, only two teams have created more turnovers than Oregon State. During that same stretch, only two teams have committed more turnovers than Oregon State. So while the Beavers' 83 takeaways look great on paper, the 80 turnovers don’t. Makes sense that in the Beavers' best season, 2012, they had a plus-8 margin with 31 takeaways and 23 turnovers. In its worst, 2011, it was minus-8 with 23 takeaways and 31 turnovers.
- Washington State has the most total turnovers (86) in the last three years. But Colorado has the worst turnover margin. Worth noting that last season the Buffs cut their margin down to minus-3 from the minus-19 in 2012.
- USC tied with Colorado in 2012 for most turnovers in the league (34). So despite 71 takeaways the last three seasons, their 69 turnovers gives the Trojans only a plus-2 margin. Worth noting that after back-to-back seaspns of negative turnover margin in 2011 and 2012, USC was on the plus side last season at plus-5.
- Arizona reached the plus side of the turnover margin last season (plus-4) after back-to-back seasons of negative margin in 2011 and 2012.
- The most turnovers in a season in the three-year stretch was from Washington State, which had 35 last season.
- The most takeaways in a season in the three-year stretch was by Oregon, which had 40 in 2012.
- Washington’s much-maligned defense of 2011 still finished the season with a plus-1 turnover margin. Though during the last two seasons under then-coordinator Justin Wilcox (now with Steve Sarkisian at USC), the Huskies are plus-12.
- The fewest turnovers in a season in the last three seasons is 16 – both from Washington and UCLA last season. Stanford is the only team in the conference to be in the teens in turnovers all three years.
- Until last season, Utah had been solid at getting takeaways. It led the Pac-12 in turnovers and turnover margin in 2011 (33 takeaways, plus-10 margin). Even in 2012, the Utes were on the plus side, but failed to make a bowl game. Last year Utah dipped to minus-9.
So as you can see, there is obviously some correlation between turnovers and wins/losses. The three Pac-12 teams that didn’t make the postseason last season -- Cal, Colorado and Utah -- each had negative turnover margins.
But it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that the team that has the most turnovers will lose every game and the team with the most takeaways wins. Stanford is a perfect example of that, winning the league last season with an even margin. You don’t need a lot of takeaways to play great defense, but it doesn’t hurt, either.
And while fans of the various Pac-12 programs might be ready to hit the panic button, there's no such worry behind the scenes.
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The USC Trojans, after receiving a commitment from one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Ricky Town, back in January, got a commitment Monday from a player who is expected to protect Town's blind side -- offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.
Edoga, who is the No. 3 offensive tackle and the No. 21 overall player in the ESPN 300, announced his decision on Twitter and confirmed his decision with ESPN.
"I committed to USC. I feel like I can get the best of both worlds by going to USC," Edoga said. "First with football and then with their academics. I have a great relationship with coach [Tee] Martin and coach [Tim] Drevno. They are all pretty cool guys -- real laid back. They really love the game of football and they are focused on what is best for me, they want to make me the best man I can be -- just real genuine guys."
"It was a pretty tough decision," Edoga said. "They are all awesome schools. Anyone would die to go to some of those other schools but I'm pretty solid, I feel like I made a good decision to go to USC."
As you surely know if you frequent the Pac-12 blog -- typically considered the University of Oxford of the Internet -- we've been typing pretty regularly about the returning QB talent in the Pac-12. As in 10 returning starters, a group that includes a handful of national awards candidates.
That alone would support the notion of big passing numbers this coming fall. But there's more!
- The Pac-12 is extremely deep at receiver.
- The Pac-12 is questionable at running back.
- The Pac-12 loses many of its top sack leaders from 2013.
- The Pac-12 loses many of its top interception leaders from 2013.
Thus the formula: Experienced QBs plus questionable running games plus questionable pass defenses equals big passing numbers.
Of course, that probably means the teams that can run the ball well and play good defense are going to end up leading the conference.
But here are the supporting facts:
Returning rushing leader from 2013: No. 5 Byron Marshall, Oregon (1,038/86.5 yards per game)
2014 challengers: D.J. Foster, Arizona State; Thomas Tyner, Oregon; Jordan James, UCLA; Javorius Allen, USC.
Breakdown: The Pac-12's top four rushers from 2013 are gone and most conference teams are uncertain that the position. In fact, Foster might be the only certain No. 1 option this coming fall.
2014 challengers: Marcus Mariota, Oregon; Brett Hundley, UCLA; Taylor Kelly, Arizona State; Connor Halliday, Washington State; Jared Goff, California.
Breakdown: With 10 QBs coming back from 2013 -- a number of whom have national pedigrees -- the Pac-12 is as deep at the position as it has been in recent years. And with Arizona and Washington, the two teams with legitimate QB competitions (assuming Utah's Travis Wilson is given the green light by doctors), the supporting casts around the new QB will be strong. As noted: big passing numbers this fall, across the board.
Returning receiving leader from 2013: Dres Anderson, Utah (1,002/87.7 ypg)
2014 challengers: Jaelen Strong, Arizona State; Nelson Agholor, USC; Chris Harper, California; Ty Montgomery, Stanford.
Breakdown: Despite losing the three most productive pass catches from 2013 -- Brandin Cooks, Paul Richardson and Josh Huff, not to mention Marqise Lee -- the conference is overbrimming with receiving talent. Arizona, California, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State welcome back most of their top guys from 2013, and Arizona State, USC and Utah also are potentially strong at the position.
Returning sacks leader from 2013: Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington (13)
2014 challengers: Tony Washington, Oregon; Kevin Anderson, Stanford; Leonard Williams, USC; Nate Orchard, Utah.
Breakdown: Kikaha and Washington are the only returning guys who ranked among the conference's top-12 in sacks in 2013 (another good sign for conference QBs?). One of the biggest injuries this spring was Utah losing OLB Jacoby Hale.
Returning interceptions leader from 2013: Steven Nelson, Oregon State (6)
Challengers: Marcus Peters, Washington; Greg Henderson, Colorado; Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Arizona; Su'a Cravens, USC; Ishmael Adams, UCLA; Jordan Richards, Stanford; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon.
Breakdown: Only two of the top eight interception leaders is back in 2014 (another good sign for QBs?). A few guys to watch out for: Arizona State's Damarious Randall, Stanford's Alex Carter, UCLA's Fabian Moreau and USC's Josh Shaw.
- Another Ka'Deem Carey draft profile.
- A look at 10 ASU players who distinguished themselves this spring. And this is just an awesome picture.
- A closer look at a Cal commit.
- Changes coming to Colorado's facilities (plus other Buff links).
- Oregon's Hamani Stevens is having a standout spring.
- A roundtable discussion on OSU and spring ball.
- Ex-Cardinal players find their draft stock sliding.
- UCLA's Fabian Moreau talks about his development at corner.
- USC's spring game is probably not indicative of what we'll see in the fall.
- A Q&A with former Utah standout Trevor Reilly.
- Some standouts from Washington's spring game.
- Backups looked strong during WSU's scrimmage.
From the 2013 Stanford team, the list includes S Devon Carrington, OG Kevin Danser, OT Cameron Fleming, RB Tyler Gaffney, DE Ben Gardner, FB Ryan Hewitt, OLB Trent Murphy, S Ed Reynolds, ILB Shayne Skov, RB Anthony Wilkerson, OL Khalil Wilkes and OG David Yankey.
The entire group was recruited to Stanford when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was the head coach. Fleming and Yankey are the only players not to play in a game for Harbaugh -- they both redshirted in 2010, the coach's final season.
Defensive end Josh Mauro is expected to be there late because he will be returning from a trip to New York, where he will meet with the Giants, according to an NFL source. He will not work out with the 49ers, but met and had lunch with Harbaugh at the NFL combine.
Wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson and cornerback Terrence Brown, both of whom did not land on NFL rosters as rookies last season, will also work out. Brown graduated, but left with a year of eligibility remaining and was among the Cincinnati Bengals' first round of cuts during training camp. Patterson was not in a training camp last year.
It is unclear how many will work out. In the past, some of the high-profile draft prospects from Stanford have attended this event in street clothes.
Criteria for the local pro day stipulates the players must have either played at a local college or have a hometown connection to the area. Several players are also expected from San Jose State and California.
Former USC defensive end Morgan Breslin (Walnut Creek Las Lomas), Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick (Danville San Ramon Valley) and San Jose State quarterback David Fales will be among those in attendance, according to sources.
An official list with the complete list of attendees has not been made public. There is usually about 50 players on hand for the event, few of whom have a legitimate chance at being drafted. The event is tailored more for for players looking to earn a camp invitation.
Former Stanford safety Michael Thomas is an example of a player who attended the 49ers local pro day, didn't get drafted, signed as a free agent and then made the team's practice squad. He was eventually added to the Dolphins' 53-man roster after spending nearly two full seasons with the 49ers.
Stanford quarterbacks coach and former player Tavita Pritchard participated at the 49ers' local pro day in 2012. Pritchard, then a defensive assistant at Stanford, had not played football since 2009, but was brought out primarily to throw passes.
- A quick Brady Hoke comment on the Rich Rod transition at Michigan.
- A new twist in Arizona State's spring game.
- Fabiano Hale is back practicing for Cal, as is his alleged assailant.
- Former QB to be inducted into Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
- Photos of the equipment Oregon uses in practice.
- The forgotten piece of the Oregon State backup QB battle.
- Could David Yankey be the Seahawks' pick at No. 32?
- Some UCLA reaction to the unlimited meals rule change.
- A true freshman could start on USC's offensive line.
- Utah's offensive tempo is better in practice this week.
- UW is revealing uniforms today; watch the players' reaction here.
- An update on Washington State's center battle.
It wasn't a big surprise. After all, Kessler was the 2013 starter and acquitted himself fairly well, particularly over the second half of the season with Clay Helton calling plays instead of deposed coach Lane Kiffin.
Still, Sarkisian is following in the philosophical footsteps of his mentor, Pete Carroll, who believed it was best to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practices.
As we've noted a few times, Carroll called this "anointing." He believed that by anointing a starting quarterback in the spring, that allowed the QB to carry authority into the offseason. Teammates would recognize the crown on his head, as they might not if two or more candidates officially remained on even footing.
The anointing ended intrigue. It ended media speculation players would read. It ended an offseason rivalry that might split players into bailiwicks, based on personal preferences both on and off the field.
So Sarkisian has his way of doing it.
Then there's most other coaches. They prefer keeping their cards close to their chests. They like the intrigue. They like the prolonged competition. They want to measure offseason work and mental toughness. Who gets better from April to August? Who seems to take control of the locker room or huddle on his own, without the anointing from a coach?
Of course, there's not 100 percent purity of approach here. If Kessler hadn't outplayed Browne, Sarkisian almost certainly wouldn't have made an announcement. And if Rodriguez or Petersen were sitting on an Andrew Luck-type talent right now, they probably would go ahead and pull the trigger and announce him as the No. 1 guy.
Fact is, the present consensus is neither Arizona nor Washington has any clear pecking order. The Wildcats have four guys who didn't separate themselves this spring, and the Huskies still have to see where the suspended Cyler Miles, the 2013 backup, fits into their plans.
Yet there is a clear philosophical difference here.
So what do you think? Is it better to anoint a starting QB after spring practices in order to give him a leadership role over the summer, or is it better to wait as long as possible to foster uncertainty and, therefore, continued competition?
St. Brown talks USC, Stanford and more
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