Stanford Football: Kenjon Barner

You're not a wartime consigliere, Tom.

Proving grounds: Pac-12 North

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
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Some players come in with plenty of hype, but never quite seem to match it. Others have a great season, then slip the following one, leaving many to wonder if they were one-year wonders. Still others have to bounce back from injury and show they aren't shells of what they used to be.

Either way, there are plenty of players in the Pac-12 with something to prove in 2013. Here are six players with something to prove from the Pac-12 North. This is last year's Proving Grounds post. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the South.

Khairi Fortt, OLB, California: He's yet to play a down for the Bears since transferring from Penn State -- a move that had less to do with the NCAA sanctions facing the Nittany Lions and more to do with his desire for a larger role in the defense. He appeared in every game for Penn State his sophomore year and is well-versed in the 4-3 -- the new base defensive alignment for the Bears this year under Andy Buh. New head coach Sonny Dykes called Fortt a potentially impactful player who needs to be more consistent. The Bears have some defensive stability with guys like Nick Forbes and Deandre Coleman. If Fortt can elevate his play and prove to be an upper-level linebacker, the Bears could have a sneaky-good defense.

De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR/KR/PR/AP, Oregon: When it comes to delivering "SportsCenter" highlights, Thomas has nothing to prove. No question, he's one of the most explosive players in the country and certainly one of the most exciting to watch. But his burden of proof comes from a different place. During his tenure in Eugene, the Ducks relied on LaMichael James in 2011 and Kenjon Barner in 2012 to carry the bulk of the running game, with Thomas providing a change-of-OMG-did-you-see-that? But with two of the most prolific runners in school history departed, it's finally Thomas' turn to shoulder more of the workload. True, Byron Marshall will get his carries, and we're all excited to see what Thomas Tyner brings to the table. But Thomas was the workhorse this spring, and if Marshall and Tyner are slow to develop, the burden of carrying the running game falls on Thomas' frame. Like many, I'm eager to see what he does while consistently getting 15-plus carries per game. He's only had five double-digit-carry games in his career and three 100-yard rushing games -- two of which came on a combined nine carries (Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl after the 2011 season and Fresno State in 2012).

[+] EnlargeJames Vaughters
AP Photo/Rob HoltJunior linebacker James Vaughters gets his chance to live up to the recruiting hype at Stanford.
Obum Gwacham or Richard Mullaney, WRs, Oregon State: Someone at Oregon State earlier in the week told me this: One of these guys has to step up for the Beavers' offense to function properly. So, by definition, if one of them doesn't step up, the offense will function improperly. Not what you want when you have a quarterback competition going on. At 6-foot-5, 227 pounds, Gwacham has tantalizing measurables. But he's had also had a case of the dropsies. Mullaney has the hands, but not the same speed as the last guy to occupy this position, Markus Wheaton. Brandin Cooks was the benefactor of Wheaton's success last year. And while a case can be made that it's Cooks who has something to prove -- to show he can be a legitimate No. 1 without Wheaton -- there is only so much he can do on his own. He needs someone else to step up opposite him. Kevin Cummings will continue to work in the slot and underneath, but the Beavers must have a second outside threat if Cooks is going to improve upon his already-impressive numbers from last season.

James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford: Vaughters was used judiciously in his freshman year in 2011. Even when Shayne Skov went down for the season -- and many thought it would be Vaughter's chance to step up -- he was still used on a limited basis while Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley filled that void. Last year Vaughters moved to the inside, but Tarpley proved to be more productive alongside Skov. With Chase Thomas gone, Vaughters figures to be the primary guy filling that spot. Outside is a more natural position for him, and with Trent Murphy on the other side, it should provide Vaughters plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills. He has all the tools to be an elite player and was considered the jewel of the 2011 recruiting class. He's in a position to excel. And if he can, he makes one of the nation's best defenses that much better.

Keith Price, QB, Washington: Obvious? Yeah. But so much of Washington's success rides on the play of its once-budding slinger. If you read the intro, Price certainly qualifies as a guy with something to prove. His 2011 season was spectacular. In a year when Andrew Luck shined and Matt Barkley appeared to be a sure-fire first-round pick, Price looked like he was on pace to have that sort of collegiate career. But he regressed in 2012. It wasn't all his fault. There were injuries across the offensive line that certainly were major contributing factors. But at the same time, Price is the quarterback, and part of his job is taking the praise and the heat. As a result, he forced way too many plays and didn't trust the offense. He needs to rely more on his playmakers instead of "trying to play hero." His words, not mine. The pieces appear to be in place for him to succeed in 2013. He's got a 1,000-yard rusher, an elite tight end, good receivers and a healthy line. Time to step up and put the seven-win jokes to bed.

Logan Mayes, LB, Washington State: Maybe it's too much to ask of Mayes ... to step in and fill the void of the departed Travis Long, who was quietly one of the Pac-12's elite defensive players the past couple of seasons. Maybe it's not. Maybe Mayes is good enough to be the team's premier defensive player in the "buck" linebacker spot. To be fair, it probably won't be all Mayes. Expect a healthy rotation of Ivan McLennan and Kache Palacio as well. But no doubt, that position is of great importance to what coordinator Mike Breske wants to do on defense -- and filling the hole vacated by Long is a top priority. Mayes played pretty well in the Apple Cup in Long's absence, posting five tackles and a pair of hits on the aforementioned Price. People forget that Washington State was one of the best teams in the nation last season at generating sacks and tackles for loss (11th nationally in sacks, seventh in TFLs), so maintaining that high level will be a priority.
David Shaw Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe Cardinal adopted a blue-collar attitude under Jim Harbaugh (not pictured) and David Shaw and became national title contenders. Now that they've found success, can they stay hungry?
STANFORD, Calif. -- The first step in Stanford's national ascendancy was wearing blue shirts a mechanic would wear at the gas station. The message then-coach Jim Harbaugh was trying to deliver was simple: Sure, Stanford is one of the nation's elite universities, chock full of members of the privileged class. But the football team wanted to adopt a blue-collar mentality.

It was such an obsession for Harbaugh that he once congratulated a reporter for noticing the Cardinal seemed eager to sneak in a few shots after the whistle blew.

That was good enough for 8-5 in 2009, Year 3 under Harbaugh. It was the program's first winning record since 2001.

Over the next three years, however, Stanford won 35 games and lost five. The Cardinal were a missed chip-shot field goal from going 3-0 in BCS bowl games. Yet during that span the locker room theme was a lack of national respect. Players saw doubt from every angle: Could the program survive the loss of Toby Gerhart? Surely things are done now that Harbaugh is off to the NFL? A team simply can't replace Andrew Luck, can it?

Oh, and Stanford has an Oregon problem.

Doubts were addressed. Wins piled up. The Ducks were plucked in their own house last November.

Now it's the spring of 2013. Much to everyone's chagrin on the Farm, respect has arrived. Now just about everyone views Stanford as a top national title contender. Even SEC fans seem to tip their hats to the Cardinal's bruising brand of run-the-ball-and-play-tough-defense football.

Ah, but this is where the "C" word comes in. Stanford coach David Shaw knows his biggest enemy is complacency. His team taking winning for granted. His team feeling entitled. His team, well, acting like USC a year ago.

[+] EnlargeStanford's Kevin Hogan
Richard Mackson/US PRESSWIREThe Cardinal welcome back 16 starters, including quarterback Kevin Hogan, who was 5-0 after entering the starting lineup.
"You can't talk your way into winning games," Shaw said. "The circumstances that surround a game never matter. Only the game matters. We've done a good job as coaches here really beating that into the players' heads. The first question I asked guys before we started spring football was 'Are we collectively hungry?' You have to have that hunger."

Said linebacker Shayne Skov, "People have finally started to notice what we've been doing around here but we have to stick to the same plan we've had every single year, the same method. Guys are still hungry."

Hunger is good because talent is not the question. The Cardinal, which starts its second spring session April 1, welcomes back 16 starters from last year's Rose Bowl champions, including quarterback Kevin Hogan, who went 5-0 as the starter and was the quarterback of record in the clutch 17-14 overtime win at Oregon.

But returning starters doesn't tell the whole story, particularly on the offensive line, where four starters are back. Stanford has a troika of extremely talented sophomores who are fighting for starting jobs or at least playing time.

Andrus Peat -- 6-foot-7, 310 pounds and two years ago the nation's No. 1 prep offensive lineman -- is the likely starter at left tackle, which allows Morris Trophy winner David Yankey to move inside to his natural guard position. There are NFL teams that have weaker combinations on the left side of their line.

Meanwhile, Kyle Murphy is pushing Cameron Fleming at right tackle and is certain to see action at multiple positions and act as a sixth O-lineman when Stanford goes "big," as it is wont to do. Inside at guard, 317-pound Josh Garnett is in the mix, which could allow veterans Kevin Danser or Khalil Wilkes to take over at center.

However this crew stacks up, it's getting tested by the Pac-12's best defensive front seven. Suffice it to say, when Stanford goes full-go in practice, things get pretty salty.

Stanford's two biggest questions -- tight end and running back -- don't seem to worry many folks around the program. The return of Tyler Gaffney from pro baseball eased concern at running back, while there's young talent at tight end, not to mention a deeper crew at receiver.

Of course, Stanford is sharing its "national title contender" label with a familiar foe: Oregon. Winning the Pac-12's North Division might turn out to be nearly as difficult as winning the national title. But the Cardinal bucked its Oregon problem last year, and that victory still resonates, both as fact and symbol.

Every Stanford player or coach (or fan) quickly picks up the story when someone refers to the biggest play of that game, and perhaps of the college football season: Backup safety Devon Carrington slipping by De'Anthony Thomas to catch Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota from behind to prevent a long touchdown run in the first half.

"That play exemplified the heart and determination we are going to play with," Shaw said. "There also were multiple times we had a guy in space with Kenjon Barner and we tackled him. Last couple of years, we missed that tackle. You miss that tackle, and it's over."

Oregon could no longer simply outrun Stanford. And if Oregon can't outrun Stanford, no one can.

Stanford may still view itself as a blue-collar team, but it's moved into college football's penthouse. The question is no longer can it stay there. The new question is whether it can take the next -- and final -- step up.
You might have noticed a theme this week. We kicked off the "Biggest Shoes" series and had two polls (North and South) on replacing departed players. So that means it's now time for your Pac-12 bloggers to weigh in on which two players we believe leave the biggest holes. Given our penchant for quarterbacks, you might find our two choices surprising. Read on.

Ted Miller: I do not know what size 6-foot-3, 320-pound Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei's shoes are, but I'd bet they are among the biggest in the Pac-12 -- in more ways than one.

The thing about replacing a dominant interior defensive lineman is that it's difficult to measure what you're losing. An All-America receiver or running back or even cornerback leaves, and you feel fairly comfortable quantifying what is lost and must be replaced. Lotulelei, however, was more than the sum of his stats -- 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and a very important blocked kick.

Lotulelei changed what an offense could do. He changed blocking schemes. He demanded specific attention from an offensive coordinator and a line coach. He made sure the interior of the opposing offensive line -- even if the offense was winning the overall battle -- wanted to ask for its check.

He was a unique presence. An anomaly. A college center could start 48 games in his career and face a guy like him just once. That's why Lotulelei will be a first-round NFL draft pick, even with a heart condition. He could get picked in the top five if a team deems him healthy.

But his shoes are even bigger because Utah, after a disappointing defensive campaign in 2012, is replacing three of four defensive linemen. Moreover, the Utes were unhappy with their linebacker play last fall, even with all the protection Lotulelei provided. Opposing offensive lines, unencumbered by the need to double-team Lotulelei every play, will get a lot more hats on those linebackers in 2013. Not what coach Kyle Whittingham wants.

[+] EnlargeSam Schwartzstein
Charles Baus/CSMCenter Sam Schwartzstein was a huge piece of Stanford's recent offensive success.
The cupboard isn't empty. The Utes are high on Tenny Palepoi, a 305-pound senior who played well as the backup to defensive tackle Dave Kruger last season. And there are other big bodies: LT Tuipulotu, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, a 320-pound redshirt freshman, and Viliseni Fauonuku will be in the mix.

Yet the Utes defensive coaches won't even pretend one of those guys will fill Lotulelei's shoes. They are just too big.

Kevin Gemmell: This is a tough one. I've been going through a bunch of players all week long trying to come to a conclusion on which one I wanted to write about (and Lotulelei was already taken). All of them are important -- Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes, Robert Woods, Jordan Poyer, Travis Long, Markus Wheaton, Brandon Magee, Desmond Trufant, Stepfan Taylor, Johnathan Franklin, Zach Ertz, Dion Jordan and … (insert name I unintentionally omitted and now you feel wildly offended).

There really is no wrong answer here. Each player is a major contributor to his team in his own way. But the one name that kept coming back to me is Stanford center Sam Schwartzstein. I know, not as exciting as Kenjon Barner or glamorous as Matt Scott. But in terms of sheer contributions to the team that will be tough to replace, Schwartzstein has to be in the conversation.

In 2011, he was regarded as having the second-best football mind on the team -- behind only Andrew Luck. And he didn't lose any of that in 2012.

After the quarterback, there is no more important position on Stanford's offense than the center. He makes all of the scheme and protection calls at the line of scrimmage. He even calls plays in the huddle when the Cardinal go into the Wildcat.

Schwartzstein started every game since taking over for All-American Chase Beeler, and twice he blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in Taylor. The Cardinal played 14 games in 2012 and allowed just 20 sacks. In the 12-game regular season, they had allowed a conference-best 17. The year before that? Just 11 in 13 games. I know for a fact that there were zero quarterback-center exchange fumbles in 2011. And none comes to mind in 2012.

Khalil Wilkes, who started almost every game last year at left guard (one start at left tackle) moves over to compete with Conor McFadden for the gig. Maybe the transition from Schwartzstein to one of those guys will go as smoothly as the handoff from Beeler to Schwartzstein. After all, the new center will have one bona-fide All-American at his side and potentially a couple more on the line.

But they won't be the ones making the calls. That falls on the center -- and Schwartzstein was outstanding at it. He was second-team all-conference and honored with the school's leadership award. Not Taylor, not Ertz. Not Shayne Skov nor Ryan Hewitt nor the aforementioned All-American David Yankey. The center … the most crucial position in Stanford's offense that you never hear about.

Tough shoes to fill, indeed.
We did a top-25 Pac-12 players list, and then asked you to provide your own.

The response was strong. Both in numbers of entries and the overall quality. A few of you listed mostly guys from your favorite team. One guy took the time to type out Matt Barkley 25 times.

I couldn't publish them all, of course. Further, I didn't consider ones that listed 25 guys with no explanation -- YOU DIDN'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! -- and I didn't include ones that just said "switch these two players, drop Reggie Dunn and your list would be perfect."

I also have a celebrity contribution, the last one, that I found pretty interesting.

Couple of general thoughts:
Once again, here's our list.

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
No. 2: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
No. 3: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
No. 4: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
No. 5: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
No. 6: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
No. 7: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
No. 8: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah

Here are some of your thoughts.

Braxton from Fargo, N.D.:

1. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
4. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
5. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
6. Jonathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
7. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
8. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
9. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
10. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
11. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
12. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
13. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
14. David Yankey, OL, Stanford
15. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
16. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
17. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
18. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
19. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
20. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
21. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
22. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
23. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
24. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
25. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

First off I do not think a sole kick returner (Reggie Dunn) belongs in a top 25 player list. I would make an exception with De'Anthony Thomas, though he plays a much more vital role in Oregon's offense, than Dunn in Utah's offense. Leaving off Austin Seferian-Jenkins is absurd. If you would take off Seferian-Jenkins off Washington's offense, they would be incredibly one-demensional. Taylor Kelly almost made my list, but I just didn't see enough fire-power in him through the season.

My take: Reasonable list. Added Seferian-Jenkins, Sankey and Trufant -- three Huskies -- and dropped Dunn, Kelly and Crichton. Could be argued.

(Read full post)

Poll: Best postseason game of 2012

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
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On Tuesday we polled you on the best regular-season game of the 2012 season. With more than 6,700 votes, Stanford's win over Oregon remains slightly ahead of the USC-Oregon game.

But there were nine other games after the regular season ended -- the Pac-12 championship game and eight bowl games.

Since the Pac-12 lost four of those games, those losses probably wouldn't qualify in a "best of" poll (stop your snickering, Oregon fans).

So for today's poll question, we're asking what the was the Pac-12's best postseason game.

Your options:

SportsNation

What was the best Pac-12 postseason game in the 2012 season?

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    10%
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    19%
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    7%
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    17%
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    47%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,862)

Pac-12 title game: It was the long-awaited rematch -- a full six days in the making. After the Cardinal thumped the Bruins at the Rose Bowl in the regular season finale, 35-17, they met six days later at Stanford. This time around, it was a much tighter contest. UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin exploded for 194 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Three times the Bruins held the lead, including a 24-17 edge heading into the fourth quarter. But Kevin Hogan's legs and arm -- coupled with a pair of Jordan Williamson field goals -- were enough to lock up the 27-24 win for the Cardinal.

New Mexico Bowl: The first bowl game of the 2012 postseason may very well have been the most thrilling. Arizona mounted a furious comeback in the final two minutes, erasing a 48-35 deficit, to pull off a shocking 49-48 victory over Nevada. Arizona scored 14 points in the final minute (after recovering an onside kick), including a 2-yard go-ahead touchdown pass from Matt Scott to Tyler Slavin with 19 seconds left in the game.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: The other Arizona team didn't need any last second miracles as Arizona State throttled Navy 62-28. But what made this game compelling was running back Marion Grice -- playing with a heavy heart following his brother's murder -- erupted for 159 yards and two touchdowns to earn offensive MVP honors.

The Rose Bowl: In vintage 2012 Stanford fashion, the Cardinal gutted out a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead on rushing touchdowns from Kelsey Young and Stepfan Taylor and let the defense and Williamson do the rest of the work. It was Stanford's eighth victory of the season coming by a touchdown or less.

The Fiesta Bowl: If the Rose Bowl was vintage Stanford, the Fiesta was vintage Oregon -- which used its speed to overwhelm Kansas State. De'Anthony Thomas set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, Kenjon Barner rushed for 143 yards and the defense kept Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and the Wildcats to just 283 yards of total offense.

Pac-12's best moments in 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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Here's a collection of great moments/storylines from the 2012 Pac-12 season in no particular order:

  • Clutch catches: A couple from Arizona wide receivers come to mind. There was Austin Hill laying out in the season opener against Toledo for a 30-yard touchdown -- quite possibly the best catch in the Pac-12 this season -- and Tyler Slavin's snag in the New Mexico Bowl. Zach Ertz's haul-in against Oregon was as clutch as it gets.
  • [+] EnlargeReggie Dunn
    Russ Isabella/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
    Dunn and done: It was a record-setting year for Utah's All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn. He set the NCAA single-season record with four 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He set the NCAA mark for career 100-yard kickoff returns with five, the single-game 100-yard kickoff return record with two and the kick return average in a game at 74.0. He also tied the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns in a game from any distance with two. His performance prompted one of the best quotes of the year from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I can't believe they kicked to him," Whittingham said after the Colorado game.
  • Having their moment: Colorado is going to get mentioned a lot in this post -- mostly because of what others did to it. But in a season loaded with disappointments, it was a gritty fourth-quarter performance that stands out as a highlight for the Buffs. Trailing 31-14 in the final frame, Colorado outscored the Washington State Cougars 21-3 in the final 7:06 for their only win of the season, a 35-34 victory in Pullman, Wash.
  • The other side of Colorado: Feeling good after reading that, Buffs fans? Here comes the rub. Pac-12 teams exploded against Colorado this year with several record-setting performances. We've already mentioned Dunn getting one of his kickoff return TDs against the Buffs. But before that, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods had record-setting days against Colorado. Barkley threw six touchdowns and completed 95 percent of his passes (19 of 20), giving him the Pac-12 career touchdown record. Woods caught eight balls to set the USC career receptions record and he became the first USC player to have four touchdown catches in one game. A couple of weeks later, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey ran for a league-record 366 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per carry. In conference games, Colorado was outscored, on average, 49-17.
  • Clutch kicks: In what was a very off year for Pac-12 kickers, a few key moments stand out: Ka'imi Fairbairn's 33-yard game winner lifted the Bruins to a 45-43 win at Arizona State; Jordan Williamson's 37-yarder in overtime downed Oregon and changed the entire landscape of college football; and WSU's Andrew Furney was oh-so-money in the Apple Cup, drilling a 45-yarder to tie the game in the closing minutes and then hitting a 27-yarder in overtime.
  • UW shockers: For as shocking as the Apple Cup demise was for the Huskies, they also provided a couple of big shockers of their own, knocking off a pair of top-10 teams. A week after Stanford stunned USC (not as stunning as it was at the time), Washington held the No. 8 Cardinal without an offensive touchdown in a 17-13 home win. A month later -- to the day -- it snapped No. 7 Oregon State's six-game winning streak, also at the Clink.
  • SoCal slugfest: Before the season, we all looked to the Oregon-USC game as the first of two that would determine the conference championship. As it turned out, neither team even reached the title game. But the game itself didn't disappoint. It was a 62-51 thrill ride in which Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns, Barkley threw for 484 yards and five scores and the two schools gained 1,345 yards of total offense between them.
  • Quarterback controversies: Midseason switches and turnover at the position seemed like a constant throughout the Pac-12. Only four schools -- Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington -- started the same quarterback in every game this season. Injury caused changes at Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, USC and Utah, while competitions/switches happened at Washington State, Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado. In the end, it was a good move for Stanford -- which went on to win the Pac-12 title. At Oregon State, the competition is certainly wide open after the Alamo Bowl collapse. Colorado has some things to figure out with a new coaching staff and we'll see if Connor Halliday can hold on to the job next year.
  • Heisman shutout: The Pac-12 didn't have a finalist for the first time since 2008 -- despite strong seasons from Marqise Lee, Barner, Carey, Johnathan Franklin, etc. Barkley was the preseason favorite, but fizzled as USC imploded. Despite having the nation's top wide receiver and three of the four consensus All-American running backs, the Pac-12 was snubbed out of a trip to New York.
  • Stanford's staying power: Surely, 2012 was the year Stanford would come back to earth. No Andrew Luck, no Coby Fleener, no Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. But behind a fierce defense, the Cardinal won the league title, Kevin Hogan is 5-0 as a starter at quarterback and the Cardinal won the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
  • Coaches are better than ever: Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez all took their teams to bowl games in their first seasons. Mike Riley has his team back in the Top 25. David Shaw has won the coach of the year honor twice in two seasons. Chip Kelly is back. Sonny Dykes has an exciting offense. Mike MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding. The Pac-12 might have the hottest crop of coaches in the country. That's a very good thing.
  • 2-0: There are many ways to judge the talent of a conference. BCS bowl games are the biggest litmus test. The Pac-12 went 4-4 in the bowl season, but won both of its BCS games: Stanford beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Oregon thrashing Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. History judges the best of the best. And there was no doubt those two teams earned everything they got this year.

Best case/worst case: Pac-12 bowls

December, 13, 2012
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Our assignment is to pose a best-case and a worst-case scenario for every Pac-12 bowl team.

So here goes.

Arizona

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 15: Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5), 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Arizona rolls 40-28, as quarterback Matt Scott goes out with a bang that raises NFL eyebrows, and running back Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 195 yards to sew up the national rushing title.

Worst case: Scott gets knocked out of the game early and backup B.J. Denker looks overwhelmed, raising questions about the future at QB. Carey rushes for 35 yards and loses the rushing title as Nevada rolls 42-21. Michigan fans hit the message boards with a litany of "I told you so" about Rich Rodriguez.

Washington

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Dec. 22: Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: In a "Welcome back!" performance, QB Keith Price throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns -- matching the total TD passes the Broncos have yielded all season -- and runs for another score as the Huskies end 2012 with a statement victory that bodes well for 2013. The Huskies' hot offseason topic is how high the preseason ranking will be.

Worst case: Washington starts slowly as it has much of the season, then gives up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead as Price throws multiple interceptions. Boise State wins going away 38-17, and the Huskies' hot offseason topic is whether coach Steve Sarkisian has plateaued.

UCLA

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Dec. 27: UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5), 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: That the Bruins score 45 points is not unexpected. That Baylor is held to just 17 points is unexpected. UCLA dominates on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Brett Hundley looks like a budding Heisman Trophy candidate. After the game, linebacker Anthony Barr and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo both announce they are returning for the 2013 season. Says Barr, "Unfinished business? Naaah. I just like playing with these guys."

Worst case: Baylor rolls over UCLA in a 55-30 win, as the Bruins' defense can do nothing to slow the Bears, while Hundley throws three picks. Barr and Su'a-Filo opt to leave for the NFL, as does coach Jim Mora, who is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Oregon State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Dec. 29: Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4), 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon State throttles the Longhorns 31-13 with stifling defense, but the big story is Cody Mannion -- or is it Sean Vaz? -- throwing four touchdown passes and making a strong case to be the 2013 starter.

Worst case: The Beavers become the only team that couldn't run on Texas this year, and Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz both throw two interceptions in a 30-10 defeat. Meanwhile, Oregon State makes both Case McCoy and David Ash look like superstars. "Well," say all the national commentators. "This makes a strong case for the Big 12's superiority over the Pac-12. But we've still got to see the Fiesta Bowl."

Arizona State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco, Dec. 29: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4), 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Best case: Arizona State uses its superior speed on both sides of the ball to throttle Navy 48-17. After the game, consensus All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton announces he's returning for his senior year.

Worst case: Navy's triple option wears down the Sun Devils in a 28-17 victory. Even worse, the Sun Devils turn the ball over five times and commit 12 penalties for 105 yards, including two personal fouls. They look like the 2011 team, not the 2012 version under new coach Todd Graham.

USC

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31: USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Best case: Matt Barkley looks like, well, Matt Barkley, throwing five touchdown passes as the Trojans roll 40-10. As for the defense, coordinator Monte Kiffin goes out in style, with the Trojans holding Georgia Tech's option to just 225 total yards. Head coach Lane Kiffin announces after the game that he has hired Bob Diaco away from Notre Dame to be his defensive coordinator.

Worst case: Barkley tries to play but reinjures his shoulder, and the Trojans fold thereafter, ending a horribly disappointing season with a 38-17 loss. After the game, receiver Robert Woods, running back Silas Redd and cornerback Nickell Robey announce they will enter the NFL draft. Lane Kiffin also announces the hiring of Nick Holt to run the Trojans' defense.

Stanford

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1: Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Stanford dominates on both sides of the ball in a 30-10 victory, holding the Badgers to just 79 yards rushing and 210 total yards. Quarterback Kevin Hogan throws two touchdown passes and runs for another, while running back Stepfan Taylor rushes for 145 yards and a score. After the game, linebacker Shayne Skov, defensive end Ben Gardner and tight end Zach Ertz announce they will be returning for their senior seasons.

Worst case: Montee Ball rushes for 197 yards and two scores as Wisconsin pushes the Cardinal around in a 24-17 win. The Badgers sack Hogan four times, overwhelming the Cardinal's offensive line. After the game, Skov, Gardner and Ertz announce they will enter the NFL draft. Coach David Shaw is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles, and Walt Harris is rehired.

Oregon

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 3: Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1), 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon starts fast and never lets up in a 51-20 blowout, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 187 yards and two scores and quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing for three TDs. The Ducks sack Collin Klein five times and grab two interceptions. "I'm sure glad we didn't play them in the regular season," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder says afterward. Shortly after the game, Ducks coach Chip Kelly signs a lifetime contract, opens practices and promises to be more patient with hypotheticals and other sorts of irritating questions.

Worst case: The Kansas State defense throttles the Ducks' offense, and Klein throws three TD passes in a 30-13 victory. The Ducks rush for only 101 yards. "Oregon struggles in these big games," say the national commentators afterward. "And this really makes the Pac-12 look bad." Kelly is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mariota quits football to become a professional surfer. John Mackovic is hired to replace Kelly.

Pac-12 on Walter Camp All-America team

December, 6, 2012
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The Pac-12 was well-represented on the Walter Camp Foundation's 2012 All-America team, released Thursday.

USC sophomore receiver Marqise Lee, Stanford senior tight end Zach Ertz and a pair of running backs, Oregon senior Kenjon Barner and Arizona sophomore Ka'Deem Carey, were named to the first-team offense.

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer, both seniors, earned spots on the first-team defense.

The conference got two players on the second teams, one on each side of the ball: UCLA senior running back Johnathan Franklin and Arizona State junior defensive tackle Will Sutton.

For the complete Walter Camp list, click here.

Final Pac-12 Heisman tracker

December, 4, 2012
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If you hadn't heard the news by now, no Pac-12 player was selected as a Heisman finalist. Sure, it's a big deal if you are into "official" ballots and "actual" awards.

But we at the Pac-12 blog prefer to lend more weight to things that matter -- like the ESPN.com Heisman poll. Well, actually, it wasn't great for the Pac-12 in the final poll, either. Oh well, maybe in 2013.

Here's a snapshot of the Pac-12 players who ended up in the final Heisman tracker of the 2012 season. Marqise Lee finished fourth while Stepfan Taylor, Kenjon Barner and Ka'Deem Carey fell in the others receiving votes category.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC
  • Season numbers: Hauled in 112 catches for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns. Also returned 28 kicks for 802 yards with a touchdown.
  • Thoughts: A shame he's not going to New York. Clearly one of the most outstanding football players in the nation. Enjoy the Biletnikoff -- you earned it.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
  • Season numbers: Finished the regular season with 1,442 yards on 302 carries with 12 rushing touchdowns. Added 38 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Thoughts: Leaves Stanford as its all-time leading rusher. An amazing achievement for one of the most complete backs in the country. Hands, blocking, vision, balance -- he's going to make some NFL coach very happy. He's an instant plug-and-play into any NFL West Coast offense.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
  • Season numbers: Finishes the regular season with 248 carries for 1,624 yards with 21 rushing touchdowns. Added 19 catches for 232 yards and a score.
  • Thoughts: Anyone still wondering if he can replace LaMichael James?
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
  • Season numbers: Finishes the regular season as the nation's rushing champ (146.4 yards per game) with 275 carries for 1,757 yards with 20 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 33 passes for 288 yards and a score.
  • Thoughts: The buzz for 2012 started too late. The buzz for 2013 can start against Nevada. One of the more intriguing matchups here: Carey is No. 1 in rushing, and Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson is No. 2 in yards per game.

Six from Pac-12 named AFCA All-American

November, 28, 2012
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Six Pac-12 players were named to the American Football Coaches Association All-American team on Wednesday.

Four were on offense: USC WR Marqise Lee, Stanford TE Zach Ertz, Stanford OT David Yankey and Oregon RB Kenjon Barner.

Two were on defense: Arizona State DT Will Sutton and Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer.

The SEC led all conferences with eight All-Americans. The Pac-12 was second with six and the ACC was third with four.

Here's the complete team.

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
NOTES
  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
Tags:

David Shaw, Terrence Stephens, Jordan Richards, Ty Montgomery, Stepfan Taylor, Stanford Cardinal, Alex Debniak, Trent Murphy, Zach Ertz, Chase Thomas, Henry Anderson, Ryan Hewitt, David Yankey, Sam Schwartzstein, Cameron Fleming, Shayne Skov, Oregon Ducks, Levine Toilolo, Ben Gardner, Arizona Wildcats, Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, UCLA Bruins, Kevin Danser, USC Trojans, Drew Terrell, Colorado Buffaloes, Terrence Brown, Usua Amanam, Johnathan Franklin, Joseph Fauria, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Oregon State Beavers, Utah Utes, T.J. McDonald, Andre Heidari, Nickell Robey, Jordan Poyer, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff, Keenan Allen, Steve Williams, Marqise Lee, Deone Bucannon, Daniel Zychlinski, Kevin Hogan, Alex Carter, Star Lotulelei, Ed Reynolds, Brandin Cooks, Markus Wheaton, Matt Scott, Bishop Sankey, David Bakhtiari, Ka'Deem Carey, Dan Buckner, Kasen Williams, Shaq Evans, Desmond Trufant, Justin Glenn, Sean Parker, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Silas Redd, Dion Bailey, John White IV, Michael Clay, Dion Jordan, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Taylor Kelly, Eric Rowe, Xavier Grimble, Datone Jones, Morgan Breslin, Travis Long, Will Sutton, Colt Lyerla, Jake Fischer, Josh Hubner, Scott Crichton, Reggie Dunn, Isaac Remington, Kiko Alonso, Taylor Hart, Eric Kendricks, Andrew Furney, Brandon Magee, Marion Grice, Anthony Barr, Alden Darby, Alex Lewis, Andrew Abbott, Andrew Hudson, Andrew Seumalo, Austin Hill, Avery Sebastian, Brendan Bigelow, Brett Bartolone, Brian Blechen, Brian Schwenke, Carl Bradford, Cassius Marsh, Chris Coyle, Chris McCain, Christian Powell, Cyrus Coen, D.J. Foster, Damien Thigpen, Daniel Munyer, Daniel Simmons, Danny Shelton, Darragh O'Neill, Darryl Monroe, David Allen, Deveron Carr, Drew Schaefer, Elliott Bosch, Evan Finkenberg, George Uko, Grant Enger, Hayes Pullard, Hroniss Grasu, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Isaac Seumalo, Jake Brendel, Jake Fisher, Jake Murphy, Jared Tevis, Jaxon Hood, Jeff baca, Jeff Locke, Jeremiah Poutasi, Joe Kruger, John Martinez, John Timu, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Hill, Keelan Johnson, Kenneth Crawley, Kyle Negrete, Kyle Quinn, Leonard Williams, Marques Moseley, Max Tuerk, Nate Fakahafua, Nick Kasa, Osahon Irabor, Rashaad Reynolds, Rashad Ross, Sam Brenner, Sean Sellwood, Shaq Thompson, Teondray Caldwell, Terrance Mitchell, Tevita Stevens, Tony Burnett, Travis Feeney, Trevor Reilly, Trevor Romaine, Vince D'Amato, Wade Keliikippi, Wes Horton, Will Perciak, Xavier Cooper, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Yuri Wright

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
10:15
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A few storylines to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this weekend:

1. All eyes on the North, via the South: Stanford and Oregon both have a shot to still win the North Division, though it's Stanford that is in the advantageous position of controlling its own destiny. The Cardinal can lock up the division with a win or an Oregon loss. Stanford will host the Pac-12 championship game against the Bruins if they win. Oregon will win the division and host the championship game if they win and Stanford loses. UCLA will host Stanford if it wins and Oregon loses.

2. Civil War: Plenty at stake in this game -- including Oregon's chances of playing for a national championship. The Ducks need some help to get back into one of two spots that could get them in the BCS Championship Game. But winning is a priority. The same can be said for the Beavers, who aren't out of the hunt for an at-large berth in a BCS game. If they are able to beat the Ducks, then they'd be in the top 14 and would be BCS eligible -- should a BCS game find them attractive. No promises, but it's better to be in the conversation than on the outside looking in.

3. About them Bruins: They are riding a five-game winning streak and are 3-0 against Top 25 teams. The offense continues to improve behind the play of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin -- recently named a Doak Walker Award finalist for the nation's top running back. Interestingly enough, this will be the second straight week Stanford has faced a Doak finalist, after going head-to-head with Oregon's Kenjon Barner last week. When asked about his first impressions of Stanford's defensive front, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said: "The '81 Bears. Or the '85 Bears. Whichever Bears team was really, really good."

4. About them Bruins II: I get what fans are saying about UCLA maybe playing conservative against Stanford -- not trying to lose -- but maybe keeping it closer to the vest anticipating a rematch with the Cardinal rather than having to face the Ducks in the conference title game. Even Ted made a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge at the idea in his prediction this morning. I'll say this -- it's bollocks. (I'd prefer to use stronger language, but decorum prohibits me. And yes, that was a nod to "Animal House.") Jim Mora won't coach his team to play less than 100 percent. He won't even hint at it. Anyone who has spent five minutes with the man (and I can assure you I've spent more than that) will tell you that's not how he operates. I think he wants to play Oregon. I think he wants to go through Autzen to win the conference championship and the Rose Bowl and cast an icy stare at everyone who questioned his hiring. I think he wants to tell recruits on the fence between Oregon, USC and UCLA that he stomped the Trojans and went into Autzen and took away the conference title from the Ducks. That's not to say UCLA can or will, but I expect the Bruins to come out with guns blazing in trying to win this game. Anything less would be cowardice. And you don't get to 9-2 and win your division by being cowardly. Any UCLA fan hoping for less than their team's total effort Saturday should be embarrassed.

5. Conference rivalries: The Cups, Apple and Territorial, have two very different feels this year. In Pullman, Wash., the Huskies, trending up and looking to end the regular season with eight wins, are in a much better place than the host Cougars. Washington State is still looking for its first conference win under new coach Mike Leach. In the desert, two new head coaches are getting their first tastes of the rivalry, and both already have their teams headed to the postseason in their first years. There are obviously bragging rights and recruiting implications that go along with this game. They have matching conference records (4-4), while Arizona is 7-4 overall to ASU's 6-5. You can nit-pick about who got the better hire. But I'd like to think we can agree on the fact that both teams got the best coaches for their schools and both have so far turned out to be great hires.

6. Nonconference: Say this for Max Wittek, the kid has got confidence. Nothing wrong with a little moxie before your first start. USC head coach Lane Kiffin said he expects quarterback Matt Barkley to return in time for a bowl game. Until then, it will be Wittek leading the Trojans against No. 1 Notre Dame. Six times the Trojans have knocked off an undefeated Notre Dame team -- twice when they were ranked No. 1. So there is a precedent. Oregon fans, now might be a good time to learn the words to "Fight On."

7. Budding rivalry? During the Pac-12 media day back in August -- which seemed like a lifetime ago -- media types were asking Utah and Colorado players about their rivalry. The players all sort of shrugged. One game, a rivalry does not make. It takes years of passion, glorious victories and gut-wrenching defeats. Ask the Utes how good that win over BYU felt this year. That doesn't mean one can't develop between these two teams over time. Colorado fired the first shot in the battle of conference newcomers last season. Neither team is headed to a bowl game, but a win in the finale would ease some of the pain -- even slightly -- of what has been a bummer of a season for both squads.

8. Post-Tedford, Day 1: California athletic director Sandy Barbour said the school has hired a search firm to help with selecting a new coach. She added that they have already received a great deal of interest since the news broke Monday morning. She also said they received a great deal of interest before Jeff Tedford was officially fired -- which she said they did not entertain. Obviously, making the right hire is critical. With the improved facilities (courtesy of the departed Tedford) Cal is a fairly attractive spot in one of the best conferences in college football. They'll get a jump on the hiring with the Bears' season already over, so I wouldn't expect a long, drawn-out search process.
David ShawJason O. Watson/Getty ImagesIn its first year without Andrew Luck, Stanford is one win away from the Pac-12 title game.
If Stanford football were a tradable commodity, it would not be for the timid investor. In the first preseason of the post Andrew Luck era, investors were taking more of the long view approach -- good recruiting class with good offensive linemen; invest in the future, proceed with caution in the interim.

Then USC happened. Buy, buy, buy.

Then Washington happened. Sell, sell, sell.

Then Notre Dame happened. Insider trading!

And now, following a bullish defensive performance against an Oregon team that has made a bear market out of the Pac-12 the last three years, the Cardinal's stock is trading somewhere between the stratosphere and the mesosphere.

"We've got a great coaching staff that understands the kind of team we have," said Stanford head coach David Shaw. "We said this is going to be a team that rides its defense. Depends on its defense. Depends on its running game with some seniors at key position at outside linebacker and running back and center and tight end. We were going to lean on those positions.

"We knew we had to grow at the quarterback position and grow at the wide receiver position and we're going to have some tight games. Last year's streak of winning games by x-amount of points, whatever it was, that wasn't going to be us. We knew we were going to have some bumps and bruises. But we also figured when you have a great defense, you're going to be in a lot of games."

A lot of tight games. Prior to Shaw coming on board as Stanford's head coach, the Cardinal had only played in four overtime games in school history. Since he's been the head coach, Stanford has played in five overtime games over the past two seasons -- including a triple-overtime game.

"I don't know how to respond to that," said Shaw with a laugh. "I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I have no idea what that means."

Well, he's won more overtime games than he's lost -- a 3-2 record to be exact -- so that's better than being on the south side of .500. And both of their losses this year have come by a touchdown or less -- a four-point loss at Washington and a seven-point loss in overtime at Notre Dame. Conversely, six of Stanford's nine wins have come by a touchdown or less.

This is not a team for the faint of heart.

"We devote more time to redzone than any other segment of our game plan," Shaw said. "That's spring football. That's training camp. That's throughout the season. Part of it was because of [the possibility of overtime]. We know how vital scoring touchdowns is in the redzone. We have scripted overtime plays throughout training camp and spring football and we prepare our guys specifically for that segment of the game. When it happens, it's vital that you're ready. You have to be good. You have to have a plan going into it and guys have to know how to execute. It's been a priority for us."

And now Stanford is on the precipice of doing something that not even the great Andrew Luck pulled off -- winning the Pac-12 championship and going to the Rose Bowl. To do that, all they have to do is beat UCLA. Twice.

If the Cardinal beat the Bruins (or if Oregon loses to Oregon State) they will be the Pac-12 North champs. UCLA has already locked up the South with its 38-28 win on Saturday over USC, so the two would play again next week with the league crown and a trip to the Rose Bowl at stake.

Not exactly an easy task, mind you. The Bruins are also trending up behind the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin -- who was recently named a Doak Walker finalist.

Then again, the defense is coming off a performance where they held another Doak Walker finalists, Oregon's Kenjon Barner, to just 66 yards, no touchdowns and 3.1 yards per carry.

Offensively, a late-season quarterback change from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan hasn't completely jump-started things, but it's gotten Stanford out of neutral -- where it stalled several times this year. Particularly on the road. Shaw said to expect more of the same when his team heads to SoCal.

"Probably the best example [of Stanford this year] is what they do in New England," said Shaw, who had a life as an NFL assistant in Baltimore and Oakland before joining Jim Harbaugh in the college ranks. "How is our team built this year? There are some years when New England has a great defense and they are going to run the ball. And the next year, they say we don't have the same defense but a great quarterback. We've got weapons around him so let's throw a bunch.

"We've shown in spots we can score -- we did that against Arizona and we spread Oregon out a little bit. But that doesn't play to our strengths. Playing to our strength is running the ball, using an athletic quarterback and play good defense. Our kickers and punters had great nights. Our kickoffs were great our punts were great our coverage teams were great. We played defense and the field position game and run the ball, that's how we're built this year."

And so far this year Stanford knocked of the AP Nos. 1 and 2 in the same season. Their opponents have a combined record of 71-50. They are 3-1 in games against top 25 opponents.

It's not as pretty offensively as it was when Luck was running the show. And that doesn't always sit well with investors. But the results are indisputable.
Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov has been named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week for his performance in Stanford's win at Oregon.

Skov registered 10 tackles, including one for a loss, as the 13th-ranked Cardinal defeated No. 2 Oregon on the road in overtime. Skov led a Stanford defensive unit that held the Ducks, which had scored at least 42 points in 13 consecutive games, to just 14 points. With the victory, Stanford improved to 9-2, 7-1 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal travel to UCLA for the regular-season finale where they have a chance to lock up the Pac-12 North Division with a victory.

Skov is the second defensive player from the Pac-12 to be honored this season. Oregon State's Jordan Poyer was honored in the first week in October. He's the fifth Pac-12 player to be honored as national player of the week (Stepfan Taylor, Kenjon Barner, Matt Scott).

Clemson's Tajh Boyd won the offensive player of the week.

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Shaw Looking For Consistency
Stanford coach David Shaw discusses his family vacation to Africa and Europe and the development of QB Kevin Hogan.
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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30