Pac-12: Washington Huskies

Pac-12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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I like it. What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good.

Leading off

The biggest news is that Stanford dropped out of the rankings after its 72-week run in the top-25. Sorry, Cardinal. But maybe a sweep of the state of Oregon over the next two weekends will get you back in. Kyle Bonagura went a bit deeper on the subject, which you can read here.

Here are the Pac-12 teams in the rankings. As always, the AP rank is first, followed by the coaches poll.
  • Oregon 6-7
  • Arizona State 14-14
  • Arizona 15-15
  • Utah 19-19
  • USC 20-21
  • UCLA 25-NR

Stanford was the only conference team to pick up any votes in the AP poll and in the USA Today coaches' poll. Washington and Stanford both received votes. Check out the complete rankings right here.

Curious how people who cover the conference teams voted? Glad you asked.
And per usual, Heather Dinich gives you a rundown of the playoff picture following last week's football action. She has interesting thoughts on Stanford. Sorry Cardinal, but Dinich says that a three-loss team -- even if it wins the Pac-12 title -- won't make the playoff. Read on here.

Some streaks extended, others stopped right in their tracks

The Oregon Ducks continued their streak over Washington, winning their 11th consecutive game in the series. This kind of dominance in the series reminded The Oregonian's Andrew Greif of the Ducks of yesteryear as it produced a strong run game, solid QB play and, again, a win over the Huskies.
But in their play, a 45-20 victory against the Huskies at Autzen Stadium, the present-day Ducks instead resembled something closer to the grind-'em-up machine of the last decade that brought this program to prominence.

So, the 1994 throwback uniforms made quite a bit of sense, Greif explains. And speaking of those Oregon uniforms, The Huffington Post decided to go through 50 Oregon uniforms that "changed the way we see college football."

And while the Ducks were having usual success in Eugene, the Bruins had unusual success in Berkeley. UCLA hadn't won there since 1998 and it squeaked out a win over the Bears, breaking that streak.

But despite a win, UCLA isn't exactly looking like the top team many expected it to be coming into this season. Everett Cook of The Los Angeles Times writes that -- among a few other things learned in the Bruins' win over the Bears -- that UCLA continues to play down to the level of its competition.

And can we speak of streaks without at least addressing the ongoing Pac-12 road team streak? Utah and UCLA won on the road but USC, Oregon and ASU got work done at home. Does this mean that the magic of the road is gone? Probably not. With some interesting matchups this weekend (Oregon at Cal, UCLA at Colorado, Arizona at Washington State, Arizona State at Washington ... just to name a few), it wouldn't be too surprising to see some road teams walk out of opposing stadiums with a win.

And some shout outs

Let's give props where props deserve to be given. There were quite a few guys who had career days over the weekend in the Pac-12. News/notes/team reports
video

A quick look at Oregon's 45-20 victory over Washington, the Ducks' 11th consecutive win over the Huskies.

How the game was won: Oregon’s offense is playing like it wants to play. Jake Fisher returned to the lineup in the Ducks’ win over UCLA, and the O-line looked like it took another step forward against a talented Huskies front seven. Though the O-line had a few silly penalties that they’ll have to clean up, the offense managed to click and tore up the Washington defense with big plays. Oregon accounted for 22 plays of 10 or more yards against a stout defense.

Game ball goes to: Oregon running back Royce Freeman. He’s a freshman who plays (and is built) like a fifth-year senior. Freeman averaged 5.8 yards per rush against a defense giving up only 3.1 yards per carry, finishing with 169 yards on 29 carries. It was his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game, and he had a Pac-12 season-high four rushing touchdowns in this game, with a fifth taken away by an offensive line penalty. It was the most rushing touchdowns in a single game for a Duck since Kenjon Barner recorded five against USC in 2012. But to be kind, let's give a second game ball to the Oregon offensive line for making that possible.

What it means: First and foremost for Ducks fans, the streak against Washington is still alive. From a national perspective, this was a big game. It answered the question of whether or not Oregon’s offensive performance against UCLA was a one-and-done. (Answer: nope, not at all.) And while most of the nation was tuned in to the top-five matchup in Tallahassee, the Ducks managed to put on a pretty good show in Eugene.

Playoff implication: With 10 days until the playoff selection committee releases its first ranking, Oregon is still very much in the conversation. The Ducks O-line was far from perfect but still light years ahead of where it was in Oregon’s loss to Arizona. In this game, the committee saw an unflappable Marcus Mariota, a strong run game and a defense that is coming along. And even if the defense is still slow on the uptake through the rest of the season, the improvements of the O-line could give the committee enough belief that this Mariota-led offense could probably make up for whatever deficiencies the defense has shown. At the end of the day, it’s about who has more points.

Best play: Dwayne Stanford's 16-yard receiving touchdown in the third quarter. He jumped backward and elevated over both Kevin King and Sidney Jones, spun in the air and came down with the score to give the Ducks a 35-6 lead. It was Stanford’s second touchdown of the season, but his first career touchdown reception against an FBS team.

What's next: Oregon travels to Berkley to take on California, a team that will be eager to prove itself after a very close loss to UCLA on Saturday. Washington welcomes Arizona State to Seattle for a chance to pick up a sixth win and bowl eligibility.

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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(All times local)
12:30 p.m.

UCLA at California, ESPN2, ABC

[+] EnlargeGoff
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJared Goff will look to rebound against UCLA after Cal scored just one touchdown last week.
This is the battle for bragging rights between California's top two public schools. Both teams are coming off disheartening losses, so there should be a sense of urgency coming from both sidelines. Cal must demonstrate that it can at least slow down an explosive offense to keep this competitive. However, the Bruins' defense hasn't been much to write home about, either. Expect UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and Cal QB Jared Goff to light up the Memorial Stadium scoreboard.

3 p.m.

Colorado at USC, Pac-12 Network

The Trojans escaped against Arizona with a win by the skin of their teeth when the Wildcats' last-second field goal attempt was wide right. The week before, USC lost to Arizona State on a Hail Mary. On paper, it looks as if Steve Sarkisian's team will have a chance to catch its breath at home against struggling Colorado, but if there's one thing the Pac-12 has taught us this season, it's that absolutely nothing is automatic.

5 p.m.

Washington at Oregon, Fox Sports 1

It now has been more than 4,000 days since the Huskies last beat Oregon. Washington enters Autzen Stadium armed with a sterling defensive front seven that has helped generate a nationwide-best five defensive touchdowns this season, so there's hope in Seattle that the Huskies can snap Oregon's 10-game streak this time around (Danny Shelton is the kind of big body in the middle that can neutralize explosive offenses).

The Ducks, though, are fresh off a statement win at UCLA. So while Washington is eyeing the upset, the Quack Attack is looking to make another spectacular Marcus Mariota-led splash. Keep this in mind: When it comes to avoiding turnovers, these are the top two teams in the nation. Washington has given it away only once, the Ducks just three times.

7:30 p.m.

Stanford at Arizona State, ESPN

The Cardinal showed signs of offensive life last Friday against Washington State, and they can continue developing their identity on that side of the ball against an Arizona State defense that has not been good (the Sun Devils are allowing a conference-worst 6.1 yards per play). ASU will likely need to find more offensive consistency than it did in two games versus Stanford's top-flight defense last season. Much of that will rest on the shoulders of quarterback Mike Bercovici, who has thrown for an NCAA-record 998 yards in his first two career starts. Taylor Kelly may play, but it'll probably be Bercovici working with explosive weapons D.J. Foster and Jaelen Strong against the Cardinal's rugged defense.

Revisiting Pac-12's 'fearless predictions'

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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Anu Solomon, Marcus Mariota, Kevin HoganGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsThe Pac-12 blog revisits some of its preseason "fearless predictions" to see how they stand at the midway point of the season.
At the midway point of the season, the Pac-12 bloggers decided it was a good time to revisit some of the blog's fearless predictions for 2014. How'd we do?

1. A Pac-12 team will win the national championship: We wrote that Oregon, UCLA, Stanford or USC would win the national championship, and we'd like to celebrate the fearlessness of that prediction because at this point that is its strongest quality. Each member of that foursome already has at least one loss, with Stanford, UCLA and USC having gone down twice. At No. 9, the Ducks seem like the most likely team to work its way back into College Football Playoff consideration, but that might require going undefeated the rest of the way. No easy task. The Pac-12 has proved even deeper than it appeared in the preseason, while the top doesn't appear as unassailable as it did in August. We may have swung for the fences and missed with this one. -- Ted Miller

2. A Pac-12 player will win the Heisman Trophy: The Pac-12 blog is still confident. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota presents the best candidate from the league. He's yet to throw an interception, his dual-threat numbers more than qualify him and the Ducks are still in the hunt for a conference title and College Football Playoff berth. Although he's the nation's most accurate quarterback, the window for UCLA's Brett Hundley is shrinking quickly. But with names like Buck Allen and Shaq Thompson starting to emerge, the league still has a phenomenal shot at a stiff-arm trophy. -- Kevin Gemmell

3. No Pac-12 coach will be fired at season's end: The two coaches whose seats were moderately warm going into the year, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Cal's Sonny Dykes, both have their programs headed in the right direction. That leaves absolutely no coaches in the Pac-12 in jeopardy of losing their jobs. -- Kyle Bonagura

4. Cal and Colorado will be good enough to deliver a major upset this fall: I think we can consider Cal's win at Washington State as major enough considering the kind of offensive numbers (and special-teams touchdowns) that Jared Goff and his teammates had to put up in Pullman. To win on the road against a team whose QB threw for the FBS passing record is pretty major. However, at the midpoint of the season, we're still waiting on Colorado. The Buffs came pretty close against Cal and Oregon State, which we could've considered in this category, especially with how well Cal was playing at the time. But we're keeping this prediction with Colorado. The Buffs have six regular-season games left and four of those teams are currently in the top 25. We're not counting out a top-25 takedown by Ralphie & Co. -- Chantel Jennings

5. The USC-UCLA game will be a battle of top-10 teams: OK, maybe we shot for the moon a bit with that one. But what about top-25 teams? That's still likely. The Trojans are at No. 22 and UCLA is the first team out of the rankings at the unofficial No. 26 spot. USC has only one ranked team in its next four games leading up to the UCLA showdown. Good chance it will still be ranked. Same for UCLA, which has only No. 16 Arizona as a ranked opponent on the docket before hosting the Trojans on Nov. 22. Win out and the Bruins will be back in the top 20. -- Kevin Gemmell

6. Oregon will cover the spread against Michigan State in Week 2: Annnnnd, we got one. Boom shaka laka. -- Chantel Jennings

7. The Pac-12 will go 3-0 against Notre Dame: Well, after Stanford yanked defeat from the jaws of victory -- hey, let's rush three and not cover anybody on fourth-and-11 from our 23-yard line with time running out! -- this prediction is already doomed. The question now, with Notre Dame ranked No. 5 as it heads to No. 2 Florida State on Saturday, is whether Arizona State (Nov. 8) and USC can beat the Irish (Nov. 29). We're going to stay optimistic -- I know; so strange! -- and say yes. Biggest reason why? Stanford played Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, but the Irish have to come west to play the Sun Devils and Trojans. And now's not the time to note that home-field advantage hasn't been worth squat in the Pac-12 this season. -- Ted Miller

8. Whoever starts at quarterback for Arizona will pass for more than 3,000 yards: Freshman Anu Solomon has cemented himself as the Wildcats' starting quarterback, and our initial assessment of 3,000 yards actually looks conservative now. Through six games, Solomon has demonstrated remarkable poise in the pocket, even leading Arizona to a shocking 31-24 upset over Oregon at Autzen Stadium. He has already racked up 2,136 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Since the Wildcats are on target to play in a bowl game, Solomon is actually on pace to shatter that three-grand figure while throwing for 4,628 yards and 33 touchdowns. Rich Rodriguez is developing a potent attack in Tucson, and it should only improve as Solomon accrues more experience with his talented receiving corps. -- David Lombardi

9. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will be the Pac-12's most improved player: This prediction has not come to fruition. Through the first half of the season, Hogan has actually regressed in a key statistical area, and Stanford has struggled mightily in the red zone, a place where great quarterbacks shine. Averaging 7.7 yards per attempt, Hogan's no longer as efficient as he was in 2013 (8.9 yards per attempt) despite enjoying a much more complete aerial arsenal (Stanford's tight end position is back this year). The Cardinal's running game is not as strong this year, and that's forced Hogan to shoulder a heavier load. He averaged 15 throws per game in 2012. That number bumped up to 21 in 2013, and it has shot up to 29 here in 2014. It's become clear that this larger burden has pushed Hogan further from his comfort zone.

If Stanford can re-establish its running game and return Hogan to the play-action happy spot that gives him more opportunities to make plays with his legs, we may be able to revisit this prediction at season's end. -- David Lombardi

10. Six teams will be ranked in the final top 25 at the end of the season: Six looks like a stretch at this point and it's not because the Pac-12 might have six of the country's 25 best teams. With the level of parity the conference has shown over the first half of the season, it'll be tough to differentiate from, say, the conference's No. 5 team and its No. 8 team. That dynamic will make it significantly more difficult to have more teams in the top 25 than if there were a clear divide between the haves and the have-nots. -- Kyle Bonagura

Pac-12 North recruiting roundup 

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
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At the halfway point of college football's regular season, there is still plenty to be decided both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Pac-12 placed six programs among the top 40 recruiting classes in Wednesday's updated class rankings and conference recruiting classes contain as many as 24 -- Arizona -- and as few as nine -- Stanford -- verbal commitments. This update offers a look at where each Pac-12 North program stands with its 2015 recruiting class, including its top prospect and position of strength, as well as a look at where things are going well, and not so well, for each class.

Cal

Total number of commitments: 10
The introduction of Chris Petersen to the Washington-Oregon rivalry comes as quite a relief to the ink-stained wretches who write about college football. Redundancy and predictability are the sworn enemies of the scribbling class, and the Huskies-Ducks rivalry has been a model of redundancy and predictability for a decade, with the boys in green -- or, you know, whatever -- owning the purple team by at least 17 points in the last 10 matchups.

With Petersen now fronting the Huskies, that's an item of interest that a journalist can wrap a lead around. He or she doesn't have to immediately recycle the droning, "Is this the year Washington breaks through?" One can observe that Petersen not only was once a Ducks assistant -- from 1995-2000 under Mike Bellotti -- when he started a longstanding friendship with second-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, but he also was 2-0 against Oregon while heading Boise State, where he was 92-12 and was universally esteemed for his Huge Football Brain.

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images"I know about the Oregon-Washington stuff," Huskies coach Chris Petersen said, "but that's not my focus, getting them fired up. To me, this needs to be about us."
"Huge Football Brain"? That hints at Chip Kelly, which means Huskies fans have stopped reading and now have thrown themselves on their prayer rugs and begun wailing to the college football gods that Washington really, really would like Petersen to become Washington's version of Kelly. Or, even better, Don James, Take 2.

With Huskies fans duly distracted by their invocations, we'll note to the tittering Oregon fans that the Ducks will be celebrating the 20-year anniversary of an obscure moment in their team's history on Saturday. While video of Kenny Wheaton's pick-six interception against Washington in 1994 is as difficult to find as a white peacock, it does exist, and there's a quiet minority of Ducks fans who believe it was a meaningful moment in the transformation of the program.

Those Oregon fans obsessed with such esoterica will be glad to know the Duck will don throwback uniforms to honor the occasion, of which at least one Oregon administrative Twitter feed observed this week: "Prior to 'The Pick' Oregon all-time had a .495 Win% (359-366-34). Since that game, Oregon is .731 (177-65)."

So, yes, call us a wee bit sarcastic when we poke fun by minimizing the impact of "The Pick," unquestionably the Ur-moment in Oregon football history, a highlight that plays immediately before every Ducks home game.

And the reason it is the definitive before-after line for the program's rise to West Coast and national prominence is not only that it was the key play in a run to the program's first Rose Bowl since 1958, it was that it happened so dramatically against the Huskies, the established Northwest power that Ducks fans most hated.

Which brings us back the rivalry and the two head coaches. Both know the rivalry well. That means they will at least acknowledge its biliousness, unlike Kelly, who seemed to enjoy telling reporters how much he liked former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, knowing it would inspire forehead slaps among the Ducks faithful.

"Do I understand the rivalry as a native Oregonian? Absolutely," Helfrich said. "I know the history of that very well and what it means to our fans."

And yet, it's all about an established winning process with the Ducks, and that centers on preparing the same every week for a "nameless faceless opponent."

Echoed Petersen, "I know about the Oregon-Washington stuff, but that’s not my focus, getting them fired up. To me, this needs to be about us."

That carries over to Helfrich's and Petersen's friendship. Both insisted in the preseason it would overcome them being at professional loggerheads in the Pac-12's North Division, though they admitted this week they hadn't talked thus far this season. Both also insisted this week that it has no impact on their emotions or preparation for the game. Which, you know, is as it should be.

Petersen, while at Boise State, handed the Ducks their last nonconference loss at home in 2008, and then spoiled Kelly's head coaching debut in 2009. While that's an interesting factoid, it's also far less relevant than how well the Ducks offensive line, which recovered nicely in a win at UCLA with offensive tackle Jake Fisher back in the lineup, will play against the Huskies stout front-7, led by nose guard Danny Shelton, defensive endHau'oli Kikaha and linebacker Shaq Thompson.

What Oregon showed last week while redeeming itself after flubbing around in a home loss to Arizona is that when the offensive line is playing well, the offense hums along like in days of old. Petersen knows his team can't allow QB Marcus Mariota to feel comfortable.

"He might be the best player in college football, so that’s a problem right there," he said.

Another interesting factoid: Neither QB has thrown an interception this year. Because Cyler Miles isn't the playmaker that Mariota is, it's probably more critical for him to maintain his clean sheet Saturday.

So here we are, back at the redundancy: Is this the Huskies year? Maybe. Stranger things have happened this season. A lot stranger. But all the history and emotions don't hold a lot of weight with either coach. Whether the Huskies break through or the Ducks make like Spinal Tap's amplifiers and go up to 11, the coaches just view the game as X's and O's either doing what they want them to do or not.

Noted Petersen dryly, "So it doesn’t necessarily have to do with anything in the past. It comes down to playing good football."

Pac-12 Week 8 predictions

October, 16, 2014
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Why Utah will win: Duh, the Utes are on the road. Is any further explanation needed? I like the confidence Utah is playing with. I like that they are a three-phase team. And I really, really like the sack-happy Utah front seven against an Oregon State offensive line that hasn't fully come together yet. The Utes have established a strong running game that will exist regardless of who is handing off the ball. OSU's offense is yet to really come together. And unless you've got a defense like Stanford's, averaging fewer than 30 points per game will eventually catch up with you. -- Kevin Gemmell

Why Oregon will win: Oregon has won 10 in a row in this bitter rivalry, and each of those victories came by at least 17 points. That’s dominance. Last year, the Huskies challenged the Ducks for three quarters at home before being overwhelmed in the fourth quarter in a 45-24 Ducks win. While Washington is closing the gap, and the Chris Petersen hire adds an intriguing wrinkle to the series, the Ducks seemed to regain their footing last weekend at UCLA. They’ll particularly need that improved O-line play to neutralize Washington’s tough front seven. But don’t despair Huskies: Marcus Mariota won’t be around when the Ducks come back to Husky Stadium in 2015! -- Ted Miller

Why Stanford will win: Stanford is just a bad matchup for Arizona State. The Cardinal's physicality on defense caused problems in both games last year and there's not much reason to indicate that won't be the case again Saturday. Stanford's offense has struggled, but there were enough schematic changes against Washington State to sense improvement is coming. -- Kyle Bonagura

Why Arizona State will win: Because there’s no way that if all five of us picked all five of the same teams this week, that we’d all be perfect. My gut says one of these games doesn’t happen the way we all believe it will. The Sun Devils are the more highly ranked team and they’re playing at home which in the Pac-12 this year means they should lose, right? So, I’m going to say they’re going to win. Despite Stanford’s tough defense, I think Arizona State has enough success against them to sneak out with a win. The Pac-12 this season has made little sense and for some reason everyone thinks Stanford is going to come in and crush ASU, so I say, what the hey, let’s pick ASU because no one else did. -- Chantel Jennings

Unanimous picks

Why UCLA will win: Don't get us wrong, Cal has a very real shot to win this game. Their offense is still explosive, and UCLA's defense has not shown that it's anywhere near Washington's caliber, the Bears' last opponent. We're still waiting for evidence that Cal's defense can stop Brett Hundley & Co. -- David Lombardi

Why USC will win: It's clear that the Trojans are significantly better than Colorado, and they're at home. Despite its inconsistency this season, USC just has too much size, athleticism, and skill to reasonably think they'll lose this game. -- David Lombardi
Throughout the season, ESPN.com has been taking an inside look at some coaches' offices throughout the country.

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen office
Floto + WarnerChris Petersen's office is sleek but sparse in memorabilia.
This summer, I had the chance to go up to Seattle to see Chris Petersen's office and have him explain a few of the different artifacts and pieces that he had already moved in to his space overlooking Husky Stadium. If you picked up a copy of ESPN The Magazine's college football preview, then you got a preview of what's on the website on Thursday.

Petersen's office was interesting because so many of the coaches that have been featured on this project have offices that are filled to the brim with memorabilia and papers and stuff they've accumulated over the years (e.g. Bob Stoops' office or Steve Spurrier's office). But since Petersen was still moving in, his office was quite sparse. But that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of good stories in the few pieces that were in his office.

You must check out the story behind the H.A. Award (which sits behind his desk and is a golden horse's rear end atop a column of flames) or his thoughts on having a television in his bathroom or his favorite part of the office (hint: it's not something that he brought with him nor is it something that will ever leave).

To see the full feature, click here.
Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson isn’t normal.

[+] EnlargeShaq Thompson
Joshua Weisberg/Icon SportswireShaq Thompson has scored four defensive touchdowns through six games for Washington.
 Not according to teammate (and adoring fan) John Ross, at least.

“There’s something wrong with that kid,” Ross said following Washington’s 31-7 win against Cal on Saturday. “Honestly, he’s my favorite college football player.”

It’s hard to argue with Ross’ analysis. How else can you explain how one player has scored four defensive touchdowns through just six games?

“I’d like to say coaching,” Washington coach Chris Petersen joked. “But he just has the football 'it factor.' That’s really it.”

There's a right-place, right-time aspect to it, but Thompson attributed it to mentality.

"We don’t ever fall on balls," he said. "We always have the mentality to scoop and score. If you can’t get it, then you fall on it."

At the midway point, Thompson has scored more defensive touchdowns than any player has in a full season over the past 10 years. And only one team in the country (Temple) has more than him this year (5). Factor in the 57-yard rushing touchdown he scored against Eastern Washington -- the Huskies’ longest rush of the year -- and Thompson’s touchdown total is more than Southern Methodist has as a team through five games. Yes, a linebacker has scored more touchdowns than an entire team.

“Film speaks for itself,” said Washington outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, who leads the nation with 10 sacks. “Every game he does something amazing … look out for the Heisman right there.”

While Thompson doesn’t have a realistic shot at winning college football’s most prestigious award, it’s not because his case doesn’t have merit. He ranks fifth in the country in forced fumbles (3), second in fumble recoveries (3) and against Illinois became just the third player in history to score on a fumble return and interception return in the same game.

Against Cal, he added a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown after quarterback Jared Goff lost the ball stretching for the end zone on the first drive of the game. It was the fourth 100-yard play in school history and longest fumble return, but more importantly it changed the trajectory of the game.

“Probably about as big [a momentum change] as you can get,” Petersen said. “I think those kids on defense played really, really well and there wasn’t a better play than that all game. Just in terms of where it came, I think they came out and drove the ball down the field and I’m sure they were thinking, ‘Here we go again, scoring a bunch of points.’

“He seems to always make a play when we need one.”

Playing at Cal was a homecoming of sorts for Thompson, who grew up about an hour and a half from Berkeley in Sacramento and had about 20 family members in attendance -- including his brother, Syd’Quan, who played at Cal from 2005 to 2009. Thompson originally committed to Cal, but looking back, Thompson said he’s happy with how things have played out.

“I chose UW because I didn’t want to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” he said. “UW was a great place for me.”

Thompson and defensive tackle teammate Danny Shelton were both named to the ESPN.com Midseason All-America team.

Planning for success: Washington

October, 14, 2014
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It's been exactly 4,000 days since Washington last beat Oregon.

The iPhone was still nearly four years away from its initial release on that chilly Nov. 1, 2003 night at Husky Stadium, during which Keith Gilbertson's Huskies pummeled Mike Bellotti's Ducks 42-10 in Seattle.

[+] EnlargeHau'oli Kikaha
Ted S. Warren/AP PhotoWashington will lean on Hau'oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson to force pressure on No. 9 Oregon in their Week 8 game.
The tide turned drastically after that day, and Washington has now lost 10 straight games at the hands of Oregon -- by an average margin of 24.5 points. The Ducks are three-touchdown favorites for this next meeting at Autzen Stadium, so it'll take an extraordinary Huskies' effort for the current streak to reverse course here in 2014.

Mayhem inducer: Washington's predatory front seven

The Huskies hope to apply the successful formula from last Saturday's 31-7 rout over Cal to this Eugene road trip, where victory obviously promises to be much more difficult.

Their recipe in a nutshell: Six-foot-two, 339-pound fire hydrant Danny Shelton swallows blockers and plugs holes on the inside. That allows defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski to unleash defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha, whose 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks lead the Pac-12. Kikaha, along with linemate Andrew Hudson and others, delivers a vicious rush that "squeezes the pocket" and, in turn, fosters an environment for takeaways.

"We're trying to lead all of college football in forcing turnovers," linebacker Shaq Thompson said after Washington reaped the benefits of three fumbles in Berkeley.

After Cal's Jared Goff coughed up the ball on a sneak attempt at the goal line, Thompson -- a self-proclaimed "magnet" that attracts loose footballs -- spun and sprinted his way 100 yards in the other direction, scoring the game's opening touchdown and setting the tone for a one-sided affair.

"We don't ever fall on balls," Thompson smiled. "We have a scoop-and-score mentality."

The junior has now scored a staggering four defensive touchdowns in six games.

"That was the key to the game," coach Chris Petersen said. "That sparked us, and it probably rattled them a little bit."

The Huskies have done plenty of rattling: They've forced 12 fumbles -- most in the nation -- and 15 turnovers, good for the conference lead. On the flip side, their own offense is protecting the ball. Since Washington has given it away only once all season (best in the nation), they're leading all of college football in turnover margin: +2.33 per game.

Oregon: Good at avoiding havoc, especially with a healing line

Though he hasn't put up gaudy numbers, quarterback Cyler Miles is one of only three quarterbacks nationally that has attempted over 100 passes while not throwing an interception. Coincidentally, the other two passers also play in the Pac-12. Their names are Marcus Mariota and Travis Wilson.

Mariota's Ducks stand in Washington's way again this Saturday, and they'll put the Huskies' ability to wreak havoc to the test. Oregon has only coughed up the ball three times this year, putting them right behind the Huskies at No. 2 nationally in that category.

Before plastering UCLA, it appeared the Ducks might be vulnerable to Washington's rush up front. But the return of left tackle Jake Fisher from injury has altered that perception. Oregon has not allowed a single sack in three of the four games Fisher has started.

That sets up quite the challenge for Washington's ferocious and athletic defensive front seven. The Oregon line is healing, and beating it while containing Mariota to the pocket presents Washington with a massive test. While the Huskies held Cal over 43 points below their season average last week, the Ducks have proven to be much more stable with the football than the Bears. Shelton, Kikaha, Thompson and the rest of the Huskies' front will enter Autzen looking to wreak their trademarked turnover havoc, but their ability to do so is shaping up to be Washington's ultimate, expert-level test.

Of course, success never comes easily when this particular kind last stopped by 4,000 days ago, right?
We've reached the season's halfway point, and we may actually know less about the Pac-12 than when the year started. The road team has won 14 of 18 conference games so far this season, the South has turned into a gigantic free-for-all in which five of the six teams still harbor legitimate hopes of winning, and the North picture isn't too much clearer. Oregon and Stanford appear to again be on a decisive collision course there, but it'd be foolish to just assume that in a time when consistency does not seem to be allowed. Plus, both face tricky tests in another intriguing slate this week. So, it's time to circle the wagons and do it all over again.

The delicious appetizer: Utah at Oregon State

Just over two weeks ago, the Utes and the Beavers became afterthoughts on the same night: Kyle Whittingham's club blew a big lead at home against Washington State right before Mike Riley's men found themselves on the receiving end of a thorough whipping in the Coliseum.

Then the fickle face of the Pac-12 smiled. And suddenly, Utah and Oregon State have a prime opportunity to capitalize on chaos. The winner of Thursday night's clash in Corvallis will improve to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference race. With the recent extinction of unbeaten Pac-12 teams, that would equate to prime positioning in this topsy-turvy conference race. Take both of these teams seriously because they're both playing sturdy defense: The Utes (allowing 4.7 yards per play) and the Beavers (allowing 4.8 yards per play) are ranked two and three in that category behind Stanford in the Pac-12. Utah leads the Pac-12 in sacks, and that'll test Sean Mannion's release.

Game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications: Washington at Oregon

The 5-1 Ducks have owned the Huskies for an entire decade, and they'll need to make it 11 straight to remain at the top of the Pac-12 North. Oregon blasted UCLA's shaky defense right out of the Rose Bowl Saturday en route to a 42-10 lead and 42-30 win, but this next game promises to challenge Marcus Mariota. The 5-1 Huskies have grown up quickly on the defensive end. Just ask Cal's offense, which only mustered seven points against the Dawgs despite coming in averaging more than 50 per game.

Speaking of Mariota, he's been spectacular: 70 percent completion rate, 17 touchdowns, no interceptions. In fact, only three quarterbacks in the nation have attempted more than 100 passes this season without throwing a single interception, and all of them play in the Pac-12: Mariota, Washington's Cyler Miles, and Utah's Travis Wilson.

We'll find out if the Ducks have made true progress in fixing their offensive line woes next Saturday. Oregon hasn't allowed any sacks in three of the four games that left tackle Jake Fisher has started (he's back!), but they also haven't faced a defensive front seven of Washington's caliber. Hau'oli Kikaha (conference-leading 10 sacks) and Danny Shelton are dominant forces right now, and that's allowing Shaq Thompson to wreak havoc from the second level. Oregon will be tested Saturday, especially if Miles continues to avoid turnovers.

The proving grounds game/redemption opportunity: UCLA at Cal

Both of these teams had golden opportunities at home last Saturday, and both went up in flames early. The Bruins wilted against Oregon, while the Bears could never recover from Jared Goff's goal line fumble that Thompson returned 100 yards for Washington's first score.

So neither team was ready to take the proverbial next step, and that turns this game into a chance for atonement. It seems as if the Bruins' defense has been on a fairly steady course of regression as this season has progressed, and Sonny Dykes hopes that's the medicine for his suddenly-stalled offense. Meanwhile, Cal's defense has yet to prove that it can contain a top-shelf Pac-12 offense. We'll probably see plenty of points in Berkeley as these two clubs vie to prove they have a backbone.

Desperation Bowl: Colorado at USC

Let's make it clear that these teams are desperate in completely different ways. The Buffs are 0-3 and just clawing for a single for a Pac-12 win. The Trojans, meanwhile, sport the conference's best record (3-1). Steve Sarkisian's team, though, is starved for consistency. USC should be ecstatic that they escaped Arizona with a win -- Buck Allen (7.9 yards per carry) and Leonard Williams were fantastic. But the on-again, off-again cycle has become far too familiar in Troy, where USC has followed up massive wins with horrendous defensive no-show losses. The Trojans are heavy favorites at home against the Buffs, but a slippery roadie to Salt Lake City awaits, so they'd better find stability now.

Don't forget dessert (diamond in the rough game): Stanford at Arizona State

By the most important statistical accounts, Stanford's defense is the best in the nation (8.8 points per game, 3.6 yards per play). Meanwhile, ASU's offense isn't messing around, either (41.2 points per game, 7.2 yards per play). So this rematch of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship is setting up to be a fun Saturday nightcap. In all likelihood, though, this game will probably be decided by the performance of these teams' struggling halves: Will Stanford's adjusting offense, scoring a conference-worst 26.3 points per game, be able to consistently score against an ASU defense that's giving up a conference-worst 6.1 yards per play? The loser in the desert will face a massive uphill climb in the Pac-12 race.

Pac-12 Show (4 ET)

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
11:53
AM ET
Pac-12 reporters Kevin Gemmell, Chantel Jennings and Ted Miller review this past weekend's games, including USC's upset of Arizona, and look ahead to Week 8. They will also answer your questions live on screen.

Pac-12 Week 7 predictions

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9
9:00
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Why Oregon will win: The Ducks haven't lost consecutive games during a season since 2007, so despite how shaky the offensive line has looked there's not much precedent to expect another loss. Brett Hundley versus Marcus Mariota is intriguing, but look for Mariota to keep his Heisman campaign alive. And playing on the road apparently isn't a tough thing to overcome anymore either -- in Pac-12 games the road team is 11-3 so far this season. -- Kyle Bonagura

Why UCLA will win: Both offensive lines have dealt with injuries -- and thus both quarterbacks have taken the brunt of that issue. But I like UCLA's defensive line against Oregon's offensive line better than Oregon's D-line against UCLA's O-line, especially if Arik Armstead is limited. This is a coin-flip game, but with both teams coming off of emotional losses, I like the team that doesn't have to rebound on the road. -- Kevin Gemmell

Why Washington will win: Cal's only conference game against a team with a winning record this season came against Arizona, and that foray into the desert didn't end well for the Bears because they couldn't put together four quarters of consistent defense (the Wildcats scored 36 points in the final frame). Though Jared Goff (22 touchdowns, three interceptions) has been spectacular and there's every reason to believe he'll be good again Saturday, an athletic Husky front seven will pressure him, and this will likely be a game in which Cal will need at least some help from the defense to win. Washington's Cyler Miles struggled mightily his last time out against Stanford's vaunted defense, but the Bears haven't demonstrated the same ability to slow an opponent down (they're surrendering more than 40 points per game). -- David Lombardi

Why Cal will win: I'm a big fan of Washington's defense. But I'm not sure the offense can go blow-for-blow with the Bears right now. Cal is running the ball effectively enough to keep teams off balance and they are winning in the “explosive play” department. This is by far the toughest front-seven Cal has seen this season. And Washington will get its stops and probably a few sacks. But they are going to need at least 35-42 points on the road to win. That's a tough sell. -- Kevin Gemmell

Why USC will win: The reason I picked USC is because Arizona is undefeated and that's not allowed in the Pac-12 this season. Yes, I love the way the Wildcats have played thus far: opportunistic and mentally tough. That's two things you can't say about USC. But there you have it. What seems like it should happen, won't. The Trojans are going to win this game because the college football gods will not allow any sustained happiness within a Pac-12 fan base this season. -- Ted Miller

Why Arizona will win: Bowl eligibility and a perfect 6-0 start is on the line at home for Arizona. You can guarantee Arizona Stadium will be bumping. I'm expecting a big Wildcats offensive output because, let's be serious, USC has some major defensive deficiencies. They've proven you can throw against them after giving up 510 passing yards to Mike Bercovici. They've proven you can run against them, after giving up 452 rushing yards to Boston College. And guess what, Arizona can both run and throw the ball. If it's the struggling run defense that shows up against the Wildcats, then you can expect Anu Solomon, Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby to show out. If it's the struggling pass defense that shows up, you can expect Solomon to connect with Cayleb Jones, Austin Hill and Nate Phillips. Arizona's offense is going to be stellar and its defense, a week after holding Oregon to just 144 rushing yards, is going to do enough to get the win. -- Chantel Jennings

Unanimous decision

Why Stanford will win: Washington State hasn't seen anything like Stanford's defense this year and while the same could also be said about Stanford facing WSU's offense, recent history says this is the Cardinal's game to lose. The real story will be what happens when Stanford's offense is on the field.

Help is on the way: Pac-12 

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
10:00
AM ET
video
Through six weeks of the 2014 season, every program has flashed at least one weakness or one position where depth is needed in a hurry. While the incoming batch of 2015 recruits won't help the prospects of the 2014 team, some will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact the following year, as they'll provide depth -- or perhaps jump into starting roles -- at positions of need. Here is a look through the Pac-12 at the biggest areas of need for each program, and the 2015 recruits on the way to provide help.


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Juco recruits to watch: Pac-12 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
10:00
AM ET
video
Pac-12 programs have found plenty of success in the junior college ranks over the past few years. Wide receivers Jaelen Strong and Vince Mayle's impacts for Arizona State and Washington State, respectively, have been substantial. Oregon, Oregon State and USC found defensive stalwarts Joe Walker, Steven Nelson and Claude Pelon, respectively, at the junior college level. Those are only a few of the juco prospects in the Pac-12, and with programs such as Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State able to recruit so well at the junior college level, the conference is likely to land a number of impact junior college prospects who find themselves in the recently released Juco Watch List.

A dozen members of the Watch List have already committed to Pac-12 programs, but here are three names on the list that Pac-12 fans should know.


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