In advance of media day last week, we told you what questions Pac-12 coaches would be asked and what they should be asked. Well, that sort of tied us in to asking those "should" questions.

So we did, at least some variety of the suggested inquiries, And here's what we got, finishing with the North Division.

California

Are there things you view as mistakes, things that you would do differently in retrospect from last year?

Sonny Dykes: Oh, sure. There are always things you’d do differently. When we were on that winning streak at Louisiana Tech, there were things I would have done differently. That’s part of coaching. You are always self-evaluating. When you don’t have success, you tend to listen to that self-evaluation more than you would if you were winning. The biggest mistake I made as a coach was probably my last year at Louisiana Tech. We were 9-1 and I think we were 16th in the country and we were really tired. We were worn out. I probably should have given our guys a day off just to get away for a day. But we had won 16 out of 17 and you talk yourself out of it because what we had been doing had been successful. So if I had to do that over again I’d do it differently. A lot of stuff last year.

Can you give me an example?

Dykes: I don’t want to say. I have a bunch of notebooks I’ll give you one of these days.

Oregon

What’s the biggest lesson you learned about being a head coach last year?

Mark Helfrich: I don’t know if there was any one in particular, but there were thousands. It’s something like, as a player, you don’t think you’ve ever made it, thinking I don’t have to improve anymore. Certainly as a coach it’s the same way. There are so many things that go into it that you deal with that you couldn’t have prepared for. Not even if you talked about it. From that standpoint, I know what we stand for. I know what our program stands for. Working for that and toward that every day, good things will happen.

Chip Kelly told me the advice he gave you and the best advice any coach could give is to be yourself. Do you think you’ll be able to be more yourself this year compared to last year?

Helfrich: 17 percent more (laughs). I think the product of being around each other, the players, the coaches, the culture, things like that, certainly. The comfort of doing it the second time. Hopefully, if it’s more comfortable, it’s better. That’s certainly the angle I’m going for.

Oregon State

Your fans really want to keep up with Oregon. How difficult is it for Oregon State to keep up when Oregon has a booster [Nike founder Phil Knight] who pays $68 million dollars for a new football building. How can Oregon State keep up when it doesn’t have a similar situation?

Mike Riley: I think we just have to keep fighting like crazy to improve what we do. [Oregon] is the team that’s been the best team in the league over the last five years. That’s a general statement that’s probably right. They just happen to be in our state, which is obviously difficult. But we’ve still got to fight every way we can to beat them on the field. That’s our job. The other part, to give them credit, is this league has taken jumps because of things Oregon has done. It started back when Pete Carroll was at USC. They started their run of national-caliber play and everybody had to step it up or you would get left in the dust. They set the standard. Everybody had to rise up. Oregon has done that. They’ve done that football-wise. They’ve done it facility-wise. Everybody has to push to do that. We take care of the football part of it. We have to do everything we can to beat them. One of your goals is always to beat your rival and win the championship and we haven’t done that in a while.

How much does money play a role? What could you guys do if someone said, "Mike, here’s $68 million. Do what you need to do."

Riley: (laughs) I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. There’s no doubt it’s helpful in a university setting to have money to build facilities. There’s no doubt that is helpful from a marketing standpoint nationally. No doubt about that. But the other part is we can continue to try to do what we can to match some of that. But, to me, once that is said and done, we’ve got to get to the football. We’ve got to do a great job with evaluating players and making sure we do a great job at Oregon State. We’ve got to win games. We’ve got to be on top of recruiting, right on top of football and on top of any other way we can grow our university, grow our football program. We have to continue to fight. We can’t sit and worry about what other people have.

Stanford

You’ve won the Pac-12 two years in a row and beaten Oregon two years in a row: How do you feel about not being picked No. 1?

David Shaw: I don’t think we’ve ever been picked No. 1. It’s par for the course. I don’t really look at those things at all. They don’t affect me one way or the other. I don’t get motivated by them. You could pick us last and I still wouldn’t be upset by it. What matters is what happens when you start playing games. Hopefully we will win more than we lose and hopefully we will find a way to be towards the top of the conference.

Do you even shake your head and say, "Really? What does it take?"

Shaw: I would be shocked if someone picked us over Oregon, to be honest. I don’t mind it one bit. They’ve got a lot of guys coming back as we do. My assertion, which I said last year, which I hold to this year, is they have the best quarterback in the nation in Marcus Mariota. I think he was the best quarterback in the nation last year also. There is nothing like him in college football. I don’t mind that at all. The bottom line is you’ve got to play the games. We’re going to have to go up to Autzen Stadium in a tough environment and they’ll be gunning for us. That’s going to be a tough game to win. But we’ll give it a shot.

Washington

What did QB Cyler Miles tell you about the incident [his altercation after the Super Bowl]? Was there anything that was presented incorrectly in the media?

Chris Petersen: I don’t know what was presented in the media. I just know he made a mistake. He owned up to it. He did everything right as we’ve moved forward. He’s going to get a second chance.

Did he have to sell you a little bit? When you heard about it, it was pretty odd. Were you angry about it?

Petersen: I would say the fact that he didn’t have one day in spring football or one meeting probably sent a pretty strong message to him. But throughout that process, moving forward, he’ll get everything corrected. So we’re just hoping ... and I think he will. I think he will be a better person, a better teammate, a better everything for going through it. Guys make mistakes. Most important thing is to do right moving forward.

Washington State

Does Washington hiring Chris Petersen change the dynamic of the rivalry with Washington and Washington State?

Mike Leach: I don’t think so. No disrespect to him, but that thing has been amped up for a long time. It would be hard to ramp it up any more. I don’t think I had anything to do with amping it up either. I think it’s been at a high level and it’s been a meaningful game to both schools for a long time. Both schools have quality players and quality staffs. I think it will be an exciting one this year. The last two games have been real exciting.

Nonconference primer: Utah

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
6:00
PM ET
We continue with our series looking at each Pac-12 team's nonconference opponents in 2014.

Utah Utes

Idaho State, Thursday, Aug. 28
  • Coach: Mike Kramer (6-28), fourth season
  • 2013 record: 3-9, 1-7 Big Sky
  • Returning starters: nine offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: quarterback Justin Arias. The ISU coaching staff named Arias the team’s offensive player of the year last year after he threw for 3,547 yards with 24 touchdown passes.
  • Defensive headliner: defensive lineman Austin Graves. Graves ranked fourth on the team with 64 tackles, but registered an impressive 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He was named the team’s defensive player of the year by his teammates and was an honorable mention all-conference pick.
  • The skinny: There is the occasional FCS opponent that can generate some genuine intrigue when pitted against a Pac-12 team (see: Eastern Washington). Idaho State isn’t one of them. Kramer is a well-respected coach in the Big Sky and has done a great job with the Bengals’ academic pursuits and has built a respectable offense, but that hasn’t translated to results in the win column. Against FBS opponents over the last four years (Washington, Nebraska, Air Force, Washington State, Utah State, Georgia and BYU twice), the Bengals are 0-8 and have been outscored 450-89.
Fresno State, Saturday, Sept. 6
  • Coach: Tim DeRuyter (20-6), third season
  • 2013 record: 11-2, 7-1 MWC
  • Returning starters: five offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: receiver Josh Harper. How’s this for a stat: In 2013, Harper combined with Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse to become just the fifth trio in FBS history to all have 1,000-plus receiving yards on the same team. With Adams and Burse off to the NFL, Harper takes center stage and was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. He was tied for eighth in the nation with 13 touchdown receptions last season.
  • Defensive headliner: free safety Derron Smith was featured here, so linebacker Karl Mickelsen is next up. He led the Bulldogs in tackles last season (97) and was an All-Mountain West honorable mention pick. Against Boise State, Mickelsen made 16 tackles — Fresno State’s highest single-game total in five years.
  • The skinny: The schedule lines up well for the Utes as they get a tune-up in the opener against Idaho State, which should allow new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to get his feet wet before a visit from Fresno State. On the other hand, the Bulldogs won’t have that same luxury with a game at USC preceding their trip to Salt Lake City. Without record-setting quarterback Derek Carr, Adams and Burse, it will be interesting to see what the natural evolution process looks like for the Bulldogs' offense.
at Michigan, Saturday, Sept. 20
  • Coach: Brady Hoke (26-13), fourth season
  • 2013 record: 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten
  • Returning starters: seven offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner enters his second full season as the Wolverines’ starter after briefly converting to receiver in 2012. Results were mixed last year as he threw for 2,960 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
  • Defensive headliner: cornerback Blake Countess. Countess was selected first-team All-Big Ten by the media and second team by the coaches after he tied for the Big Ten lead with six interceptions. He made 46 tackles and returned a pick for a touchdown.
  • The skinny: Utah’s season-opening win in 2008 against Rich Rodriguez-coached Michigan at the Big House will long be remembered as one of the program’s best moments. It set the stage for the Utes' undefeated season and, perhaps, played a role in the home-and-home series that returns to Salt Lake City next year. Both schools saw their 2013 seasons get off to relatively good starts before things became unhinged late. A Utah win would be a good coup for the Pac-12 as it tries to measure up favorably against other conferences.

Pac-12 lunch links

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
2:30
PM ET
He had not been unhappy all day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had been this to do. Now it was done. It had been a hard trip. He had been very tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him.
Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).

Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 10.

Saturday, Nov. 1
  • Arizona at UCLA
  • Utah at Arizona State
  • USC at Washington State
  • Washington at Colorado
  • Stanford at Oregon
  • California at Oregon State
  • Byes: None
My choice: Stanford at Oregon

Why: Yes, Arizona at UCLA might be compelling. Yes, USC at Washington State is a rematch of last year’s shocking Coug win. No, neither are even close to the national attention Stanford’s trip to Autzen Stadium will receive.

This has blossomed into the game of the year in the Pac-12 the past three seasons and the results have justified the hype.

Then again, the curtain has already fallen on the Cardinal. Why bother showing up, Stanford? The Ducks, led by Marcus Mariota, have all but been anointed Pac-12 champs.

Ah, but isn’t this when Stanford is at its best? David Shaw works the us-versus-the-world angle better than any coach in the conference. He loves nothing more than to be told his team can’t do something. That’s what has made this rivalry so great. And I’m sure it’s what has made Stanford’s back-to-back conference titles that much more rewarding.

The 2012 showdown in Autzen is when this series took a decidedly different turn. Consider that the previous three games had been high-scoring affairs, with the winner scoring at least 50 points and the loser scoring at least 30. But 2012, and Stanford’s 17-14 win, changed all of that. And then a year later, the Cardinal nearly duplicated the defensive effort with a 26-20 victory in Palo Alto.

Stanford changed the tempo and the personality of this rivalry the past two years – in effect – changing the rules and thus the dynamic. It’s up to the Ducks to change them back if they hope to rid themselves of their Stanford problem.

Is the winner guaranteed the conference title? Of course not. We saw what happened last year when Stanford had the edge after beating Oregon, only to lose to USC, only to watch Oregon lose to Arizona. And then there is still the conference championship game to worry about.

Nothing is promised in this league.

But the winner certainly has a leg up in the quest for a conference crown and will surely receive a nice little bump in the national rankings. There is a strong possibility both teams could be ranked in the top 10 when this game rolls around, so the College Football Playoff selection committee will be very interested in this outcome.

So hunker down for this one. Because if recent history is any indication, this will/should be one of the best games in the all of college football in 2014.

You can see the rest of the road trip here.
video
While things can and will change between now and signing day, the updated ESPN 300 rankings at the close of the summer period show 24 Pac-12 commitments and provide a number of discussion topics relating to the present and future of Pac-12 recruiting for the 2015 class.

Here are five things to know in the Pac-12:

Our list of the top 25 players in the Pac-12 continues.

No. 20: Washington DT Danny Shelton

2013 stats: Started all 13 games, made a career-high 59 tackles, recorded a pair of sacks and blocked two kicks.

Why he's ranked here: The first of four Washington defensive players who will appear during the countdown, Shelton -- who is listed at 6-foot-2, 339 pounds -- is as imposing a defensive lineman as can be found in the country. An All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection a year ago, he enters his senior year with 115 career tackles and is an elite defender against the run.

Shelton has started the past 28 games for the Huskies, including a stretch last year in which he played through a left shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. If Washington takes the next step under new coach Chris Petersen, Shelton will likely be a main reason. Looking down the road, he has the potential to be one of the first defensive tackles selected in the 2015 NFL draft and has also twice been named first-team Academic All-Pac-12.

No. 19: Oregon State OL Isaac Seumalo

2013 stats: Integral part of the offensive line that blocked for QB Sean Mannion as he set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.

Why he's ranked here: From the day Seumalo stepped foot onto the Corvallis, Oregon, campus, he has been one of the Beavers’ best players. He didn’t redshirt in 2012, has started all 25 games he’s played in and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection a year ago playing predominately at center. He’s already been named to the preseason watch lists for the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. Where Seumalo winds up on the line this year -- he started a pair of games at right tackle last year -- is still to be determined and will likely have as much to do with the development around him as anything else.

At Pac-12 media days last week, Oregon State coach Mike Riley said he’s thinking of pairing Seumalo with Sean Harlow at the two guard positions. “I'd like that picture physically inside against all the interior guys that we see in there,” Riley said. It could take some time before that situation gets ironed out because Seumalo is still recovering from a foot injury he suffered during the Hawaii Bowl that kept him out of spring practice. Riley doesn’t anticipate the injury will keep him out during the regular season, but didn’t rule out the possibility he could sit the first week against Portland State.

18. Washington CB Marcus Peters

2013 stats: Recorded 55 tackles, 5 interceptions, defended 14 passes and recovered 2 fumbles.

Why he's ranked here: Along with USC defensive end Leonard Williams (first team), Peters (second) was one of two defensive players to receive first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honors as a sophomore last season. His five interceptions (tied for fifth) and 14 passes defended (tied for first) were among the best numbers in the conference. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Peters the Huskies’ most important player on defense this season as the lone returning starter in the secondary. For new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, Peters will ideally serve as a measure of consistency while the rest of the secondary takes shape early in the season.

Peters has the attention of NFL scouts, too. Among underclassmen, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Peters as the No. 2 corner in the country Insider and currently has him as the No. 19 player on the Way-Too-Early 2015 Big Board Insider. Peters has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

17. Washington DE Hau'oli Kikaha

2013 stats: Among the conference leaders with 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Why he's ranked here: What Shelton means to the Huskies on the interior, Kikaha means to the pass rush. In 13 games a year ago, Kikaha recorded 13 sacks to rank second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford's Trent Murphy, who led the nation with 15. Not only did his sack total rank second in the conference last year, but it fell just 1.5 sacks shy of Jason Chorak’s single-season school record from 1996.

Kikaha finished last season on a high note when he was named defensive MVP of the Fight Hunger Bowl after he registered three sacks, nine tackles and a forced fumble in Washington’s win against BYU. With an inexperienced secondary playing behind him, Kikaha’s role as a pass-rusher will be even more important this year, especially considering the level of quarterback play expected across the conference.

16. Stanford S Jordan Richards

2013 stats: Recorded 69 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and defended 3 passes.

Why he's ranked here: The top-ranked safety in the conference (at this point Richards is still a more proven commodity than USC's Su'a Cravens), Richards will be an All-American candidate playing in what has the potential to be one of Stanford’s best secondaries in years. Even playing next to Ed Reynolds last season, who left early for the NFL and was drafted by Philadelphia in the fifth round, Richards proved to be the most consistent player in the Cardinal’s secondary. He’s fast enough to stay with players in coverage and strong enough to step into the box and help against the run.

Richards is currently on the watch lists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection the past two seasons. With Reynolds gone, Richards will see extended playing time next to a different safety for the first time in his Stanford career. As things sit, Kyle Olugbode, Zach Hoffpauir and Kodi Whitfield figure to be the top three candidates for that role and none of them has much experience -- or in Whitfield’s case, no experience as a safety in college football.

The countdown

25-21: 25. Stanford DE Henry Anderson; 24. Utah WR Dres Anderson; 23. USC S Su'a Cravens; 22. Oregon RB Byron Marshall; 21. Arizona WR Austin Hill
In advance of media day last week, we told you what questions Pac-12 coaches would be asked and what they should be asked. Well, that sort of tied us in to asking those "should" questions.

So we did, at least some variety of the suggested inquiries, And here's what we got, starting with the South Division.

Arizona

How often at booster events this summer did you hear about being 0-2 versus Arizona State?

Rich Rodriguez: Oh, I hear about it everytime from somebody. They're like, “When are you going to beat ASU?” [I say] “When we're better than them.” That's the truth. When we are better than them, we will beat them. Because the chances of them playing poorly and giving us the game, that ain't going to happen. We played awful [this year but] two years ago we had our opportunites and screwed up in the fourth quarter. I don't worry about it. People say, ‘I think you should talk about your rivalry every day' and all that. Hell, I'm trying to get a first down against UNLV right now. I don't list goals. Is it important to us? Is it the most important game we play? Yes. Is it something I'm thinking about today? No.

Arizona State

You seem really comfortable at Arizona State. I know coaches don't think too far ahead, but is it possible that you could retire at Arizona State? Is that something you have considered?

Todd Graham: For me and our coaches, we are building it for the long haul. The kind of program that year in and year out is competing for championships. I absolultely love the community. I love living there. I've paid my house off. Absolutely. I'd love to have half the success [former ASU coach Frank Kush] had and have my name by his. I am thoroughly committed. I think we have a chance to build something special. Our goal, with Ray Anderson our athletic director and [ASU president Michael] Dr. Crow is to be a top-five program in the nation that wins and wins in the right way. Yes, I could see that. I'm very comfortable.

Colorado

What do you guys most need to improve?

Mike MacIntyre: Wow. I think we can improve in a lot of areas. Specifically on the football field, we need to play better on third downs. That's not got to be unbelievable. You've just got to improve three or four percent from what you were last year. You get two more first downs per game and all of the sudden you're in a drive, going into the red zone, getting into the end zone. One more time per game. Two more times per game. A field goal. That's a big, drastic change. It changes momentum. There are little things. Red zone is an emphasis we have, third-down areas, we have. We need to definitely improve in those areas.

UCLA

You've talked about your partnership with the administration at UCLA. What are some top things on the checklist that you need to improve the program, facilities-wise, logistical things that will make it easier for you to do your job?

Jim Mora: With facilities, we've moved down that path. That's happening. That's a given. There's no coming back from that. I meet with the architechs every couple of weeks. It's going to be an amazing, amazing facility. Really, just the continued support. Being able to keep coaches. Being able to provide the best environment for our student athletes to have success. We already have great academic support, so being able to continue down that path. I don't think we are lacking a whole lot at all. Once that facility is built, there will be no excuses. There are no excuses.

USC

What are some of the lessons you learned as a first-time head coach at Washington that you are applying at USC?

Steve Sarkisian: Patience. Patience. Patience. Having patience with your players. Having patience with recruits. Having patience with coaches. Really taking time and not having knee-jerk reactions to things. Of really being patient with everybody involved in the program. It's something that has shifted in me. That's the first piece. The second piece is when I first got to my last job it was: Wins, wins, wins. It took a year or two to understand the whole responsibility of being a head coach. Of developing our players in the classroom, community, as people, forging those relationships with them. To be the best developmental coach I could be as much as it was to win as many games as I could win. This time around, I'm a lot more aware of that. And quite honestly it probably have a better relationship with my players (at USC) than I had early on at Washington. I feel very connected to this team. Our staff is very connected to these players. To me, that goes a long way.

Utah

Have Utah fans underestimated how difficult it would be to move up from the Mountain West to the Pac-12?

Kyle Whittingham: I think some of the fans may have and some may not have. I can't give you an answer for that. I can tell you the fan support we've had has been phenomenal. Our season ticket renewal was 98 percent, which is where it has been the last four or five years. So the fans are excited about us being in the Pac-12 and are anxious to go to the games. [What the expectations were] as far as going to the Pac-12, I can't answer that. I know we had high aspirations. I think everybody has high aspirations regardless of the situation. We certainly are a better team this year than we were when we went into the Pac-12. The issue is how much better relative to how the league's gotten.

Whittingham earlier said this about the transition to the Pac-12 from the Mountain West: "The transition to the Pac-12 has been as expected. I don't think anything caught us by surprise. I can tell you what is very apparent is the Pac-12 now is far superior from top to bottom [than it was in 2011]. The progress this conference has made in the last three years is phenomenal. We've put ourselves in position where we're arguably among the top two conferences in the nation."

Nonconference primer: USC

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
5:30
PM ET
We continue with our series looking at each Pac-12 team's nonconference opponents in 2014.

USC Trojans

Fresno State, Saturday, Aug. 30
  • Coach: Tim DeRuyter (20-6), third season
  • 2013 record: 11-2, 7-1 MWC
  • Returning starters: five offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: running back Josh Quezada. He rushed for 807 yards last year. With the QB spot in question (and possibly going with a more mobile QB), the RB spot is going to be even more important this season. Quezada also has pretty good hands -- he caught 51 passes last year for 290 yards.
  • Defensive headliner: free safety Derron Smith, who was pegged as the Mountain West's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He has 14 career interceptions, which is the most of any active FBS player entering the 2014 season. In 2013 Smith recorded 87 tackles, four sacks and seven picks.
  • The skinny: It's pretty rare that two teams ever play each other twice in a row, but USC and Fresno State will have that chance. The two faced off in last season's finale -- the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, in which USC ran away with a 45-20 victory -- and they'll kick off the 2014 season together as well. But there's one very big difference between the team that put up 20 on USC and the team that'll take the field on Aug. 30 -- Fresno State doesn't know who its QB will be. They need to replace Derek Carr (5,082 yards, 50 TDs) and though they have options (junior Brian Burrell and Duke transfer Brandon Connette, among others), it's not looking great. Especially since they'll be welcomed to the post-BCS era by Leonard Williams and the rest of the USC defense.
At Boston College, Saturday, Sept. 13
  • Coach: Steve Addazio (7-6), second season
  • 2013 record: 7-6, 4-4 ACC
  • Returning starters: 4 offense, six defense
  • Offensive headliner: Florida QB transfer Tyler Murphy, who finished the spring season as the Eagles' top QB. At Florida, he started six games and completed 112 of 185 passes. Also worth noting that the only Boston College player to be on any of the Preseason All-ACC teams was center Andy Gallik, so he gets honorable mention here.
  • Defensive headliner: linebacker Steven Daniels. He was third on the team in tackles last season (88) and recorded 6.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
  • The skinny: The Eagles are coming off one of the most surprising seasons in college football, but Boston College was a much different team with 2013 Doak Walker Award winner Andre Williams. The Eagles aren't going to be able to replace Williams with just one guy, so they'll likely go for a back by committee approach, but the truth is that it probably won't be able to do too much against the USC front (especially considering BC's offensive line lost both tackles).
Notre Dame, Saturday, Nov. 29
  • Coach: Brian Kelly (37-15), fifth season
  • 2013 record: 9-4
  • Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
  • Offensive headliner: quarterback Everett Golson. Golson was suspended from Notre Dame last year, but was readmitted to the school and reinstated to the football program following the 2013 season. Golson quarterbacked the Irish through the 2012 season and into the 2013 BCS title game, in which he completed 21 passes for 270 yards (but also threw just one touchdown to his one interception). He's mobile enough that defensive fronts are going to need to be honest and has a good enough arm that he'll be able to stretch the field.
  • Defensive headliner: linebacker Jaylon Smith. As a true freshman, Smith finished third on the team in tackles (67), including 6.5 tackles for a loss (second only to second round NFL draft pick, Stephon Tuitt). He'll be back and wreaking havoc all over the field for the Fighting Irish.
  • The skinny: This is a huge game every season and this season will be no different. Both USC and Notre Dame are in the early conversations for teams that could be in the mix for the inaugural College Football Playoff. And with this being the season finale for both teams, it could be a big statement for whichever teams walks away the winner.

Pac-12's lunch links

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
2:30
PM ET
When we were kids. We used to race our bikes down Cherry Hill every day after school. We raced every day and he always beat me, but one time, one time I beat him.
Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).

Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 9.

Friday, Oct. 24
  • Oregon at California
Saturday, Oct. 25
  • Arizona at Washington State
  • Arizona State at Washington
  • USC at Utah
  • UCLA at Colorado
  • Oregon State at Stanford
  • Byes: None
My choice: Arizona at Washington State

Why: It’s Pullman in late October, the jewel of Eastern Washington. Duh, why wouldn’t you want to be there?

We’ve seen some pretty good defensive battles so far during the first eight weeks of the road trip. But now it’s time to let loose and watch a little offense. And what better matchup than seeing two of the most innovative offensive minds in the country squaring off.

This will be the second time these two coaches have met -- and Round 1 went to Mike Leach and Co. with a surprisingly low scoring 24-17 win last year in Tucson. Connor Halliday threw for 319 yards and a pair of scores as the Cougs erased a 14-10 halftime deficit and made chumps out of the Pac-12 blog.

What’s going to happen this time around? Both squads boast a thrilling cast of wide receivers. But the quarterback edge, at least for now, goes to Halliday and the Cougars for the simple reason that we still don’t know who Arizona’s quarterback is going to be. Of course, by Week 9, Rich Rodriguez’s guy might be putting up monster numbers, given the talent he’ll be throwing to and the style of offense. But for now, we just don’t know.

And if there were ever a pair of coaches who were simpatico in their thinking -- especially in their responses to proposed “slow down” measures -- it’s Leach and Rodriguez.

Arizona State at Washington is intriguing, because it was, by far, the Huskies’ worst game of the season last year. Oregon State and Stanford were tight the last time the two met on the Farm. And there’s nothing wrong with doing a Bay Area two-fer by hitting Oregon-Cal the night before at the new Levi Stadium. That in itself is a compelling draw.

But for actual game value, this one might turn out to be the most thrilling, high scoring game of the week with plenty of fireworks. Or the Pac-12 blog could look like chumps again when the Utes shock the Trojans at Rice-Eccles. We're big enough to admit when we've been wrong before.
ESPN writers and analysts put together a ranking of the top 100 football players nationwide. The #CFBrank reflects how certain players are seen on a national level as writers who cover every conference participated in the vote. But, at the Pac-12 blog, we decided to break it down further and rank our top 25 Pac-12 players. The #4pac put together this list and will be counting down our top 25 guys this week. But make sure you pay close attention -- we know that how players are viewed nationally aren't quite how they're viewed in the conference, so our top 25 doesn't necessarily follow the same pecking order as the 20 conference players who ended up on the nation's top 100 list.

Now, on to the list. Drum roll, please.

No. 25: Stanford DE Henry Anderson

2013 Stats: 19 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks

Why he’s ranked here: For as much as we keep talking about how this season is "The Year of the Pac-12 Quarterbacks," it also could prove to be the year for pass-rushers to really prove themselves, and Anderson is in that spot. Players such as Anderson will have ample opportunity to get to first- and second-round NFL draft picks every single weekend, which will undoubtedly help their own draft stock. He has flown under the radar a bit throughout his career, but we think he's on track for a huge senior season. He finished with three sacks in 2013, but with pass-rushers such as Trent Murphy (23.5 TFL, 15 sacks) gone, the Cardinal will be looking for someone else to step up in the scheme. That will likely be Anderson.

At Pac-12 media days last week, Stanford coach David Shaw said that he thinks defensive coordinators "will have their hands full all year accounting for the combination of these schemes and [how] they're intricate and difficult and different." But Shaw's defensive coordinator, Lance Anderson, will have a much easier time of it with his 6-foot-6, 295 pound pass-rusher up front. Yes, Stanford will have to face UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State and USC, but Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Sean Mannion and Cody Kessler will have to face Anderson.

No. 24: Utah WR Dres Anderson

2013 Stats: 53 catches, 1,002 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns, 8 carries, 30 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown

Why he’s ranked here: Last year, Anderson became just the seventh Ute to ever have a 1,000-yard receiving season. This year, he'll likely put up much bigger numbers. Assuming quarterback Travis Wilson -- who was medically cleared recently -- is truly back and ready to go, Anderson is going to be a guy who will be able to stretch defenses and test players in one-on-one situations. He's the son of former NFL receiver Willie "Flipper" Anderson (who was on the Los Angeles Rams when Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's father was a coach for the Rams as well, so Whittingham has known about the Anderson pedigree even before Dres was born).

Anderson is the conference's returning leading receiver (at 87.7 yards/game). Last year, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Colorado's Paul Richardson and Oregon's Josh Huff all impressed and gained national recognition. Could this be the year for Anderson to do so? Wilson is a returning starter, though not one that's usually mentioned in the top group of the Pac-12 QBs, but a great receiver can make his signal-caller very, very good. We have a feeling that Anderson could be a player that raises that level for Wilson.

No. 23: USC S Su'a Cravens

2013 Stats: 52 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, 4 interceptions, 1 pass break up, 5 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Why he’s ranked here: Cravens earned a starting spot in the USC secondary as a freshman last season after enrolling early. He's one of just two sophomores to make this list (we're guessing you know who the other one is). Cravens recorded four interceptions in 2013 and finished eighth on the team in total tackles, and even with that kind of a year he has admitted that he allowed the crowds to get to him and that he was nervous at times. That's not surprising for a freshman, but if last year was Cravens being affected by fans and stadiums, what could a 2014 version look like in which he's older, more mature and not affected by the bright lights? That's what puts him at No. 23 on this list. He was already named to watch lists for the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. He's on track to having an excellent career at USC, but his next step will be having a stellar, consistent sophomore season. And we have a feeling he's on his way to that.

No. 22: Oregon RB Byron Marshall

2013 Stats: 168 carries, 1,038 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards

Why he’s ranked here: Marshall was the Ducks' leading rusher in 2013 and is back and looking at an even bigger season in 2014. With Marcus Mariota back, defenses are going to have to be cautious up front because of the mobile threat he provides. Even if defenses are able to stop Mariota's feet, they're still going to need to worry about Marshall and his feet. In fact, defenses are going to have to worry about the whole gamut of Duck rushers. Mariota averaged 7.4 yards per carry last year while Marshall and running back Thomas Tyner (who is putting up a fight for the starting spot in Eugene) both averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Past those two, offensive coordinator Scott Frost is still high on several other players in the running backs' meeting room. But if Marshall can build on his experience, he could be the lead back for the Ducks in what could be a very, very big season for them.

No. 21: Arizona WR Austin Hill

2013 Stats: DNP ... 2012 stats: 81 catches, 1,364 yards, 11 touchdowns

Why he’s ranked here: In 2012, Hill was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist after putting up 11 touchdowns and 1,364 yards -- good enough for second-best in the Pac-12 -- as a sophomore. But he sat out last season as he rehabbed a torn ACL and had to spend the year on the couch, watching the Wildcats lose five games, including three by a touchdown or less. "Missing a season after coming off a good season, it was really rough," Hill told the Pac-12 Networks at Pac-12 media days. "But, I made it through." And now that he's on the other side, and after an impressive spring season, he's looking to have a huge impact on Arizona football in 2014. One thing that could keep him from that is the fact that Arizona is once again in a quarterback quandary and Hill doesn't know exactly who the ball will be coming from. At Pac-12 media days he said he was working to build chemistry with every QB that comes through, but that he's hoping one begins to really separate himself as the season inches closer, so that he can work to just get on the same page with that guy. If he is able to find that relationship, there's a good chance we see a bigger, better version of the 2012 Austin Hill.
Over the past few weeks, ESPN writers and analysts sat down to rank the top 100 football players in the country based on their own predictions of the kind of contribution -- both quantitatively and qualitatively -- they’d make to their team in this upcoming season.

We perused about 460 different players who hailed from each position group and conference across the country and ranked those players on a scale of 0-10. If we thought a player would be a “stellar contributor,” we ranked him somewhere in the 8-10 range.

A “solid contributor” earned a 4-7 ranking and a “contributor” (meaning, he’ll certainly contribute but not to the level of the others who were listed on the voting sheet) was given a 0-3. Their averages were found and then ranked and we were left with the top 100 players.

Twenty players from the Pac-12 made their way on to the list, including two players in the top 10 (both of which are from the same team -- can you guess whom?). This week, we’ll be counting down those 100 players. Keep your eyes here as we begin our march toward the 2014 season.
Welcome to the day after Pac-12 media days. Sort of like the day after Christmas, but you don't have a lot of new stuff. Other than a new Friday mailbag!

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Drake Bieber from Austin, Texas writes: I'm not a Pac-12 fan but I want to know what is the most important thing for me to know about Pac-12 media day?

Ted Miller: You're not a Pac-12 fan? Writing that might raise some NSA eyebrows. Do you not love freedom? Do you not love America? Do you drink white wine with a ribeye?

Know what my biggest take-away was, other than all the QB-luv? Strongly worded statements from Arizona State Sun Devils coach Todd Graham, Stanford Cardinal coach David Shaw and UCLA Bruins coach Jim Mora that they have no ambitions beyond their current jobs.

Now we know strongly worded statements of loyalty only mean so much in college football. Coaches are pretty much pushed into a disingenuous corner because of recruiting, as leaving the "never-say-never" door open is then eagerly highlighted by the competition and shown to recruits. As in, "You know Coach X is getting sniffs from the NFL, right?"

Graham's reputation for job-hopping is well-known, but he seems like a good fit at Arizona State and in the town of Tempe. His buying a big ole rock and roll love nest also is meaningful. Shaw, a former Stanford player and graduate, has told everyone who will listen the past few years that he views Stanford as his destination job and he doesn't want to leave. Mora was unambiguous, "I'm going to stay until they kick me out."

(Read full post)

Nonconference primer: UCLA

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
5:30
PM ET
We continue with our series looking at each Pac-12 team's nonconference opponents in 2014.

UCLA Bruins

At Virginia Cavaliers, Saturday, Aug. 30
  • Coach: Mike London (18-31), fifth year
  • 2013 record: 2-10, 0-8, ACC
  • Returning starters: Seven offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Kevin Parks became the first Cavalier player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in almost a decade, posting 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ranked second in the conference with 85.9 yards per game on the ground.
  • Defensive headliner: Middle linebacker Henry Coley led Virginia with 91 stops last year, including 8.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. He ranked eighth in the ACC with 7.6 tackles per game.
  • The skinny: Virginia is coming off its worst season under London, who has had a pair of 4-8 seasons with one winning season (2011, 8-5) in between. They are currently riding a nine-game losing streak and a 10-game losing streak against FBS teams (which started with a 59-10 loss last season to Oregon). After opening the year with a surprising win over BYU, it was all downhill, save for a win over VMI in between.
Memphis Tigers, Saturday, Sept. 6
  • Coach: Justin Fuente (7-17), third season
  • 2013 record: 3-9, 1-7 American
  • Returning starters: Nine offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: Quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for 2,056 yards and nine touchdowns last year, while adding 127 yards and two scores on the ground. It was just the 10th 2,000-yard passing season in school history and he was just the second freshman in school history to break the 2K passing mark.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive lineman Martin Ifedi has been getting a lot of preseason love, landing on the Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Rotary Lombardi watch lists. He has 20 career sacks, one shy of matching the school record.
  • The skinny: Though there were a lot of losses last season, the Tigers were still pretty competitive in games against Duke, Louisville and BCS darlings UCF. But they ended the year on a low note with blowout losses to Temple and Connecticut. Lynch returns with some experience and a pretty good receiving corps, headlined by fourth-year player Keiwone Malone. The defense should be steady with a good line and a trio of returning linebackers.
Texas Longhorns (in Arlington, Texas), Saturday, Sept. 13
  • Coach: Charlie Strong, first year
  • 2013 record: 8-5, 7-2 Big 12
  • Returning starters: Five offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Malcom Brown rushed for 904 yards and nine touchdowns. He posted five 100-yard rushing performances last year, including 120 yards in the Red River Rivalry win over Oklahoma.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Cedric Reed was third on the team last season with 79 tackles. He also led the team with five forced fumbles and is on the All-Big 12 preseason team and several watch lists.
  • The skinny: The Longhorns are starting anew with the Charlie Strong era. The last time we saw them, the Ducks were escorting Mack Brown into retirement following a 30-7 win in the Alamo Bowl. Texas has some rebuilding to do on the offensive line, with three starters departed. The quarterback spot is also, well, shaky. They also lose their top two tacklers from last season. But there is enough talent at the skill spots and across the defensive line to make this a potentially dangerous game.
Thoughts: For the Bruins to get to where Jim Mora wants them, anything less than 3-0 won't do. Memphis and Virginia are struggling FBS teams -- but FBS teams nonetheless, which will help the Bruins resume. But the Texas game is the one that could bring some national attention to Westwood. A lot of eyes will be on Texas to see what Strong can do with the brand-name program in his first year. A lot of eyes will also be on the Bruins, who will likely be a top 10 team to start the season with Heisman hopeful Brett Hundley at the helm. Things only get tougher for the Bruins, as they leave their nonconference schedule and jump right into a showdown at Arizona State. Then home dates with Oregon, USC and Stanford loom. The Bruins have the DNA to be one of the top teams in the country and possibly advance to the College Football Playoff. A 3-0 nonconference mark puts them on the right path. Anything less knocks them off that path.
Media days are behind us and the road trip resumes!

Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).

Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 8.

Thursday, Oct. 16
  • Utah at Oregon State
Saturday, Oct. 18
  • Stanford at Arizona State
  • Colorado at USC
  • UCLA at California
  • Washington at Oregon
  • BYES: Arizona, Washington State
My choice: Stanford Cardinal at Arizona State Sun Devils

Why: This is another one of those "tough one" weeks. I almost wish the Ducks and Huskies would be playing on Thursday night so we could get both games in. But alas, we have to choose one.

So why this game over the always frosty rivalry of Oregon-Washington? For starters, the Ducks have won 10 in a row over the Huskies -- all by at least 17 points. A decade, people! How many of you have gotten married, had kids, changed jobs in a decade?

I get that it's a big deal. I've been covering the conference long enough to recognize how passionate both of these fan bases are about this game. But at some point Washington needs to show up and make it a rivalry again. Maybe Chris Petersen is the guy to do it. Maybe not. But Washington needs to start being more competitive before we can once again elevate this game to must-see status.

The mailbag is open, Washington fans. Bring it (by the way, I'll be off for a couple of weeks, but I promise I won't ignore your letters of love and encouragement and agreement).

So, to the game at hand… It's a rematch of last year's Pac-12 championship game, which Stanford won 38-14. Of course, the Cardinal also won earlier in the year 42-28 in Palo Alto.

This game features some very intriguing matchups. You have the Cardinal, who are rebuilding their running game with a new committee of running backs and four new offensive linemen. Then you have the Sun Devils on the other side who are rebuilding their defense with nine new starters.

By the time we get to this point in the season, we'll have a better idea of what both of these teams are going to look like. But as of today, it's question mark vs. question mark.

Not a question, however, is the potent potential of ASU's passing attack vs. the Stanford secondary. The Cardinal return three starters in safety Jordan Richards and cornerbacks Wayne Lyons and Alex Carter. They'll be tested by an explosive ASU offense that features quarterback Taylor Kelly, wide receiver Jaelen Strong, running back D.J. Foster (who they also love to use as a slot receiver) and three of five starting linemen.

So you have experience vs. experience.

Is it possible this game ends in a blowout? Of course, there is always a chance. Is it possible that Washington beats Oregon and we got it wrong this week? Sure. But as far as storylines go, this one has a chance for more intrigue -- especially after the defending division champs are feeling a bit slighted after not being picked to repeat.

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