Mailbag: Can Utah go bowling?

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
8:00
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag. Please give this to your car care professional and have an A1 day. If you feel so compelled, click here to follow me on Twitter.

JR in Salt Lake City writes: Of all the (many) bad losses Utah has had since it joined the PAC 12, WSU was, for me, the most puzzling and frustrating loss. I have been a big supporter of Coach Whit and his program, but my patience is starting to dwindle. Utah won the turnover battle, special teams and had a huge lead at home(!) -- the Utes can't lose that game. Assuming Utah continues to lose at the rate it’s been losing in conference play, and doesn't manage to get to six wins, is there any way Coach Whit keeps his job? I think that the answer is no, and I think that is why this loss is so depressing. I don't see three more wins on the schedule. I hope I am wrong.


Kevin Gemmell: First, you are correct. It was a bad loss. I’ve been making the radio rounds this week, including Salt Lake City, and what I’ve been saying is that there are no injury excuses to fall back on this time. You had a healthy quarterback and two opportunities at the end of the game to drive for the win.

On the first drive, which started with 4:51 left in the game, the Utes were only able to move from their 28 to their 49 before failing on fourth down. On the second drive, they moved from their 20 to their 38. There were some bad overthrows by Travis Wilson. But there was also one key drop by the normally sure-handed Dres Anderson.

After the Utes went up 21-0, a wise sportswriter sent out this tweet:


Now, do I think there are three wins out there for Utah? I do. Heck, I think there might even be four. Utah is going to win a game they aren’t supposed to. Because they are a good football team. The defense is stout, the special teams are as good as any in the country and they are getting better at running the football. I’ll be mildly surprised if the Utes don’t make a bowl game this year. I’m eye-balling the road games at Oregon State and at ASU as the two swing games.

And even if the Utes don’t make a bowl game, I don’t see Whittingham getting fired. I think he deserves at least one more year considering all he’s done for the program and having to adjust to life in a Power 5 conference. It doesn’t happen overnight. But if there isn’t more progress after five seasons, then I think we can have that discussion.

But no doubt about it. If Utah wants to be taken seriously, that was the sort of game it needed to win.


Trojan in Michigan in Ann Arbor writes: As someone who's access to Pac 12 games is somewhat limited (except for USC), was Hundley/UCLA's performance really that dominant? Or did ASU forget to pad up for this one? Reading the stat line is why I ask: almost half of Hundley's passing yards came off of 2 throws. There were five UCLA TDs of 80+ yards including the INT and KO returns - the Payton TD came on clearly broken defensive play, didn't see the other run and catch (were they broken too?). Take away those plays and does UCLA look efficient? The backup QB for ASU passed for 488 yards. It doesn't seem like defense was much of a factor here, on either side of the ball. In other words, I'm suspicious of games like these. But I'm also a nervous Trojan fan, fearing that both of these offenses are solid, while taking solace in some out-to-lunch type defenses.

Kevin Gemmell: The “take away” argument doesn’t really work for me. Because you can’t take it away. It happened. And thus it’s part of the game.

But OK, I’ll play along. Let’s take away the two 80-yard touchdowns to Eldridge Massington and Jordan Payton. What are we left with for Brett Hundley? 16-of-22 for 195 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and 72 rushing yards and a score. There’s not a coach in America who would say no to a 72 percent completion percentage, three scores and no turnovers out of his quarterback.

As for the rest of the game, UCLA dominated special teams and they dominated defense. Yards, schmards. You give an offense like ASU's extra possessions, of course they are going to get yards. But yards never won a football game. Keeping the other team off the scoreboard does.

I thought this was a very dominating performance by UCLA.


Brett in Madison, Wis., writes: Hello!We've got team power rankings, and QB power rankings from you all, but if you had to do phase power rankings (i.e. offense, defense, special teams), what would those be at this point in the season?

Kevin Gemmell: As of today? I’ll just hit the top five. Not going based of any rankings. Just my gut from what I’ve seen.

Offense
  1. Oregon
  2. Cal
  3. UCLA
  4. Arizona
  5. Washington State

Shouldn’t be too much debate here. All five of these teams are capable of big numbers.

Defense
  1. Stanford
  2. UCLA
  3. Washington
  4. USC
  5. Oregon

Stanford is clearly No. 1. UCLA is solid from front to back and Washington’s front seven is amazing. USC and Oregon aren’t perfect. But they have the athletes to make up very good units.

Special teams
  1. Utah
  2. UCLA
  3. Washington
  4. Arizona
  5. Stanford

These last two get a little tricky, because the Cardinal are very good at returns and coverage, but not so much in field goals. Arizona is very good at field goals, but not so much in returns. I think the top two are interchangeable and Washington is a slight notch below them.
If you’ve watched any Arizona football this year, you might have noticed that the Wildcats have a penchant for the dramatic.

Sure, the last game comes to mind. And the fact that Arizona scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and needed a 47-yard Hail Mary as the clock expired to beat Cal certainly qualifies as dramatic.

But it wasn’t just that game. After a blowout win in their opener against UNLV, the last three for the Wildcats have been nip-and-tuck. Coach Rich Rodriguez said he’s not sure if there’s a common denominator between this team and being able to win close games. But he’s glad they do.

“I hope it’s the fact that our guys don’t worry or don’t get too concerned about the scoreboard and just play 60 minutes,” Rodriguez said. “Every coach talks about it. We talk about it quite a bit. In fact we talk about it before every game. No matter what happens, we’re going to play for 60 minutes and then we’ll look up and see what the score is.”

As the Wildcats prep for a huge showdown with No. 2 Oregon Thursday night, it’s worth taking a look at the fourth quarter of Arizona’s past three games to see just how tight things got.

Arizona-UTSA win probabilityESPN Stats and Info
Game analysis: At one point, UTSA had a 74 percent probability of winning this game. That was in the second quarter after taking a 14-13 lead. But the Wildcats battled back and took a 26-16 lead into the fourth quarter.

Fourth-quarter analysis: Things got dicey halfway through the final frame. Though Arizona’s probability of winning never dropped below 50 percent, it did dip down to 59.8 when UTSA took over at their own 20 trailing 26-23 with 5:09 left to play.

Tipping point: With the score still at 26-23, UTSA picked up a first down at its own 31. But on second down, Tucker Carter was intercepted by Jared Tevis. UTSA’s win probability dropped to 3 percent.

Arizona, NevadaESPN Stats & Infomation
Game analysis: Despite jumping out to a 3-0 lead, Nevada never had better than a 43.6 percent chance of winning this game. The metrics account for Arizona being at home and the fact that the Wildcats can score a silly amount of points. They built a 21-6 lead in the second quarter, but Nevada came back to tie things up in the third, making things a little more uncomfortable than the home team probably would have liked.

Fourth-quarter analysis: Of the three games we’re examining here, this was the easiest fourth quarter for the Wildcats. Even after Nevada pulled to within a touchdown with 6:01 to play, its odds of winning never reached above 16.9 percent.

Tipping point: After Anu Solomon connected with Cayleb Jones on a 24-yard touchdown strike five seconds into the fourth quarter, Arizona’s win probability shot up from 63 percent to 94.4. But as the next graphic will show us, every second counts.

Arizona, CalESPN Stats and Info
Game analysis: By virtue of being home, Arizona started with a 62.5 percent chance of winning. But as Cal scored point after point, that probability dropped down to the 3- and 4-percent range. Then, wackiness ensued.

Fourth quarter analysis: Even as the Wildcats began their march toward erasing a 31-16 deficit, their win probability rarely spiked. The closest they got was a 41.6 probability when Solomon and Jones hooked up for 15 yards with 2:44 left to play, cutting Cal’s lead to 45-43. That dropped almost seven percentage points after the failed two-point conversion.

Tipping point: Just before the "Hill Mary," Cal’s chances of winning were 87.9 percent. One play changed it all. Solomon and Austin Hill wrote themselves into Arizona lore with an iconic play that will fill highlight videos for years to come.

#4Pac: Best final record among Week 5 losers?

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
5:00
PM ET
Your humble #4Pac welcomes you to another installment of what will be a regular feature on the Pac-12 blog. Here's how it works: We take one question or one topic, or maybe it's some other really cool format that we haven't even thought of yet, and all contribute our thoughts.

Have a suggestion for something we should address in a future #4Pac roundtable? Go ahead and send it to our mailbag.

Today, we're identifying which of the teams that lost in Week 5 -- Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah and Washington -- will finish with the best record and why.

Ted Miller/@TedMillerRK: I like Arizona State, though a lot depends on what happens over the next month. That includes not only a rugged schedule -- at USC, Stanford, at Washington -- but also how soon starting QB Taylor Kelly returns to action after a foot injury. While those two road dates are daunting, keep in mind the Sun Devils are 7-3 in Pac-12 road games under coach Todd Graham. While ASU once was notoriously poor on the road, that is no longer the case -- see the big win over UCLA last season, among others. Also, if the Sun Devils can steal one or two wins over their next three games, they have a forgiving home stretch in which they could close with five consecutive wins. In terms of this question, the key game figures to be that visit to Washington Oct. 25. The winner there probably will gain some legs in the pecking order for bowl games.

David Lomardi/@LombardiESPN: I think Washington is the heavy favorite here. Colorado is already too far behind, record-wise, to be a serious contender, while Arizona State and Utah both face daunting road schedules the rest of the way. The Huskies, meanwhile, are a certain road underdog in only one game the rest of the way -- an Oct. 18 date at Oregon. So Washington will have plenty of chances to pad its record within the friendly confines of Husky Stadium and at winnable locations on the road. Here’s more: Of the teams in question, the Huskies seem to have the strongest defensive front seven, and that usually lends itself to stability down the stretch. If Chris Petersen’s secondary can maintain the improvement from last week, one must assume the Huskies will be on solid ground. The best news for Cyler Miles and the struggling offense: They won’t have to face that monstrous Stanford defense anymore from here on out. That’s a big boost.

Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell: There’s one thing that sets Washington apart from these other schools. And that’s defense.

No doubt, the Huskies have been inconsistent on offense. And there are starting to be some rumblings about whether Miles is really the right guy to lead the program. Petersen says, and I agree, that he needs a little time to grow into the role. He’s athletic enough and I think he’s going to be fine.

As has been said many times on the Pac-12 blog, the Washington front seven is vicious. With Danny Shelton and Hau'oli Kikaha getting in the backfield and Shaq Thompson playing like the defensive player of the year in the league, the Huskies' defense is going to keep them in games. The numbers are still a little skewed from the Eastern Washington debacle. But they’ll come around.

Here’s another reason, though it’s not quite as sexy as tackles for loss and sacks. Korey Durkee is a really, really good punter. He’s averaging 42.4 yards per punt and is tied for the conference high at 65 yards. When you have a guy who can swing field position that dramatically -- and a defense that can bury teams -- you’re going to win more than you lose.

Scanning the schedule, as of today, I think they probably lose to Oregon and UCLA. I think they probably beat Colorado and Oregon State. That leaves four 50-50 games. And if the offense can come around, there’s no reason to think this team can’t finish with nine or maybe 10 wins. The 13th game helps, of course.

Chantel Jennings/@ChantelJennings: If we’re just going off conference totals, then I’m going with Oregon State, assuming Beavers wide receiver Victor Bolden is back by the time Oregon State plays Utah. (If Bolden is out longer than that, then I'm with UW.) However, the Beavers have the more favorable home slate and a quarterback in Sean Mannion who -- even though he looked all out of sorts against USC -- is going to be able to lead this team to some upsets. I don’t necessarily feel that way about Miles, though I do think most of UW’s wins will be low-scoring affairs and will be more indicative of the defense's power than the offense's.
Tags:

Pac-12

Video: Class rankings Oct. 1 update

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
3:00
PM ET
video

National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert breaks down updates to the ESPN class rankings for 2015 football recruiting. Two top-10 classes from the SEC East added ESPN 300 prospects Friday.
[+] EnlargeIshmael Adams
AP Photo/Matt YorkUCLA's Ishmael Adams has two interception returns for touchdowns already this season.
In what has been the closest voting in our (OK, three-week-long) feature for the Pac-12 Blog's Play of the Week, UCLA defensive back Ishmael Adams came away with the win for his pick-six against Arizona State. USC's Hail Mary finished in second and Washington State wide receiver Vince Mayle and Cal running back Daniel Lasco tied for third. Not far behind in fifth was Stanford's Ty Montgomery.

But hey, everyone is a winner because if there's a weekend in which Montgomery's bowling-ball TD is the fifth-most-impressive play, that must mean the weekend was jam-packed with great football. Take that, SEC.

Now, on to our favorite part of this feature: viewer and reader reactions. We asked the Twitterverse to best express their reaction or description of Adams' play in 140 characters or less.

From the UCLA supporters:

From the Arizona State contingent:
“Catastrophic” is the word Arizona State coach Todd Graham used to describe when his team gives up a non-offensive touchdown -- be it defensive or special teams. After last week’s catastrophe against UCLA, he seems qualified to weigh in on the subject. His Sun Devils gave up a 95-yard interception return and a 100-yard kickoff return against the Bruins in last week’s 62-27 loss.

[+] EnlargeIshmael Adams
AP Photo/Matt YorkIshmael Adams scored two of his three return touchdowns last week against Arizona State.
That brings up one of the more interesting sidebars to this week’s South Division showdown between the Bruins and the Utah Utes. Both teams have benefited greatly from getting non-offensive points. The Utes are headlined by return man Kaelin Clay, who leads the conference in punt return average (26.1 yards per return) and has scored four special teams touchdowns -- three punts and one kickoff.

The Bruins aren’t too shabby themselves in the special teams department. Ishmael Adams leads the conference in kickoff return average (28.2 yards per return) and has returned one for a touchdown. He also has a pair of interceptions returned for a touchdown. He provided both non-offensive touchdowns for the Bruins last week.

“You look at our league, it’s scary each week,” Graham said. “You look at the punt returners and kick returners, every week you’ve got dynamic guys. It’s a challenge. Those are momentum shifts that are catastrophic. When you have them, they are great momentum changes. They are immeasurable.”

The Bruins have scored five non-offensive touchdowns this season. Three have come by way of interception, one was a fumble return and the last was the Adams kick return. Utah also has five -- four on special teams and one defensive.

So the chore facing UCLA coach Jim Mora and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham this week is to find ways to neutralize Clay and Adams in the kicking game. Whether that’s directional kicking, kicking away from them all together or simply putting faith in their coverage units, both coaches recognize the explosive potential of the other’s return man.

“We kickoff to whoever,” Mora said. “We have one of the best kickoff coverage units in college football. We have not given up a single yard yet in four games in punt return.

“Now, [Clay] is special. I don’t know if we’ll be able to say that after this game. We don’t really change what we do. We have tremendous respect for him. But we don’t want to go too far away from what our core principles and foundation are.”

The odds of winning go up dramatically when scoring a non-offensive touchdown. But that doesn’t always mean victory is assured. Like the Bruins last week, the Utes also scored a defensive touchdown and a special teams touchdown. Yet despite the 58-yard punt return from Clay and an 11-yard pick-six from Eric Rowe, they still fell 28-27 at home to Washington State, which erased a 21-0 first-quarter deficit.

“It’s a major impact in the momentum and flow of a game,” Whittingham said. “For whatever reason, it’s a bigger boost and a bigger lift when you score a non-offensive touchdown. It has more of an impact on your team. It seems like more of a momentum type play than a touchdown from your offense. It can really turn a game and help you out. But we obviously came up short last week.”

Turnovers should be on both coaches’ minds this week. Recall last year the Bruins narrowly escaped Rice-Eccles with a 34-27 victory after Travis Wilson threw six interceptions. Granted, not all of them were his fault. There were drops and tips and missed routes. But “interceptions” aren’t a receiving category.

And whether it’s on special teams or defense, Whittingham is well-aware of what Adams is capable of.

“You try to not to get the ball in his hands,” Whittingham said. “We have a directional punter in Tom Hackett; he’s able to put the ball in various locations on the field. We hope to keep it out of his hands. We don’t know if we can do that all the time, but we hope to minimize it. He’s a dangerous player. He’s very explosive. You’d be crazy to just kick right to him. That doesn’t make sense.”
Chances are, most people aren’t going to stay awake until 10:30 ET to watch two unranked Pac-12 teams -- who might or might not be playing in the postseason -- on a non-national network this Saturday night.

That’s a darn shame.

Because while there are plenty of match ups that have national-title and conference-race implications (No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Misssissippi State, No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU, No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State ... to name a few) Washington State-California might be the most exciting game this weekend that no one is talking about.

Here are five reasons why you should stay up and find a way to watch.

1. Quarterback firepower.

My apologies to Dak Prescott and Kenny Hill, but this is likely going to be the most impressive output from two quarterbacks on a single field this weekend. And yes, California QB Jared Goff and Colorado QB Sefo Liufau combined for 913 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes last weekend, but this weekend's pairing is even better. Goff is going to be on the same field as Connor Halliday, who makes 458 yards -- what Goff threw for last weekend -- look like a run-of-the-mill Saturday (he’s averaging 464 passing yards per game this season). Could we see the 1,000 combined passing-yard threshold broken? Absolutely. Could we see 110 pass attempts? Possibly. This game is going to have opportunity after opportunity for big plays from these quarterbacks and their wide receivers (and defensive backs who want to prove themselves).

[+] EnlargeLeach/Dykes
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsWashington State coach Mike Leach (left) and Cal coach Sonny Dykes have a relationship that goes back to their days at Kentucky in the late 1990s.
2. Speaking of Goff ...

Most of the preseason was spent hyping up the quarterbacks who headline this conference -- the Marcus Mariota's, the Brett Hundley's, the Sean Mannion's, the Halliday's. Well, those guys aren’t going to be playing in the Pac-12 next year. But Goff? He’s got another two years in Berkeley. He already has Cal at triple its win total from a year ago and has made major strides from his freshman to his sophomore season. Imagine the leaps and bounds he’ll make to his junior and senior seasons. And rather than jumping on the “Hey, this kid is really good,” bandwagon then, wouldn’t you like to see where the foundation is being built? He’s going to be a QB you love or love to hate (if he’s beating up on your teams in the coming years), so get to know him now.

3. #AirRaid4Eva

Cal coach Sonny Dykes and Washington State coach Mike Leach both come from the school of Hal Mumme. Leach was the offensive coordinator under Mumme at Kentucky from 1997-98. In 1997 Dykes was a graduate assistant and tight ends coach at Kentucky and in 1999 he coached the special teams and wide receivers. When Leach left for Texas Tech in 2000, he brought Dykes with him. From 2000-2006 Dykes was the wide receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator (2005-06), so if you’re a fan of Mumme, the Air Raid, or passing in general, there’s no game that’ll better display those aspects than Cal-Washington State. “We all have our roots in the Air Raid,” Dykes said. “Mike has done a great job of scoring points and moving the ball. He does it year after year after year. ... All of our roots come from the same place.” Everyone loves a good storyline, and because of how well these two coaches know each other and their offenses, there’s a good chance we’re going to see some really interesting play-calling.

4. You’re going to want to know these teams even if you're not a fan of them

Down the road, Cal has Oregon, Stanford, Washington and USC. Washington State, on the other hand, has Stanford, USC and Arizona State. Chances are one of these two teams could throw a wrench into someone's Pac-12 title hopes. Stanford and Arizona State already have conference losses to their names and USC has shown how much of a Jekyll-Hyde team it really is. Oregon hasn’t stumbled yet, but there are areas to exploit, especially with a patchwork offensive line. That being said, the Cougars or Golden Bears could be a deciding factor into which teams make it to the Pac-12 title game even if they don't contend for it themselves.

5. You should Tweet/Facebook/text about it.

Because if you do, you can help grow Leach’s fear for the end of humanity as we know it. And who doesn’t want to jump on that bandwagon?

Grantland: The Quiet Genius

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
9:58
AM ET
Out on the dangling elbow of the Oregon coast, in a port town set against the Coos River, a teacher named Bruce Bryant sometimes points to a photograph affixed to a bulletin board in his classroom. “Hey,” he’ll ask his students. “Do you know who that is?”

The quarterback in the photo is wearing the bright purple no. 14 jersey of Marshfield High, the institution most of Bryant’s eighth-grade students will attend. Twenty-two years after graduating from Marshfield, the player in the photo occupies perhaps the most high-profile job in the state; he was endowed with more hair back in those days, but even if he’d suffered from male-pattern baldness as an adolescent, Bryant isn’t sure he’d be any more recognizable. None of his students has ever correctly named the passer.

“That,” they say, when Bryant reveals the answer, “is the coach at Oregon?”

To read the full story, click here.

Pac-12 morning links

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
8:00
AM ET
"It says here breakfast anytime?"
"That's right."
"I'll have the pancakes in the Age of Enlightenment please."

Leading off

It's depth-chart Wednesday. As we do every week, here are the links to the teams playing this week followed by any significant notes. Washington is on bye this week, so we'll update the Huskies next week. The other 11 teams are in action. UCLA is the only team that doesn't do a weekly depth chart. Enjoy! Notes
  • At Arizona, despite being listed the first four weeks as a potential starter at strong linebacker, Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea is officially off the depth chart after announcing his transfer. He didn't record a tackle in the first four games (depth charts are so awesome!).
  • At Cal, Y receiver Stephen Anderson has dropped the "or" next to his name with Darius Powe.
  • At Colorado, Jimmie Gilbert moves into the starting spot at right defensive end.
  • At Oregon, it looks like there are two scenarios for whether Jake Fisher returns this week. It's either Fisher at LT, or Tyrell Crosby. If Crosby moves, Matt Pierson moves from left to right tackle. In special teams, Thomas Tyner is listed as the first kick returner and Charles Nelson is listed first at punt returns.
  • At Oregon State, Siale Hautau moves in at left tackle for the injured Jalen Grimble (see story below). And it looks like Trevor Romaine is back to full-time kicking status.
  • At Washington State, Sulaiman Hameed moves up to start at strong safety, while Darius Lemora moves to free safety.
Heisman chatter

The Heisman Pundit has released its weekly straw poll. As always, it is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters. And despite a bye week, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't slipped a bit. Here are the results of this week's poll. Mariota received seven of the 10 first place votes.
  1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon -- 23 (7)
  2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia -- 18 (3)
  3. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M -- 7
  4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama -- 5
  5. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska -- 4
  6. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin -- 2
  7. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State -- 1
Chip Patterson of CBS also weighs in on Mariota and notes that Brett Hundley climbed back into the conversation with his performance against ASU.

Tune in

Yours truly joined ESPN Radio 1080 The Fan in Portland last night if you're aching for some pod.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

USA Today wants to know which team has the best helmets? ASU and Oregon are in the discussion.

Speaking of the Ducks, their unis for this week.

Pac-12 by the numbers: Week 6

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
6:00
PM ET
Here's another look at random stats pertaining to the Pac-12.

Thursday

Arizona at No. 2 Oregon
  • Oregon has scored 50 points off turnovers, the most in the Pac-12.
  • Oregon QB Marcus Mariota's 13 touchdowns without an interception are the most in the country. He went 10 games without a pick to start last season and had 25 touchdowns before finally throwing one ... against Arizona.
  • Arizona leads the Pac-12 and is sixth nationally averaging 593.8 yards per game.
  • Oregon ranks No. 1 in the nation in yards per play (8.14).
  • Arizona QB Anu Solomon's 1,454 passing yards in the second most among freshmen in the country.
Saturday

No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame
  • Stanford ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring defense (6.5 points per game), total defense (198.o ypg) and passing defense (74 ypg). The Cardinal defense has allowed just two touchdowns in four games.
  • The Stanford defense's average starting field position (21.6-yard line) is the most advantageous in the country.
  • Stanford's Peter Kalambayi is the only player in the Pac-12 with more than two sacks and an interception.
California at Washington State
  • More penalties have been committed against WSU (41) than any other team in the Pac-12 -- 24 of those have come with the WSU defense on the field.
  • Cal ranks No. 5 in the country in scoring offense (47.5 ppg).
  • WSU QB Connor Halliday has attempted 60 more pass than anyone else in the country. He's also the national leader in completions (201), passing yards (2,318) and passing touchdowns (20).
  • Cal's Jared Goff isn't far behind Halliday. He's ninth in the country averaging 337 yards passing per game and his touchdown/interception ratio of 17 to 3 is among the best in the country.
  • Against FBS teams, Cal and WSU have combined to score 72.5 points per game and allow a total of 75.5 points per game.
Oregon State at Colorado
  • Oregon State ranks No. 16 in the country in total defense (306.5) and No. 2 in the Pac-12.
  • Oregon State (18) and Colorado (17) rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the country in total first downs received from opposing penalties.
  • Colorado's 138 first downs ranks No. 2 in the country behind only Texas A&M.
  • After catching 19 passes and three touchdowns against Cal, Colorado WR Nelson Spruce leads the country in receptions (56), receiving yards (697) and receiving touchdowns (10).
  • The 123 yards Oregon State QB Sean Mannion threw for against USC last week was the least he'd ever thrown for in a game he started.
Arizona State at No. 16 USC
  • USC's turnover margin (plus-seven) is sixth-best in the country; ASU (plus-one) is tied for No. 52.
  • ASU is the least-penalized team in the Pac-12 (5.5 per game).
  • USC QB Cody Kessler's 10 touchdowns without an interception are the second-most in the country behind only Mariota.
  • ASU WR Jaelen Strong has accounted for 33.3 percent of the Sun Devils' receptions, the second-most in the Pac-12.
  • ASU RB D.J. Foster averages 5.02 yards per carry before contact, which is the most among Pac-12 running backs.
Utah at No. 8 UCLA
  • Both defenses -- Utah (75.5 yards to goal) ranks No. 8 and UCLA (75.1) is No. 11 -- have an average starting field position that ranks among the country's best.
  • Utah's Kaelin Clay leads the nation with four return touchdowns -- only two other players have at least two.
  • Utah's Andy Phillips is one of two kickers in the country who has made at least five field goals from 40-plus yards.
  • With 47 tackles, three for loss, a pick-six and a forced fumble, UCLA LB Eric Kendricks is making a strong case for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
  • UCLA RB Paul Perkins has 214 yards rushing after contact, the second-most in the Pac-12 behind only ASU's D.J. Foster (224).
Past weeks
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5

Week 5 Pac-12 QB Power Rankings

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
2:00
PM ET
GoffEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesCal QB Jared Goff has 17 touchdown passes in four games. He had 18 last season.
The Pac-12 typically has great quarterbacks and good depth at the position, but the 2014 season is particularly stacked behind center. With a few All-American candidates and early NFL draft picks, it’s almost difficult to keep up with who’s doing what to which secondary.

No worries. We’ve got you covered. Each week, we will provide you a top-five ranking of the Pac-12 QBs.

Now, it won’t always be a 1 to 5 ranking according to the expected pecking order at season’s end or NFL draft lists. It will react heavily to the preceding week. And we’ll try to spread some love.



Inactive Week 4: Marcus Mariota, Oregon; Anu Solomon, Arizona.

To see last week’s rankings, click here.
video 
Entering Week 6 of the college football season, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Georgia running back Todd Gurley have separated themselves as the front-runners for the Heisman. This week, Pac-12 reporter Chantel Jennings and SEC reporter Edward Aschoff engage in a friendly (-ish) debate regarding the two players:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesOregon QB Marcus Mariota is dangerous with his feet or his arm.
Jennings: Mariota is the best player in college football right now. The only thing that could derail that fact would be if his offensive line can’t keep it together and continues to put up performances like it did against Washington State, in which it allowed seven sacks. But when we come to the Mariota-Gurley Heisman talk, I’m really interested to see what your argument is, Edward. Mariota is a machine. As a quarterback, he has the highest passer efficiency rating in the nation. There are only 10 quarterbacks in the country who haven’t thrown a pick yet, and none of those signal-callers has thrown more than 10 touchdowns. Mariota has thrown 13. Then, look at his feet. He doesn’t even play running back but he still has about a third of Gurley’s rushing yardage and half the number of rushing touchdowns (Mariota: 214 yards, three touchdowns; Gurley: 610 yards, six touchdowns). Please, Ed, let’s hear your side ...

Aschoff: Listen, Mariota is a heck of a player. I think he's hands down the best quarterback in the country and should be the first quarterback taken in next year's NFL draft. With that said, he's no Gurley. He's a machine, yes, but he's more of a Prius compared to the Cadillac Escalade with a V-8 that Gurley is. The scary thing about Georgia's junior running back is that he's slimmed down yet he looks bigger. He's faster and more agile yet he's stronger. Gurley can bowl his opponents over, sprint to the outside and take a run to the house, or he can leave defenders dizzy with his elusiveness. Gurley has 610 rushing yards, but he should have even more. His coaches limited him to just six carries against Troy (73 yards), and the argument could be made that his 28 carries (career-high 208 yards) against Tennessee on Saturday weren't enough. Oh, and did I mention that this tank of a human being is averaging a gaudy 8.8 yards per carry and that out of his 69 carries this season he has just 11 lost yards? Take Gurley off Georgia's team and the Bulldogs aren't 1-1 in SEC play. You really think Mariota is better than that? He's flashier than that? Come on.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley, Georgia
David Goldman/AP ImagesGeorgia RB Todd Gurley has a rare blend of speed and power.
Jennings: First off, most people in the Pacific Northwest would rather be a Prius than an Escalade. Sure, an Escalade might look fancier and be in more music videos, but at the end of the day, don't you want the vehicle that doesn't require maintenance every other month? The vehicle that doesn't need to stop every 40 miles to fill up the tank? A vehicle that so many other vehicles of the future are going to be based on?

Anyway, back to the nitty-gritty, which is yes, when it comes to the facts, Mariota is better than that. His pass attempt-to-touchdown ratio is the best in the country: every 7.4 times the ball leaves his hands, it's ending up in the end zone. OK, fine. Gurley doesn't pass the ball. Let's talk about running again. Every 11.5 carries, Gurley ends up in the end zone. Guess what? Every 11 carries, Mariota finds his way there. He has the highest completion percentage of any quarterback in the country. And he has already led his team to a victory over a top-10 team this season. Everyone can agree a Prius is more efficient than an Escalade, and in football, it's good to be efficient. That's exactly what Mariota is.

Aschoff: I see what you did there with the Prius and the Escalade. But if I need someone to bust through a brick wall and grind out that extra yard -- or three -- I'm handing it off to that environment-destroying driving machine. While we're talking about rushing, which is Gurley's specialty, he's already had 19 runs of 10 or more yards in just four games. If you're keeping score at home, that's 4.8 of those runs per game. Two of those runs went for 51 yards. What has Mariota done? He has 11 of those runs and hasn't even touched a 50-yard scamper yet. And it should be noted that Gurley is excellent when he takes contact. It seems to make him better. He drags defenders with him like Linus drags his blanket. Heading into last week, he was the only player in the country to average more than 100 yards after contact in multiple games (102 vs. Clemson and South Carolina). In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, Gurley was incredible against an improved Tennessee team. He ran for a career-high 208 yards (and now he has 16 career 100-yard rushing games), had two touchdowns, registered 30 receiving yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry. How good was he? Well, Tennessee had so little confidence in its defense stopping him late in the game that it attempted an onside kick with two minutes left and three timeouts remaining in order to try to keep the ball away from him. All Gurley did after that was run the clock out with 26 rushing yards on six carries.

But hey, that Mariota performance over Washington State was cool and all ...

Jennings: You're right. I'll give you that. Washington State might not be better than a 2-2 Tennessee team that has already given up 4.4 yards per rush this season (cough, cough, No. 81 in the nation in that category). But it's not fair to look at the most recent performance since the slates are so different. Let's look at both players' best wins so far. Gurley's was against Clemson in the season opener, no? He carried the ball 15 times, scored thrice and accounted for 198 rushing yards and minus-5 receiving yards. That's cool. Mariota's best win was Week 2 against Michigan State, a game in which he threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns and added nine rushes for 42 yards. Michigan State is one of the best defenses in the country. Clemson isn't even one of the top three in the ACC. Now, I know I was an English major and all, but 360 yards of total offense plus three touchdowns is still bigger than 193 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, right?

Aschoff: That Michigan State (still the Big Ten, though) win was huge, and Mariota was great. I'll give that to you. And Clemson, well, #Clemsoning took over a couple of weeks ago. But don't sleep on what Gurley did against Tennessee and South Carolina. The numbers aren't exactly helping the Gamecocks, but that was a great game, and Gurley did everything he could have ... when his coach wasn't throwing the ball on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Gurley averaged 6.6 yards per carry in that game, on the road. Before Gurley faced Tennessee, the Vols were allowing 3.9 yards per carry. Then Gurley went all Gurley on the Vols.

Both of these players are great, and you have a chance to win any game with either. I want the bulldozer in the backfield who can grind out yards or take it to the house. The good thing is that this debate should rage on because they'll have plenty of opportunities to make us both look good going forward.

Campaign trail: UCLA Bruins

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:11
AM ET
Which teams will make the College Football Playoff? Ultimately, the selection committee will decide. Until then, there will be a lot of campaigning. Each week we'll unveil what we think one team's campaign message should be. Take a look at past posters here.

After a week off following a too-close-for-comfort win against Texas (during which quarterback Brett Hundley was injured), UCLA silenced critics that questioned the team's strength with a conference road win at then-No. 15 Arizona State. Hundley and the Bruins looked like the top-10 team they were heading into the season, and the AP voters agreed. The Bruins jumped from No. 11 to No. 8 in the latest poll and can continue to climb with strong performances against Utah and Oregon in the coming weeks.

UCLAIllustration by Sam Ho

Vote: Pac-12 play of the Week

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
10:00
AM ET
We should know better by now. On weekend’s when not much should happen, EVERYTHING WILL HAPPEN. And it happened this weekend. There are quite a few awesome plays up for the Pac-12 Blog’s Play of the Week (and even more that just didn’t make the cut -- we can only have five, sorry guys) and now it’s your turn to vote for which was the best of the best.

Montgomery goes bowling

Ty MontgomeryAP Photo/Elaine Thompson


Every wonder what it’s like to be a human blocking sled? Well, Washington sophomore defensive back Trevor Walker discovered that on Saturday as Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery literally bowled him into the end zone. One defender approached Montgomery around the 8-yard line. He collided with Montgomery and flew out of bounds (that’s not how tackling is supposed to happen). Then Walker met up with Montgomery at the 5-yard line before being bulldozed into the end zone. I think we can all agree -- that’s how linemen and some fullbacks play. Wide receivers? Nah. Unless your name is Ty Montgomery.

Definitely, Mayle

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Washington State mounted a surprising comeback in the second half against Utah after going down 21-0 early and still training by 17 at the half. But an 81-yard touchdown by Washington State receiver Vince Mayle tied everything up in Salt Lake City (the extra point gave the Cougars their final margin for victory). With just about five minutes left in the game, QB Connor Halliday hit Mayle on the slant. Mayle got by one defender before a fellow receiver threw a perfect block to spring him, untouched, another 55 yards into the end zone.

Call me Ishmael

Ishmael Adams AP Photo/Matt York


With UCLA leading by just three points and the first half nearly coming to a close, UCLA defensive back Ishmael Adams managed to pick off Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici at the 5-yard line and returned it 95 yards for the score. Later in the game Adams would return a kick off 100 yards for a score, which is also ridiculous, but, the Bruins already had a hefty lead at that point and the Pac-12 writers decided to give the edge to the pick-six that totally deflated the ASU team before heading into the half.

Hail Mary 2.0

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After Arizona beat Cal last week on a Hail Mary, USC threw one of its own against Oregon State. With the clock expiring before halftime and the Trojans only leading by four points, USC quarterback Cody Kessler scrambled around the pocket for a bit before he launched a 48-yard pass to the end zone where it found the hands of sophomore wide receiver Darreus Rogers. USC would go on to win the game by 25 points, but this play was certainly deflating for a the Beavers, who had shown signs of possible upset material early in the game.

Let’s go Lasco

LascoEzra Shaw/Getty Images


Cal junior running back Daniel Lasco recorded the first “receiving” touchdown of his career on Saturday, though most of his work was put in on the ground. He snatched a pass from Cal QB Jared Goff before taking off down field. Before he even reached the 20-yard line there was a point in which there were five Colorado defenders circling in on him. He plowed through that group somehow before outrunning another two guys and finding the end zone. Not only was it ridiculously impressive to beat seven defenders head-to-head in a single play, it was also record setting -- the 92-yard receiving touchdown was the longest passing play for a TD in Cal football history.

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Who had the play of the week in the Pac-12?

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
10:00
AM ET
video 
USC's impact visitor list, Stanford's statement in the Evergreen State, UCLA's major opportunity and a sophomore quarterback at his best under the bright lights are a few of the highlights from the recruiting weekend in the Pac-12 conference.

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