Pac-12: Arizona Wildcats

#4Pac: Pick your Pac-12 South favorite

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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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 trying to make sense of the Pac-12 South as we head into the home stretch. Who's your favorite the win the division?

David Lombardi/@LombardiESPN:

SportsNation

Who is your favorite to win the Pac-12 South?

  •  
    32%
  •  
    15%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    24%
  •  
    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,148)

As you may have noticed, "minefield" has been my description of choice for the Pac-12 South. So this is a dangerous question to answer.

Personally, I'm a "defense wins championships" guy, so I'll work with a process of elimination here: ASU hasn't yet proven they can consistently play sturdy defense (don't get too excited about shutting down Stanford's unimpressive 2014 offense), USC takes critical stretches off on that side of the ball (see their Hail Mary defense), Arizona has also been leaky, and UCLA has battled defensive discipline issues all season long.

That leaves me with Utah, a team leading the nation with 5.5 sacks per game and on pace for a record 71.5 sacks, as the only consistent defensive choice. Combine that with Devontae Booker's excellent running, and it becomes apparent that the Utes are the team with the necessary stability to be considered Pac-12 South favorites.

Chantel Jennings/@ChantelJennings:

I see it coming down to the winner of Arizona State-Arizona. And (drum roll please) in that matchup, I'd have to go with the Wildcats. I think Rich Rodriguez has enough talent on the field and trickery in his playbook to come away with a win in that game. The game is at Arizona so that would be going against the grain of road teams winning matchups, which makes sense. Arizona's defense has been suspect at times this season, but I think that group will begin making some major strides, but at the end of the day this is going to be about what offense is going to put the most points on the board. I think we're going to see a group of young players like Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson carry the banner for the Pac-12 South. It's going to be one heck of a rematch at Levi's Stadium when the Wildcats take on Oregon. That's a game I wouldn't mind seeing again.

Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell:

I mentioned this earlier in the week on our Spreecast. Utah reminds me a lot of Stanford in 2012. They are a team that isn't getting a ton of production out of the quarterback position, but they are winning on strength of a running game, good defense and efficient special teams play.

I know, I know. The upcoming schedule looks brutal. But we've seen that this year's Utes can handle the road -- something previous editions haven't been particularly good at. Booker's emergence (563 yards, five touchdowns in his last three games) has been enough to sustain an offense that has struggled in the air.

Defensively, this might be the best overall unit in the conference. Nate Orchard is a backfield menace and Gionni Paul has quietly been one of the best middle linebackers in the league. The secondary is hunting and the special teams are top notch. Tom Hackett has done an outstanding job flipping the field and anytime the Utes get in or around the 30-yard line, it's almost guaranteed points, courtesy of "Automatic" Andy Phillips.

The South is a mess right now. And you could easily make an argument for five teams to win the league. And you wouldn't be wrong about any of them. So why not Utah?

Kyle Bonagura/@BonaguraESPN

The fact that you can make a legitimate case for five teams to win the South means there isn't an obvious favorite. Best tie-breaker?

Remaining schedule ... and that clearly favors USC.

At 4-1 in conference play, the Trojans are two wins up on Arizona (2-1), Utah (2-1) and UCLA (2-2) and one on Arizona State (3-1). We've already established there are no easy games in the Pac-12, so that they're already at four is significant. And with that understood, their remaining slate -- at Utah, at Washington State, home against Cal, at UCLA -- is the most manageable.

Take Utah for example. The Utes have six more conference games -- USC, at Arizona State, Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, at Colorado -- so while there's a good chance they beat USC on Saturday, their road to the division title is significantly more difficult. The other three teams face similar futures, which leaves USC with the best shot to emerge.

Pac-12 mailbag: South rising

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Welcome to the mailbag. I pray come and crush a cup of wine. And follow me on Twitter.

Arthur in Poulsbo, Washington writes: If the Sun Devils win the rest of their games (big if), do you think the UCLA game with Bercovici's first start, will hurt their chances in getting into the playoffs?

Kevin Gemmell: I think a one-loss Pac-12 champion is a lock, whether that's ASU, Arizona, Utah or Oregon.

But since you're talking about ASU specifically, let's look at the schedule: at Washington (a team that started the year ranked), vs. Utah (a top 20 team as of this week), versus Notre Dame (a top 10 team this week), at Oregon State, versus WSU and at Arizona (a top 15 team).

Combine all of that with the fact they have already beaten two ranked teams and their lone loss was at home to No. 11 (at the time), I think the Playoff Selection Committee would look very, very favorably on the Sun Devils for going 11-1.

Here's the catch, they probably won't. And Arizona and Utah probably wouldn't go 11-1, either (they all play each other, anyway). Oregon has the "easiest" road the rest of the way, so the Ducks might end up with just one loss. But would you be shocked if they didn't? I sure wouldn't be.

A one-loss Pac-12 champion is a sure-thing. Take it to the bank. It gets dicey with a 2-loss team. But even that I think might be safe -- if the committee members truly take depth of conference and strength of schedule into account.

This is a brave and scary new world we're entering. Year 1 will go a long way toward setting some precedents.




Derek in Cedar Rapids, Iowa writes: Well, that was a brutal display by the Cardinal offense on Saturday! My question has to do with the explanation that Stanford is lacking a 220-pound back to run between the tackles, and that is the reason that the offense is so poor. Yes, Tyler Gaffney always seemed to fall forward for an extra yard last year, but how much of this has to do with an offensive line that is not (yet) living up to its recruiting rankings? If the blocking is what it needs to be, shouldn't Remound Wright, Barry Sanders and company be able to hit the hole for nice, positive gains? In other words, how much of this struggle has to do with the revamped offensive line, rather than Gaffney joining Stepfan Taylor and Toby Gerhart in the NFL?

Gemmell: The answer to your question is yes, and yes. Yes, the Cardinal have not found a reliable back to give them, at least, 15 carries a game consistently. And yes, the offensive line has not lived up to the considerable hype it garnered when these guys were first recruited.

Does that mean they never will? Of course not. Remember, Andrus Peat is the only returning starter of the bunch. The rest of them -- while having seen a little playing time in the past -- are first-year starters.

But it's not all on the line. Because in Stanford's scheme, pass protection is a huge responsibility for the backs. And none of them have excelled in that department. For as outstanding as Gaffney and Taylor were at carrying the load, they were also very good at reading defenses and picking up blitzes. This wouldn't have happened in those days. Or this.

It is a combination of everything all snowballing into an avalanche of offensive inefficiency. You take an inexperienced line, combine it with backs who haven't done a great job in pass protection/getting extra yards and a quarterback who hasn't played particularly well, and you have the worst offense in the conference.




Mark in Phoenix writes: It was a dominating weekend for the Pac 12 South over the North. Is it too soon to remove the justifier of "so far" and declare that the Pac 12 South is better than the North?

Gemmell: By my count, the Pac-12 South is 7-4 against the North in their 11 inter-division matchups this year. Advantage, South.

Five of the six Pac-12 South teams are ranked, compared to just one team from the North. Advantage, South.

Every team but Oregon in the North has at least two conference losses, while the South has four teams with one conference loss and another with two. Advantage South.

The North has Oregon, the league's highest-ranked team at No. 6 and likely the Pac-12's best chance at making the College Football Playoff. Advantage, North.

Yes, the South is clearly the dominant division right now. That will sort itself out in the coming weeks with showdowns like USC at Utah, Arizona at UCLA and Utah at ASU. And then there are the rivalry games at the end of the year.

But outside of the SEC West, I don't think there is another division in football that is as nasty as the South.

The North has a chance to right things in the coming weeks. Arizona travels to Washington State this week and ASU heads to Washington. UCLA at Washington and Oregon at Utah in a couple of weeks will be interesting.

A rising South, in one sense, is great for the conference. The USC-Stanford rivalry is at a tipping point, as is the Arizona-Oregon matchup. There has never been a better time to be a fan of Pac-12 football. On the flip side, the power shift makes the league that much more balanced, which leads to further criticism of the league nationally.

I think back to a quote Mark Helfrich gave me a couple of weeks ago, when he said the Pac-12 has a perception that parity equals mediocrity, but in other leagues, parity equals strength.

Hopefully when the music stops and the four playoff teams are named, the Pac-12's depth will be an asset, not a deterrent.

Pac-12 morning links

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

Leading off

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

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

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

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

Some streaks extended, others stopped right in their tracks

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

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

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

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

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

And some shout outs

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

Revisiting Pac-12's 'fearless predictions'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac-12 South recruiting roundup 

October, 16, 2014
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At the halfway point of college football's regular season, there is still plenty to be decided both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Pac-12 placed six programs among the top 40 recruiting classes in Wednesday's updated class rankings Insider and conference recruiting classes contain as many as 24 -- Arizona -- and as few as nine -- Stanford -- commitments. This update offers a look at where each Pac-12 South program stands with its 2015 recruiting class, including its top prospect and position of strength, as well as a look at where things are going well for each class.

Arizona

Total number of commitments: 24

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

October, 14, 2014
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Pac-12 home teams are 4-14 this season, but the coaches in the conference continue to find recruiting success despite being forced to pitch their programs to prospects following home defeats. This past Saturday, Pac-12 home teams went 0-3 yet came out victorious on the recruiting trail, landing commitments and making positive impressions.


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Pac-12 Show (4 ET)

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

Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
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The Pac-12's three Saturday home games featured several significant visitors, and even though home teams went 0-3 -- hardly a surprise in the conference this season -- favorable impressions were made.

Big turnout at the Rose Bowl

It was the marquee game in the conference thus far, as Oregon met UCLA at the Rose Bowl, and the visitor list matched the hype of the game. It's always newsworthy when five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the nation's No. 8 overall recruit, makes it out to a game, and he was in attendance Saturday.


Marshall was joined by another huge UCLA target in ESPN 300 wide receiver Cordell Broadus, who made the trip out from Las Vegas.


Like Marshall, Broadus has been fairly tight-lipped about his recruitment thus far, so for the Bruins to get him out on an unofficial visit represents a big recruiting win. It wouldn't be surprising to see Broadus make a return trip to Westwood for an official visit at some point.

UCLA hosted a few official visitors for the game, but none was more important than ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo, the No. 32 overall prospect. While Jamabo had to have been impressed by the Bruins rushing for 328 yards against the Ducks, there was something else that caught his eye during his visit.

Arizona wins early, loses late

Arizona might have lost its game against USC when it missed a last-second field goal, but the Wildcats won on the recruiting trail before the game even started, as they added a commitment from three-star cornerback Shun Brown.


There were also a number of Arizona verbal commitments in attendance, including ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker.


With Brown's commitment, all three official visitors for Arizona this weekend are now Wildcat commitments. Defensive end Kendal Franklin provided Arizona fans with a number of videos of his trip that he posted via twitter, including a quick look at pregame and a shot of the three committed visitors, including Franklin, Brown and Brown's teammate, Orlando Bradford.

Big visitor for Bears

Cal couldn't keep its forward momentum going on the field, but the Golden Bears coaches are hopeful they can do enough to make a favorable impression on defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg, who was in town on an official visit. From the looks of what Carlberg had to say Sunday morning, Cal -- which is in Carlberg's top six schools -- might be able to keep itself in the mix until the end.


The Golden Bears also hosted a number of local unofficial visitors. One to keep an eye on for the 2016 class is quarterback Kevin Davidson. Though he has yet to receive his first offer, a number of Pac-12 programs are keeping in regular contact with him, and it could be just a matter of time until he grabs that first one.

video
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona's stay in the top 10 ended after just over a week as USC rolled into Tucson and slipped the cardiac Wildcats 28-26.

How the game was won: Arizona missed three field goals, including a potential game-winner from 36 yards in the waning moments. USC controlled most of the game on both sides of the ball, thwarting the Arizona offense in the red zone and getting the big scoring plays that eluded the Wildcats, at least until the fourth quarter when Arizona made a run and things got wild. The Wildcats scored a late TD but missed the game-tying 2-point conversion. They then recovered the ensuing on-side kick, but Casey Skowron missed his third kick.

Gameball goes to: USC running back Javorius Allen rushed for 205 yards on 26 carries -- 7.9 yards per carry -- with three touchdowns. He will extend his lead as the Pac-12's leading rusher and is getting close to a lock as a first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

What it means: Arizona going down means there are no longer any undefeated teams in the Pac-12. Every team has at least one conference loss, too. USC puts itself back squarely in the South Division race, while Arizona yields the advantage it held after winning at Oregon.

Playoff implication: The best way to get to the playoff is to win all your games. Now no Pac-12 team can do that. And it's going to take a heck of a run for any conference team to emerge with just one conference loss. While few considered Arizona a true threat for the playoff, their loss to the Trojans at home is a hit to the conference's national perception. USC's horribly embarrassing loss at Boston College means the dreaded transitive property can be applied to their Pac-12 wins.

Best play: Allen's big day started early, as he rolled to two long first-half touchdown runs. The first, a 34-yarder, got USC on the board midway through the first quarter, but this 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Trojans up 14-6 was really something to behold.

video What's next: Arizona is off until it visits Washington State on Oct. 25. USC will try win back-to-back games when Colorado comes to town.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

October, 10, 2014
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This week provided easy selections for the top three visit weekends in the Pac-12, as there are only three conference games on Saturday. All eyes in the conference will be focused on Oregon's visit to UCLA, and recruits are no different, as there will be an impressive group at the Rose Bowl. Elsewhere, Arizona and Cal host statement games against USC and Washington, respectively. Tucson will be home to a huge recruiting weekend, while Cal will have a key recruit in attendance as well.

1. UCLA

[+] EnlargeSoso Jamabo
Tom Hauck for Student SportsOne of UCLA's top prospects, Soso Jamabo, will be in Los Angeles to watch the Bruins take on Oregon.
ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo will be on an official visit to Westwood this weekend, as the No. 32 overall prospect likely ranks as the most important official visitor the Bruins have hosted this season. Though Jamabo has several Texas schools hot on his trail, he is taking a long look at Pac-12 programs such as Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. The Bruins will have the first opportunity among conference teams to make an impression on Jamabo, and the 6-foot-2, 206-pound versatile back would be one of the biggest recruiting wins during Jim Mora's UCLA tenure.

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Pac-12 Week 7 predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unanimous decision

Why Stanford will win: Washington State hasn't seen anything like Stanford's defense this year and while the same could also be said about Stanford facing WSU's offense, recent history says this is the Cardinal's game to lose. The real story will be what happens when Stanford's offense is on the field.
If you ever needed an example of recruiting living at the forefront of every college coach's brain, look no further than this past Thursday, when Arizona went into Autzen Stadium and came away with a 31-24 victory over Oregon.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez was hardly off the field before his attention shifted toward recruiting.

Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Player Personnel, said he and Rodriguez met on the way up the tunnel following the game.

"He put his arm around me and was screaming, 'Recruiting will be fun tomorrow,'" Dudek said. "That was what, 10 minutes after the game?"

Thanks to Rodriguez on the field and Dudek off it, Arizona recruiting has entered a new era, as the Wildcats have taken to social media as well as any staff in the country. Dudek and the Arizona digital media gurus knew what kind of jump start a win at Oregon could give the Wildcats, and they were ready.

"I think that's really every game," Dudek said of being prepped with recruiting material, win or lose. "But the Oregon game is certainly a big one and could be a jump starter, whether it's for a week, a season or forever."

Referencing everything from Duck Hunt to Duck Dynasty and the Ducks' "Win The Day" motto, Arizona flooded twitter in the immediate aftermath of the game.



"Early in the week we say, 'When we win this game, I want to put something out," Dudek said. "They were loaded on my phone ready to go as soon as the clock hit double zeroes. It would have been quickly deleted if we didn't win, but every now and then we want to take advantage of the national stage."

As for a tangible recruiting effect, Dudek said the win against Oregon definitely provided one, and USC coming to town this weekend provides another national spotlight game against a nationally recognized opponent.

After Thursday's win, Arizona coaches threw a small wrinkle in their recruiting plans, hitting a few additional prospects on the way home in order to take advantage of their on-field momentum. Additionally, a win like that means more attention from recruits as well. Dudek said that several recruits they have on their board but weren't sure if the interest was mutual reached out with congratulatory messages on Friday, and the number of recruits looking to attend this weekend's game increased dramatically. Usually hovering somewhere between 60 and 80 recruits per game, Arizona is scheduled to host more than 125 prospects for its USC game.

"It certainly opened up the communication lines with certain guys, which is nice," Dudek said of the big win. "All of the sudden, they want to come to Tucson and check out a game, and getting them here on campus is always big for us."

Dudek believes this game will likely rank among the top five during the Rodriguez tenure in terms of the number of recruits in attendance, and a win could have the digital staff working overtime, as the Arizona coaches would be able to hit a bye week -- and the recruiting trail -- with plenty of momentum and, thanks to Dudek and company, plenty of digital ammunition.

"We have to be different," Dudek said. "We don't have the tradition of USC or the uniforms of Oregon. We need to bring that and grab national attention. Social media is the most powerful tool for sales, advertising and for recruiting right now."

Help is on the way: Pac-12 

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


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

October, 7, 2014
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The wild weekend in the Pac-12 wasn't limited to the field, as the recruiting trail saw some significant action as well. Three impact commitments landed in the conference, while three more ESPN 300 prospects took official visits and several big wins by certain programs made an impact with recruits.


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Ty MontgomeryJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStanford couldn't really get its ground game rolling on Saturday, and lost 17-14 to Notre Dame.
It’s Oct. 5, and there’s one remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12: the Arizona Wildcats.

Cal, which didn’t beat a single Power 5 team a year ago, is leading the Pac-12 North, despite giving up more than 100 combined points in its past two wins.

These are strange, unpredictable times in college football, and there’s no place wilder than the West. It hasn’t been merely odd; it’s been damaging. No conference was hurt more by a historically volatile college football weekend: Oregon went down. UCLA went down. Stanford went down again.

The result: The Pac-12 isn’t going to have a representative in the College Football Playoff. It wasn’t the league we projected to be shut out, but that’s where we’re heading.

That’s where the Week 6 takeaways begin. Also included: Mississippi State is the most complete team in America; the day’s biggest coaching winners; why North Carolina is suddenly broken; TCU and its vastly improved QB come through; and Ohio State’s quiet move.

Next Week now



Taking stock of the Pac-12

There’s undoubtedly an impressive level of depth in the Pac-12, but that depth is devouring a shrinking group of contenders that appear more flawed and less viable by the week. After seeing Arizona need a late stop to win at UTSA and a Hail Mary to beat Cal, there isn’t great momentum for the Wildcats to continue their undefeated run. They’re young and fun to watch, but not yet a contender.

Next week’s game between Oregon and UCLA, a prime choice for “College GameDay” before both teams lost in Week 6, has been taken down from the marquee. It’s now a playoff eliminator, though both teams have flaws -- most notably their offensive lines -- that will lead to additional losses.

In surviving Washington State and losing to Arizona, Oregon looked closer to an 8-4 team than a title threat.

“They’ve got problems,” a Power 5 head coach said Friday.

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