Pac-12: USC Trojans

USC defense gets back on track

September, 29, 2014
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Claude PelonJohn Cordes/Icon SportswireThe USC defense held Sean Mannion to 123 yards passing, no touchdowns and two picks.

LOS ANGELES -- Saturday night, the USC defense played like a group that had been marinating in mistakes for the last 14 days. That's 336 hours to ponder the 452 rushing yards they surrendered to Boston College. That's 20,160 minutes to mire in the misery of the 506 total yards and 37 points they yielded at Chestnut Hill.

Nothing will take that loss off of the standings. Instead, it serves as a reminder of how disastrous things can turn when the Trojans don't play to their potential.

"This team needed to get punched in the face," said linebacker Hayes Pullard, who sat the first half of the BC game for an illegal hit the week before against Stanford. "I hate to say that. But because of that we're bouncing back and growing as a team."

Following a bye last week, this group was eager to show the Sept. 13 performance wasn't the norm. And they stifled the Oregon State offense and its strong-armed quarterback en route to a 35-10 home win.

The USC defense held Oregon State to just three offensive points (its only touchdown coming on special teams), 58 yards rushing and 181 total offensive yards. They sacked Sean Mannion twice, intercepted him twice and forced him into the worst statistical performance of his career -- which included a 14.6 adjusted QBR.

"I'm proud of these guys after what they had to hear about for the last week," said USC coach Steve Sarkisian.

If Sept. 13 was the burn, then film session the next morning was the frosty reminder of all that had gone wrong.

Said Pullard: "We didn't want to see it. But we had to. That's the thing about football. You have to tell the truth on Sundays."

Added defensive lineman Leonard Williams: "Everybody was just down."

Noted safety Su'a Cravens: "It was tough watching plays that we should have made not being made. It was tough messing up assignments [even though] we went over it 100 times in practice. But we still messed it up."

Cravens turned in a phenomenal performance Saturday, posting a team high six tackles, including two for a loss, one sack and a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter to break the early scoreless tie.

"Nobody likes losing," Cravens said. "And the way we lost, that's not SC ball. We got back to the basics and what we needed to do. That attitude of being hungry and dominant on the field came back. That attitude we had against Fresno State came back. It showed [Saturday]."

The Trojans are hoping it sticks around for a while. They have back-to-back games against the Arizona schools -- at home against ASU this week and at Tucson a week later. Both of those teams rank in the top 20 in scoring nationally.

Whether ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, who sat out last week's game against UCLA with a foot injury, plays is still to be determined. Early reports are that his return this week is questionable.

Recall last year that it was the ASU game in Tempe that ultimately cost USC coach Lane Kiffin his job after the Trojans were blasted 62-41. The fallout sparked Kiffin's firing, Ed Orgeron's promotion, his quitting, Clay Helton's promotion and eventually Sarkisian's hiring.

USC's run defense will be tested by ASU's D.J. Foster, who leads the league in rushing with an average of 135 yards per game. The pass defense, however, is feeling pretty good about itself. Through four games and five weeks, the Trojans are the only team in the country that hasn't allowed a touchdown through the air.

"We were talking about that earlier in the week," Cravens said. "I think the coaches are doing a great of calling the right plays at the right time, and everyone is executing. I'm really proud of the DBs."

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
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Best of the visits: Pac-12

September, 28, 2014
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Pac-12 programs loaded up on visitors this weekend and the conference delivered three thrilling finishes on Saturday. The only weekend game in the conference decided by more than one score was USC's blowout win against Oregon State, which came at a perfect time for the Trojans, as they were able to bounce back in front of a number of important recruits.

Stars are out at USC

The USC Trojans put more than a few eggs into Saturday night's basket, bringing committed recruits Chuma Edoga and Aca'Cedric Ware, along with ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge in on official visits, and also loading up on unofficial visitors. With a convincing 35-10 victory, the strategy appeared to pay off.

Cedar Hill (Texas) High School was very well represented, as 2016 women's basketball prospect Joyner Holmes made the trip alongside Ware and Lodge.
Five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 overall prospect in the nation, made his way to the game and took a photo alongside Edoga and quarterback Caleb Wilson, the son of USC defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Quarterback K.J. Costello, the No. 61 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 300, snapped a shot of the pregame from the sideline. Utes host big weekend despite loss

Like USC, Utah put plenty of effort into bringing in a number of recruits this weekend. Despite the loss to Washington State, the Utes were able to feature wide receiver Kaelin Clay, a junior college receiver, which might have been the perfect recruiting pitch considering they were hosting a trio of junior college receivers in Dede Westbrook, Kyle Fulks and Kinte Hatton. Recruits see power of Bear Raid

Prospects in Berkeley were treated to an offensive explosion between Cal and Colorado, where the Golden Bears were able to put on an offensive show in front of official visitor, junior college wide receiver Isaac Whitney. It was also an intriguing game for local 2016 prospect Camilo Eifler, who holds early offers from both Cal and Colorado, and caught up with former Bishop O'Dowd receiver De'Zhon Grace. Huskies on hand

Washington hung tough with Stanford for four quarters and did so in front of several committed recruits, including wide receiver Isaiah Renfro and 2016 ESPN 300 athlete Brandon Wellington.

Renfro gave future Washington official visitors a glimpse of what they can expect upon arrival to Seattle. Wellington, meanwhile, looked to get a hashtag going, likely on the heels of linebacker Shaq Thompson's third defensive touchdown of the season.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

September, 26, 2014
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video

The biggest game of the weekend in the Pac-12 -- and perhaps the country -- took place Thursday night between UCLA and Arizona State, but that won't stop the conference from putting together a truly remarkable visit weekend. There are four Pac-12 games on Saturday's docket and, though this is normally a top-three list, this week all four are deserving of mention when it comes to important weekend visitors.

1. USC
Pete Carroll won't be at USC on Saturday when he will be one of 16 former Trojans inducted into the university's Hall of Fame class, but it's not too difficult to wax nostalgic imagining his name again reverberating in the Coliseum where he helped establish a college football dynasty. It also will be impossible not to recall that he bolted shortly before NCAA sanctions sent a wrecking ball through the program he constructed.

That program is 37-18 (.673) in the four-plus seasons since he left, which isn't bad for many teams, particularly when operating with scholarship reductions. But this is USC, and Carroll went 97-19 (.836) in nine years. He won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships. The program he led to 34 consecutive victories during a remarkable span of dominance, however, is coming off an enfeebled effort at Boston College. While those NCAA sanctions will no longer yoke the program going forward, they are still being painfully felt, see a scant 61 scholarship players available Saturday against Oregon State.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
AP Photo/Michael ConroyLove him or hate him, former Trojans coach Pete Carroll will be inducted into USC's Hall of Fame.
The distance between the program 10 years ago and now seems vast. Can that distance again be traversed? The Pac-12 at present is much deeper than the Pac-10 he ruled. The effort at BC also had some wondering if his top acolyte, Steve Sarkisian, owns even an approximate resurrective power, though it might be worth recalling Carroll went 6-6 and lost to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl his first season.

USC fans are going to cheer for Carroll in absentia on Saturday, as well they should. But for some there will be a tangle of competing feelings, which are aggravated by the uncertain present and future of the program.

Very few fame narratives are straight lines in our culture. While college football isn't Hollywood or national politics in terms of a Pavlovian response to scandal, you can't name too many coaches who posted careers without well-reported embarrassments, particularly over the past two decades when media coverage expanded exponentially. At least, not too many successful ones.

While the totality of their work on the field and general consensus about their overall character often wins out over the longterm for their lasting public perception, a legitimate evaluation can't ignore the ugly events that happened under their watch. So it is with Carroll.

He took over a foundering national power that went 19-18 over the three seasons before he arrived and built a dynasty. He went 6-1 in BCS bowl games. The Trojans also were crushed by NCAA sanctions for extra benefits Reggie Bush and his parents received when Carroll was head coach. More than a few outsiders, as well as a few insiders, believe Carroll dashed for the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 after spurning previous NFL entreaties because he wanted to get out while the getting was good.

There were other reasons that might have motivated him to leave, other than the NCAA. It shouldn't be omitted that Carroll bolted after his worst season since 2001, his first at USC. The Trojans had lost three of their final six games in 2009, including the humiliating 55-21 "What's your deal?" defeat to Jim Harbaugh and Stanford. His last game was an Emerald Bowl victory over Boston College -- no irony intended -- and the Trojans finished 9-4 overall.

There were whispers that his magic was gone, a not entirely unpopular take with opposing coaches. Carroll had started to miss on some recruits, and others who had sign ended up becoming highly rated busts.

Carroll has repeatedly and adamantly denied he left because he was worried about the direction at USC or impending NCAA sanctions. In fact, this summer he told the Los Angeles Times that he wouldn't have left the Trojans, even for a five-year contract worth about $35 million and near total control over personnel decisions, if he'd known how severe the sanctions would be.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh
AP Photo/Matt SaylesPete Carroll's No. 11 USC Trojans lost their third game of the season to Jim Harbaugh and his 25th-ranked Stanford Cardinal on Nov. 14, 2009.
"Had we known that that was imminent ... I would never have been able to leave under those circumstances," he told The Times. "When I look back now, I would have stayed there to do what we needed to do to resolve the problem."

That's an eyebrow-raising assertion that can't be measured for factuality, so you can choose to believe it or not. While there are many, many coaches more predisposed to spout bull manure than Carroll, he has always been media savvy and is not above a little gamesmanship during interviews. He knows saying that might score him some points with USC fans. It is, however, just words.

Of course, what he produced on the field is his truest measure, at least for how we, the observing class, evaluate his professional output. His hiring in December 2000 was widely mocked as bumbling athletic director Mike Garrett settling for his fourth choice. A lot of pundits wondered if his "Win Forever!" shtick would work in the NFL, where he'd previously failed, when the Seahawks gave him a big and blank check. He's proven two sets of naysayers wrong, joining Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win a Super Bowl and a college national championship.

He's even won the PR battle with the NCAA. The overwhelming consensus now is the 2010 sanctions against USC were unfair, even borderline corrupt. That ruling, in fact, might even be viewed as a Point A for the NCAA's recent decline into a feckless body that can neither govern effectively nor enforce rules. With Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami and Penn State seemingly being far worse transgressors of rules and decorum in recent years than USC under Carroll -- Head coaches lying! Academic fraud! A booster running amuck! A child molester on staff! -- the Bush ruling has become more of a negative reflection on the NCAA than Carroll.

In 2000, Carroll was a coaching afterthought. Nearly 14 years later, he's persevered into rarefied air, where he merits consideration for greatness.

USC fans are going to cheer when Carroll's name is announced and remember him fondly on Saturday, as well they should. It's also probably time for the conflicted to untangle their feelings about the man.

Pac-12 Live: Week 5

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
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Join ESPN.com Pac-12 reporters Kyle Bonagura, Kevin Gemmell, Chantel Jennings and Ted Miller at 5 p.m. ET as they discuss the crazy finish to Week 4 in the conference and look ahead to Week 5. Don't forget that you can also ask the experts your Pac-12 questions live on the show.

Injuries, implosion muddle South picture

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait. That's been used before. But, with apologies to Dickens, it fits. The Pac-12 weekend was a tale of one division, two teams, two cities, two quarterbacks, and it was a day of thrills and it was a day of misery.

The plot certainly thickened in the Pac-12's South Division on Saturday, but not necessarily in a good way.

A week after posting a gritty upset at Stanford, USC was humiliated at Boston College, while UCLA cobbled together a win over Texas behind scrappy, ebullient backup QB Jerry Neuheisel. Neuheisel's services were required because Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. His status remains uncertain, though there was reasonable hope based on initial reports that his injury wasn't serious.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's shocking loss to Boston College underscored the vulnerability within the Pac-12 South division.
Our second city is Tempe, Arizona, where UCLA will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, squaring off with defending South Division champion Arizona State, which beat Colorado on Saturday but also lost its star senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who beat out Hundley for second-team All-Pac-12 last year. Seeing Kelly on crutches due to a foot injury -- and his body language -- probably won't fuel great expectations that he will be ready for the Bruins.

The UCLA-Arizona State game was one we eyeballed in the preseason as a major measuring stick in the battle for the South. A significant part of the appeal was the quarterback battle. That hasn't changed, only now the intrigue is whether it will be Neuheisel for UCLA and Mike Bercovici for Arizona State. A week ago, that quarterback news would have heavily favored the Sun Devils. While Bercovici isn't the runner Kelly is, he's got one of the best arms in the conference and is well-versed in the Sun Devils offense. He is expected to win the starting job as a fifth-year senior next fall. Neuheisel was widely viewed as a career backup with a well-known father -- former UCLA QB and coach Rick Neuheisel -- but his second-half performance against the Longhorns suggested he can be more than a rudimentary game manager.

Both teams have an off week, when they can either get healthy or retool their plans. The stakes continue to be high, perhaps more so after USC threw up on itself with a wet-noodle performance at Boston College. While a nonconference game doesn't affect the Trojans' Pac-12 standing, it certainly made them look extremely vulnerable heading into a much-needed bye week. Other than USC fans, the most miserable folks watching that game surely root for Stanford, which probably can't believe it lost to the Trojans just a week before.

What this implosion and these injuries reveal in a wider sense is vulnerability in the South. In the preseason, UCLA looked like a decisive South favorite. Then USC made a statement with a win over the Cardinal. Arizona State was lurking with a great offense and a questionable defense. At this point, however, none of these three teams is scaring anyone. And don't look now, but Arizona and Utah remain unbeaten and have shown flashes that suggest they might be factors in a divisional race that previously seemed limited to the aforementioned troika.

The Wildcats play host to California on Saturday. Lo and behold, the Bears also are unbeaten, and this game suddenly possesses some potential meaning it didn't seem to have in the preseason. If Cal gets the upset, it can fully erase last season's misery and start thinking bowl game. If Arizona gets the win, it will be 4-0 and eyeballing the Top 25 with a visit to No. 2 Oregon looming on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona appears suspect on defense, but the offense, with impressive redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon, a good O-line, deep corps of receivers and breakout freshman running back Nick Wilson, will make the Wildcats a threat to any foe.

Utah visits Michigan on Saturday. While the Wolverines don't look like they'll be hailing in much victory this season, a Utes win would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. While Utah's trouble hasn't been in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12, a 3-0 start would hint they are not a South afterthought, particularly if the offense continues to shine with QB Travis Wilson.

While Oregon's win over Michigan State coupled with Stanford's loss to USC only boosted the Ducks' status as North Division favorites, the South intrigue has seemingly spiderwebbed since the beginning of the season. The race appears more wide open and complicated. UCLA's visit to Arizona State remains a major measuring stick, but it's just as likely either team would sacrifice that game -- as horrible as that sounds -- to know it will get its starting quarterback back healthy for the rest of the season.

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
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Wyoming at No. 2 Oregon
Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Heisman contender Marcus Mariota will look to get his team off to a quick start over Wyoming. A week after defeating MSU in convincing fashion, the Ducks will attempt to make another big statement as they prepare for conference play. The Cowboys are led by first-year coach Craig Bohl, who gained notoriety by leading North Dakota State to national relevance in his 10 years at the helm of that program.

Illinois at Washington
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

Washington will attempt to pick up its third win of the season but considering how lackluster the first two were, this game will need to be a bit of a statement for the Huskies. Quarterback Cyler Miles will look to improve the Washington passing game so the Huskies won't be pigeonholed into being one-dimensional this season. Meanwhile, the Huskies defense will look to bend and not break as cornerback Marcus Peters will be sitting out for his one-game suspension due to his sideline behavior against Eastern Washington.

Army at No. 15 Stanford
Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Stanford hasn't lost consecutive games since the 2009 season and the Cardinal will look to extend that streak when Army visits The Farm this weekend. Stanford needs to limit turnovers and penalties -- two issues that plagued the team in its loss to USC -- while quarterback Kevin Hogan will attempt to keep the offense moving and finishing. Against USC, the Cardinal came away with just 10 points on nine trips inside the Trojans' 35-yard line.

Portland State at Washington State
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

The Cougars will be playing in their home stadium for the first time in 2014 when they welcome PSU to Pullman. Washington State needs a win badly; its 0-2 start is far from what was expected in Year 3 of the Mike Leach regime.

No. 9 USC at Boston College
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN/WatchESPN
Hashtag: #USCvsBC

USC will make a cross-country trip after its huge win over Stanford last weekend. The Trojans will be without linebacker Hayes Pullard for the first half due to a targeting penalty during the Stanford game. Leonard Williams and the rest of the USC defense will face dual-threat QB and Florida transfer Tyler Murphy.

Side note: Boston College will be wearing special red bandana tribute uniforms Saturday. It's a cool gesture and one that I suggest you learn more about. Take some time to check out the story of former BC lacrosse player Welles Crowther -- "The Man in the Red Bandana" -- before the game. Watch the feature and read more here.

No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: Fox

The Bruins are trying to piece together their first complete performance in their trip to Arlington, Texas, this weekend. Brett Hundley presents quite the challenge for Texas, who has struggled with dual threat quarterbacks this year, already giving up 181 passing yards and 99 rushing yards to BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. Defensively, UCLA won't be facing Texas' best -- starting QB David Ash is out with concussion symptoms and Texas coach Charlie Strong has suspended both starting offensive tackles (among others).

No. 16 Arizona State at Colorado
Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN
Hashtag: #ASUvsCOLO

The Sun Devils and Buffs open their Pac-12 slates with one another this weekend. Taylor Kelly, D.J. Foster and the rest of the ASU offense will attempt to put up big offensive numbers against Colorado, which has given up 34.5 points per game this season. But at home, Colorado will attempt to break the streak -- the Buffs haven't beaten a ranked opponent in their last 14 attempts.

Nevada at Arizona
Time: 11 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Quarterback Anu Solomon will look to get the Wildcats off to a 3-0 start as Arizona welcomes Nevada to Arizona Stadium. "We're not good enough to play poorly and still win," coach Rich Rodriguez said earlier this week. It's a pretty obvious lesson, one that he watched play out as Nevada took down Washington State last weekend. "We know there are some games where we can make mistakes and it will really cost you. In some games you can make a few more and still be in it. That's not where we are at yet."

Byes: California, Oregon State, Utah

Pac-12 Week 3 predictions

September, 11, 2014
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Why Washington will win: Pointing out that Illinois trailed in the second half in wins against FCS Youngstown State and Western Kentucky usually would be reason enough to pick Washington.

However, because the Huskies also played close games with a lower-level FBS team [Hawaii] and an FCS team [Eastern Washington], the first point is somewhat negated. Now that coach Chris Petersen has two games to evaluate his personnel, there's reason to believe Washington -- playing at home -- will take a step forward. -- Kevin Gemmell







Why USC will win: Is anyone really expecting the Trojans to follow up a win at Stanford with a loss to Boston College? After coasting in Week 1, the Trojans took a punch in Week 2, counter-punched and are now a top 10 team. Leonard Williams is getting healthier (bad news, Golden Eagles), and Buck Allen has climbed into early-season Heisman conversations. The Trojans will simply overwhelm BC with their athletes. -- Gemmell



Why UCLA will win: The Bruins have shown they can win a game with defense (that was Week 1). They’ve shown they can win a game with offense (that was Week 2). With a little bit of the pressure off the Bruins, who have slid down to No. 12 and don’t seem to have as much fanfare as in the preseason, Jim Mora said he expects a looser UCLA outfit. A complete game on both sides of the ball would be a good start. Against an ailing Texas team, that doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch. -- Gemmell



Why Arizona State will win: The Sun Devils’ impressive offensive display over the first two weeks has done nothing to dispel coach Todd Graham’s preseason proclamation that this would be his best offensive team yet. The lack of quality competition makes ASU still a bit of an unknown, but there should be no problems against Colorado, which still has some ground to make up before it can expect to beat other Pac-12 teams. -- Ted Miller



Why Arizona will win: Arizona doesn't have Brock Hekking and his beautiful, beautiful mullet, but at the end of the day, an '80s hair icon doesn't win a football game. A team does, and Arizona is going to win this one behind big performances from quarterback Anu Solomon, as he gets quite a few of his receivers involved, and running back Nick Wilson, who'll pick up another 100-yard game.

But let me make it clear: Nevada does win the '80s dance party following the game. Sorry, Wildcats. -- Chantel Jennings

Pac-12 morning links

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
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There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Leading off

Remember all that chatter in August about how good the quarterbacks were in the Pac-12? Well, it was also in July, and June ... pretty much since last season ended. The quarterbacks driving this quarterback-driven league certainly deserve their spotlight. But lest we forget, there are some guys who can also do some damage on the ground.

John Marshall of The Associated Press looks at some of the teams in the conference who are also tearing things up on the ground. Marshall goes into detail on the running games of four teams in the league, including Arizona State:
The Sun Devils also have a pass-first perception that isn't exactly true. Since coach Todd Graham arrived three years ago, his focus has been on establishing a strong running game to set up the pass. The Sun Devils have had success doing just that with a variety of backs. This season, it's D.J. Foster's turn. A high-profile local recruit, he spent his first two seasons playing multiple positions so the Sun Devils could take advantage of his versatility.

Arizona, ASU, Washington, Utah, Oregon and USC are the six teams that are averaging more than 200 yards per game. However, perhaps the most interesting element of this story is who isn't mentioned. And that's Stanford. While the Cardinal have never been the team that put up obscene rushing numbers, they certainly have set the standard over the last few years for power running. And they've produced a 1,000-yard rusher every season since 2008. Bizarre seeing the Cardinal ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. But as Marshall points out, it's still early.

Individual hype

Some high praise in a couple of different articles about Pac-12 players Wednesday. First, CBS' Dennis Dodd profiles UCLA's Myles Jack. He cites an NFL scout who calls Jack the best athlete in the Pac-12.

Also, Stanford coach David Shaw joined the NFL's college football podcast and compared wide receiver Ty Montgomery to former first-round pick Irving Fryar.
"This guy needs to touch the ball every single way as humanly possible," Shaw said. "Just because he’s that kind of an athlete. He’s that kind of a dynamic football player. We have to make it hard for defenses to key on him … There is one name some of the younger listeners might not know very well, but I spent a year with Irving Fryar in Philadelphia. You’re talking about compact, physical, explosive. Irving ran a 4.3 coming out of college, coming out of Nebraska, and he would run over somebody and then run around them."
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

The smile hasn't changed, eh? Good for you, KP.


Something to keep an eye on in 2015?

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
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video Oregon made the most noise on the field and the recruiting trail this past weekend, posting a win against a top-10 team in front of a number of potential impact recruits in the 2015 and 2016 classes. Elsewhere in the conference, USC made a statement with a big win and UCLA did the same with a big offer.


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Early Offer: B1G's losses will hurt 

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
10:23
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Ohio State and Michigan State likely won’t see any effects of their defeat’s this weekend, but two Big Ten recruiting coordinators believe others like Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern could be hurt by the non-conference losses. Plus, USC should be able to gain some momentum against Stanford after beating the Cardinal. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Best of the visits: Pac-12

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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[+] EnlargeSeth Green and Taj Griffin
Courtesy of Seth Green's familyThe Ducks had a good showing for 2016 target Seth Green and Oregon commit Taj Griffin.
When it comes to visit weekends in the Pac-12, Oregon stole the show on Saturday, as no Pac-12 program brought in as many big-time recruits to witness an atmosphere as impactful as the one provided by the Ducks. While part of that was due to the opponent and the buildup surrounding the game, Oregon capitalized on hosting an impressive group of recruits, making a statement with both the 2015 and 2016 classes. Also represented in this look at the best visits of the weekend is Utah's big win against Fresno State and UCLA's closer-than-expected victory over Memphis.

Green visits the green and gold
While Oregon had a number of official visitors from the 2015 class, the Ducks also hosted 2016 ESPN 300 quarterback Seth Green on an unofficial visit. Green was able to take a photo of himself with Taj Griffin, an Oregon running back commit and ESPN 300 recruit. Green also tweeted, "Where great teams go to die" #WTD, a reference to a story written in the Michigan Daily in 2003, after No. 3 Michigan visited Autzen Stadium and lost to the Ducks.

Locked in to Oregon

The Ducks hosted ESPN 300 defensive backs Marvell Tell and Micah Abernathy over the weekend, and likely received some significant help in recruiting them from committed safety P.J. Locke. In fact, the Ducks had at least three committed recruits on campus for official visits this weekend, as Locke and offensive lineman Brady Aiello (pictured in Locke's tweet, below) were joined by offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton.
Utes host big in-state target

It's always a positive thing when a significant in-state target spends a Saturday on campus, so Utah coaches had to be happy that mammoth offensive tackle prospect Brandon Bowen took in the Utes' thrashing of Fresno State. Bowen holds offers from several Pac-12 programs, including Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State, but Utah appears to be in solid position.
Bisharat sees slugfest

While wide receivers love watching wide open offenses, it's likely that a 6-foot-2, 200-pound running back, such as 2016 recruit Beau Bisharat, enjoyed what he saw from Stanford and USC on Saturday, as running games took center stage in a low-scoring affair. Bisharat, who holds early Pac-12 offers from Cal, Colorado and Washington State, tweeted a photo of his view of the game.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, who dropped a heartbreaker, 13-10, Bisharat followed that tweet later in the day by retweeting USC defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, who took a picture of the scoreboard following the game.

Martin sees more than just a game

For 2016 ESPN 300 offensive lineman Frank Martin, Saturday night didn't just result in the memories of an entertaining game between UCLA and Memphis. The big tackle and No. 166 overall prospect also finished the night by earning his 10th offer, this one coming from the Bruins.
video
STANFORD, Calif. — USC coach Steve Sarkisian has a firm set of expectations when he coaches against Stanford.

“They don’t give you much,” he said. “You have to earn everything you get in all three phases.”

He certainly wasn’t expecting a smooth trip to Stanford Stadium, where the No. 14 Cardinal carried a nation-best 17-game home winning streak into Saturday's Pac-12 opener. Sarkisian has coached against the Cardinal enough in the past several years to understand a trip here is never easy.

The fact that the Trojans needed to overcome sloppy play, 10 penalties and the ejection of All-Pac-12 linebacker Hayes Pullard to win 13-10 actually fit what Sarkisian thought was a more plausible script.

“We had a feeling as a team that this game was going to be this type of game,” he said. “We just kept talking about continuing to fight through it and continuing to fight on and keep playing and keep playing through the adversity, which we were anticipating.”

Ultimately, two plays made the difference.

The first was a career-long, 53-yard field goal from Andre Heidari to put USC ahead by three with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. The second was a blind-side sack and forced fumble from linebacker J.R. Tavai in the final minute that returned the ball to USC and sealed the victory.

There will be a lot to get cleaned up, but in his first big test as coach at USC, Sarkisian couldn’t have been happier with a passing grade.

Stanford, on the other hand, is left wondering what went wrong. For long stretches, the Cardinal looked like the vastly superior team. It moved the ball effectively -- both through the air and on the ground -- and was physical on defense but simply failed to capitalize on the opportunities it created.

On each of its nine drives in the game, the Cardinal advanced to at least the USC 32-yard line but lost effectiveness the deeper it drove.

[+] EnlargeJustin Davis
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJustin Davis' first-quarter touchdown run was USC's only TD of the game, but it was enough to emerge with a huge victory at Stanford.
Kicker Jordan Williamson, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer last week, missed field goals of 49 and 26 yards. On what could have been two other field-goal attempts -- from 46 and 49 yards into a stiff wind on the other side of the field -- Stanford elected to punt.

“Against a team that is not really moving the ball a whole bunch on us, why take the chance [and kick]?” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “You want your defense to stand up and keep the field position. I'm going to keep making those calls. I feel great about our defense.”

That mentality factored into his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the USC 3-yard line late in the third quarter -- only to see freshman fullback Daniel Marx come up short.

“The problem in the red zone right now is me,” Shaw said. “I've got to get back to work and make sure we're doing things that our guys can do [and] put them in positions to be successful.

“It's not about being a genius, it's not about orchestrating all kinds of other things; it's about going down there and executing our plays," Shaw added. "We had opportunities. We didn't take advantage of them. When we had a guy open, we had a protection issue. When we had the protection, we didn't get the guy open.”

The bottom line is USC made the plays when it mattered. Stanford did not.

What that means moving forward is irrelevant, but the Trojans have to like where they sit. With a favorable schedule coming up -- the Trojans have Arizona State at home and miss Oregon -- USC is currently projected by the ESPN Football Power Index to have a 10-0 record headed into its game with UCLA on Nov. 22.

“What Coach Sark has done for this team -- got these guys believing not only in him, but each other, everybody involved in the Trojan family -- is unbelievable,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler said. “I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

Stanford faces an uphill battle to claim its third consecutive Pac-12 title but needs to look only to last year to realize it’s possible. The Cardinal emerged from the Pac-12 North a two-loss team a year ago -- with one of those losses to USC -- before they won the conference title game and advanced to the Rose Bowl.
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STANFORD, Calif. -- It’s not surprising that frustration was the main point of discussion after No. 14 USC beat 13th-ranked Stanford 13-10 in a constipated slog Saturday afternoon at Stanford Stadium. The surprise, though, was who was standing on the USC sideline voicing that frustration.

Trojans athletic director Pat Haden was summoned to the sideline late in the third quarter, after head coach Steve Sarkisian decided his annoyance with the officiating crew was going to get him kicked out of the game or perhaps render him incapable of coaching his team while expressing the true breadth of his displeasure.

Sarkisian’s solution was to summon Haden to the sideline from his luxury suite -- “mid-hot dog,” Haden joked -- to do the arguing on Sarkisian's behalf. The sight of Haden, a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, stalking the sideline in his gold pants added yet another bizarre episode to the ongoing saga of USC football.

USC had issues with the officiating for much of the game, but Sarkisian’s frustration apparently got the best of him after a delay of game penalty following Andre Heidari’s 25-yard field goal with just under a minute left in the third quarter. The penalty was called because Sarkisian was standing too close to the field when the ball was snapped. Sarkisian was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing that call, and the 15 additional yards moved the kickoff back to the 10-yard line.

At that point, Sarkisian says he feared getting a second unsportsmanlike call, which comes with an ejection, so he asked someone on the sidelines to summon Haden. According to Haden, someone in the USC compliance department texted him from the sideline -- a low-level NCAA infraction -- and informed him of Sarkisian’s wishes.

"Obviously, I had gotten an unsportsmanlike penalty, and I was incorrect," Sarkisian said. "You can’t be in the white at any time, and I was in the white on the field goal. At the time I vehemently disagreed with the call, but by the letter of the law, I was incorrect.

"I didn’t feel like I was in a position to continue to discuss that with the officiating crew. I felt like I was better off having Pat get in between and make sure everybody knew what was going on. I was in a frame of mind, I was in a competitive mode, and I just felt like it was the right thing to do."

Haden stood the rest of the game inside the players’ box on the USC sideline, frequently no more than a few feet from Sarkisian. Despite being photographed and filmed speaking with the officials in an animated fashion, Haden categorically denied he was arguing.

"By the time I got there, it had all been worked out," Haden said. "I was just an innocent bystander. There was a funny flow to the game. Just funny."

Asked if he felt he had overstepped his bounds as AD by arguing with officials from the sideline, Haden said, “I wasn’t arguing with the officials. Officials and athletic directors can disagree, and I’m usually wrong. … I’ve never been asked to go down [to the sideline], so when I was asked, I went down. Whatever penalty was called, they’d hashed it out and Sark said, 'I was wrong.'"

The unsportsmanlike call on Sarkisian was followed in quick order by a helmet-to-helmet late hit called on USC linebacker Hayes Pullard, whose ejection was upheld after review.

On the sideline, Haden told ESPN’s Heather Cox, "I got a text to come down because Sark wanted to talk to me. He felt the call on him was unfair, and the referee explained he had warned him, and that’s why he got the penalty, but it’s been a really frustrating quarter with the penalties, believe me. We got the right answer, we can move on and have a good fourth quarter."

Asked after the game if he was concerned about the appearance created by a member of the selection committee on the field engaging the officials, Haden shook his head and said, "I’m the athletic director of my team as well."

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