Pac-12: Arizona State Sun Devils
Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford: Hogan didn't have explosive weapon Ty Montgomery, but he registered his best career game anyway in Stanford's 31-10 spoiler whipping of UCLA. After a a frustrating season, Hogan delivered laser-like precision with his throws on Friday. He completed his first 12 and delivered on intermediate routes and deep strikes alike. Final line: 16-for-19, 234 yards, 2 TD, and 6.6 yards per rush.
Stanford defense: The Cardinal's 7-5 finish conceals this to some extent, but the team's defense was the best in the Pac-12 this season -- and statistics suggest that the race for this honor wasn't close. The unit flexed its muscles again at Rose Bowl, holding an explosive UCLA offense to a meager 3.9 yards per play -- by far the Bruins' lowest output of the season (no other Pac-12 team had held them under 5 yards per play). This was a balanced Stanford effort; David Parry and Henry Anderson spearheaded a ferocious pass rush, while the Cardinal's defensive backs locked down Brett Hundley's vertical passing threat.
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona: After a remarkable season, the Wildcats are headed to the Pac-12 championship game for a rematch against Oregon. Wilson is one of many reasons why. The freshman's performance in Arizona's 42-35 victory over ASU burned the Sun Devils' mercurial run defense: 24 carries, 178 yards, 7.4 yards per rush. Wilson's 72-yard third quarter run gave the Wildcats a commanding 35-21 lead they would not relinquish.
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona: He's a monster on a weekly basis, and the Wildcats' most important game of the season provided no exception. Wright led Arizona's defense with 13 tackles, two sacks, and five tackles for loss. He now leads the nation in the latter category by a huge margin (28 tackles for loss, or 2.33 TFL per game when no other player is averaging over 2 TFL). Wright also forced his nation-leading sixth fumble on an early sack, and that set the tone: The Wildcats recovered and scored the opening touchdown.
Travis Wilson, QB, Utah: Wilson finished 25-for-37 for 311 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Utes' 38-34 win over Colorado. This was an important time for a good performance; Kyle Whittingham's club came into the game having lost three of four. They needed Wilson to finish his topsy-turvy regular season strong, and that's just what he did.
Cody Kessler, QB, USC: A star in Eugene is on solid track to win the Heisman trophy -- and deservedly so -- but Kessler's big number exploits at least deserve mention in the helmet sticker department. He embarrassed the Notre Dame defense on Saturday, amassing 372 yards and six touchdown passes through three quarters in the Trojans' 49-14 whipping of the Irish. Kessler's favorite target early was George Farmer, and then Nelson Agholor (12 catches, 120 yards) became his receiver of choice. Final regular-season line: 36 TD, 4 INT. Not bad.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Let's keep this simple: 367 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, six total touchdowns, and a 47-19 Civil War victory. New York City will be inviting Mariota soon, and at this point, he's the favorite to take home the Heisman hardware.
Dwayne Washington, RB, Washington: Washington's 60-yard third quarter touchdown run gave the Huskies a commanding 21-0 lead in the Apple Cup, and the rout was fully on at that point as Chris Petersen's squad capped the regular season on a high note in Pullman. Washington, a player who's aptly named to succeed in the state's famed rivalry, finished with 135 yards on 16 carries (8.4 average) and two touchdowns. The Huskies won 31-13.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Shortly after leading Arizona to a 42-35 win over archrival Arizona State on Friday, a red-letter victory that had the additional reward of earning the Wildcats the Pac-12's South Division championship, coach Rich Rodriguez fielded a question about his team finding a way into the inaugural College Football Playoff.
You could see the wheels in Rodriguez's mind start to rumble. Perhaps a quote from Shakespeare would be appropriate on this day when his scrappy team ended up atop a rugged division -- the SEC West of the West -- few thought it would win back in August? Or maybe some Tennyson would give his charges their due?
Yes, the laughing media gathering seemed to indicate, it had. And there is a chance if Arizona bests No. 2 Oregon next Friday in the Pac-12 title game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Wildcats, ranked 11th in this week's CFP rankings, almost certainly need some help from teams rated above them, but they already received some of that when UCLA got blown out by Stanford, thereby making the Territorial Cup stakes the South. They'll need the selection committee to be broadminded enough to see a potential 11-2 record against the Wildcats' schedule as being among the best four bodies of work this season -- as in better than what some one-loss teams did. And Arizona also has a bit of a Baylor problem with its weak nonconference slate. But, yes, Lloyd Christmas, we're saying there's a chance.
First things first, though: the Ducks. That game in itself is pretty darn interesting. As much as folks talked about Oregon having a "Stanford problem" after losing to the Cardinal in 2012 and 2013, the Ducks' more recent issue is the Wildcats, who are riding a two-game winning streak in the series and -- oh, by the way -- handed Oregon its lone defeat this season on Oct. 2 -- in a shocked Autzen Stadium, no less.
"Our guys should have a little confidence because we played pretty well against them the last two times," Rodriguez said.
The team that beat No. 13 Arizona State will have a chance against the Ducks. The Wildcats got 178 yards rushing and three touchdowns from true freshman running back Nick Wilson, while redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, questionable before the game with a foot/ankle injury, turned in a poised, mostly efficient performance with a pair of touchdown passes, including a 20-yarder to Samajie Grant that provided the winning margin.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats defense continues to produce timely plays, with All-America candidate Scooby Wright leading an attack that produced seven sacks and two turnovers. Wright rolled up a game-high 13 tackles -- nine solos -- with two sacks and five tackles for a loss. One of those sacks came on the Sun Devils' final possession, one that concluded with a fourth-down stop on the Wildcats 40-yard line, which sent the sold-out crowd into hysterics.
"We were flying around out there like there was no tomorrow," was Wright's assessment.
Last year, Arizona State buried the Wildcats 58-21, which gave Sun Devils coach Todd Graham a 2-0 lead against Rodriguez in the Territorial Cup. It also capped a regular season in which the Sun Devils captured the South Division crown. This was the programs' first meeting as ranked teams since 1986. So there was a lot at stake, both in emotional and tangible terms.
While Rodriguez previously had not been one to drum up the importance of the rivalry, his tune changed a bit afterward.
"You try not to put too much pressure on a rivalry, but let's be honest -- there is," Rodriguez said.
Whatever happens in the Pac-12 title game -- the Ducks figure to be double-digit favorites, even with the Wildcats' win this season -- winning the South by beating Arizona State was a big moment for Rodriguez and the Wildcats, who might end up in the Fiesta Bowl even if they lose to Oregon. The program hasn't reached double-digit wins since 1998, but now there's a sense that the Wildcats and Sun Devils are going to be crossing paths as ranked teams on a fairly regular basis going forward.
At least as long as Rodriguez and Graham are calling the shots.
Said Rodriguez: "We're not there yet but we are on our way."
Friday, Nov. 28
Stanford at UCLA, ABC: The Cardinal are the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, but they're now in a position to play spoiler to UCLA's title bid. A win locks up the South for the No. 8 Bruins and keeps them in contention for the four-team College Football Playoff. Stanford will be without offensive star Ty Montgomery (shoulder), so UCLA figures to have a good chance to beat the Cardinal for the first time since 2008.
Saturday, Nov. 29
Utah at Colorado, Pac-12 Network: The Utes are slipping badly and the Buffs are 0-8 in Pac-12 play. There's certainly hope in Boulder after Arizona drubbed Utah 42-10 in Salt Lake City last week. Kyle Whittingham's club is staggering, and Colorado's Mike MacIntyre -- who strongly feels his program is making progress -- would love nothing more than an uplifting win entering a critical offseason.
Notre Dame at USC, Fox: This is another contest pitting two clubs coming off losses. The 2014 season has taken a turn for the worse on both Figueroa St. and in South Bend, but one of college football's most storied rivalries is an intriguing watch regardless. The Irish will be playing this game without Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, their two best defensive linemen. They've given up 30-plus points in six straight games for the first time in their 126-year history. Yes, that's Javorius Allen licking his chops.
BYU at Cal, Pac-12 Network: The Bears have one more crack at securing the bowl eligibility that will earn them vital December practice time. The opponent is BYU. The Cougars have won three straight games in their effort to salvage what once looked like a season of complete misery following Taysom Hill's injury. But those wins came against shaky competition: Jared Goff's unit should move the ball against a BYU defense that surrendered 55 points to Boise State.
Oregon at Oregon State, ABC: There's plenty on the line in the Civil War: While the Ducks battle for a College Football Playoff spot and a Marcus Mariota Heisman trophy, the Beavers will scrap for bowl eligibility in Sean Mannion's final season. Remember the upset havoc that Reser Stadium can wreak. Oregon is certainly the better team, but nothing is guaranteed heading into Corvallis.
Washington at Washington State, ESPN: The Cougars played well as they built up a 24-21 lead at ASU last week, but turnovers helped knock the wheels off in the second half. Still, Mike Leach's club smells opportunity here: This Apple Cup is in Pullman, and Washington is a weaker opponent than the Sun Devils. The Huskies' Cyler Miles played efficient football last week; Chris Petersen will ask for more of the same out of his quarterback so that Wazzu's Luke Falk (601 passing yards vs. ASU) stays on the sideline. Falk did turn the ball over last week, though, and the Huskies are known to generate takeaways from time to time (24 this season).
To the notes!
John in San Jose writes: How could all of you supposed experts or idiots pick Utah over the Cats? Don't you watch the games? Not one of you gave the Cats a chance in Utah and they blew them out.
Kevin Gemmell: First off, quit trying to sweet talk us, you silver-tongued charmer you. That won't get you anywhere.
I always love the "don't you watch the games?" criticism. Because, actually, that's all we do. And I usually watch them multiple times (thank you Pac-12 Networks' Football in 60). And in this case, it's BECAUSE I watch the games that I leaned toward Utah.
When making picks, all we can work with is the information we already have. If I had a copy of Grays Sports Almanac, things would be different. Biff Tannen and I would be sucking down cocktails on a yacht somewhere.
Considering Arizona and Utah had played in six games this season that had come down to a touchdown or less, that led me to believe it would be a close game. And in close games, especially with a warm-weather team going to a cold-weather climate, I thought my rationale was sound.
Obviously, it wasn't, because the Utes got rolled. Perhaps I was overthinking it? I'm sure there were plenty of people in the world who picked Arizona to win. But I'm pretty sure few actually saw a blowout.
My record in Arizona games is 8-3 this year. I whiffed on the Oregon game, I picked them to beat USC and they let me down (where were the "thanks for the support, Kev" mailbag letters then, huh?) and I whiffed on Utah. The only time I picked against them and won was UCLA.
As you can see this morning, I picked them in Territorial Cup. If they lose, I want my "thanks for the support, Kev" mailbag letter from you, John.
Kevin Gemmell: I'm not sure if that is quantifiable. And if there is a study out there about it, I haven't seen it. So this is just an educated guess.
I would say that the opportunity to win a national championship would be the larger draw for recruits on several levels. If you play for a team that's in the national title discussion, it's already a high-profile program.
High-profile programs offer bells and whistles such as upgraded facilities (most of which have awesome locker rooms, weight rooms, practice facilities, player lounges and barber shops), uniform diversity and national TV exposure. It almost feels like playing for a title contender is an afterthought to some of the perks of going to an upper-tier program.
Just because you go to Ohio State or Notre Dame or USC or Oklahoma, doesn't mean you're going to win a Heisman. Heck, Army has more Heisman trophy winners than Texas.
I recently visited Utah and got a tour of the new facilities. The message was that recruiting happens the second you walk in the door. Even when a recruit is waiting alone in the lobby (which is awesome), he is being recruited by his surroundings.
So based on what I've seen, the prospect of a national championship would likely be the bigger draw. Just my take.
Kevin Gemmell: I like the wishful thinking. But there are a few things to consider. Let's suppose that UCLA wins the South and loses to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. What then?
You have a three-loss team that would have fallen out of the top 10. Style points, I believe, will matter. If the Ducks come out and win 42-10, I think the selection committee would be hard-pressed to pick the Bruins for New Year's Day game. If they lose in overtime by a field goal? That might be a different story.
And say it's a 35-24 game -- not a blowout, but not exactly a nail biter. Is there a chance the committee names the winner of the Territorial Cup -- which only has two losses -- to one of those secondary games? If the Wildcats smoke the Sun Devils, or vice versa, they'd be 10-2 and likely in the top 10.
This is all uncharted territory, so the word "guarantee" shouldn't be thrown around loosely. And let's not forget that UCLA ... or Arizona ... or ASU could end up beating Oregon. I don't want an Oregon championship to come off sounding like a forgone conclusion. Because it's not.
Is it possible that three Pac-12 teams play in those games? One playoff and two secondary? Maybe. Perhaps the Ducks play in the national semifinal after edging the Bruins, who play in a secondary game and the Territorial Cup winner at 10-2 also gets in. That might be overly wishful thinking. But I'm not ruling it out.
Stanford at UCLA
- Stanford is minus-6 in turnover margin in Pac-12 games, but is just minus-4 in points off turnover margin.
- UCLA running back Paul Perkins leads the Pac-12 with 1,262 yards rushing, which is the second-most for a UCLA running back over the last 10 years.
- Stanford is one of 20 teams in the country to allow 11 or fewer touchdown passes this season.
- Only nine teams in the country have allowed more first downs due to penalty than UCLA (26).
- In conference games, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has rushed for 492 yards, which is the most in the Pac-12 and fifth-most among Power 5 quarterbacks.
- Arizona has scored 87 points off turnovers in conference games, the most in the Pac-12.
- Over the last three seasons, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly ranks fifth in the country with 75 touchdown passes.
- Points per drive: Arizona 2.39; Arizona State 2.45.
- Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III is the only player in the country with at least 13 sacks and four forced fumbles.
- Arizona State's penalty margin (minus-26) is tied for the fifth-best mark in the country.
- USC has forced five turnovers in the red zone, the second-most among Power 5 teams.
- USC leads the Pac-12 with 81 third-down conversions.
- USC's red zone touchdown percentage (72.7) ranks third among Power 5 teams.
- Oregon has scored 40-plus points in six straight games and gained more than 500 yards of offense in its last five, both are the longest active streaks in the country.
- Since being sacked 15 times in his first five games, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been sacked just 10 times over the last six games.
- With 1,050 rushing yards, Oregon running back Royce Freeman is the first true freshman in school history to crack the 1,000-yard mark.
- Oregon State has averaged 30.3 points in the Civil War since 2004.
- Oregon State's third-down conversion percentage is 30.9, which is the worst in the Pac-12, while Oregon has the best (52.4).
- WSU ranks last in the Pac-12 with a minus-12 in turnover margin in conference games.
- WSU receiver Vince Mayle's 1,159 receiving yards in conference play is the third-most over the last 10 years.
- Washington's John Ross ranks second in the nation with 760 kickoff-return yards.
- Washington leads the nation with seven defensive touchdowns.
- Washington outside linebacke Hau'oli Kikaha leads the nation in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (23.5)
- Utah kicker Andy Phillips has eight field goals of 40-plus yards in conference games, which is twice as many as any other kicker in the conference.
- Utah punter Tom Hackett leads the nation in punts downed inside the 20 (34) and 10 (19).
- Utah's Kaelin Clay leads the nation with four kicks returned for touchdowns.
- Colorado has allowed 20 sacks this season, which is the fewest in the Pac-12.
- Colorado's Nelson Spruce is tied for the national lead with 101 catches.
- Quarterback Jared Goff finished the Pac-12 season with 3,070 yards. He's just the fourth player since 2004 to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark in conference games.
- Cal has never played in a bowl after starting the season 5-6.
- Cal running back Daniel Lasco needs 15 yards rushing against BYU to become the sixth Pac-12 player to rush for 1,000 yards this season.
I haven't even finished eating all of my Halloween candy.
Depth Chart Wednesday! Depth Chart Wednesday! Depth Chart Wednesday! Let's get to it. Note: UCLA doesn't celebrate Depth Chart Wednesday.
- Arizona State
- California (page 11 of the game notes)
- Oregon (game notes not updated, will update if it becomes available)
- Oregon State (page 34 of the game notes)
- USC (page 19 of the game notes)
- Utah (page 11 of the game notes)
- Washington (page 9 of the game notes)
- Washington State (page 10 of the game notes)
OK, there are a lot of these to get through, but stick with us. We can do it together.
There's a very good representation of the Pac-12 among these lists. If a Pac-12 player is a finalist, he's listed as the first name on the list (just an FYI).
MAXWELL AWARD: Given to the top player in college football (as considered by the Maxwell Football Club and voting panel).
- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota -- 3,103 passing yards, 32 TD, 2 INT, 597 rushing yards, 97 carries, 9 rushing TDMississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott -- 2,1714 passing yards, 23 TD, 10 INT, 891 rushing yards, 171 carries, 12 rushing TD
- Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon -- 254 carries, 2,109 yards, 25 TD
- Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III -- 126 tackles, 22 TFL, 12 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
- Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa -- 43 tackles, 18 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
- Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley -- 24 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble
- Tom Hackett (Utah) -- 46.5
- JK Scott (Alabama) -- 46.8
- Scott Arellano (BYU) -- 44.6
- Scott Harding (Hawaii) -- 41.5
- Austin Rehkow (Idaho) -- 47.8
- Justin Vogel (Miami) -- 44.0
- Tyler Wedel (Northern Illinois) -- 41.9
- Cameron Johnston (Ohio State) -- 43.6
- Drew Kaser (Texas A&M) -- 44.4
- Alex Kinal (Wake Forest) -- 43.8
- Mariota (see stats above)
- Prescott (see stats above)
- TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin -- 3,021 passing yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 122 rushing attempts, 548 yards, 7 TD
- Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- 54 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 7 pass break ups
- Alabama safety Landon Collins -- 75 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 5 pass break ups
- Louisville safety Jerod Holliman -- 32 tackles, 2 TFL, 13 INT, 3 pass break ups
- The verdict is in and Arizona-Arizona State is the most heated rivalry in college football.
- A look at that Arizona-ASU rivalry from different members of both teams.
- The good and the bad at California under Sonny Dykes.
- Colorado has a lot to play for in its final home game.
- Revisiting the Civil War from 1920-39.
- A few coaches have been on both sides of the Civil War.
- A look at Stanford through the eyes of its next opponent.
- UCLA is looking forward to overcoming some struggles against the Cardinal.
- A list of what USC should be thankful for this season.
- Some suggestions for Kyle Whittingham in regard to Travis Wilson and the offense.
- A quick overview of the Washington-Washington State match up.
- A former Wazzu RB shares some memories of the Apple Cup.
What makes a great college football rivalry? Two things: 1. Passionate and legitimate ill will; 2. National relevance.
Arizona and Arizona State have long had the former, with the bad feelings advancing beyond the typical state rivalry because of a handful of historical issues, including the University of Arizona fighting against "Tempe Normal School" becoming an accredited university in the late 1950s. That one still grates on Sun Devils elders, while snarky Wildcats fans will call ASU "Tempe Normal" just to be annoying.
They were once friends, with Rodriguez hiring Graham away from a high school job in Texas to coach at West Virginia in 2002, but that clearly is no longer the case. Neither says much about the other on the record, but during a visit to ESPN's offices by Pac-12 coaches shortly after they were hired, they stood in stony silence for several minutes just a few feet from each other without making eye contact, despite a certain charming reporter offering up some wonderful repartee that typically would inspire conviviality from even a pair of gargoyles.
That dislike extends through the coaching staffs. Arizona assistants Calvin Magee and Tony Dews, who worked for Rodriguez at West Virginia and Michigan, spent a single season coaching with Graham at Pittsburgh after Rodriguez was fired at Michigan. When they rejoined Rodriguez at Arizona, Graham called them "mercenaries," according to a tweet from Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Yet history and personal feelings go only so far in the national college football conversation when your team is simply battling for bowl eligibility. Or one team is good and the other shows up only as a spoiler. That has been the case more often than not in the Territorial Cup, which was first contested in 1899, 13 years before Arizona became an official state in the union.
That is where Graham and Rodriguez have most enriched this rivalry: Both teams are now good. This will be the first time they meet as ranked teams since 1986. Both are 9-2. The last time they met as teams with at least nine wins? 1975. Arizona State has posted nine wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1996-97. Arizona owns its best record since 1998.
Both are 6-2 in Pac-12 play. If UCLA should lose to Stanford in a game played simultaneously with the Territorial Cup at 3:30 p.m. ET, then the champion of Arizona also becomes the Pac-12 South Division champ and would play Oregon for the conference title on Dec. 5. Further, the winner also might set itself up to be selected as practically a home team for the Fiesta Bowl. That is, unless the winner somehow beats Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and slips into the College Football Playoff, a not outrageous scenario, by the way.
“This game is the single most important game every year for us and for our fans," Graham said. "Obviously it has a lot more meaning with both teams going for 10th win and Pac-12 South championship on the line. So, yeah, there’s a little extra to it.”
Said Rodriguez: "I don’t believe that ‘if you only win one game but you beat ASU, it’s a good year,’ but it is the most important game on our schedule because it is the rivalry game. The rivalry game is always the most important when you see it with no records. Now that we both have had pretty good years and have even more at stake, this makes it of added importance."
Of added importance to both coaches, though perhaps more for Rodriguez: Graham is 2-0 against Rich Rod since they arrived in the desert. No Arizona State coach opened his career in Tempe at 3-0 versus the Wildcats. While folks in Tucson appreciate the undeniably good job Rodriguez has done rebuilding the program, they also would really, really not like to spend a third year listening to Sun Devils fans squawking at them.
In the Sun Devils' last visit to Tucson, they overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 41-34. Last year, the Sun Devils rolled the Wildcats 58-21, a blowout win that earned them home-field advantage in the Pac-12 title game against Stanford.
For Arizona State, there's senior Taylor Kelly. The three-year starter wants to finish his career 3-0 against the Wildcats. He has been inconsistent since returning from a foot injury, but he seemed to find his rhythm in the second half last week against Washington State. His life also will be easier with the expected return of receiver Jaelen Strong from a concussion.
Arizona's home-field advantage might not be much of an advantage. The Sun Devils have won five of the past seven in Tucson, and this rivalry has surprisingly not favored the home team of late. The visitor owns an 8-6 edge in the past 14 matchups, and the Sun Devils' win in Tempe last year ended a four-game winning streak for the road team.
Good news for those who like thrillers: Seven of the past 10 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The four games before last year's blowout were decided by a total of 15 points, with a fourth-quarter comeback, two blocked extra points, a late field goal and a red zone stand being the difference.
Graham said the game is about the players, not the coaches. Rodriguez, though he probably doesn't want to be seen as agreeing with Graham, said about the same.
"There is a lot of stake," he said. "It is our 19 seniors' last home game, so I would be shocked if preparation wasn’t at an ultimate high.”
While there were a number of important visitors at every Pac-12 game this past weekend, the Rose Bowl took center stage as UCLA hosted a number of official and unofficial visitors in what was the hottest ticket of the year for Southern California recruits. UCLA kicked off its strong weekend with a commitment from an ESPN 300 prospect, while Oregon hosted a junior college standout committed to another Pac-12 program. This upcoming weekend presents an opportunity for recruiting statements to be made in rivalry games.
Unless, that is, you’re into watching the single-game FBS rushing record fall for the second straight Saturday. (So who breaks it this week?) Yes, last week was dull, unless, of course, you’re into Florida State’s weekly high-wire act, re-awakenings at Arkansas and Minnesota or UCLA’s continued stranglehold on Los Angeles.
My point is, the latest set of games didn’t significantly impact the College Football Playoff picture -- at least in comparison to the past few weeks. Barring some craziness at the selection-committee table, the top four on Tuesday night is going to look no different than last week’s edition.
But Week 13 was simply the calm before the storm. Not so sure? Check out first nine paragraphs Gene Wojciechowski’s BMOC column. The rocky road to Dec. 9 is enough to make a fan of any playoff contender choke on his or her turkey dinner.
And it starts in two days.
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Tonight the committee will release its College Football Playoff rankings and it'll be interesting to see how it views certain team's wins (cough, UCLA) and certain team's losses (cough, Ole Miss). The Ducks, after a big win over Colorado, should be secure in the top four though it'd be quite the surprise for them to sneak in to the top spot, even with Alabama's slow start against Western Carolina this weekend.
If you saw The Eliminator on Monday morning, there were probably a few things you noticed. First and foremost, Mark Schlabach pointed out the fact that yes, we're heading into the final weekend of the regular season. And no, the College Football Playoff hasn't broken the regular season by any means. Instead, with one week to go (in most conferences), there is plenty of excitement down the stretch.
No. 2 Oregon must survive the Civil War against Oregon State.
No. 3 Florida State must get past one more regular-season game against rival Florida.
The Big Ten West, Pac-12 South and SEC East are still up for grabs, too.
So much for the playoff ruining the drama of college football's regular season.
Oregon is still listed under "In Contention" while Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA are all in the "On The Fence" category. The good news for Pac-12 fans is that no conference team did anything detrimental this weekend. The only two teams that were eliminated were Ole Miss (which lost 30-0 to unranked -- but hot -- Arkansas) and Michigan State.
The Butkus Award (given annually to the nation's top linebacker) announced its five finalists on Monday. The Pac-12 snagged two of the spots.
- UCLA's Eric Kendricks
- Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha
- Miami's Denzel Perryman
- Michigan's Jake Ryan
- Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith
That is one heck of a list of candidates and the Pac-12 Blog would like to congratulate all five. Seriously, these are all fantastic linebackers and players that certainly deserve to be honored after the seasons they've all had.
However, there's one pretty obvious name missing from that list: Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III. He has been an absolute monster this season and though I wouldn't want to single out any individual on that list and say that Wright deserves the spot more, it certainly was shocking to see Wright --- who averages a nation-high 2 TFL per game and ranks fifth nationally in sacks per game -- to not be on that list.
And we weren't the only to feel that way:
Notably absent from Butkus Award finalists is Arizona's Scooby Wright, who leads nation in TFLs, is 5th in sacks and 6th in total tackles.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) November 24, 2014
Diving into some numbers
#Zona LB Scooby Wright 127 tackles--more than any Butkus finalist; 12 sacks (2nd most); 2.1 TFLs per gm, also more than any Butkus finalist.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 24, 2014
According to Nate Silver's model over at fivethirtyeight.com, the Bruins' 38-20 win last Saturday was the biggest win of the weekend. Based off his model, UCLA went from having an 8.2 percent chance to making the playoff to having a 14.0 percent chance of making the playoff.
There are eight schools (again, this is according to Silver's model) that have at least a 10 percent chance of making the playoff. Here's a list of the eight programs Silver says are still in the running -- by at least 10 percent -- to make the playoff, followed by their total chance and the percent their chance increased or decreased following last Saturday's games.
- Alabama -- 80.8 percent, +5.5 percent after beating Western Carolina, 48-14.
- Oregon -- 75.7 percent, +3.6 percent after beating Colorado, 44-10.
- FSU -- 59 percent, -0.9 percent after beating Boston College, 20-17.
- TCU -- 47.1 percent, -1.8 after being on a bye.
- Ohio State -- 42 percent, -1.5 percent after beating Indiana, 42-27.
- Baylor -- 33.3 percent, +2.5 percent after beating Oklahoma State, 49-28.
- Mississippi State -- 32.6 percent, +5.1 after beating Vanderbilt, 51-0.
- UCLA -- 14 percent, +5.8 percent after beating USC, 38-20.
So, UCLA's chances don't look awesome, but if it wins the Pac-12 title, there will certainly be an argument for the Bruins being in one of the four spots. And, as far as the chances of making the finals, the Pac-12 is still sitting pretty well. Oregon has a 44.2 percent chance to make the finals (UCLA is at 6.1 percent).
- There's still no indication as to whether or not Anu Solomon will be healthy for Saturday.
- Jaelen Strong is expected to return for the Territorial Cup.
- BYU is hoping to make a statement at Cal.
- A nice read on Mike and Jay MacIntyre and their first year together as coach-player.
- A little more from Charlie Pape, aka the "Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota" kid.
- Video of Mike Riley on running backs, quarterbacks, Civil War prep.
- Grading the week for Stanford football.
- Brett Hundley says that the game against USC was "probably" his last one in the rivalry.
- Buck Allen could still lead the Pac-12 in rushing.
- Utah's strong suits were weak against Arizona.
- Video of Chris Petersen on the Apple Cup, Mike Leach and more.
- Mike Leach's Monday news conference transcript.
For any media covering the Territorial Cup this weekend, Josh Kelman has you covered for your postgame story.
To remind us that absolutely nothing about the Pac-12 is normal, the stage is set for the South champion to be determined in another "only out West" kind of way: Simultaneous games on Black Friday -- the third to last day of November -- under the beating sun of 80-degree weather.
"Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer," Henry David Thoreau wrote about the Pac-12 a good 169 years ago. "Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away."
Well, he wasn't really writing about the road to the Field of Jeans. But the point stands. The Weird West has hummed a different, fascinating tune all season long, and this last regular-season weekend promises to supply more of the same as the Levi's Stadium championship matchup is finalized.
Simultaneous explosions: Stanford-UCLA and ASU-Arizona
Both Stanford-UCLA and ASU-Arizona kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, on Black Friday. Arizona Stadium will require high bandwidth WiFi as both the 9-2 Sun Devils and 9-2 Wildcats need the Bruins to lose so that the Territorial Cup determines the Pac-12 South. So there'll certainly be more than a few fans trying to stream the happenings in Pasadena on their smart phones while simultaneously watching an intriguing Duel in the Desert.
ASU started slowly but ended up whipping Washington State 52-31 this past Saturday, so the Sun Devils feel they're back on track following bitter disappointment in Corvallis two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Arizona did some 1970s Arnold-style muscle flexing in Utah, racking up 298 rushing yards in a 42-10 road annihilation. The Sun Devils' aggressive defense has given up its share of big runs this season, and that's a danger point ahead of a matchup with Arizona's Nick Wilson (20 carries, 218 yards, 10.9 per carry, 3 touchdowns at Utah). We'll keep an eye on quarterback Anu Solomon's status (ankle) throughout this week.
The Territorial Cup will take on truly monumental importance if Stanford successfully embraces the spoiler role and asserts itself early versus UCLA. Remember that the Bruins haven't beaten the Cardinal since 2008 -- that's the pre-Andrew Luck era stuff. Stanford clinched its first Pac-12 title run with consecutive victories over UCLA in 2012, and although their title defense has already failed here in 2014, they did shut down the Bruins' rushing attack in a suffocating win last year.
Brett Hundley's unit must show that it's made significant strides, because the Cardinal's defense looks ready: They battered Cal to the tune of a season-high five takeaways in Saturday's 38-17 win. Stanford set the table with competent offense, but the Bruins' obviously pose a greater challenge than the Bears did defensively. USC mustered only a season-low 4.1 yards per play against UCLA's defense, which is peaking at the right time.
The “rivalry”: Utah at Colorado
Let's not kid ourselves: These two programs do not have enough historical hatred for each other to truly fall into the rivalry category. Nevertheless, this is a huge contest for both squads. The Utes have lost three of their last four games, and a loss in Boulder to close the season would put a massively bitter finishing touch on a once-promising season. It'd be like finding a massive, plump orange, only to discover there's a worm inside of it.
Meanwhile, this is Colorado's Super Bowl. The Buffs are 0-8 in conference play, and this is a wonderful chance to enter a critical building offseason on a much-needed high note.
Desperation bowl: Notre Dame at USC
At one point earlier this year, matters looked so promising for both the Irish and the Trojans. Now, this historical rivalry is more about avoiding complete late-season disaster than anything else. Notre Dame has dropped four of five games (including consecutive home defeats to Northwestern and Louisville), while USC's thorough whipping at the hands of hated UCLA has Steve Sarkisian scrambling to avoid that dreaded seven-win season. The loser of this game is going to stagger into bowl season neck-deep in turmoil.
Tipping point game: BYU at Cal
All is not lost for the Bears even though the wounded Stanford beast came into Memorial Stadium to drop off a few busloads of humble pie. Cal feels that it's still ascending as a program -- the defense must improve for the Bears to take that next step -- and this nonconference finale against the Cougars is the Cal's chance to punch a postseason ticket for the first time since 2011. Remember that bowl eligibility secures extra December practice time for a program. That's potentially vital as Sonny Dykes positions his team to attempt a third year breakthrough.
Civil War: Oregon State at Oregon
The "Civil War" is my favorite rivalry nickname, so I don't think I can come up with a better way to describe this game than that simple moniker, one which illustrates just how divided the Beaver State really is. Nobody is giving Oregon State much of a shot here, but remember they're playing for bowl eligibility in Sean Mannion's senior season. There's also that whole thing about top 10 teams struggling in Reser Stadium -- one fell victim to Corvallis just two weeks ago. The Ducks must be wary: Marcus Mariota's strong Heisman push is on the line along with College Football Playoff hopes.
Some ice cream for a Pac-12 dessert: Washington at Washington State
The last game of the Pac-12 regular season will, indeed, be an opportunity for some #Pac12AfterDark eccentricity. This will offer a good representation of how geographically diverse the Pac-12 is. Whereas Friday's games in Los Angeles and Tucson are expected to experience 80-degree temperatures, the forecast for this one in Pullman calls for the mercury to dip below 30 degrees on Saturday night. This is not the end of the road for Washington, but both the Huskies and the Cougars have chances to add a positive memory to difficult seasons.
There will be teams left out who can make perfectly compelling cases to be playoff participants. There will be voices raised and criticisms leveled regarding which program truly deserved the final spot in the playoff. This much is a certainty.
But which teams have the best chances of cracking the field? It still seems to be a matter of conjecture beyond the top three teams: Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
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Rankings are starting to get awfully important now. As we head into the final week of the regular season, there is plenty of jockeying going on. And how the rest of the country sees things will likely play a role in how the College Football Playoff selection committee sees things.
The Pac-12 had a setback in the rankings last weekend with lackluster performances from Utah and USC. Both of their non-competitive losses bounced them from the rankings, leaving the league with just four teams left in the top 25. Kyle Bonagura has the conference perspective here. The good news is that all four teams are ranked in the top 15 -- so the best the league has to offer is getting its due. Here are where the four teams stand in the AP and coaches polls (AP listed first).
- Oregon 2-3
- UCLA 9-10
- Arizona 12-12
- ASU 13-13
As always, here are how some folks who cover the conference voted in the AP poll.
- Adam Jude of the Seattle Times
- Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera
- Michael Lev of the Orange County Register
- Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News
- Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News
In this week's look at Pat Forde's "Fab 4," Oregon is seated nicely at the No. 2 spot, where he projects the Ducks to face Mississippi State in the Rose Bowl.
His take on the Ducks:
The Ducks continue rolling at a high rate of speed, winning their sixth straight Saturday -- all of them by double digits, all while scoring at least 42 points. They jumped on hapless Colorado 30-3 in the first half, upped the lead to 44-10 in the third quarter and then used the fourth as mop-up duty. In combination with Oregon's pileup of strong wins, its lone loss (31-24 to Arizona on Oct. 2) has only gotten better as the season has gone along. The Wildcats now are 9-2 and remain in contention to win the Pac-12 South and have a potential league championship rematch with Oregon.
Worth noting that he also has UCLA as a team still worth consideration. If the Bruins beat Stanford on Friday, they will lock up the South and force a rematch with the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game. If the Cardinal beat the Bruins, then it's winner take all in the Territorial Cup.
- Some more on Arizona moving up in the polls.
- As noted above, there is plenty at stake in the Territorial Cup.
- Stanford owns the axe. And Cal.
- The MacIntyres are getting to spend a lot of time together.
- The Ducks enter Civil War week with momentum.
- Some notes from Mike Riley's Sunday call with the media.
- Another opinion piece on the Big Game ... though not a differing one from the Cal link.
- UCLA's receivers stepped up big against USC.
- Five observations from USC's loss to UCLA.
- Utah wasn't able to handle the big play against Arizona.
- Washington showed resiliency with its win over Oregon State.
- Some final thoughts from WSU's loss to Arizona State.
UCLA's big night
It all started with a bang for the Bruins, as ESPN 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South committed to UCLA well before the start of the game against USC.
Utah commit George Wilson was at the game and provided a quick snapshot.
Rose bowl so live ??— Will Lockett!!!! (@willdoesit__) November 22, 2014
But the lasting effects from this game might be more felt in the 2016 class, which was loaded in terms of visitors at the Rose Bowl. Outside linebacker Caleb Kelly, the nation's No. 38 prospect in his class, made the drive down.
?????? v. ?? ???? pic.twitter.com/md0wLM6qwV— George Siaosi Wilson (@24isreal) November 23, 2014
2016 wide receiver Theo Howard, who holds early offers from both programs, was at the Rose Bowl.
Bruwins x3.— Lokeni Toailoa (@LokeniTheGreat) November 23, 2014
Running back Damian Alloway, a new addition to the 2016 ESPN 300, at No. 206 overall, holds an offer from UCLA and wasn't shy about which direction he was leaning Saturday night.
Ucla vs usc tonight!!— theo howard (@theohoward2) November 22, 2014
UCLA also hosted 2016 prospects Traveon Beck and Frank Martin -- the No. 132 overall prospect in his class.
I mess with SC and UCLA tough but I'm only a UCLA fan today. #8clap ??— Damian A1?1?oway (@dalloway11) November 22, 2014
The Ducks have taken advantage of in season official visitors more frequently than any other Pac-12 program, relying heavily on Autzen Stadium's tremendous atmosphere to make an impression on visitors. This weekend, a few notable uncommitted prospects took official visits in Marquise Doherty and Octavius Spencer, but the visit to watch could be Arizona State junior college linebacker commit Davon Durant. All three prospects likely heard plenty from Oregon's committed prospects in town on official visits -- offensive linemen Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson.
Trip to Tempe
Great times in Eugene with the fam pic.twitter.com/56FafUFBm9— Jake Hanson (@Jake_Hanson72) November 23, 2014
Arizona State had several interesting official visitors on campus, as ESPN 300 prospects John Houston, Stanley Norman and Joseph Wicker all made their way to Tempe. The Sun Devils also hosted committed junior college tight end Raymond Epps on an official visit.
Cal had a number of commits in town for the Big Game against Stanford. The Golden Bears also received an unofficial visit from 2016 ESPN 300 cornerback Treyjohn Butler, the No. 86 overall prospects who holds early Pac-12 offers from Arizona State, Cal, Washington and Washington State.
Washington State at Arizona State, Pac-12 Network
One word: early. This game kicks off at 11 a.m. local time, but keep in mind that the Cougars' body clocks will still be set to the Pacific time zone. Mike Leach said that Washington State's hotel pregame routine will start between 5 and 6 a.m. It'll be a chance for fans to watch the Pac-12 while munching on pancakes, French toast, or -- my favorite -- crab Benedict. And it'll be a chance for ASU to wash away the horrible memory of last week's 35-27 loss at Oregon State as quickly as possible.
Arizona at Utah, ESPN
By lunchtime, there should be a craving for a good dose of backfield pressure. #SackLackCity should be a fun place for the Wildcats' Scooby Wright to visit: He's ranked in the top three nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, so why not put him on the same field as the Utes' Nate Orchard, who's currently at the top of the sack heap? Defensive star power is the name of the game here, but keep an eye on Arizona's Anu Solomon: He must step up to the challenge of the Rice-Eccles crowd.
Stanford at Cal, Fox Sports 1
Stanford's offense has been bad, but the Cardinal have found a way to score against shaky defenses this season (they've been terrible in games against ranked teams, averaging only 11.4 points per regulation in those contests). Well, good news for the Cardinal: The Golden Bears are worse than shaky on defense (39.2 points, 518 yards per game). Bad news for Stanford: Cal is at home, and it is smelling blood. Let's see what gives in the 117th Big Game. Oh, and that matchup between Jared Goff and Lance Anderson's top-ranked Cardinal defense isn't too shabby, either.
Colorado at Oregon, Pac-12 Network
The best team in the conference meets the worst team in the conference. Prediction-wise, that's about all that needs to be said about this one. Some extra, slightly unrelated food for thought: Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre asserted that the Pac-12 South was the best division in college football, better than even the SEC West. Imagine how absurdly strong the South would be if Oregon were in it, too (I bring this up only because the SEC's top team, Alabama, happens to reside in the powerful West).
USC at UCLA, ABC
Statues have been vandalized, airports have received photogenic lighting decorations, and statues have been arguably vandalized some more by duct tape (intended to protect them, but still, that's going to be a pain to remove, right?). The pregame rituals of rivalry week were fun, but it's time for some actual football with Pac-12 championship hopes on the line. The matchup of Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler is fascinating one, as is the battle between USC's frontline explosiveness and a UCLA machine that appears to be peaking at the right time.
Oregon State at Washington, ESPN
The Beavers need one more win to earn bowl eligibility for Sean Mannion in his senior season. It's amazing what one good week (paired with a bad one) can do: Both of these teams have lost four of their past five games, but the feeling surrounding Oregon State is much more positive than the one in Seattle. The Beavers notched a huge 35-27 upset win over ASU last weekend, while the Huskies dropped a bitter 27-26 decision to Arizona. Both have a chance to finish forgettable seasons on a high note.
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State