Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal

Pac-12 morning links

January, 12, 2015
Jan 12
8:00
AM ET
Tonight's the night (beyond the obvious, it's also a Dexter reference).

Leading off

Tonight we have the first-ever college football championship determined by a playoff. And the football gods rejoiced. Question is, will it be Oregon or Ohio State fans rejoicing this time tomorrow?

Ivan Maisel kicks us off with a really interesting column looking at whether the past BCS champs were worthy. Since the two teams that would have played in the title game under the old system -- Alabama and Florida State -- lost in the semifinals, it calls into question some previous teams that never got the chance under the BCS formula.

Writes Maisel:
Under the BCS system, which existed in sundry iterations from 1998 through 2013, the Crimson Tide and the Seminoles likely would have played for the national championship. It made for great theater in this first College Football Playoff -- the two teams that likely would have played for the BCS national championship lost in the semifinals. But those losses also serve as an indictment of every BCS decision made before them.

A few more links about the game to get you through till tonight: News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Ashley Adamson of the Pac-12 Networks gets up close and personal with the man who invented the College Football Playoff (allegedly).

Pac-12 morning links

January, 9, 2015
Jan 9
8:00
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Happy Friday!

Leading off

A couple of bowl stories from the AP to kick us off this Friday.

First up is their All-Bowl team. Despite the Pac-12 going 6-2 in the bowl season, only a couple of Oregon players made the AP's team. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Troy Hill were the lone Pac-12 players for their performances against Florida State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual.

However, their list is pretty strong in comparison to various Pac-12 performers. Travis Wilson had a strong bowl game against Colorado State, but Mariota against Florida State was more impressive. I thought Javorius Allen had a great game against Nebraska, but the trio of backs picked by the AP team are all deserving. I wouldn't drop one of them for Allen.

Maybe a case can be made for Adoree' Jackson, who caught a touchdown, returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score, and pitched in on defense. But LSU's Leonard Fournette had some pretty good numbers too.

Next up is a story about bowl attendance being down while viewership is up. It's not Pac-12 specific, just thought it was interesting.

From the AP's story:
The 38 bowl games this season have drawn an average announced attendance of 43,285, down 9.2 percent from the average of 47,659 for the 34 bowls last season that led up to the BCS National Championship.

Those figures are skewed by the fact that all four new bowls that had their inaugural games this season drew fewer than 30,000 fans. But even if you throw those four games out of the mix, the average attendance for the remaining 34 bowls is 45,904, down 3.7 percent from last season.
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Ever wonder how the term "Natty" got coined? Hint: It has nothing to do bargain-priced beer.

And if you haven't watched this by now, you really should.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 8, 2015
Jan 8
5:00
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video
Sitting there at that moment I thought of something else Shakespeare said. He said, "Hey... life is pretty stupid; with lots of hubbub to keep you busy, but really not amounting to much." Of course I'm paraphrasing: "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Leading off

Seems like everyone in the media is on the same schedule. Lots of headliner stories about the Oregon and Ohio State programs and quarterbacks early in the week. And as it gets to be later in the week, the focus turns to "X" factor players. We did it here at ESPN.com, with a piece from Chantel Jennings on some of the under-the-radar players for the Ducks.

Athlon Sports did a similar post, looking at five players who could make a difference in the title game. Two are from Oregon and three are from Ohio State. Steve Lassan points to Oregon tight end Evan Baylis and cornerback Chris Seisay. Here's his thoughts on Baylis:
But in the Rose Bowl win over Florida State, the tight end was featured more by coordinator Scott Frost and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Baylis grabbed six passes for 73 yards against the Seminoles, and both totals were season-high marks for the sophomore. With the speed and vertical threats in Oregon’s passing game, having a tight end like Baylis attacking the middle of the field is another dangerous option for Mariota.

A few more links on the title game: News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Yesterday we brought you the Tweet from Mike Bercovici complimenting Tony Romo on striking the Bercovici pose. Now, it's been dubbed BERCOing. It's a thing. And it's awesome.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 7, 2015
Jan 7
8:00
AM ET
"It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day."

"Goodyear?"

"No, the worst."

Leading off

I'm sure if we trace my genealogy back far enough -- like way, way back -- I'm probably related somewhere to someone on the Oregon football team (probably Ohio State too, for that matter, depending how far back you want to go). But that doesn't mean I can get my travel expenses reimbursed if I wanted to see my cousin Hroniss Grasu (109 times removed) play in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T next Monday.

Immediate parents or guardians, however, have gotten a reprieve to help defer the costs.

That was the big news Tuesday, as the College Football Playoff announced it will reimburse $1,250 in expenses for each parent or guardian to make the voyage to the title game. The move drew praise from the participating teams' coaches and administrators.

Here's the ESPN.com story.

And the AP has a story on it as well.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

O.J. Simpson's stolen Heisman has been recovered!

This is cool.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
8:00
AM ET
Vaya con Dios, brah.

Leading off

The Oregon Ducks met with the media today in advance of next week's College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T. We've got a full rundown of the news, notes and stories coming out of Eugene on Monday.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports starts us off with an explanation of why -- at the bargain-basement price of $2 million -- Oregon coach Mark Helfrich is the best deal in the nation.

Writes Feldman:
Still, his 24-3 record is eye-catching, as is the fact that his teams are 7-1 against ranked opponents (at the time they played) and won by an average of 22 points per game. Perhaps what's even more impressive about Helfrich's record in his first two seasons is that it comes at a time when the Pac-12 has never been tougher.

A few more links:
Settle in, because we've got a whole week of just one game to write about.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Time to pay up.



UCLA's future?

Two months ago, Stanford football, mired in a losing streak, faced a bevy of gravely legitimate questions. The Cardinal were stuck in a 5-5 rut, a product of offensive ineptitude that frustrated the fan base and emptied sizable chunks of the stadium. The gas tank that Jim Harbaugh had left full when he departed to the San Francisco 49ers back in 2011? It seemed to be running on empty. Stanford was functioning solely on the fumes of its exhausted defense, and the clock seemed to be ticking even on that reliable unit.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Tony AvelarCoach David Shaw will enter the 2015 season riding a three-game win streak and relishing in the retention of two successful assistants on Stanford's staff.
Then came five consecutive victories that have completely reversed the narrative surrounding the Stanford program. The first three of those wins came in resounding fashion on the field, while the most recent two have arrived in dramatic fashion off of it.

The opponents the Cardinal have defeated during their recent stabilization of what had been a very unsteady situation: Cal, UCLA, Maryland, and Jim Harbaugh (twice).

Yes, you read that right. In order to right the ship, Stanford has had to defeat the same Jim Harbaugh who initially left them the keys to glory four years ago. Sometimes, the wacky world of football gives us full circle stories that simply couldn't have been scripted in a more fascinating fashion.

Chalk this latest one up as a massive victory for current Stanford coach David Shaw.

Even after the Cardinal's offensive resuscitation earned that desperately-needed trio of victories to close the season, the Stanford program was still under siege. Multiple reports indicated Harbaugh wanted to poach defensive/recruiting coordinator Lance Anderson and sports performance director Shannon Turley, widely regarded as the two most important members of the Cardinal's staff, to his new job at Michigan.

Stanford, coming off its first five-loss season in half a decade, seemed like potentially vulnerable prey. Harbaugh, possibly confident this was the case, reportedly told at least one Michigan recruit he was persuading a number of Cardinal assistants to join him in Ann Arbor.

This was a serious threat to Stanford, and it's not hard to understand why.

As a liaison between the Stanford football program and the university's famously strict admissions office, Anderson had become a master of the recruiting game and an excellent defensive coordinator to boot -- the Cardinal finished second nationally in scoring defense despite losing a truckload of defensive star power before the season (see Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, Ed Reynolds, and Josh Mauro). Meanwhile, Turley's innovative approach had garnered national attention after it had created a physically dominant roster and cut Stanford injury rates by a staggering 87 percent since his arrival in 2007.

Colleagues dub Turley the "scientist" and the "technician," and Stanford uses his track record of keeping players healthy while developing them into NFL prospects as potent fuel on the recruiting trail. The likes of Andrew Luck and Richard Sherman, two of the biggest stars in the professional game today, return to train with Turley at Stanford in the offseason. It'd be hard -- if not impossible -- to quantify the monetary value of that fact when it's presented in a high school player's living room.

In short, Anderson and Turley were two assistants Shaw could ill afford to lose. And he had to beat Harbaugh -- the coach who had initially employed these coaches at the University of San Diego before bringing them to Stanford -- to keep their services.

In a precarious time for the Cardinal program, Shaw came through with two of his biggest victories as coach.

It's likely that Shaw's allure as a popular leader to work under -- one willing to step up to the plate for his assistants in negotiations -- was instrumental in winning these battles. Sure, Stanford's inconsistent offensive play has led to some fan and media criticism of the Cardinal's head man, but he has earned steady appreciation from inside the program for his guidance as its chief. This respect proved vital this past weekend, and Shaw kept an essential part of his brain trust intact.

Of course, Stanford is not out of the woods yet. A majority of the defense's starters will graduate this offseason. The team is waiting for the future plans of left tackle Andrus Peat and quarterback Kevin Hogan. Even if both of those players return to the program in 2015, the Cardinal will have much to prove after their ultimately disappointing 8-5 campaign, and they'll have to rely on several currently inexperienced players in the next foray.

But this past weekend's off-field victories were as necessary as they were symbolic for Shaw's program: They maintained momentum following the team's promising finish to the 2014 season, and they retained two critical drivers for the daunting reloading effort that now faces the Cardinal. Most importantly, they solidified belief that Shaw can carry the success that ended this recent season into 2015. Positive forward energy is now a valuable Stanford ally, and it shouldn't be underestimated.
There are two ways to assess what many have deemed a confusing 2014 Stanford season.

Option A -- The glass half-empty approach involves focusing on the Cardinal's five losses and bemoaning the offensive struggles that caused them. Stanford did boast the nation's second-best scoring defense, after all, and the loss column should never be marred by a "five" when that's the case.

Option B -- The glass half-full approach aims its attention at Stanford's torrid finish, which saw a resurgent offense pave the way to a three-game winning streak and shine hope on the 2015 campaign. The Cardinal won each of those final three games, including the one at No. 8 UCLA, by at least three touchdowns.

There's no wrong choice here. It's a matter of perspective. For the record, though, Stanford coach David Shaw circled Option B following his team's 45-21 drubbing of Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl.

"I'll try to look back on the season and learn some lessons," he said. "Schematically, there were some things we could have done better, but I never lament. I don't go back and say, 'what if?' I'm a big believer in looking forward. Learn from what's happened in the past. I've always believed that, and these guys have cemented that."

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsKevin Hogan completed 14-for-20 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinal's bowl win over Maryland.
 Stanford's well-rounded offensive play down the home stretch -- the Cardinal finished with another balanced performance in which they passed for 208 yards and rushed for 206 -- offered a drastic difference from the despair that sullied a large part of the season on that side of the ball. Against Maryland, quarterback Kevin Hogan turned in his second straight fantastic performance, completing 14-for-20 passes for 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

As he enjoyed a renaissance of confidence in the pocket, Hogan distributed the ball to seven different receivers and tacked on 50 timely rushing yards of his own. In the end, Hogan overcame a season of adversity -- his father passed away earlier this month after battling illness -- to ultimately remind Stanford fans of the gutsy quarterback that helped push the team to Rose Bowl berths in each of the previous past two seasons.

"We finished the season strong and I think that, as a whole, we just know how good we are," Hogan said. "It stinks that sometimes people look at the record and judge a team based on that."

Like it or not, though, Stanford's 8-5 record is the team's ultimate measuring stick, and that mark suggests a significant regression from the greatest stretch in program history. The Cardinal entered this season coming off four consecutive trips to BCS bowls. Their struggles, therefore, were jarring -- particularly against ranked teams. Stanford finished 1-5 against Top 25 opponents and 7-0 against unranked foes, winning those games by an average of about 25 points.

But the Cardinal did save that one win over ranked competition for the end, so it was part of their reinvigorated finish. That dominant victory over the Bruins, coupled with this strong encore against Maryland, has generated some wonder: Can Stanford can make a quick return to glory in 2015?

Just six weeks ago, that proposition would have been greeted with derisive laughter. Stanford had managed only seven points and 3.7 yards per play in regulation at home against Utah, after all. At that point, the Cardinal could only hang their hat on defense, and even that was a question mark moving forward since the program was expected to lose about eight starters on the side of the ball.

After the double overtime loss to the Utes, fifth-year senior John Flacco delivered an impassioned, expletive-laden speech that pierced through the walls of the Stanford Stadium locker room. Players have said they were inspired by the talk; they circled the wagons at that point, and the offense surged forward, thanks in large part to efficient use of its personnel, renewed fervor up front and Hogan's resulting confidence behind it all.

"This team has such resilience," Shaw said. "Even after a lot of self-inflicted wounds during the course of the year, the things we did to ourselves, our guys never put their heads down."

The powerful ensuing push has set the table for next season, though many roster questions must still be settled before a clear outlook exists. As of right now, there's healthy optimism surrounding an offensive line that jelled nicely by the end of the year -- Joshua Garnett was dominant against Maryland -- but Andrus Peat's NFL decision still looms. Remound Wright (nine touchdowns in the final three games) and Christian McCaffrey (138 all-purpose yards) look to be a dangerous one-two option at running back moving forward, while receiver Devon Cajuste plans to announce his fifth year intentions today.

Stanford's 2015 offense will certainly enjoy a boost if the 6-foot-4 target returns to school, but there's optimism regarding the team's maturing tight end corps regardless, especially since Hogan -- who still has a year of eligibility remaining -- has rediscovered them off play action (Austin Hooper caught five passes for 71 yards in the bowl game).

"I feel that we've recruited well," Shaw said. "We're going to be deep on both sides of the ball next year."

 That statement puts a significant amount of faith in touted but so far untested talent on the defensive side of the ball, where a bevy of rugged stars -- namely Henry Anderson, David Parry, Blake Lueders, James Vaughters, Jordan Richards, and A.J. Tarpley -- have exhausted their eligibility. Wayne Lyons also appears primed to leave school, and his fellow cornerback Alex Carter indicated that after Tuesday's game that he'll forego his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

In short, Stanford has its work cut out as they enter the era of pure Shaw influence. The seniors who played for Jim Harbaugh as freshmen back in 2010 suited up in Cardinal uniforms for the final time Tuesday night at Levi's Stadium. And rather poetically, this last game came on the day of Harbaugh's return to the college ranks at Michigan.

The chapter of Stanford's initial ascendance, then, is now completely closed. This program moves on to a totally new era, one in which their response to this disappointing 8-5 campaign is the first test. The optimist will suggest that 2014's hot finish indicates that more big success is on its way, while the skeptic will dismiss these final three games and adamantly point to the Cardinal's overall downward trend in performance.

At this moment, neither interpretation is right, and neither interpretation is wrong. We wait for the future to be written during the 2015 Stanford season, which will bring more definitive answers as to the true trajectory of this Cardinal program, which is at a crossroads.
videoSANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Stanford finished the season with a resounding 45-21 victory over Maryland, and that pushed the Cardinal to an 8-5 final record in 2014. Here is the rundown of the Foster Farms Bowl:

How the game was won: Stanford executed its formula and overwhelmed Maryland. The Cardinal were the biggest favorite of all teams playing this bowl season, and it was easy to see why that was the case on this chilly, windy night at Levi's Stadium. Stanford's balanced offensive attack hit Maryland with production on the ground (44 carries, 205 yards, 4.7 per carry) and through the air, as Kevin Hogan connected with seven different receivers in his efficient performance.

Meanwhile, Stanford's defense delivered one of its vintage efforts. The starters held Maryland to just 3.3 yards per play.

Game ball goes to: Hogan. The senior quarterback battled through plenty of adversity during this up-and-down season. He saved his best performances for the final two games. Hogan's final line this time: 14-for-20, 189 yards, two touchdowns and 50 yards rushing. Stanford roasted Maryland on play-action, especially when Hogan targeted redshirt freshman tight end Austin Hooper in the seam.

It was over when: Judging by the way it played out, this one might have been over when this bowl match-up was announced. Coming into this game, Stanford was 6-0 against unranked teams, and it had won those games by an average of about 25 points. Maryland, of course, was unranked, and it had a similar fate awaiting them.

No matter their offensive struggles this season, the Cardinal owned games in which they had a distinct physical advantage. That was the case Tuesday night, when Stanford raced to a 28-7 lead and never looked back in a dominant performance.

Stat of the game: Christian McCaffrey's 138 all-purpose yards. The true freshman running back was explosive all over the field for Stanford (8.1 yards per carry), and 81 of his yards came on punt returns -- that broke the Foster Farms Bowl record in that category. Sure, that number isn't particularly staggering, but McCaffrey's performance is a huge reason for optimism for Stanford when coach David Shaw begins planning for 2015.

Best play: McCaffrey's electric 22-yard run in the second quarter featured a broken tackle in the backfield, a sprint across the field, and an aggressive block from Hogan. Yup, the quarterback was leading the way for the freshman running back downfield.

video

UA practice notebook: Day 2 

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
4:47
PM ET

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Day 2 of the Under Armour All-America game practices was overcast and rainy, but the dreary weather didn't stop Team Armour and Team Highlight from having an exciting practice.

The two teams had a spirited first day of practice, however, two offensive linemen, Keenan Walker and Lester Cotton, suffered injuries and won't be able to play in the game on Friday. With the shortage of bodies along the offensive line, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis was asked to drive up from IMG Academy in Bradenton to fill in.

Viewer's Guide: Foster Farms Bowl

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
10:00
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Stanford is favored to beat fellow 7-5 opponent Maryland by 14 points in this Foster Farms Bowl, and that's the biggest point spread of any game this bowl season. It's easy to see why the Cardinal are expected to win so handily. Coach David Shaw's squad is coming off its more impressive win of the season (a 31-10 romp at No. 8 UCLA), while the Terrapins blew a 35-17 halftime lead to Rutgers in a home loss their last time out. So can Maryland pull off the shocker in Santa Clara, California, and put a dent in what has been an undefeated Pac-12 bowl season? Here's a look at some key facets of Tuesday's game (10 p.m. ET, ESPN):

1. Can Maryland stop Stanford's run game?: The Cardinal's vaunted rushing attack struggled to find consistent footing for much of the 2014 season, but the unit finally hit its stride against California and UCLA, posting consecutive 200-yard efforts for the first time all year. That's bad news for Maryland, the nation's 100th-ranked rushing defense. The Terrapins surrendered 201 yards per game on the ground, and they're in for a long day if they can't shed blocks from Stanford monsters Andrus Peat and Joshua Garnett up front.

The Cardinal finished 1-5 against top-25 teams this season but posted a 6-0 record against unranked clubs while winning those games by an average of nearly 25 points -- primarily because it dominated the line of scrimmage in those contests. Unranked Maryland has plenty of work up to do up front if it intends to reverse that trend.

2. The Kevin Hogan saga: After an up-and-down 2014 campaign, Hogan was spectacular in Stanford's statement win at UCLA. He finished 16-for-19 in what was perhaps the best outing of his career. That performance re-ignited speculation that Hogan might forego his fifth year of eligibility and declare for the 2015 NFL draft. That decision is up in the air right now, although Shaw has indicated he expects his starting quarterback to return next season.

The main point remains: With so many questions swirling around the Stanford offense following its worst season in years, there will be many eyes on Hogan's play during this bowl game. He's seen plenty of success when given the benefit of a strong running game in his career, and, given Maryland's rush-defense struggles, Hogan figures to enjoy that ground help at Levi's Stadium.

3. Will C.J. Brown hold his own against the Stanford defense?: The Cardinal's defense was ranked at or near the top of the nation in most categories over the course of this season, so Maryland's quarterback has a tall task in front of him if the Terrapins are to be competitive in this game. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound senior is one of just five quarterbacks in the nation to have led his team in rushing -- more than 700 yards before sacks are factored in -- and that dual-threat tally poses a threat that Maryland hopes will keep Stanford off balance. This will be Brown's final college game following a gutsy career in College Park, Maryland. The Terrapins have struggled to protect him at times this season, and Stanford's front seven loves to get after quarterbacks, so Maryland must scrap to keep Brown clean.
Stanford lost five regular-season games for the first time since the 2008 season but can still finish the season on a three-game winning streak by beating Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl. With some big names scheduled -- and possibly planning -- to leave the Farm following this season, Stanford will need to keep things rolling on the recruiting trail in order to regain its place as one of the Pac-12's elite programs.


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Kevin Hogan isn't ready to discuss his football future, but he isn't shy about the dissatisfaction generated by Stanford's 2014 season.

"It would be a lie to say this season hasn't been disappointing," he said. "But we can only get better and move forward from here."

That's the workmanlike tone coming from the Stanford quarterback leading up the Dec. 30 Foster Farms Bowl against Maryland, the Cardinal's last chance to add some more positivity onto the end of their topsy-turvy 7-5 campaign. The peaks and valleys of this 2014 ride have been pronounced, perhaps none more so than Stanford's last time out, a 31-10 whooping over No. 8 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinal hope Kevin Hogan's performance against UCLA carries over to the Foster Farms Bowl against Maryland.
 That commanding win encapsulated the type of play many expected -- but didn't see -- from the Cardinal over the course of the entire season. While the offense stumbled its way to a conference-worst scoring output through the year's first 11 games, that 12th one featured all-around efficiency reminiscent of the Andrew Luck era: Hogan finished 16-for-19 with a 222.4 quarterback rating, over 80 points higher than his season mark coming into the game.

"Kevin has the ability to play at the next level," coach David Shaw said. 'That UCLA game showed his ceiling."

And that's exactly where Stanford's quandary moving forward begins. After all, there were times this year when it looked like the Cardinal would be better suited moving on to another quarterback in 2015. Hogan's performances against Notre Dame (4.4 yards per attempt) and Utah (3.9 yards per attempt) were two glaring examples. Blame for Stanford's red zone woes (119th in the nation) often fell on offensive playcalling, but since that wasn't an issue when a guru like Luck was under center, Hogan took his share of heat for those shortcomings, too.

But then came the quarterback's recent torrid finish, one that saw Stanford's rushing attack finally regain at least a semblance of the consistency that Hogan had enjoyed throughout his first two years under center. And that success on the ground provided a backbone that helped No. 8 return to his comfort zone.

"Anytime you have success, you want to build on it," Hogan said. "We feel that we've gotten into a rhythm and groove with our schemes. We feel comfortable now."

And it's this comfort that's posing a triple Stanford question mark moving forward. The range of possibilities are as broad as Stanford's season was inconsistent. Will Hogan return to start under center in his fifth-year senior season? Or will the Cardinal, concerned by that earlier inconsistency, look to upgrade at quarterback in 2015? And according to Shaw, the third head of this confusing beast seems to be back on the table following Hogan's sizzling finale: Will Hogan test NFL waters following this season?

"I haven't made a decision," Hogan said. "But it's a process, and I'm going to make sure it's well thought-out for my best interest and the best interest of my family."

Amidst all the possibilities, Shaw says that he expects Hogan to be back at Stanford next year (though he "wouldn't be shocked" if he made a run at the next level), despite the NFL potential that he sees in his quarterback.

"The big thing is for him to play [the way he did against UCLA] the whole season," Shaw said. "Hopefully, he comes back and does that next year."

That thought indicates that Hogan is the current favorite to start under center for Stanford in 2015. Current back-up Evan Crower -- whose play Shaw has praised this December -- also has one year of eligibility remaining, while touted youngsters Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns are both considered future options to man the ship.

And if that Hogan-Stanford partnership does last into its fourth season, Shaw has indicated that his team will work to accentuate the quarterback's strengths that shone so brightly in that sparkling UCLA performance. The first opportunity to do so will come against the Terrapins at Levi's Stadium.

"We're going to stick with what's working," Shaw said. "Kevin needs to play fast."

Hogan's calling card is his athleticism and nose for the football, and he said that an early integration of some physical play helps him lock into the type of rhythm that was on display at UCLA, when perfect early accuracy led him complete 12 straight passes out of the gate.

"It's just like anyone: A receiver would like to catch a hitch before a 50-yard go route," Hogan said. "You want to get into a rhythm with your bread and butter plays.... I'm the same way. If I can roll out or do a QB run, I'd like to get that first hit and first play out of the way. You feel like you're in the game. I appreciate those plays when they're called early, and I try to lobby for them."

So Hogan and Shaw both feel that they've discovered the ingredient to consistency, and they have one more chance to see if it can cook a delicious meal before having to deliver definitive answers regarding Stanford's offensive complexion moving forward. The grandeur of Pasadena on Jan. 1 won't be the stage this time, but it'll be an opportunity to clear up a confusing future nonetheless.

"It's disappointing not playing in a game like the Rose Bowl," Hogan said. "But it's still football nonetheless."

It's football indeed -- and an opportunity for Stanford to lay that first critical 2015 foundation.
Marcus MariotaCary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsFor Marcus Mariota, throwing an interception has been a rare occurrence the past two seasons.
EUGENE, Ore. -- In the past two seasons, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been intercepted six times. He has attempted 758 passes.

That statistic alone is absolutely insane. Imagine that: For the number of times Mariota has targeted a young receiver or a guy in double coverage, thrown a bomb or a risky fade, only six of those times has a player who wasn’t supposed to get the ball, in fact, gotten the ball. The odds of football say he should’ve thrown far more picks during his time in an Oregon uniform. But as more fans have looked west this season to watch the Heisman winner, they’ve learned Mariota doesn’t exactly live or die by the rules of odds (or gravity, for that matter).

It’s impressive not just because of how clean he has been, but also because of how many shots he has taken at the end zone without being picked off. Other than holding the nation’s best interception-to-pass attempt ratio over the past two seasons, Mariota also holds the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in FBS. For every pick, he throws 11.5 touchdowns.

It’s a feat to intercept any quarterback, and most defensive players can remember their interceptions pretty well. But when you intercept Mariota, it sticks a little more, which we discovered when speaking with those in the elite group.

However, there was a common trend among the players when they spoke about the interception. A lot of guys said they were lucky or in the right spot, Mariota was unlucky, or he had to be baited into the interception. Nothing was a gimme.

The six players who made #SuperMariota look -- at least a little bit -- human over the past two seasons reflected on their interceptions. Quickly, it was discovered that picking off Mariota isn’t just a vague memory. Most players remember the very minute details of the play, the moment and the pick.

These are their memories:

Nov. 1, 2014 | Stanford cornerback Alex Carter

“I remember the receiver took an inside release, so I knew he was going to run an inside route. It was against Devon Allen. It was their fastest guy, so I knew he was going to run deep or a post. And then, as I was chasing after Devon, I kind of peeked -- I saw my safety over top, so I was a little bit behind -- but I looked back to see if Marcus had thrown the ball. He had thrown it, and it kind of got lost in the lights for three seconds, and then on its way down, it just kind of popped into my hands. I was pretty fortunate that he threw a bad pass.”

It was a bad pass?

“Yeah. He saw his receiver open, but he saw the safety in the middle, and I was coming from behind, so it was kind of like we had him on both sides. [Marcus] kind of underthrew his receiver a little bit. I’m just lucky I was in the right spot.”

Oct. 24, 2014 | Cal safety Stefan McClure

[+] EnlargeStefan McClure
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsCal's Stefan McClure said he could see the ire of Oregon players after he intercepted Marcus Mariota.
“I remember the defense being backed up in the red zone, and then they were just driving the ball on us. They tried to run, basically, a little switch route -- a slant and a post, the outside guy ran a slant, the inside guy ran a post -- the ball was tipped by the linebacker. It looked like it was going right to our corner, and our corner had an easy interception. He jumped for it, and he tipped it, and it went straight to me. It kind of just fell in my hands right in the end zone. So it was tipped twice and went right to me, but the corner had the clearer shot at the interception, but he didn’t catch it.”

Do you remember anything about the demeanor of Oregon players after that interception?

“They were a little surprised. They weren’t happy about it. After I caught it, one of them jumped and tried to grab the ball from me, so they were still trying to fight for it. I just remember Mariota looked disappointed and just unbuckled his chinstrap pretty mad-like. That was the main thing. The ball was tipped twice, so it wasn’t like he just threw it terribly, it was tipped twice and batted around. Those are the worst interceptions to have as a quarterback.”

Nov. 29, 2013 | Oregon State cornerback Rashaad Reynolds

“We were in a Cover 3. It was, I believe, the third or fourth quarter of the game. I think they came out, and they ran two streaks with just a fade on the outside and a seam on the inside. I was playing in the middle of both of the guys. He had one guy up the sideline, and I was kind of leaning more toward the guy in the middle of the field, but I saw the guy going up the sideline, so I kind of got a jump on it once he threw the ball.”

Do you think Mariota could’ve avoided the pick in any way?

“He probably could’ve thrown it a little further, but the way it looked -- because I kind of baited it -- I made it seem like the guy up the sideline was kind of open. I did that on purpose to bait him. But he was looking off, so he wasn’t looking at that particular guy. So once he looked that way, I just broke on the ball and got the interception.”

Nov. 29, 2013 | Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson

“We were in a Cover 3, and I was running nub side tight end. They did a 10-yard in route, and it looked like Mariota kind of underthrew [the receiver] a little bit. I just jumped in front of it.”

Do you remember anything that happened after you made the interception?

“It was kind of a hard catch. If you watch the play, I had to reach back for the ball, and I landed on my left leg, and I tried to keep balance. And I really didn’t have time to see where I could run, so I think the nearest receiver just tackled me.”

Nov. 23, 2013 | Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright

“It was the first play of the game, and I think [they] turned out a hitch to the sideline, and the receiver kind of bobbled the ball and had fallen out of bounds. Shaquille Richardson kind of made a great play on the ball and threw it back inbounds to me, and I was by the sideline and, just, I caught it and stayed in bounds.”

Do you remember anything that happened after you made the interception?

“I should’ve scored a touchdown, but I tripped.”

Nov. 23, 2013 | Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson

“My interception was toward the end of the game. … From film study and how the game had been going, I knew what play they were running, which was a double post around the 20-yard line, which is a common route combination. So I only played that route, and my front seven had a lot of pressure on the play and forced Mariota to scramble. I was [guessing] because you knew he would just run if I covered my man, so I waited a split-second and baited him to throw it, and when he did, I already [knew] what would happen so I finished the route for the receiver. I think his name was Lowe. If it was not for Mariota’s athletic ability and speed, he wouldn't have cut me off on my way to the end zone.”

Another wild week in Pac-12 

December, 19, 2014
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The Pac-12 and the West region are capable of producing some wild weeks during the lead-up to signing day, with so many prospects in the area waiting until that day to make their commitment and rivals going after so many of the same prospects.


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Pac-12 morning links

December, 19, 2014
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Happy Friday!

Leading off

All week we've been bringing you the All-America honors as they rolled in.

In total, 14 Pac-12 players were named to a first-team All-America squad. Of those 14, Marcus Mariota, Scooby Wright and Hau'oli Kikaha were unanimous selections. Two other players -- Tom Hackett and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- were consensus selections appearing on at least three of the five recognized teams.

This is the eighth straight year the Pac-12 has had a unanimous selection and the first time since 2005 it's had three in one year (Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Maurice Drew). The five recognized teams are the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Here's the final tally among the big five:

Offense
  • QB, Marcus Mariota, Oregon, Jr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
  • OL, Jake Fisher, Oregon, Sr., FWAA
  • OL, Hroniss Grasu, Oregon, Sr., SN
  • OL, Andrus Peat, Stanford, Jr., SN
  • AP, Shaq Thompson, Washington, Jr., AP
Defense
  • DL, Nate Orchard, Utah, Sr., FWAA-WC
  • DL, Danny Shelton, Washington, Jr., AP-SN
  • DL, Leonard Williams, USC, Jr., AFCA
  • LB, Eric Kendricks, UCLA, Sr., SN
  • LB, Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington, Sr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
  • LB, Scooby Wright III, Arizona, So., AFCA-AP-FWAA-SN-WC (unanimous)
  • DB, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon, Sr., AFCA-AP-WC (consensus)
  • P, Tom Hackett, Utah, Jr., AFCA-AP-FWAA-WC (consensus)
  • PR, Kaelin Clay, Utah, Sr., SN
Game of the year?

Just before the start of bowl season, the folks at Athlon Sports wanted to look back at the chaos that was the 2014 Pac-12 regular season. We've been running our pivotal plays series all week, so be sure to check that out. But Athlon looked at the top 15 games of the season. Here's their top five.
  1. Oct 2: Arizona 31, Oregon 24
  2. Oct. 4: Arizona State 38, USC 34
  3. Sept. 6: Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
  4. Oct. 25: Utah 24, USC 21
  5. Oct. 4: Utah 30, UCLA 28

You'll note that three of their five are from Week 6. We noted last week in our Roadtrip Revisited post that every game that week was unbelievable. If you click the link, they actually rate 30 games. Fairly surprised the Cal-WSU game (also in Week 6) didn't make the top 10. To each their own.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Really great read from our friend Max Olson on the Big 12 blog about the recruitment of linebacker Malik Jefferson. Some interesting UCLA notes in there.

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