Pac-12: Utah Utes

Pac-12 morning links

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
8:00
AM ET
Happy Friday!

Leading off

So much for it being a slow news week leading up to today's Pac-12 championship game. The big news Thursday was the shocking and sudden exodus of Oregon State coach Mike Riley to Nebraska. That means of the non-expansion schools, Stanford's David Shaw is the "dean" of the conference ... if you can believe that.

That leaves a void at Oregon State, and the Pac-12 blog can confirm that Ted Miller is not a candidate. But it's going to be an interesting search. Here's some reaction from Corvallis to Lincoln on the hire. Grading period

What's the old saying? "D" is for diploma? Apparently it was good enough for Riley. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News published his grades for all 12 coaches in the conference Thursday morning before the news broke about Riley.

No one received an "F." But the quartet of David Shaw, Steve Sarkisian, Riley and Mike Leach were all in the "D" range. Not surprisingly, the two coaches playing in today's Pac-12 championship game had the highest grades of the 12 coaches, with Rich Rodriguez getting and "A+" and Mark Helfrich receiving an "A." Agree? Disagree? Here's Wilner's take on Riley:
Won just two conference games -- I expected four or five Ws -- and one of them was Colorado. Tough to give Riley anything lower than a D because of an injury list that stretches to eternity.
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

It wouldn't be a Nebraska story if our favorite parody twitter account, Faux Pelini, didn't weigh in. Feel free to scroll through his timeline, which outlines some advice for Riley. His reaction:

Marcus Mariota, Cody KesslerUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SportswireMarcus Mariota and Cody Kessler's combined statistics: 72 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions.
The regular season is over, so it's a fine time to look at some final team statistical tallies (and a few relevant individual ones) from around the Pac-12 to evaluate how teams stacked up with each other in critical categories:

  • Oregon and Stanford clearly led the Pac-12 in offense and defense, respectively. The Ducks' 45.9 points per game were more than a touchdown better than second-place offense California (38.2 points per game). The Cardinal's 16.0 points per game allowed were more than a touchdown better than second-place defense Oregon (23.2 points per game). The Ducks showed the greatest overall balance (tops in points scored, second in points allowed), so it's no surprise they're favored to win Friday's conference title game.
  • The Cardinal, meanwhile, complemented their league-best defensive numbers with the Pac-12's worst scoring offense (25.7 points per game), so it's no surprise that they finished with an unremarkable 7-5 record. Every conference team averaged 30 points per game except Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado.
  • More on the defensive end: Cal was again the Pac-12's worst team in that category, allowing 39.8 points per game. The Bears did improve from their 2013 statistics, when they allowed 45.9 points per game. Oregon State (31.6), Washington State (38.6), and Colorado (39.0) all surrendered more than 30 points per game. Arizona State (27.7) featured the worst defense among the Pac-12 teams that finished with a winning record.
  • Of course, point totals should not serve as the exclusive barometer of offensive and defensive play. The yards per play average can be a solid efficiency measurement. On the offensive end, Oregon averaged 7.4 yards per play. Second place Washington State and Cal were way behind at 6.1 yards per play. Utah's offense finished last in this metric, averaging just 5.2 yards per play.
  • Like Oregon on the offensive side, Stanford's defense finished head and shoulders above the rest of the Pac-12 by allowing only 4.2 yards per play. The second-most efficient defense in the conference was UCLA, a full yard behind at 5.2 yards per play. USC (5.3) and Washington (5.3) both closely trailed the Bruins; Colorado allowed a league-worst 6.5 yards per play.
  • The gap between the best and worst rushing offenses in the Pac-12 is the size of the Grand Canyon: Oregon ran for 33 touchdowns while pass-happy Washington State only totaled five. The Ducks (5.4) were the only team to average more than five yards per rush, while the Cougars mustered only 2.0 per carry. Arizona checks in at 4.7 yards per rush, so the Pac-12's two most efficient ground attacks are squaring off in the title game.
  • Marcus Mariota is leading Oregon and the nation with more than 10 yards per pass attempt. The second-most-efficient conference aerial attack belonged to Cody Kessler's USC unit (8.4 yards per attempt). Colorado was way behind everyone else here, mustering only 6.3 yards per attempt. By the way, only two quarterbacks nationally finished with more than 3,000 passing yards and fewer than five interceptions: Mariota (2) and Kessler (4). Both threw 36 touchdown passes during the regular season.
  • Stanford narrowly led the Pac-12 in rush defense (3.2 yards per carry allowed, just ahead of Washington at 3.3), but their lead in pass defense was massive (5.2 yards per attempt allowed was more than a full yard better than second-place USC, who checked in at 6.4 yards per attempt allowed). Washington State's pass defense performed the least efficiently, surrendering 8.3 yards per attempt.
  • The Cardinal's defense led the Pac-12 in almost all critical categories, but USC actually bested Stanford in two big ones: third-down defense and red-zone defense. The Trojans finished at the top of the heap in both, allowing their opponents to convert only 35.2 percent of third downs (better than the Cardinal's 35.6) and 72.3 percent of red-zone scoring opportunities. Interestingly, Oregon featured the Pac-12's worst third-down defense (43.6 percent), but their offense was by far the league's best (51.3 percent).
  • Cal was the Pac-12's most-penalized team (81.1 yards per game) and Utah was its least-penalized team (49.1 yards per game).
  • Washington forced the most takeaways (27), but Oregon suffered the fewest turnovers (8), so the Ducks had the best margin in the conference (plus-15). Of the seven teams that finished with a positive turnover margin, six sported winning records. Of the five teams that finished with a negative turnover margin, only two attained marks above .500.
  • UCLA featured the Pac-12's best red-zone offense, averaging 5.4 points per trip inside the 20-yard line. Stanford was the league's worst, mustering only 4.2 points per red-zone trip.
  • Utah (52) and Washington led the nation in sacks, while the Huskies' Hau'oli Kikaha (18.0) and the Utes' Nate Orchard (17.5) led the country individually in that category. It should be noted that Orchard played one fewer game than Kikaha, so his per-game average was higher (1.46 to 1.38). Meanwhile, Arizona's Scooby Wright blasted everyone in the nation when it came to tackles for loss per game. He averaged 2.25; second place Kikaha was way behind at 1.85.
Welcome to the last mailbag of the non-bowl season. Tweet at me here, you'll feel better about yourself.

Morgan in Sunnyvale, Calif. writes: Is there any point to "All-PAC12" anymore? Seems to me like a hype indicator. Actual on-field performance doesn't matter. If it did, Perkins and Kendricks would both be first-team players. Shaq Thompson over Kendricks? Foster over Perkins? I get that the coaches are the ones who vote on this stuff, but that system doesn't seem to be working. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Kevin Gemmell: You can make a strong case for Eric Kendricks and Paul Perkins. But I don't see these selections by the coaches as egregious. Whatever argument you can make for the UCLA duo, I can see the counter-argument for Thompson and D.J. Foster. Doesn't mean it's right or wrong. Or that I agree with it. But it's defensible.

It seems shocking that the league's rushing leader didn't land on either all-conference team. I'm not sure I recall a year when that's ever happened. Perkins definitely has the edge in rushing yards with 1,378 to Foster's 1,002.

But when you factor in receiving yards, Foster jumps to 1,648 yards and 12 touchdowns to Perkins' 1,579 yards and nine total touchdowns. My guess is the coaches took total production into account.

As for the linebackers -- this one I tend to agree with you a bit more on ... especially if total production is taken into account, as it was for the running backs. Kendricks had nearly double the tackles of Thompson with 139 to 71. He also had 8.5 tackles for a loss, compared to two from Thompson. Thompson, of course, had four defensive touchdowns, which I think ultimately swayed the coaches. Kendricks had one. If the coaches put a higher premium on defensive scores, then I can see why that went down the way it did. Again, not saying I agree with their selection. But I can understand it if that was their thinking.

Noteworthy, too, that the coaches opted for a 4-3 defense, which is a little interesting since the majority of the teams in the league play an odd front 3-4 (Arizona plays a 3-3-5 base). Personally, I would have a 3-4 defense with four linebackers. Then Kendricks would be on the first team and everyone (well, at least you) would be happy.

Say this for Kendricks, though, he's got his head on straight.

Alexis in Tucson writes: So much for Myles Jack winning the Heisman and being the best player in the country. Couldn't even get on the 1st team.

Kevin Gemmell: Way back in Week 1, I wrote a column about Jack and all of the preseason hype that was surrounding him.

If I may quote myself:
What if Jack is just a really, really good cover linebacker? He's not asked to do the sorts of things that [Anthony] Barr was. Barr was a bona-fide pass-rusher, a backfield menace. Jack makes his bones at or above the line of scrimmage, not behind it. What if Jack finishes the year with 85 tackles and four or five picks and the occasional rushing touchdown?

"I'm happy with that," Jack said. "That's a solid year for me."

Will the hype machine be happy with that? "Probably not."

Jack finished the regular season with 80 tackles, no picks, but was tied for second on the team seven pass breakups. He also had six tackles for a loss and three rushing touchdowns. I wasn't dead-on. But I was pretty close.

I thought the preseason narrative around Jack was a little silly. So did Jack. So did Jim Mora. I know this because both told me. The preseason expectations placed on him were simply unattainable by any player. Last year he had 75 tackles and two picks -- and that was in 13 games. He still has one more to play this year.

The hype was ridiculous. I knew it, he knew it, his coach knew it and those who follow the league closely knew it too. That doesn't mean he's not an outstanding football player, because he is. He's without question one of the top linebackers in the country. Was he Heisman worthy? No. Scooby Wright had the kind of year a linebacker needs to be Heisman worthy. And the aforementioned Kendricks was certainly the leader of that defense.

But comparing the season he had -- which was a very good one -- to the preseason expectations is ridiculous. He didn't set those expectations. "We," the national media, did. And "we" were foolish to do so.

Brad in San Francisco writes: Hey guys, I understand nothing means anything until Sunday, but a lot of the bowl projections have Arizona securing a bid in one of the NY6 bowls, namely the Fiesta. I'm curious if they're factoring in a loss to Oregon in the P12 Championship game, which I assume is the case since most projections have Oregon in the FBS playoff semifinal. I understand that Arizona won the P12 South, and congrats to them for doing so. But would a 3-loss P12 team really get invited to a NY6 bowl? And, if so, why Arizona over, say, UCLA who beat Arizona this year and also finished with 3 losses?

Kevin Gemmell: Much like I was saying in last week's mailbag with regard to UCLA, I think "style points" will play a factor. If Arizona wins, the committee has a debate on its hands. If Oregon wins, it's a lock for the playoffs. If Oregon wins big -- say 42-17 -- it's going to be tough to make a case for Arizona for one of those extra bowl games. If Oregon wins 38-35 on a last-minute field goal, then I think Arizona is in.

Arizona doesn't have a "bad" loss this year. They missed a last-minute field goal to USC -- a team that is ranked in the top 25. And they lost by 10 to UCLA, also a team ranked in the top 25. Of UCLA's three losses, two are to ranked teams, but the Cardinal aren't.

The fact that the Wildcats emerged from the South, which we can safely say is one of the two most difficult divisions in college football, helps their cause. If the Cats lose and it's a good fight, I think they'll be playing in (likely) the Fiesta.
Last month, we wrote about how the Pac-12 South had collectively overtaken the North. With the regular season over, the final numbers are in, and they're staggering: For the first time since the league's expansion in 2011, the South won the head-to-head battle against the North, and they did so in commanding fashion.

Of course, the ultimate prize still resides in the Pac-12 North: Either Oregon or Stanford has won every conference title since the creation of the two-division format. Arizona will try to change that Friday, and if the Wildcats succeed, they'll add icing onto the cake of this 2014 shift of power.

The North held the head-to-head advantage over the South for three years, but the margin shrunk in each season, setting the table for the South's takeover. With just the Pac-12 championship game remaining, the North is 9-15 against the South. Non-Oregon Pac-12 North teams beat ranked South opponents only twice this season. Both of those wins were significant, though, as they derailed their opponents' College Football Playoff hopes (Oregon State over ASU, Stanford over UCLA).

During this regular season, the combined conference record of the Pac-12 South was 30-24, while the combined conference record of the North was 24-30. It should be noted that the South maintained this advantage even while dragging around the dead weight of 0-9 Colorado. Remove the lowest teams from both divisions (the Buffs from the South and 2-7 Washington State from the North), and the disparity is even more astonishing: The Pac-12 South finishes with a 30-15 record in conference play, while the North is at 22-23.

Stanford, the Pac-12 North's second-place team, would finish in sixth place if it were in the South -- ahead of only Colorado.

What will happen in 2015 and beyond? Will the South only grow relatively stronger, or will the North circle the wagons and stop the bleeding? We'll examine future prospects in the coming days, but one thing is clear: Oregon is carrying the flag for the Pac-12 North now, and the Ducks are the division's last line of defense against total domination from the South in 2014.

Pac-12 morning links

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
8:00
AM ET
Today will not be known as Taco Tuesday. It will be known as Freedom Friday ... but still on a Tuesday!

Leading off

The end of the season means awards season. And the Pac-12 honored its best of the best on Tuesday with the announcement of its players of the year, coach of the year and All-Conference team.

If you were shocked by any of the honors, then you haven't been reading the Pac-12 blog enough. Shame on you. No real surprises or upsets:
  • Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
  • Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
  • Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
  • Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC

Here are the bios for the major award winners. And here's what Rodriguez had to say about the award:
I've always thought that it was a staff award and a players award because you don't get coach of the year when your team does poorly. If anybody has been out here, they would know that I have a great staff. Those guys all deserve it.

The first- and second-team all-conference squads were also selected, along with the honorable mentions. You can click here to see the full rundown of players. (Or you can just scroll down. But it's early, and we don't want to make you work too hard).

Who is No. 1?

The top pick in the NFL draft will be highly-debated over the next few months. But rest assured, there are a couple of Pac-12 names in the mix. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had a little debate Insider. The names Marcus Mariota and Leonard Williams made appearances.

Here's what Kiper had to say:
Mariota's talent and intangibles are a good marriage and put him as a possibility for No. 1 even if the team drafting there doesn't need a QB. Someone could easily consider moving up for a player of his caliber. Williams is the most dominating and versatile big defensive lineman available, a fit for any scheme, so he's a good possibility.

Obviously, we're not there yet. Mariota has a game to play this Friday ... and possibly two more after that. The Trojans have a bowl game to-be-determined. But the draft declarations will start rolling in soon. So it's never too early to start looking at some projections ... especially when you're talking about the No. 1 overall.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Oh, the schadenfreude.



Maximus, son of Utah kicker Andy Phillips and the Pac-12 blog's adopted son, turned three-months-old yesterday. Shout out to the little man.

All-Pac-12 teams selected

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
12:10
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With the season winding down, more accolades were given out Tuesday night. First- and second-team All-Pac-12 were announced as well as the freshman players of the year. Oregon running back Royce Freeman was named the 2014 offensive freshman of the year for the Pac-12. USC cornerback Adoree' Jackson was named the defensive freshman of the year, the third Trojan in four years to take the honor. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly was named the conference's scholar athlete of the year.

Utah controlled the special teams, earning three of the four spots on the first team, which comes as no surprise after how dominant the Utes' special team unit was this season. It was an older showing on the first teams this season with a few three-time honorees -- Marcus Mariota, Hroniss Grasu and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. All but four of the honorees who made the All-Pac-12 first team were juniors and seniors. The four sophomores who made the first team were defensive honorees Scooby Wright III, Ishmael Adams and Su'a Cravens as well as special teams honoree Andy Phillips.

Both the first- and second-team defenses have 12 players listed because there was a tie at defensive back so five, instead of four, players were named. There was also a tie for the second-team AP/ST.

Here's a full breakdown of the 2014 All-Conference teams

All-Pac-12 first team offense
All-Pac-12 first team defense
All-Pac-12 first team special teams
All-Pac-12 second team offense
All-Pac-12 second team defense
All-Pac-12 second team special teams
Honorable mention:

Pac-12 morning links

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
8:00
AM ET
I was lying on the grass on Sunday morning of last week, indulging in my self-defeat.

Leading off

So long Arizona State. Buh-bye UCLA. The Eliminator has spoken, and you have not been deemed worthy. There are nine teams left for playoff consideration, and not surprisingly both Pac-12 entrants are playing in this week's conference title game. Oregon is "still in contention" while Arizona is "on the fence." Should the 'Cats pull off their third-straight win over the Ducks, there will be plenty of banter about whether their résumé as a two-loss team is enough to get them into the top four.
According to ESPN's Stats & Info, two of the Ducks' three lowest-scoring games over the past two seasons occurred against the Wildcats, as Arizona's defense held quarterback Marcus Mariota to a 62 Total QBR in those games. Mariota has a 92 Total QBR against all other FBS opponents since the start of the 2013 season. The Wildcats will need help from others to reach the playoff, but beating the Ducks twice in the same season would at least make a compelling case.

We can argue that if Arizona pulls off the win. And I'm sure we will. But for now, let's just enjoy the game.

Buncha smart guys

The Pac-12 released its All-Academic team on Monday. To qualify, players must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and participate in at least 50 percent of the games. You can see the full release, including the players named to the second team and honorable mention here. Here's the first-team:

OFFENSE
  • QB, Taylor Kelly, Arizona State, RS SR, 3.31, Educational Studies (U.) Legal Studies (Grad.)
  • RB, Devontae Booker, Utah, JR, 3.38, Sociology
  • RB, Patrick Skov, Stanford (3), SR, 3.45, International Relations
  • WR, Jordan Pratt, Stanford (2), SR, 3.82, Energy and Design Engineering
  • WR, Nelson Spruce, Colorado, JR, 3.64, Business-Finance
  • TE, Connor Hamlett, Oregon State, SR, 3.24, Management
  • OL, Chris Adcock, California (3), SR, 3.54, Double: Business Admin. and ISF
  • OL, Jamil Douglas, Arizona State, RS SR, 3.95, Liberal Studies
  • OL, Jake Eldrenkamp, Washington, RS SO, 3.65, Business Administration
  • OL, Tyler Sulka, Arizona State, RS SR, 3.67, Liberal Studies
  • OL, Jake Brendel, UCLA (3), RS JR, 3.39, Economics
DEFENSE
SPECIAL TEAMS
  • PK, Alex Garoutte, Arizona State, RS SR, 3.97, Liberal Studies
  • ST, Will Hopkins, Oregon State, RS FR, 4.00, Business
  • P, Ben Rhyne, Stanford (2), 5SR, 3.86, Biochemical Engineering
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

We all saw the Mariota "Heisman" picture from over the weekend. This one is pretty good too.

 

Pac-12 morning links

December, 1, 2014
Dec 1
8:00
AM ET
The only good bug is a dead bug.

Leading off

Another week, another set of rankings. As we know, the Pac-12 championship game is set for Friday between Oregon and Arizona. And as Kyle Bonagura wrote Sunday, it's the first time the league's title game features a pair of top-10 teams.

Of course, the rankings we're all waiting to see are the College Football Playoff rankings, which will be updated Tuesday on ESPN. But the AP and coaches polls have been pretty good gauges for how the country is thinking all year long.

Here are the Pac-12 teams that are ranked this week and where they are slotted in the AP poll (listed first) and the coach's poll.
  • Oregon 3-3
  • Arizona 8-8
  • UCLA 16-17
  • Arizona State 17- 18
  • Utah 24-RV

USC and Stanford received votes in both polls. As always, here's how some of the folks who cover the conference voted in the AP poll: Staff shakeup

Washington State's much-maligned defense is going to go through a makeover this offseason. It was announced Sunday that defensive coordinator Mike Breske and outside linebackers coach Paul Volero were dismissed from the coaching staff.
Per Thorpe's report, defensive line coach Joe Salave'a has been given the title of assistant head coach.

Through a school spokesman, Leach told Thorpe: "We decided to make a change and wish them the best."

Washington State finished the season ranked 10th in the league in scoring defense (38.6 points per game) and 10th in total defense (442.2 yards per game). The Cougars gave up 51 touchdowns in 2014. Only Colorado (56) and Cal (61) allowed more.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Cool flashback moment.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 14

November, 30, 2014
Nov 30
2:00
PM ET

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
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The regular season's grand finale is upon us. Here's a look through Black Friday and Closing Saturday in the Pac-12:

Friday, Nov. 28

12:30 p.m.

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.

[+] EnlargeNick Wilson
AP Photo/Steve DykesIn Arizona's last three games, RB Nick Wilson has rushed for more than 100 yards in each contest.
ASU at Arizona, Fox: If UCLA slips, the Sun Devils and Wildcats are both ready to pounce on the opportunity to win the Pac-12 South in this Territorial Cup. Let's rephrase that: If UCLA slips, this can turn into the biggest Territorial Cup ever. A division championship and a Levi's Stadium date with Oregon would be on the line. Key matchup here: Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson against ASU's volatile run defense.

Saturday, Nov. 29

10 a.m.

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.

12:30 p.m.

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.

1:30 p.m.

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.

5 p.m.

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.

7:30 p.m.

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).
Thanksgiving is a special night. Jimmy Walker used to say dy-no-mite, that's right.

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.

[+] EnlargeBrian Blechen, Nick Wilson
AP Photo/Rick BowmerPerhaps we were guilty of overthinking -- or overwatching -- with our unanimous forecast of a Utah win over Arizona.
I can't speak for the rest of the blog, but I have to admit, I was a little surprised that all five of us picked Utah. I went back on forth on that one.

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.




ST in Boston writes: Should Oregon have that perfect season by finishing with both a Heisman and CFP trophy, which has historically done more for recruiting (the top single player award or the top team award)? And stats on that?

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.




Andrew in La Crescenta, Calif. writes: Personally, I believe if UCLA beats Stanford this Friday they would be guaranteed a New Year's Bowl game regardless of the outcome of the Pac-12 Championship game. Oregon would be ranked so high that I can't see the Bruins dropping more than a couple spots if they lose. Any thoughts on this?

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.

Pac-12 by the numbers: Week 14

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
7:30
PM ET
Here is another random accounting of stats related to the Pac-12.

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 State at Arizona
  • 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.
Notre Dame at USC
  • 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 at Oregon State
  • 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).
Washington at Washington State
  • 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 at Colorado
  • 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.
BYU at Cal
  • 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.

Past weeks
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12

Pac-12 morning links

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
5:00
AM ET
We've got another holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.

I haven't even finished eating all of my Halloween candy.

Leading off

Depth Chart Wednesday! Depth Chart Wednesday! Depth Chart Wednesday! Let's get to it. Note: UCLA doesn't celebrate Depth Chart Wednesday. Awards season is in full swing

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).
  1. 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
  2. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon -- 254 carries, 2,109 yards, 25 TD
BEDNARIK AWARD: Given to the top defensive player in college football (again, as considered by the Maxwell Football Club and voting panel).
  1. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III -- 126 tackles, 22 TFL, 12 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
  2. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa -- 43 tackles, 18 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
  3. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley -- 24 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble
RAY GUY: Given to the top college punter. Yards per punt season average follows each finalist's name.
  1. Tom Hackett (Utah) -- 46.5
  2. JK Scott (Alabama) -- 46.8
  3. Scott Arellano (BYU) -- 44.6
  4. Scott Harding (Hawaii) -- 41.5
  5. Austin Rehkow (Idaho) -- 47.8
  6. Justin Vogel (Miami) -- 44.0
  7. Tyler Wedel (Northern Illinois) -- 41.9
  8. Cameron Johnston (Ohio State) -- 43.6
  9. Drew Kaser (Texas A&M) -- 44.4
  10. Alex Kinal (Wake Forest) -- 43.8
OUTLAND: Given to the top interior lineman (offense or defense).
  1. Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown
  2. Auburn center Reese Dismukes
  3. Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff
DAVEY O'BRIEN: Given to the best college quarterback
  1. Mariota (see stats above)
  2. Prescott (see stats above)
  3. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin -- 3,021 passing yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 122 rushing attempts, 548 yards, 7 TD
JIM THORPE AWARD: Given to the top defensive back in college football.
  1. Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- 54 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 7 pass break ups
  2. Alabama safety Landon Collins -- 75 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 5 pass break ups
  3. Louisville safety Jerod Holliman -- 32 tackles, 2 TFL, 13 INT, 3 pass break ups
News/notes/team reports

Pac-12 morning links

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:00
AM ET
What is with everyone today? It's Thanksgiving not truth day!

Leading off

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.

Awards season

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.
  1. UCLA's Eric Kendricks
  2. Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha
  3. Miami's Denzel Perryman
  4. Michigan's Jake Ryan
  5. 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:

Diving into some numbers

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.
  1. Alabama -- 80.8 percent, +5.5 percent after beating Western Carolina, 48-14.
  2. Oregon -- 75.7 percent, +3.6 percent after beating Colorado, 44-10.
  3. FSU -- 59 percent, -0.9 percent after beating Boston College, 20-17.
  4. TCU -- 47.1 percent, -1.8 after being on a bye.
  5. Ohio State -- 42 percent, -1.5 percent after beating Indiana, 42-27.
  6. Baylor -- 33.3 percent, +2.5 percent after beating Oklahoma State, 49-28.
  7. Mississippi State -- 32.6 percent, +5.1 after beating Vanderbilt, 51-0.
  8. 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).

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

For any media covering the Territorial Cup this weekend, Josh Kelman has you covered for your postgame story.

Eccentric twists and turns have become the primary theme of this 2014 season -- remember the Hail Mary binge, the comebacks, the upsets, the celebratory fumbles at the 1-yard line, the field goal icing drama, and the #Pac12AfterDark hashtag made to describe all the otherworldly mystery.

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

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
AP Photo/Troy WayrynenTaylor Kelly, Arizona State and Arizona will be scoreboard watching on Friday.
Two more detonations await before we will have fully traversed the minefield of the Pac-12 South. Fittingly, the Rose Bowl will be host to one, while the other will shake Tucson.

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.

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
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Thursday, 1/1
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Monday, 1/12