Pac-12: Washington State Cougars

Pac-12 morning links

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

Leading off

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

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

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

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

Some streaks extended, others stopped right in their tracks

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

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

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

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

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

And some shout outs

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

Revisiting Pac-12's 'fearless predictions'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac-12 North recruiting roundup 

October, 16, 2014
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At the halfway point of college football's regular season, there is still plenty to be decided both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Pac-12 placed six programs among the top 40 recruiting classes in Wednesday's updated class rankings and conference recruiting classes contain as many as 24 -- Arizona -- and as few as nine -- Stanford -- verbal commitments. This update offers a look at where each Pac-12 North program stands with its 2015 recruiting class, including its top prospect and position of strength, as well as a look at where things are going well, and not so well, for each class.

Cal

Total number of commitments: 10

Pac-12 Show (4 ET)

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

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STANFORD, Calif. -- Yet another suffocating Stanford defensive performance led the way to a win for the home team on The Farm. Stanford beat Washington State 34-17, leading from start to finish. Stanford has now allowed fewer than 30 points in 29 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation. Louisville and Ole Miss, who own the second-longest streak, have done that in 12 straight games.

How the game was won: Stanford's defense made Washington State scratch and claw for every single yard, buying the Cardinal's inconsistent offense enough time to finally put the hammer down on the scoreboard. Following its least efficient offensive performance since 2006 (3.0 yards per play last week at Notre Dame), Stanford ran a new perimeter-oriented offense that loosened the middle of field and set up Kevin Hogan's early 39-yard touchdown throw to Eric Cotton (above). The Cardinal proved too much for Washington State's struggling defense, leading wire-to-wire.

Game ball goes to: On a night during which Stanford held Washington State's pass-happy offense to 3.3 yards per play, members of the Cardinal defense earn the game ball. We'll have nose tackle David Parry and defensive back Zach Hoffpauir share the honor. Parry frequently ruptured the Cougars' offensive line, and that allowed pressure like the kind Peter Kalambayi displayed to throw Connor Halliday out of whack a week after he comfortably threw for an FBS-record 734 yards (only 292 yards on Friday).

Stanford's cornerbacks delivered press coverage on the edges, and that left a ton of responsibility for Hoffpauir. He delivered in a big way, racking up 15 critical tackles in the open field to limit the Cougars' aerial attack. Stanford put on an open field tackling clinic.

What it means: The Cardinal's defense, which was already leading the nation giving up only 3.7 yards per play coming into the game, continues to assert itself as perhaps the nation's top unit. Stanford still has not lost back-to-back games under coach David Shaw, and the good feelings are back in their locker room behind a 4-2 record (only one conference loss) after a brutal setback against Notre Dame. Given the quality of their defense, the Cardinal certainly still have a shot at the Pac-12 North title, and this win was a mandatory step in that direction.

Washington State drops to 2-5, and that's a stomach punch to the Cougars' postseason chances. They'll now need to win four of their last five games to reach a bowl game again, and that's a tall order with Arizona, USC, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Washington remaining on the schedule.

What's next: For Stanford, all eyes will continue to be fixated on the team's offense as it moves on to ASU. The defense is a proven commodity -- and it's a championship-caliber unit. But the offense, despite showing improvement, continues to play inconsistent football even despite significantly altering its strategy to a more perimeter-oriented approach. The Cougars had great trouble with the Cardinal's broad array of weapons (12 different receivers combined for 23 catches), but penalties and hit-or-miss plays in the red zone kept this game closer than the final yards per play tally would indicate: Stanford 7.0, Washington State 3.3.

The Cougars won't face a defense as good as the Cardinal's the rest of the year, so that's the silver lining for them after a night during which every single one of their yards seemed tough to earn. The task ahead of coach Mike Leach's club is daunting, and the Cougars will only be able to deliver with significant improvements to their porous defense and kick/punt coverage units.

Pac-12 Week 7 predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unanimous decision

Why Stanford will win: Washington State hasn't seen anything like Stanford's defense this year and while the same could also be said about Stanford facing WSU's offense, recent history says this is the Cardinal's game to lose. The real story will be what happens when Stanford's offense is on the field.

Help is on the way: Pac-12 

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


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

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


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Juco recruits to watch: Pac-12 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
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Pac-12 programs have found plenty of success in the junior college ranks over the past few years. Wide receivers Jaelen Strong and Vince Mayle's impacts for Arizona State and Washington State, respectively, have been substantial. Oregon, Oregon State and USC found defensive stalwarts Joe Walker, Steven Nelson and Claude Pelon, respectively, at the junior college level. Those are only a few of the juco prospects in the Pac-12, and with programs such as Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State able to recruit so well at the junior college level, the conference is likely to land a number of impact junior college prospects who find themselves in the recently released Juco Watch List.

A dozen members of the Watch List have already committed to Pac-12 programs, but here are three names on the list that Pac-12 fans should know.


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Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 5, 2014
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Recruits were treated to a wild and entertaining weekend in the Pac-12, as five conference home games were decided by a total of 19 points, with 371 points scored. A Hail Mary connected, an NCAA passing record was set and all three ranked home teams suffered defeat. With so much action on the field, there was plenty of chatter from recruits on social media.

Ducks host midweek visitors

The Pac-12's recruiting weekend began last Wednesday, as Oregon hosted committed quarterback Travis Waller and three-star defensive end Gus Cumberland, as well as the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night. While the game didn't go exactly as planned, the visits did, as Waller and Cumberland both very much enjoyed their time in Eugene. Cumberland, in fact, saw enough to announce his commitment to Oregon shortly after the trip.

 

Recruits flock to Los Angeles

With UCLA and USC both playing home games, plenty of recruits made their way to the Rose Bowl and Coliseum on Saturday. While both programs suffered last-second defeats, they provided plenty of entertainment value for those in attendance.

The Trojans hosted the No. 9-ranked player in the country, cornerback Kendall Sheffield -- who undoubtedly found plenty to fault on USC's Hail Mary defense but managed a meeting with Alex Rodriguez during the visit.

 
USC commit and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jacob Daniel made the quick trip down to USC for the game.

 
ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver Javon McKinley, whose first offer came from Arizona State and also received a recent offer from UCLA, was at the Coliseum as well.

 
But fellow 2016 ESPN Junior 300 prospect Mique Juarez, who has offers from both UCLA and USC, might have summed up the game between the Sun Devils and Trojans better than anyone.

 
There was plenty of star power across town at UCLA's game as well. ESPN 300 defenders Keisean Lucier-South and Osa Masina were in attendance -- Masina was in town on an official visit.

 
Lucier-South recently announced that he moved USC back into the list of schools he is considering, but with Michigan and UCLA grabbing early leads -- and then Michigan's poor season so far -- the Bruins continue to look tough to beat in that race.

Utah's win in the Rose Bowl is likely to continue its strong recruiting momentum, and apparently almost netted the Utes a verbal from 2016 ESPN Junior 300 prospect Micah Croom.

 

Cougars host a huge visitor

The defensive backs in the Cal-Washington State game are likely to have nightmares this week, as the quarterbacks threw the ball all over the field on their way to 1,261 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. On the surface, it might not appear to be the best game for the Cougars to host ESPN 300 safety Marcus Lewis on an official visit, but the No. 152 overall prospect said he had a great time in Pullman.

 
videoSome things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 6:

Expect the unexpected*: OK, so you didn't even have to have your TV on a Pac-12 game to experience the unexpected this weekend because insanity happened everywhere. It was the first time since the inception of the Associated Press Poll that five of the top eight teams lost on the same weekend. No. 12 Mississippi State upset No. 6 Texas A&M. No. 11 Ole Miss upset No. 3 Alabama. No. 25 TCU upset No. 4 Oklahoma. Northwestern upset No. 17 Wisconsin. Utah State upset No. 18 BYU. And the Pac-12 wasn't going to be left out of all the fun. Arizona State upset No. 16 USC, Utah upset No. 8 UCLA and Arizona upset No. 2 Oregon. It was bonkers. Everything. Was. Bonkers. We knew that this was going to be a crazy season, but I don't think anyone saw this kind of a shakeup -- in the conference or across the country -- coming so soon. But it's here. Holy moly, college football craziness is here.

*Except when it comes to Stanford -- then, expect the expected: Meaning, expect a championship-caliber defense and a struggling offense -- that's exactly what we saw in the Cardinal's loss to Notre Dame. Stanford's front seven were stout and made Everett Golson's job very, very hard. They have a reputation and they protected it in South Bend. Stanford's offense, on the other hand, was held to 47 rushing yards (the first time in more than two years the Cardinal haven't accounted for 100 rushing yards in a game) and senior Kevin Hogan completed just 50 percent of his passes while throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns in the 17-14 last-minute loss.

[+] EnlargeJaelen Strong
Ric Tapia/Icon SportswireArizona State's Jaelen Strong catches a 46-yard Hail Mary as time expires to beat USC, 38-34.
Rich Rod gon' Rich Rod: And yes, that means knocking off a highly ranked Oregon team. His Wildcats advanced to 5-0 on the season with a 31-24 win over the Ducks on the road. Rodriguez got huge offensive contributions from some of his freshman, too, which should send some warning signals throughout the conference regarding this team's future. Redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon completed 20 of 31 passes for 287 yards (1 TD, 1 INT), while freshman running back Nick Wilson toted the ball 13 times, accounting for 92 rushing yards and two touchdowns (he also added a 34-yard receiving touchdown).

The state of Arizona owns the state of California in Hail Mary's: Week 4 saw Arizona take down Cal with a Hail Mary, and on Saturday night, Arizona State took down USC 38-34 with a Hail Mary. There must be something in the water (this is a joke, I know both states are in historical droughts) in the state of Arizona that's allowing its receivers to get up through piles of defensive backs and make these improbable plays.

This really is the year of the QB in the Pac-12, and yes, that includes backups: We've given a ton of coverage to the Marcus Mariotas and Brett Hundleys of the Pac-12, and they certainly deserve it. However, Week 6 saw some huge performances from some backup QBs, which just speaks to the depth at the position in the conference. Taylor Kelly's backup, junior Mike Bercovici, led his unranked Arizona State squad to an upset over No. 16 USC. Bercovici threw for five touchdowns and 510 yards (would've had more if not for a few key drops), including the 46-yard Hail Mary pass to win the game. Travis Wilson's backup, junior Kendal Thompson, led Utah to a 30-28 upset of No. 8 UCLA on the road. Thompson completed 10 of 13 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown, but where he really attacked the Bruins was on the ground. He took off 19 times for 83 yards and forced the UCLA defense to play a bit more honest.

Connor Halliday has cemented his name in the record books: In an Air Raid-versus-Air Raid matchup, Halliday broke the FBS passing record with 734 yards -- and the Cougars still lost to Cal 60-59. So, the Pac-12 Blog's verdict is still out on which is more ridiculous: the fact that Halliday still has an arm after throwing six touchdowns and 734 yards or the fact that he did that and his team still lost. But one thing is for sure: Halliday has cemented his legacy in college football with that performance. He did everything he could to get the Cougars the win.

The league's two best teams have two of the worst-performing offensive lines: For as much as we've talked about Mariota and Hundley, this weekend gave us plenty of reasons to be talking about the five players in front of those guys. In Week 4, Mariota was sacked seven times against Washington State, so I suppose the five sacks against Arizona were an improvement. But Mariota was injured in that Wazzu game. The Ducks are in a tough spot with Mariota. His offensive line isn't playing well so he needs to be more mobile, but he can't be more mobile because he's hurt. But if Mariota wants to get some empathy, he can just go to Hundley, who was sacked 10 times in the Bruins' loss to Utah. These offensive lines need to pull it together going forward.

Colorado is the worst team in the conference but not by much: Had the ball bounced the Buffs' way a bit more last weekend, maybe they would've come up with the win over Cal. And against Oregon State, the win was within reach. Colorado is making strides, and with Sefo Liufau commanding that offense the next two years, who knows what happens? Right now this is a team that's going to compete in the Pac-12, but it just isn't good enough to finish games quite yet. Until the Buffs get there, they'll be at the bottom of the pack.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

October, 3, 2014
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Every Pac-12 game this week comes with some significant intrigue, as this could turn into a separation Saturday in the South, while the North matchups pit two programs coming off close, emotional wins and two coming off tough road defeats. There will be official visitors all over the conference this weekend, but with two important games in Los Angeles, much of the recruiting focus will be there -- evidenced by our look at the top three recruiting visit weekends in the Pac-12.

1. USC


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Chances are, most people aren’t going to stay awake until 10:30 ET to watch two unranked Pac-12 teams -- who might or might not be playing in the postseason -- on a non-national network this Saturday night.

That’s a darn shame.

Because while there are plenty of match ups that have national-title and conference-race implications (No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Misssissippi State, No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU, No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State ... to name a few) Washington State-California might be the most exciting game this weekend that no one is talking about.

Here are five reasons why you should stay up and find a way to watch.

1. Quarterback firepower.

My apologies to Dak Prescott and Kenny Hill, but this is likely going to be the most impressive output from two quarterbacks on a single field this weekend. And yes, California QB Jared Goff and Colorado QB Sefo Liufau combined for 913 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes last weekend, but this weekend's pairing is even better. Goff is going to be on the same field as Connor Halliday, who makes 458 yards -- what Goff threw for last weekend -- look like a run-of-the-mill Saturday (he’s averaging 464 passing yards per game this season). Could we see the 1,000 combined passing-yard threshold broken? Absolutely. Could we see 110 pass attempts? Possibly. This game is going to have opportunity after opportunity for big plays from these quarterbacks and their wide receivers (and defensive backs who want to prove themselves).

[+] EnlargeLeach/Dykes
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsWashington State coach Mike Leach (left) and Cal coach Sonny Dykes have a relationship that goes back to their days at Kentucky in the late 1990s.
2. Speaking of Goff ...

Most of the preseason was spent hyping up the quarterbacks who headline this conference -- the Marcus Mariota's, the Brett Hundley's, the Sean Mannion's, the Halliday's. Well, those guys aren’t going to be playing in the Pac-12 next year. But Goff? He’s got another two years in Berkeley. He already has Cal at triple its win total from a year ago and has made major strides from his freshman to his sophomore season. Imagine the leaps and bounds he’ll make to his junior and senior seasons. And rather than jumping on the “Hey, this kid is really good,” bandwagon then, wouldn’t you like to see where the foundation is being built? He’s going to be a QB you love or love to hate (if he’s beating up on your teams in the coming years), so get to know him now.

3. #AirRaid4Eva

Cal coach Sonny Dykes and Washington State coach Mike Leach both come from the school of Hal Mumme. Leach was the offensive coordinator under Mumme at Kentucky from 1997-98. In 1997 Dykes was a graduate assistant and tight ends coach at Kentucky and in 1999 he coached the special teams and wide receivers. When Leach left for Texas Tech in 2000, he brought Dykes with him. From 2000-2006 Dykes was the wide receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator (2005-06), so if you’re a fan of Mumme, the Air Raid, or passing in general, there’s no game that’ll better display those aspects than Cal-Washington State. “We all have our roots in the Air Raid,” Dykes said. “Mike has done a great job of scoring points and moving the ball. He does it year after year after year. ... All of our roots come from the same place.” Everyone loves a good storyline, and because of how well these two coaches know each other and their offenses, there’s a good chance we’re going to see some really interesting play-calling.

4. You’re going to want to know these teams even if you're not a fan of them

Down the road, Cal has Oregon, Stanford, Washington and USC. Washington State, on the other hand, has Stanford, USC and Arizona State. Chances are one of these two teams could throw a wrench into someone's Pac-12 title hopes. Stanford and Arizona State already have conference losses to their names and USC has shown how much of a Jekyll-Hyde team it really is. Oregon hasn’t stumbled yet, but there are areas to exploit, especially with a patchwork offensive line. That being said, the Cougars or Golden Bears could be a deciding factor into which teams make it to the Pac-12 title game even if they don't contend for it themselves.

5. You should Tweet/Facebook/text about it.

Because if you do, you can help grow Leach’s fear for the end of humanity as we know it. And who doesn’t want to jump on that bandwagon?

Mike Leach predicts human extinction

September, 29, 2014
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Mike LeachJose Mandojana for ESPNMike Leach doesn't like what advances in technology have done to human interaction.
Warning: if you're reading this on a mobile device, Mike Leach is worried about you.

It was just another Monday, but then Washington State coach Mike Leach had to go out and predict the end of human kind. Because of course he did.

Via Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman-Review, Leach detailed how technology is eliminating real human interaction and how eventually "it's going to be tough to perpetuate the species." It's really just better to read his comments and let them soak in:
"I'm not really good with technology. All this button pushing and whatnot. I mean, you can just imagine based on what's happened in the last 15 years. Conversations won't happen 10 years from now. There aren't going to be people to talk to, it's going to be this (mimics pushing buttons). 'Do you want to go out on a date with me?' 'I don't know, what do you look like?' 'Well I look kind of like this.' 'OK, what are your interests?' 'Well, what do you think my interests are? Looking to this thing and typing into this just like yours are.' 'Yeah, no kidding, that's what everybody's doing.' 'Well, where do you want to go?' 'Well, what difference does it make? Because all we're going to be doing is looking into machines anyways.' Well, that's true and in the end, it's going to tough to perpetuate the species. There's no question about that. So we're all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That's how it ends."

It's like he was talking about Tinder without knowing (probably) of its existence.

From anyone else, this would be off-the-wall bizarre, but coming from Leach, it's pretty much par for the course. The man who treks through a field of garbanzo beans to work every day has a well-documented history when it comes to technology and dating. You may remember this goodie from years ago, when at Texas Tech he offered first-date guidance for a freshman at the school:
"Well you want some place casual to begin with because you don't want something real formal in the beginning so some place casual -- I recommend Cagle Steakhouse, which is very casual. The other thing that's great about it is that there's very little salad there at Cagle's so the girl will be forced to eat in front of you which is something women hate. But if you can make them do it, the earlier the better, the more than they'll conversate and show their true self. I'm a big movie guy. If you want to do it more like I did when I was your age, you could go to the Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theater because that's what they had in Cody, Wyoming. Otherwise, the movie theater is pretty good, but then you want to end at somewhere like some cool coffee shop type of place where there is bizarre-looking characters going in and out so if the conversation isn't going well you can reference some of the different characters you see coming and going from the place. And if it's a huge night and you're really having a good time then you can trade computer schemes and e-mails and all that mischief that people are up to now-a-days that I know nothing about."

This man is a treasure.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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