Pac-12 lunch links

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It's really not my fault.
video » More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the California Golden Bears:

2013 record: 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12.

Final grade for 2013: F. You don’t beat an FBS team, you don’t pass. It’s as simple as that.

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesJared Goff passed for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Key returnees: QB Jared Goff, WR Bryce Treggs, WR Chris Harper

Key losses: OLB Khairi Fortt, TE Richard Rodgers, DT Viliami Moala

Instant impact newcomers: WR Trevor Davis, RB Tre Watson, WR Erik Brown

Projected winning percentage ( Stats & Information): .313

Chances to win the conference ( Stats & Information): 0.0 percent.

Most important game: vs. Colorado, Sept. 27

Biggest question mark: Can they stop anyone? Defensively, Cal was historically bad in 2013 and unless that’s rectified, it won’t matter how potent the offense might be.

Best-case scenario: 4-8

Worst-case scenario: 0-12

Over/under win total (Bovada): 2.5

Upset special: Northwestern. Cal came within a few tipped passes of beating Northwestern last season and we have to allow for the possibility the Bears made the most of the offseason and start the season on the right foot.

They said it: "You know, in our profession, you are kind of what your record says you are. So you go from being pretty smart to being pretty dumb overnight, and it's a tough thing to live with.” — coach Sonny Dykes
The business of music at a football practice is tricky. At times, it needs to inspire. Other times, it needs to pester and frustrate. And still, at others, it just needs to sink into the background, a low hum amidst tackles and touchdowns.

Sometimes, coaches use it to imitate opposing stadiums, turning players’ own practice fields against them for a few days so that when they actually walk into enemy territory, they’re more prepared.

[+] EnlargeBruce Springsteen
Larry Busacca/WireImageIf Arizona State coach Todd Graham had his way, the music of Bruce Springsteen -- or "The Boss" -- would be blasting out of the loudspeakers at practice.
And sometimes, it’s just bad. Like very bad. Like “What Does the Fox Say?” bad (Yes, Washington Huskies, we’re looking at you).

But it’s always diverse. Like the players and coaches and schemes, practice music across the Pac-12 is a smorgasbord of genres and styles. You’ve got your ‘80s rock, your top 40 hits, your crying babies. It’s like listening to the radio, if there were no confines on what could or could not be played. Ever.

At USC, recruiting coordinator Alex Rios (whose Twitter bio reads: “Office: USC Football Recruiting Analyst, Field: Dancing DJ”) uses Spotify -- an online music library -- to create playlists for practice.

“I try to tailor that day’s songs to the theme of practice,” Rios said. “For example, if we are focusing on up-tempo in practice, I build a playlist of up-tempo songs, or if we are going to play at a stadium that has loud fans, I try to play songs that stadium uses to pump up its fans.”

The approach at Stanford is similar. Ryan Devlin, assistant director of football operations and recruiting, has taken over the reigns as the Cardinal practice DJ. He has over 2,000 songs in his Spotify library and during any given practice he only employs 35-45 of those.

“I'd say 60 percent of the songs I use came directly from me -- songs that I know fit the tempo we're looking for,” Devlin said. “The rest come from searching other playlists on Spotify and YouTube, hearing a new song on the radio, or a suggestion from a coach or player. I always say I take suggestions, not requests. I have to make sure it's appropriate and will fit the tempo of practice.”

Since Stanford has an outdoor practice field, the music flows out onto campus, meaning students, professors and visitors can hear what’s being played. That adds another level to Devlin’s job, as it’s not just the players he needs to keep happy, but the community as well.

That same problem hasn’t stopped Washington State though. Though practice music is only played on Thursdays in Pullman, they’ve still found a way to annoy some students and faculty. Quarterback Connor Halliday said that a few fellow students have mentioned to him that the raucous crowd noise that's blasted on Thursdays during the season isn’t always welcomed by non-football-playing students as they amble from class to class.

But be grateful, Pullman students. At least you’re not in Tucson.

Andrew Warsaw, Arizona’s Operation's Coordinator, is in charge of the Wildcats’ music. After the series of promotional videos Arizona has released, it should come as no surprise that the practice music is also a little bit off-the-wall sometimes.

“Depending on what coach [Rich Rodriguez] wants, we will play whatever,” Warsaw said. “If he wants to us to play something annoying during a certain period of practice we will play a baby crying for five-straight minutes, or songs like Barbie Girl or The Macarena.”

Arizona also takes player requests (which tend to stay closer to top-40 radio hits). Arizona State only plays music during warm-ups and seniors are asked to request which songs they’d like to hear during that time. California and Oregon State rely heavily on player requests -- though Oregon State players have been known to request Miley Cyrus music, which makes avoiding any parties in the USA awfully difficult.

Though if it were up to only coaches to choose the music, practices would probably sound quite different.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham would probably pick mostly country music or Bruce Springsteen, while Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would stick to only classic rock. In the perfect world, he wants to hear nothing post-1980 played at his practices. Though, he knows that no matter what is played “one-third of the team will love it, one-third of the team will hate it, and one-third of the team won’t care.” Little does he know, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” now haunts the dreams of wide receiver Dres Anderson and defensive end Nate Orchard. “Starships” by Nicki Minaj has had a similar effect on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, but he should consider himself lucky. When asked to name the worst practices songs they'd heard, Washington players at Pac-12 media days had no shortage to chose from. Offensive lineman Ben Riva stole the competition (if this is a competition) for the worst song when he said that he had heard “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.

Yes, the Canadian band that has had enough members over its years to field an entire first string on offense and defense in American football has resounded through Chris Petersen’s practices.

But, maybe Petersen is onto something. Maybe that song, followed by Cyrus and some Ylvis is just a way to better prepare his team for what they could face in the Pac-12 this season. Maybe these songs are fueling what could be a breakout year for the Huskies in a very deep conference.

Or maybe it’s just a lot of really, really terrible music.

[+] EnlargeBob Marley
Getty ImagesA little "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley could be what Colorado needs to get back to a bowl game.
But, fear not, the Pac-12 blog is here to help (we'd never leave folks in a pickle). If the DJs need any guidance with song recommendations, here’s our top pick for each school based on its personality.

Can’t promise they’re incredible. Can promise they’re better than "Barbie Girl."

  • Arizona: "Title Sequence," BT -- Reasoning: They're into speed this year and this is The Fast & The Furious theme song
  • Arizona State: "Runnin' with the Devil," Van Halen -- Reasoning: ASU's run game has improved under Graham. They're the Sun Devils. A + B = Van Halen.
  • California: "Pachanelly’s Canon," Gentleman’s Rule -- Reasoning: Because Cal winning four times as many games as it did last season sounds as crazy taking Nelly and adding Pachelbel’s Canon. But, it works. Cal will too.
  • Colorado: "Buffalo Soldier," Bob Marley -- Reasoning: 1. Buffaloes. 2. Bob Marley would love Colorado for many reasons. Well, mostly for one reason.
  • Oregon: "We Will Rock/Quack You," D2: The Mighty Ducks version -- Reasoning: It could only be more obvious if the offense were to run a Flying V formation this season.
  • Oregon State: "Happy," Pharrell -- Reasoning: Mike Riley is happy.
  • Stanford: Anything by Weezer -- Reasoning: Best nerd band. Stanford: best nerd football team.
  • UCLA: "Show 'Em What You're Made Of," Backstreet Boys -- Reasoning: 1. Like Backstreet Boys, UCLA is back ("All right!") 2. They're favored in the South, now they just need to show everyone what they're made of
  • USC: "Let It Go," Frozen -- Reasoning: The sanctions are gone. Let it go.
  • Utah: "Ring Of Fire," Lennon and Maisy cover -- Reasoning: Maybe the players can't like Cash's version. They'll have to like these two singing sisters covering it. Maybe? Guys, just give it a chance.
  • Washington: "Who'll Stop The Rain," CCR -- Reasoning: Can't promise Chris Petersen will get rid of the rain in Seattle, but the future is looking bright.
  • Washington State: "Hoist the Colors," Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End -- Reasoning: There’s a flag, there are pirates. No more explanation needed. You're welcome, Mike Leach.

Pac-12 lunch links

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?

» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

2013 record: 10-4-4, 8-1 Pac-12; lost to Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl, 37-23.

Final grade for 2013: B+. Following the regular season, the Sun Devils were in line for an A, but lopsided losses to Stanford in the conference title game and to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl knocked them down a peg.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
David Madison/Getty ImagesTaylor Kelly and the Sun Devils will look to build on their winning 2013 season.
Key returnees: QB Taylor Kelly, WR Jaelen Strong, RB D.J. Foster

Key losses: DT Will Sutton, RB Marion Grice, TE Chris Coyle, LT Evan Finkenberg, DB Alden Darby, DB Robert Nelson, LB Carl Bradford

Instant impact newcomers: OL Christian Westerman, CB Kweishi Brown

Projected winning percentage ( Stats & Information): .671

Chances to win the conference ( Stats & Information): 6.5 percent

Most important game: versus UCLA, Sept. 25

Biggest question mark: After losing nine defensive starters, there are holes to fill on that side of the ball.

Best-case scenario: 12-2

Worst-case scenario: 4-8

Over/under win total (Bovada): 7.5

Upset special: UCLA starts the season as the Pac-12 South favorite, but the defending division champs have a chance to change that on Sept. 25.

They said it: "Our program's about winning championships, period. Our motto this year is unfinished business. You see it on my wristband." -- coach Todd Graham.

Greatest season in USC history?

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
USC Trojans football has been defined by great teams and great individual seasons for decades. How about seven Heisman Trophy winners, starting with Mike Garrett in 1965 and finishing with Reggie Bush in 2005 -- though there is, of course, an asterisk by Bush's name due to NCAA violations. launched its The Season package Monday, which looked at the best seasons recorded for each major college football team, and we tapped Marcus Allen's 1981 Heisman campaign as No. 1 for the Trojans. That pick, while we feel pretty good about it, wasn't easy.


Who had the best season in USC's history?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,070)

That's why we're curious about your takes.

In order to narrow our field to five, we dropped Garrett and O.J. Simpson from the running. Garrett's numbers don't hold up, while we'd just as soon not hear Simpson's name ever again.

So that leaves Charles White, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Bush as choices for you to unseat Allen.

As for Allen, he was pretty spectacular in 1981, becoming the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, a number he shattered with 2,427 yards. He also won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, finishing with 2,683 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns. In addition, he was the Trojans' leading receiver and set 14 new NCAA records and tied two others. Further, he beat out a star-studded list of candidates: Georgia's Herschel Walker, BYU's Jim McMahon and Pittsburgh's Dan Marino.

A downside? His team finished 9-3 and No. 14 in the final AP poll. A big finish is where White, Allen's tailback predecessor, has Allen beat.

White's USC teams won the Rose Bowl in 1978 and 1979, splitting a national title in 1978 with Alabama and finishing second behind the Crimson Tide in 1979, his senior season. That year, White led the nation with an average of 194.1 yards per game. In the last 10 games of his senior season, he averaged 201 yards rushing per game. He finished with 2,050 yards (including the bowl game) and 19 TDs. His 6.2 yards per carry bested Allen's 5.6, too.

White unseated Oklahoma's Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman winner, with a dominant percentage of first-place votes (453 vs. 82).

Leinart and Bush were sort of a tandem during USC's dynastic run under then-coach Pete Carroll, nearly leading the Trojans to three consecutive national titles.

In 2004, Leinart led the Trojans to an undefeated national title run, including a dominant victory over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Orange Bowl. He became just the third QB in three decades to lead his team to back-to-back national titles. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,322 yards with 33 TDs and six picks. A three-time All-American, he was 37-2 as a starter and placed third in the Heisman race in 2005, when Bush won over Texas' Vince Young.

As for Bush, it wasn't just numbers for him. A human highlight film, he's probably the flashiest of all USC Heisman winners. He led the nation in 2005 with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and ranked fourth in the nation with 133.85 yards rushing per game. He finished with 1,740 yards rushing and an eye-popping 8.7 yards per carry with 16 TDs. A great receiver, he also had 39 receptions for 481 yards and two scores. He returned punts and kicks as well. He set a Pac-10 record with a spectacular 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State and earned perhaps dubious honors as the namesake of the "Bush Push" against Notre Dame.

Finally, there's Palmer, a four-year starter who suffered through some lean years before leading the 2002 Trojans to the opening of their dynastic run. He won all Heisman voting regions after he passed for 3,942 yards with 33 TDs and 10 picks, completing 63 percent of his passes.

Palmer also didn't have anyone to lean on while winning over voters. He was the first West Coast winner of the award since Allen. Palmer mostly rewrote the Pac-10's passing record book and went on to become the first pick of the 2003 NFL draft.

That's a pretty scintillating list. So how do you rank them?

Stanford eases into fall camp

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
STANFORD, Calif. -- Technically, Stanford opened fall camp Monday, its first time back on the field since spring ball, but it’s a stretch to call what the two-time defending Pac-12 champions actual football.

"This is physical basketball right now," coach David Shaw said.

As a result, there's not much to takeaway. Competition for starting roles -- notably safety, inside linebacker and running back -- won't begin in earnest until Wednesday when the shoulder pads go on for the first time. The team will be in full pads Thursday and will hold an open practice, one of two in the fall, on Saturday. Here are a few notes from Day 1:
  • Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ikenna Nwafor, who appeared in three games last season, but has been limited with a foot injury, will likely medically retire, Shaw said. “As of right now there’s a good chance he’s not going to be back,” Shaw said. “We’ve seen a couple of experts, going back and forth. It’s sad with the ability we believe he has. He’s also pre-med and he had a bright future outside of football.” Nwafor, an Irving, Texas native, was a three-star defensive tackle as part of the Class of 2012.
  • Receiver Ty Montgomery was the first player Shaw mentioned when asked who stood out, which will likely quell any lingering concern about Montgomery’s status for the USC game in Week 2. At Pac-12 media days, Shaw said an arm injury could potentially keep him out of the opener against UC Davis and it would be “close” for USC. “No reservations at all about him practicing,” Shaw said. “When we put the pads on, we’ll take care of him.”
  • While all signs point to a running-back-by-committee system, offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren did say that Kelsey Young is the de facto starter based on his production in the spring. Young said he’s much more comfortable now in pass protection and will see heavy competition from Barry J. Sanders, Remound Wright and Ricky Seale.
  • Three-star outside linebacker prospect Casey Toohill of Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego was on campus for a visit and gave his commitment to Shaw. He then took to Twitter to share the news with the world:

Pac-12's lunch links

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
“There are no chainsaws in New York! You need to go to Long Island, or New Jersey. You don't wanna go to New Jersey.”

Arizona Wildcats season preview

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC 

Previewing the 2014 season for the Arizona Wildcats:

2013 record: 8-5, 4-5 in Pac-12; beat Boston College 42-19 in AdvoCare V100 Bowl

[+] EnlargeAustin Hill
Jason O. Watson/Getty ImagesAustin Hill's return should give Arizona's passing game a boost in 2014.
Final grade for 2013: B. Back-to-back eight-win seasons and bowl victories are a good start for Rich Rodriguez, but the Wildcats are 0-2 against Arizona State in the Territorial Cup under Rodriguez and they need to take another step up in the Pac-12 pecking order.

Key returnees: WR Austin Hill, OT Mickey Baucus, OT Fabbians Ebbele, LB Scooby Wright, S Jared Tevis

Key losses: RB Ka'Deem Carey, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers

Instant impact newcomers: WR DaVonte Neal, WR Cayleb Jones, RB Nick Wilson, LB Jamardre Cobb

Projected winning percentage ( Stats & Information): .548

Chances to win the conference ( Stats & Information): 1.1 percent

Most important game: vs. Arizona State, Nov. 28

Biggest question mark: The Wildcats are the Pac-12's most uncertain team at quarterback.

Best-case scenario: 10-3

Worst-case scenario: 5-7

Over/under win total (Bovada):

Upset special: USC visits Oct. 11. That could be a separation game for both in the South.

They said it: "Everybody is going to ask about the quarterbacks. I could be coy and tell you I don't know but I really do know. The truth is I really don't know. We'll figure that out." -- coach Rich Rodriguez
Cal football coach Sonny Dykes wasn't completely caught off guard when Sandy Barbour's 10-year run as the athletic director at Cal came to an abrupt end in late June. Not because he sensed a change was coming, but because of the nature of the position.

"It's always a surprise when there's a change of leadership, to an extent," Dykes said. "[Barbour] was here for a long time. [Athletic directors] with her tenure aren't very common. As someone hits six, seven years, you can almost put a countdown clock on it.

"I was a little surprised by the timing, maybe, but I'm happy that she obviously landed on her feet [as the new AD at Penn State]. She'll do a great job there."

When Barbour was pushed out the door, Dykes lost a staunch ally. She hired him, she sold the Cal community on him and was professionally vested to his success. The two had a good working relationship and, by several accounts, Barbour remained confident the football program was headed in the right direction despite the monumental woes of 2013.

Without her in the AD chair, there will be change. That's only natural.

To what extent that affects Dykes' job security remains to be seen, but the common thought process when it comes to new athletic directors is that they want to hire their own coaches — especially for the high-profile sports. That's not a hard-and-fast rule, but the coaches that stick around under new administration are also generally the ones who win.

Michael Williams, a former Cal wrestler, was selected by chancellor Nicholas Dirks to step in to Barbour's old job in an interim basis as the school starts what is expected to be a lengthly search for her permanent replacement. Williams committed to the role for a year, but there isn't an official time frame for how long he'll remain in place.

"The chancellor put me in not to keep the seat warm, but to actually be the athletic director," Williams said. "I'm interviewing coaches, making coaching decisions, signing contracts all the thing that's go along with the job."

That, of course, includes evaluating where things stand with the football program, and so far Williams likes what he sees from a foundation standpoint.

"I knew [Dykes] only as a fan and I thought, from afar, he was a good high-character person. And now our relationship as colleagues has proven that that's what he is," Williams said. "He's been very open and honest with me. I've noticed that he doesn't complain. He was dealt a pretty difficult hand and you really haven't heard him complain about it.

"He's very much focused on the future, he's very optimistic. He's already made some great changes in the academic profile of our student-athletes in football, which we're pleased with."

As for how Williams will evaluate the on-field product, that's still to be determined.

"I don't have any metrics yet. For me as an observer, we'll know progress when we see it," Williams said. "I don't in my mind have a certain number of wins [that constitutes success]. If we see ourselves competing. If we see the system is working and we see some entertaining football -- those are some things -- but I don't have anything really specific."

Williams' wait-and-see approach is really the only rational course to take. Even with an improved team this year -- which Cal has to be -- that might not mean much in the Pac-12 North standings, which is as difficult a division as there is in college football. Dykes is still the same coach several FBS programs tried to hire less than two years ago, and needs at least two more seasons before the direction of the program can be fairly judged.

"I'm optimistic about Sonny and excited to see what he does on the field this year," Williams said. "Anything I can do to help him, I will."

Cal opens training camp Monday and begins the season Aug. 30 at Northwestern.

Mailbag: Pressure on Oregon?

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
Welcome to the mailbag, the first with Pac-12 teams on the field getting ready for the 2014 season.

Yes, your team is destined for great things. But only if you follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Kevin from Columbus, Ohio, writes: How much pressure should be placed on Don Pellum at Oregon considering the Ducks have lost to Stanford two years straight? A third time would be a clear indication Oregon's defense can't stop the beef of Stanford and sends an even stronger message that Oregon won't be able to stop an SEC team if it makes it to the national title game.

Ted Miller: A third consecutive Oregon loss in the series might suggest that Stanford has the Ducks' number, but it has no relevance to the SEC. I can count on four fingers the number of SEC teams that wouldn't wilt on the line of scrimmage against Stanford -- or be multi-TD underdogs to the Ducks.

You might want to ask Tennessee fans about Oregon's defense, though some were rendered mute and blind by 59 unanswered points. Further, compare and contrast Oregon's defensive effort against Auburn and LSU with what other SEC defenses did to those teams in 2010 and 2011.

[+] EnlargeDon Pellum
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesDon Pellum and Oregon's defense will have some pressure based on high expectations.
But to take your general premise seriously, I don't think there's any particular pressure on new Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum. I think there's pressure on Oregon, period.

That's what happens when your program rises to the super-elite. Think about it: What would rate a successful season for the Ducks in 2014? Nothing less than the Pac-12 championship, and if that doesn't include an invitation to the first College Football Playoff, I'd bet more than a few Oregon fans would give the season a harrumph.

Oregon finished 11-2 last year with a final No. 9 ranking. From a long-term perspective, it was one of the best seasons in program history. From the perspective of the last five years, Mark Helfrich's first season after replacing Chip Kelly was a bit of a letdown.

Helfrich knew what he was getting into. The new reality is many Oregon fans now expect their Ducks to win the Pac-12 title and be in the national championship mix annually. (Oregon fans over 50 just slapped their foreheads.) Some might say Helfrich won't completely win over some fans until he wins the title, the one thing Kelly couldn't quite accomplish.

As for Pellum, he will encounter the same sort of pressure Helfrich is experiencing. He is replacing longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who quietly built a nationally ranked defense while laboring in the shadow of the Ducks high-powered, up-tempo offense. For some fans to completely buy in to Pellum, they'll need to see the Ducks continue to rank among the conference's statistical leaders. For an even pickier contingent, the defense will need to improve.

How can it improve? Ah, we now come to your point about "beef," but perhaps from a different angle. While Oregon's offensive struggles against A-list defenses over the past five years have tended to grab the headlines, the defense also has, at times, fallen short, though I'd assert it has mostly measured up in big games.

The key issues does appear to come down to "beef:" In six of the Ducks' eight defeats since 2009, they've been outrushed. Further, there's no question that Stanford controlled both lines of scrimmage in last year's victory. The Ducks defensive front seven couldn't get a stop in the first half. That's why one of the messages coming out of the offseason is Oregon's intention -- apparently realized -- to get bigger.

Just so everybody knows, by the way, it's no longer the SEC that worries coaches across the country. That conference faces a major talent drain this season, particularly behind center. It's Florida State. The Seminoles are stacked.

Costi from Phoenix writes: Ted, As an Arizona fan, Rich Rod's comments really troubled me to the Key Questions for Pac-12 South Coaches. Watching the UofA play ASU the past two years, it has seemed like Rich Rod has not taken this rivalry very seriously. On the other hand it is my belief that Todd Graham has probably made the Territorial Cup the most important game on the schedule. I am a strong believer in the idea that in this state there are two seasons, the regular season and the Territorial Cup. Do you think Rich Rod's job could potentially be in peril with a third loss to the Devils despite another successful bowl-eligible season? Or am I over-reacting? Is the rivalry game just going to be another game on our schedule if we continue to have winning seasons?

Ted Miller: Respectfully, Costi, you are overreacting. Rich Rodriguez takes every game seriously. Heck, the guy takes every play in practice seriously. He knows how important the Territorial Cup is. He's plenty aware of his being 0-2 against his good buddy Todd Graham. There won't be a person in the country who will want to win that game next year more than Rodriguez.

No, I don't think Rodriguez will be in trouble if he loses a third consecutive game to the Sun Devils after another winning season. I don't think that's even been whispered by any significant decision-maker associated directly or indirectly with the football program.

In 2012, the Wildcats pretty much threw up on themselves in the fourth quarter and the Sun Devils played a mentally tougher game on the road. In 2013, the Sun Devils were a lot more talented on both sides of the ball.

This year? It's a lot closer to a toss-up in terms of talent, though Arizona State has a third-year starting QB in Taylor Kelly who won't worry too much about playing in Tucson. Rodriguez's life would be much easier with a win. But another loss won't be catastrophic if the Wildcats have a good season, such as entering the game with eight or so wins.

Rodriguez's chief goal isn't just to post winning or even eight- or nine-win seasons. It's not even to consistently beat Arizona State. He wants to win the conference championship and get the Wildcats to their first Rose Bowl.

Joe Bruin from Westwood writes: Hey Ted... It's me, Joe! All of us Bruins fans should have listened to Coach Neuheisel when he said, "Punting is winning." Truer words were never spoken, and we all took it for ridicule. Now, anyone who enjoys, watches, or plays the game of football knows that field position is huge. How big (or small) will the loss of Sean Covington affect our season? Should Bruins fans be worried? I don't know how Matt Mengel is going to fare this season, but we are going to need good field position this year, especially against teams like Oregon, Stanford, and ASU. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Ted Miller: I'm sure glad that folks don't record my off-the-cuff comments for posterity.

Miller in 1985: "Folks, the mullet is here to stay. It's a haircut that best conveys masculinity."

Miller in 1991: "MC Hammer is certain to be remembered as the best rapper in history."

Miller in 1999: "Rarely would I recommend a stock based on a sock puppet, but is a sure winner!"

Miller in 2001: "Why does Britney Spears date Justin Timberlake? She's so much more talented than him."

Miller in 2007: "You should buy real estate. That market will never crash."

Miller in 2008: "I think we've finally got a President and Congress that are going to work together!"

Miller in 2010: "At least we know Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver will be married forever!"

Miller in 2012: "Stanford beat Oregon in Autzen Stadium with a redshirt freshman QB? Ha!"

My wife has a much longer list, by the way.

As a freshman, Covington ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in punting and, perhaps more important, UCLA ranked second in the conference in net punting. So before he transferred, Bruins fans knew they had a A-list punter coming back, one who could significantly help the underrated field-position game.

Now the Bruins have uncertainty at the position. That's not a positive, though in terms of where uncertainty really worries you, punter is down the list. It might, in fact, be at the bottom of said list.

In a close game, you'd like to have a good punter. But you'd rather have Brett Hundley, Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes and Fabian Moreau.

Or you should simply expect Noel Mazzone's offense to never need to punt.

Gary from La Grande, Ore., writes: Which scratch-and-sniff ticket scent do you anticipate will be most popular? Locker Room Melange or Really Offensive Linemen?

Ted Miller: Time to musk up, eh? I hear "Really Offensive Lineman" is made with real bits of Hroniss Grasu and Tyler Johnstone, so you know it's good. Sixty percent of the time it works every time.

What would Ode to Chip Kelly smell like? Something that crossed sarcasm and a bacon cheeseburger?

I'll be honest. If Oregon made tickets that smelled like Pok Pok in Portland, I'd probably buy one even though I get a media pass.
Washington State coach Mike Leach was over at Reddit Friday to field questions from redditors in an AMA (ask me anything).

It's worth heading over there to take in the full experience, but here are some of the more entertaining topics discussed.
On the campaign by some Texas Tech fans trying to get Leach's former employer to pay him his salary from the 2009 season:
"I've always been flattered and appreciative of the support I had at Texas Tech. We had a great 10 years and I had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of great people there, so I really appreciate it. I saw the letter in the paper and it is pretty accurate. Texas Tech has not paid me for the last season that I worked in 2009, which is hard to imagine."
[+] EnlargeMike Leach
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsMike Leach talked about his tenure at Texas Tech, legalized marijuana and his Taco Bell orders in a Reddit chat.
On how the role of legalized marijuana in Washington relates to WSU football:
"The marijuana rule has not been a problem for us. It is illegal on our team and if we find anyone using marijuana, we will dismiss them from the team. With all do respect to those who enjoy marijuana, I believe that it is very counterproductive to having the best focused and most productive football team that I can have. Any of our players or coaches interested in it will have to do it after they finish their time here!"

On if he think ESPN's "College GameDay" will head to Pullman this year:
"The game I am always looking forward to is the next one because they are all exciting and you only get so many opportunities. Yes I think ESPN GameDay will come here. With the direction our program is headed and the new facilities we have built here, it will obviously be a big draw. You can check out our facilities on our Twitter page @wsucougfb. When we were at Texas Tech, we were the only team in history to have ESPN GameDay to come to our place twice and be a part of it three times in one season."

From his book, about Geronimo:
"One story in the book not to be missed would be how the Apaches would hunt ducks. Check it out!"

Favorite pizza topping:
"Canadian bacon, black olives and mushrooms."

On Taco Bell's much-anticipated arrival in Pullman:

"Over the years, I have eaten at a number of Taco Bell's and they are all very similar yet I am excited to eat the new one here in Pullman!

Believe it or not, my order always includes the original bean burrito and the original taco, and then I will venture out on another item or two. I do, however, miss Mongolian Fire, which is the restaurant that used to be there."

"We now invite first-class passengers, those traveling with small children or need assistance boarding and ... Utes fans to board."

That'll soon be reality for those flying out of Salt Lake City on Alaska Airlines thanks to a partnership between the airline and school that will give priority boarding to any Utah fans wearing a Ute jersey or shirt between Aug. 23 and Dec. 1.

It's been a good week for creative marketing concepts coming out of the Pac-12 following word Oregon would use scratch-and-sniff tickets that smell like Carl's Jr. hamburgers.

And as much joy smelling a fast-food burger on a piece of paper might bring, Utah is the clear winner offering something of actual value that, as a bonus, will surely infuriate fans of BYU and Utah State.

Well played, Utah. Well played.

"We are excited about our recent expansion in SLC and recognize the important role the University of Utah plays in the community. We are proud to support this great institution and their fans, students, faculty and alumni," Alaska Airlines announced in a statement.

In addition to the priority boarding, the airline will also offer cheaper fares for road games and for out-of-state fans traveling to Utah home games.

For other Pac-12 fans, there is, apparently, some consolation.

Pac-12 lunch links

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
Happy Friday! Happy August! Football happens this month.
Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the last couple of weeks we've been looking at each week during the 2014 season and picking the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we picked two).

Start planning accordingly as the Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip concludes.

Welcome to Week 14.

Friday, Nov. 28
  • Arizona State at Arizona
  • Stanford at UCLA
Saturday, Nov. 29
  • Notre Dame at USC
  • Utah at Colorado
  • Oregon at Oregon State
  • Washington at Washington State
  • BYU at California
  • Byes: None
My choice: Stanford at UCLA, Washington at Washington State

Why: We had a partial rivalry week last week with The Big Game and USC-UCLA and part two spills into the final week of the season. Depending on kickoff times, you might be able to swing the Friday-Saturday double. So for the sake of argument, let’s just say we could pull that off.

For the Friday game, it only makes sense to pick Stanford and UCLA. They are regarded as two of the top three teams in the conference and, perhaps like in 2012, we might see these two teams again in the conference title game a week later. There won’t be any lack of star power, either, with some of the top offensive and defensive players in the country squaring off on both sides of the field. Not to mention two of the league’s elite coaches.

As for the rest of the games, well, trying to justify or validate one rivalry over another is a futile practice that the Pac-12 blog does not wish to engage in. You’d be hard-pressed to convince an Arizona fan to take in the Apple Cup instead of the Territorial Cup. So we’re not going to even bother.

We all know Rich Rodriguez has some work to do to gain some ground on Todd Graham, who holds a 2-0 edge in the series since both coaches were hired. The Civil War has been one-sided (though last year’s game was pretty awesome) and the Colorado-Utah series is coming along -- though I’m not sure it’s reached “rivalry” status yet. Of the two nonconference games, Cal-BYU is what it is and USC-Notre Dame comes on the heels of the Trojans showdown with UCLA. Could be a big two-week swing in terms of public perception for Steve Sarkisian.

Of the remaining games, we’re going with the Apple Cup simply because it’s exciting to see a new coach indoctrinated into the rivalry. We all know what happened in Mike Leach’s first season. And the Huskies, of course, returned the favor last year.

This time around you have Chris Petersen at the helm, facing an Air Raid offense that will likely be putting up some big offensive numbers behind Connor Halliday and his cast of receivers. If the Cougars want to build off of the momentum of last season, beating a Petersen-led team would certainly be a good way to establish themselves as major players in the North.

There should be plenty of jockeying for bowl position going on as well. Whether it’s teams like Oregon, UCLA and Stanford fighting for a spot in the conference championship game, or teams like Utah or Washington State looking to become bowl eligible (and everything in between).

This is one of those weeks where you can’t go wrong because of your allegiances to your team. But big picture, Stanford-UCLA should be thrilling and the Apple Cup presents some fascinating storylines.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the road trip. You can review the complete list here.