Every wonder what it's like to go through a strength and conditioning program that college football players go through?

Well, the wait is (sort of) over. In one week, football fans will get a look inside the metro Detroit training facility of Rich Rodriguez's former director of strength and conditioning, Mike Barwis, in the Discovery Channel reality TV show "American Muscle," which premiers July 9 at 9 p.m. ET.

Barwis worked with Rodriguez at West Virginia (2003-2007) and Michigan (2008-2011), but stayed in Michigan after the 2011 season to begin Barwis Methods, where he trains college and professional athletes as well as paraplegics, which will be a very interesting aspect of "American Muscle."

The reality show will chronicle Barwis through his unique training regimen (check out the show's trailer and the show's website here). Former Stanford and current Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will appear on the pilot episode. Other NFL players such as Ndamukong Suh, Tyrann Mathieu and Pierre Garcon will also appear during the first season.

"I had designed [the system] before we met, but specifically adapted it to meet his needs in football,” Barwis said of Rodriguez. "His is a unique style of play that requires a specific dynamic in the development of athletes to play in the fast paced style of football. My two assistants now run his program the same way at Arizona."

Preseason magazines on Pac-12

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
Preseason magazines don't always get it right, but they certainly whet our appetite for the college football season.

As for how they view the Pac-12's 2014 pecking order and national standing among the preseason Top 25s, there's been a high degree of consensus: Thus far, just about everyone has Oregon winning the North Division and UCLA winning the South Division.

Stassen.com is a great preseason reference source, both for this year and as a historical reference. It keeps track of what the preseason magazines prognosticate every year.

If you toss in Phil Steele, who concludes his countdown today, we have five major publications with their predictions: Lindy's, Athlon, The Sporting News and USA Today.

Each ranks defending national champion Florida State No. 1, other than The Sporting News, which ranks the Seminoles No. 3 and Oklahoma No. 1.

Oregon leads the Pac-12 in each poll save Phil Steele, who ranks UCLA No. 5 and Oregon No. 6. The Ducks ranking ranges from No. 2 (Sporting News) to No. 6 (Phil Steele, Athlon). UCLA is ranked as high as No. 5 (Phil Steele) and as low as 10th (USA Today).

As for the Pac-12 standings, all five publications predict Oregon wins the North and UCLA wins the South. All five have Stanford second in the North. Four of five have USC second in the South, with The Sporting News tapping Arizona State No. 2 and USC No. 3. All five have California last in the North and Colorado last in the South.

Is the Pac-12 really this predictable? You can be sure it won't be.

Pac-12 lunch links

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
So hold on to the ones who really care. In the end they'll be the only ones there. When you get old and start losing hair, can you tell me who will still care? Can you tell me who will still care? Mmmmmmmmm bop.
This week we chatted with Washington State assistant head coach/special teams coach Eric Russell to check in on how the Cougar special teams are doing, which position battles to watch, and how the recruiting trail is these days.

Let's get down to business. You need to replace four-year starting kicker Andrew Furnery and returner Leon Brooks. Who did you like for those spots in the spring?

[+] EnlargeMike Leach
AP Photo/Rajah BoseMike Leach's team ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in punt returns and seventh in kick returns in 2013.
ER: Kicking wise, I think Erik Powell had a very solid spring. As far as field goals, I think he was 25 of 30 in the spring and showed the ability to bounce back from a miss, not let it affect him the rest of the day. We feel good there, but we still have a couple guys walking on, transferring in to provide him some competition. So we'll know more about that in the fall. Obviously, he has never been in a game, never been in front of a crowd but I think with his makeup and demeanor ... he'll be fine. [For] returner, I think Leon did a steady job. He ranked in the top half of the Pac-12 last year. Finding that guy, you want a guy who can make some big plays for you but at the same time, No. 1, get the ball fielded and maintain possession of the ball. There are a few guys we've been looking at back there. I don't know if anyone has stood up and just stolen the job yet. We're looking at River Cracraft, Jamal Morrow, Rickey Galvin possibly -- some of those guys or some that are coming in. It's a wide open job and it'll probably heat up for fall camp, but we have to make a decision fairly quick so we can rep that guy as much as possible.

Is this more changeover than you've experienced or can remember in just one offseason?

ER: It's a lot. You don't probably wish that upon yourself. But when you come in somewhere new, it's all new to you, too. So you don't really know what you have and Andrew did a great job and we were obviously fortunate that he had some experience. But, it does leave for a lot of restless sleeping at night in the summer wondering what you've got and how are these guys going to react. There are going to be a lot of open jobs, probably with some freshmen.

You mentioned Powell as a strong candidate for the kicking spot. He hasn't kicked in a game. What did you do to simulate that experience for him and other kickers during the spring?

ER: I think being coached by me is pressure. During spring in practice we'd line up the kickers and the competition. One is kicking for the offense, one is kicking for the defense. We do a lot of distractions -- hollering, screaming, yelling at them, kicking for up-downs, or whatnot. Putting a lot of the focus on the team on those guys. And then as many live reps as we could in different situations. That's pretty much the majority of what it was, the competition at the end with the emphasis being on the team trying to root for them or against them or a lot of distractions or putting something on the line in regard to their teammates.

Washington State just put in some incredible new facilities. Are you feeling the perception of the Cougars changing as you go out on the recruiting trail?

ER: The reception from all the high school players and coaches has been good. I think the toughest thing for us right now is that everyone is hearing about these things but still getting kids to Pullman. We're not the most easily accessible campus in the Pac-12. But when they do get on campus, they're pretty much blown away. They see this Pac-12 institution and top-notch facilities and Coach [Mike] Leach and the leadership of the university. I think that puts us in the mix more when we can get them on campus. But as far as the reception and being able to at least get in the door on kids, yes, it has been improving each and every year since we've been here. Hopefully, people see the results on the field. That'll take care of a lot of it too. Recruits want to win games. Guys see the opportunities that a lot of young guys have had here since we arrived and [recruits] are looking for the opportunity to come up and play early in their career, if they're deserving. I think there's some excitement. There's still a lot of work left to be done in the recruiting process, but I think we're able to compete now.

OK, some offseason stuff … were you on the fishing expedition with Leach when he caught that giant fish? And do you have any other good Leach stories from your time coaching together?

ER: Yeah, I was fishing with him but I wasn't in his boat. So obviously [the guides] knew to make sure which boat caught a fish. I got to watch them land that. It was pretty cool watching them all take turns reeling in that big fish. It was funnier watching the guys posing for the picture -- who actually wanted to touch that fish and who was a little bit scared of that fish. Obviously Coach wasn't one of those [scared] guys. I was with him the one year at Texas Tech and through two seasons now. He's good to work for. For the most part, he trusts you to do your job and if you do your job every day, to the best of your abilities, he's going to support you and be there for you. With my [special teams] role, he doesn't tie my hands with personnel issues. He's going to let me use the people we need to use to be successful. Some places maybe aren't that free with their personnel and their elite players. … I'm with you guys, you never know what's going to come out of his mouth or where his train of thought is coming from. He can get on a tangent. Those staff meetings can go a little longer if someone asks him a question about something off the cuff. You better just get comfortable for a while. He's tough but you know what's expected.
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

Up next: Offensive line.


Oregon: The Ducks welcome back four and a half starters (the departed Mana Greig and returning true sophomore Cameron Hunt split a guard spot), and that crew is led by All-American Hroniss Grasu, who tops the Pac-12 with 40 career starts. In fact, Oregon welcomes back 107 career starts, second most in the conference. One qualifier: Left tackle Tyler Johnstone is trying to come back from a knee injury he suffered in the bowl game. He probably won't be available early in the season, so junior Andre Yruretagoyena is the frontrunner to step in.

Arizona: The Wildcats no-name unit was highly productive last year -- yielding just 17 sacks while leading a running game that averaged 5.3 yards per carry -- and four starters are back. The unit ranks third in the conference with 104 returning starts, with four-year starting tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele tallying 38 and 37 career starts apiece, respectively. Junior Lene Maiava, the line's top backup at tackle and guard last year, is a good bet to step in for right guard Chris Putton. All the 2013 backups are back as well.

Washington: The Huskies welcome back seven players with starting experience, including five with 20 or more career starts. Not only do they welcome back all five starters from 2013, they welcome back a crew that started every regular-season game together. With four senior starters and one junior, Washington leads the Pac-12 with 124 returning starts. While not a star-studded crew, three 2013 starters -- Dexter Charles, Mike Criste and Micah Hatchie -- earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season. So why aren't the Huskies No. 1? They yielded 30 sacks last year, which ranked seventh in the conference and both the Ducks and Wildcats averaged more yards per rush.


UCLA: While UCLA lost first-team All-Pac-12 guard Xavier Su'a-Filo to the NFL, the Bruins should be strong on the offensive line after injuries forced them to start three true freshmen last fall: Alex Redmond, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry. Those guys will be older, stronger and more seasoned. The Bruins, who welcome back players with 88 career starts, are led by center Jake Brendel (27 starts), but the wild card is transfer Malcolm Bunche, who made 14 starts at Miami. It's not unrealistic to believe this could turn out to be as good as any O-line in the conference, but yielding 36 sacks a year ago forces one into a wait-and-see approach.

Arizona State: While the Sun Devils lost two starters from 2013, and the O-line was inconsistent last year -- an eye popping 41 sacks yielded and just 4.4 yards per rush -- the general feeling in Tempe is this could be the program's best O-line in more than a decade. Jamil Douglas will be in the Morris Trophy conversation this fall, though he's a more natural guard than left tackle, where he finished spring practice. He leads the Sun Devils' three returning starters with 27 starts. Auburn transfer Christian Westerman was often dominant during spring practices, and Nick Kelly has taken control at center. The depth is pretty solid, too.

USC: The Trojans welcome back three starters: Chad Wheeler, Max Tuerk and Aundrey Walker, though Walker is almost certain to face a preseason challenge from one of the touted youngsters. Sophomores Zach Banner and Jordan Simmons, redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers and true freshmen Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama, Jordan Austin and Viane Talamaivao are names to watch. This unit will be talented, but it might be a year or two away from peaking.

Stanford: Stanford welcomes back just one returning starter, though he's pretty darn good: Sophomore preseason All-American Andrus Peat. So why aren't the Cardinal relegated to the "We'll see" category? Two reasons: Stanford has become an offensive line recruiting and developing factory -- they've earned the benefit of the doubt -- and the guys who are slated to step in aren't entirely anonymous or green, as most saw action last year in "jumbo" packages. It seems likely to stack up like this: Josh Garnett replaces David Yankey at left guard, Graham Shuler steps in for Khalil Wilkes at center, Johnny Caspers replaces Kevin Danser at right guard and Kyle Murphy takes over for Cameron Fleming at right tackle.

Utah: While the Utes rate toward the bottom of the conference when it comes to returning O-line starts at just 46, this unit hints that it could be pretty stout. Two starters are gone, but junior left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi, who had a good spring, guards Junior Salt and Siaosi Aiono are back, as is Isaac Asiata. Of course, the unit was inconsistent last year, often yielding pressure and struggling in run blocking. The stated intention with new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen was to get leaner and quicker. That directive will play into preseason competitions for sure.

Oregon State: Two starters are back: center Isaac Seumalo and right tackle Sean Harlow. Seumalo, who owns 25 of the Beavers 42 returning starts, earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and could get All-American consideration this fall, while Harlow should be much-improved after taking his lumps as a true freshman. The good news, despite apparent inexperience, is five guys have started at least one game. Sophomore Grant Bays, junior Josh Mitchell, junior Gavin Andrews and juco transfer Luke Hollingsworth are in the mix. While the Beavers didn't run terribly well last year, they improved as the season went on.


Colorado: Offensive guard Daniel Munyer, with 27 career starts, leads a crew of three returning starters. The good news is the Buffaloes only yielded 20 sacks last year. The bad news is the rushing offense averaged 3.4 yards per carry, which ranked 11th in the conference. The Buffaloes have to get better on the O-line in order to take another step up in the Pac-12 after a rough three seasons.

California: The Bears have eight guys coming back with starting experience, including all five who started the Big Game against Stanford, a crew that included three freshmen and one sophomore. Only one of those guys, sophomore Jordan Rigsbee, started the first game, and he had moved from left guard to center. There is plenty of hope for improvement, grounded in some part in improved play late last season. Still, the unit yielded 35 sacks and led an anemic rushing attack.

Washington State: This is a questionable position for Washington State. The Cougars not only lost three starters, most notably center Eliott Bosch, they welcome back the second fewest starts in the conference at 33, though Gunnar Eklund and Joe Dahl started every game last season. Last year, the Cougars didn't even really try to run the ball and they gave up 32 sacks. There is, however, some optimism over improved size and athleticism. Still, this is going to be an inexperienced unit.



Running back

Wide receiver

Tight end
The honors keep coming for three former Pac-12 football players now with NFL teams.

Stanford's Trent Murphy, USC's Devon Kennard and Washington State's Deone Bucannon were all named Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal winners Monday, an honor that takes into account athletic and academic performance and leadership. Each school in the conference honors one male and one female student-athlete.

Murphy, a team captain, graduated with a degree in science, technology and society before being drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. The outside linebacker led the nation with 15 sacks and was a consensus All-American.

Kennard was a second-team All-Academic team selection in the conference as he worked on a master's degree in communication management. He was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round.

Bucannon was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round after standout career for WSU in which he finished fourth on the school's all-time tackle list and third in interceptions. He majored in criminal justice.

Here is the full list of winners:

Arizona: Lawi Lalang (XC/track and field); Margo Geer (swimming and diving)
Arizona State: Cory Hahn (baseball); Stephanie Preach (volleyball)
California: Brandon Hagy (golf); Alicia Asturias (gymnastics)
Colorado: Andreas Haug (skiing); Shalaya Kipp, (XC and track and field)
Oregon: Robin Cambier (tennis); Laura Roesler (track and field)
Oregon State: Josh Smith (soccer); Jenna Richardson (soccer)
Stanford: Murphy; Chiney Ogwumike (basketball)
UCLA: Joe Sofia (soccer); Anna Senko (swimming and diving)
USC: Kennard; Natalie Hagglund (volleyball)
Utah: Ben Tasevac (tennis); Mary Beth Lofgren (gymnastics)
Washington: Sam Dommer (rowing); Kaitlin Inglesby (softball)
Washington State: Bucannon; Micaela Castain (soccer)
Oregon and UCLA are generally the preseason picks as the Pac-12's best candidates for the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff, which also indicates they are the favorites to win their divisions and play for the Pac-12 championship.

That doesn't mean they are a sure-thing. Far from it. In fact, Phil Steele, who likes both Oregon and UCLA, says folks should watch out for USC. He rates the Trojans as one of the potential surprise teams of 2014.
The Trojans are one of just five teams in the country that have each of their positional units (QB, RB, etc.) rank in my top 40. Scholarship limitations have really limited them as of late, but they have some depth at key positions. There is no disputing a talent like defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. The Trojans also have my No. 6 defensive line in the country, No. 5 linebackers and No. 3 defensive backs, giving them my No. 2 overall defense

ESPN.com's Insider also takes a look at several Pac-12 teams playoff chances here, including Washington, Arizona State, USC, UCLA and Stanford.

Still, the Ducks are the preseason Pac-12 front runners. Their chances of making the playoff are rated at 48 percent by Brian Fremeau with a projected record of 11-1.

ESPN analyst Brock Huard presents a detailed look at Oregon here. What he likes about Oregon isn't not surprising: QB Marcus Mariota, a favorable schedule and the Ducks recent track record.

He does, however, see some issues, starting with the Ducks front seven on defense. He writes:
... while Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner have each seen plenty of snaps, they must both make significant strides to be the forces at the point of attack that BCS champs have wielded over the last decade.

That's entirely fair, though the defense looks a lot stronger and experienced at linebacker than it did a year ago. It's also notable the Ducks are rebuilding their secondary after you get past the return of All-American CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

Huard also notes that the injury to No. 1 WR Bralon Addison hurts, making the Ducks typical offensive explosiveness a question.

Finally, he points out that navigating the Pac-12 schedule -- not to mention a nonconference matchup with Big Ten favorite Michigan State -- will be rugged and challenging on a week-to-week basis, even with pair of favorable misses (USC and Arizona State).

Bottom line: Oregon is 57-9 over the past five years, a span during which their being in the national title hunt has been the standard not the exception.

Barring anything exceptional in 2014, the Ducks should again be in the thick of things.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
Ancient Greece was the beginning of Western civilization. You see in Greece, they didn't have professional sports or Wheaties boxes, so the athletes competed for another reason. Anybody?

Death. Taxes. Stanford wins the Director's Cup.

With the college sports season officially over, Stanford claimed its 20th consecutive Division I Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup award in 2013-14 as the top intercollegiate athletic department in the nation. Stanford finished with 1,482 points, with Florida (1,216,5), Notre Dame (1,128.25), Virginia (1,118.5) and Penn State (1,113) rounding out the top five.

UCLA finished seventh and USC eighth. The ACC and Pac-12 each had three institutions ranked in the top 10.

The Director's Cup is awarded based on each institution’s finish in up to 20 sports — 10 women’s and 10 men’s. It's the most highly regarded measure of the top-to-bottom success of an athletic program, though it also favors programs that sponsor a lot of sports. Stanford had nine scores omitted because of the maximum 10 allowed scores for men's and women's sports.

Here's how the Pac-12 stacked up, with the national ranking to the left.
1. Stanford
8. USC
15. Oregon
20. California
26. Arizona
27. Arizona State
33. Washington
39. Colorado
72. Utah
75. Oregon State
149. Washington State
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

Tight end, typically a strength, is a position in transition in the conference. It feels a bit like we are grading on a curve here because there's a lot more "We'll sees" than A-list returning players, in some part because a handful of teams employ a big wide receiver instead of a true tight end.


Oregon State: Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith are the best returning tight end tandem in the conference. Hamlett had 40 catches for 364 yards last season and Smith added 25 for 343 yards. Further, Kellen Clute hauled in 19 passes for 159 yards. Of course, the Beavers use both a tight end and an H-back, so they need numbers at the position. Those were reduced when fifth-year senior Tyler Perry, a solid run blocker, retired due to injuries, as did Hayden Craig, and incoming freshman Jake Knight opted out of football in favor of track. California transfer Jacob Wark, a part-time starter as a Bear, should work his way into the rotation, and incoming freshman Ryan Nall also might get a look.

Oregon: The Ducks seem certain to get good production at the position with some combination of Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis. Each has experience and has flashed potential, and the position should be more important now with questions at receiver due to Bralon Addison's knee injury. Brown started five games last year, Mundt had a 121-yard receiving game against Tennessee and Baylis started in the Civil War game against Oregon State.


USC: The Trojans lost Xavier Grimble early to the NFL draft, but Randall Telfer saw plenty of action -- though he caught only six passes last year -- and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick has plenty of upside. Incoming freshman Bryce Dixon was a highly rated recruit.

Washington: John Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins is gone, and that's a big hit, but the Huskies have talent and experience returning at the position. Senior Michael Hartvigson, who has labored in Seferian-Jenkins' considerable shadow, and Josh Perkins are a good combo, while promising youngsters Darrell Daniels and David Ajamu are competing for playing time.

Utah: The Utes lost starter Jake Murphy and big WR Anthony Denham to the NFL, but they get the promising Westlee Tonga back after he missed all but four games in 2013 due to injury. Tonga has seven career receptions for 79 yards and a TD. Siale Fakailoatonga, a former walk-on, was Murphy's primary backup as a true freshman after Tonga went down, and he caught two passes for 18 yards in 2013. Harrison Handley redshirted last season after enrolling early last spring and is a candidate to compete for playing time, as is Evan Moeai.

Stanford: With Stanford's quality and depth at receiver, it will be interesting to see if tight end returns as a top offensive option, which it wasn't in 2013. The potential for the Cardinal to use multiple tight ends again in the passing and running games is certainly there. Official returning starter Charlie Hopkins is back, as are a trio of redshirts -- Greg Taboada, Eric Cotton and Austin Hooper. Stanford signed No. 1-ranked TE-Y Dalton Schultz, and he should compete for playing time immediately.

UCLA: The Bruins use a "Y" or "big" receiver instead of a traditional tight end, and Thomas Duarte is a heck of a big WR. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound true sophomore appeared in all 13 games last season and tied a school freshman record with three touchdown receptions.


Arizona State: The Sun Devils lost the productive Chris Coyle as well as his primary backup, Darwin Rogers. De'Marieya Nelson is an athletic option with a diverse skill set -- he's more a big receiver than a tight end at 224 pounds -- while redshirt freshman Grant Martinez ended up No. 2 on the spring depth chart.

Colorado: Senior Kyle Slavin caught nine passes in 2013. Sean Irwin saw the field as a freshman and is the top backup candidate. Freshman Connor Center played baseball, not football, in high school, but his 6-7 frame at least makes him intriguing.

Arizona: Terrence Miller operated as a big receiver/tight end last year, catching 40 passes for 467 yards, but he's gone. Former QB Josh Kern was his backup. While the position hasn't been a focal point of Rich Rodriguez's offense, it's notable that he signed two touted tight end-type players in his 2014 recruiting class. While the Wildcats are exceptionally deep at WR, the youngsters could become options in the passing game.

Washington State: Nick Begg, a 6-5, 246-pound incoming freshman, is the only player listed as a tight end on the Cougars roster, and Mike Leach has not traditionally used a tight end. Wonder if Begg said he'd sign if Leach agreed to call him a tight end and Leach said, "Sure, whatever."

California: As previously noted this spring, there is no tight end position in Cal's offense, which was probably a factor in Richard Rodgers' early jump to the NFL and Wark's decision to transfer to Oregon State. Rodgers was switched from tight end to wide receiver last season upon coach Sonny Dykes' arrival.



Running back

Wide receiver
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

But first, you now have a full bag of Twitter handles that are required reading.

You have mine here. You have Kevin Gemmell's brand spanking new 140-character depot.

And you have our veteran Tweeters and new Pac-12 blog insiders, Chantel Jennings -- here -- and Kyle Bonagura -- here.

That is 560 characters that nine out of 10 doctors recommend -- and this is the 10th doctor.

To the notes!

Nick from Sacramento writes: If Sonny Dykes wins 5 games this season, with a new AD, think he sees season 3?

Ted Miller: Short answer: Yes.

I also think that if he wins four or even three games and the Bears are far more competitive on both sides of the ball than they were in 2013, he deserves a third season, unless things go haywire off the field. While Dykes didn't inherit an entirely empty cupboard from Jeff Tedford, there were certainly issues, and then the Bears' injury woes last season were among the worst I've witnessed -- UCLA fans, you could equate it to your 1999 season, when Bob Toledo was practically walking around campus asking guys to suit up.

Dykes hasn't been perfect. Most notably his hiring of Andy Buh as defensive coordinator didn't work out. But he also deserves credit for making a handful of changes on his staff this offseason, including the hiring of Art Kaufman to run his defense.

Of course, when a football coach of a struggling team sees the athletic director who hired him depart, he knows he is losing an important administrative relationship. ADs and the coaches they hire in revenue sports are tied at the hip. When one suffers, so does the other. In this case, with Sandy Barbour leaving, Dykes is now less secure than he was last week. And it's notable that we rated him as the least secure Pac-12 coach even before this news.

The question now turns to the sort of AD Cal has in mind to replace Barbour. There are plenty of athletic director types out there. Some move deliberately. Some are more impulsive. I've been told by more than a few savvy ADs that it's important to hire your own football coach because you would rather be judged by what you have done than what your predecessor did.

Yet, as with most things in college football, there is an easy solution: Winning.

If Dykes goes 4-8 this season and gets back to the postseason in 2015 with quarterback Jared Goff as a third-year starter -- and his team is academically and behaviorally sound -- I suspect we'll see him around for a while.

Tom from Seattle writes: Saw your QB blog about the PAC-12 and the comments on Utah's QB Travis Wilson -- "When healthy, Wilson has been a solid performer with good upside. "Are we talking about the same Travis Wilson that is the 11th ranked PAC-12 QB in conference play two years running and leads the world in INT's? Still love your blogs, though!

Ted Miller: Yes.

First, Wilson, despite playing with an injury for three games, ended up grading out fairly well, ranking 47th in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR. Sure, that is only ninth in the Pac-12, but in the conference of quarterbacks, it's important to keep a national perspective when we are evaluating what might constitute a "solid performer."

Second, see if you notice anything in these numbers. Can you guess when Wilson got hurt? What you see is a pretty good quarterback through six games and the bottom falling out during the next three conference games. Again, "when healthy Wilson has been a solid performer..." When he was bad last season, he wasn't healthy (other than the UCLA disaster).

What about that "good upside" part? Well, let's not forget that Wilson was a true sophomore last season. He was thrust into service prematurely in 2012 and played fairly well considering the circumstances. When the Utes were 4-2 after beating Stanford, he looked like a guy who could lead the Utes into the South Division race.

For comparison's sake, consider that Oregon State's Sean Mannion had a 127.1 rating with 18 interceptions as a redshirt freshman starter. Wilson finished with a 129.7 rating last season.

But thanks for loving the blogs. Most awesome people do.

Paul from Albany, Ore., writes: Losing Brandin Cooks is going to be very difficult on the Oregon State offense and this fact has been pointed out numerous times. What has not been pointed out is that this same dialogue was stated the prior year when Markus Wheaton was lost to the NFL. Yes Cooks had a better year last than Wheaton did one earlier. But why has so little been written about the common denominator in both seasons -- Sean Mannion?? He is returning and yet all you folks write about is the losses he has sustained. How about digging into the idea that maybe he is a key factor in helping these receivers achieve their lofty status?

Ted Miller: Well, after passing for 10,436 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons, Mannion certainly merits a tip of the cap. And he has improved each year, which is a good thing.

I'd also contend he gets plenty of credit. For one, we ranked him fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks, which is saying something when all four qualify as All-American candidates. And NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. knows who he is, ranking him the nation's No. 2 senior quarterback Insider.

But this will be a revealing year for Mannion. For one, he's a senior. This is his last chance to make a statement as a college quarterback and as an NFL prospect. Second, for the first time, he doesn't have a proven, NFL prospect at receiver.

NFL scouts are presently wondering if Wheaton and Cooks made Mannion look good. If Mannion is a more efficient player this season with a less stellar supporting cast in the passing game and, yes, wins a couple of big games, his stock will rise both when it comes to college kudos and NFL love.

Wayne from Mesa, Ariz., writes: A few weeks ago, the PAC-12 announced a new start time window for football: 11:00am. A few stories circulated the announcement, but I have not seen anything since. Has there been much feedback regarding this start time? From my standpoint, while it provides needed content for that time slot on the PAC-12 Network, it's way too early for the fans, especially in a region where we are used to late afternoon and night games.

Ted Miller: We did a poll and 58 percent of 5,391 respondents were positive about the 11 a.m. window.

I generally agree with that result. While 11 a.m. isn't ideal, it's better than having four games kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT. A lot of Pac-12 fans have been complaining about a surfeit of late kickoffs. This is a response to that complaint. My guess is those who will now complain about the early kickoff will be fewer in numbers.

It's important to note a few things about the 11 a.m. window.

Wayne, I notice you are from Arizona. If you are a fan of Arizona or Arizona State, you won't have to worry about an 11 a.m. kickoff, at least not until late October. The Pac-12 has no interest in fans melting into puddles in their seats.

It's also unlikely the 11 a.m. kick will be the day's marquee game. That still will almost always fall into primetime windows, be that on ET or PT.

I suspect the 11 a.m. kickoff will mean more TV eyeballs for what might seem like middling games. While some folks are worried about competing with SEC or Big Ten games at 2 p.m., I don't see that as an issue. Some viewers will tune in because they care more about the Pac-12. Some will tune in because they like to watch more than one game at once. Those who don't care about the Pac-12 wouldn't watch with any kickoff time.

Some don't like the 11 a.m. kickoff because it means waking up early to drive to the stadium, and it cuts into tailgating time. But I'm not sure if these party-hardy folks are looking at the big picture.

First, there will be some encouragement for fans to arrive Friday evening. That only means more fun. Then, on Saturday, you get the 8 a.m. bloody mary at the stadium with eggs and bacon and country ham from this guy. Yummy. Then you have a postgame tailgate and time for a dinner and -- potentially -- a nice evening to tool around the old college digs.

The socially creative among you will be emailing me at season's end telling me the 11 a.m. kickoff rocked.

Emily from Los Angeles writes: You want a heartbreaking loss? What about the 3OT game between USC and Stanford?

Ted Miller: You mean a game that featured big names, ranked teams, controversy, late heroics and three overtimes could be heartbreaking?

I was there. Really entertaining, strange game. Hated how it ended, though. Not in terms of who won, but that it was about a sloppy and unfortunate turnover rather than a dramatic play.

Trevor from Portland writes: We got an article about Pac-12 heartbreakers, and it left out the biggest heartbreaker of the decade. Cam Newton fumbled, he wasn't down by forward progress. Cliff Harris was in. Michael Dyer was down. I'm still not over it.

Ted Miller: I was there for that one, too.

The Ducks were so close to a national title. It was the only time I can recall that Chip Kelly expressed regret about his game plan and some in-game decisions, as that sort of navel gazing wasn't his thing.

That is the thing about close games. They are a thrill to win and excruciating to lose. They also are why we love sports. While we love the winning, there is also a masochistic side to us that enjoys the social aspects of wallowing in misery among friends.

(Thousands of fans from various, struggling Pac-12 outposts immediately go, "Who... us?")

Lunch links: Cravens rising

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
Happy Friday!
To boo, or not to boo?

Would you be more inclined to vocally express your frustrations toward college football players if they were getting paid? It was an interesting question brought up in my mailbag earlier this week by Ken in Berkeley, who feels like his attitude -- or possibly the attitude of others -- might change if players started getting money.


Would you be more inclined to boo college football players if they were getting paid?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,087)

Is there something to that? Of course, there are those who are always going to boo players whether they are playing for pay or snack shack tokens. The Internet is filled with videos of folks releasing boo birds on everyone from pros to Pop Warner. Heck, even Santa Claus got booed in Philadelphia once, and I'm pretty sure he works pro bono publico.

Of course, the amount of money being divvied up might also play a role. If we're talking about a modest stipend -- a little extra cheddar -- does it really change the way you feel about college football players? What if they are pulling double or triple the full cost of attendance and rolling to practice in Lambo's? That might alter your feelings a little bit.

But the general principle remains the same. Fans are passionate and eager to express their opinions. And while that isn't necessarily guaranteed with the price of admission, some still believe it's their right as spectators.

Sometimes mob mentality just gets the better of people. Consider the times you've seen or heard people booing a player they thought was faking an injury. Even if he wasn't, spectators sometimes get caught up in the see-and-do excitement of it all. I'm of the opinion that if you were the kind of person who liked to boo, you would regardless of pay.

The timing of this question feels relevant, given the minor legal case going on in Oakland that could determine the future of NCAA athletics.

This isn't a poll about whether it's right to boo college athletes. That's a personal choice. And the Pac-12 blog isn't in the business of controlling your mind (at least that you're aware of). But rather would your opinions about college football players change. Would you feel OK about booing a college player if you knew they were making more than their scholarship or cost of attendance?
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

We continue the series with receivers, a deep position in the conference. This position was difficult to rank because some teams have a star coming back but little depth while others lack a star but are very deep. Further, no Pac-12 team seems truly desperate here.


Stanford: It might seem odd for a run-first football team like the Cardinal to top this list but Stanford has both a star (Ty Montgomery) and veteran returning depth (Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector) coming back. Some younger players, such as Francis Owusu, also could get into the mix.

Arizona: The Pac-12 blog believes that the Wildcats might end up having the best crew of receivers in the nation, but they don't top this list because there are some questions. For one, it remains to be seen if Austin Hill returns to his 2012 form after missing last year with a knee injury. Indications during spring practices were positive, but we'll only know when the games begin. Further, Texas transfer Cayleb Jones and Notre Dame transfer DaVonte Neal looked great this spring -- as in all-conference great -- but they haven't taken any Pac-12 snaps. Even with those questions, the Wildcats are still solid with 2013 leading receiver Nate Phillips, David Richards and Trey Griffey.

Washington State: Everybody is back from a good crew of 2013 receivers. The Cougars return their top four and nine of their top-10 pass-catchers from last year. There's size and speed, eager youth and grizzled experience. Gabe Marks, Kristoff Williams and River Cracraft were the leaders last year, but watch out for 6-foot-4, 240-pound Vince Mayle, who should be more than a red zone threat this fall.

USC: The Trojans are an example of a team that leads with a star -- preseason All-American Nelson Agholor -- but has some questions thereafter. Those questions, however, could have some at least solid answers if sophomore Darreus Rogers takes another step forward, George Farmer finally stays healthy and Victor Blackwell breaks through. And, of course, with USC there are always youngsters with plenty of talent to make plays (Steven Mitchell, JuJu Smith, Adoree Jackson, etc.)

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are like USC in that they have a superstar in Jaelen Strong, but they have more questions after him. That said, redshirt freshman Ellis Jefferson is an up-and-comer and expectations are high for junior college transfer Eric Lauderdale. Further, Kyle Middlebrooks showed during spring practices he's an option as a slash-type RB/WR.

California: There's a temptation to rate California lower here because the Bears went 1-11 last year, but our position is that many teams ranked in the preseason top-25 would eagerly trade their receivers for what Cal has coming back. The top four wideouts from last season all return. Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper each caught 70 passes or more last year, and Kenny Lawler and Darius Powe are talented.


UCLA: The Bruins lost Shaq Evans, but they aren't worried. After spring practices, the general feeling is this is a position of strength, one that can boost quarterback Brett Hundley's Heisman Trophy chances. Three guys lead the charge: Devin Fuller (43 catches, 471 yards), Jordan Payton (38-440) and Devin Lucien (19-339). Sophomore Eldridge Massington and speedy Kenneth Walker should have an impact, and while we sort of consider Y-receiver Thomas Duarte a tight end, we'll note him here.

Utah: The Utes not only welcome back a 1,000-yard receiver in Dres Anderson -- 18.9 yards per catch -- they also are getting Kenneth Scott back. Scott, who caught 32 passes in 2012, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 2013 opener against Utah State. That's a potentially outstanding combo. Depth is a question. There are high expectations for junior college transfer Kaelin Clay to perhaps provide at least part of the answer.

Washington: The transfer of Damore'ea Stringfellow after off-field problems hurts, and it remains to be seen how quickly Kasen Williams returns to form after breaking his fibula and damaging foot ligaments on Oct. 26 against California. Still, Jaydon Mickens, who led the team with 65 catches for 688 yards with five touchdowns in 2013, and John Ross, who has outstanding speed, are back, as are DiAndre Campbell and Marvin Hall.

Oregon State: The Beavers lost Brandin Cooks, the nation's best receiver in 2013. While there's some solid guys coming back, there also is the question about how easy Cooks' presence made life for them -- and how hard things might be in his absence. Still, sure-handed Richard Mullaney caught 52 passes for 788 yards in 2013, and expectations are high for Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore. There also is some intriguing young talent.

Colorado: While the Buffaloes rank low here, receiver isn't their biggest concern. This actually might end up a solid crew. The obvious issue is replacing the production of Paul Richardson, and that's going to happen by committee if it happens. The good news is the next three leading receivers from 2013 are back: Nelson Spruce (650 yards), D.D. Goodson (306 yards) and Tyler McCulloch (138 yards). Devin Ross and Brice Bobo are youngsters who appear ready to step up.


Oregon: Despite losing three of their top four receivers, the Ducks looked fine here until Bralin Addison blew out his knee in spring practices. Addison was a budding star and will be missed. Keanon Lowe, now the leading returning receiver with 18 receptions, is more a No. 2 guy. There are options, though they are unproven. Dwayne Stanford is back from a knee injury, and Darren Carrington had a good spring. Chance Allen and speedster Devon Allen -- no relation -- are intriguing talents. And maybe B.J. Kelly finally breaks through? Or freshmen Jalen Brown and Charles Nelson make an immediate impact?



Running backs
The Pac-12 didn't win a national championship in any of the marquee sports this year -- football, men's or women's basketball or baseball -- but it still won more national championships than any other conference.

The conference claimed 10 national titles, six for the men and four for the women, the most for any conference for either gender. It is the 13th time in the last 14 years the conference has led or tied all leagues in NCAA championships won. It also is the most men’s titles for the Pac-12 since winning seven in 1997-98. It marked the seventh time the conference has totaled double digits in NCAA titles, a feat no other conference has achieved.

The SEC came in second with six NCAA titles (including a shared crown in women’s gymnastics). The Big Ten tallied five national titles this season, the ACC claimed four and the Big 12 two (including a shared title in women’s gymnastics).

In addition to the 10 titles, Pac-12 teams recorded six runner-up finishes and at least one team placed in the top four in 22 championships. In eight championships, there were at least two teams among the final four, including in women’s water polo where all four were Pac-12 teams.

From the news release:
This year’s championships add to an impressive tradition for the Pac-12. With 469 total titles, Conference teams have, by far, claimed the most national championships in the country all-time, over 200 more than the next closest league (Big Ten - 266). Only three institutions across all divisions have won at least 100 NCAA titles all-time and all three are Pac-12 members. UCLA leads the way at 110, followed by Stanford with 104. With USC’s men’s tennis win, the Trojans became the third school to reach the century mark.

The moniker “Conference of Champions” has been earned by the number of titles, but also the depth of success. Pac-12 teams have won championships in 28 of the 36 Division I sports the NCAA sponsors and has reached double digit titles in 19 of those sports. Overall, the Pac-12 has claimed more NCAA titles in 49 of the last 54 years and finished second five times. It has also claimed at least six titles every year but one since 1981-82.

And here is the national title tally:
OREGON (3): Men’s Outdoor Track & Field; Women’s Indoor Track & Field; Men’s Indoor Track & Field

UCLA (2): Women’s Soccer; Women’s Tennis

USC (2): Men’s Water Polo; Men’s Tennis

CALIFORNIA (1): Men’s Swimming & Diving

COLORADO (1): Men’s Cross Country

STANFORD (1): Women’s Water Polo