Podcast: Adding Utah, Colorado

July, 1, 2011
Ted Miller talks about the additions of Colorado and Utah to the conference. He says long-term viability is important in Utah's case. Miller expects Stanford and Oregon to remain atop the conference.

Pac-12 lunch links: Erickson under fire

July, 1, 2011
Happy Friday. And Pac-12 Day.

UCLA, Stanford add commitments

July, 1, 2011
Stanford and UCLA have added commitments.

UCLA received a pledge from 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end Morgan Breslin from Diablo Valley CC, Calif. The Bruins' seventh commitment, he picked UCLA over Arizona, Arkansas State, Boise State, Nevada, Oregon State, Purdue, San Diego State and Utah. Breslin, who prepped at Los Lomas HS (Walnut Creek, Calif.), had 21 tackles for loss and 12 sacks during his freshman season at Diablo.

Stanford received word from 6-foot-1, 245-pound Blake Martinez, a linebacker from Canyon Del Oro HS (Tucson, Ariz.). The Cardinal's 10th commitment, he picked Stanford over Boise State, Oregon State, San Diego State and San Jose State.
First, the eulogy.

Goodbye, Pac-10.

We will miss the perfect symmetry of the Pac-10: Arizona-Arizona State, Oregon-Oregon State, USC-UCLA, Washington-Washington State and California-Stanford.

We will miss a conference that crowned a true champion with round-robin, everybody-plays-everybody conference play.

We will miss the continuity: 33 years as the Pac-10, since Arizona and Arizona State were invited to the Pac-8 in 1978.

Hello, Pac-12.

[+] EnlargeLarry Scott
AP Photo/Paul SakumaCommissioner Larry Scott says he hasn't ruled out further expansion of the conference.
Hello, $250 million! Yeeeee Haaaaaw!

Sorry about that, but, really, that's why we are here. It wasn't about respect. It was about money. Which is fine. The conference -- college sports -- is a big business, and commissioner Larry Scott is looking a lot like the best CEO out there. He's making everybody richer. He's eyeballing the future with a clear notion of continuing to do just that.

Pac-12: It will take some getting used to, of course.

The most obvious changes heading into 2011: The addition of two new teams, Utah and Colorado; the creation of two divisions, North and South; and the introduction of a conference championship game to be played in the home stadium of the No. 1 seed.

The fan experience, mostly consistent since 1978, will be different. A team's Rose Bowl chances won't be dashed just because it doesn't have the best conference record. Winning the division is what matters. And, of course, an 11-1 team that finished second in its division might not feel exactly thrilled about an 8-4 team from the other division playing for a Rose Bowl berth.

Advice: Deal with it. It's the new reality.

Hey, Arizona: Never been to a Rose Bowl? You now need to beat out only five teams to get an opportunity to play in a winner-take-all championship game. You, too, California (1959) and Oregon State (1965).

There are downsides. The Northwest schools aren't terribly happy that they won't always get an annual trip to recruiting-rich Southern California. How might that affect the balance of power? In fact, the re-introduction of conference "misses" -- keep in mind the nine-game conference schedule only began in 2006 -- means some road trips will become fairly rare.

Further, the nine-game conference schedule will become even more controversial going forward (many coaches hate it). Sure, it's convenient for athletic directors trying to put together schedules and fill stadiums, but it adds six losses to the conference every year, which hurt national rankings as well as cut down bowl opportunities and bowl-eligible teams, and it now no longer has any competitive, symmetrical value in terms of round-robin play.

It will be different. Did we mention the $250 million?

Colorado has a celebration planned today at Folsom Field. Coaches and administrators will don new Pac-12 garb.

It's a more momentous occasion in Utah, as the Utes move from a non-AQ conference to an AQ one. Scott will be on hand in Salt Lake City for the festivities. The Utes won't get a full share of the Pac-12 largess until 2014, but the even a 50 percent cut in 2012 will represent a huge increase in revenue.

There's more intrigue to come. Scott is hard at work creating a Pac-12 network, which could end up being more than just a cable TV station. A partnership with a tech company such as Apple or Google, as first reported by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, could be a game-changer, putting the conference at the forefront of the next generation of mobile broadcasting.

Further, expansion, as Scott has said from the beginning, is likely not over. Scott's original grand plan was a Pac-16 with Texas as the centerpiece. While the Longhorns may be closer to going independent than leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-12, there's still clearly some reckless eyeballing going on out there.

Scott's wheeling and dealing has raised eyebrows among college and conference administrators in time zones other than the PT. Yes, there has been grumbling. And, yes, that grumbling is grounded in fear. The SEC and Big Ten are still the top dogs, even after Scott's TV deal eclipsed theirs, to everyone's surprise. But the future pecking order no longer feels certain.

Would you bet against Scott? If so, let's shake on it.

Details of the creation of a Pac-12 network likely won't be revealed until mid-to-late August. While that's a big story, our attention now can move toward the field of Pac-12 play.

The first big question: How will Utah and Colorado fit into the football pecking order? Will it be an easier transition for a downtrodden AQ team (Colorado) or a non-AQ power (Utah)?

And has the balance of power shifted North, where Oregon and Stanford are top-10 teams and Washington appears to be rising from the dead? Recall 2000, when USC was in the dumps and the Ducks, Huskies and Oregon State were top-10 teams. Who steps into the void in the South Division left by USC's NCAA-administered beatdown?

What will a championship game feel like on a Friday night, Dec. 2?

In other words, the debate over the merits of expansion and its execution is giving way to the debate over ... football. After all the skepticism and hand-wringing, our attention now turns to X's and O's, personnel evaluations, rankings and trash talking each other.

In other words: Football. Pac-12 football.

Buckle up.

Happy Pac-12 Day!

July, 1, 2011
It went to bed the Pac-10. It woke up the Pac-12.

Welcome, officially, Utah and Colorado.

We will have more thoughts and insights a bit later, but we wanted to acknowledge the change.

The governors of both states, Utah and Colorado, have declared today "Pac-12 Day."

Of course, every day henceforth will be Pac-12 day because, in the Pac-12, it's like Christmas every day!

Maybe that overstates things a wee bit.

From the Pac-10, er, Pac-12 office, the official release:

Expanding for the first time since 1978, the Pac-10 officially becomes the Pac-12 today with the addition of the University of Colorado and the University of Utah, opening a new chapter in the Conference’s long history.

With more than 120 Nobel Laureates across all of its campuses and the first ever to reach 400 NCAA Championships, the Conference is synonymous with both academic excellence and athletic success, having earned the nickname the “Conference of Champions”.

Colorado and Utah fit perfectly into this tradition, bringing nationally recognized research programs and a record of athletic excellence that includes 42 NCAA titles. They become the first new Conference members since Arizona and Arizona State were added exactly 33 years ago today, joining California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State.

“This is a very exciting day and a historic moment for our Conference, for college athletics and for Colorado and Utah,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “Our Conference was built on a pioneering spirit and through innovation that has contributed to some of the most valuable advancements in this country and the world. Colorado and Utah share those core values and instantly enhance the strength of our Conference both academically and athletically.”

If history is any indication, the addition of Colorado and Utah promises to add even more depth and success to the Conference of Champions. During the 33 years since its last expansion, the Conference has claimed 258 NCAA Championships, including 130 in women’s sports and 128 in men’s. The Buffaloes have claimed 22 NCAA titles and the Utes have won 20, giving the new Pac-12 442 NCAA Championships, more than any conference in the country.

By joining the Pac-12, Colorado and Utah renew a rivalry that dates back to 1903. The Buffs and Utes met on the football field 57 times from 1903-62 with CU holding a 30-24-3 edge in the series. They face each other again for the first time in 49 years when Colorado travels to Utah Nov. 25.

The Pac-12 will split into two divisions for football only, and will host the first-ever Pac-12 Football Championship Game Dec. 2 on the home field of the team with the best overall Conference record. Colorado and Utah join Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC in the South Division, while California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Washington State make up the North Division.

“With the addition of Colorado and Utah we have transformed into a modern 12-team Conference that has a strong foundation for long-term success,” Scott said. “As a result, we secured a land-mark media rights deal that significantly increases national exposure for all of our programs, developed a Football Championship Game for the first time in Conference history, and set new standards of equality and collaboration that will serve all of our institutions well into the future.”

To recognize this historic moment, Governors John Hickenlooper and Gary Herbert have declared July 1 as Pac-12 Day in Colorado and Utah, respectively. Mayor Susan Osborne has also signed a proclamation making it Pac-12 Day in the City of Boulder.

Commissioner Scott and other dignitaries, including Utah Lt. Governor Greg Bell, Utah Congress-man Jim Matheson, interim University President Lorris Betz and Athletic Director Chris Hill, will participate in a ceremony on the steps of the Utah State Capitol to celebrate Utah Pac-12 Day.

Colorado has been educating its fan base on Conference history and its new Pac-12 rivals through a two-week "Countdown to the Pac-12" feature series on its athletic website (http://www.cubuffs.com/). Utah has also been promoting the historic transition on its website (www.utahutes.com).

As part of the official expansion, the Pac-12 has re-launched its website to enhance the fan experience. The new site features improved navigation, a simplified newsfeed, scores, schedules and standings on the homepage, and new Pac-12 merchandise.

Video: Cougars' supporting strength

July, 1, 2011

Ted Miller talks about why Washington State's secondary will be a factor this season.
No Pac-12 offensive line is going to scare you heading into 2011. Even Arizona State, which welcomes back its entire 2010 depth chart, doesn't look like a dominant unit.

So there is no Washington in 2000, California in 2004, USC in 2005 or Stanford in 2010. Just about every team has at least some concerns up front.

So how to things stack up? Read on.

Great shape

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Garth Gerhart
Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIREArizona State center Garth Gerhart anchors the top returning line in the Pac-12.
Arizona State: 11 of 12 from the 2010 two-deep are back, including center Garth Gerhart and tackle Evan Finkenberg. The Sun Devils line was not dominating in 2010, so this unit is not a sure-thing. But it's reasonable to project a solid unit becoming a very good one in 2011.

Good shape

Colorado: Sure, tackle Nate Solder is gone, and center Mike Iltis decided to give up football, but three quality starters are back and several others have experience. Ryan Miller and Ethan Adkins might be the best guard tandem in the Pac-12.

Stanford: The Cardinal lost three starters, but the two coming back are first-team All-Pac-10 guys from 2010 and All-American candidates this fall: tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. The new guys played well this spring. It's possible this line will again be very good, but three new starters is three new starters.

Utah: The Utes welcome back three starters, including both tackles, from a line that was solid in 2010. Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen will be one of the better tackle combinations in the conference, and Tevita Stevens, who played guard last year, provides experience at center.

California: The Bears were uncharacteristically mediocre last year, but they probably weren't as bad as some think, seeing that they didn't have a passing threat to keep defenses honest after QB Kevin Riley got hurt. Three starters are back -- tackle Mitchell Schwartz was second-team All-Pac-10 last year -- and a number of other players have experience.

Oregon: While the Ducks officially lost three starters, tackle Darrion Weems started enough games in 2010 to count as a returning starter. Tackle Mark Asper and guard Carson York are solid, but there are questions after that. The line struggled this spring -- perhaps the D-line is just good? -- and former walkon Ramsen Golpashin was able to hold onto a starting spot. It's nice when a walk-on does well but it does cast the scholarship players in a questionable light.

Washington: Three starters are back and there's optimism the Huskies struggling line is ready to take a step forward. The run blocking was much better over the second half of the season. Still, none of the three returning starters even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 2010.

Oregon State: Four starters are back but that might not be good news considering how mediocre-to-bad the line play was in 2010. Still, the Beavers have, traditionally, found a way to get it done up front. Perhaps 2010 was just a blip.

We'll see

UCLA: If healthy, the Bruins could be solid on the O-line, but that's a big if. The unit struggled during spring practices due to injuries, which exposed a lack of depth. It's uncertain when tackle Jeff Baca will be back from a broken ankle and he may be the Bruins best lineman. Center Kai Maiava and guard/tackle Sean Sheller are expected to be OK in the fall, but will they stay that way?

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back three starters and should be better in 2011 due to young players getting experience last fall. But you have to wait-and-see with a unit that gave up 51 sacks a year ago.

USC: The Trojans lost three starters from a line that mostly underachieved in 2010. They have two good starters back -- tackle Matt Kalil and guard Khaled Holmes -- but things are wide-open after that. And the struggles this spring, due in large part to injuries, revealed a worrisome lack of depth.

Arizona: There was plenty of optimism in Tucson that the Wildcats will be fine on the O-line, that losing five starters from a unit that underachieved isn't that big of a deal. But replacing five starters means a team has no idea what things will look like when the lights come on for real. So we'll see.

Pac-12 chat wrap

June, 30, 2011
If you missed my chat -- for shame! -- you can read the entire transcript here.

Or you can review some of these, which I will call "highlights" for lack of a better term.

Jacob (behind enemy lines (tucson): Ted, love your work. As a duck fan, could you do a 1-10 on how bad the accusations are against Oregon, assuming that they are true? Can you give a comparison to where USC's infractions would be on that scale?

Ted Miller (3:08 PM): We don't know yet is the most accurate answer. Oregon has yet to get an official letter of inquiry from the NCAA. at this point, everything is preliminary and much of the media reports involve speculation. With Oregon, it's not so much true or not -- not unlike USC. It seems that things ARE true. Oregon gave Lyles a lot of money, apparently for very little. The NCAA will interpret -- and there's a rule loophole here that helps the Oregon cause -- just as it did with USC. It will be about intent and what Oregon actually knew or should have known. Not unlike USC. At this point, I'd say Oregon fans should put their worry at about a 7.

John (Tacoma): UW back in the Rose Bowl in the next 3 years: your odds?

Ted Miller (3:09 PM): 50-50.... which is pretty optimistic for a program that was 0-12 in 2008.

Brian (Sacramento ): Ted, with another winning season at Stanford, do you think Stanford will fill its stadium again? We filled it back in the 70s and 80s when the stadium was 80,000.

Ted Miller (3:11 PM): You'd think, wouldn't you? An NFL lockout, by the way, might help. Stanford has a great stadium, great tailgate area, etc. I'd be surprised if the stadium doesn't fill up this year by midseason if the Cardinal remains in the top-10.

G.D. (AZ): Ted, what do you see Utah becoming in the Pac12? A perennial middle of the pack team?, Perennial contenders?, Bottom dwellers? Where?

Ted Miller (3:14 PM): I see Utah being a mid-level contender. I don't see it owning the south, particularly when USC gets back on its feet, but I think the Utes are a winning program and will stay that way. And every few years they will be in the thick of the Rose Bowl race.

Sam the Sham (Seattle): Which receiver freshman will have a bigger year, Kasen Williams or George Farmer?

Ted Miller (3:16 PM): Ohhh... good one... I really don't get to watch too much high school film but these 2 might be the best prep receivers in the nation. I'd say Farmer because the Trojans supporting cast at WR isn't as experienced as the Huskies and Farmer has Matt Barkley, a third-year starter, vs. Keith Price, a first-year starter.

Daniel (SF): Ted, in your opinion how do you see Stanford in 2012 and beyond, post-Harbaugh and post-Luck? Do they slide back to mediocrity?

Ted Miller (3:52 PM): Stanford is doing well in recruiting. I think the momentum is there to stay competitive and not to slide back to the Teevens-Harris years -- or even the up-and-downs of Willingham. Let's see how the team responds to the new coaches this year.

Adam (LA): What do you see in UCLA's future for this year and beyond? Is Rick a part of that vision?

Ted Miller (3:53 PM): Neuheisel is on the hotseat and his present team has questions. This season could provide a verdict on him. If the Bruins do well, and he survives, it could be the first step of a turnaround. But if he posts another losing season, you'd wonder if he'd be able to get another BCS-class head coaching job.

Four Pac-12 players to be enshrined in Hall

June, 30, 2011
The next class to be enshrined in College Football Hall of Fame includes four players from Pac-12 schools.

The four players are UCLA offensive lineman Randy Cross, USC running back Sam Cunningham, Arizona State linebacker Pat Tillman and Colorado defensive end Alfred Williams.

A live webcast of the Enshrinement Show will take place at www.footballfoundation.org from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 16.

Note: The Hall of Fame Class announced in May, which included Oregon State's Bill Enyart and Arizona's Rob Waldrop, will be enshrined next summer.

Here's the complete list of the new class, players and coaches.

DENNIS BYRD (North Carolina State)
DEXTER COAKLEY (Appalachian State)
SAM CUNNINGHAM (Southern California)
MIKE FAVOR (North Dakota State)
CHARLES HALEY (James Madison)
PAT TILLMAN* (Arizona State)
BILL MANLOVE (Widener [Pa.], Delaware Valley [Pa.], La Salle)
GENE STALLINGS (Texas A&M, Alabama).

Pac-12 lunch links: A Sun Devils hero

June, 30, 2011
And were an epitaph to be my story
I'd have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone:
I had a lover's quarrel with the world.
ESPN.com has been doing a series on great college players who didn't pan out in the NFL -- "Simply Saturday," -- which has featured a number of Pac-10 players, including Washington's Steve Emtman and USC's Matt Leinart.

Interesting stuff.

But ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, who is always working the angles, decided to take a look at NFL stars with so-so college careers, and his list also includes some Pac-12 guys: USC linebacker Clay Matthews, Oregon State wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and California cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

He ranks Matthews No. 2. Notes Feldman:
No NFL player has better bloodlines than Matthews, but when he was coming up as a recruit he was a wiry, undersized, off-the-radar prospect who reportedly only weighed 166 pounds as a backup LB-TE for Agoura (Calif.) High. Matthews stared to sprout in his senior year, yet still only had one scholarship offer -- from former USC assistant Nick Holt at Idaho.

Sure, Matthews blossomed as a junior and senior. But he never really was seen as the brightest star in the constellation that was the Trojans' 2008 defense.
Still, Oregon's Nick Reed and Oregon State's Victor Butler were the first-team All-Pac-10 defensive ends. Matthews proceeded to wow scouts with his explosiveness and determination. Green Bay drafted the one-time walk-on 26th overall, and he has rewarded them with two spectacular seasons, going to back-to-back Pro Bowls and winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, while helping lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory.

Ochocinco rates No. 4.
The Miami native didn't spend much time in the Pac-10 -- just one season at Oregon State. The receiver, then known as Chad Johnson, did flash some big-play potential during his time in Corvallis, catching 33 passes for 713 yards. He also flashed a lot of personality on his way to the draft, as you can tell if you read this old Q&A he did with Mel Kiper Jr., who at one point asks: "When all is said and done, how do you want people to remember Chad Johnson?"

Johnson's response: "As a very humble, nice person who had no off-the-field problems."

I'm not sure how many will recall the Cincinnati Bengals star as "humble," but he certainly has produced, notching seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons and going to six Pro Bowls. In truth, he'd be even higher on this list, but at 33, he has dipped some in the last three years.

Asomugha is No. 5.
Oakland certainly didn't whiff on this pick. Asomugha has emerged as a true shutdown corner, earning trips to the past three Pro Bowls. He's also as good as they come off the field, winning NFL Man of the Year honors, too.

He had a good but not great career for the Bears, getting chosen as an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick as a senior. Some great individual workouts took a guy who some touted as a fifth-rounder all the way up into the first round when the Raiders selected him 31st overall.

On a personal note, I covered Asomugha's coming-out game: a 34-27 Cal win at Washington in 2002, which ended a 19-game Huskies winning streak in the series. In that game, Cal matched Asomugha, previously a safety, on All-American receiver Reggie Williams. Asomugha's physical style -- read here to see what Williams thought of it -- threw the Huskies' passing game out of sync.

Bet more than a few Cal fans remember that game fondly.
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.

But before we move on as a 12-team league, let's look back at the best of a 10-team league.

On Wednesday, we looked at the best players. Thursday, it's the best teams.

We've listed 12 teams because that's the new magic number (Arizona fans, see if you can guess who came in 13th).

Again, no team before 1978 -- when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 -- was considered.

1. 1991 Washington: The Huskies finished 12-0 and split the national title with Miami.

Best player: Defensive tackle Steve Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.

Point differential: Washington outscored its foes 495-115.

Best win: Whipped Michigan 34-14 in Rose Bowl. Wolverines finished ranked sixth.

Comment: Four wins over teams that finished ranked in the final top 25, including road victories at No. 15 Nebraska and at No. 8 California. Featured one of the great defenses in college football history, yielding just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. Eight Huskies earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

2. 2004 USC: While the NCAA and BCS have nixed it in their own ways, the Trojans finished 13-0 and won the national title on the field.

Best player: Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: USC outscored its foes 496-169.

Best win: Crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the national title game.

Comment: Basically a push for dominance with 1991 Washington. Beat four teams that finished ranked in the top 25, including the bludgeoning of Oklahoma. Eight Trojans earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

3. 2003 USC: The Trojans finished 12-1 and split the national title with LSU. Their only loss came in triple overtime at California.

Best player: Receiver Mike Williams was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 534-239.

Best win: The completely dominant 23-0 victory at then-No. 6 Auburn in the opener set the tone for the season -- and caused many Pac-10 fans to question how good these highly rated SEC teams really are.

Comment: The Trojans finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but lost out playing in the BCS title game because of the computer polls. LSU fans have been thanking the computers for that glitch ever since.

4. 2005 USC: A 34-game winning streak came to an end with a nail-biting loss to Texas in the national title game. The Trojans finished 12-1.

Best player: Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 638-297.

Best win: The 34-31 win at Notre Dame -- the "Bush Push" game -- was one of the all-time greats.

Comment: Perhaps the best collection of offensive players in the history of college football: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Taitusi Lutui earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. And don't forget LenDale White, Winston Justice, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd.

5. 1978 USC: Finished 12-1 and split national title with Alabama. Lost to Arizona State, 20-7.

Best player: Charles White was a unanimous All-American.

Point differential: 318-153

Best win: A 24-14 win over the team that "claimed" the other half of the national title.

Comment: Split national title -- coaches liked the Trojans; AP the Crimson Tide -- despite a decisive 24-14 USC at Alabama. So much for head to head.

6. 1979 USC: Finished 11-0-1 and No. 2 behind Alabama. Tied Stanford 21-21.

Best player: Charles White won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 389-171

Best win: The 17-16 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, in which White ran for a record 247 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with just more than a minute remaining.

Comment: Team featured four future College Football Hall of Famers in White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lot and Brad Budde. By the way, THAT undefeated, untied Alabama team was really, really good: Outscored foes 383-67. So no sour grapes on that one.

7. 2001 Oregon: The Ducks finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 in both polls. The only loss was 49-42 versus Stanford (a really, really weird game, if you recall).

Best player: Quarterback Joey Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 412-256.

Best win: A 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.

Comment: The Fiesta Bowl victory caused plenty of folks to bemoan the Nebraska-Miami matchup in the BCS title game, considering Colorado had blown out Nebraska the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Stanford loss, the typically straightforward AP noted the game had "everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."

8. 1984 Washington: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 behind BYU. Lost to USC ,16-7.

Best player: Defensive tackle Ron Holmes was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 352-145

Best win: Shocked Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl. Sooners finished ranked sixth.

Comment: A controversial season. Before the Orange Bowl, Sooners coach Barry Switzer lobbied hard for the winner to be declared the national champion. As it was, BYU won the national title after beating a bad Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Does anyone believe BYU was better than the Huskies? No.

9. 2010 Oregon: The Ducks finished 12-1 and No. 3 in both polls, losing the national title game to Auburn.

Best player: Running back LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 611-243

Best win: The Ducks handed Stanford its only loss, 52-31, after trailing 21-3 early. Cardinal finished ranked No. 4.

Comment: An innovative, exciting team to watch, one that played faster than perhaps any big-time college team in history.

10. 1996 Arizona State: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in both polls. Lost Rose Bowl -- and potential national championship -- to Ohio State, 20-17.

Best player: Quarterback Jake Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 488-216

Best win: The Sun Devils trounced top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Nebraska, 19-0.

Comment: The Sun Devils lost one of the most dramatic Rose Bowls, when the swashbuckling Plummer was out-swashbuckled by Joe Germaine, who was raised in Arizona as an ASU fan.

11. 2000 Washington: The Huskies finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3, their only loss coming at No. 7 Oregon. They beat Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl.

Best player: Marques Tuiasosopo finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 387-270

Best win: Beat Miami, 34-29. Hurricanes finished ranked No. 2.

Comment: This is not the most talented team on the list. In fact, some have rated the 2000 Oregon State team -- see below -- ahead of the Huskies. And based on NFL results, the Beavers were more talented than the Huskies. But head to head matters, and the win over Miami is better than anything Oregon State did.

12. 2000 Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4, their only loss a 33-30 decision at Washington, which finished ranked No. 3.

Best player: Running back Ken Simonton was first-team All-Pac-10.

Best win: Beat Oregon 23-13 in Civil War. Oregon finished ranked seventh in the coaches poll.

Comment: One or two more plays at Washington, and the Beavers would have played for the national title. And they, by the way, were more talented than the Oklahoma team that did win the title. Notable Beavers: Ken Simonton, Chad Ochocinco (the Chad Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Gibson, DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson, Dennis Weathersby and Eric Manning. They spanked Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
While there is no on-the-record clarity on the situation, it's fair to say that Arizona's All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner's season is at-risk due to an "undisclosed personal issue," which a source told the Pac-12 blog was a "non-injury, medical issue."

[+] EnlargeJuron Criner
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJuron Criner is the best player among a deep group of receivers at Arizona.
Arizona is not commenting because of student privacy guidelines. A source inside the football office texted the Pac-12 blog that his hope was Criner "will be ready for the season."

Criner, a second-team All-American, led the Wildcats with 82 receptions for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Arizona starts fall camp Aug. 3.

What does this mean for the Wildcats? Well, nothing yet. This is obviously a serious situation, but the endgame won't reveal itself until Criner's status is made official.

But it does force us to speculate what the Wildcats offense might be without Criner. The short answer is "probably OK."

While no team wants to lose an All-American, the Wildcats have one of the deepest and experienced crews of receivers in the conference and the nation. Sure, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Criner was the headliner, a guy who could tax a defense in a variety of ways and who always seemed to be the go-to guy when the screws tightened.

But, as we noted with our review of Pac-12 receiving corps, the Wildcats should be better than OK, even without Criner. To quote ourselves:

"David Douglas, David Roberts, Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison -- each caught between 19 and 52 passes a season ago. Oh, and there's also Texas transfer Dan Buckner, Austin Hill, Garic Wharton and Tyler Slavin. There's size, speed, depth and experience."

What this does mean is that Buckner needs to live up to the high expectations we've been hearing for months, and at least one of the speedy youngsters needs to step up as a deep threat.

Still, the Wildcats and quarterback Nick Foles will be able to line up in a four- and even five-receiver set without resorting to a scrub as the last option.

Criner made the Wildcats receivers looking like a great unit. But even -- potentially -- without him, they should be very good.

More on the Criner situation here. And here.

Of course, Wildcats fans already might be thinking about "what-might-have-been" before the 2011 season begins. Criner is potentially the third projected starter lost since the end of last season. Safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer suffered knee injuries this spring, as did backup running back Greg Nwoko and backup defensive tackle Willie Mobley.

We're chatting!

June, 30, 2011
We need to talk. Really.

So click here at 3 p.m. ET or noon PT.

Our weekly chats, for those who need a refresher, are all about moments of uncontained verbal and informational pyrotechnics. And the occasional wiseacre rejoinder -- both incoming and outgoing.

Perhaps you want to talk about the all-time Pac-10 team. Or my soon-to-be published list of the all-time Best Pac-10 teams.

So join us. Bring your brain. And your spine.
The term "unblockable" probably gets thrown around too much, but Steve Emtman was unblockable at Washington, and he led the Huskies to consecutive Rose Bowl victories and a national championship.

A 290-pound defensive tackle with 9 percent body fat -- he once shocked teammates with a spontaneous back flip before a spring practice -- Emtman was a unanimous All-American, finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting and won both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy in 1991. He was the frontman for one of the best defenses in college football history, one that gave up just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

[+] EnlargeWashington's Steve Emtman
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSteve Emtman won both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy at Washington as well as two straight Rose Bowls.
His NFL career didn't go as planned after he entered the draft as a junior in 1992 and was taken No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts. Injuries derailed his career: He blew out both knees and ruptured a disc in his neck. At age 27, he retired with just 134 tackles, eight sacks and a memorable 90-yard interception return. When the Chicago Bears tried to lure him back into the league, he took score of his body and declined.

"I said, 'I think I can play, but I don't think I can put the product on the field that I'd be proud of,'" Emtman said. "That was my end, if you will. I had a chance to come into camp in Chicago, but I just didn't want to do it. I didn't want to put something on the field that I didn't feel like was me."

Today, he lives in Spokane, Wash., where he's in real estate development and construction. He takes particular pride in a recent project, a master planned community at Eastern Washington University of over 1,300 units.

We decided to check in with Emtman as part of ESPN.com's Simply Saturday feature on college greats who didn't pan out in the NFL.

What would you say is your best memory at Washington?

Steve Emtman: Probably winning the national championship at Washington would rate up there, going undefeated. That whole season, that whole year was probably the highlight, being a part of great team.

Are you still involved with Washington? Do you keep up with their progress?

SE: Since I stopped coaching there a few years back [2005], I moved over to Eastern Washington and started developing full-time now. I haven't really had the time to be involved.

What's your take on why things didn't work out in the NFL?

SE: I would say 12 surgeries. I didn't quit. I came back from ACL, MCL and patella tendon [tears] in 11 months. I busted my ass to do the best I could. I really honestly don't look back at it. I did everything in my power, everything I could to try to earn my money, if you will. I think even the owner of the Colts would tell you that.

Does it frustrate you that when people make lists of NFL busts, you're on them?

SE: The reality is the reality. The only thing that really bothers you is I had a teammate of mine pop off about me being a bust. That irritated me a lot because he knew the situation that I was in. Like I said, I don't know many people who came back as fast as I did from the injuries I had. I know people had the same surgery and never played again. To me, getting back on the field was a feat. It's kind of that I really only answer to myself and God. I don't have to answer to everybody else. But, yeah, I'm a competitor and I wish things would have been different. I wish I had stayed healthy. When I was healthy, I think I did OK. It wasn't like I didn't perform at all. Yeah, there's frustration. Any athlete who sets out to set a higher standard, if you don't reach, it's frustrating. As you get older, though, you look back on it and you go, 'I don't question my work ethic or my effort to be good.' I just didn't achieve everything I wished to achieve.

How do you feel today -- do the injuries still bother you?

SE: You know, all and all, I feel pretty good. I'm not crippled or anything. I definitely feel the aches and pains. But as an athlete looking back, you can only deal with it and move on. I feel like I'm somewhat normal at 41.



Saturday, 11/1