Washington hired by UCLA athletic department

June, 7, 2011
UCLA legend James Washington, one of the greatest safeties in Bruins history and a two-time Super Bowl champion, has returned to the athletic department as the director of scholarship development, where he will focus on raising funds for athletic scholarships.

Washington, who has been UCLA's assistant director of alumni giving since April of 2010, also serves as an analyst during UCLA football games for Fox Sports Prime Ticket and is the host for the Rick Neuheisel UCLA Football Weekly show.

A four-year starter (1984-87), Washington played in four bowl victories for the Bruins. He still ranks third in UCLA history with 15 career interceptions and sixth with 347 tackles.

Upon graduating from UCLA, Washington was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1988 NFL draft. He later signed with the Dallas Cowboys and led the team in interceptions his four years as a starter. He called the defensive signals for Dallas when it had the league’s top-ranked defense (1992 and 1994) and was a standout on the 1993 and 1994 Super Bowl Championship teams.

Who's got experienced hogs?

June, 7, 2011
It all starts up front, coaches will tell you.

So perhaps offensive line experience is a better way to evaluate a team than just looking at returning skill players who grab the headlines. The Wall Street Journal said as much before the 2009 season.

Of course, there's no perfect formula, and more than a few folks have noted it's as much about quality as quantity when evaluating a line. It's notable that the the WSJ touted Texas before the 2009 season due to 91 starts coming back on its O-line. The Longhorns went on to play for the national title. Only the team they lost to, Alabama, was supposed to be in trouble due to just 50 career starts.

And Oregon fans might note that a certain Rose Bowl team did OK even though it had just 20 career starts on its line.

Phil Steele has compiled a complete list of the numbers of career starters for every FBS team's offensive line. Here's how the Pac-12 stacks up (number to the left is national ranking).

Number of returning starts on the offensive line

No. 17 Colorado, 97
No. 22 Oregon State, 91
No. 30 California, 85
No. 32 Arizona State, 84
No. 37 UCLA, 80
No. 53 Washington State, 71
No. 62 Washington, 65
No. 65 Utah, 63
No. 83 Oregon, 56
No. 89 Stanford, 50
No. 111 USC, 27
No. 120 Arizona, 1

What to make of these numbers, other than you see why USC and Arizona both have big questions on their lines?

Well, I'd probably take what Stanford has coming back on its line -- first-team All-Pac-10 linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro -- over what Oregon State, California, UCLA, Washington State and Washington welcome back. Pretty sure their coaches would, too.

Still, this is firm grounds upon which to project better line play this fall from Oregon State, California and Arizona State.

You also may see a repeat of 2009 for the Ducks. Sure, they lack experience up front. But Mark Asper, Carson York and Darrion Weems are a pretty solid returning core, not to mention that Steve Greatwood is one of the best line coaches on the West Coast.

And Colorado's experience up front -- though losing tackle Nate Solder can't be just written off -- combined with a very good running back in Rodney Stewart, might give some pause before relegating the Buffaloes to also-ran status this fall.

Pac-12 lunch links: Oregon and the Heisman

June, 7, 2011
He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide.

Looking back on the 2010 ESPNU 150

June, 7, 2011
They were the best 150 recruits in the nation last season, according to ESPN Recruiting, and 26 of them committed to Pac-10 schools, including 10 who chose USC. Some of them have already made an impact while others either haven't been afforded that opportunity or haven't earned it.

Here's a look back at the Pac-12 2010 ESPNU 150 recruits:

Biggest impact: USC receiver Robert Woods, ranked seventh overall, was first-team All-Pac-10 as a kick returner and was the Trojans' leading receiver with 64 receptions for 786 yards with six touchdowns. He made just about every freshman All-America team. Honorable mentions go to USC CB Nickell Robey (No. 149) and California receiver Keenan Allen (No. 33), who both almost immediately became starters.

Jury's still out (has played, but hasn't quite broken out): UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (No. 17), Washington S Sean Parker (No. 49) and USC RB Dillon Baxter (No. 117) each saw action last fall and flashed ability -- in some cases big-time ability -- but didn't break through as starters. None of the three finished spring practices as a clear No. 1 on the depth chart.

Worth watching (hasn't played or redshirted last season): A lot of the redshirts are expected to break through and contribute in 2011, including Oregon RB Lache Seastrunk (No. 40), UCLA RB Jordan James (No. 38), USC WR Kyle Prater (No. 45), USC DT George Uko (No. 58) and California OLB Cecil Whiteside (No. 116). Seastrunk and James are expected to get touches, despite the return of talented, experienced players ahead of them on the depth chart. Prater would have been a contributor in 2010 if not for injuries. Uko was a surprise No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart, while Whiteside was a standout this spring.

Schedule analysis: Washington State

June, 7, 2011
We'll be reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, starting with the North Division.

Up next: Washington State

Breakdown: six home (four conference games), six road (five conference games)

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3 Idaho State (1-10)
Sept. 10 UNLV (2-11)
Sept. 17 at San Diego State (9-4)

North Division games

Oct. 15 Stanford
Oct. 22 Oregon State
Oct. 29 at Oregon
Nov. 5 at California
Nov. 26 at Washington (Qwest Field)

Crossover games

Oct. 1 at Colorado
Oct. 8 at UCLA
Nov. 12 Arizona State
Nov. 19 Utah

Conference misses


Key stretch: Washington State can't afford to start slowly, and this schedule is set up for a fast start: Each of the first five games is winnable. The Cougars should be 2-0 when they visit a tough San Diego State team. Win that one, and they are halfway to bowl eligibility. After an off week to get ready for Pac-12 play, the Cougars face two road dates at Colorado and UCLA, teams that are expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference.

Trap game: The Cougars don't really have the right to take any foe lightly, but some of their fans might prematurely pencil in a win at San Diego State without looking at the Aztecs, who won nine games last year and have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Ryan Lindley.

Sure thing: The Cougars will open 1-0, beating an Idaho State team that finished winless in the Big Sky last season.

Analysis: Washington State is hoping for a massive transformation: From five wins in three years under coach Paul Wulff to bowl eligible -- six wins -- in 2011. That is doable with this schedule. The key is the first five games. At worst, the Cougs need to start 3-2. As shocking as it might sound, 5-0 is not implausible, though winning consecutive road games at Colorado and UCLA -- teams with more overall talent -- is unlikely. It's not only about stockpiling victories during the soft part of the schedule, it's also about building confidence. At, say, 4-1, the Cougs would no longer see themselves as the conference patsy. That matters. And, of the final five games, only the visit to Oregon seems to be a sure loss. Although Stanford, Oregon State (seeking revenge for last year's embarrassment in Corvallis), Arizona State and Utah surely expect to beat the Cougars, recall that Pullman is not an easy place to play when the fans are into the action, particularly in November. Further, keep in mind that the Apple Cup will be played at Qwest Field. Playing in Seattle against the Huskies still qualifies as a road game, but it won't be as challenging as Husky Stadium. Wulff is on the hot seat. This schedule gives him a fair shot at getting off it.

Arizona lands touted tight end

June, 7, 2011
Is a Rob Gronkowski sequel coming to Tucson?

Tight end Taylor McNamara (San Diego, Calif./Westview) has committed to Arizona, ESPN's Greg Biggins reports.

A member of the ESPNU150, McNamara had offers from USC, Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Miami, Maryland and Kentucky.

So this is a big get for the Wildcats.

"There were a lot of reasons why I liked Arizona. I'll have a chance to play early there, I'm comfortable with the school and the direction the program is going in, it's close enough to home for my parents and coaches to come and watch me and I like the players on the team and trust the coaching staff there," he told Biggins.

McNamara, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, is the Wildcats' third commitment.

Video: Matt Leinart's reaction

June, 6, 2011

Matt Leinert reacts to USC being stripped of 2004 BCS national championship.

Video: Pat Forde on USC

June, 6, 2011

USC stripped of its 2004 BCS national championship.
The BCS has stripped USC of its 2004 national title.

This is news akin to the "water is wet" variety. Everyone knew it was coming, even before the NCAA rejected USC's appeal of sanctions stemming from the Reggie Bush imbroglio.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireThe BCS stripped Reggie Bush and USC of the national title the Trojans won by beating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4, 2005.
Yes, it's one more embarrassing headline for USC. Yes, it's another dab of tarnish on a scandal that won't seem to wipe away even after six years. And, yes, it's mostly a symbolic gesture that changes the record book but not anyone's memory of what actually happened.

First of all, this was the BCS's only possible decision, and USC deserved it. Bush did commit a violation by taking extra benefits -- thousands of dollars of extra benefits -- from would-be sports marketers. USC admitted this in its response to NCAA allegations. What Bush did made him ineligible, per NCAA rules. So that invalidated all those games he played so well in.

End of story. That isn't a debatable issue. That's why USC didn't include the word "vehement" -- or words that even approached vehemence -- in its short statement on the matter Monday, as it did when the NCAA denied its appeal May 26.

"The BCS alerted us today that their presidents have voted to vacate USC's 2005 BCS Championship Game victory," athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "This was not an unexpected outcome. We will comply with all requirements mandated by the result of this BCS vote."

But some good will come out of this tidbit of news: We can debate its meaning.

College football, which doesn't have a playoff that ends all arguments, is all about debate. So the BCS decision will be great for folks who use their love of college football to satisfy their trash-talking jones.

In this corner, we have USC fans: USC won the title on the field. You don't lose a sports title in a conference room, particularly not for reasons that didn't provide a competitive advantage.

In this corner, we have everyone who roots against USC: Funny, I'm looking in this record book and I don't see USC mentioned under "2004 national title." The Trojans cheated, got caught and were disqualified. Enjoy that 1/2 of a national championship from your so-called dynasty.

USC fans: Glad you mentioned that so-called 1/2 title from 2003 because that just makes my point for me. First of all, in 2003, USC was the best team in the nation and everyone knew that. Because of a thoroughly discredited computer glitch, LSU and Oklahoma played a yawner of a game after which the voters in the coaches poll were required to rank the winner No. 1. The far more respected AP and Football Writers Association of America polls both ranked USC No. 1. The only folks who believe LSU won the 2003 title live in Louisiana or went to UCLA. And the AP has already said that USC will remain its 2004 national title winner. So, no matter what you say, USC won consecutive national titles and played for a third, even if the BCS opted to put a blank space besides Texas for the 2006 Rose Bowl.

So, that's your dynasty.

Anti-USC: I'm sorry, I fell asleep during your diatribe. And guess what? LSU still has a crystal ball that calls it the 2003 national champion. If you don't have the crystal ball, you don't have a national title. That's what you signed up for when you joined the BCS. Oh, but it doesn't surprise me that USC folks want to make up new rules when the rules that they agreed to follow don't suit them.

USC fan: I read between the lines and that's nothing but a lot of envy. You wish you were a Trojan.

Anti-USC: Well, &@#@!

USC fan: Oh, yeah, &*%#@!

I can imagine two guys going back and forth like this in a bar -- or, preferably, on the Pac-12 blog! -- and it warms the cockles of my heart, though I'm not sure what heart cockles are.

As for USC, defending its recent past has been backgrounded by a need to negotiate an uncertain present and future. No 2004 national title? Neh. Not exactly a priority when your team is trying to remain competitive after being docked 30 scholarships over the next three years.

USC is trying to move on and look forward. If it paused today to take a rueful backward glance, it probably lasted only a moment.

Lunch links: CU's Bohn gets extension

June, 6, 2011
Don't call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear
Makin the tears rain down like a MON-soon
Listen to the bass go BOOM!

Oregon-LSU already sold out

June, 6, 2011
Most figured LSU-Oregon was going to be a big show on Sept. 3 in Cowboys Stadium. Well, you don't need any further evidence: The game is already sold out.

From Glenn Guilbeau's story:
"It is already sold out," said Rich Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl that puts on the game, while attending the Southeastern Conference spring meetings last week. "LSU fans have purchased 37,000 tickets. Oregon has bought 15,000. Most of the rest have been sold. This is our third time hosting this game, and we have not had a sellout this fast."

Cowboys Stadium seats 80,000.

The source of the enthusiasm is obvious:
"We'll have two top-five teams probably in most polls," Baker said. "You usually don't see that kind of matchup to start a season. It's by far one of the toughest neutral-site ticket games in some time."

Anyone starting to get just a wee bit impatient for the season?

Pac-12 hires new officiating coordinator

June, 6, 2011
The Pac-12 has named Tony Corrente, an NFL official since 1995, the conference's new coordinator of football officiating.

"Tony Corrente has extensive experience in both college football and the NFL and has earned the reputation as one of the most respected leaders in officiating," commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "With numerous NFL postseason assignments in his background, including the Super Bowl, Tony has worked at the very highest levels in the sport. We are very fortunate to have him leading our new football officiating program."

Mike Pereira, who served in the role as coordinator of football officiating on an interim basis since February, will remain as a consultant through the 2011-12 season as he continues to implement changes in the officiating program, the news release said.

Pereira initially brought on Corrente as a referee supervisor to review and evaluate officials working that position on the field. Corrente will be responsible for game assignments, best practices and training methods, as well as continuing to evaluate the officials through innovative technology.

“This is a welcomed challenge and I really look forward to working in the new structure of the Pac-12 Conference, and with the quality of officials we have on our staff,” Corrente said in the news release. “I credit Mike Pereira for laying the groundwork in restructuring the program, and know our officials will be prepared in positioning the Pac-12 officiating program as a role model program.”

Corrente will continue to work as an on-field official. As an NFL Referee, he has worked Super Bowl XLI and as an alternate in Super Bowl XL, as well as numerous AFC and NFC championship and playoff games. In addition, he was a history and sociology instructor, as well as a successful baseball coach at La Mirada High School, La Mirada, Calif., from 1983-2011.

Former USC coach McNair sues NCAA

June, 6, 2011
Former USC running backs coach Todd McNair isn't going to just walk away after the NCAA essentially ended his career over what he allegedly knew -- or didn't know -- in the Reggie Bush case.

McNair filed suit against the NCAA on Friday, accusing the NCAA of libel, slander tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, negligence and declaratory relief.

You know, lots of nasty stuff.

The NCAA previously ruled that McNair, the Trojans running backs coach for six seasons under Pete Carroll, knew or should have known about extra benefits provided to Bush by a pair of would-be sports marketers and that he misled investigators. His appeal was denied in late April, so a one-year show-cause penalty against McNair was upheld, meaning any school attempting to hire him during the year period would have to seek permission from the NCAA to do so.

A "show cause" penalty makes it very difficult for an assistant coach to get a job. USC did not renew McNair's contact after the infractions committee published its original report.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

This was not unexpected. And the NCAA has a long history of being sued -- winning, losing and settling -- over a variety of issues.

The question for us is not whether McNair ever gets some money. It's whether this ever get interesting. (My guess: No. But we'll see).

The NCAA lacks subpoena power during investigations. It can't compel witnesses to testify if they are no longer involved in college sports. Such as Reggie Bush. That won't be the case in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Ergo: Potentially a lot more information could be exposed about the NCAA's inner-workings on this case. And USC's.

A part of the lawsuit is McNair's claim that the NCAA committed misconduct in the process of its investigation. The Pac-12 blog does not have a law degree, but it feels safe saying that McNair will have a strong case on those grounds based on what already has been reported.

To quote the great American Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in."

Schedule analysis: Washington

June, 6, 2011
We'll be reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, starting with the North Division.

Up next: Washington

Breakdown: seven home (five conference games), five road (four conference games)

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3 Eastern Washington (13-2)
Sept. 10 Hawaii (10-4)
Sept. 17 at Nebraska (10-4)

North Division games

Sept. 24 California
Oct. 22 at Stanford
Nov. 5 Oregon
Nov. 19 at Oregon State
Nov. 26 Washington State

Crossover games

Oct. 1 at Utah
Oct. 15 Colorado
Oct. 29 Arizona
Nov. 12 at USC

Conference misses

Arizona State

Key stretch: On Nov. 5, the Huskies play host to Oregon, a hated rival they last beat in 2003. Odds are the Ducks will again prevail, but projecting that game isn't about the Huskies key stretch. Whether they notch the upset or get trenched again, the final three games thereafter -- not unlike 2010 -- figure to decide whether the Huskies season is a success or failure. Washington must shake off a good or bad result against the Ducks and refocus on consecutive road games against USC and then Oregon State before taking on state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. The finale could determine bowl prospects for both teams -- or the lack thereof -- as well as Cougars coach Paul Wulff's fate.

Trap game: Hawaii isn't the same team off the island, but quarterback Bryant Moniz is the best player you may not have heard of -- just ask USC, which Moniz lit up in 2010. If the Huskies look ahead to a visit to Nebraska, they could suffer a face-plant.

Sure thing: There are no sure things on this schedule. Sure, Eastern Washington is an FCS team, but the Eagles were the 2010 FCS national champions.

Analysis: Seven games in Husky Stadium is a good thing, particularly with a first-year starting quarterback in Keith Price. The visit to Nebraska, a tough place to play in any event, will be a particularly big challenge for Price because the Cornhuskers and their fans will be highly motivated after the Huskies embarrassed them in the Holiday Bowl. And the other two nonconference games are dangerous as well. Not a great bet for a 3-0 opening to the season. Missing Arizona State is probably a good thing, while missing UCLA is probably not. Rivals Oregon and Washington State both come to Seattle (the Apple Cup will be played in Qwest Field). Oct. 7 feels like a good time for an off week. Coach Steve Sarkisian will have five games to evaluate what Price is doing well -- and not so well -- and adjust accordingly before the meat of the conference schedule. This is a tough slate, but one that should yield another bowl berth for the Huskies.

Opening the mailbag: Disrespecting Oregon State

June, 3, 2011
Trying to crank this mailbag out before covering the Tempe NCAA baseball regional, so any replies like their usual verve or are just flat dumb, blame baseball.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Eric from Albany, Ore., writes: I get that Oregon State lost to Wazzu last year. I get that. No offense to Wazzu fans, but as a Beaver fan, I was as embarrassed as the next guy. Can we get passed that now? Most of the media is acting like our metaphorical wagon has not only lost it's wheels, but that it has been set on fire, shortly before blowing into thousands of tiny pieces. FACT: OSU has finished in the top 3 of the Pac-10, 3 out of the last 4 years. I'm kinda disappointed by the continual disrespect. We have probably the 2nd or 3rd best receiving core coming out of spring. The third best quarterback in the conference, who had a pretty darn good year considering his O-Line was trash. Our line looks better on both sides of the ball, and linebacker play is dramatically better. Let's not forget that while the Beavs finished 5-7 last year, they had the toughest schedule in the nation. IN THE NATION. I think many people have counted us out of the race, and we have the potential to be a VERY good team. I'm not saying we should be favored above Stanford, or Oregon, but can we get realistic about what's going on in Corvallis? Worse then 5-7? Come on Ted, you don't really believe that... do you?

Ted Miller: Not sure what you mean by "continual disrespect."

If you're frustrated that the so-called punditry doesn't seem to think Oregon State will be in the Pac-12 North Division mix next fall, well, there are plenty of reasons why.

For me, the Beavers' chief concerns are both lines. Unlike many folks, I'm more skeptical about the D-line than the O-line, which at least welcomes back four starters. The Beavers lost their two best defensive linemen to the NFL draft -- tackle Stephen Paea and end Gabe Miller -- and the unit didn't play particularly well in 2010.

As for your assertions: second or third best group of receivers? With a healthy, James Rodgers the Beavers have a good group of receivers -- indeed, maybe the second or third best in the conference. But Rodgers status after a severe knee injury is unclear. Without Rodgers, the Beavers would rank in the middle of the conference at the position.

Third best quarterback? Er, no. Ryan Katz has plenty of potential, but he falls behind Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Darron Thomas, Nick Foles and Jeff Tuel in terms of what he's actually accomplished on the field. Keep in mind: Katz was seventh in the conference in passing efficiency in 2010.

You write: "Our line looks better on both sides of the ball, and linebacker play is dramatically better." I didn't see the Beavers practice this spring, but the coverage I read didn't include the same level of optimism. For one, the Beavers are replacing two starters at OLB, and the pecking order at MLB is still uncertain. I know folks are excited about Michael Doctor and Cameron Collins, but they haven't done anything in a real game to support your level of certainty.

Based what we know today, I'd say six or seven wins is a realistic projection for Oregon State. Wouldn't be shocked with eight wins. Or five.

That said: Through the years, I've learned to never write off Oregon State, even after a slow start, which is practically an annual event in Corvallis.

Last season, in fact, I was among the folks projecting the Beavers as a nationally ranked team that would finish in the top-three of the conference.

Further, some of you Beavers fans might recall that I've seem to have some sort of odd, reverse predictive power with Oregon State: I pick the Beavers to win; they lose. I pick them to lose; they win.

So if my expectations for Oregon State aren't terribly high in 2011, well, maybe that's a good thing.

Bob from Raleigh, N.C., writes: There was some talk over spring ball that the Cats might redshirt QB Matt Scott to save him for next year, barring an injury to Foles. Any new word on that?

Ted Miller: That's the plan: If Nick Foles stays healthy, the Wildcats will try to redshirt Matt Scott this season so he can come back in 2012 and compete with Rutgers transfer Tom Savage for the starting job.

Derek from Pullman writes: If a team has a strong passing game and weak run game, should they be more worried about a strong secondary or strong rushing defense?For example, my Cougs should have no problem moving the ball through the air. And while I have a lot of hope in Galvin and Mitz, our running game is definitely the much larger question.Will our offense fair better as a one dimensional assault against a strong rushing defense but weak secondary? Or will not being able to move the ball at all on the ground hurt our aerial attack too much?

Ted Miller: If I were to advise you what you should most worry about, it would be a team with a great pass rush more than a good secondary.

Nothing is more critical for the Cougars this year than keeping Jeff Tuel healthy. He was sacked 51 times last year, so you know he's tough. But it's hard to imagine he can survive another 50 sack season intact.

Tuel has a strong group of receivers. If he gets time to throw, it won't matter how good the secondary is.

But here's the thing: If the Cougars can run at all -- say 120 or so yards per game -- that will make life much easier for an O-line trying to slow down a pass rush. And life much more difficult for a secondary that has to pay attention to run support.

Ted from Secretville, USA writes: I know that USC isn't eligible for the post season for this following season, and I'm not gonna bring it up. But the question I have is that do they still get the BCS Money cut?Last year Oregon, and Stanford both made BSC bowl games. Did USC still get the money from both teams making the BCS bowls? Or did they get left out because they weren't eligible?

Ted Miller: The NCAA penalties haven't -- and won't -- affect USC's football revenue. The Trojans will get a full share of BCS cash, as well as TV money, this year just as they did last year.

The truth is a two-year bowl ban likely will end up saving USC money because most teams run a deficit when they play in bowl games.

Liberal Duck from Eugene, Ore., writes: When I look at your picture I have to wonder why you aren't more tanned. For crying out loud, you live in Scottsdale. It's not like you're from Eugene or something.

Ted Miller: Many have noted the same thing.

I'm a vampire. The sun is not an option.

Here's an old mugshot.

Please, no stakes through the chest if you see me this fall.