Boy, there was a lot of not-news this weekend, eh?

Of course, the reports of Texas A&M bolting to the SEC might have been premature but not necessarily inaccurate in terms of what is eventually going to happen.

Conference expansion, it seems, is not dead. At least rumors thereof are not.

So what does that mean out West?

It could mean nothing. Texas A&M could bolt the Big 12, and the Big 12 could replace the Aggies with Houston and things would stay fairly stable.

Who thinks that's the endgame? Me neither.

The big prize has been and will continue to be Texas. If another round of expansion roulette begins a few years before everyone thought it might, count on Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott making use of his speed dial with Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds.

I mostly agree with Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman:
I expect the six BCS conferences to fold into three: Pac 16, Big Ten and the SEC. And I still think if A&M leaves and the Big 12 chooses not to expand, a nine-team league won't work, Texas and others will join the Pac-12, and the Longhorn Network will be allowed under the current Pac-12 television package that already includes six regional networks: Arizona, Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Mountain network with Colorado and Utah.

While Scott has been quoted as saying the Longhorn Network can't work in the Pac-12 framework of equal revenue sharing and the conference's total ownership of its network and regional networks, anything can be made to work if the money is right.

Texas with an equal slice of the Pac-12 pie and its own network separate from the Pac-12 is a huge win for the Longhorns, yes, but Texas in the Pac-12 -- or whatever it would then be called -- is a huge win for the Pac-12. A give-and-take negotiation, in the end, would mean more revenue for everyone, which is the ultimate goal here.

That said, plenty of folks with a dog in this hunt are saying that's not going to happen, such as Texas Tech president Guy Bailey.

"Here's the deal, what the Pac-12 offered last year, and I think they would be open to this year, is a package deal," Bailey told [Fox Talk in the Morning on KJTV 950 AM in Lubbock]. "You'd have to have four schools and Texas is the cornerstone to that. Remember, the issue last year came down to the Longhorn Network. The University of Texas wanted its own network for tertiary rights and the Pac-12 doesn't allow that. We can cut that out right there. I don't foresee that happening."

In other words, there's lots of intrigue here. The wheels are spinning in the heads of many conference commissioners, school presidents and athletic directors at present. It would seem there is weakness in both premature, impulsive action but also in being cautious and reactive.

Which is why I'm betting Scott is perfectly comfortable with these developments (or temporary non-developments). He wanted a Pac-16 in the first place. He's been on record for a long time espousing the likelihood of "super conferences." This is his comfort zone.

Scott isn't sweating this. He's grinning.

While you were on vacation... USC

August, 15, 2011
The ninth of 12 quick updates on offseason Pac-12 goings on.

USC in a sentence
  • The Trojans won't be eligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, so the big question is how consistently motivated a team that is talented enough to win 10 games this season will be.
The big issue
  • USC is loaded at the skill positions, with quarterback Matt Barkley leading a young but talented supporting cast, but the season likely swings on the play of the offensive line and linebackers, positions that are both questionable and thin.
Quick hit news
  • Starting defensive tackle Armond Armstead, who missed spring practices due to an undisclosed medical condition, still hasn't been cleared to play but he told reporters he expect to be cleared before the season starts.
  • Starting running back Marc Tyler is on indefinite suspension -- he definitely will sit out the season opener. He was suspended after saying stupid things to a TMZ reporter with a video camera, but his status is even more precarious because he is awaiting a ruling from the school's disciplinary committee on a pair of alcohol-related incidents from last year.
  • Coach Lane Kiffin said over the weekend that junior Curtis McNeal, who was academically ineligible last season, leads the tailback competition.
  • USC's backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins, is out indefinitely after suffering a thumb injury. True freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are competing to be Barkley's backup.
  • USC has only one new assistant coach: receivers coach Ted Gilmore. He replaced John Morton, who left for the San Francisco 49ers.
  • While the Trojans have 13 starters back, only 39 players on the roster saw action in 2010. 70 players on the 109-man roster have never played a down of college football. Only 14 Trojans have started at least 10 games.
  • For the first time since 2000, USC plays seven home games, including the first three in the Coliseum.
  • There are 35 scholarship players now practicing who didn't participate in spring drills: 23 new recruits and 12 returning players who were out because of injuries. The Trojans presently have 79 scholarship players. They can only sign 15 players this recruiting season because of NCAA sanctions and can have no more than 75 total scholarship players in 2012.
  • USC outscored foes in each of the first three quarters last season but was outscored 118-72 in the fourth quarter.
  • USC is in the process of constructing the $70 million John McKay Center, a 110,000-square foot building that will house the football offices, an academic center, weight room, athletic training room and digital media production.

Injuries epidemic for ASU

August, 15, 2011
Injuries are part of the game, coaches will tell you. That doesn't make them any less of a drag.

And no team is dragging more with injuries than Arizona State, which lost senior linebacker Brandon Magee for the season Saturday due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Magee is not only a returning starter, there's also this from the Arizona Republic:
Defensive coordinator Craig Bray recently told The Republic that Magee was the team's best defensive player last season.

Over the past week, Magee had seemed to take a greater leadership role on the field, barking at the first-team defense to get to the ball and to work through fatigue.

Magee also is one of the "Centennial Threesome" with fellow LBs Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons. He and Lyons keep pretty busy helping the volatile Burfict maintain an even keel.

Perhaps no team in the county expected to contend for a national ranking has suffered as much roster attrition as the Sun Devils since the end of 2010. QB Steven Threet (retired due to recurrent concussions), QB Samson Szakacsy (left team), DT Lawrence Guy (entered NFL draft), CB Omar Bolden (knee), WR T.J. Simpson (knee), DE James Brooks (left team) and RB Deantre Lewis (gunshot wound). And since the beginning of camp, linebacker Oliver Aaron suffered a high-ankle sprain, backup defensive tackle Joita Te'i suffered a foot injury that will sideline him for seven weeks and cornerback Devan Spann dislocated his left shoulder two times in the first week of practice.

And now Magee.

Despite all this, the Sun Devils still have the makings of a good team. Just not as good of a team as they had when they walked off the field Dec. 2 after beating rival Arizona.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 11

August, 15, 2011
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.
11. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

2010 numbers: Skov finished with 84 tackles -- he missed two games with an injury -- 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss. He also had five pass breakups, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

2010 ranking: Unranked

Making the case for Skov: Skov, a 6-foot-3, 243-pound true junior with 18 career starts, was the best player on a defense that ranked 10th in the nation in scoring (17.38 ppg) last fall, but this lofty ranking also is about how he finished. He had 46 tackles over the last six games in which Stanford allowed just 56 points while pitching two shutouts. In the dominant Orange Bowl win against Virginia Tech, he finished with 12 tackles and three sacks. His 7.5 sacks ranked third in the Pac-10, despite his missing the first two games. Further, he's an outstanding leader. He's not the most talented linebacker in the conference -- everyone knows who is -- but some might argue he's the best because of his consistent excellence and reliability.

12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Opening the mailbag: Pac-12 and NFL

August, 12, 2011
Happy Friday. Soon these Fridays will be freighted with HIGH expectations.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Nic from Tampa writes: Your crazy! Don't even put the pac12 and the SEC in the same sentence. Just look at the NFL. It's all SEC!!!! Do any soft pac12 players even play in the NFL? Your an idiot, by the way and every body makes fun of you SEC message boards, I hope you know!

Ted Miller: Sniffle.

Nic, you hurt my feelings, but I suspect that was your purpose. You're pointing out things in your note I must acknowledge. You're spot on. I respect your opinions. I respect your ability to put me in my place.

But your note did get me to thinking.

Do any Pac-12 players really play in the NFL? So I racked my brain for exactly 17 minutes and came up with an All-Pac-12 NFL team (Pac-12 fans, I did this quickly, so feel free to chime in your opinions).

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (California)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (UCLA)
RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis (Oregon State)
WR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (California)
WR Chad Ochocinco, New England (Oregon State)
TE Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (UCLA)
OL Sam Baker, Atlanta (USC)
OL Alex Mack, Cleveland (California)
OL Ryan Kalil, Carolina (USC)
OL Jordan Gross, Carolina (Utah)
OL Andre Gurode, Dallas (Colorado)

DL Haloti Ngata, Baltimore (Oregon)
DL Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville (California)
DL Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans (USC)
LB Desmond Bishop, Green Bay (California)
LB Clay Matthews, Green Bay (USC)
LB Lance Briggs, Chicago (Arizona)
LB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore (Arizona State)
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland (California)
CB Antoine Cason, San Diego (Arizona)
S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh (USC)
S Jairus Byrd, Buffalo (Oregon)

Couple of thoughts.

Man, Oregon has been a safety factory of late. Picked Byrd, who played corner for the Ducks, but could have gone with T.J. Ward or Patrick Chung also.

After Ngata, defensive line wasn't easy to put together. That is one position where the SEC has a clear edge on everybody.

Lots of All-Pros here. Some might argue that Rodgers, Ngata, Matthews, Suggs, Asomugha and Polamalu are the best at their positions in the NFL.

But, really, none of these guys exist. I just made them up.

Jake from Phoenix writes: ASU has its first game on a Thursday and plays Missouri the following Friday thus giving the sun devils 8 days to prepare for mizzou. But mizzou plays on Saturday and has to also travel to ASU to play, thus only having like 5 or 6 days to prepare. How big of an advantage is this?

Ted Miller: Extra practice time should provide an advantage. Repetition helps execution. The Sun Devils will get more reps with their game plan than Missouri.

Further, the game is at ASU and kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. PDT, which will feel like 9:30 CDT for the Tigers.

Finally, the Tigers play Miami of Ohio in their opener. While they should win fairly easily, the Redhawks went 10-4 last year and welcome back 17 starters from the MAC championship team. In other words, the Tigers probably won't spend a ton of time this preseason game planning specifically for the Sun Devils. The Redhawks are good enough to require a 100 percent focus.

The Sun Devils, meanwhile, open against UC Davis, an FCS team that went 6-5 last year. The Sun Devils can afford to do some Missouri game planning this month.

So, yes, this game sets up well for Arizona State. Now they just need to get it done on the field.

Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Ted, in your last article about Kiffin (which was a good read) you mentioned that USC was in store for an inevitable step back. Can you explain why this step back is inevitable? The way I see it they are painstakingly young right now, and if they win 10 games this year they should open in the top 10 next year and if Barkley comes back they could be a legit NC contender. Am I a blind Trojan fan for thinking this? And when you say a step back what should be realistic expectations after Barkley is gone?

Ted Miller: You can't really get around losing 30 scholarships over three recruiting classes. You just can't.

Further, this is not the 2004 Trojans, who had stockpiles of talent. This is a team with plenty of talent -- talent that 80 percent of the programs in the country would envy -- but there are several thin positions, and that wasn't the case at the height of the Pete Carroll Era.

USC has enough talent -- baring some key injuries -- to win 10 games this year. But I'd be surprised if Barkley returned for his senior year in 2012 (of coure, I wrote the same about Andrew Luck). And my guess is OT Matt Kalil, DE Nick Perry and FS T.J.McDonald also could join him in leaving early for the NFL draft. Those are some big hits.

Now, if all of those guys -- or most of them, including Barkley -- came back in 2012 after winning 10 games in 2011, yes, I'd think the Trojans would have a good chance at a top-10 preseason ranking. That's a big if, though.

But scholarship reductions will really start to hurt in 2013-2016. The Trojans will be stuck with an almost unworkable small margin for error in terms of injuries and recruits not panning out, particularly on the lines.

Do I think USC is likely to bottom out with, say, a three- or four-win season? Probably not. But my guess is there will be at least a couple of six- or seven-win seasons over the next four to six years.

Daryl from Oakland writes: Has the recent failures of Cal, despite the crazy amount of defensive talent, skewed preseason predictions concerning the team? I've not seen one list or publication which has any optimism for the team and, watching Cal for a long time, I believe this is the most talented defense they've ever had. Your thoughts?

Ted Miller: Naturally, Cal's recent struggles, particularly at quarterback, have reduced the program's perception among so-called pundits. But if Cal gets at least adequate QB play this fall, it's hard for me to not believe they won't go to a bowl game, particularly with a forgiving nonconference schedule.

Of course, getting to a bowl game -- or winning seven or eight games -- is no longer a thrill for Bears fans.

As for the Bears talent on defense, they certainly have some intriguing young talent, but it's unproven, and the Bears lost a lot of good guys from last year's unit, including DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed and S Chris Conte.

I tend to be cautious projecting great things based on freshmen and redshirt freshmen. I want to see what they do in games first. It's notable that no freshmen or redshirt freshman made first- or second-team All-Pac-10 last year as a position player (USC WR Robert Woods made it as a kick returner).

Getting away from defense for a moment, let's touch on a guy that some Cal fans are hounding me about as the savior of the running game.: Freshman running back Brendan Bigelow.

Bigelow may become a star. He may take over the starting job by the end of fall camp and rush for 1,500 yards. But that's hugely speculative. What he is today is a 180-pound true freshman who's blown out his knee the past two seasons of high school football. I'm not going to cut and paste greatness on him before I see him making Pac-12 defenders miss him in a real live game.

Just like I'm not going to call the Cal defense dominant until I see how it fills some notable holes and how good the youngsters look when the lights come on for real.

Aaron from Portland writes: In Jon Wilners article the date CAL is receiving this list of recruits Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m. Lyles had yet to form his company Complete Scouting Services. This leads me to believe that he actually gave them the list from his at that time current employer Elite Scouting Services. If he hadn't yet formed the new service or as the timeline suggest even thought of it till December 2009 how could he have made this list under that business name or billed them under that name?

Ted Miller: Got a bunch of notes like this. I thought Ducks fans wanted the media to stop writing about Willie Lyles and Oregon?

I get your point. In fact, both Wilner and I recognized this, er, oddity.

Again, here's what Wilner wrote:

The list was sent from Lyles’ personal email account, as an attachment, to assistant coach Kenwick Thompson on Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m., according to a document provided by Cal. (Thompson is from Houston and recruits the state of Texas.)

The date is five days after the National Signing Day for the class of 2009 and coincides with the start of the recruiting cycle for the class of 2010.

Lyles has said he worked for Elite Scouting Services until forming CSS in late 2009.

Asked about the apparent conflict, Tedford said: “That’s their problem. He billed us as Complete.”

Lyles could not be reached for comment.

I also took note of this:

Though it's notable that it appears [Lyles] gathered much of his information while working for another recruiting service: “That’s their problem," Cal coach Jeff Tedford told Wilner.

And Tedford is right: If there's an issue -- speculate on its nature as you wish -- between the two scouting services, it's not Cal's problem. Lyles departure from Elite Scouting Services reportedly was not on good terms, perhaps this is one of the reasons why.

Further, writes Wilner, "Starting in Feb. ’09 and ending nearly a year later, [Lyles] provided Cal with more than 30 videos of prospects in the class of 2010, a school official said."

So Lyles' provided Cal with original video throughout the 2009-10 recruiting season, just as ESS did.

Does it appear Lyles was two-timing, working for one recruiting services while making his own side deals? Hard not to construe that. So, yes, that's some more murk here -- shocking, eh? -- though not directly relevant to Cal or, really, Oregon.

Of course, it could prove relevant -- indirectly -- for Oregon if the grand secret in this turns out to be that Oregon can prove it received hours and hours of quality video from Lyles. You'll recall that, for whatever reason, Oregon hasn't released any video produced by Lyles.

From The Oregonian:

Oregon did receive video from Lyles, Oregon spokesman Dave Williford said Thursday [July 14]. But Williford said he could not characterize how much video the Ducks received or in what format, or say whether the Ducks received anything other than the YouTube link. Video was the only item mentioned in Lyles' Feb. 22, 2010, invoice to Oregon.

If Lyles sent DVDs to Oregon as he did to LSU, it's not clear why the Ducks do not have them. Oregon's state records law generally requires institutions to retain records about recruitment of athletes for five years or until the end of an athlete's eligibility, whichever is longer.

So, as I have written repeatedly, there figure to be several more chapters in this twisting tale and the ultimate resolution -- good or bad for Oregon -- remains decidedly uncertain.

Podcast: Oregon State coach Mike Riley

August, 12, 2011
Oregon State coach Mike Riley talks about the new-look Pac-12, Larry Scott, Ryan Katz, the Beavers' running back situation, replacing Jacquizz Rodgers, and more.

Good to great: Who makes the jump?

August, 12, 2011
Who goes from good to great in the Pac-12 in 2011?

By this we mean which player goes from an above-average player to an all-conference sort? Here's some guess, one per team.

(And we don't want to include any players from this list).

DT Justin Washington, Arizona: Washington started fast as a redshirt freshman in 2010 then got banged up. If he stays healthy and takes a step forward, he's got a chance to be all-conference.

WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State: The 6-foot-4, 222-pound senior has always looked the part. He just didn't play it. He played it this past spring, and he should put up big numbers in an offense that wants to throw it a lot.

[+] EnlargeKennan Allen
Dave Stephenson/Icon SMICal's Keenan Allen had 46 catches for 490 yards and five touchdowns last season.
WR Keenan Allen, California: Allen is a major talent. With his half-brother, Zach Maynard, playing quarterback, you'd think he's going to get plenty of chances to show it.

WR Paul Richardson, Colorado: Richardson is an A-list receiver on a team without much depth at the position. If he stays healthy, he's got a good shot to approach -- or eclipse -- the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

LB Michael Clay, Oregon: Smart and athletic -- very quick -- Clay saw a lot of action last year, and he did nothing to suggest he won't meet high expectations.

S Lance Mitchell, Oregon State: There are a lot of good safeties in the Pac-12. Mitchell, an NFL prospect, might be the most underrated of them all.

OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford: Very quietly piled up 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons but only earned honorable mention all-conference honors. Expect an upgrade when he gets double-digit sacks this fall.

DE Datone Jones, UCLA: Jones is like a super-secret guy who only folks who've watched UCLA practice the past two years know about. He was a nice player in 2009 who was expected to break out last year. Then he missed the entire season with a broken foot. If he stays healthy, he WILL be an all-conference player. Write it down.

DE Nick Perry, USC: Another talented guy -- the junior is firmly on the NFL radar -- who's been consistently riddled by injuries. If he stays healthy, he and Jones will be opposite each other on the all-conference team.

DT Star Lotulelei, Utah: At 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, he looks the part. By the end of the 2010 season, he played the part, too. Coach Kyle Whittingham believes he's a budding star in more than his name, and we concur.

OT Senio Kelemete, Washington: A two-year starter, he's the Huskies' most experienced O-lineman. Coach Steve Sarkisian has been singing his praises for a long time. A breakthrough year?

SS Deone Bucannon, Washington State: He led the Cougars in tackles as a true freshman and made plenty of big plays (see: two interceptions and two forced fumbles). He also made some mistakes. Expect the mistakes to go down and the big plays to go up.

Video: Inside the Top 25 -- No. 4 Ducks

August, 12, 2011

Inside the Top 25 looks at No. 4, the Oregon Ducks.

Pac-12 lunch links: Hansen sharp for Buffs

August, 12, 2011
Happy Friday.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 12

August, 12, 2011
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see the final post-2010 top 25 here. It doesn't, however, include players from Colorado or Utah.

12. T.J. McDonald, S, USC

2010 numbers: McDonald had 89 tackles, with three coming for a loss, including a sack, three interceptions, four pass breakups and a blocked punt.

2010 ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for McDonald: Sorting out the safety position in the Pac-12 this season won't be easy; there are so many good ones. McDonald, according to most folks who would know, is the best. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior is a likely first-day NFL draft pick if he opts to leave after this season. Despite missing the UCLA game -- and much of the Notre Dame game -- with a shoulder injury, he led USC in tackles. He made the All-Pac-10 second team as picked by the coaches, but a number of other sources named him first-team, including and Phil Steele. He's also been named to a number of preseason All-American teams, including He is one of 37 players selected to the watch list for the Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the nation's best defensive back. Further, McDonald has great bloodlines. His father, Tim, was a two-time All-American at USC and a longtime NFL standout. Finally, it doesn't hurt that the guy clearly has his, er, stuff together. He's smart, a good leader and is reputed to be obsessive about watching film.

13. Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
14. Matt Kalil, OT, USC
15. Delano Howell, S, Stanford
16. Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
17. Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado
18. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
20. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
21. Robert Woods, WR, USC
22. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
23. David Paulson, TE, Oregon
24. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
25. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Look, the Pac-12 is the conference of quarterbacks. Everybody knows that. No other conference even approaches the talent the Pac-12 has at the position in 2011.

Stanford's Andrew Luck, USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles each could be first-round NFL draft picks next spring. Luck is almost certain to go No. 1 overall. Oregon's Darron Thomas, Oregon State's Ryan Katz, Utah's Jordan Wynn and Washington State's Jeff Tuel also are experienced, talented guys with plenty of upside.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireQuarterback is the position of power in the Pac-12, but LaMichael James and his fellow running backs can make a strong case as well.
So the Pac-12's position of power is, obviously, quarterback.

But don't sleep on the running backs, either.

The conference welcomes back five backs who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last fall, including Oregon's Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker Award winner, LaMichael James. That crew includes Washington's Chris Polk, Colorado's Rodney Stewart, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor. Those are five backs who ranked among the top-38 in the nation in rushing last fall, including three in the top 13.

(And, by the way, if Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and California's Shane Vereen hadn't opted to enter the NFL draft a year early, the conference also would include the nation's No. 21 and 23 rushers from 2010).

Further, only California, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State have questions at the position. USC is stacked with talented backs, whether senior Marc Tyler (913 yards, nine TDs in 2010) comes back from suspension or not. Arizona State's Cameron Marshall (787 yards, nine TDs) is one of the most underrated players in the conference, and Arizona's Keola Antolin (668, seven TDs in 2010) has rushed for 1,830 yards and scored 21 TDs in three seasons.

Further, many of the backups -- Oregon's Kenjon Barner, Washington's Jesse Callier, Arizona State's Deantre Lewis or Kyle Middlebrooks, Stanford's Anthony Wilkerson and UCLA's Derrick Coleman (or Malcolm Jones/Jordan James) -- are talented and experienced (other than James, a redshirt freshman).

So conference of quarterbacks, conference of running backs -- both are positions of power.

Perhaps the Pac-12 in 2011 is now the Conference of Backfields?

2011 preseason All-Pac-12 team

August, 12, 2011
It's time for our preseason All-Pac-12 team.

Feel free to disagree.

QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
RB LaMichael James, Oregon
RB Chris Polk, Washington
TE David Paulson, Oregon
WR Juron Criner, Arizona
WR Jermaine Kearse, Washington
OL Jonathan Martin, Stanford
OL Matt Kalil, USC
OL David DeCastro, Stanford
OL Ryan Miller, Colorado
OL Tony Bergstrom, Utah
K Erik Folk, Washingon

DE Nick Perry, USC
DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington
DE Junior Onyeali, Arizona State
LB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
LB Shayne Skov, Stanford
LB Mychal Kendricks, California
LB Chase Thomas, Stanford
CB Cliff Harris, Oregon
CB Nickell Robey, USC
S T.J. McDonald, USC
S Delano Howell, Stanford

P Bryan Anger, California
PR Cliff Harris, Oregon
KR Robert Woods, USC

Pac-12 'tease' team: Arizona State

August, 12, 2011
In 2008, the then-Pac-10 blog noted that "If you Google 'Arizona State' and 'sleeping giant,' 3,400 articles come up."

If you did it this week, you get 85,900 results (in 0.23 seconds! Technology rocks! Though it doesn't seem as if all the matches are relevant, Google).

In 2008, we wrote, "If a Pac-10 team has a chance to break USC's choke-hold on the conference title -- or at least to regularly challenge the Trojans for the top spot -- it's the Sun Devils."


We were wrong. Somehow I want to blame Chip Kelly.

We are considering programs that are "teases" in the Pac-12, which my new boss, Ruthless Reynolds, described as "teams that always look great in the preseason only to underwhelm when play starts."

Sun Devils, why can't we quit you?

Well, lots of reasons.

You have the only coach in the conference who's won a national title in Dennis Erickson. As a resident of north Scottsdale living in the shadow of Black Mountain, I can confirm that the weather -- though a bit toasty in the summer -- is just about perfect eight months of the year. Tempe is just a short flight from the recruiting hotbed of Southern California. The, er, scene at Arizona State strikes this codger as something that might appeal to an average 18- or 19-year-old male. Academic standards don't typically limit recruiting options.

And the program has been there before, becoming a national power in the 1970s under Frank Kush and then again in the 1996 season, when it lost a national title in a thrilling Rose Bowl defeat to Ohio State.

Still, it's one of the great questions in college football: Why doesn't Arizona State win more consistently?

Of late, the Sun Devils have typically underperform compared to expectations. In four of the past six years, they've finished below where they were picked in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, most notably in 2008 -- that year! -- when they were picked second in the conference but finished sixth with a 5-7 record.

To be fair, though, they've eclipsed their preseason prediction in two of the four years -- 2007 and 2010 -- under Erickson.

And so we have 2011.

The Pac-12 blog started touting Arizona State as a 2011 contender before last season was done. Why? It wasn't just that the Sun Devils went nose-to-nose with some of the best teams in the country -- Oregon, Wisconsin, Stanford -- it was coaches from other teams specifically noting how talented the Sun Devils were.

Then you looked at the 2010 depth chart: Everyone was coming back. Seriously: The only senior starters last year were receiver Kerry Taylor and defensive tackle Saia Falahola.

Wow. To be honest, my thought process immediately saw 6-6 in 2010 and thought Rose Bowl shot in 2011.

But after a nice finish to the 2010 season, little has gone right for the Sun Devils. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy made a poor decision and entered the NFL draft. Quarterback Steven Threet was forced to retire due to concussions. Fellow quarterback Samson Szakacsy left the team. Unanimous All-Pac-10 cornerback Omar Bolden blew out his knee at the beginning of spring practices, followed shortly thereafter by top returning receiver T.J. Simpson. Starting defensive end James Brooks quit, and the status of talented running back Deantre Lewis (gunshot wound) remains up in the air as he might redshirt this season.

That's five starters, a co-starter (Lewis) and an experienced backup quarterback. So, Sun Devils fans, you have a ready-made excuse if the season falls short of expectations and you end up only wondering what might have been.

That said, Arizona State, despite these major personnel losses, is still good enough to win the South Division. It also helps, by the way, that USC's ineligibility means it's only a five-team race among squads that each have significant holes.

But every time you start to think they'll be OK, something else happens, such as All-American linebacker Vontaze Burfict fighting a receiver he outweighs by 50 pounds in the locker room last week, or linebacker Oliver Aaron suffering a high ankle sprain, or backup defensive tackle Joita Te'i suffering a foot injury that will sideline him for seven weeks, or cornerback Devan Spann dislocated his left shoulder two times in the first week of practice.

Still, 28 seniors back in the locker room, five starters back on the offensive line, Burfict leading impressive talent in the front seven, an underrated running back in Cameron Marshall and a quarterback in Brock Osweiler who looks ready to lead.

Sun Devils, why can't we quit you?

Video: Inside USC's fall camp

August, 11, 2011

"College Football Live" dives into USC camp where Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are developing more chemistry, and the Trojans find themselves loaded at running back.

Getting to know the new Husky Stadium

August, 11, 2011
Washington fans already feel better about their football team, which crawled out of its darkest period with a bowl victory last year, but a wise man once noted that "It is better to look good than to feel good," so it makes sense in a 21st Century sort of way that a major facelift to iconic Husky Stadium will help the program recover "its rightful place of prominence," as a press release on the stadium renovation noted.

The $250 million renovation, which will begin in November and be completed in time for the 2013 season, now has its own website, where fans can get the details and see pictures and simply dream of a stadium that isn't falling apart.

Because, whatever you think about universities spending hundreds of millions of dollars on sports facilities, Husky Stadium had become a decrepit, crumbling dump, though one with an exceedingly scenic location.

Will tickets cost more? Yes, without a doubt. And students will have to surrender their 50-yard line seats, which sort of stinks.

But, as Bob Condotta notes, this upgrade is part of a larger plan to make Washington a national power again. Husky Stadium, one of the nation's loudest venues, used to be a selling point for the program. Over the past decade, it became a (slight) negative in recruiting, particularly in comparison to arch-rival Oregon's Autzen Stadium. Based on what they're telling us about the renovation, that will no longer be the case after 2013.

The biggest change, at least to me, is the removal of the track that surrounds the field, which always whispered "high school stadium" to my raised-in-SEC-country sensibilities.

Further, as sometimes grumpy columnist Art Thiel points out, the remodeling has been privately funded, which is notable in this economy.

Is Washington football trending up under coach Steve Sarkisian? Most signs say yes. Two years removed from an 0-12 season, the Huskies beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. And, as important, recruiting is clearly on an uptick.

Washington officials are expecting that continued improved play on the field will mean more folks will be willing to shell out big bucks to watch the Huskies, resulting in a revenue increase that should fully justify the investment.

I just hope the new press box includes actual chairs and does feel like its going to tumble into Lake Washington every time the Huskies score.



Friday, 11/28
Saturday, 11/29