SportsNation and EA Sports want to hear from you. The subject: best NCAA football traditions.

Colorado fans and Michigan fans know exactly what I'm talking about.

Two of the most exciting entrances in college football take place on fall Saturdays at Folsom Field and at Michigan Stadium. Everyone in Bolder knows when Ralphie's coming as Colorado's massive mascot leads the team onto the field at the start of each half. The tradition began in 1934 after Colorado selected Buffaloes as its team nickname, although there was no official mascot until 1957. The first Ralphie began appearing at Colorado games in 1966.

When Michigan takes the field at the Big House, all players and coaches make sure to jump and touch the "Go Blue" banner displayed at midfield. The tradition started in 1962 and remains one of the best spectacles in college sports.

Ralphie vs. The Blue Banner. It's time to cast your vote on which tradition you think is best. Be sure to catch SportsNation this afternoon on ESPN2 to see the results. The winning tradition advances through the bracket and the school with the nation's top tradition will receive hundreds of copies of EA's "NCAA Football 12."
SportsNation is looking for your vote on the best college football traditions. One of the first-round matchups features No. 3 Clemson against No. 14 USC: Howard's Rock vs. Tommy Trojan and Traveler.

Your vote will help advance your favorite tradition in the bracket. New rounds begin every Tuesday at noon ET.

So cast your vote now and tune into SportsNation (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2) to see how your school's tradition is doing. The winning school will receive hundreds of free copies of EA's "NCAA Football 12" game courtesy of SportsNation and EA Sports.

Feel free to share the poll with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. #NCAAFootballTraditions

Video: Matt Barkley prepares for 2011

June, 14, 2011

USC quarterback Matt Barkley talks about the Trojans' upcoming season.

Schedule analysis: UCLA

June, 14, 2011
We're reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, and now we move on to the South Division.

Up next: UCLA

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

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3 at Houston (5-7)
Sept. 10 San Jose State (1-12)
Sept. 17 Texas (5-7)

South Division games

Oct. 20 at Arizona
Nov. 5 Arizona State
Nov. 12 at Utah
Nov. 19 Colorado
Nov. 26 at USC

Crossover games

Sept. 24 at Oregon State
Oct. 1 at Stanford
Oct. 8 Washington State
Oct. 29 California

Conference misses


Key stretch: UCLA plays four consecutive South Division foes over the final four weekends of the season, including the season-finale at rival USC. Last year, the Bruins started 3-2 but finished 1-6. Coach Rick Neuheisel can't afford another second-half slide. He needs a strong finish to ensure he's back in 2012.

Trap game: The Bruins open at Houston, a team it handled fairly easily last year, though Cougars quarterback Case Keenum was knocked out in the second quarter with a knee injury. Keenum will be back, and Houston is a different team with him. It won't be an easy opener, particularly on the road, but the Bruins could use some positive early momentum after a tumultuous offseason. They most assuredly shouldn't take the Cougars lightly based on what happened in 2010.

Sure thing: If UCLA loses to San Jose State, Neuheisel might not last until the following Sunday. But that won't happen.

Analysis: This is a tough schedule with two nonconference games UCLA could easily lose. Houston is a Conference USA favorite, and Texas can't possibly be as bad as it was in 2010. Further, the Longhorns figure to be be highly motivated to take revenge for an embarrassing 34-12 home loss last fall. Still, the schedule could be worse. Five conference games on the road isn't good, but missing Oregon and Washington -- two teams that whipped UCLA in 2010 -- works in the Bruins favor. Oct. 15 -- midseason -- is a good time for a bye. The elements figure to be an issue in only one road game -- at Utah on Nov. 12 -- and the home schedule could yield some fruit. It's hard to believe the finale at USC won't be meaningful for the Bruins bowl hopes and, perhaps, for Neuheisel's future.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 13, 2011
Ted's on vacation. The links are not.

Taking another break

June, 13, 2011
The Pac-12 blog never truly sleeps. But sometimes it dozes.

Things will be a lighter than normal this week as we take a holiday, but there will still be plenty of content -- from me as well as mystery guest bloggers -- so you still need to make the Pac-12 blog a part of your day.

You never know. The day you don't stop by you just might miss, as my son often says, "The coolest thing... ever!"

Schedule analysis: Colorado

June, 13, 2011
We'll be reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, and now we move on to the South Division.

Up next: Colorado

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

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3 at Hawaii (10-4)
Sept. 10 California (5-7)*
Sept. 17 Colorado State (3-9)
Sept. 24 at Ohio State (12-1)

*A previously schedule nonconference game that doesn't count in the conference standings.

South Division games

Oct. 29 at Arizona State
Nov. 4 USC
Nov. 12 Arizona
Nov. 19 at UCLA
Nov. 25 at Utah

Crossover games

Oct. 1 Washington State
Oct. 8 at Stanford
Oct. 15 at Washington
Oct. 22 Oregon

Conference misses

Oregon State

Key stretch: It's not how you start; it's how you finish. The Buffaloes don't play a South Division game until Oct. 29, and then they play all five divisional foes over the final five weeks of the season -- three of which are on the road. While it would be nice for the Jon Embree Era to get off to a fast start, it would be more meaningful for the Buffs to head into the offseason -- bowl season? -- feeling good about the way they finished.

Trap game: Colorado's Pac-12 opener is at home against Washington State. I'm sure Buffaloes players and fans are well-aware of the Cougars' struggles of late. On this brutal schedule, it would be easy to pencil in this one as a victory. That might be a mistake: The Cougs figure to be much improved.

Sure thing: There are no sure things here. You could volunteer Colorado State for that role -- the Rams were pretty darn terrible in 2010 -- but that's a rivalry game in which the Buffaloes have an uneven history.

Analysis: This is one of the toughest schedules in the nation. There are likely five foes that will be ranked in the preseason Top 25. Maybe more. Thirteen consecutive games without a bye (which means no off-week providing extra time for a sprained ankle or "stinger" to heal). Just five home games. A visit to Ohio State, which is still Ohio State despite the offseason turmoil. A Hawaii team that won 10 games in 2010 and features one of the best quarterbacks in the nation (Bryant Moniz). A "10th" Pac-12 game against California, which doesn't count in the conference standings. The lone conference miss is Oregon State, which probably wouldn't be the Buffs' first choice. Finally, with a 13-game schedule, the Buffs have to win seven to qualify for a bowl game. That, suffice it to say, won't be easy. Colorado could be much better in 2011 than it was in 2010 but not produce a record that reflects that.

Mailbag: Barkley better than Luck?

June, 10, 2011
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

If you've been thinking, "I wish I could follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter, only I don't know how!" Click here.

To the notes.

Mike from Fullerton, Calif., writes: What are the chances that Barkley puts up better numbers than Luck this year? Barkley is now in his third year as a starter and second with his offensive coordinator. He has what appears to be a budding college superstar in Robert Woods and long list of unproven but talented skill players around him. He obviously needs some help at o-line but if they can even give him some protection he should be able to convert. Luck is coming off a monster year with a new HC and lost his number one WR. i know luck has a dump truck load of good TE but so does SC. With an unproven o-line and talented but raw RB's isn't it foreseeable that Barkley just starts hurling it all over the field?

Ted Miller: That could happen.

Barkley actually attempted more passes in 12 games last year than Luck in 13 games. Luck passed for more yards -- 257 yards per game compared to 233 -- because he completed 71 percent of his passes compared to 63 percent for Barkley.

Both teams want to be balanced, so the likelihood is neither will abandon the running game. But Stanford is better off on the offensive line, so it might be able to stick its desire to maintain balance more than the Trojans, who are thin and questionable on the O-line. And USC is more talented at receiver.

If I were betting, I'd guess Barkley's numbers are going to be better in 2011 than 2010 while Luck's will remain about the same -- mostly because it's difficult to be much better passing than Luck was in 2010.

Eric from Mountain View, Calif., writes: Ted, your post today about the New Mexico Bowl was the first I heard the Rose Bowl will not be on New Years Day. To whom do I direct my vitriol over this?

Ted Miller: I understand the tradition of the Rose Bowl always being played Jan. 1, but New Year's Day falls on a Sunday this year, meaning it could be in conflict with the NFL schedule. So no bowl games will be played on Jan. 1.

Here's the BCS release on the scheduling:
As a result of continued uncertainty involving the upcoming National Football League schedule, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) group today announced a change in dates for three of its upcoming bowl games in order to avoid possible conflicts with NFL Monday Night Football.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl will be played Tuesday, January 3; the Discover Orange Bowl will be played Wednesday, January 4; and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be played Thursday, January 5. The Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO will remain Monday afternoon, January 2, and the Allstate BCS National Championship game remains Monday, January 9th.

“We consulted the involved parties and made a careful decision to choose dates that will ensure a prime-time showcase for our student-athletes while also being mindful of the potential for change in the NFL’s schedule,” said BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. “At this point in time, we want to create certainty in a somewhat uncertain scheduling environment.”

Jeff from Boston writes: With their new defensive coordinator, how good can UCLA's safeties be? Best tandem in the PAC12? I expect BIG things from Tony Dye and Riley, especially with how good our D-line can be.

Ted Miller: Tony Dye and Dietrich Riley are a very good tandem, but there are a lot of good safety tandems in the Pac-12. Dye is a proven quantity who should emerge from the Rahim Moore's considerable shadow this fall, while Riley is a touted 2010 recruit who has flashed plenty of ability.

I'd rate Stanford (Delano Howell and Michael Thomas) and Oregon (John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant) ahead of Dye-Riley at this point, in terms of best tandems. And Washington State's Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer are pretty good, too.

Keep in mind USC's T.J. McDonald, California's Sean Cattouse, Oregon State's Lance Mitchell and Washington's Nate Felner are back this fall, while talented youngsters not unlike Riley -- Arizona's Marquis Flowers, Arizona State's Alden Darby, Utah's Terrell Reese and Washington's Sean Parker -- will be trying to make their marks.

Safety, in fact, seems like a strong position in the conference this fall.

Michael from Salt Lake City writes: When viewing your entry about ASU's schedule I noticed there was no mention of having to play a pivotal game at Utah on Oct. 8, one week before ASU plays Oregon. If you over looked the games importance, my hope is that ASU will too? This could be a huge trap game for ASU, as they look ahead to a top ten matchup the following week. My guess is that the winner of the Oct 8th game will represent the south in the Pac 12 title game.

Ted Miller: I mentioned the game without typing "Utah."
Key stretch: Is Arizona State just a solid bowl team, or something bigger? The Sun Devils will know by Oct. 16, after a six-game stretch that includes two tough nonconference games, two games with top South Division rivals and winds up with a trip to Oregon.

The "two games with top South Division rivals" would be USC and Utah.

As for the game being a "trap," I'd expect not. To me, a trap game is one that potentially might be overlooked. The Sun Devils would be well-advised not to overlook the Utes and I don't think they will.

Jim from Bellevue, Wash., writes: I've been reading your articles since you were at the Seattle PI. Normally I think you do great work, but I've noticed lately a lack of OSU info on your "lunch links". Is that because there is just no news of late from OSU, or is it because they finished 5-7 last year, or are there too many teams to cover now in the new PAC12 and OSU is getting the slight? What gives?

Ted Miller: You can blame the Pac-12 blog for a lot of things: the weather, the economy, the inexplicable popularity of "The Situation." But not a lack of links for Pac-12 programs.

I want to find links for every school, every day, but I have to depend on the work of others. When you don't see a link from your school, know that I spent more time looking for -- and failing to find -- one than with the schools that actually get a link that day. Not finding links makes my life harder, not easier.

A lack of Oregon State links? It's because I couldn't find any articles. The present explanation for the lack of Beavers links has to do with this little baseball team of theirs taking up all their beat writers' time.

Kona from Phoenix writes: I have two wonderful questions that your blog followers are dying to know:(i) How many emails do you get in your mail bag per week?(ii) What do you feel the odds are of a person getting their question posted and answered on your blog? A ball park estimate is fine.Bonus Question: Which university in the PAC-12 has the best mascot? It is a tough call with newcomer Colorado in the mix, but I still will not cross the Devil, so my vote is for ASU.

Ted Miller: is a busy place. I get a lot of mail. Not sure exactly how many. I know it's too many to read each week. I often hear from friends that they sent me a note and I never responded but that's typically because I didn't read their message.

Odds of getting a question posted? Not sure. I give the mailbag a first glance Friday morning and start flagging questions that catch my fancy. Then I start typing. I try to get a handful of diverse topics and tones. My general feeling, depending on the week, is I will review about 50 notes to get five to seven questions.

Mascot? The Tree.

Tom from Chicago writes: You sound like a real loser writing a USC article like an opposing fan. Just remember, your bosses at ESPN are bigtime USC fans. I'm sure they'll enjoy reading your biased rubbish. Furthermore, I'm sure your measely paycheck reflects your opinions. Enjoy your six pack of cheap bear and deli sandwich. You wish you were a Trojan.

Ted Miller: You misspelled "measly."

And, yes, I could use a turkey sandwich and a cold Bud right now.

First ESPNU recruiting rankings

June, 10, 2011
It's early in the recruiting season, but it's never too early for recruiting rankings, is it?

Here's the ESPNU top-25 as of today Insider.

Texas is No. 1 and three Pac-12 teams rank in the top 25: No. 7 USC, No. 19 Arizona State and No. 20 Stanford.

This from the accompanying article is worth noting:

Considering that only 13 of the 120 FBS schools have double-digit commitments to this point tells you just how early it is in the recruiting process, so remember these are very, very early class rankings. They are based on who has committed so far and are not a projection of how strong a class will finish.

You can expect USC to fall some because it can only offer 15 scholarships. Even if the Trojans get a bunch of four- and five-star guys, they likely won't be able to stick in the top-10.

Arizona State is in the top-25 because of numbers. The Sun Devils already have eight commitments for what should be a fairly large class.

It's likely that California, Oregon and Washington will end up in the top-25 before all is done. The biggest question might be UCLA: Will the Bruins and coach Rick Neuheisel take advantage of the Trojans reduced scholarship numbers?

Lunch links: LSU-Oregon ticket-gate

June, 10, 2011
Happy Friday.

Riley updates Oregon State questions

June, 10, 2011
Kerry Eggers sat down with Oregon State coach Mike Riley and then provided a number of updates on the myriad questions the Beavers faced heading into the off-season, most notably injuries.
  • On receiver James Rodgers (knee): “James is on a treadmill, jogging, walking without a limp. He can jog out on the field. I’m encouraged, although conservatively. I don’t want to put any unreasonable or unknowledgeable expectations. The doctor thinks he’ll be ready to play football this season. He thought James might be a little late getting into camp, but he didn't put any more restrictions on it than that.”
  • On receiver Jordan Bishop (ankle): “He’s running on the treadmill in water. The prognosis is he will be running in July. For him to have a good year, he’s going to have to be running and catching balls all through July to catch up on what he missed.”
  • On QB Ryan Katz (wrist): “He is still not totally cleared. He is not taking direct snaps, and he can’t do all the lifts. But he’s able to do a lot of the stuff that’s important, like throwing the ball and running.”
  • On tight end Joe Halahuni (shoulder): “The doctor said he will be ready to go by the first of September. To me, that means it’s probably another month before he’s playing in a game.”
  • And on DT Castro Masaniai (arrest): "Riley and OSU administrators haven’t yet determined a punishment for defensive tackle Castro Masaniai, charged in May with second-degree kidnapping, coercion, disorderly conduct, harassment and criminal mischief in a domestic dispute with his wife. The charges are expected to be downgraded, however, and Masaniai might be able to avoid being suspended for a game or games by meeting community service and counseling demands."

That's five key starters -- all-Pac-12 sorts -- each facing nagging questions this summer.

With all five players on the field, the Beavers have a chance to make some noise in the North Division this fall. But it's clear there's some work to do -- and fingers to be crossed -- even before fall camp begins in August.
At some point USC and Lane Kiffin will get to focus on the football part of football. But not yet.

Kiffin still has his own dirty laundry -- all of it bright orange -- to tend to: He's in Indianapolis this weekend discussing the alleged transgressions that occurred while he Tennessee's head coach with the 10-member NCAA Committee on Infractions.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
AP Photo/Andy KingUSC coach Lane Kiffin is set to face the NCAA Committee on Infractions this weekend.
Kiffin will try to defend himself against the NCAA and Tennessee, which is trying to heap the entire mess on Kiffin's and, by association, USC's doorstep.

Kiffin was cited with a failure "to promote an atmosphere for compliance within the football program and failed to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant football coaches" as well as two specific violations:

  • The NCAA alleges between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9 of 2010 Kiffin or his assistant coaches made 16 "impermissible recruiting telephone calls" to three prospects.
  • The NCAA alleges Kiffin allowed a recruiting intern, Steve Rubio, "to make in-person, off-campus contacts with high school administrators during a recruiting trip" to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In both of the alleged violations, Kiffin was told in advance by Tennessee not to do what he ended up doing, according to the NCAA. That's good for the Volunteers, not so good for Kiffin. (You can read the complete Notice of Allegations here if you so desire.)

Said the NCAA of the calls: "These calls were placed subsequent to the football staff's receipt of information in December of 2009 from the institution's compliance staff that such telephone calls were impermissible."

Said the NCAA of the trip: "This trip and these contacts occurred after David Blackburn, the institution's director of football operations, informed both Kiffin and Rubio ... that Rubio was not permitted to enter a high school's property while accompanying a football coach on a recruiting trip."

So what's going to happen? The short answer is "heck if I know."

Using logic, reason and a sense of fairness last June, I predicted, using Alabama's 2002 pay-for-play case as a precedent, that USC would get hit hard but not hammered by NCAA sanctions. The NCAA opted instead to be unfair and arbitrary and pounded the Trojans with a loss of 30 scholarships and a two-year postseason ban.

There was no way to justify what the NCAA did -- good luck coming up with a more severe penalty against Ohio State -- but the organization tried on its new enforcement web page: "Each case is unique, and applying case precedent is difficult (if not impossible) because all cases are different. Each case has its own aggravating and mitigating factors, and the committee considers both sides in assessing penalties."

If applying precedent is "impossible," then your enforcement arm can do anything it wants. Imagine if the police and courts operated this way.
Judge: You shot him for jaywalking?

Police: Yes.

Judge: Isn't that little harsh?

Police: He was wearing a Reggie Bush jersey.

Judge: A USC Reggie Bush jersey or a New Orleans Saints Reggie Bush jersey?

Police: USC.

Judge: Oh, aggravating and mitigating factors. Well, then. Good job.

Know this: Kiffin is going to suffer some sort of sanction specific to himself, likely one that limits him in recruiting. While the NCAA doesn't want us to pay attention to precedent, I covered a strikingly similar case in 2002, when then-Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was grounded for eight months for violations he committed while coaching at Colorado.

The interesting difference is the NCAA ruled Colorado failed to properly monitor Neuheisel's activity. It appears the COI -- with the overwhelming support of Tennessee -- has the option here of ruling Kiffin went rogue versus his compliance department. That might cast Kiffin's transgressions in a harsher light.

On the plus side for Kiffin, he's kept his nose clean at USC, which athletic director Pat Haden noted in a statement last February when the notice of allegations was published: "Since his return to USC last year as our head football coach, Lane has been vigilant in making sure he and the football program follow the NCAA's rules and compete the right way. Lane has my support as our head football coach."

USC's exposure here will likely be nothing more than collateral damage resulting from sanctions against its head coach, which might be substantial. Kiffin is an outstanding recruiter -- see his top-five 2011 class, despite the NCAA sanctions shadow -- so removing him from the equation for a period of time will further hurt the Trojans efforts to remain competitive.

Of course, after Kiffin and the NCAA chat this weekend, it will be weeks before the COI publishes its findings.

So -- Fight On!... and on and on -- USC fans can look forward to more embarrassing headlines generated from behind the closed doors of conference rooms.

Pac-12 adds New Mexico Bowl for 2011

June, 9, 2011
The Pac-12 and New Mexico Bowl are hooking up a year earlier than originally planned.

The conference's No. 7 team will play a Mountain West team on Dec. 17, in the first bowl game of the 2012 season. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. ET at University Stadium in Albuquerque. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.

The Pac-12 was supposed to pick up the New Mexico Bowl in 2012, but the bowl dropped its WAC affiliation, opening the door for an earlier marriage.

In the first four New Mexico Bowls, the Mountain West and WAC squared off, with the MWC winning three of four. In the fifth annual game, the bowl welcomed UTEP, a Conference USA member, which fell to departing MWC-member BYU.

What this means for the Pac-12 is that it's almost certain any team that is at least 6-6 will be able to play in a bowl game (keep in mind that USC isn't eligible for the postseason).

Here's the Pac-12 bowl lineup for 2011-12.

No. 1 : Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Jan. 2 (Jan. 1, the bowl's traditional date, falls on a Sunday, when no bowl game will be played this year) OR Allstate BCS National Championship, Jan. 9

No. 2: Valero Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 3, Dec. 29.

No. 3: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 5, Dec. 28.

No. 4: Hyundai Sun Bowl vs. ACC No. 4, Dec. 31.

No. 5: MAACO Las Vegas vs. Mountain West No. 1, Dec. 22

No. 6: Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Army (if eligible), Dec. 31.

No. 7: New Mexico Bowl vs. Mountain West, Dec. 17

Thursday chat wrap

June, 9, 2011
If you missed it -- and shame on you if you did -- you can re-live my chat from Thursday afternoon here.

Some questions that were posed...
  • Greg P (Staten Island,NY): Ted, hate to put u on the spot but...Do you think the kind of "stuff" that is going on in College Football (at USC, Ohio St.) is widespread and is like a ticking timebomb waiting to explode or is it just some isolated incidents that have happened at some high profile schools?
  • Brett B. (Salt Lake City,UT): If we were to follow the BIG10 where would you host the PAC-12 Championships each year?
  • Tim (Bodie, CA): Why are so many pundits willing to drink the ASU Kool-ade. I get they have a lot of returning starters, but the team they put on the field last year won 4 games against D1-A teams....4! Their one marquee win was against an AU team that was in a free-fall. They played well vs Wisconsin, and lost, they played well versus Stanford, and lost, they played well versus Oregon, and lost, they got ripped by an inept Cal offense... did they just hire the same PR firm as Ohio State or what?
  • Dean (Pac 12 Country): Would it be career suicide for a beat reporter to disclose the kind of stuff that was going on at Ohio State?

So check out answers to those queries -- and many, many more! -- at the link.

Video: Oregon's supporting strengths

June, 9, 2011

Oregon's primary strength is its backfield but it's also strong in the secondary.



Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25