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Tag:Arizona State
Posted on: April 20, 2010 4:47 pm
 

Pac-10 schedule breakdown

The best thing about the Pac-10 is that it plays a true round-robin with only three, usually strong, non-conference games.

The worst thing about the Pac-10 is that is plays a true round-robin with only three, usually strong, non-conference games.

Ask the coaches.

While the Pac-10 produces a "true" champion, there are plenty of reasons to question the scheduling philosophy. The unbalanced schedule means nine conference games. Half of the league is playing four conference home games and five away games. That puts more pressure on getting just the right mix of three non-conference games. Six Pac-10 teams will be playing I-AA teams this season. Arizona State is playing two. USC gets a 13th game this season by playing in Hawaii and is still playing seven road games.

That means there are plenty of land mines out there for the contenders and a chance for the Pac-10 to drop off the national title radar this season. Even with the loss of Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon will be favored. The Ducks, though, still have to travel to USC and Oregon State as well as Tennessee in the non-conference.

If the Pac-10 expands -- a decision is coming soon -- it probably will have to abandon the round-robin scheduling format.  It might not be such a bad thing to add a winnable non-conference game and drop a conference game that could ruin your season.

Game of the year:  (non-conference) Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 27. There are other tasty games (UCLA at Texas, Oregon State at Boise, Oregon State vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas), but it's never bad to go with tradition.

Neither the Irish nor the Trojans will likely be favored to win any championships this season. That's hardly the point. There's a new coach on each side in this game for the first time since 1941 (Sam Barry and Frank Leahy). USC's current winning streak over Notre Dame (eight) is a game more than Lane Kiffin has won (seven as a college coach).  Brian Kelly tries to  bring the zone read option to a program that is searching for an identity.

Heismans are won and souls are crushed in this game. You have to watch.

 

Game of the year: (conference)  Oregon at Oregon State, Dec. 4. The Civil War reached new heights last season when the Ducks were featured on a Thursday night in their road to the Rose Bowl. It's hard to describe the intensity in this game but when it makes an impression on the Big Ten commissioner who know it's special.

"The games that were regional became national," said Delany speaking about the BCS has been able to highlight certain games. "Once they got me to watch Oregon-Oregon State, they got me to watch other games."


Team on the spot:  Arizona State. Three years ago the Sun Devils actually won a share of the Pac-10. Since then, they are 9-15. Only six of those victories have come against BCS conference schools. Dennis Erickson's star has faded fast. No one is expecting the Sun Devils to do much this season. With two I-AAs on the schedule (Portland State and Northern Arizona), a bowl is a must isn't it?


Toughest non-conference schedule:
UCLA. It's all about momentum. In his third season, Rick Neuheisel has to have it. By the first week of October he could lose it.

An 0-4 start is a definite possibility. There are no breathers in the non-non which is broken up by an early conference opener in the second week against Stanford at the Rose Bowl.

I dare any team to try this September schedule in consecutive weeks:

Sept. 4 -- at Kansas State. The improving Wildcats came within a game of winning the Big 12 North last season. Under Bill Snyder at this point they are capable of beating anyone outside the top 10. UCLA needs to mature in a hurry on offense. If it doesn't in this game, it could be another lost season.

Sept. 11 -- Stanford.  This was supposed to be an off field before it got switched for television. (Stanford was originally scheduled for Oct. 16) At least the Bruins get the Cardinal at home before (perhaps) the Pac-10's best quarterback, Andrew Luck, can get on a roll.

Sept. 18 -- Houston. This is the real WTF? Houston beat Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Mississippi State on its way to a 10-win season last year. Case Keenum sure as heck isn't going to be intimidated by the Rose Bowl. This is a pick-'em at best, a Houston victory if Keenum heats up. This is the beginning of a two for one and gives the Bruins some face time in Texas, but wedged in where it is ... tough, tough, tough.

Sept. 25 -- at Texas. More face time in Texas but this is not the game you need at this time. Mack Brown has promised that the offense will become more physical this season. The Bruins better muscle up on D coming off meetings with Luck and Keenum.
 

Easiest non-conference schedule: Arizona State. As mentioned, Portland State and Northern Arizona kick off the season. That means the Sun Devils will have to win seven this season to go to a bowl game. It can count only one I-AA against bowl eligibility.

Reality sets in the next week at Wisconsin.

 

 

 

Posted on: February 10, 2010 10:30 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2010 2:02 pm
 

More expansion: A proposed new look

The Mountain West is on notice.

The Big East too.

Don’t forget the Big 12 which could be ripped asunder.

One or all of those conferences are going to be impacted if, as expected, the Pac-10 and Big Ten expand in the near future.

After writing about the big picture on Wednesday, we’re here to speculate freely about how other conferences might be impacted.

Mountain West: After leading his league to the brink of BCS automatic qualifying status, commissioner Craig Thompson has to be concerned.

A BYU-Utah defection to the Pac-10 makes a lot of sense. In basketball, the league has travel partners (Washington-Washington State, Arizona-Arizona State). The Utes and Cougars are bitter rivals but would be make ideal additions due to the far-flung nature of the league.

I still don’t know how the Pac-10 views the academic aspect of expansion, so I’m not sure how it views the combination of a state school (Utah) and what amounts to a private school (BYU). If there is a fallback, it could be San Diego State.

If the Big Ten were to take Missouri, that’s a potential three teams ripped from the Mountain West and could mean the end of the league.  The three most likely replacements would be Boise State, Fresno State and Texas-El Paso.

The best non-BCS league could find itself teetering on the edge of existence, or at least relevance.

Big 12: The biggest hit comes if both Colorado (Pac-10) and Missouri (Big Ten) leave.

If Missouri or Colorado leave, the Big 12 would go get TCU from the Mountain West. While that would wound the MWC, the league would most likely then invite Boise State.

If both Colorado and Missouri left, the Big 12 would get TCU and, maybe, Houston? Either way, the Big 12’s TV stature would shrink.

Big East: The league was almost wiped out when the ACC expanded five years ago. What happens if Pittsburgh, Syracuse or Rutgers is taken by the Big Ten?

Most likely the Big East would raid Conference USA for Central Florida. That would get the league further into Florida. UCF is third-largest school in the country (53,000) behind Ohio State and Arizona State. There's got to be some football players in there somewhere. Plus, the school has made a huge commitment to facilities.

Sooner or later doesn’t Big East football and basketball have to split? The unwieldy existence between the two sides (16 teams in basketball, only eight of which play football).

After the wounds caused by the ACC, another hit could cause the end of the Big East in football.

My latest look on how the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12 and MWC might look in the future.

BIG TEN 
Schembechler Division

Iowa
Missouri
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Northwestern

Grange Division
Illinois
Indiana
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Wisconsin

BIG 12
North Division
Nebraska
Colorado
Kansas
Kansas State
Iowa State
TCU

South Division
Texas
Texas Tech
Texas A&M
Oklahoma
Baylor
Oklahoma State

 

PAC-10
North Division
Oregon
Oregon State
Washington State
Cal
Stanford
Washington

South Division
BYU
Utah
Arizona
Arizona State
USC
UCLA

MOUNTAIN WEST
Fresno State
Boise State
Texas-El Paso
Air Force
Wyoming
UNLV
San Diego State
New Mexico
Colorado State

 

 

Posted on: November 8, 2009 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2009 12:14 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

After watching that replay again from Alabama, how can a reasonable person rule that wasn’t an interception? I’m expecting something out of the SEC office in the next couple of days.

Why I like Alabama on game day … “Sweet Home Alabama” comes on and immediately everyone on University Ave. starts jukin’ and yellin’. Ever see 10,000 folks do the Bama version of the River Dance?

Why I like Alabama on game day II … The houndstooth 1) skirts and 2) beer coozies.

Why I like Alabama on game day III … Yes, they were taking pictures of me as I was in makeup prior to my appearance on CBS College Sports’ SEC Tailgate. You people must find some meaning in your lives.

Get ready for a noisy Boise: The way things are sorting out, an undefeated Boise State is going to be beaten out for a BCS bowl by a two-loss team from one of the power conferences, p.r. firm or not.

The BCS bowl matchups began to get into sharper focus when Iowa lost and Alabama won. Here’s out it works:

The automatic qualifiers are down these teams …

Big Ten: Iowa/Ohio State. The teams plays this week in Columbus so that will sort itself out. Both teams have lost once. Saturday's winner most likely goes to the Rose Bowl.

Big 12: Texas will play either Kansas State or Nebraska from the North Division. K-State controls its own destiny after beating Kansas. Texas might be cruising but could get some blowback at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving or from Nebraska or K-State in the Big 12 title game.

SEC: Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC title game. If they teams stay undefeated before Dec. 5, the winner plays for the national championship. The loser most likely goes to the Sugar Bowl.

ACC: Still a mess but Georgia Tech is the conference’s only one loss team and leads the Coastal Division. Clemson controls its fate in the Atlantic Division. The ACC winner most likely goes to the Orange Bowl.

Big East: Cincinnati is undefeated but still has tough games left against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. With no conference championship game to hinder it, the Bearcats could be headed to the Sugar Bowl to face the Alabama-Florida loser.

Pac-10: It looks as if Oregon, Arizona or Stanford will go to the Rose. The Wildcats and Ducks meet Nov. 21 in Tucson. Despite the letdown loss at Stanford, Oregon still seems to have the advantage. Arizona still has its toughest games to play (Cal, USC, Arizona State). Stanford has to get past USC and Cal before meeting Notre Dame in the regular-season finale,

That leaves four at-large berths. Notre Dame is out after losing to Navy. If TCU stays undefeated and ahead of Boise State in the BCS, it will go, most likely, to the Fiesta Bowl. As mentioned, the Florida-Alabama loser should gobble up a Sugar Bowl spot.  If USC wins out it could get the other Fiesta Berth at 10-2.

That leaves an undefeated Boise having to fight off a two-loss team from a major conference in order to get to the BCS. Things being what they are, which is the same for the past 50 years in this situation, the Orange Bowl most likely would pick a 10-2 Penn State to play the ACC champion.

Sorry Broncos.

Name this team: Its last conference championship came in 2003. Since then it has been a mixed bag. This program has changed coaches twice, beaten Texas twice and produced a quarterback drafted in the first round. This year alone it has given up 66 points to Texas Tech, lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and, amazingly,  is in first place in its division.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to Kansas State, 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12 North after beating Kansas 17-10. In Bill Snyder’s second term as coach, the Wildcats need only beat Nebraska in its final two games to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Snyder is getting some run for Big 12 coach of the year. We’re fairly sure no COY has lost to Texas Tech by 54 and lost to a fourth-place Sun Belt team in the same season.


USC decline: Before Saturday’s 14-9 victory over Arizona State, USC had allowed 110 points in its last three games. That’s the most in a three-game stretch ever. The Trojans had allowed 113 points combined in the previous 14 games.


Breaking down the big boys: Now that a Florida-Alabama rematch is assured, here’s the three-minute eval of the SEC title game slightly less than a month away.

Advantage Alabama: A better running game (I think) and the revenge motive for last year’s classic loss in Atlanta.

Advantage Florida: Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. As long as he’s taking snaps, Florida has a chance.

Advantage Florida: Defense. By a hair. This is going to be another matchup of the ages. Charlie Strong vs. Nick Saban/Kirby Smart. At this point Florida’s unit seems a bit more active.

Advantage Alabama: Special teams. With Javier Arenas returning kicks and Terrence Cody blocking them, give the Crimson Tide the edge. Kicker Leigh Tiffin is more than reliable. If you’re looking for an edge, this is it. Games like this tend to turn on special teams.

Stuff: SMU needed three blocked kicks to beat Rice and move to within one win of bowl eligibility. The Ponies last went bowling pre-death penalty in 1984 … Alabama hasn’t been 9-0 in consecutive seasons since 1973-74 … In its last 39 home games, Cal is 0-7 against Oregon State and USC, 32-0 against everyone else … My God, did you see Cal’s Jahvid Best suffer that concussion while diving into the end zone? Coach Jeff Tedford actually said his guy was “OK.” No, coach, he’s not OK. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Best’s season is over … Who knew UCLA had lost seven conference games in a row before beating  Washington?

The right now, no B.S., up to the moment Heisman Watch

1. Case Keenum, Houston. Another last-second win, this time over Tulsa. In his last two games Keenum has thrown for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns. Any questions? My goal in life is to get this kid a trip to New York. He’s earned it. In a perfect world, he’d win the Stiff Arm but because he plays at a Conference USA school it probably isn’t going to happen.

2. Mark Ingram, Alabama. It’s the KIIS system – Keep It Ingram, Stupid. After throwing 25 passes in the first half, Nick Saban changed tactics and had Ingram carry it 16 games in the second half against LSU. The result was 144 yards.

3. Colt McCoy, Texas. It was only Central Florida but McCoy continued a recent uptick with 469 passing yards. McCoy was removed from the game with nine minutes left four yards shy of the school passing record (Major Applewhite, 473 yards in the 2001 Holiday Bowl).

Funny thing, Applewhite might have the school record but because the NCAA didn’t recognize bowl stats back then it officially doesn’t exist. What makes things more annoying is that a few years ago the NCAA started counting bowl stats. I still contend that an intern at each school in the country could go back and add in all the bowl numbers.

The NCAA explains that current record holders would have their names expunged if records were updated. Tough! You count all the numbers, not just some of them.

4. Toby Gerhart, Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh is preaching physicality. Gerhart pounded Oregon for a school-record 223 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-42 win.

5. C.J. Spiller, Clemson. If the Tigers are going to win their first ACC title in 18 years, Spiller is going to be the reason. He went for a school-record 312 all-purpose yards against Florida State.

Posted on: October 14, 2009 6:22 pm
 

National notes

Thank you Florida State for releasing the 695-page transcript of the school's hearing with the NCAA earlier this year.

What the school gained in transparency, it lost in embarrassment. In the transcript we found out that one academic advisor said a player had a 60 IQ and was unable to read. Gee, what was he doing at Florida State then?

 Jan. 1 used to be a holy day of obligation. Hook up an IV of beer, spread out the snacks, let the belt out a notch and veg in front of the TV.

Lately, our day of football daze has been denuded of significance. The calendar for Jan. 1, 2011 now shows at least six games. Six! The announcement of the Dallas Classic beginning in 14 months further degrades what used to be the best football day of the year.

Just what the world needs, a No. 7 team from the Big 12 vs. some slug from Conference USA. Jan. 1 used to be special. All the majors played on the same day. Now the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange are so spread out you need a GPS to locate them all.

In addition to the Rose and Sugar, this year we’ll get the Gator, Capital One and Outback. The roster swells next year because Dallas felt the need to replace the Cotton Bowl game it is losing to the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The new Dallas Classic will be played in the Cotton Bowl.

Can’t wait to see the attendance in the 92,000 stadium which is essentially used twice a year. The other time being for Texas-Oklahoma. Got a birthday or a bar mitzvah coming up, the Cotton Bowl is available.

The Rose Bowl has been the Jan. 1 stalwart. We could always look forward to seeing the parade and the San Gabriel Mountains each New Year’s Day. Nurse that hangover, suck on a Bloody Mary. It was all good. In recent years, even the Rose has been moved around in years it is in the BCS championship rotation.


The game itself has become almost an afterthought with the Big Ten having lost seven Grandaddys in a row.

Sure, it’s a national holiday and advertisers know we’re going to be home to watch, but we want our NYD back. The beer is going flat.


 Expanding on the Ndamukong Suh angle. If the Nebraska defensive tackle is on top of the list, here are the other top five defense players in the country.

2. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee. The SEC defensive player of the year hasn’t backed off. Berry has an incredible 50 tackles and one interception of Tim Tebow.

3.Tyler Sash, S, Iowa. Tied for the national lead in interceptions with five.

4.Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida. The fastest, meanest linebacker around playing for the No. 1 defense. Thirty-two tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.

5. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama. Bama has the No. 2 defense in the country. McClain is the center of it with 42 tackles, 5 ½ for loss, two sacks and two interceptions.

  This week’s Scripps Howard Heisman poll which yours truly votes in.

            (10 voters. First-place votes in parentheses.)
            1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. 40 points (8).
            2. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas, 25.
            3. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati, 13.
            4 (tie). Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame;
            Case Keenum, QB, Houston, 12.
           
            Others receiving votes: Nebraska DT Ndamukong, Suh, 7; Miami QB Jacory Harris, 6; Texas WR Jordan Shipley 5 (1); Kansas QB Todd Reesing 5 (1); Alabama RB Mark Ingram 5; Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, 2; Boise State QB Kellen Moore, 2.
 
 
 Weird meeting of the headsets Thursday in South Florida.

Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Joe Tresey after last season. Tresey was then hired by Bulls’ coach Jim Leavitt. South Florida enters Thursday’s showdown fifth in scoring defense (9.4 points per game) after allowing 20 per game last season.

Advantage Tresey who knows Cincy’s personnel and whose team is at home? Not exactly. Kelly’s new d-coordinator Bob Diaco has the Bearcats at No. 10 in scoring defense (13.8 points).

 Props to Lousiana-Monroe which has its longest conference winning streak (three games) since 1992. The Warhawks have one of the smallest budgets in I-A and are coached by the coach thought to be the lowest paid in the division, Charlie Weatherbie.

 The WAC is at it again. Idaho’s Tre’Shawn Robinson was reprimanded by the conference after throwing a punch against San Jose State. Reprimanded, not suspended. Sound familiar, Boise State?

 We’ll know more next week but Washington looks to be the most improved team in the country at the halfway point. The Huskies are 3-3 heading to Saturday’s game at Arizona State. That’s a net improvement of six games over last season’s 0-12 record. The season reaches its halfway point on Saturday.

Posted on: September 12, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2009 8:13 pm
 

Early notes at 6:50 pm ET


It happens every year. Sometimes more than once.

Michigan State became the first official MAC sacrifice of the season. Central Michigan scored nine points in the final 32 seconds to beat the Spartans in East Lansing 29-27.

The Chips scored a touchdown to draw within one with half a minute to go. Game over, right? Central Michigan executed an onside kick was well as it can be run.  The Chips recovered and drove into field-goal position.

Andrew Aguila nailed a 32-yarder with three seconds left. Michigan State used its timeouts and allowed Aguila an extra chance after jumping offsides. Aguila had missed a 47-yarder but the right end jumped.

Central’s Dan LeFevour became the MAC’s career total offense leader. Going into Saturday LeFevour had 2,000-plus more career yards than one Tim Tebow (12,166-8,914).

  Carolina is the team with the goat as a mascot. But UConn’s Dan Ryan should be the one braying or naying or whatever goats do.

Ryan, a senior offensive tackle, was caught holding in the end zone with 1 ½ minutes left. The automatic safety broke a 10-10 tie and helped avoid another embarrassing ACC loss. Not that the Huskies don’t matchup with the Tar Heels, but UConn did lead 10-0 going into the fourth quarter.

“That's why you don't see any 100-year-old football coaches,"' Carolina’s Butch Davis said.

  There are two reasons why Chris Petersen might be a lifer at Boise State.

It’s not just the quality of life. Boise is a hidden gem. It’s not solely the lack of pressure. When you’ve beaten Oklahoma, you can live off that accomplishment for 10 years, or more. It’s not only because he coaches an Amtrak. What’s an Amtrak? A train, baby, and it’s rolling in Boise.

Recruiting, winning, adoring fans. It’s all in place for a program that could post its third undefeated season in the last four years.

But none of those reasons are the big one, the main reasons why Petersen stays in Boise despite having the chops to pull the ripcord and go get himself a golden parachute somewhere.

 They are named Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins. Both had similar success in Boise. Both cashed in at the top of their game for jobs at BCS conference schools. Koetter at Arizona State, Hawkins at Colorado.

The artificial grass isn’t always greener. Koetter was a mostly middling head coach, lasting six years with the Sun Devils (40-34). He is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Hawkins?

Colorado is off to an 0-2 start after an embarrassing 54-38 loss Friday at Toledo. Hawkins is now 13-26 at CU and the walls are closing in. CU AD Mike Bohn extended Hawkins a year ago so even if he wanted to fire him it would probably cost the school a prohibitive buyout.

Hawkins and Koetter were a combined 79-21 at Boise, 53-60 after leaving.

Petersen is safe, snug and successful in Boise. Why leave?

  Doubt that Joe Paterno is about to retire that all-time victories record? In the space of a week, Paterno went from leading Bobby Bowden by one (383-382), to three -- if only for a few hours.

Penn State got off to a 2-0 start after beating Syracuse 28-7. Florida State lost its opener on Monday before playing Jacksonville State on Saturday night. The race now stands 385-383 Paterno but that’s not counting the almost-certain vacating of those 14 Bowden victories by the NCAA.

  More Georgia Tech from Thursday night: The Ramblin’ Wreck was a wreck in special teams last year. The Yellow Jackets were in the bottom three in the ACC in net punting, punt returns, kickoff returns and field goals. 

It beat Clemson 30-27 with the help of a pass off a fake field goal from kicker Scott Blair.
 

  

Posted on: July 30, 2009 10:01 pm
 

Five things I believe about the Pac-10

Reflections on the one-day Pac-10 up do in L.A. ...

Turn it up to (Pac-)10! Nine in the morning, nursing coffee. God, do I have a hangover? No, it’s rock music blaring out of speakers at the podium 30 minutes before the media day is about to begin.

The whole thing is being streamed on the Internet. Fans are allowed to Tweet questions (and have them read to the coaches and players).

Welcome to the brave new world of new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. The man is bald, in his 40s and has two children but he definitely wants to change the image to the staid league. Next year, Will Ferrell as moderator.

“It’s a new feel, it’s exciting,” Pete Carroll said. “There’s something different going on in the Pac-10.”


Chip Kelly is going to do just fine. Oregon’s new leader went from coach-in-waiting in December to replacing the dean of Pac-10 coaches a couple of months later. The program has transitioned seamlessly.

Not bad for being in Eugene only two seasons. Kelly is what Rich Rodriguez used to be – a spread option guru who runs a power running game.  With Kelly as offensive coordinator Oregon has finished in the top six in rushing each of the last two seasons.

“You can’t paint a spread option with a broad brush,” Kelly said. “You do everything from pass it 60 times a game to run it 60 times a game.”

Plus, Kelly had the line of the day. Sitting next to cornerback Walter Thurmond in front of hundreds of media he said: “First, I’d like you to know that myself and Walter voted for Tim Tebow for first-team All-SEC.”

Pete Carroll really used the M word. When asked about new quarterback Aaron Corp, USC’s coach actually used a vague comparison to Joe Montana.

Corp ascension to No. 1 marks the first time in six years USC has had to have a spring competition to replace a quarterback. The last time it happened was 2003 when some guy named Matt Leinart won the job.

“The guy that I hope Aaron would be like would be what Joe Montana was like,” Carroll said. “Go back to what Joe was like and hear him talk about it in his younger years. He was so resourceful and had great accuracy but always run and kill you with his legs.

“Way back when we first started recruiting Aaron that’s what I wondered. I wondered what Joe Montana would look like in high school.”

Corp is a redshirt sophomore from Villa Park, Calif.  Who has thrown three career passes. He won the job in the spring after not committing a turnover in any of the spring practices or scrimmages.

Something happened to all those arms. The Pac-10 returns five 1,000-yard rushers this season including Heisman candidate Jahvid Best from Cal.

Where have all the quarterbacks gone? It’s one of those cyclical things. Only five starting quarterbacks return (not counting Cal’s Kevin Riley who split time last season).

“I don’t know if you’d call it a smash mouth league but it’s very physical,” Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson said.

Jim Harbaugh is still the funniest coach this side of Mike Leach. In the middle of a serious discussion Thursday, the Stanford coach relayed a story about his dual-sport star Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart could be a possible draft choice in both football and baseball. One day while playing left field at Sunken Diamond, Gerhart heard a voice behind him.

“Toby, Toby it’s me, Coach Harbaugh,” said the coach who was behind the outfield fence. “We had a conversation for about an inning and a half.”

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 19, 2009 12:43 pm
 

Picking the Pac-10

It's never been like this in the Pac-10.

The conference that gave us Elway, Leinart, Plunkett, Aikman and Fouts, also has given us Best, Blount, Rodgers, Gerhart, and Grigsby. The first set of five names you recognize as some of the best quarterbacks in Pac-10 history. The next five represent another bit of history. According to the conference, there have never been five returning 1,000-yard rushers in the Pac-10.

They are:

Jahvid Best, Jr., Cal -- Despite missing a game, Best rushed for 1,580 yards last season and will be on everyone's Heisman list. Or should be.

LeGarrette Blount, Sr., Oregon -- Chip Kelly has made Oregon into an offensive powerhouse, particularly on the ground. The Ducks have finished in the top six in rushing each of the last two seasons. Kelly lost one 1,000 yard rusher (Jeremiah Johnson) and gets another. The punishing Blount ran for 1,002 yards.
 
Jacquizz Rodgers, Soph., Oregon State -- The Pac-10's offensive player of the year ran for 1,253 yards as a freshman despite missing two games. How could we forget that Thursday night against USC?

Toby Gerhart, Sr., Stanford
-- Set the school rushing record with 1,136 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in '08.

Nic Grigsby, Jr., Arizona -- The Cats' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2001.

Picking the Pac-10 ...

1. USC -- Expect at least a share of an eighth consecutive Pac-10 title. Expect an eighth consecutive BCS bowl (probably Rose). Don't expect me to tell you the starting quarterback. Aaron Corp started the spring game, but true freshman Matt Barkley has made tremendous strides. Corp may start the season but Barkley might be the guy by the end. The defense and offensive line (Pete Carroll's best ever at USC) can hold the Trojans in the national championship race if the qbs struggle.

2. Oregon -- Kelly has gone from New Hampshire offensive coordinator to Oregon head coach in less than three years. He will take over officially on July 1. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli started as a fifth-stringer, then accounted for 23 touchdowns under Kelly in 2008. Normally, a head-coaching change would signal a drop in the standings. But Kelly has had enough time in the program to get familiar. Don't forget the Ducks were a top 10 team last season. Welcome to the big time, Chip .The season kicks off at Boise.

3. Cal -- Jeff Tedford has brought stability to Berkeley, but no Rose Bowls. It's been 50 years and counting for the Bears since their last trip to Pasadena -- for a bowl game. Tedford, the quarterback wizard, has been pumping out running backs in recent years while quarterback play has slipped. Aaron Rodgers was the last serviceable signal caller. That was five years ago. Inconsistent Kevin Riley gets the job this season. Best will have to relieve the pressure.

4. Oregon State -- Twenty-eight victories the past three seasons. Two wins over USC. Never, ever doubt Mike Riley. Even though his defense has to rebuilt, the Beavers are going to be a pain again this season. Four of the five starters on the offensive line are back. Rodgers' shoulder is healed. Lyle Moevao is a veteran quarterback. Expect at least eight wins.

5. UCLA -- The Bruins could be the most improved team in the Pac-10. Interception machine Kevin Craft is gone. In his place is redshirt freshman Kevin Prince. Sixteen starters return and defense is not the problem. The Bruins had the second-best total defense in Pac-10 play. Until Neuheisel actually performs in Westwood, though, I will relegate them to this spot.

6. Arizona State -- The Sun Devils (5-7) were one of the most disappointing teams in the country last season. Don't be surprised if Arizona State repeats that record. The strength lies with the defense where end Dexter Davis has 10-plus sacks each of the past two seasons. Chris McGaha is a fine pass catcher who led the Devils two years ago (830 yards).  Dennis Erickson must first get some consistency out of an offensive line that has surrendered a staggering 89 sacks the past two seasons.

7. Arizona
-- The Wildcats have the worst Pac-10 record this decade (24-51) but seem to be on the rebound. Despite losing firestarter Willie Tuitama, coach Mike Stoops could make it to a second consecutive bowl. He will have to deal with a non-conference trip to Iowa, plus having only four conference home games (five away). Either Matt Scott or Nick Foles, both sophomores, will replace Tuitama. They have 11 career pass attempts between them.

8. Stanford -- Jim Harbaugh might be the most coveted 9-15 coach in the country. His name continues to come up when other jobs open up. The Cardinal have improved, coming within a season-finale loss to Cal of being bowl eligible. Gerhart and Andrew Luck give Stanford a chance this season. Luck, a sophomore, threw five touchdowns in the spring game. They're here because the Cardinal open with back-to-back road games (Washington State and Wake) and have to play seven teams that won bowl games.

9. Washington -- Steve Sarkisian can't lose. Well, he can but certainly at the level of last season's worst Husky team ever. Sark starts his head coaching career with Washington on a 14-game losing streak. Three wins would make him the mayor of Montlake. The Huskies have the talent to go 5-7. A healthy Jake Locker will make a difference under Sark. Everyone is looking forward to redshirt freshman tailback Chris Polk. Part of Sarkisian's job is getting the Huskies to believe they can win. The streak breaker should come in Week 2 against Idaho.

10. Washington State -- The Cougars won twice last season (one of them against Washington) but are in worse shape than their rivals. This could be one of the nation's worst programs again this season. Second-year coach Paul Wulff loses five starters from one of the worst defenses in Pac-10 history. That might be a good thing. The offense turned it over a staggering 25 times and gave up 43 sacks.

 

Posted on: February 11, 2009 1:04 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2009 4:06 pm
 

The future of Mike Leach and other items

The feeling seems to be that Mike Leach will let the deadline expire for signing a new contract on Tuesday. I wrote about the situation on Wednesday.

That leaves him only two years left on a deal that is paid him $1.75 million in 2008, eighth-highest in the Big 12. More important, Texas Tech could be assured that Leach would be on his way out. Allowing him to walk after the 2010 season would not only hurt recruiting but probably distract Leach who would be looking for a new job.

That's not to say a new agreement couldn't be worked out at some future date, but giving a sitting coach a deadline to sign a deal is unique.

Here is a copy of what is believed to be Leach's current contract

 A look at the 2009 Pac-10 non-conference schedule: (Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner who rounded up the skeds)

Once again the Pac-10 is showing it isn't shy about playing out of conference. The league plays few I-AA opponents and is willing (maybe because of its geography) to travel to play high-profile opponents.

Best 2009 Pac-10 non-conference games:

1. USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12 -- Game of the Century No. 1,317. Will this be Terrelle Pryor's coming out party?

2. Utah at Oregon, Sept. 19 -- By this point in the schedule the Ducks will have played Boise, Purdue and Utah. Three BCS league opponents. Combined record from 2008: 29-9. Please, stop the madness. Even if the Ducks win all three, what condition will they be in for the Pac-10 schedule?

3. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 17 -- Seven in a row and counting for the Trojans ...

4. Oregon at Boise State, Sept. 5 -- Can't understand why Oregon (and Oregon State) keep playing the Broncos. In this case, the loser might be out of a BCS bowl.

5. UCLA at Tennessee, Sept. 12 -- Rick Neuheisel won't be leading any postgame pep rallies in Neyland. When was the last time the Bruins and Vols were each this desperate for a quarterback?

6. Arizona State at Georgia, Sept. 26 -- The Devils were embarrassed by the Bulldogs last season in the middle of a six-game losing streak. In this return game, both teams are rebuilding.

7. Cincinnati at Oregon State, Sept. 19 -- Jacquizz Rodgers vs. the defending Big East champions.

8. LSU at Washington, Sept. 5 -- What is the Washington AD smoking? That brutal non-con schedule helped get Tyrone Willingham fired. Steve Sarkisian starts his career against an SEC monster.

9. Notre Dame at Stanford, Nov. 28 -- Irish season finale. Will it be Charlie Weis' finale?

10. Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19 -- Wait, Bill Snyder is actually getting on a plane to play a non-con road game?

11. Arizona at Iowa, Sept. 19 -- The Wildcats are on the rise but Iowa still start the season ranked despite the loss of tailback Shonn Greene.

12. Stanford at Wake Forest, Sept. 12 -- The I.Q. Bowl. Jim Harbaugh's scheduling instincts have to be questioned. His team is starting with consecutive roadies to Pullman (Washington State) and Winston-Salem.

13. Cal at Minnesota, Sept. 19 -- Gophers have almost everyone back in this season that will be a referendum on Tim Brewster's future. (started 7-1, finished 0-5). Hope the Bears have a secondary. Adam Decker could be a preseason All-American.

14. Maryland at Cal, Sept. 5 -- Plenty of revenge motive here for the Bears. Cal was down 28-6 after three quarters last season at Maryland before waking up. After winning nine in '08, the Bears have set their sights higher.

 How the economy will handle the glut of bowls -- natural selection.

 The president is a recruitnik too.

It is the responsibility of this space to keep alive the printed word whenever possible. To that end, let me recommend two excellent, recently-released books.

"KU Basketball Vault, The History Of The Jayhawks," is a unique look at one the most decorated programs in hoops by veteran college basketball scribe Ken Davis. Unique? When was the last time you got souvenirs with your coffee table book?

"Big Boy Rules, America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq" will change your entire view of the war, the government and human nature. Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post provides a deeply personal look at the Bush travesty that is the Iraq war. Steve is a Pulitzer Prize winner who was a former colleague at the Kansas City Star.

I know, I know. I can hear you. That's as close as I'll ever get to a Pulitzer.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com