Tag:Bryan Fischer
Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Keys to the game: UCLA at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: The Bruins need a lot to happen if they're going to pull off the improbable and win the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Again, they need a lot to happen if last week's loss to USC was any indication. The defense needs stops of course, allowing big plays to Oregon will not only kill them on the scoreboard but severely hamper their ability to come back with an offense that is built to run and can't really throw. The Pistol can give defenses problems if not prepared and it's possible the Ducks don't take the Bruins too seriously given that it's a home game against a .500 team. Toss in some special teams play and there's a slim chance UCLA wins.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: Just do what they tend to do to conference teams - run around them. UCLA is not exactly the marquee opponent Oregon fans (or Larry Scott for that matter) were hoping for once they beat Stanford to essentially win the Pac-12 and host the first ever championship game. Chip Kelly won't mind making a statement, especially one that features (if completely healthy) LaMichael James as he tries to make it to New York once again. The Bruins figure to run the ball so the defense will have to be prepared and should use the preparation for one of the Big Ten teams they'll face in the Rose Bowl.

X-FACTOR: Special teams. If UCLA can make a few plays in the return game (they might have plenty of chances) they could make things closer than many expect. Field position will be crucial for the offense as they likely look to control the clock and keep the ball out of the Ducks hands. Turn the ball over or allow a big return or two and this could get out of hand quickly. The Bruins have their backs against the wall so don't be surprised if they try a few trick plays as well.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:49 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 13

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team(s) of the week: Everyone not in the SEC

Yeah, I said it again. Especially this week. Also note that the Pac-12 has three teams in the top 10, just as many as the SEC. Wisconsin at 15th in the AP poll also is a "no respect" team.

Overrated: Florida State

  Beating a mediocre-at-best Florida team seems to have the same effect that beating a good Florida team did. The Seminoles started the season highly ranked but have struggled most of the season in, it should be noted, a weak ACC. Also keep in mind that they just lost at home to Virginia, a team that was throttled by Virginia Tech. Maybe if they win a bowl game they can be ranked in the top 25 (coaches have them 24th, AP 25th) but not now.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  Going to miss putting Wolf in this spot once the final poll comes out. He has Arkansas 3rd and Georgia 7th on top of having Clemson ranked higher than anybody at 15 and Wisconsin lower than anybody at 21. The Badgers are just one spot ahead of Georgia Tech, which shouldn't be ranked on anybody's ballot. TCU is also three spots ahead of Baylor for an odd reason.

What were you thinking? Craig James, ESPN

  I understand why the hashtag #FireCraigJames is so popular on Twitter when looking at his AP ballot: Arkansas 3rd, Kansas State 8th (ahead of Oregon), Stanford 10th, Penn State 18th (higher than anybody), Missouri 21st, Texas 22nd, Notre Dame 23rd and BOISE STATE 24TH. 

Posted on: November 28, 2011 3:22 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 13

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/4. Stanford

Not much movement for the Cardinal, up one spot in the Coaches thanks to Arkansas' loss. They're pretty much 4th across the board and, though they figure to be on the outside looking in at the national title game, are assured of heading to a BCS bowl game for the second straight year. They're close enough to Oklahoma State in terms of poll points that it is possible they could wind up third depending on how things go this week.

8/7. Oregon

The Ducks are moving on up despite a ho-hum, expected, win over Oregon State. Up one spot in the AP and two in the Coaches, the expected beating of UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship game won't push them up as much as others losing will pull them up.

9/ N/A. USC

There are ways to go out and there is what USC did to crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday. Serving the final year of their bowl ban, a 50-0 shutout win to end the season in style is pretty good for the Trojans, who could end up in the top five next year if Matt Barkley returns. They moved up a spot in the AP poll and could go as high as sixth depending on how the bowl games shake out. All in all, an impressive season for Lane Kiffin.

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:15 pm
 

Week 14 Picks: Who Do You Like?

Posted by Chip Patterson

Every week the CBSSports.com college football staff offers our picks straight up and against the spread in the Expert Picks. But we aren't the only ones who get to offer our opinions on the outcome of the weekend's best games. In our weekly "Who Do You Like" Picks, we give you - the readers - a chance to weigh in on how you think the upcoming slate of games will play out.

You can see the results of the voting every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on Inside College Football, airing on the CBS Sports Network.



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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.

As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.

Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.

Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.

The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.

Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.

The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.

It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.

It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.

"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.

"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."

Nothing like beating a rival.

Stat of the week

In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.

Stats of week

- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)

- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.

- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.

- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).

 - LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.

Yard-by-yard

- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.

- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.

- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.

- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.

- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.

- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.

- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.

- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.

- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.

- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.

- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.

- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.

- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.

- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.

Tweet of the week

"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.

- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. USC

6. Oregon

7. Boise State

8. Arkansas

9. Houston

10. Virginia Tech


Where we'll be this week

I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Leaning this way

Georgia vs. LSU

Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.


Posted on: November 27, 2011 8:53 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:01 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 13



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. With Alabama and LSU wrapping up their regular seasons in style, the SEC powerhouses appear headed back on a collision course for the BCS title game.  LSU will be tested one more time against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, while Oklahoma State will try to state their case against Oklahoma and hope for chaos.

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU:14-0 deficit to the third-ranked team in the nation? No bother for Les Miles and LSU, who then ripped off a 41-3 spree on Arkansas to finish the game's scoring. We're at the point where LSU's resume is so good, so dominant, so much better than everybody else's that the Tigers could probably take a loss to Georgia in the SEC title game and still be in the BCS championship game -- or maybe even still ranked No. 1. Seriously, who would you put in front of a one-loss LSU team among these contenders? - Adam Jacobi

2. Alabama: It's good for 'Bama that it's got such a strong hold on No. 2 in the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, because the Crimson Tide's season is over, while third-ranked Oklahoma State's got a date with Oklahoma this weekend. Tide fans should be cheering for Oklahoma to pull the minor upset, of course, but as long as the game's close it's unlikely that a surfeit of voters will swap Oklahoma State and Alabama, and we should look for a rematch in the BCS Championship. And that's the way it ought to be, as LSU and Alabama have been, hands-down, the best two football teams this season. - AJ

3. Oklahoma State: In case you weren't already aware of it, losing to Iowa State was a rather terrible idea, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys move back up to third in the BCS but Alabama remains #2 and has no possible games left to lose this year. Which means that the Cowboys best bet is to detroy Oklahoma in Bedlam next weekend and then cross their fingers that the performance was strong enough to convince voters that they don't really want to see a rematch. Which, honestly, is not the best position to be in. - Tom Fornelli 

4. Stanford:Thanks to an Arkansas loss and a win over Notre Dame, the Cardinal have secured a BCS bowl berth for the second straight year. It's a remarkable accomplishment for a program that has been to a bowl game just three times in ten years and underwent a change at head coach before this season. The win over the Irish wasn't a blowout but it was a marquee opponent in primetime and allowed Andrew Luck to pad his stats for the Heisman. Stanford will watch Oregon host the Pac-12 title game this week but will be home knowing they will likely end up as an at large team in the Fiesta Bowl. - Bryan Fischer

5. Virginia Tech:The Hokies were put on upset alert heading to Charlottesville to face a hot Virginia team with the ACC Coastal Division on the line. But Virginia Tech punched their ticket to a fifth ACC Championship Game with a thorough 38-0 dismantling of the Cavaliers. The win was the seventh in a row for Virginia Tech, and the "win move up/loser move down" voter mentality has the Hokies in the Top 5 of the BCS standings. It would likely take a disaster to get bumped into the title game, so the main focus for Frank Beamer's squad will be defending their ACC title against Clemson on Saturday. - Chip Patterson

6. Houston:Houston has the benefit of playing in a conference championship game to get another week to impress the voters. Unfortunately for the undefeated Cougars, it is also another test of their perfect record. Houston can lock up a BCS bowl bid by taking care of business against Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game. Case Keenum and Co. dodged the Golden Eagles in conference play, and another convincing win like Saturday's against Tulsa would complete one of the most dominant runs through the league in recent memory. - CP 

7. Boise State: Oh of all the years to lose a game at home, Boise State, you had to choose this one. Listen, the Broncos need a lot to go right for them this weekend to end up in a BCS bowl game because as things sit right now, they wouldn't be in one. So if you're a Boise State fan, this is what you want to happen this week: beat New Mexico, have Houston lose in the C-USA title game, have LSU beat Georgia and Wisconsin beat Michigan State. That knocks out Houston and Georgia, and if Michigan State loses then the odds of Michigan becoming eligible for a BCS at large berth (currently 16th) is nearly null. It's a lot to ask, but it's also possible. And if all that does happen, then Boise may get that BCS invite. - TF

8. Arkansas:An opportunity to dramatically upset the BCS picture passed through Arkansas' grasp on Saturday, as the Razorbacks failed to take advantage of their early lead at LSU. So being that current rules prohibit more than two teams from any given conference participating in the BCS, Arkansas' presence here at No. 8 is of no relevance to any of the big bowls. The Capital One Bowl committee should be salivating at having such a highly-ranked team available, though. - AJ

9. Oklahoma: It's simple for Oklahoma at this point. If it loses to Oklahoma State next week it will have 3 losses and have no chance for a BCS at-large berth. If the Sooner do win that game, though, they'll be Big 12 champions and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. So it's pretty cut and dry. - TF


10. Oregon:A Civil War victory gave the Ducks the right to host the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and given the way UCLA was routed by USC, it's looking like flower shops in Eugene might be all out of roses by the end of the week. Sitting ninth in the rankings and with two losses, Oregon is out of the running for the national title but a win at home this week gives the team a trip to the Rose Bowl against either Wisconsin or Michigan State. It may not be a return trip to the BCS championship game but the granddaddy of them all is a pretty good way to end the season. - BF

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:52 pm
 

Coaching carousel begins in the Pac-12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


Hot shot commissioner, brand new media deal providing more exposure than ever, facilities upgrades, more money and increased focus on wins.

It's a good time to be a head coach in the Pac-12... except when you're being shown the door.

As the coaching carousel begins in earnest with the end of the regular season, the for-sale signs are popping up all over the West. Thanks in large part to that new media deal, schools are feeling the pressure to win just as much as their counterparts in other parts of the country. The landscape is shifting in college athletics and athletic directors are coming to the realization that they have to find the right guy to lead their program or it's time to make changes.

And if you're an AD even thinking about firing the head coach, you probably should do so. Many have already come to that conclusion and before the Pac-12 puts on the first ever conference title game, there will likely be a third of the league's schools looking at having a new head coach in 2012.

Arizona got a head start on the process and appears to have gotten an A-list head coach for a bargain basement price. Athletic director Greg Byrne is known as one of the sharpest AD's in the country and it showed by shrewdly firing Mike Stoops early in the season following a loss to Oregon State. That allowed him to take his time to research candidates and see who would be the best fit, going so far as to seek out the opinions of the state's high school coaches. Former CBS Sports analyst Rich Rodriguez had taken West Virginia to the cusp of playing for a national title and though he had a rocky time in Ann Arbor, Michigan improved each year he was there. Now he's in Tuscon and while he has another rebuilding job ahead of him, his offense should fit right in out West.

Up the road in Tempe, Arizona State comes open after Dennis Erickson saw the Sun Devils slip from South division locks to barely bowl eligible. Injuries no doubt played a part in 2011's slide but with so many returning starters and upperclassmen on the team, things never did pull together like ASU brass thought it would. For years, this job was thought to be a sleeping giant with access to plenty of talent, decent facilities, a good city to live in and the ability to get plenty of recruits into school. Athletic director Lisa Love will likely target Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin as her first choice (he'll bring plenty of offense and has put Houston a game away from a BCS bowl) but it's possible former Oregon head coach Mike Belloti and even Mike Leach will get an interview.

If Leach's issues (lawsuits against Texas Tech and ESPN, perhaps too open of a personality) don't get him the job with Arizona State, he could be taking his talents to the Palouse. Paul Wulff inherited one of the worst programs in the country - BCS conference or otherwise - and turned Washington State around by steadily improving from year-to-year. They pulled a few upsets this season, including one over ASU that likely shoved Erickson out the door, and came close several other times but it appears they're looking to go in another direction. Leach will have some talent on offense that can utilize his system to put up some big numbers and he knows he can win with the Cougars after seeing Mike Price take them to the Rose Bowl. A West Coast guy, Leach can recruit California with ease and would provide plenty of interest in a program that hasn't had much at all the past couple of years. If he takes a job elsewhere however, AD Bill Moos might have to turn to an assistant coach or a lower-level head coach to fill the needs of a program that seems to be on the right track in a tough division.

Finally there's UCLA, which is probably the most attractive job that will come open west of the Mississippi. One of the few issues is the fact that athletic director Dan Guerrero is himself on shaky ground and may not be making the hire. After Saturday's embarrassing 50-0 loss to crosstown rival USC, it's clear that the gap Rick Neuheisel so recently talked about closing has never been bigger. The Bruins will play in the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game but based on how they played against the Trojans, it looks like they'll just be sacrificial lambs to an Oregon team in the top ten. When - not if - Neuheisel is let go following the game, the direction the school takes in finding his replacement will be an interesting one. Alumni are clearly fed up with the losing and have a prime opportunity to take advantage of local talent with USC entering scholarship reductions for the next three years. The facilities are good and few campuses in the country can compare to what they have in Westwood.

Boise State's Chris Petersen is the name frequently tossed around as the Bruins' top target but they have a better chance of knocking off Oregon and going to the Rose Bowl than they do landing Petersen. Boosters are ready to pony up the cash - as much as $3 million or more - but who's handling the search remains to be seen. After missing with his previous football hires, it's hard to see that being Guerrero. After Petersen, Sumlin seems like the top candidate but they'll have to move quickly. Leach, who went to school at Pepperdine and is well-connected in Los Angeles, still seems like a long shot due to his legal issues but he would certainly put people in the seats at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Off the radar candidates include Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, SMU's June Jones, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Belloti.

There are plenty of good jobs in the Pac-12 for the taking and someone is going to take them. Who and when remain to be seen.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Matt Barkley

In many ways, USC was perfect for Matt Barkley and he was perfect for USC. The blond-haired Southern California kid with a great smile not only was good enough to start as a freshman but he was such a well-spoken leader that he became the face of program as it was dragged down through NCAA sanctions. Saturday seemed to be as good as it gets for Barkley, who didn't plan on his career having as many ups and downs as it has but still managed to come out on top thanks to his talent and his attitude. The junior will have a decision to make, return for one more year with a top five team and lead USC back to glory or take his talents to the NFL (South Beach, perhaps?).

It is a win-win decision either way for the signal-caller. NFL millions or a Disney ending at one of the most prestigious programs in the country? It will take some time for him to reach a decision but if holding the sword and singing the fight song after a 50-0 win over crosstown rival UCLA is his final game in cardinal and gold, that's one heck of a way to go out on top.  

LOSERS: Dan Guerrero and Rick Neuheisel

Late in the 4th quarter, as UCLA was trying to make the score look somewhat presentable, athletic director Dan Guerrero was standing on the Bruins sideline with a blank stare on his face. He wasn't looking at anything in particular but it seemed clear that the 50-0 thrashing the Trojans had handed out was the low point in the season and maybe even Guerrero's tenure. It was made worse by the fact that Neuheisel said earlier in the week that the gap between the two programs had closed, only after his team had backed into the Pac-12 Championship Game thanks to some help from his former school Colorado. Another blowout loss likely awaits the boys in blue once they get to Eugene this week.

Saturday's loss ended any hope for Slick Rick to keep his job. Angry alumni might not stop at his job either, looking to take Guerrero down with him. Given the basketball team's underwhelming start to the year there could be even more turnover in Westwood. First to go however, is Neuheisel, who probably sealed his fate by saying in his post game press conference that he knew the team was in trouble from USC's first drive as Guerrero quietly looked on.

WINNER: Colorado seniors

Nobody on Colorado's roster had won a road game with the Buffaloes. It was a remarkable 23-game losing streak away from Boulder and was shed in improbable fashion Saturday afternoon against a Utah team that could be playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl had they ended up winning. The Buffs jumped out to an early 10-0 halftime lead, held a 254-39 total-yardage advantage and dominated in time of possession. They withstood the Utes comeback in the third quarter though and held on in a crazy fourth to eek out the victory and end the streak. The senior class, which had been through so much, ends their season at 3-10 but goes out on a high note with the win.

LOSER: Pac-12 Real Estate agents

Arizona has already filled their head coaching vacancy but real estate agents in Los Angeles, Tempe and Pullman are getting the for sale signs ready and preparing to unload a few expensive houses onto a down market.

They're going to have to be extremely good at their job because why would anybody in those cities want to buy Neuheisel's, Dennis Erickson's or Paul Wulff's house right now?

WINNER: Huskies

Washington
ended a three game skid with a nice win over their in-state rival Washington State to capture the 104th Apple Cup. The season was looking like it would be headed toward a disappointing finish after last week's loss to Oregon State and the Cougars had pulled to within 28-21. But Chris Polk scored a touchdown and the Huskies pulled away late to capture their third consecutive Cup. One thing Steve Sarkisian learned under Pete Carroll was to beat your rivals and as head coach at Washington he's done plenty of that.

LOSER: Rich Rodriguez


Yes he was just hired. And yes, the former CBS Sports analyst will probably do a great job in Tuscon. But still, if there was a "whoops" moment from his first week on the job, it came Saturday as he put on a sombrero as he was welcomed by the Wildcat faithful. It's no Josh Groban moment like he had at Michigan but it's not his greatest look either.

WINNER: Eugene Florists

Civl War
victory? Check. Hosting Pac-12 Championship Game? Check. Rose Bowl-bound? All signs point to yes. The Ducks knew they would likely be hosting the first ever conference title as soon as they walked off the field against Stanford. The loss to USC dampened their spirits but considering how the Trojans manhandled the Bruins - Oregon's opponent this week - it seems safe to say that there are going to be plenty of red roses sold across the state and, in particular, in Eugene. Another Pac-12 title awaits the boys in green and ???, as does a trip to Pasadena for a chance to beat one of the weakest Big Ten representatives in years. It's good to be a Duck fan but even better to be selling roses by the dozen in Eugene.



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