Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:38 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Holiday Bowl
Texas running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron versus California linebacker Mychal Kendricks
There are plenty of match ups to watch for in this game but Texas' two running backs against the Pac-12 defensive player of the year should be a focus if you're watching at home. Both Brown (turf toe, knee) and Bergeron (hamstring) have been hurt and missed time during the second half of the season but have been practicing and should be full strength for the bowl game.
They're going to need to be 100% against Kendricks. The heart and soul of the Bears' defense, Kendricks was a big reason why the team was solid on that side of the ball despite having to replace several contributors. He averaged eight tackles a game and was third in the conference in tackles for loss at over one per game. His pass defense is pretty good too despite being a bit undersized at 6-foot, 240-pounds and learning the inside linebacker position this season after a few years on the outside.
Highly touted out of high school, Brown took most of the rushing load this season for the Longhorns and finished 7th in the Big 12 in yards. Bergeron was more of a surprise but did just as well, if not better, with fewer carries. The loss of Fozzy Whittaker put even more on the two freshmen and with both battling injuries, was a big factor in the offense slowing down.
Texas needs the ground game to be effective to take pressure off of their so-so quarterbacks and the Longhorns need Brown and Bergeron to be healthy and productive if they want a chance to win. They'll be squaring off against a great, experienced linebacker in Kendricks however. Should be a fun match up to watch.
You can read our complete Holiday Bowl preview here.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: This game is about a small measure of revenge for the Bears, after Texas successfully lobbied for a Rose Bowl bid over Cal in 2004. That doesn't matter much to the current players - some of whom were in middle school at the time - but it's not like they won't be properly motivated for the trip down to San Diego. The key for California to win lies on offense and if they can move the ball against a generally well-regarded secondary. Zach Maynard has been inconsistent at the quarterback position but has plenty of weapons to deliver the ball to.
TEXAS WILL WIN IF: After a disappointing end to the season, the Longhorns can still get a win and use it to build momentum during the offseason with a young team. The defense looked shaky against Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III but has performed much better than expected, topping the pass-happy Big 12 and finishing 14th in the country in total defense. Mack Brown knows how to prepare his team and win bowls (just one loss since 2003) and expect nothing less this time around.
THE X-FACTOR: Brown has already said that both of his quarterbacks, Case McCoy and David Ash, will see playing time at the Holiday Bowl. Neither has necessarily looked good throwing the football around so the health of the running game will be important against a very good Cal defense. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks may not be a name Longhorns fans know much about but he will be after the game as Texas tries to run the ball.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Pac-12 conference, which placed three teams in the top 10 in the first year as a 12 team league.
AwardsOFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford
A redshirt junior, Luck led the Cardinal to a second consecutive 11-1 regular season and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Against Notre Dame, Luck set a new school record for touchdown passes and broke the Stanford career record held by John Elway with 80 in three seasons. The Cardinal offense averaged 43.6 points per game this year and 480.9 yards of total offense and no one in the conference has meant more to an offense than Luck does to his. Thus, the future top draft pick is CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Player of the Year. Just as important, the native Texan also came back to complete his degree during his final semester on the Farm - in architectural design
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, California
A tackling machine during his time in Berkeley, Kendricks once again led the Bears in tackles and was fourth in the conference in tackles per game. He also had 13 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and helped lead the Cal defense to rank 27th nationally in total defense.
FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR
Marqise Lee (USC) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Both players from the Los Angeles area burst onto the scene early and produced highlight play after highlight play for their teams this season. Lee finished the season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns while paired with his former high school teammate Robert Woods. He was instrumental in USC's upset win over Oregon with 187 yards receiving and a total of 325 all-purpose yards. Thomas set a Ducks freshman record with 16 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,921 all-purpose yards to finish second in the Pac-12 to his teammate LaMichael James.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Lane Kiffin, USC
In his second season in charge of the Trojans, Kiffin has deflected criticism and NCAA sanctions to finish 10-2 and ranked in the top five in the country. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the country, USC finished 17th in the country in total offense in 2011 and the defense jumped nearly 30 spots nationally. Under Kiffin the team essentially won the Pac-12 South division and beat rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. USC lost to 4th-ranked Stanford in triple overtime but ended Oregon's 19-game winning streak.
Matt Barkley, USC
Wait, the player of the year wasn't the best quarterback? Such was the case in the Pac-12, which had an embarrassing amount of good signal-callers. Barkley took the leap to another level this season despite his two best wide receivers being underclassmen. The junior passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and threw for 3,528 yards. Though Barkley wasn't named a Heisman finalist or had the same load to shoulder in the offense like Luck, he makes the first team as the best quarterback in the conference. You could say the margin at quarterback was so thin between the two that Luck's receiving abilities put him over the top for player of the year.
LaMichael James, Oregon, and John White, Utah
Despite missing two games, James still led the conference in rushing with 1,646 yards - 242 yards more than second place White. The flashy Ducks running back also led the nation in yards per game and was third in total purpose yardage. In his first year in a BCS AQ conference, White certainly made a lasting impression as the focal point of the Utes offense that dealt with plenty of injuries.
Marquess Wilson, Washington State, and Robert Woods, USC
Here's a scary thought if you're a Pac-12 defense, four of the top five receivers in the league were either a freshman or sophomore. That includes Wilson and Woods (both sophomores) who turned in brilliant seasons that land both of them on the All-Pac-12 team. Wilson is a name many people don't know about because he plays on the Palouse but he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Woods was hampered by injury late in the year but still finished with a school and conference record 111 catches to go with his 15 touchdowns.
Coby Fleener, Stanford
It was pretty much a lock for one of the Cardinal's tight ends to fill this spot given their role in the offense. Fleener turned in a productive senior campaign, leading all tight ends in yards (648) and touchdowns (10). He also finished the year with an impressive 20.3 yards per catch.
Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Tony Bergstrom, Utah; Garth Gerhart, Arizona State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Matt Kalil, USC
There were plenty of great quarterbacks and offenses in the Pac-12 this year and one reason why was the abundance of great offensive linemen. Stanford allowed nine sacks all year while USC allowed a nation's best eight.
All-Pac-12 DefenseDEFENSIVE LINE
Dion Jordan, Oregon; Nick Perry, USC; Travis Long, Washington State; Star Lotulelei, Utah
Perry led the league in solo sacks with nine, good enough for 12th in the nation, and had 14 tackles for loss this season. Jordan wasn't too far behind him in terms of numbers and was an issue for opposing offensive lines all year. Lotulelei was the top nose tackle in conference and Long was one of the bright spots in an average Wazzu defense.
Mychal Kendricks, California; Chase Thomas, Stanford; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State
Kendricks was an impact player for Cal's stingy defense and Thomas led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. Hoffman-Ellis didn't put up gaudy stats but was a strength on the Cougars defense.
Nickell Robey and T.J McDonald, USC; Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett, Oregon
Despite his size, Robey locked up opposing receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw to the other side of the field while McDonald roamed around and delivered some vicious hits. The Ducks defense wasn't quite as sharp as it was last season but it was still tough to throw against Pleasant and Boyett, who helped Oregon finish with 16 interceptions.
PK Andre Heidari, USC; P Jackson Rice, Oregon; Returner De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Heidari made 15-of-17 field goals and every extra point this year. Rice led the Pac-12 in punting and was sixth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. Opponents returned just 12 of his punts and he was also named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the country's top punter. Thomas had two kick returns for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards a return.
Tags: 2011 CBSSports.com All-Conference Team, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Andre Heidari, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, CBSSports.com All-Conference Team, Chase Thomas, Coby Fleener, David DeCastro, De'Anthony Thomas, Dion Jordan, Eddie Pleasant, Garth Gerhart, Heisman Trophy, Jackson Rice, John Boyett, John Elway, John White, Jonathan Martin, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Marquess Wilson, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Mychal Kendricks, NCAA, Nick Perry, Nickell Robey, Notre Dame, Pac-12, Ray Guy Award, Robert Woods, Stanford, Star Lotulelei, T.J. McDonald, Tony Bergstrom, Travis Long, UCLA, USC, Washington State
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:11 am
Everybody is still trying to get used to calling it the Pac-12 but the football being played out West hasn't changed much at all from last year. Stanford still has the best player in college football and a punishing style of football that has them on the fringe of the national title race. Oregon continues to put up points faster than anybody and even if a few players are hurt, they just plug another player in to break big plays. There's been surprises too, like Washington doing just fine with new starter Keith Price under center. It's not as strong top-to-bottom as it was last year but there's plenty of quality football (and plenty of money) that Larry Scott couldn't be happier to watch.
With that, let's get onto the superlatives for the year thus far. There was plenty of competition every step of the way, and truth be told we could have handed out some ties on a lot of these categories, but if college football fans wanted ties we wouldn't have overtime, so here we go.
Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Stanford. The object of many NFL general managers affection, Luck has gone out and played nearly flawless despite a rebuilt offensive line and a brand new cast of wide receivers. He's tossed 18 touchdowns against just three interceptions and positioned the Cardinal for a Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000. Watch him pick apart any secondary on a nice Saturday afternoon and it's a thing of beauty. Without Luck, one wonders if Stanford even makes a decent bowl game so it's easy to see why he's the Pac-12 offensive player of the year at the halfway point. Also considered: LaMichael James, Oregon; Keith Price, Washington; Robert Woods, USC.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State. Burfict has built of a reputation for playing beyond the whistle and that sometimes overshadows how good he is between the lines. Despite losing several starters to the Sun Devils defense, the unit has still performed very well. He's much more dangerous on blitzes this season and is sixth in the conference in sacks. Burfict doesn't fill the stat sheet like others might but his impact on the field can be felt on every snap. Also considered: Chase Thomas, Stanford; Mychal Kendricks, Cal
Coach of the Year: Steve Sarkisian, Washington. Need to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history? No problem for this former signal-caller, who has the Huskies offense humming and off to a 5-1 start and an appearance in the top 25. They've got a tough stretch of games coming up but they're almost assured of going to a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Also considered: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; David Shaw, Stanford.
Surprise: Washington State. The conference bottom-dweller for so many years, the Cougars are much, much more competitive in 2011. They've won three games already and should be 4-2 but let a late lead slip at UCLA. There's still an outside shot of a bowl game but considering they're even this good despite quarterback Jeff Tuel has missed most of the season, returning just last week against Stanford. Also considered: Washington
Disappointment: Utah. Everybody knew it would be a difficult transition for the Utes to a BCS league and the week-in and week-out grid. But not everyone expected the injuries, such as a season-ending one to quarterback Jordan Wynn, and trailing off in the second half of just about every game. They went on the road and beat Pitt so maybe they'll have a little momentum headed into the back half of their schedule (which is much easier than the front half). Still, for a team some touted as the possible Pac-12 South winner, the .500 record isn't what was expected. Also considered: Oregon State; Arizona; Cal
Game of the Year (so far): Utah at USC. We wouldn't exactly call this a scintillating game but it had drama and was hard-fought until the end. The first ever Pac-12 conference game, it pitted the league's most storied member against the league's newest. There was plenty of drama, as the Utes drove down the field in a last-minute to set up a game-tying field goal. But the kick was blocked and, in a unsual series of events, run back by USC for a touchdown while officials signaled that the points would be taken off the board due to unsportsmanlike conduct. Only hours later was their mistake corrected and the points added to the final score, sending Las Vegas sports books into a frenzy. Also considered: Oregon vs. LSU, Arizona State at Oregon.
Game of the Year (to come): Oregon at Stanford. The defacto Pac-12 championship game, this is a top 10 match up with the winner likely headed to the Rose Bowl at the end of the year. The Cardinal led last year before the Ducks stormed back on their way to the national championship game. This year Stanford will likely be favored to win the game at home and they're better equipped to stop Oregon's high-powered offense with the Pac-12's best defense this year. Running back LaMichael James should be back in the starting lineup by then so this is a battle of Heisman trophy runners-up from last year in Luck and James. Also considered: Stanford at USC, Oregon at Washington.
North Division Champion: Stanford. See above, the division champion will be decided in Palo Alto in early November. Technically Washington still has an outside shot and they do host Oregon but they're not an elite team like the Ducks and Cardinal are. With Andrew Luck under center and an improved defense, the road to the first Pac-12 North title, and league championship, runs through Stanford. Also considered: Oregon.
South Division Champion: Arizona State. Thanks to a head-to-head win and USC being ineligible, the Sun Devils have locked up the South well before the end of the season. They don't have to play Stanford this season but in their first big test against elite team, they fell short against Oregon. Still, the schedule is easy the rest of the way and they will be favored to win out before playing at the North winner in the Pac-12 Championship game at 10-2.
Pac-12 Champion: Stanford. Having the best player in the league, the best defense in the league and the biggest game of the year sets up nicely for first year head coach David Shaw. Winning the inaugural Pac-12 title and a trip to Pasadena for Stanford's first Rose Bowl in over a decade would have been unexpected just two years ago but here the Cardinal are, in the driver's seat. They also have a chance to move into the top five and on the cusp of a national title appearance if still undefeated at the end of the year. Also considered: Oregon.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, Chase Thomas, David Shaw, Dennis Erickson, Jordan Wynn, Keith Price, LaMichael James, Larry Scott, Midseason Report, Midseason Reports, Mychal Kendricks, NFL, Oregon, Pac-12, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State
Posted on: August 11, 2011 9:10 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here is one writer's choices for the preseason All-Pac-12 team.
Andrew Luck, RsJunior, Stanford
For those that know him, Luck's decision to return to Palo Alto and pass up millions as the sure-fire first pick in the NFL Draft wasn't surprising. Following a season in which he passed for 3,338 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, the native Texan just wanted to complete his degree - in architectural design. The Heisman runner-up does a pretty good job on the field of designing plays that end in a completion (71% of the time last year). He's not bad at running the ball either but earns his spot on the first team as the top signal-caller in the Pac-12.
Also watch for: The conference of quarterbacks is a pretty appropriate for the Pac-12 considering there are a number of players who can give Luck a run for his money. USC's Matt Barkley is a possible first round pick as well and has a talented receiving corps at his disposal. Oregon's Darron Thomas will put up big numbers through the air and on the ground and could take the top spot by beating Stanford. Arizona's Nick Foles and Utah's Jordan Wynn are also in the conversation.
LaMichael James, RsJunior, Oregon
The Doak Walker Award Winner as the nation's best running back last season, James is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He was the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 1,731 yards and is in position to break just about every Oregon record left in the books. He's not the biggest back but he does deliver the most production on the field.
Chris Polk, Junior, Washington
Polk burst on to the scene with a 1,000 yard season his freshman year and ever since then has been in the conversation for all-conference honors. He can catch the ball out of the backfield (4th leading receiver last year) and it will be tough to stop him from having another big season with the Huskies' offense revolving around him.
Also watch for: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor was Toby Gerhart's replacement last year and should be able to build on a very good breakout season. Newcomer Rodney Stewart from Colorado is a bright spot for the Buffaloes and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin should put up some good numbers in the school's Pistol offense.
Robert Woods, Sophomore, USC
Woods wasn't even supposed to be the best receiver at his high school but he nevertheless turned into a Freshman All-American and was the Trojans' most consistent pass catcher. He should surpass his total of 792 receiving yards easily this year as Barkley's favorite target.
Jermaine Kearse, Senior, Washington
The speedy Kearse averaged 16 yards a catch last year in route to a 1,000 yard season as the Huskies most consistent receiver. He doesn't get the attention nationally that he deserves but with a talented receiver group around him in 2011, he could be freed up to torch a few secondaries even with a new quarterback.
Also watch for: Arizona's Juron Criner is 1c as far as Pac-12 receivers go. Marquess Wilson out of Washington State is the best receiver no one has heard of and sophomore Kennan Allen is a dynamic playmaker for Cal. If healthy, Stanford's Chris Owusu is in the mix, as is Oregon State's James Rodgers.
David Paulson, Senior, Oregon
Expected to take on a bigger role in the offense, Paulson has a great pair of hands and managed to sneak behind linebackers fairly often last year to average 17.4 yards a catch.
Also watch for: This position is surprisingly deep and even newcomer Ryan Deehan from Colorado could emerge as the top guy in his new conference. Oregon State's Joe Halahuni has to stay healthy but is a big target and Stanford's Coby Fleener will put up good numbers with Luck throwing to him all season.
Center Garth Gerhart, RsSenior, Arizona State
Named to the Remington Trophy Watch List, Gerhart is one of only three returning centers in the conference and is looking to step out of his older brother's (Heisman finalist Toby) shadow.
Guard David DeCastro, RsJunior, Stanford
The anchor for a line that only gave up 13 sacks all season, the Lombardi Award candidate is excellent in space while pass blocking.
Guard Ryan Miller, Senior, Colorado
Miller can play either guard or tackle and the mammoth 6-foot-8, 295-pounder is excellent in space and one of the top guards in the country.
Tackle Matt Kalil, RsJunior, USC
A possible first round draft pick if he chooses to leave early, Kalil has the size and the pedigree (older brother Ryan is a starter for the Carolina Panthers) to be the next great Trojan left tackle.
Tackle Tony Bergstrom, Senior, Utah
Bergstrom has started every game the past two seasons and did not allow a sack during the regular season.
Also watch for: Oregon guard Carson York is a key player for the Ducks and Bay Area tackles Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Mitchell Schwartz (Cal) give defensive ends fits all game long.
End Junior Onyeali, Sophomore, Arizona State
Not the biggest end on the field but he's a terror off the edge. With the quickness and speed of a linebacker, he's not someone the offensive tackle enjoys blocking.
End Datone Jones, RsJunior, UCLA
He missed all of last year with a broken foot but seems back and better than ever. He can play the run just as well as the pass and is the anchor for the Bruins' line.
Tackle Alameda Ta'amu, Senior Washington
The rock of the Huskies defense, he closed out the year strong. He ends up commanding double teams due to his size (6-foot-3, 337 pounds) and ability.
Tackle Justin Washington, Sophomore, Arizona
Washington has the quickness of an end but he's inside and makes his presence known. He had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss as a true freshman last season.
Also watch for: Colorado's Will Pericak and Josh Hartigan are a great tandem from Boulder and Washington State's Travis Long is under the radar but excellent as well. USC's Nick Perry and George Uko are both primed for a break out year.
Vontaze Burfict, Junior, Arizona State
There's talk of him being more mature and a better leader which is actually a bit scary for opponents considering he is one of the quickest, most instinctive linebackers in the game and someone you don't want to get hit by.
Shayne Skov, Junior, Stanford
Turned in a great sophomore campaign and is relentless with his pursuit of the play. He's an intense tackling machine who always seems to find himself around the football.
Mychal Kendricks, Senior, Cal
An experienced outside linebacker, he's sliding inside in the Bears' scheme this year. Athletic enough to be a disruption when dropping into coverage, Kendricks can also be found in the backfield. Often.
Also watch for: Patrick Larimore is the Bruins middle backer and their defensive stopper. Chaz Walker out of Utah and a healthy Chris Galippo from USC are both solid playmakers at times.
Corner Cliff Harris, Junior, Oregon
Though he's suspended for the opener, the ball-hawking corner will immediately give a boost to the Ducks secondary with his ability to cover receivers.
Corner Trevin Wade, Senior, Arizona
He had an off year last year but is the anchor of the secondary for the Wildcats and has good size and a knack for knocking away the ball.
Safety Delano Howell, Senior, Stanford
Howell has seen just about everything you can possibly throw at him and reads and reacts like the best of them. He's not just a cover guy either as he's a very good tackler.
Safety, T.J. McDonald, Junior, USC
One of the bigger players roaming the secondary, McDonald is following in his All-American father Tim's shoes. He's more comfortable in year two of Monte Kiffin's system and should see his level of play rise as a result.
Also watch for: Oregon's John Boyett is tough to face playing with Harris and Tony Dye at UCLA is a bright spot for the Bruins' defense last year.
Kicker Erik Folk, Senior, Washington
The strong legged Folk is perfect on his PATs for his career and is seems to always come through despite any pressure in late game situations.
Punter Bryan Anger, Senior, Cal
Annually in the running for the Ray Guy Award for best punter, Anger has a big leg and usually can pin opponents deep in their own territory.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Bryan Anger, Cal, Carolina Panthers, Carson York, Chaz Walker, Chris Galippo, Chris Owusu, Chris Polk, Cliff Harris, Coby Fleener, Colorado, Darron Thomas, Datone Jones, David DeCastro, David Paulson, Delano Howell, Doak Walker Award, Erik Folk, Garth Gerhart, George Uko, Heisman, James Rodgers, Jermaine Kearse, Joe Halahuni, John Boyett, Johnathan Franklin, Jonathan Martin, Jordan Wynn, Josh Hartigan, Junior Onyeali, Juron Criner, Justin Washington, Kennan Allen, LaMichael James, Lombardi Award, Marquess Wilson, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Mitchell Schwartz, Mychal Kendricks, NCAA, NFL Draft, Nick Foles, Nick Perry, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Pac-12 preview, Patrick Larimore, preseason All-Pac-12, Ray Guy Award, Remington Trophy, Robert Wooods, Rodney Stewart, Ryan Deehan, Ryan Kalil, Ryan Miller, Shayne Skov, Stanford, T.J. McDonald, Toby Gerhart, Tony Bergstom, Tony Dye, Travis Long, Trevin Wade, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State, Will Pericak