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Tag:Arizona State
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:27 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2010 2:00 pm
 

Can Beavers pull off the shocker of the season?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's basically two candidates for the upset of the 2010 college football season: James Madison taking out Virginia Tech , just the second-ever victory for an FCS team over a ranked opponent, and Nevada ruining Boise State 's dream season with their wild overtime victory.

But neither of those would hold a candle to a hypothetical Oregon State victory over the top-ranked Oregon juggernaut the Beavers will host in Corvallis this Saturday, in the 114th edition of the Civil War. The Ducks are, of course, a perfect 11-0, boast the top-ranked offense in the country, and one hiccup at Cal aside have won their other 11 games by an average of 32 points. Oregon State, meanwhile, is a disppointing 5-6 and is coming off a 38-0 humiliation at the hands of Stanford .

But the Civil War has some history of chaos , particularly when one team or the other is on the cusp of a championship. Could the Beavers make it happen? It won't be easy, but it won't be impossible, either. Here's what they'll have to do:

Shorten the game with Rodgers. It's mostly beside the point to say the Beavers need to "control the clock"; Chip Kelly 's hyperdrive offense scores so quickly that even gaining more yards than any other attack in the country, the Ducks still rank 103rd in the FBS in time-of-possession. But OSU will have to hog even more of the ball than the Ducks normally concede, because the more possessions Oregon can pack into the game, the more cracks they get at the Beaver end zone, the more fatigued the OSU defense will get as the game wears on, and the greater the toll the Ducks' superior talent will take. OSU needs to approach the game the way a Princeton-offense basketball team would a first-round NCAA Tournament game; the fewer possessions there are, the greater impact one or two fortunate bounces and big plays could have in the underdogs' favor.

So how do the Beavers do that? The heaviest dose possible of Jacquizz Rodgers . The Beavers' dynamo has been at his best in big games in the past, and will have to be again to keep the chains moving, the clock running, and the Duck offense off the field.

Rattle the Ducks on the road. Oregon has been incredible just about everywhere, but they've been far more vulnerable on the road than at home in their virtually-impregnable Autzen Stadium fortress. They allowed more than 600 yards to Arizona State in Tempe in their worst defensive performance of the season, winning largely on the strength of a cavalcade of Sun Devile errors that led to six turnovers; the Ducks' worst offensive performance came in Berkeley, where they managed just one offensive touchdown and anaverage of 3.8 yards per-play, nearly two yards lower than their next-worst performance.

The Beavers haven't been particularly good at home -- their decisive loss in Corvallis to Washington State is probably the single worst performance in Pac-10 play this season -- but if they can play with enough emotion and energy early to keep the crowd well in it, the Ducks have shown they might not respond all that well.

Win the special teams battle. This is much easier said than done with All-American Duck returner Cliff Harris around, but special teams have typically been a Mike Riley strength -- they kept the Beavers competitive in their meeting with Boise almost singlehandedly -- and they simply can't afford to lose this phase of the game when they have such an uphill climb on first-through-third down. Preventing a big Oregon special teams play and making one or two of their own would go a long, long way towards evening the scales.

Sell out against the run. With an offense as powerful as Oregon's, there's no good way to defend it; packing the box means that Darron Thomas will have more opportunities to hit a backbreaking pass downfield. But the only time Oregon's been halfway contained -- in the aformentioned trips to Cal and Arizona State -- it's started with limiting LaMichael James and the Duck running game, which averaged just 3.47 yards an attempt vs. the Sun Devils and an ugly 2.95 vs. the Bears. The Beavers' star defensive tackle Stephen Paea will need to play the game of his life.

Don't turn the ball over. A team like OSU simply won't beat a team like Oregon wasting possessions and helping the Duck offense with turnovers. There's not much else to say there.

Even if Oregon State does all of the above, they're still not likely to actually emerge with more than a moral victory; Oregon is just that good. But they'll at least have a fighting chance, and if they catch a couple of breaks with the officials and in the turnover department, who knows? There could be one more shocker left in the college football season after all.


Posted on: November 30, 2010 4:09 pm
 

Paul Wulff may be on way out, per Paul Wulff

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

On paper, the stakes don't look all that high for this year's edition of the Apple Cup : Washington is 5-6 and a Pac-10 afterthought (again), and 2-9 Washington State is just hoping for another small step forward on the road to respectability. The Iron Bowl this is not.

But for the teams involved, this will be the biggest game of the year. The Huskies have a chance to end a bowl drought dating all the way back to 2002, an unthinkably long dry spell for a team with Washington's Pac-10 pedigree, and send seniors like Jake Locker off on a high note. The rest of the Pac-10 will have a vested interest in a Husky victory as well; of the league's three 5-6 teams aiming for bowl eligibility this weekend -- Washington, Arizona State , and Oregon State -- the Huskies have by far the easiest task with the Sun Devils facing Arizona and the Beavers the Oregon juggernaut.

But to hear Wazzu head coach Paul Wulff tell it, there still might be more on the line on the Cougar sideline, or at least for Wulff himself. As tweeted by the Seattle Times 's Bob Condotta:
Wulff, on Pac-10 conference call, says he's confident in the job he has done, but stops short of saying he knows for sure that he will be back next season. Said no question that WSU will be a bowl team next season.
Putting aside the 2011 bowl talk (which would represent a quantum leap forward for a program that's still being outscored 34-18 on average in conference play), you'd think Wazzu would be happy to keep Wulff in place. The Cougars have consistently played hard for him, have dramatically improved the past two seasons (that average conference score for Wazzu in 2008? 50-9 ), have loads of Wulff's recruits returning next season, and frankly won't have a lot of top-tier candidates beating down their doors to coach on the Palouse if Wulff is dismissed.

But Wazzu athletic director Bill Moos has declined to make any kind of assurances that Wulff will be returning. That, paired with Wulff's own lack of confidence in his job status, would seem to point the tea leaves in the direction of Wulff's firing. After all, we saw this same movie a few days ago, when Vanderbilt 's Robbie Caldwell surprised many by saying midweek that he might be coaching his last game at Vandy; sure enough, he was gone before the week was out.

The good news for Wulff? An upset victory over the Cougars' most hated rival in front of the Wazzu faithful (the very faithful, by this point) would make Moos's decision to let him go dramatically more difficult, and maybe impossible. Wulff could quite possibly still save himself, even if it's highly debatable he ought to need saving in the first place.

Posted on: November 19, 2010 2:03 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2010 2:03 pm
 

Dennis Erickson will return in 2011

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson has found the seat he's on to be rather hot this season, as Erickson's Sun Devils are 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in Pac-10 play. Last month Erickson received a vote of confidence from ASU AD Lisa Love, and on Friday he got an even bigger indication from Love that he'll be back on the sidelines in 2011.

Love was on 620 KTAR in Arizona on Friday, and she put any rumors of Erickson being fired to rest.

"I still support Dennis Erickson," Love said. "You bet I do. You've got to allow someone to go through the entire process. I'm impressed, by the way, with the process, the recruiting roster, the level of talent and the stable of redshirts we now are able to have. As opposed to the last two years of playing true high school freshman. It's been rewarding to watch. 

"I can tell you it's grueling to climb. It is grueling in a conference that is getting even more challenging to climb. I am absolutely confident, and Dennis Erickson has been since the day he walked in the door, that we will soon be ‘popping' relative to our competitiveness in ASU football. I have faith that we are going exactly in that direction and I have faith in Dennis to get us there."

What about the rumors that Erickson is going to be fired?

"You can put those rumors to rest."

Erickson has been at Arizona State since 2007 when the Sun Devils went 10-3 and lost to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.  Since then, however, the Sun Devils have gone 13-21 and haven't been to a bowl game since.
Posted on: November 15, 2010 12:57 pm
 

Bruin "would probably quit football" if no bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every December, the same complaint is brought up by pundit after pundit pining for ye olden golden days of yore when men were men, women made sandwiches, and fewer than a dozen college football teams were rewarded with bowl invitations: There's too many bowl games .

Putting aside the discussion of whether more college football is ever a bad thing, this argument ignores the reason (or one of the major ones, anyway) why bowl games sprang into existence in the first place: to reward college fotball players for their effort and success. And believe it or not, those players appreciate -- really appreciate -- the chance to play in even the most low-rent of those bowl games. Just ask UCLA and sophomore free safety Rahim Moore :
"If we didn't make a bowl game, I would probably cry the whole off-season ... Freshman year, I watched every bowl game and it was the worst feeling ever. For us not to finish strong and get to a bowl game, I would probably quit football. That's how bad it would feel."
Note that Moore isn't going to either cry all off-season or quit football if the Bruins don't qualify for a good bowl; they're merely aiming for a 6-6 record (sitting at 4-5, they'll need to take two of three from Washington , Arizona State , and USC ) and somewhere to go for the postseason. (Our CBSSports.com bowl projections do have the Bruins slotted for a respectable trip to El Paso for the Sun Bowl , thanks in part to the Pac-10 earning a second BCS berth with Stanford ).

It's more than a little doubtful, of course, that Moore would seriously consider abandoning his football career if the Bruins don't earn a berth to Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl . But nonetheless, the sentiment expressed by Moore (and his UCLA teammates) makes clear how badly the players on even middle-of-the-road teams want the carrot of a bowl game. It's fine to argue there's too many bowl games on the annual docket, but it has to be remembered that for each fewer bowl game, that's two more teams of Moores who have spent the weekly hourly equivalent of a full-time job during the season and gotten as a bonus the chance to spend their December watching their opponents on TV.

Posted on: November 14, 2010 1:36 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 1:37 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 13)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. Oregon can win ugly, too. To be fair to the Ducks, they weren't exactly dominated in their 15-13 win in Berkeley; they outgained Cal by more than 100 yards, held the Bears to 193 yards total and a miserable 2.5 yards per-pass, and only gave up a second touchdown on a Darron Thomas fumble in the end zone.

But they also scored their only first-half touchdown on a Cliff Harris punt return, averaged a stunningly weak 2.9 yards per-carry, eked out the final two-point margin by virtue of their made two-point try and Cal's failed attempt, and could have easily lost if not for Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio short-circuiting his own 24-yard field goal with a stutter-step procedure penalty and missing the subsequent 29-yard try. Every national title contender has to win games when they're not at their best, but Oregon was so far away from their best Saturday night they'd have to send it a postcard.

In the end, it didn't matter, as behind Thomas and a hobbled LaMichael James the Ducks changed philosophies on the fly to a clock-churning, yards-chewing ground-exclusive outfit that ate up the game's final 9:25 on one drive . That kind of versatility could prove to be the difference between a national champion and a slip-up before Glendale ... even if the Ducks would prefer not to have to put it to use again until there's a crystal football awarded to the victor.

2. Washington State should keep Paul Wulff.
Let's be fair: the Cougars' rehabilitation, even after their 31-14 upset-of-the-Pac-10's year against Oregon State today, is progressing verrrrry ... sloooooooowly. One FBS win in 2008, that one over winless Washington. One in 2009, over SMU in overtime. Until today, none in 2010.

But that hasn't meant it hasn't been progressing at all . After getting totally obliterated on a weekly basis two years ago, the Cougars have been substantially more competitive this season: 42-28 vs. UCLA , 43-23 vs. Oregon, 38-28 vs. Stanford , 20-13 vs. Cal. You could see the game coming where the Cougars put everything together and took down some unsuspecting favorite. And that game came today: quarterback Jeff Tuel had the game of his career, hitting 10-of-15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding 79 yards in the ground; the rest of a surprisingly productive run game chipped in 142 yards and three touchdowns; and the much-maligned Cougar defense forced three turnovers, hounded Beaver quarterback Ryan Katz into a quiet 12-for-21 performance, and held the Beavers to 261 yards overall. Unexpected as Wazzu's triumph might have been, especially coming in Corvallis, it was no fluke.

So maybe progress has been slow. But it's there. Wulff has Wazzu pointed in the right direction, and after today he deserves at least one more season to see how far in that direction he can go.

(As for the Beavers, well, TCU and Boise would like a refund, please.)

3. Arizona State is the Pac-10's hard-luck team. The Sun Devils have had a couple of games in which they outgained their opponent by wide margins and lost, but today wasn't one of them; visiting Stanford enjoyed a 420-268 yardage advantage. But this is still a team that lost at Wisconsin on a late missed extra point; gave away an excellent shot at a huge upset of Oregon with a flood of turnovers; lost to Oregon State when a late drive ended in an interception; to USC on a late missed field goal. You'd think that eventually Dennis Erickson 's team could buy a break, and when the Devils went up 13-10 late in the third quarter on a Steven Threet touchdown pass, it looked like that break might finally be coming.

But it wasn't: the Cardinal took over on their 15 and went 85 yards to score an Owen Marecic touchdown with just over five minutes remaining. ASU's following drive went nowhere, and Stanford picked up three first downs to ice the game. The Sun Devils have now played the BCS's Nos. 1, 6, and 7 teams and lost by a total of 16 points. But they'll still have to sweep their final two games vs. UCLA and at Arizona just to make a bowl game.

4. This isn't Mike Stoops' breakthrough season, either. Arizona has famously never been to the Rose Bowl, but even if Oregon made clear the Wildcats aren't getting there this year relatively early, Stoops could have still hoped for his first 10-win season and top-20 final ranking -- goals his team looked well on their way to fulfilling after their early-season win over Iowa .

Since then, though, the Wildcats have gone a ho-hum 4-3 with two of those wins over the Washington schools and the latest result a dispiriting 24-21 home loss to USC. The Trojans aren't a bad team by any means, but if the Wildcats want to be taken seriously as Pac-10 contenders, winning home games against their fellow upper-end-of-the-pack rivals (not to mention avoiding getting outrushed 205-51) is a step they'll have to take. Unless Arizona pulls a shocker in Eugene next weekend, eight regular season wins will be the ceiling.

Again.



Posted on: November 12, 2010 4:47 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 11

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

I know you couldn't tell if you have been following the news in college football this week, but there are actually games to be played on Saturday.  I know, I didn't believe it either, but it's true.  There's more to college football than just off the field issues concerning agents, players asking for money, and the NCAA possibly punishing those players because the only people allowed to make money from this sport are the NCAA, not those punk kids who make it for them.

But I promise you, there are games ON the field as well.  Here are some of the best ones for you to watch on Saturday in between updates on what Cam Newton may or may not have done.

Breakfast

Main Course - Northwestern vs. #13 Iowa - Noon - ESPN

Looking at this game on the surface, it doesn't seem all the impressive.  Northwestern is currently in eighth place in the Big Ten, and has lost three of its last four games.  What's the big deal?

Well, Iowa isn't out of the Big Ten title hunt.  This game means a lot to the Hawkeyes for both their BCS aspirations and it provides therapeutic value.  You see, Northwestern has been a thorn in Iowa's side for years now, as Northwestern has won four of the last five meetings.  That includes last season when the Wildcats knocked Ricky Stanzi out for the last three games of the regular season, and handed Iowa its first loss.  Which eventually led to Stanzi missing the Ohio State game and a chance to win the Big Ten.

Side Orders: Not a lot of great choices this morning, but not as terrible as it has been in recent weeks.  There's Missouri and Kansas State who both have a remote chance to win the Big 12 North, but a loss in this game would kill either's chance.  There's also Miami taking on Georgia Tech, and the 'Canes can't afford to lose if they want a chance to play for the ACC title.  If those don't do it for you, I guess you could watch West Virginia and Cincinnati in the latest installment of "The Big East Presents: Something That Is Supposed to Resemble Football."

Lunch

Main Course - #2 Auburn vs. Georgia - 3:30pm - CBS

Listen, you've spent all week hearing about Cam Newton anyway, so why wouldn't you want to actually watch him play this week against Georgia?  I mean, when you think about it, you can't really be sure how many more chances you'll get to see Newton play at Auburn, so you should probably take advantage while you still can.

Oh, and there's also the fact that Auburn is still alive for a national championship, and with a win against Georgia, the Tigers would wrap up the SEC West and a trip to Atlanta.

As for Georgia, hard as it is to believe given the way it started the season, is only one win shy of being bowl eligible.  What a better way to do it than by knocking off the top team in the conference and destroying any chance they have to play for a national title?

Side Orders: There are some other quality non-Cam Newton related games going on during the afternoon as well.  Ohio State hosts Penn State, looking to keep hopes alive for a Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl.  Oklahoma looks to right the ship at home against Texas Tech, and Virginia Tech can just about wrap up the ACC Coastal with a win at North Carolina.

Dinner

Main Course - #24 Florida vs. #22 South Carolina - 7:15pm - ESPN

The SEC East has been wide open all season long, but finally, it all comes down to one game on Saturday night in Gainesville. 

Even though it's been a down season for Florida compared to recent standards, the Gators still have a chance to get to Atlanta and win another SEC title should they get past the Gamecocks. On the flip side, Steve Spurrier still has a chance to win the SEC East and the SEC for the first time as head coach at South Carolina.

South Carolina hasn't played well since knocking off Alabama last month, but it still has a chance to salvage the season if it can knock off the Gators.

Side Orders: Plenty of other good games going on Saturday night if you prefer to look elsewhere.  Alabama can shake off the disappointment of last week's loss against LSU by knocking Mississippi State down a peg, and speaking of disappointment, Texas can boost its morale with a win over Oklahoma State as well.  There's also Oregon looking to stay undefeated at Cal, Arizona hosting USC and Stanford rolling in to Arizona State in the Pac-10.

Late Night Snack

Listen, I've developed a slight infatuation with Colin Kaepernick this season.  It's just every time I see him running down the field I can't help but think of an ostrich, and this amuses me to no end.  Why?  I don't know, it just does.  Tune in to see Kaepernick and Nevada take on Fresno State on Saturday night and find out if you see it too.
Posted on: November 9, 2010 10:46 am
Edited on: November 9, 2010 10:47 am
 

Arizona State punter busted for DUI

Posted by Tom Fornelli

When Arizona State was in Los Angeles losing to USC on Saturday night, it was without its punter.  Trevor Hankins, who is third in the nation with a 47.09 yards per punt average, didn't make the trip, but there had been no explanation for his absence from Dennis Erickson or the team.  We have one now, though.

The good news is that Hankins isn't hurt.  The bad news is that he's currently suspended following an arrest for DUI.

Hankins was pulled over at 1:23am on Friday morning in Scottsdale after making two u-turns and drifting into another lane.  When the police pulled him over, Hankins told them that he was on the way to pick up a couple of friends who were too drunk to drive themselves, and that he pulled the U-turns because he thought he left his wallet at a store.

Hankins also admitted that he'd had some drinks earlier in the night, and after subjecting Hankins to some tests, the police then arrested him for "driving while impaired to the slightest degree."  

As for when Hankins will be allowed to return to the team, Dennis Erickson said during his press conference on Monday that he wanted to talk to Hankins before making a decision about this week's game against Stanford.  So unless Hankins shows up to that conversation impaired to the slightest degree, I'd expect him to be back for the Stanford game.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 11:56 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2010 1:21 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 6)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. The biggest game of the league's season was played back on Oct. 2. And Oregon won it, 52-31 over Stanford . By this point, with the Ducks at least two games up on the rest of the league (and three on everyone but the Cardinal as soon as they dispose of Arizona ) and second-place Stanford two games up on everyone trailing them , there's absolutely no question who the best two teams in the conference are. Not that the league's schedule-makers could have forseen the Ducks' and Cardinal's dominance, but after a few seaosns with massive (and massively hyped) late-season showdowns with Rose Bowl berths on the line, this season whatever attention the Pac-10 garner will come exclusively from Oregon's run at Glendale.

2. Speaking of which, Oregon is the nation's best second-half team. We'd seen this movie before, against Tennessee , against Stanford, against USC: the Ducks look vaguely sluggish for 30 minutes or slightly more, and just as it appears they might be in genuine trouble, they floor it. Today's edition : a scoreless first quarter, couple of turnovers, an 18-13 lead early third quarter ... and three Duck touchdowns before the period is up, with two more just for fun in the fourth to end the game on 35-3 run. Your final: 53-16. Chip Kelly says he wants to wear his opponents out and crush them down the stretch, and whaddya know, that's what his teams do.

It won't be surprising if Cal or Oregon State take an early lead with the Ducks on the road, won't be a total shock if they carry an edge into the break, or even if they're up after 45 minutes. But we're long past the point where we can expect any team remaining on Oregon's schedule to play them even over the full 60 minutes.

3. Maybe Cal isn't schizophrenic. Maybe they just hate the road. The Bears went up to the Palouse today and nearly handed Paul Wulff his first Pac-10 win in his three seasons at Wazzu , falling behind 10-7 at the half and leading only 14-13 entering the fourth quarter before squeaking by 20-13 . New starting quarterback Brock Mansion didn't make anyone forget the injured Kevin Riley , hitting only 12-of-24 with a pair of picks against the league's worst defense.

Truthfully, we already knew Cal was terrible on the road; the win snapped a six-game losing streak away from Berkeley. But even "six-game losing streak" doesn't quite say "terrible on the road" the way "seven-point win over Washington State" does.

4. Stanford's defense is maybe the league's most underreported story. The Cardinal defense in 2009: 403 yards allowed per-game, 90th in the country. The Cardinal defense in 2010: 330 yards allowed per-game, 30th in the country. And that was before they held Arizona to just three first-half points and no touchdowns until the Stanford offense had already built a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter.

No question that between the likes of Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu and Stepfan Taylor and Jim Harbaugh 's precision pro-style attack,  the Cardinal is an offense-first team. But the difference between last year's 8-5 Sun Bowl team and this year's potential 11-1 BCS at-large selection is almost entirely the work first-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has done with his starless unit.

5. Oregon State is just another team. The early read on the Beavers was that after near-impossible assignments at Boise State and TCU but a vindication win at Arizona, Mike Riley 's team was better than their record, as they usually are in mid-October.

But after losing in overtime at Washington (losers at home to Arizona State and big losers at home to Stanford and Nebraska ) and now 17-14 at previously-reeling, 3-5 UCLA , it's time to acknowledge that the Beavers aren't top-25 material. In fact, at 4-4 and with games still to come against the Ducks, Cardinal, and Trojans, they may not even be bowl material.

6. Matt Barkley is in a slump. USC escaped Arizona State's upset bid 34-33 late Saturday thanks to some huge plays in the field goal department -- a blocked extra point returned for two Trojan points, a game-winning Joe Houston field goal, a wayward Sun Devil attempt with 90 seconds to play -- but the Trojans won't survive their grueling late-season stretch (starting with next week's visit to Arizona) without better play from their sophomore quarterbacking prodigy. Barkley threw three touchdowns against the Sun Devils, but also threw a pair of interceptions and settled for a mediocre average of 5.8 yards per-pass. Barkley has only dipped below the 7 yards-per-attempt mark three times this season, but it's happened each of the last two weeks. Those two games also account for half of his eight picks for the year. Where's the gunslinger who carpet-bombed Cal and nearly took down Stanford in Palo Alto?

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