Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
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: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes
In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.
LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy
Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).
WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas
The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.
LOSER: Zach Maynard
California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.
WINNER: Barking for Sark
There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'
Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.
It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.
There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.
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Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Bryan Bennett, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, Chip Kelly, Chris Polk, Coliseum, Colorado, Darron Thomas, De'Anthony Thomas, Heisman, Jake Locker, Jeff Tedford, John White, Jon Embree, Jon Hays, Keith Price, Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Rose Bowl, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Tevin McDonald, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 9, Week 9 Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers, Zach Ertz, Zach Maynard
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
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.
Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.
#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET
It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi
#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET
These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli
Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET
Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race. The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility. Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender." But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson. Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown. The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson
Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET
At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen
#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF
#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET
Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF
#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET
CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH
#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ
Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET
Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH
Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET
The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP
#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET
The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer
Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET
If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET
Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Derek Dooley, Derek Moye, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Isaiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Justin Worley, Kansas State, Keith Price, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Foles, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Robert Woods, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tony Barnhart, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 24, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:52 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
We've reached the point of the college football season where those preseason watch lists we all remember from a few months ago start to whittle down to lists of semifinalists, and today we've got the 16 remaining contenders for the Davey O'Brien Award. The Davey O'Brien Award is given out annually by the Davey O'Brien Foundation to the best quarterback in the nation, and with all the great quarterbacks we've seen so far this season, it's not easy to cut this group down.
Though when you see the 16 names who made the cut below, you'll have a hard time arguing against any of them.
Matt Barkley, USC
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
Seth Doege, Texas Tech
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Case Keenum, Houston
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Keith Price, Washington
Denard Robinson, Michigan
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Darron Thomas, Oregon
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
It's a pretty nice group, and there isn't anybody in it who I'd argue should be taken out.
Tags: ACC, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Awards, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, C-USA, Case Keenum, Clemson, Darron Thomas, Davey O'Brien Award, Denard Robinson, Houston, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, SEC, Seth Doege, Stanford, Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Wilson, USC, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:38 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
STANFORD WON: So much for the Cardinal getting their first test of the year. Andrew Luck barely had to break a sweat (16-of-22, 169 yards, 2 touchdowns) as the Cardinal rampaged to 247 first-half rushing yards, a 38-14 halftime lead, and their 10th straight win by 25 points or better--the first such streak in Division I college football since 1936. Cardinal tailbacks Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney combined for 245 yards on just 19 carries, averaging an eye-popping timeouts 12.9 yards an attempt, and leading the Cardinal to a school-record 446 rushing yards.
WHY STANFORD WON: We mentioned the 247 first-half rushing yards and bulldozer job from Taylor and Gaffney, right? It's hard to lose with production in the ground game like that, and essentially impossible when that production is backed up by a passing game managed by Luck. If the Cardinal offensive line -- spearheaded by one surefire All-American in guard David DeCastro and potentially another in tackle Jonathan Martin -- isn't already considered one of the best if not the best in the nation, running for 446 yards against a top-25 defense that was averaging less than 100 yards allowed per-game should change that in a frightful hurry.
But that shouldn't totally obscure the effort made by the Stanford defense. Chris Polk broke loose for a pair of long first-half Huskie touchdowns, the latter a 61-yard burst that cut an early Stanford lead to 17-14. But the Huskies wouldn't score again until early in the fourth quarter (by which point the score was 48-14, and during which span the Cardinal D had outscored the Huskies 7-0), the Cardinal would finish the night up 3-0 in turnover margin, and after collecting more than 100 yards in the first two quarters Polk would finish with just 144.
WHEN STANFORD WON: Speaking of "outscoring the Huskies 7-0," Huskies were already in a 31-14 hole when they drove to the Stanford 38 and faced 2nd-and-1. Polk was stuffed for a loss of 3, setting up 3rd-and-4 ... on which Keith Price's pass was intercepted by Michael Thomas and housed. The Huskies went into halftime down 38-14, and were never, ever, ever going to mount that kind of comeback.
WHAT STANFORD WON: With Wisconsin going down in East Lansing and Oklahoma in legitimate trouble against Texas Tech as we type this, the Cardinal look more the part of a national title contender than ever before ... and a 44-point bludgeoning of a one-loss, top-25 team is a big, big part of that.
WHAT WASHINGTON LOST: Any real hope of winning the inaugural Pac-12 North, since the odds of the Cardinal dropping two league games while the Huskies run the table seems slim indeed.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 3:26 pm
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.
We hope you've starved yourself this week because you're going to need plenty of room in your stomach to get through this week's menu, and although we can't promise you anything featuring streaking referees and fighting, we're sure you'll find these meals as fulfilling just the same.
Missouri vs. #4 Oklahoma State - FX, 12pm ET
On paper this one may not seem all that interesting, but Missouri is yet to lose at home this season, and let's not forget that the Tigers knocked off Oklahoma in Columbia last season. It's possible that the Tigers could end another school from Oklahoma's title hopes again this Saturday. Of course, it won't be easy considering the offensive firepower that the Cowboys will be bringing with them. - Tom Fornelli
#7 Clemson vs. North Carolina - ESPN, 12pm ET
Clemson survived their first trap game on the road, marching back from 18 down against Maryland to prove - for the moment - this Tigers team is for real. Now they have a chance to return to the comfy confines of Death Valley for one last warm-up before traveling to Atlanta for arguably the toughest challenge left on the conference schedule in Georgia Tech. North Carolina doesn't run the option, but they do have a terrific ground game led by redshirt freshman Gio Bernard. Bernard has been sensational for the Tar Heels, and ranks third in the ACC with 109.57 yards per game. The Tigers, on the other hand, are one of the league's worst defenses against the run. North Carolina's defense has been beaten on the perimeter this season, and their weakness in the secondary will likely be their downfall with no answer for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins. - Chip Patterson
Purdue vs. #23 Illinois - ESPN2, 12pm ET
This game will be worth your attention. Bold statement, but it's true. Here's the deal: if Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins get their game back up, you'll want to watch, because that's the best QB-WR combination in the Big Ten. And if Scheelhaase and Jenkins get bottled up like last week, look out, because we might have an early upset on our hands, and those are a fun way to start a Saturday. See? Win-win scenario all the way. - Adam Jacobi
#1 LSU vs. #20 Auburn - CBS, 3:30pm ET
So Auburn has a defense with some success against LSU-style offenses, the host Tigers won't have Tyrann Mathieu or Spencer Ware, and the game's being played in bright, Death Valley-neutralizing sunlight. It's too bad Auburn is sending Clint Moseley out for his first career start at quarterback, or Gene Chizik's bunch could have made a real game of this. (if Moseley is a revelation? They still might. - Jerry Hinnen
#5 Boise State vs. Air Force - Versus, 3:30pm ET
Is there anybody left on Boise State's schedule that can knock the Broncos off? Maybe, but odds are that it won't happen this week as Air Force makes the trip up north to play on the blue turf. Still, even if Boise is likely to win this game, tuning in to see the Broncos playing a home game is seldom a choice to regret. - TF
Miami vs. #22 Georgia Tech - ESPN, 3:30pm ET
Miami turned the corner against Virginia Tech, and has been playing some of their best football of the season in the last three quarters. But they welcome a Georgia Tech team that got beat around by Virginia last week, and will be looking for a bounce back victory. This game is a must-win for the Yellow Jackets if they plan on competing for a Coastal Division title, and a must-win for the Hurricanes to establish some kind of momentum in a frustratingly inconsistent season. If Miami wants to pull the upset, they need to get Lamar Miller going on offense. A good rushing attack will keep Paul Johnson's pounding offense off the field, and after Miller was held to 29 yards against UNC last week he's due for a big game. - CP
#2 Alabama vs. Tennessee - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET
The drama and intrigue in this edition of the "Third" Saturday in October positively abounds: can the Vols score a touchdown? Can Trent Richardson break the 200-yard mark? Will Nick Saban decline to score a final humiliating touchdown out of respect for his old assistant, Derek Dooley? Has Smokey finally been fitted for the retina-protecting dog goggles (or "doggles") required by repeated visual exposure to Dooley's pants? (The actual and inevitable outcome, that we're not so intrigued by.) - JH
Notre Dame vs. USC - NBC, 7:30pm ET
One of college football's greatest rivalries gets a bit of a twist this season. For the first time in history, Notre Dame will be playing a night game in South Bend. Can Touchdown Jesus see in the dark? Also, emerging victorious could help catapult the winner back into the rankings, and for Notre Dame a win keeps its slim BCS hopes alive. - TF
#3 Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech - ABC, 8pm ET
This game features two offenses that both come into the game averaging more than 43 points a game, so if you're looking for a shootout to spend your evening with, this will likely be your game. The question will be if Seth Doege and the Texas Tech offense can still have as much success against an Oklahoma defense that's better than any other it has faced this season. - TF
#8 Stanford vs. #25 Washington - ABC, 8pm ET
Andrew Luck and Stanford haven't played a ranked team all year but that will change with Washington rolling into Palo Alto. The Huskies, with quarterback Keith Price and running back Chris Polk, will present a test for the stiff Cardinal defense that is missing a few key defenders. Of course, Luck has to be licking his chops to face the Pac-12's worst pass defense. - Bryan Fischer
#16 Michigan State vs. #6 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET
This could be the Big Ten's last, best hope to see Wisconsin get knocked off before the championship game -- and MSU just lost its top DE Will Gholston to a Big Ten-mandated suspension for punching Taylor Lewan last Saturday. Whoops! The rest of the Spartan defensive front is fierce, though, and perhaps we'll finally be able to see what happens when an opponent challenges Wisconsin for all four quarters this year. Perhaps. - AJ
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington State vs. Oregon State - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET
Oregon State is off to their worst start in years and Mike Riley and company are looking to turn things around while seeking revenge against a Washington State team that upset them last year and cost them a trip to a bowl game. The Cougars have been competitive in the first half of their last two games but the question is if they can finish against OSU. - BF
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Air Force, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Auburn, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Chris Polk, Clemson, Clint Moseley, DeAndre Hopkins, Derek Dooley, Gene Chizik, Georgia Tech, Gio Bernard, Illinois, Jerry Hinnen, Keith Price, Lamar Miller, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Mike Riley, Missouri, Mountain West, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pac-12, Paul Johnson, Purdue, Sammy Watkins, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, Seth Doege, Spencer Ware, Stanford, Taylor Lewan, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington State, Will Gholston, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:22 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
STANFORD WILL WIN IF: If they don't get off to a slow start. It took about a half for the offense to get going last week before Andrew Luck started picking apart the Washington State defense, often finding his tight ends. Establishing the run game and remaining balanced will be key. The defense will face their biggest test yet with the explosive Huskies offense and they'll need to contain running back Chris Polk if they want to slow them down.
WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: If the defense can create stops, the offense might be able to put up enough points for a road victory. The team was embarrassed last year in a 41-0 loss to the Cardinal and were simply out muscled by a superior Stanford team. Steve Sarkisian has brought along quarterback Keith Price quickly and the offense has plenty of weapons but this game will come down to Nick Holt's defense creating turnovers and forcing some three and outs.
X-FACTOR: The tight end position for both teams are a huge threat in the passing game. Stanford relies heavily on their trio, to the point that the wide receivers are rarely the first option. They can create big mismatches against smaller safeties or linebackers. For Washington, freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a big, athletic player who can help in the run game and make a few moves in the open field to find the end zone.
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: October 16, 2011 3:19 am
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: Oregon's ground game
When you look at the great programs in college football, whenever they had a string of great seasons, everybody would often say they just kept reloading year after year. In Chip Kelly's offense, it's safe to say that is just what the Ducks are doing right now. Nation's leading rusher out with an injury? That would be crippling to other schools but not for Oregon, who just gave Kenjon Barner the football and all he did was rush for 171 yards and a touchdown against one of the conference's best defenses. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas ran for 73 yards and two scores to give the Ducks their 15th straight win over a Pac-12 team.
LOSER: The Arizona State defense
The vaunted Sun Devils defense, despite losing several starters to injury, came into their primetime game against Oregon ranked second in the conference in several defensive categories and were 11th in the country in turnover margin. Of course, those stats were built up against opponents that don't run an offense anything close to what the Ducks run. They gashed ASU for 530 total yards, including 318 on the ground. ASU never seemed to create a stop in the second half and penalties (16 for 190 yards total) kept giving the Ducks extra chances. The schedule eases up going forward and they should be fine, but Dennis Erickson has to fix a few things if they end up running into Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game down the road.
WINNER: Keith Price
Jake Locker who? The Huskies' signal-caller continued to impress with his grasp of the offense, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers while routing Colorado 52-24. With Price making plays with his arm, Washington has now scored 30 or more points in their first six games - a new school record. He was fifth in the country in points responsible for and should move up on that list, just like he is on the single-season touchdowns thrown list at UW (he's fourth). Price could have padded his stats too had Steve Sarkisian not taken him out of the game before the end of the 3rd quarter. Many expected Washington to take a step back with Price under center but it looks like nothing could be further from the truth.
LOSER: Oregon State's rushing attack
While their in-state rival is running wild, the Beavers can't get anything going on the ground. Quarterback Sean Mannion had to pass the ball 43 times, rarity under Mike Riley before this season, in order to move the ball at all against BYU and was picked twice to give him nine on the year. Freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew returned to the lineup - he rushed for 223 yards in the opener - but that didn't matter at all as Oregon State managed just 59 yards total. Surpisingly, all-purpose threat James Rodgers had only one attempt and wasn't much of a factor at all. A road trip to Washington State for a revenge game might be the only chance the Beavers have at getting another win this year.
WINNER: John White
Another big performer on the ground in the Pac-12? I am sensing a theme among the winners. After taking a tough home loss to Arizona State, Utah went on the road for one of the rare mid-season non-conference games at Pitt. White rushed for 171 yards on 35 carries, one of the key reasons why the Utes held onto the ball for nearly 38 minutes against the Panthers defense that became worn out by the end of the game. Feeding White the ball was partly out of necessity, as the team was without leading receiver DeVonte Christopher and quarterback Jordan Wynn. Jon Hays was making only his second start ever at quarterback and first on the road as well. Considering the offensive line gave up seven sacks, it's clear they wanted to run block for White much more on a chilly day in Pittsburgh.
LOSER: Washington State's moral victories
Last week at UCLA, the Cougars gave up a late lead and saw a victory snatched from their grasp. This week against the conference's top team, Stanford, they were within three at halftime and were creating turnovers and playing Andrew Luck and company very tough. To cap it all off, the Cardinal returned a kick return for a touchdown on the final play of the game to make the score look even worse and push the Cougars' attitude even further down in the dumps. There was a thought that quarterback Jeff Tuel's return would provide a boost but he was mediocre most of the game and never could get the offense going against the stiff Stanford defense. Saturday was the second straight game where Washington State couldn't finish despite being in the game. Even though they were overmatched this week against a superior foe, the way the wheels came off late means there was no moral victory from hanging around early.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, BYU, Chip Kelly, De'Anthony Thomas, Dennis Erickson, DeVonte Christopher, Jake Locker, James Rodgers, Jeff Tuel, John White, Jon Hays, Jordan Wynn, Keith Price, Kenjon Barner, Malcolm Agnew, Mike Riley, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Pitt, Sean Mannion, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, UCLA, Utah, Washington, Washington State