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Tag:Paul Wulff
Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 6:49 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 7 Oregon 43, Washington State 28

Posted by Chip Patterson

OREGON WON. After entering halftime with a 15-10 lead, Oregon's offense took off under the leadership of Brian Bennett as the Ducks pulled away with a 43-28 win over Washington State. The Cougars got inspired play from their own backup quarterback, Marshall Lobbestael, who threw for 337 yards on the Oregon defense. But despite Washington State's best effort on the road, the Ducks were too much to handle in the Pac-12 North matchup on Saturday afternoon.

HOW OREGON WON: The big news heading into the game was the return of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James in the Oregon backfield. Thomas was replaced by Brian Bennett in the second half after throwing two interceptions, and James never really hit his rhythm on the ground. Instead it was the play of Kenjon Barner, Lavasier Tuinei, and De'Anthony Thomas in the second half that helped Oregon pull away from a feisty Washington State squad.

WHEN OREGON WON: Near the end of the third quarter, Washington State finished off an impressive seven play, 70 yard drive with a 24 yard touchdown pass from Lobbestael to Jared Karstetter. The score cut Oregon's lead to 29-20 and the Cougars seemed poised to give the Ducks a scare. But few things will deflate an underdog like a big special teams play, and when De'Anthony Thomas took the ensuing kickoff right back for an Oregon touchdown the Ducks assumed control for the rest of the game.

WHAT OREGON WON: If Darron Thomas and LaMichael James were going to be rusty in their first appearance back on the field, at least it was against Washington State. Oregon's case as "the best one-loss team" was not helped with their lackluster performance at home, but at least the rough transition did not cost the Ducks a victory. The story of Oregon's season will be written in the coming weeks, with Washington, Stanford, and USC ahead on the schedule. At least head coach Chip Kelly was able to give Thomas and James a test-run before these must-win conference battles.

WHAT WASHINGTON STATE LOST: A chance for a historic win. For Washington State to beat Oregon in Autzen - with a backup quarterback, no less - would have been tremendous for the program. Unfortunately, head coach Paul Wulff has to try and spin this one into yet another "moral victory."

THAT WAS CRAZY: The first half was just odd, with Darron Thomas struggling to get settled against Washington State's defense and the Ducks failing to produce more than one offensive touchdown. The defense also did not look as aggressive as usual, allowing the Cougars to dictate the pace offensively. You could chalk the performance up to "coming out flat," but it is definitely reason for Oregon fans to be concerned with huge games in the weeks ahead.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Washington State at Oregon

Posted by Chip Patterson

OREGON WILL WIN IF: They maintain their speed and pace on both sides of the ball. Washington State is at a disadvantage in most aspects of this matchup, and nothing exposes them more than keeping them on their heels. The Ducks were able to pound Colorado with backup quarterback Brian Bennett in place of Darron Thomas and without LaMichael James.  I expect that even if James and Thomas sit again there will be a similar result. After starting 3-1, the Cougars are reeling right now on a three-game losing streak. If the Ducks start fast and jump out to an early lead I don't expect Paul Wulff's squad to be the type to mount a big comeback in Autzen Stadium.

WASHINGTON STATE WILL WIN IF: Washington State might be down a quarterback as well Jeff Tuel's availability for Saturday depends on the status of his left shoulder. Tuel needs to be 100 percent (he also is suffering from a sore calf) for the Cougars to run their offense, and their defense has to spend this week in practice getting ready to play at Oregon's speed. By my calculations, the best chance Washington State has of beating Oregon on Saturday is if Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, Brian Bennett, Tre Carson, David Paulson, and the Ducks' entire first-string defense decide to sit out. Seriously.

X-FACTOR: This is final warm-up before the Ducks face the toughest challenges on their Pac-12 schedule. After what I expect to be a multi-touchdown victory in Autzen, Oregon goes on the road to face Washington, Stanford, and then hosts USC in consecutive weeks. It will be interesting to see if head coach Chip Kelly decides to use Darron Thomas and/or LaMichael James against the Cougars, and if so in what capacity. The Ducks should be able to win handily without them, but Kelly could use the softer competition to get them back to game speed before hitting the road next week.

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 10:55 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 44, Washington State 14

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WON. It was a first half to forget for Stanford as they turned the ball over and just didn't look sharp at all on their second Pac-12 road trip. David Shaw and his staff must have made some pretty good adjustments in the Martin Stadium locker room though, as they rolled in the second half to beat a much-improved Washington State team. Andrew Luck didn't look like a Heisman front-runner but got better as the night went on and finished 23 of 36 for 336 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

WHY STANFORD WON. The Cardinal offense didn't come through until late but the defense played very well the entire night, holding the Cougars to just over three yards a play on the night and just 256 yards total. Luck came on late and put up some solid numbers by finding his trio of tight ends; Coby Fleener finished with four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown while Levine Toilolo only caught two passes but both were for scores.

WHEN STANFORD WON. This was a much tougher game for the Cardinal than many would have expected. The Cougars defense played well during the first half and forced several turnovers to go into halftime down just three. Then Luck and the offense started to pick things up after making a few adjustments. They took their second drive right down the field thanks to Luck getting his trio of tight ends involved, going 90 yards in just four plays before Toilolo caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone to cap the drive off. The pair hooked up again later in the 3rd for a touchdown to put the game away.

WHAT STANFORD WON. Still undefeated, Stanford remains on the fringe of the national title race and certainly controls their own destiny in the race for the first ever Pac-12 championship. The BCS rankings come out this weekend and it will be interesting to see where they wind up behind the top three of LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma.

WHAT WASHINGTON STATE LOST. It was another game that the Cougars were in, trailing 10-7 at half, but lost late. There's no such thing as moral victories for Paul Wulff's win-loss record as he tries to keep his job but it's clear that WSU is playing much better this season than they have in recent memory. They still have an uphill fight for bowl eligibility but there are signs of progress on the Palouse.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Stanford extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games with the victory.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Keys to the game: Stanford at Washington State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: They come out and execute like they have been for the past several years. They have the country's best quarterback in Andrew Luck and the conference's toughest defense (just 10.6 points per game allowed) so this should be a relatively easy road trip for the Cardinal. Head coach David Shaw will likely want to establish the running game this week after tilting heavily in favor of the pass last week against Colorado. The question probably isn't if Stanford will win, but by how much.

WASHINGTON STATE WILL WIN IF: If they force turnovers. A lot of turnovers. The Cougars are an improved squad with a good offense but they are not close to an elite, top 10 team like Stanford. Anything could happen up in the Palouse but there will have to be a few breaks for Paul Wulff's squad. Marshall Lobbestael is in-line to get another start unless former starter Jeff Tuel is healthy enough to take over. The offensive line will have their hands full with a Cardinal defense that leads the Pac-12 in sacks at nearly three per game.

X-FACTOR: Andrew Luck getting hurt. And even then, that might not be enough for Washington State to pull off the big upset. Stanford is looking for some style points after slipping in the polls to Wisconsin and would like to push the margin of victory up. The Cardinal trailed off in the second half last year and didn't blowout the Cougs at home so staying healthy and pulling away are two priorities this week.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 11:21 pm
 

Media Day Tidbits: Pac-12 North

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Following a video production that would have made Steven Spielberg proud, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott kicked off the conference's inaugural Pac-12 Media Days from Los Angeles Tuesday morning. Though he didn't make bold proclamations about the state of NCAA affairs like some of his peers, Scott did extoll the virtues of the league on the heels of landing a big new media deal.

"The last 12 months have brought monumental change to the Pac 10 conference, now the Pac 12," Scott said. "The conference moniker, Conference of Champions, has been well earned and embraced over the years. And this past year was no exception.

"This is a new era for the conference as we embrace the future, and the addition of Colorado and Utah very much helped us secure a landmark media agreement that's going to provide for unprecedented exposure nationally for the conference.

Scott focused on the accomplishments of the conference both on and off the field, noting that two players were finalists for the William Campbell Trophy, the so-called "academic Heisman." Of course, he also mentioned the fact that the league put two teams in BCS bowls and is returning two returning Heisman finalists.

"The Pac 12 brand of football, if I can describe it that way, is as dynamic as any in college sports. Year after year we seem to produce the best quarterbacks and the most sophisticated offenses in the country," Scott said. "All five of the quarterbacks that are here with us today uphold the standard of play that legends before them set."

Plenty of coaches and players also talked about their teams heading into the league's first year, here's some highlights from Pac-12 North:

Cal:

- "This is always a favorite time of the year because the players have been working hard all summer long and now it's timed to get back to work," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "The chemistry, I'm really excited about this team with the leadership, the work ethic, the team chemistry. I'm really pleased with how they've come together and their work ethic. Very eager to compete."

- The Bears failed to go to a bowl last year but, according to Tedford, they were a handful of plays away.

"Last season we fell short of that, and we're not hiding from that," he said. "We understand that there is a very fine line between winning and losing, and we're six points away from being 8-4 last year."

- Tedford said he will be more involved with play calling this season as a result, hoping to improve a Cal offense that floundered down the stretch last season.

"Offensively we need to improve. We were not close to the consistency that we needed to compete at a high level," Tedford said. "Zach Maynard has been named the started and he earned it."

- With the departure of the team's leading rusher Shane Vereen, Tedford is counting on one of his incoming freshmen to compliment his inexperienced returnees at the tailback position.

"We recruited four tailbacks and I'm excited to see what they can do," he said. "I really think we'll have one back or two be solid contributors."

- Tedford said it would be a little bit different playing two Thursday games and one on Friday. The Bears are also playing the majority of their "home" games at AT&T Park due to construction on Memorial Stadium.

"Wherever those lines are, that's what were going to focus on," he said.

- The 10th year head coach was also asked about Will Lyles since the program purchased a scouting package from the now infamous high school scout.

"I'm not concerned one bit," Tedford said. "I wouldn't know Will Lyles if he were in this room."

Oregon

- Ducks head coach Chip Kelly knew right away the questions about the program's NCAA investigation were coming early and coming often.

"I know the one everybody is waiting to have answered but we sent out a release earlier," Kelly opened his remarks to the media with. "We've cooperated fully with (the NCAA) and will continue to cooperate them."

For more on Chip Kelly's comments on the Lyles situation, click here.

- Kelly's appearance wasn't completely about the cloud hanging over his program. Fresh off a BCS National Championship game appearance, the Ducks head coach is experiencing quite the roster turnover and focused on other issues.

"I looked at our roster coming in here and I think we have 11 or 12 seniors, and we'll have 47 either freshmen or red shirted freshmen," he said. "It's a good time for us. We're excited. We start on August 8, and we have an interesting game to start the season on September 3rd that has every one of our players attention, and we'll work as hard as we can to prepare for that game on September 3rd against a really, really good LSU team."

- Luckily for Oregon's explosive offense, the Ducks aren't hurting for talent despite being young.

"LaMichael (James) is the returning Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's number one running back," Kelly said. "I've always believed that to win football games you have to be able to run the football. And we've led the Pac-10 in rushing in the last four years. Total offense the last four years, scoring offense the last four years, and LaMichael's a huge part of that."

- Kelly said he hasn't made any decisions on suspended players Kiko Alonso and Cliff Harris. Both players are working out with the team but their status for opener and beyond is still up in the air.

- Incoming recruit D'Anthony Thomas, "Can flat out run," according to Kelly and the coaching staff will figure out a way to incorporate him into the offense. Lache Seastrunk is one of the players that's a possibility to be the third string running back behind James and Kenjon Barner but nothing is set in stone because no one grabbed hold of the position in spring practice.

Oregon State

- "We're excited to be here at the dawning of the Pac-12 conference," veteran coach Mike Riley said. "But we're going to really, really have to grow a lot through fall camp and through our season. We had five guys that had off-season surgeries and missed spring practice. So as we get back into this thing, we'll have to grow a lot and be ready to compete all the way down the stretch, get better every day."

- As someone who has just about seen it all over the years, the new format with two divisions and not playing everybody every year will take a bit of getting used to for Riley but he was excited about the changes.

"I've been in the conference a long time now, 11 years, and I've seen the competition rise to where every week is like the Super Bowl," he said. "So I think it's going to be really, really competitive."

- The Pac-12 put on a seminar with their head of officiating on Monday in order to better educate the media about some of the new rules going into effect in 2011. The one rule that has drawn the most criticism is the new celebration rule, which Riley says is just something the players will have to adjust to.

"It's going to be an emphasis for the officials early," he said. "Whether or not you agree with the rules, this is what it is. I think it's going to be to a point where you're going to have to be really careful."

"You've got to deal with it," senior safety Lance Mitchell said. "When it affects the team, it's just bad all around and you have to keep it under control."

- One of the key players for the Beavers is all-everything athlete James Rodgers, who is coming off his second knee surgery but should be able to contribute this season.

"The one thing you can never do with James is count him out," Riley said. "He's been deemed ahead of schedule but I'm going to play this conservatively."

- Rodgers' brother, Jacquizz, was the team's leading rusher for the past few years but left early for the NFL, a decision Riley said was a good one despite the criticism "Quizz" took. Though there's some talent at the position to replace him in the offense, it will be a wait and see approach until one player separates from the pack.

"We don't have a number one back that can replace Quizz today," he said "I think if we look at that group it will probably be running back by committee."

- Riley expects the team to be very solid on defense and expects Jordan Poyer and Michael Doctor to be key contributors among others.
He also said key contributor Joe Halahuni will be ready going into the fall camp after having surgery in April.

Stanford:

- So what's David Shaw's deal? Apparently, it's much like Jim Harbaugh's, the man he replaced in Palo Alto.

"The differences are minimal because our biggest differences are we have different personalities," Shaw said. "We have the same goals and same competitive drive. We like to teach. I see myself as a teacher and that's the environment we've created down there."

- For Shaw's Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Andrew Luck, not having much a transition between the two head coaches has been invaluable.

"It's definitely nice not to have to learn a new scheme, a new offense," Luck said. "Coach Shaw recruited me. He's been instrumental in my growth as a football player and ever since I've been on campus.  So continuity was definitely something that a lot of the players were hoping for when the coaching change was being made. It's definitely been easier for me, I think.

- Luck was sporting a rather large beard for his media day appearance and according to him, the first time he's grown one. Though he's not sure if he's keeping it, the humble star did make news by announcing that he would indeed be leaving Stanford after this season.

"I'm viewing this as my last college football season and approaching it as such," he said.

- On the opposite side of the ball for The Cardinal, Shaw will be using to co-coordinators on defense with Derek Mason and Jason Tarver.

"We do have co-coordiators," Shaw said. "The mix of those two guys are phenomenal. They're like an old married couple, they finish each others' sentences."

- Wide receiver and ace return man Chris Owusu missed six games due to injury last year and will be a key part of the offense this year with an inexperienced group of receivers - if he can stay healthy.

"I haven't said anything to Chris except play every game," Shaw said. "We need Chris Owusu to play every game. We've got a talented but inexperienced receiving core around Andrew."

Washington

- If there was one person in the room who was really excited to be a part of the inaugural Pac-12 Media Day, it was Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.

"Being a Southern California guy and being raised in this thing when it went from Pac-8 to Pac-10, to Pac-12, it's just exciting," Sarkisian said. "I think for us as the University of Washington and our program as we're growing, we couldn't be in a better conference at you a better time for the exposure needed for us and for this conference."

- Sarkisian talked at length about the Huskies' brand of football as the team moves on from the Jake Locker era.

"I think we've got a football team that you saw at the end of last season starting to play a brand of football that we believe in, that is one that is physical that believes in running the football and playing sound defense," Sarkisian said. "We're fortunate to have veteran leadership as we grow but we're still a very young football team. We've played 16 true freshmen last fall. And we've got veteran leaders."

- There's not much that can get a head coach going than talking about his quarterback and the former signal-caller-turned-coach had no problems praising starter Keith Price but cautioning that they would take it slow in his first year as the starter.

"He's a kid that comes to work with a smile on his face," Sarkisian said. "But the reality of it is we're not going to be able to rely on that quarterback position like we were able to with Jake for two years. It's going to be more on relying on Chris (Polk), and Jesse Callier of running the ball, then utilizing the one-on-one matchups on the outside with the Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Kevin Smith, and maybe the emergence of a newcomer in Kasen Williams.

- With someone new behind center, many expect Polk to carry the offense on his back, something he accepts but realizes he can't really do if the team is to be successful.

"It's not necessarily on my back, because the game of football is not based off individual performances," Polk said. "So if our O-line's not working and the running game's not working and the passing game's not working."

- A few players, such as Semisi Tokolahi and Sione Potaoa'e, might be limited once the Huskies break for fall camp but the team should be close to full strength once the pad comes on.

"For the most part we're healthy," Sarkisian said. "We look good. Our guys are transforming their bodies and look great."

Washington State

- Washington State was picked last in the North Division but if there is one encouraging sign for the Cougars, it's on defense with some players who are young but have starting experience.

"There's a good chance that we'll start just one or two seniors on defense," head coach Paul Wulff said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to take a big step on defense."

- Wulff signaled out running back Rickey Galvin, wide receiver Kristoff Williams and linebackers Sekope Kaufusi and Alex Hoffman-Ellis as players who he expects to make the leap to key contributors.

- Despite being at the bottom of the conference standings for awhile, Jared Karstetter said that the Cougars are being taken more serious by other Pac-12 programs.

"Yeah, I think we were more competitive especially the end of last year," he said. "Any sort of lack of respect that we feel as a team, I think that we just use that as motivation to go out there on game day and compete and prove ourselves.

- Wulff talked at length about the type of player he recruits and specifically said the staff is looking for players with their head on straight.

"We've gone about our business to recruit the right type of person," Wulff said. "Great football players that can help you build a team. We go after guys that fit our profile."

- With a good quarterback with plenty of experience behind center in Jeff Tuel and an improved defense, Wulff thinks the team can build on last season and move up in the pecking order.

"I know through spring football, we were executing things we'd never done," he said.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 4:45 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Several Pac-12 coaches are on the hot seat

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CBSSports.com Senior Writer Dennis Dodd unveiled his 2011 Hot Seat Ratings for college football and if you pull out the Pac-12 coaches, you'll find the seat is quite toasty - or could be quickly - for at least half of the conference. While Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Washington's Steve Sarkisian don't have anything to worry about, Pac-12 media days might feature a few new faces next year. It almost seems as though the conference has to move to a "hot couch" to fit everybody on it. Here's the list of coaches on the West Coast in order from 5 (brushing off for-sale signs) to 0 (buying second beach house).

Washington State's Paul Wulff: 5.0

UCLA's Rick Neuheisel:
4.0

Arizona State's Dennis Erickson
: 3.5

Arizona's Mike Stoops: 2.5

USC's Lane Kiffin: 2.0

Cal's Jeff Tedford: 2.0

Stanford's David Shaw:
1.5

Colorado's Jon Embree: 1.0

Oregon State's Mike Riley: 1.0

Washington's Steve Sarkisian: 0.5

Utah's Kyle Whittingham: 0

Oregon's Chip Kelly: 0

Wulff is the only coach in the country to receive a 5.0 from Dodd. His winning percentage is south of the Mendoza Line (.135 entering 2011) and he probably needs to get the Cougars close to a bowl game in order to get another year. He's an alum of the school and poured all his efforts into rebuilding things on the Palouse but it's hard to overlook his overall record. He's got some talent on offense, notably quarterback Jeff Tuel, so there is some hope.

The coach with the best chance to get off of the seat is Erickson, who has a team full of upperclassmen and is primed to make a run at the first ever Pac-12 South title. He is just barely over .500 in his time in Tempe and has only finished in the upper half of the conference standings once, which is why his seat is third hottest in the conference.

It seems as though Neuheisel has "been on the cusp" of breaking through after two good recruiting classes a few years ago but he'll have to combat a tough schedule to prevent the temperature from rising further. Many have speculated that the school's financial situation is the only thing keeping him around for another year.

Tedford finds himself in the middle of the pack but he knows the situation is fluid. Cal fans' expectations will likely raise next year with the re-opening of Memorial Stadium so while the quarterback guru is probably safe this year, he's not too far away from having his name move higher on the list if things don't go well in 2011. Dodd accurately pegs Kiffin as having a pretty lukewarm seat, unlike what some fans outside Southern California might think. However, like with Chip Kelly, any NCAA trouble will find him shooting up to near the top of the list.

The hot seat is crowded in the Pac-12 and it should be fun to see who gets off of it this season.

One way or another.


Posted on: June 2, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 50-41

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

50. COWBELLS, traditional noisemakers, Mississippi State. On the one hand, yeah, it's just a bell with a stick attached to it and (usually) a State logo affixed to one side. But on the other, it's a huge reason why trips to Starkville have become a gigantic thorn in the side of SEC favorites since Dan Mullen took over the Bulldog helm. The cowbells create a tremendous amount of noise during their designated usage periods (touchdown celebrations, timeouts, etc.), but there's plenty enough State fans willing to use them during non-designated periods that Davis-Wade Stadium can become just as loud and disruptive as SEC stadiums with twice its capacity.

And in 2011, how loud Davis-Wade can get will matter. A lot. The Bulldogs will play host to both of the consensus SEC West favorites and the closest thing the preseason has to an SEC East favorite--LSU visits Sept. 15, South Carolina Oct. 15 and Alabama Nov. 12. A State victory in any one of those three games could immediately turn the entire conference on its head--and given that this is Mullen's most experienced team yet, the guess here is that thanks in part to those cowbells, the Bulldogs will come away with at least one of those scalps. -- JH

49. DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM, home venue, Florida State. The Seminoles' home field will play host to one of the biggest non-conference matchups of the season--and it takes place on the third weekend of football. On September 17, Oklahoma -- expected to be one of the top-ranked teams in the nation -- will visit Doak looking to repeat last year's thumping of FSU in Norman. The Seminoles return 17 starters from last year's team that finished the season as the ACC runner-up and Chick Fil-A Bowl champion, though, leading many to tap Florida State as the 2011 ACC frontrunner. It's safe to say head coach Jimbo Fisher has brought the hype back to Tallahassee in just his second year.

So the two juggernauts will collide in Doak Campbell Stadium. A win for Oklahoma would be a huge confidence boost after struggling in a few crucial road games over the last couple years. A win for Florida State would not only bring the Sooners' title hopes to a screeching halt, it would transform the home team from ACC favorite to national title contender. The 'Noles also get Maryland, N.C. State and Miami all at home, making Doak not only a key destination for the national title picture but the key venue for the ACC Atlantic race. If the Seminoles can escape the month of September undefeated, it could be their race to lose down the stretch. -- CP

48. AL GOLDEN, head coach, Miami. The Hurricane coaching search was heavily publicized and tossed around flashy names like Jon Gruden and Dan Mullen, but the final decision was on the decidedly less-flashy, hard-nosed Golden. Since joining the program, Golden has talked about changing the "culture" of Miami football. After watching the team prepare for the Sun Bowl, Golden said he wanted to practice faster, hit harder, and increase the toughness up and down the roster. His winter conditioning program produced players' tales of being worked harder than ever, and his gritty demands continued well into spring practice.

But Golden needs to be more than a strength coach and philosopher for the Hurricanes. He needs to be the face of the program moving forward, and the team needs to believe in his word. There is a roster full of talent in Coral Gables that has not come close to sniffing a conference championship. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes have yet to produce so much as a Coastal division title. Golden's arrival has brought a lot of excitement back to The U, but also the expectations for winning. If Golden is going to get the trust of Randy Shannon's team, he will need to show them that his "culture" produces championship-caliber football. -- CP

47. THE BIG TEN THANKSGIVING DINNER, new-and-improved rivalry weekend, November 25-26. The Big Ten, for better or worse, has always been unusually staid about its traditions--that means Saturday conference games only, no conference games after November 25 (which usually ends the season before Thanksgiving), and Michigan-Ohio State to end the conference season, always. That has worked out pretty well for the Big Ten for the most part, although Buckeye fans in particular have long rued the six weeks of layoff between a pre-Thanksgiving conference finish and a January BCS bowl game (since the SEC and most other conferences would only have four weeks).

Say goodbye to that disparity, though, because the Big Ten has moved the end of its regular season to Thanksgiving weekend. That decision plus the conference championship game equals football in December in the Big Ten, just like everywhere else. And what a regular season finale week the Big Ten has lined up for its fans this year: Michigan-OSU is still there, as fans demanded en masse when scheduling was going on, but now it's not the only show in town. Iowa and Nebraska have set up a season-ending rivalry for the next four years (one expects this to be made permanent if fans respond well to the new rivalry), and breaking with all sorts of conference tradition, it'll be on Friday. There's also a key showdown with Penn State at Wisconsin, and if Ohio State's not in contention for the (sigh) Leaders Division title, PSU-Wisconsin will likely have heavy implications for that bid to the championship. Same goes for Michigan State at Northwestern in the Legends Division. That's a heck of a way to spend a Thanksgiving weekend, isn't it? -- AJ

46. KELLEN MOORE, quarterback, Boise State. Kellen Moore's career thus far seems to have taken an arc we usually only see in TV shows. Last season was the "championship run" season, where Boise State was as poised as it ever was to crash the BCS Championship before fate conspired to take down the heroes. And make no mistake, Moore was a hero last year, leading the nation in passing efficiency and racking up 35 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He may not have had a chance to overtake Cam Newton for Heisman consideration, but his fate was sealed in the Broncos' 34-31 loss to Nevada--even though Moore threw a downright miraculous 53-yard bomb to Titus Young that put Boise in position to win the game.

If last season was all about the team taking its best shot at the title, this year's all about Moore; his top two receivers, Young and Austin Pettis, are both off to the NFL now, and key reserve RB Jeremy Avery is also gone. The Broncos find themselves in a tougher conference, too, though they still look to be favorites to win the Mountain West championship. If there were ever a time for Moore to erase the last of the doubts about his ability to play quarterback, this'll be it, and with any luck, this season'll end on a much more crowd-pleasing note for Moore and the rest of his teammates. -- AJ

45. THE PAC-12 HOT SEAT, conference furniture, Pac-12. When Pac-12 media days roll around next year, there's a good chance there will be a few different faces from this year's edition. While every conference has their fair share of coaches on the hot seat, it seems as though the Pac-12 has a hot couch with so many people to fit on it. Washington State's Paul Wulff, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and Cal's Jeff Tedford are those that are feeling the heat ... and a bad year by USC's Lane Kiffin could find him starting to sweat as well.

The coach with the best chance to get off of the seat is Erickson, who has a team full of upperclassmen and is primed to make a run at the first ever Pac-12 South title. Erickson is just barely over .500 in his time in Tempe and has only finished in the upper half of the conference standings once. Needless to say, it's put up or shut up time. Wulff's winning percentage is well south of the Mendoza Line (.135 entering 2011) and he probably needs to get the Cougars close to a bowl game in order to get another year. Neuheisel and Tedford both have upset fan bases and a really bad year will likely mean they're out; financial considerations might be the only thing that could keep them around. The hot seat is crowded in the Pac-12 and it should be fun to see who gets off of it this season -- one way or another -- first. -- BF

44. OKLAHOMA'S BUMPY ROAD, scheduling hurdle, Oklahoma. Oklahoma seems to be the popular pick to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, which gives the Sooners an edge in its pursuit of a national championship. All it has to do is go undefeated -- that's it! -- and the Sooners will find themselves in the BCS Championship Game. Obviously, winning every single game on the schedule is not an easy thing to do, particularly when you've got that giant target on your back ... and things could be even tougher for Oklahoma when you look at their schedule.

Over the last two seasons, Oklahoma has played nine games on the road -- not counting neutral site games -- and the Sooners have gone a distressing 3-5. Last season the Sooners won two games on the road, against Cincinnati and Oklahoma State, but only won those games by a combined eight points. This season two of Oklahoma's toughest games will be on the road, as it travels to Florida State during the second week of the season and will finish the year against those same Cowboys in Stillwater. Then there's the neutral site battle with Texas. It wouldn't be a shock to anybody if the Sooners came away from those three games with at least one loss on the marker. And given that there's no longer a Big 12 title game that could help boost the Sooners' profile at the end of the year, that loss could singlehandedly derail the team's 2011 title hopes. -- TF

43. WILL MUSCHAMP, head coach, Florida. In some ways, Muschamp will have less pressure on him this season than the other two head coaches in the SEC East's "Big Three"; Mark Richt is firmly in win-or-else mode, and Steve Spurrier has to know his career won't last long enough to see talents like Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery come around again. Muschamp, meanwhile, may need a couple of seasons to get his favored pro-style offense working and his aggressive defense completely in place.

Then again, this is Florida. And Muschamp is replacing a coach with three SEC East titles and two national championships in the last five seasons alone; transition or no transition, a second straight year bumbling around the 7-5 mark with an offense barely fit to wear the same jerseys as the Spurrier Fun n' Gun or the Tim Tebow/Percy Harvin spread juggernaut won't go over well at all. The easiest way for Florida to improve, fortunately, is Muschamp's specialty: defense. The Gators have all the athletes needed to dominate on that side of the ball, and if Muschamp's going to extend his coaching honeymoon past the season's first month, they'd better. -- JH

42. BIG EAST CONFERENCE TIEBREAKERS, potential title-deciders, Big East. Since 2003, the Big East title has been split four times. Two of those times were between at least three teams, most recently last season when Connecticut won the tie-breaker over West Virginia and Pitt. As the conference's front office continues to eye expansion and the addition of a conference championship, the eight teams participating in conference play this fall will all be fighting for the BCS berth awarded to number one team in the standings.

With the seven game conference schedule (which is backloaded, for most teams), there are less games to separate the teams in the standings. Unless one team goes undefeated (West Virginia in 2005, Cincinnati in 2009), there is a good chance that there will be a tie at the top of the standings. In the final month of the season the Big East title hunt will become a wild collection of if/then scenarios, with each conference game carrying a tie-breaker significance. -- CP

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41. ROBERT GRIFFIN III, quarterback, Baylor. Last season the Baylor Bears finished the season 7-6 and played in their first bowl game in 16 years, a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl. While there are plenty of reasons to help explain the turnaround in Waco the last few seasons, no person has had a bigger impact on the program than quarterback Robert Griffin III. The kid known as RG3 has not only been a star in the classroom, but on the field as well, accounting for 4,145 total yards and 30 touchdowns in 2010. Make no mistake about it: while the Baylor defense cost the team some games, Griffin kept the Bears in just about all of them with what he brought on offense.

As a redshirt junior in 2011, Griffin will be playing his fourth season with the Bears, and should be better than ever--a scary proposition for Big 12 defenses already struggling to stop him. While Baylor's defense will likely keep it from having a real shot to win the Big 12 this season, odds are that RG3 is going to have a big say in who ultimately does win the conference ... meaning that he could have a big impact on the national title picture as well before the year is finished. -- TF

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61 and 60-51. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: March 8, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Washington State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Washington State, who began spring practice on Monday.

Spring practice question: Do the Cougars have enough to get out of the cellar?

Spring is always the time of the year where hope springs eternal; everyone's undefeated, everyone's building for the future. Such is the case on the Palouse, where - for the first time in awhile - there's a bit of hope.

Although Paul Wulff's first three years (5-32 overall) were nothing to write home about, a strong finish at the end of last season and a few underrated recruiting classes have the Cougars' head coach feeling very optimistic.

"We want to start where we left off in the fall," Wulff told reporters after Monday's practice. "I think we came out pretty sharp in a lot of ways, there was some rust but there was more familiarity with the coaches and the system."

A key cog (or Coug, I guess) that is returning is quarterback Jeff Tuel. A two year starter already, he threw for over 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. Tuel tossed four touchdowns in a ten point loss to Stanford and finished the season on a high note with 3 touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards in the Apple Cup. In case he gets injured (which has been known to happen at Washington State), senior and former starter Marshall Lobbestael is a capable replacement.

Catching Tuel's spirals is one of the more talented receiving groups in the Pac-12. Freshman All-American Marquess Wilson and honorable mention All-Pac-10 wide out Jared Karstetter lead the way. Also in the mix are Gino Simone and Isiah Barton, as well as freshmen Kristoff Williams and Bobby Ratliff. It's no stretch to say that the Cougars have more returning at wide out than many of the teams in the country, let alone the Pac-12.

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There's several players who will contribute to the ground game as well. Senior running back Logwone Mitz will likely emerge the starter but redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin has impressed when's he able to get on the field after breaking his arm in the opener last year.

"Playmaking ability, speed, quickness," Tuel told Cougfan.com about Galvin. "He just makes things happen, really a playmaker."

There are areas of concern that Wazzu hopes to work out before the end of spring. The offensive line only has to replace only one starter but the four returnees were part of a group that gave up 51 sacks last year. Allowing time for Tuel to throw the ball will be a key factor on if the Cougars can exceed their win total from the past three seasons and - dare we say it - consider going to a bowl game in 2011.

Defensively, two starters at defensive end are out for the spring while the defensive tackle spots are wide open thanks to departures and injuries. Four starters return in the secondary which will comfort Wulff, who's main focus will be on straightening out the line.

Bottom line though? The Cougars have some talent and are aiming much higher than just getting out of the conference cellar they've resided in the past the past two seasons. There's still a few areas of concern but things are looking up on the Palouse in 2011. With Jeff Tuel and company leading the way this spring, there's more than just hope though.

There's some talent.

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