Tag:Darron Thomas
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: If they step off the bus. This is a total mismatch between the conference king (two straight conference titles) and the conference newcomer. The Ducks enter as the 9th-ranked team in the country and lead the conference in most offensive categories. There are some injury concerns, with quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James limited or out against the Buffs but that didn't stop the team from rolling 41 points against one of the league's best defenses last week.

COLORADO WILL WIN IF: If there's a blizzard. Jon Embree's squad does not have the talent to stack up against most Pac-12 programs, much less Oregon. The Buffs are 92nd in the country in total offense and 91st in total defense, not the kind of team you want to play the up-tempo Ducks with. There are some playmakers on the team but they'll be without top linebacker Doug Rippy and starting tailback Rodney Stewart. Undermanned and overmatched, it will be tough for Colorado to pull out a win.

X-FACTOR: Injuries on both sides will be a factor. Backup quarterback Bryan Bennett looked efficient running the Oregon offense after coming on in relief for Thomas but is still young and going on the road for the first time. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen will be without his top rushing threat and might not have his top receiver for the third straight game. It still looks like this will be a comfortable Oregon victory but you never know how some players will adjust to increased playing time.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 1:47 am
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 41, Arizona State 27

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WON. In a possible Pac-12 championship game preview, Oregon pulled away from Arizona State with another big second half up in Eugene. Although they got the W, it was a costly one. Already without the country's leading rushing LaMichael James, starting quarterback Darron Thomas and hard-hitting safety Eddie Pleasant both suffered a knee injury in the 3rd quarter. Still, the Ducks slashed the ASU defense to the tune of 531 yards and 41 points.

WHY OREGON WON: Like many of their Pac-12 victories, Oregon used an explosive running game and a defense that created pressure and forced turnovers. Despite Pleasant getting hurt, the secondary stepped up and held Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler to just five yards passing in the 3rd quarter and picked him off twice. The plug-and-play backfield also ended up with three rushers over 60 yards, including backup quarterback Bryan Bennett.

WHEN OREGON WON. A close game at halftime, the Ducks used a sequence in the middle of the key 3rd quarter to really take control of the game, scoring 17 straight after Cameron Marshall gave Arizona State a 24-21 lead. Behind Kenjon Barner, Oregon responded by going 68 yards in six plays in just 1:37 to re-take the lead. The defense forced a three-and-out and Bennett took over on the 12 yard line. After moving the offense to the 48, he took off for 18 yards but fumbled. It appeared a Sun Devils defensive lineman had successfully knocked it back inbound to another defender but a replay kept the ball in the hands of the Ducks. Barner scored a touchdown two plays later and it was pretty much over after that.

WHAT OREGON WON. Chip Kelly's squad continues to be well positioned for a big Pac-12 game at Stanford in early November that likely puts the winner in the Rose Bowl. It was a costly victory in terms of a few injuries but they still proved they have plenty of depth and the system that is tough for every conference opponent to stop. They have two easy games at Colorado and against Washington State before their big stretch of at Washington, at Stanford and against USC.

WHAT ARIZONA STATE LOST. In the grand scheme of things, not that much. The Sun Devils are still the runaway favorites to take home the Pac-12 South title and wind up back in Eugene (or Palo Alto) to play for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Still, this was a big step that the program wanted to take under Dennis Erickson and they fell short on the road.

THAT WAS CRAZY. The Ducks came into the game with only four turnovers on defense, none in the last three games. Cliff Harris ended that in the 2nd quarter, picking off Osweiler and returning it 50 yards to set up a score. Oregon also set a school-record for attendance at Autzen Stadium, with 60,055 screaming very loud.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 9:54 am
 

Darron Thomas gives unofficial update on James

Posted by Chip Patterson

When Oregon star running back LaMichael James was upbeat and positive about his status when speaking to the media just hours after dislocating his elbow against California. He told reporters he suffered a similar injury in high school, and even came back the next week. While head coach Chip Kelly has made no official determination on whether James will go against No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday, starting quarterback Darron Thomas has made it sound highly unlikely.

Thomas told The Oregonian on Wednesday after practice the Ducks were pushing themselves a little harder in practice "knowing we're going to be without LaMichael."

"I'm all right," Thomas said discussing Oregon's other offensive options. "We've got Kenjon [Barner] in the backfield with me. He is a step behind LaMike, doing the same things. We've got Tra Carson doing well for us. I can't wait to see him play. And De'Anthony, everybody knows about De'Anthony."

While Thomas' prognosis for James is not official, he is 100% correct that "everybody knows about De'Anthony." Star freshman De'Anthony Thomas has been everything Oregon fans could hope for, leading the team in receiving (17 catches, 286 yards, four touchdowns) and sitting just behind James as the team's second leading rusher (25 carries, 191 yards, two touchdowns). With James likely sidelined, the first places the Ducks will look for that offensive explosion will be Barner and DAT.

Last season Arizona State played the Ducks close before eventually falling 42-31. The Sun Devils defense held the Ducks to 2 for 13 on third down conversions and held James to just 94 yards rushing. Late in the third quarter, Arizona State held a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter before three Darron Thomas touchdowns and a fumble recovery for a score put the game out of reach. Oregon has taken the last six meetings between the conference rivals, Arizona State has not won in Autzen Stadium since 2004.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:15 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 1:46 pm
 

Keys to the game: Arizona State at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

ARIZONA STATE WILL WIN IF: They continue to force turnovers and take advantage of a short field. At one point in their game against Utah last week, the defense forced three straight turnovers and the offense responded by rattling off 18 points to put the game away. The Sun Devils have playmakers that can move the ball down the field and Brock Osweiler has been very solid as a starter this season. If they can force Oregon to be one-dimensional on offense and throw the ball, some pressure from Vontaze Burfict could create some turnovers and the biggest win Dennis Erickson will have during his time in Tempe.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: They're still the conference king until knocked off their perch so the high-flying Ducks offense will continue to put up points. They're not as good as they were last year on defense and will likely be missing star running back LaMichael James. Kenjon Barner and freshman DeAnthony Thomas are able replacements for him but more of the load for this primetime match up will be placed on the shoulders of quarterback Darron Thomas. The atmosphere at Autzen at night should be a big advantage with plenty of fans yelling at one of college football's loudest stadiums.

THE X-FACTOR: Turnovers. Oregon has only recovered one fumble this season while Arizona State has eight. The story is much the same in the interception department. If the Sun Devils can force a turnover early and capitalize by scoring a touchdown, they could take the crowd out of the game and build on that momentum. Likewise, if it happens the other way - say Cameron Marshall puts it on the turf - that could be a back-breaker for the road team. 

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:46 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 5:38 am
 

QUICK HITS: No. 9 Oregon 43, California 15



Posted by Chip Patterson


OREGON WON. Cal kept fighting until the end, but the Ducks dominated the start of the second half and pulled away late in their 43-15 win in Autzen on Thursday night. LaMichael James picked up his third-straight 200-yard game before suffering an apparent right arm injury early in the fourth quarter. James' was carted off the field with his arm in an air cast, and appeared to be in a significant amount of pain. Other than that, the news was all good for Oregon -- marching back from a 15-14 halftime deficit to roll off 29 unanswered points in the second half.

HOW OREGON WON: After starting the first half failing to convert on third downs and generally struggling to hit a rhythm, the Ducks picked up the tempo to start the second half and wore down Cal's defense. It started with a methodical 13-play, 88-yard drive to kick off the third quarter. By the end of that first drive the defense was gassed, and ripe for the picking for the remainder of the quarter. James, Kenjon Barner, and freshman De'Anthony Thomas continued the offensive assault and helped put the game away late.

WHEN OREGON WON: After the drive mentioned above, the defense stepped up and stopped a previously productive Zach Maynard. Following a punt, it only took a pair of LaMichael James runs and a 68-yard Kejon Barner touchdown to begin ushering in the beatdown in Autzen Stadium. It was clear at that point the momentum had swung back in the Ducks' favor, and Cal was not going to reclaim the lead.

WHAT OREGON WON: Their 15th straight conference win. Their streak dates back to the 51-42 loss at Stanford in 2009. Cal actually gave them the biggest scare in that streak, slowing the Ducks down and forcing them to grind out a 15-13 win in Berkeley. Thursday night served as some home-served payback for those alleged fake injuries.

WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST: After grinding out a 15-14 first half lead, the Bears could never get it started again after halftime. The team was gassed, and all of the sudden the lanes began to open up for Oregon. California now heads home to continue Pac-12 conference play against USC. A two-loss start is not favorable for the Bears, but is not entirely unexpected considering the opponents.

THAT WAS CRAZY: LaMichael James' right arm injury in the fourth quarter was painful to watch. Whether it is an arm or dislocated elbow, Oregon will likely not be in a hurry to give specific details on the status of the nation's leading rusher. Up to that point it was just another dominant performance by the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner.



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Posted on: September 25, 2011 3:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 3:36 am
 

What I learned from the Pac-12 (Sept. 24)



Posted by Bryan Fischer

1. Oregon is still really, really good. The Ducks will take some heat from other parts of the country but there's no denying that they're still a great team and one that admirably lost to an LSU squad that could be the best in the country. The defense isn't quite there yet but the offense is starting to hit its groove as both Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are looking better than they did last year at times. This isn't a team that has put everything together - yet - but it's getting there. A notice to the rest of the Pac-12: the Ducks are running right at you.

2. So long USC, hello Arizona State. Just when it looked like the Trojans might be able to win the South division (without really winning the South division thanks to sanctions), Matt Barkley turned the ball over three times himself and USC collapsed under the weight of the Sun Devils' defense. Everybody thought this would be Dennis Erickson's year and it looked like the team was easily a top 25 team after beating Missouri. But they regressed when they went on the road for the first time and lost to Illinois. Now though, despite all the injuries, it looks like things are clicking on both sides of the ball. They may not be as flashy as Oregon nor can they execute as well as Stanford, but ASU looks like they're definitely the best team in the South.

3. Oregon State is really, really bad. Sure, the Beavers lost to lowly Sacramento State to open the season and got rolled by Wisconsin. But that was without their do everything-threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni. Even against a team like UCLA, with plenty of issues themselves, adding both players wasn't close to enough as the Beavers fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1996. It's still unclear if they have a quarterback after redshirt freshman Sean Mannion went 24-40 passes for 287 yards but was intercepted and had a costly fumble returned for a score. There's little to no consistency and execution one would expect from a Mike Riley coached team is just not there.

4. Cal and Washington will be two tough outs, especially the Huskies. The non-conference slate for both teams didn't really give us a chance to figure out how each would be this season but after the two squared off in Seattle, it's clear neither will be a push over in league play. That's not to say they won't be blown out a few times but both are good on offense and ok enough on defense to get into some shootouts. Keith Price has had no problem running things, nearly hitting the 300 yard passing mark while tossing three touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Huskies to their best start since 2006. Cal still has to work on late game execution but the Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen connection will be something every defensive coordinator will have to game plan for.

5. Still a long way to go for Colorado. Head coach Jon Embree earned his first win last week but getting his second will be a much more difficult task. The Buffaloes had not won a road game since Oct. 27, 2007 and while it was unlikely they were going to break the streak at the Horseshoe, they hardly looked competitive. Tyler Hansen was solid and didn't throw any picks but the offense still lost two fumbles in the first half and had nine penalties to go on top of a host of other gaffes. If they can't improve on their execution, it will be a long, long season in Boulder.


Posted on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 56, Arizona 31

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON
WON. No surprise but Chip Kelly's squad came into Tuscon and pushed around an Arizona team that was in the middle of a brutal stretch of games. Six of the Ducks' seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes as they were in control of the game from start to finish. Quarterback Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more as he directed the offense to perfection.

HOW OREGON WON: In their previous three games, Oregon got the bulk of their scoring and offense through the air. Against Arizona, they gashed Mike Stoops' defense for 516 yards, 415 of which were on the ground. LaMichael James put up the video game numbers we're used to seeing from him, rushing for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WHEN OREGON WON: The Ducks had 212 yards rushing at halftime and were in control throughout most of the first half. The Wildcats put together a good drive near the end of the 2nd quarter and scored a touchdown, followed by a successful onside kick. Arizona kept sticking around during the second half until Thomas led an eight play, 75 yard drive late in the third that pretty much put the game away.

WHAT OREGON WON: Yet another Pac-12 conference game, their 13th in a row to be precise. While they may take heat for struggling against SEC competition, Oregon is the new USC in terms of being the team everybody is not looking forward to playing. The North title still looks like it will come down to a road trip to Stanford and the Ducks did nothing to suggest otherwise.

WHAT ARIZONA LOST: Just another game as part of a brutal four game stretch against Oklahoma State (loss), Stanford (loss), Oregon (loss) and USC (in Los Angeles next week). There's some talent on this team, especially on offense, but it hasn't been consistent and put everything together. With the 1-3 start, the hot seat for Stoops will continue to get warmer.

THAT WAS CRAZY: James set a school record for career touchdowns scored after running up the middle for 12 yards on the Ducks' opening drive. He also set school records for rushing (288 yards) and all-purpose yards (363) on the night. For someone who was a Heisman finalist a year ago, James continues to add his name to the record books more than a few times as he cements himself in Ducks lore.

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.

It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.

Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.

One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.

The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.

This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.

“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”

Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.

On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.

The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.

For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.

The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.

Stat of the week

If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.

"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.

While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.

Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.

For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.

Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.

Other stats of note

- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.

- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.

- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.

- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.

- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.

Yard-by-yard

- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.

- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.

- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.

- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.

- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.

At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.

- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.

- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida State

9. Oklahoma State

10. South Carolina

Where we'll be this week

I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.

Across the goal line

There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.

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Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.

As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.

I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.

Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.

What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.

That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.

It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.

A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.

I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.

 
 
 
 
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