Tag:Dennis Erickson
Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:18 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Bryan Fischer


Ten Pac-12 teams were in action during week 6 and while there were only five that could put one in the win column, here's a handy recap of who really won and who really lost around the conference that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Dennis Erickson's agent.

Arizona State was picked in the preseason to represent the South division in the first ever conference championship game and after a win against Utah Saturday afternoon, it looks like the Sun Devils are finally living up to expectations. They're the only team in the division to be perfect in conference play and have now beat the two teams many expected to give them trouble - Utah and USC. After struggling in the bottom half of the conference for three years, it looks like the corner has been turned in Tempe.

The Sun Devils won 10 games for the first time since 1996 in Erickson's first year and the win this week put them well on their way to matching that feat in 2011. Erickson's contract runs through 2012 but with the way the team is playing, he's moved off the hot seat and into a position to possibly get a new deal that he can ride into retirement.

LOSER: Mike Stoops' job security.

It's gone and it is never coming back. A lot of Arizona fans know that Stoops has won a bowl game and finished as high as a tie for second in the conference with a program that hasn't seen much success. But he is 27-38 in the league and 41-50 overall after the loss to winless Oregon State. Quarterback Nick Foles is doing the best he can but the talent around him is not making plays like they should. What's really concerning is that the defense has given up an average of 43 points a game over the past five and the Wildcats have lost 10 straight against FBS teams.

It's probably not all bad for Stoops, his brother Bob might have an opening on his staff if defensive coordinator Brent Venables leaves for a head coaching job after sending out his resume tape of the Oklahoma-Texas game.

WINNER: Airlines that fly from San Francisco to New York.

Andrew Luck's Heisman campaign had a nice boost against Colorado with the signal-caller throwing for a season-high 370 yards and three touchdowns against the Pac-12's newest member. Perhaps he was just trying to show off for John Elway and Tiger Woods, who were walking around the sidelines all game. While they were surely impressed, so too were Heisman voters who watched. Luck was able to strategically pick apart whatever defense the Buffs threw at him and he made some great throws while on the run. The trio of tight ends he has to throw to plus Chris Owusu are a very good group that many might overlook just because they're not a flashy bunch.

Luck is not going to put up 500 yards passing or 200 yards rushing because of what Stanford wants to do on offense. That said, he's led his team to an undefeated record and really hasn't even been tested so far this season. It's almost like Stanford will even tease opponents who will watch the tape by mixing in some hurry-up offense just to show off Luck running it to perfection. He put up good numbers this week but just as important, kept the record perfect.

LOSER: Airlines that fly from Portland to New York.

It was really hard to watch a replay of LaMichael James' arm injury he suffered Thursday against Cal. While the tough Texan apparently just popped it right back in, it's likely he'll miss some playing time over the next few weeks. He dipped off of the Heisman radar after a no-show against LSU in the opener but James had quietly put up some big numbers to work his way back on some short lists. He rushed for over 200 yards for three straight games, something no other Oregon Duck had ever done.

Despite the big numbers, they're likely all for nothing in the awards race if he misses any playing time. He can still make sure everybody remembers what he can do with a big showing against Stanford in early November but it's unlikely he'll wind up in New York in December.

WINNER: Mike Riley and Sean Mannion.

There is no nicer or more genuine head coach in the business than Mike Riley. He's gone through plenty of issues this year and was the laughing stock of much of the country after losing to FCS foe Sacramento State. He made a change at quarterback for good in the Wisconsin game and the decision to go with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion really paid off against Arizona as he threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. There's not a whole lot going for the Beavers this year after their rough start and being in a tough division, wins like this will go along ways. Mannion was clutch when he needed to be, leading a late drive and finding Joe Halahuni in the end zone on 4th down.

LOSER: Football in Los Angeles.

One wonders how football in a talent rich area like Los Angeles could be so average. UCLA moved to .500 on the year with a comeback victory over Washington State while USC took a bye after their defense allowed 41 points to Arizona. For the Bruins, there should be a talent gap between them and the Cougars but there really wasn't much of one after a narrow 28-25 win. The Trojans are young and thin in many areas but it might be the coaching that is suspect given the way they've played their games so far this year. Rick Neuheisel technically has the only team left in the division that can stop Arizona State from going to the championship game but based on the way UCLA has been playing, there's little chance of that happening.

Posted on: October 8, 2011 7:06 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Arizona State 35, Utah 14

Posted by Bryan Fischer

ARIZONA STATE WON: If the Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) wanted everybody to take them seriously, they had to win on the road before a big game against Oregon next week and they accomplished that and more on a chilly afternoon at Rice Eccles Stadium. As usual, the defense was a big factor in the win and made life miserable for the Utes' offense and quarterback Jon Hays, who was making his first career start. ASU's first trip to Utah (2-3, 0-3 Pac-12) in 34 years - this time as conference foes - ended just as they wanted it to: walking off the field victorious.

WHY ARIZONA STATE WON: It's normally not like a Dennis Erickson team to execute in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams - but they did after halftime despite 16 penalties for 134 yards. Brock Osweiler was 26 of 41 for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. The defense forced five turnovers, two fumbles and three interceptions, and held Utah to just 318 yards. Special teams also helped out, grabbing one of those fumbles on a kick return and  Alex Garoutte hit two field goals.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE WON: After it looked like Utah had some momentum in the second half, ASU snatched it right back. Following a drive that ended up with a field goal, the Utes fumbled the ball on a kick return and Osweiler turned that into a touchdown pass and a two point conversion to make it 21-14 in the third. On the very next drive, Hays was intercepted by Clint Floyd and Arizona State once again turned that into a touchdown. Three straight series for Utah ended in a turnover at that point.

WHAT ARIZONA STATE WON: As the only Pac-12 South team without a conference loss, the Sun Devils have pretty much won the division already. They've already beaten USC, who's ineligible anyway, and a very weak schedule ahead of them after a trip to Eugene in what could be a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. 

WHAT UTAH LOST: Kyle Whittingham talked optimistically about his team's chances in their first year in the Pac-12 but they still have yet to get over the hump and actually win a game in their new conference. It's not like they're getting blown out because they have been in every game this season, it's just that they are not closing out in the second half at all. They'll need to refocus this week before hitting the road for two games at Pitt and at Cal.

THAT WAS CRAZY: After Utah took a 14-10 lead, Arizona State scored 18 unanswered points to move to 5-1 on the year.

Posted on: October 2, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:24 am
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

7/4. Stanford

If there's one team in the top 10 that has seen some movement, it's Stanford. The Cardinal have not been moving four or five spots but they have been going up and down the poll by a spot or two every week. They moved down a spot in the AP poll behind Oklahoma State despite the fact that the Cowboys were off and Stanford rolled UCLA 45-19. It's not all bad, they did move up a spot in the Coaches Poll to 4th but will have to hold off a charge from Wisconsin next week. Interesting to see the three spot difference in the polls.

9/9. Oregon

The Ducks were off but they were movers in the polls, sliding into the top 10 at 9th in each. There's not much to say about Oregon this week other than the fact that LSU continuing to win is probably good for them. Up next is Cal at home - a team that has given them trouble in the past - and a big showdown against Arizona State. Chip Kelly's squad should continue to move up as the top one-loss team as others in front of them lose or play each other.

22/24. Arizona State

It wasn't the first half Dennis Erickson would have liked but Arizona State managed to get another win over Oregon State and move into the top 25 of both polls. It appears ASU has the Pac-12 South division title wrapped up after beating USC last week and with Utah losing another conference game but then again, you never know. They'll hit the road this week to play the Utes before their big showdown in Eugene against Oregon after that in what could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game.

Others receiving votes: Washington (37 points AP/30 Coaches), USC (7 AP)

Posted on: September 26, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 4

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

6/5. Stanford

The Cardinal were off this past weekend as they rest up for Pac-12 play and figure out how to replace starting linebacker Shayne Skov, who was lost for the season. Stanford appears to ease into conference play with a home game against UCLA before Colorado comes into Palo Alto. Despite the bye, they actually leapfrogged Boise State in Coaches Poll, which is pretty interesting/bad voting on the coaches' part.

12/14. Oregon

Nothing like a late-night blow out vs. Arizona to bump the Ducks up in the polls (some losses to teams ahead of them helped too). LaMichael James' school-record breaking rushing performance will likely help Oregon get more positive attention nationally as well. They moved up four spots in the AP Poll and three in the Coaches'.

25/NR. Arizona State

Dennis Erickson's squad is back in the AP top 25 after dropping out briefly following their loss to Illinois. A thumping of USC to give the Sun Devils their first win over the Trojans since 1999 will tend to do that. The coaches are not as thrilled with their play as voters are, keeping them behind Houston and Ohio State in the "Others receiving votes" category. They'll play lowly Oregon State at home this week, so they should rise with another win and several teams in front of them losing.

Others receiving votes: Utah (12 points in the AP poll/11 Coaches), Washington (4 AP/3 Coaches), USC (2 AP)


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 2:16 am
 

QUICK HITS: Arizona State 43, USC 22

Posted by Bryan Fischer

ARIZONA STATE WON
. By forcing USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) to beat themselves. The nasty Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) defense forced four turnovers and broke the Trojans' back every time they had momentum. The offense picked up key third downs and kept the ball moving down the field without turning the ball over themselves. Every phase of the game contributed to the win as well, with three touchdowns coming on the ground, two through the air and one on defense.

HOW ARIZONA STATE WON: Solid play on offense and a turnover-producing defense. ASU still allowed nearly 400 yards of offense to the Trojans but just when it seemed like momentum was shifting, hard-hitting linebacker Vontaze Burfict or another defender made big play. Anytime you're +4 in the turnover category, chances are there's a 'W' next to your team's name in the box score at the end.

WHEN ARIZONA STATE WON: After USC had put together back-to-back touchdown drives, Arizona State scored 22 unanswered points to put the game away. The key turning point came when Greg Smith sacked Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and forced a fumble which the defense recovered. After that, Cameron Marshall punched it into the end zone for two scores and Tempe started to rock in the desert heat.

WHAT ARIZONA STATE WON: The path to the Pac-12 championship game is clear of perhaps the biggest obstacle on the schedule in the South division. USC already had a win over Utah and with UCLA, Colorado and rival Arizona all looking shaky so far early in the season, it looks like the Sun Devils are living up to preseason expectations.

WHAT USC LOST: The faint hope of claiming the Pac-12 South title. Ineligible for the post-season and the first ever division title, there were hope among some in the USC locker room that the Trojans would be able to prove doubters wrong and show what they could do with their backs against the wall. With that likely not an option (depending on what ASU does), Lane Kiffin will have to retool and refocus his team as they push further into conference play.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Dennis Erickson was 1-8 against USC at three different schools coming into the night while Arizona State had lost 11 straight to USC.

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 4:57 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 4

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.

Finally, we've reached the point of the season where conferences that aren't the Big Ten begin to offer actual meals rather than boring appetizers that add nothing. The SEC and ACC have delved into conference play a bit this season, but now the Big 12 and Pac-12 are diving in as well, which means we've got quite an impressive slate of games to sample from this weekend. 

BREAKFAST

#22 Michigan vs. San Diego State - Big Ten Network 12pm ET

Brady Hoke is San Diego State's old coach (haven't you heard?), so that's all anybody's going to talk about during the game. Don't focus on that fact too much, though, otherwise you're liable to stop paying attention to Denard Robinson, and that's a terrible idea. If Shoelace plays four quarters Saturday, he'll put up mammoth numbers on the Aztec defense. - Adam Jacobi

#25 Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina - ESPN 12pm ET

The Yellow Jackets kick off conference play with one of their most formidable Coastal Division opponents in the Tar Heels.  Georgia Tech leads the nation (yes, United States) in total offense right now, averaging just over 675 yards per game.  The numbers have been inflated thanks to a schedule, but the potency of Paul Johnson's option offense cannot be underestimated.  North Carolina's front seven is one of the ACC's best on paper, and Saturday is their chance for them to live up to the hype. - Chip Patterson

Pitt vs. Notre Dame - ABC 12pm ET

With so few must-see games going on in the morning, this matchup could prove to be quite entertaining. Notre Dame finally put a full 60 minutes together without driving off a cliff last week to pick up a win against Michigan State, and Pitt did quite the Notre Dame impression last Saturday while blowing a 27-10 lead over Iowa in the fourth quarter. Tune in for the future ACC follies! - Tom Fornelli

LUNCH

#3 Alabama vs. #14 Arkansas - CBS 3:30pm ET

The first clash of legitimate SEC heavyweights offers a compelling contrast in offensive styles: Arkansas's aerial circus of nationally-elite receivers and precision Tyler Wilson passes against a Tide attack that (thanks to the humdrum nature of AJ McCarron's performances to date) is likely to pound away with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, pound away some more, and when that fails? More pounding. Winner becomes heavy favorite to land at BCS bowl berth--at minimum. - Jerry Hinnen

#8 Texas A&M vs. #7 Oklahoma State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

The Big 12 no longer has a championship game, but this one could serve as a mini-playoff. The winner of this contest between two teams ranked in the top ten moves on to face Oklahoma later this season in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 title. Aside from the BCS implications, however, this matchup should be incredibly entertaining for all involved, as the Oklahoma State offense faces its toughest test of the season so far. - TF

#21 Clemson vs. #11 Florida State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Seminoles enter Death Valley banged and bruised after their 23-13 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma.  The most popular word in the pre game notes for Florida State is QUESTIONABLE, and thus so is the outcome of this game.  Clemson finally got their offense going against Auburn thanks to Tajh Boyd and breakout freshman Sammy Watkins, and the Tigers have a lot of momentum with their Atlantic Division rivals coming to town.  Last season this game was decided by a 55-yard walk-off field goal by Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins.  Saturday's tilt could be just as close. - CP

Ohio State vs. Colorado - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

What looked like sort of a throwaway game in August now has some intrigue. Colorado's not very good at all, but Ohio State has its own quarterback issues to work out after last week's disastrous showing in a 24-6 loss at Miami. The game's in Columbus, so it's unlikely that all hell breaks loose, but if Colorado hangs around, you never know... - AJ

DINNER

#12 South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt - ESPN2 7pm ET

The upstart Commodores move up about three or four classes from their featherweight bout against Ole Miss when they travel to Columbia to take on Marcus Lattimore and Co. Knowing that Lattimore will get his and that the terrors on the Carolina defensive front will hamper any effort to run, any chance of Vandy springing the upset rests in the passing game--in Larry Smith taking advantage of the soft Gamecock secondary, and the ballhawking Vandy defensive backs wringing a couple of game-changing turnovers out of Stephen Garcia. - JH

Kentucky vs. #15 Florida - ESPN 7pm ET

You there, good sir (or madam): do you enjoy the spectacle of wholesale slaughter? Do you take pleasure in the most savage of horse-whippings? Then may we please direct your attention this-a-way to yonder annual meeting between the Wildcats and Gators, won by the Floridians by an average of 42 points these past three years. And with these unfortunate Wildcats having had their offensive teeth removed this offseason just hence -- from cuspid to canine! -- this sideshow could be the bloodiest yet! - JH 

#1 Oklahoma vs. Missouri - FX 8pm ET

Last year on a Saturday night in Columbia, the Oklahoma Sooners came into town sporting a new spot atop the rankings. They would not return home with that #1 next to their name. This season it's the Tigers who come to Oklahoma to once again face the top-ranked team in the land. Can Missouri destroy Oklahoma's national title chances two years in a row? Tune in to find out. - TF

#16 West Virginia vs. #2 LSU - ABC 8pm ET

Anticipation for this game has had Morgantown buzzing since Monday, and I suggest you are settled into your spot on the couch (if city officials haven't removed it yet) by kickoff.  Dana Holgorsen's offense has been among the most efficient in the nation, and LSU's defense has worn down and broken every challenger they have faced.  I expect the Mountaineers to feed off the home crowd and get a fast start, the question will be how long they can keep it up against the tenacious Bayou Bengals defense.  It's the heavyweight match up of the evening - no reason to miss this one. - CP 

LATE NIGHT SNACKS

Arizona vs. #10 Oregon - ESPN2 10:15pm ET

Oregon begins conference play this weekend and is looking for their 13th-straight league victory against Arizona. The Ducks have bounced back from their opening loss against LSU to blow out a pair of opponents and get the offense cranked up again. Arizona is in the middle of a rough stretch to open the season but they do have an excellent quarterback in Nick Foles, the third best passer in the country, who has yet to throw an interception. - Bryan Fischer

Arizona State vs. #23 USC - ESPN 10:15pm ET

Though USC is ineligible for the Pac-12 South title, they will essentially be settling it on the field as the Trojans head to Tempe to take on Arizona State. Dennis Erickson's team fell to Illinois in a close game last week but are hoping to get things going again. ASU has lost 11 straight to USC so this game is about more than winning a game, it's about ending a long streak with the best team the Sun Devils have had. This game is worth watching just to see linebacker Vontaze Burfict take on Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. - BF
Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:40 pm
 

Gary Pinkel explains why he 'iced' his own kicker

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Missouri's overtime loss to Arizona State on Friday night was filled with more than its share of exciting moments, as Missouri overcame a 30-16 deficit in the final quarter to force overtime. Of course, the end of the game also had one head-scratching moment as well.

With the game tied 30-30 and 17 seconds remaining, Missouri kicker Grant Ressel lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt to win the game. Then, as you would expect in this situation, a timeout was called. Only, it wasn't Dennis Erickson and Arizona State who called the timeout, it was Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.

Making matters even more confusing, after the first timeout, when Ressel and Mizzou lined up once more to kick the field goal, Pinkel called another timeout.

Ressel had been iced by his head coach twice. Why? Well, according to Pinkel, he was trying to get Arizona State to jump offsides so Ressel could attempt a 43-yard field goal instead.

"We tried to get five more yards," Pinkel told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "They were jumping, (Vontaze Burfict) was jumping all over and blowing our guard up and timing it and going every time. And we thought just maybe we could get him to jump offsides and we'd have gotten the first down." 

Of course Ressel would go on to miss the kick and Missouri would lose in overtime. As you'd expect, Pinkel's caught a bit of heat for calling those timeouts, especially because nobody but he knew the reasoning behind them. Still, even knowing now what Pinkel was trying to do, I'm still not sure it was the right move.

There's enough pressure on a kicker in that game-winning situation to begin with, and that pressure is magnified when you add the distance of the kick into the equation. Could that five yards have made a big difference? Possibly, but I'm not sure the difference in the length of the kick had as much of an impact on the extra few minutes Ressel had to stand around thinking about it.
 
 
 
 
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