Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:35 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
UCLA WILL WIN IF: The Bruins need a lot to happen if they're going to pull off the improbable and win the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Again, they need a lot to happen if last week's loss to USC was any indication. The defense needs stops of course, allowing big plays to Oregon will not only kill them on the scoreboard but severely hamper their ability to come back with an offense that is built to run and can't really throw. The Pistol can give defenses problems if not prepared and it's possible the Ducks don't take the Bruins too seriously given that it's a home game against a .500 team. Toss in some special teams play and there's a slim chance UCLA wins.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: Just do what they tend to do to conference teams - run around them. UCLA is not exactly the marquee opponent Oregon fans (or Larry Scott for that matter) were hoping for once they beat Stanford to essentially win the Pac-12 and host the first ever championship game. Chip Kelly won't mind making a statement, especially one that features (if completely healthy) LaMichael James as he tries to make it to New York once again. The Bruins figure to run the ball so the defense will have to be prepared and should use the preparation for one of the Big Ten teams they'll face in the Rose Bowl.
X-FACTOR: Special teams. If UCLA can make a few plays in the return game (they might have plenty of chances) they could make things closer than many expect. Field position will be crucial for the offense as they likely look to control the clock and keep the ball out of the Ducks hands. Turn the ball over or allow a big return or two and this could get out of hand quickly. The Bruins have their backs against the wall so don't be surprised if they try a few trick plays as well.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 3:05 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As has been expected since the moment USC finished their 50-0 demolition of the Bruins Saturday, UCLA has officially fired head coach Rick Neuheisel. Athletic director Dan Guerrero announced the decision Monday afternoon.
Neuheisel will, however, be allowed to coach the Bruins in Saturday's Pac-12 championship game at North division winner Oregon. Following the game, offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will become interim head coach and would presumably coach the Bruins in any potential bowl game, including the Rose Bowl. (Barring the massive upset in Eugene, the Bruins would need a waiver from the NCAA after finishing with a 6-7 overall record--a game short of the .500 mark normally required for postseason play.)
In his statement, Guerrero said that he had "great respect" for Neuheisel and "the manner in which he has run this program," but added that he felt the time had come to make a change.
"Decisions such as this one do not come without a great deal of heartache," he said. "However, it is apparent to me that a move was necessary at this time in order to give UCLA the best chance to enjoy the success that we all desire."
Neuhseisel leaves with just a 21-28 mark in his four seasons at the Bruin helm, one bowl appearance, and a 13-23 mark against the Pac-10/12.
Apparently, Guerrero neglected to let Neuheisel inform the team the decision had been made before the news became official. A tweet Monday from from junior tight end Joseph Fauria expressed his frustration:
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.
As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.
Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.
Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.
The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.
Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.
The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.
It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.
It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.
"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."
After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.
"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."
Nothing like beating a rival.
Stat of the week
In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.
Stats of week
- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)
- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.
- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.
- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).
- LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.
- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.
- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.
- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.
- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.
- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.
- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.
- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.
- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.
- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.
- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.
- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.
- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.
- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.
- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.
Tweet of the week
"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.
- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit
3. Oklahoma State
7. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
Where we'll be this week
I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
Leaning this way
Georgia vs. LSU
Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.
Wisconsin vs. Michigan State
These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Al Golden, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Backyard Brawl, Bedlam, Big East, Big House, Billy Cannon, Bo Pellini, Boise State, Boone Pickens Stadium, Boston College, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bryan Fischer, California, Cam Newton, Case Keenum, Charlie Strong, Chip Patterson, Chris Huston, Coleman Petersen, Colorado, Conference USA, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, Dennis Erickson, Derek Dooley, FIU, Georgia, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Houston, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Jacory Harris, Jeff Fuller, Jeff Tedford, John Elway, Joker Phillips, Jon Embree, Jordan Jefferson, Justin Tucker, Justin Wilcox, Kenny Hilliard, Kentucky, Kyle Field, Landry Jones, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Logan Thomas, Louisville, LSU, Luke Kuechly, Mack Brown, Matt Barkley, Miami, Michigan, Michigan, MIchigan State, Mitch Barnhart, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-12 Championship Game, Patrick Edwards, Penn State, Pitt, Rex Burkhead, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, SEC, South Florida, Spencer Ware, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Tino Sunseri, Tony Barnhart, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:52 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Hot shot commissioner, brand new media deal providing more exposure than ever, facilities upgrades, more money and increased focus on wins.
It's a good time to be a head coach in the Pac-12... except when you're being shown the door.
As the coaching carousel begins in earnest with the end of the regular season, the for-sale signs are popping up all over the West. Thanks in large part to that new media deal, schools are feeling the pressure to win just as much as their counterparts in other parts of the country. The landscape is shifting in college athletics and athletic directors are coming to the realization that they have to find the right guy to lead their program or it's time to make changes.
And if you're an AD even thinking about firing the head coach, you probably should do so. Many have already come to that conclusion and before the Pac-12 puts on the first ever conference title game, there will likely be a third of the league's schools looking at having a new head coach in 2012.
Arizona got a head start on the process and appears to have gotten an A-list head coach for a bargain basement price. Athletic director Greg Byrne is known as one of the sharpest AD's in the country and it showed by shrewdly firing Mike Stoops early in the season following a loss to Oregon State. That allowed him to take his time to research candidates and see who would be the best fit, going so far as to seek out the opinions of the state's high school coaches. Former CBS Sports analyst Rich Rodriguez had taken West Virginia to the cusp of playing for a national title and though he had a rocky time in Ann Arbor, Michigan improved each year he was there. Now he's in Tuscon and while he has another rebuilding job ahead of him, his offense should fit right in out West.
Up the road in Tempe, Arizona State comes open after Dennis Erickson saw the Sun Devils slip from South division locks to barely bowl eligible. Injuries no doubt played a part in 2011's slide but with so many returning starters and upperclassmen on the team, things never did pull together like ASU brass thought it would. For years, this job was thought to be a sleeping giant with access to plenty of talent, decent facilities, a good city to live in and the ability to get plenty of recruits into school. Athletic director Lisa Love will likely target Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin as her first choice (he'll bring plenty of offense and has put Houston a game away from a BCS bowl) but it's possible former Oregon head coach Mike Belloti and even Mike Leach will get an interview.
If Leach's issues (lawsuits against Texas Tech and ESPN, perhaps too open of a personality) don't get him the job with Arizona State, he could be taking his talents to the Palouse. Paul Wulff inherited one of the worst programs in the country - BCS conference or otherwise - and turned Washington State around by steadily improving from year-to-year. They pulled a few upsets this season, including one over ASU that likely shoved Erickson out the door, and came close several other times but it appears they're looking to go in another direction. Leach will have some talent on offense that can utilize his system to put up some big numbers and he knows he can win with the Cougars after seeing Mike Price take them to the Rose Bowl. A West Coast guy, Leach can recruit California with ease and would provide plenty of interest in a program that hasn't had much at all the past couple of years. If he takes a job elsewhere however, AD Bill Moos might have to turn to an assistant coach or a lower-level head coach to fill the needs of a program that seems to be on the right track in a tough division.
Finally there's UCLA, which is probably the most attractive job that will come open west of the Mississippi. One of the few issues is the fact that athletic director Dan Guerrero is himself on shaky ground and may not be making the hire. After Saturday's embarrassing 50-0 loss to crosstown rival USC, it's clear that the gap Rick Neuheisel so recently talked about closing has never been bigger. The Bruins will play in the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game but based on how they played against the Trojans, it looks like they'll just be sacrificial lambs to an Oregon team in the top ten. When - not if - Neuheisel is let go following the game, the direction the school takes in finding his replacement will be an interesting one. Alumni are clearly fed up with the losing and have a prime opportunity to take advantage of local talent with USC entering scholarship reductions for the next three years. The facilities are good and few campuses in the country can compare to what they have in Westwood.
Boise State's Chris Petersen is the name frequently tossed around as the Bruins' top target but they have a better chance of knocking off Oregon and going to the Rose Bowl than they do landing Petersen. Boosters are ready to pony up the cash - as much as $3 million or more - but who's handling the search remains to be seen. After missing with his previous football hires, it's hard to see that being Guerrero. After Petersen, Sumlin seems like the top candidate but they'll have to move quickly. Leach, who went to school at Pepperdine and is well-connected in Los Angeles, still seems like a long shot due to his legal issues but he would certainly put people in the seats at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Off the radar candidates include Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, SMU's June Jones, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Belloti.
There are plenty of good jobs in the Pac-12 for the taking and someone is going to take them. Who and when remain to be seen.
Tags: Arizona, Arizona State, BCS, Bill Moos, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Charlie Strong, Chris Petersen, Coaching Changes, Coaching Rumors, Dan Guerrero, Dennis Erickson, Greg Byrne, Houston, June Jones, Kevin Sumlin, Lisa Love, Louisville, Michigan, Mike Belloti, Mike Leach, Mike Price, Mike Stoops, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Paul Chryst, Paul Wulff, Pepperdine, Rich Neuheisel, rich Rodgriguez, Rose Bowl, SMU, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:37 pm
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
In many ways, USC was perfect for Matt Barkley and he was perfect for USC. The blond-haired Southern California kid with a great smile not only was good enough to start as a freshman but he was such a well-spoken leader that he became the face of program as it was dragged down through NCAA sanctions. Saturday seemed to be as good as it gets for Barkley, who didn't plan on his career having as many ups and downs as it has but still managed to come out on top thanks to his talent and his attitude. The junior will have a decision to make, return for one more year with a top five team and lead USC back to glory or take his talents to the NFL (South Beach, perhaps?).
It is a win-win decision either way for the signal-caller. NFL millions or a Disney ending at one of the most prestigious programs in the country? It will take some time for him to reach a decision but if holding the sword and singing the fight song after a 50-0 win over crosstown rival UCLA is his final game in cardinal and gold, that's one heck of a way to go out on top.LOSERS: Dan Guerrero and Rick Neuheisel
Late in the 4th quarter, as UCLA was trying to make the score look somewhat presentable, athletic director Dan Guerrero was standing on the Bruins sideline with a blank stare on his face. He wasn't looking at anything in particular but it seemed clear that the 50-0 thrashing the Trojans had handed out was the low point in the season and maybe even Guerrero's tenure. It was made worse by the fact that Neuheisel said earlier in the week that the gap between the two programs had closed, only after his team had backed into the Pac-12 Championship Game thanks to some help from his former school Colorado. Another blowout loss likely awaits the boys in blue once they get to Eugene this week.
Saturday's loss ended any hope for Slick Rick to keep his job. Angry alumni might not stop at his job either, looking to take Guerrero down with him. Given the basketball team's underwhelming start to the year there could be even more turnover in Westwood. First to go however, is Neuheisel, who probably sealed his fate by saying in his post game press conference that he knew the team was in trouble from USC's first drive as Guerrero quietly looked on.
WINNER: Colorado seniors
Nobody on Colorado's roster had won a road game with the Buffaloes. It was a remarkable 23-game losing streak away from Boulder and was shed in improbable fashion Saturday afternoon against a Utah team that could be playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl had they ended up winning. The Buffs jumped out to an early 10-0 halftime lead, held a 254-39 total-yardage advantage and dominated in time of possession. They withstood the Utes comeback in the third quarter though and held on in a crazy fourth to eek out the victory and end the streak. The senior class, which had been through so much, ends their season at 3-10 but goes out on a high note with the win.
LOSER: Pac-12 Real Estate agents
Arizona has already filled their head coaching vacancy but real estate agents in Los Angeles, Tempe and Pullman are getting the for sale signs ready and preparing to unload a few expensive houses onto a down market.
They're going to have to be extremely good at their job because why would anybody in those cities want to buy Neuheisel's, Dennis Erickson's or Paul Wulff's house right now?
Washington ended a three game skid with a nice win over their in-state rival Washington State to capture the 104th Apple Cup. The season was looking like it would be headed toward a disappointing finish after last week's loss to Oregon State and the Cougars had pulled to within 28-21. But Chris Polk scored a touchdown and the Huskies pulled away late to capture their third consecutive Cup. One thing Steve Sarkisian learned under Pete Carroll was to beat your rivals and as head coach at Washington he's done plenty of that.
LOSER: Rich Rodriguez
Yes he was just hired. And yes, the former CBS Sports analyst will probably do a great job in Tuscon. But still, if there was a "whoops" moment from his first week on the job, it came Saturday as he put on a sombrero as he was welcomed by the Wildcat faithful. It's no Josh Groban moment like he had at Michigan but it's not his greatest look either.
WINNER: Eugene Florists
Civl War victory? Check. Hosting Pac-12 Championship Game? Check. Rose Bowl-bound? All signs point to yes. The Ducks knew they would likely be hosting the first ever conference title as soon as they walked off the field against Stanford. The loss to USC dampened their spirits but considering how the Trojans manhandled the Bruins - Oregon's opponent this week - it seems safe to say that there are going to be plenty of red roses sold across the state and, in particular, in Eugene. Another Pac-12 title awaits the boys in green and ???, as does a trip to Pasadena for a chance to beat one of the weakest Big Ten representatives in years. It's good to be a Duck fan but even better to be selling roses by the dozen in Eugene.
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Tags: Apple Cup, Arizona, Big Ten, Bryan Fischer, Chris Polk, Civil War, Civil War, Colorado, Dan Guerrero, Dennis Erickson, Disney, Josh Groban, Matt Barkley, Michigan, NCAA, NFL, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Pac-12 Championship Game, Paul Wulff, Pete Carroll, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Stanford, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:53 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin did what he could to get Matt Barkley to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
USC receivers just kept running routes and, thanks to Barkley, UCLA fell on the wrong end of a rout once again.
It had been 534 days but USC could finally say they were bowl eligible too.
The Trojans have to win at least six games next season to qualify for a bowl of course - a near certainty given the amount of talent returning in 2012 - but on the Coliseum turf Saturday night, they could finally say they had the right to play in one after shutting out their crosstown rival UCLA 50-0.
The only question left in 2011: One more year or thanks for the memories Matt?
"This night is too special to take away from what we've done," Barkley said. "I don't want to worry about my future, I want to spend my time enjoying the night. We've worked hard for this and we deserve to celebrate a little bit."
Barkley's team jumped the gun a little, singing the fight song while he was in the middle of his press conference.
"That gave me chills."
In what could have been the quarterback's final performance under center, he went out close to perfect: 35-for-42, 423 yards and a school record-tying (his own, by the way) six touchdown passes.
The fans want an encore next year and you can understand why.
"When he gets back from New York we will sit down," Kiffin said. "Unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he is not coming back.
"I probably shouldn't say this but I look up to Matt Barkley. He has been through a lot of adversity. Basically all of his dreams about football were taken away with the sanctions. I don't know any 39-year olds that can handle things the way he did, much less any 19-year olds."
The pitch to stay is easy enough he doesn't have to say much at all.
USC started just only four seniors, two of whom were on offense. Just nine players who saw any significant playing time won't be back next year prior to any NFL defections. Biletnikoff finalist Robert Woods (13 catches for 113 yards, two touchdowns) will return and Marqise Lee (13 catches for 224 yards, two touchdowns) will be just a sophomore. Every starter on the offensive line could return, including potential first round left tackle Matt Kalil, who he said is a "package deal" with Barkley earlier in the week.
Even the defense is loaded, with two freshman tying for the lead in tackles for the first time in school history.
So the question will be, for the next several weeks, will he stay or will he go?
"I've been in his ear trying to get him back," Woods said. "Of course the decision is his but I feel like we could go a long way with him."
"I haven't started yet," Lee said with a grin. "But I'm going to."
Kiffin has been on record saying that sure-fire first round picks should leave but his tune has changed over the past few months. Not much of a joker, he's cracks plenty about his quarterback coming back.
With Barkley the Trojans can emerge from their bowl ban (and start scholarship reductions) as a top five team, primed to compete not only for a Rose Bowl but a national title like the good old days under Pete Carroll. The blond-haired Southern California kid could lead his dream school out of the program's toughest days and back to the promise land.
"We are coming out of the dark," said Kiffin about 2012.
USC has a great film department so they may have already sold the script to Disney.
"It means a lot knowing the Trojan family has my back. It's going to be tough," the signal-caller added. "I'm still enjoying that game and enjoying this night."
The Coliseum crowd started the "One more year" chant early. After watching the Trojans' scoreboard get a workout though, it wasn't clear who they wanted to come back more, Barkley or UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.
The loss dropped him to 26-32 overall, 17-15 in the conference at his alma mater. Though Neuheisel has yet to beat USC, he talked about the gap between the school 14 miles away being closed earlier in the week - after UCLA backed into the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon.
"That was a pretty strong statement to make," Kiffin said. "Our players took that very personal. It was talked about a lot and not by me at all. I think they really felt disrespected."
After Saturday, the gap may never have been wider.
"I'm going to evaluate this program at the end of the year like I always have," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "We've got another game to focus on and it's a big game.
"It's a devastating loss for any Bruin fan or anybody in that locker room or any of the coaches."
UCLA gave up a 98-yard scoring drive and defensive backs had trouble all night preventing receivers from getting behind them for long scores. They allowed the Trojans' smallest offensive player, running back Curtis McNeal, to take a simple off tackle play 73-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Quarterback Kevin Prince was the lone bright spot but ended up as the team's leading rusher, not exactly the plan.
In many ways it was over before it began.
"The first drive," Neuheisel said of when he knew he had a problem. "We couldn't stop them and we were too inconsistent on offense to be in a scoring fest and it just got out of hand."
The Pac-12 office said USC could only say they finished in first with their 10-2 record and could not call themselves South champions. They gave their blessing for UCLA to do, despite finishing second, however.
Tomato, tohmato. First place vs. South champion, the scoreboard did the talking.
"It shows who really is the Pac-12 champion," Kalil said.
In the locker room after the game, the team found shirts adorned with "Pac-12 South Champions" awaiting them from athletic director Pat Haden.
Across the country there are plenty of fierce rivalries but nothing quite like the crosstown showdown that takes place at the end of the season every year in Los Angeles. Office bragging rights are at stake. Friends won't speak to each other afterward. In plenty of cases it pits brother versus brother - including on the field.
Tim McDonald was a two-time All-American safety for USC. Son T.J. followed in his footsteps and started for the Trojans when he was a freshman at the position. Younger brother Tevin took a different path and signed with the Bruins, ending up as the starter opposite his brother Saturday night.
T.J. will take home bragging rights once again and likely spend Christmas detailing his interception in the red zone that ended one of the few Bruins scoring threats.
"It's a big thing," McDonald said of the pick. "But for us to get that shutout, for this crosstown rivalry, to play this way in the last game of the season, this was our bowl game. We had nothing to leave out on the field and we did that."
Kiffin's squad took the title of city champions for the 12th time in 13 years. Though they had the (NCAA) book thrown at them and doubters aplenty, they lived up to the school's 'Fight On' motto throughout the turmoil that had engulfed the program the past few years and, it seems, is starting to disperse.
"We had a lot to play for this year," Barkley said. "We were playing for this university, the history of this program. You're playing for personal pride, you don't want to just flush the season down the toilet. There were a ton of things that we were playing for and that motivated us."
Woods became the school and conference leader in receptions early in the second half. Barkley broke Matt Leinart's school and conference record with his 39th touchdown pass of the season.
"It's unreal, I never thought this would happen," he said. "I remember watching that year that he had."
The Trojans were not eligible for the Pac-12 championship or a BCS bowl but they stated their case one final time that they could beat anybody in the country in 2011.
"The way we're playing, I think we could," Barkley said.
So what about next year?
Tags: BCS, Biletnikoff Award, Bryan Fischer, Curtis McNeal, Dan Guerrero, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Kevin Prince, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Matt Leinart, NCAA, Oregon, Pac-12, Pac-12 Championship Game, Pat Haden, Pete Carroll, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, T.J. McDonald, Tevin McDonald, Tim McDonald, UCLA, USC
Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:00 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
OREGON WON. The Beavers had won just three games all year but that didn't mean they were to be taken lightly by the Ducks in the Civil War. It looked like Oregon came out flat and uninspired early in the game however, missing several chances to easily take control of the game with two early interceptions of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion. But, as they've done countless times, a few quick scoring drives put the game away as home team not only won their traditional rivalry game but put up some style points heading into next week's Pac-12 Championship game.
WHY OREGON WON: The defense did a good job against Mannion and the Beavers' passing attack but Darron Thomas starting hitting his targets in the second quarter to really get the offense going. A week after having his struggles against USC in the first home loss ever under Chip Kelly, Thomas tossed touchdown passes to David Paulson, De'Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Colt Lyerla on the way to a 25 for 38 and 295 yard day. LaMichael James had no issues on the ground, rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown before hurting his wrist late in the third quarter.
WHEN OREGON WON: After two interceptions, Mannion bounced back with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Jovan Stevenson to even the score at 7-all. The Ducks came right back and turned on the jets with a few big plays on back-to-back scoring drives of 75+ yards led mostly by Thomas' passing. Oregon added a third touchdown drive right before halftime to put things away as it was much of the same in the second half - all green, all the time.
WHAT OREGON WON: The win secured the North division for the Ducks and hosting duties for the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game, which will be Friday at Autzen. Though they are out of the national title race - baring complete and utter chaos - the Rose Bowl is still a pretty good consolation prize for Oregon. Beat UCLA next week and flower shops around Eugene will be out of red roses.
WHAT OREGON STATE LOST: Another loss in a disappointing season as the Beavers fall to 3-9 in 2011. Mike Riley certainly had higher expectations but the team had to replace a lot from last year's mediocre squad and it showed. Although James Rodgers has now played his final game in orange, it's an encouraging sign for the offense to see the progress Mannion has made in the passing game as a redshirt freshman. The defense needs a lot of work as well, just one of many things to work on in what should be a long offseason.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:10 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
It was the first time since 2001 three of the top five teams in the BCS standings lost in the same weekend. With the latest shakeup in the BCS leaving three SEC West teams in the top spots, what kind of scenarios are we looking at coming down the stretch of the regular season?
CBSSports.com BCS Expert Jerry Palm joins Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst to recap the crazy weekend that was and look at some of the BCS bowl possibilities based on the latest results. Palm breaks down the different scenarios for the National Championship game, and weighs in on Michigan's shot at making a BCS bowl game. The gang also recaps an upset-friendly weekend in the Big 12, and wonders who will emerge on top in the Pac-12 South. Reset your bowl game scenarios with a Week 12 recap on this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast.
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Tags: Adam Aizer, Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, BCS Podcast, BCS Predictions, BCS Projections, BCS Standings, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Bowl Predictions, Bowl projections, CBS Sports College Football Podcast, CBS Sports Podcast, Chip Patterson, College Football Podcast, Dennis Erickson, Iowa State, J. Darin Darst, Jerry Balm, Les Miles, LSU, Michigan, Mike Gundy, National Championship Game, Nick Saban, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Orange Bowl, Podcast, Rose Bowl, UCLA