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Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

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Related links
Video
Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview


Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 8

Posted by Chip Patterson

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)

4/3. Stanford

With the national audience and a ranked opponent, Stanford put on an explosive show at the right time for the voters. The 65-21 track meet victory against Washington highlighted everything dominant about Stanford not-named Andrew Luck. The 446-172 advantage in rushing yards showed the Cardinal have much more to going for them than just their junior star quarterback. The nation took notice, and now the Stanford has moved into position to possibly contend for a national title.

7/7. Oregon

Oregon showed no need to test their injured offensive backfield against Colorado during the 45-2 beatdown in Boulder. The Ducks move up in the polls to fill open spots, but unlike their Pac-12 rivals at Stanford they carry that one loss from the season opener. Oregon's best chances to continue to climb will require more top teams losing, but if LSU defeats Alabama and retains the top spot that one loss will continue to look "acceptable" in the minds of many voters.

20/N/A. USC

NCAA sanctions will keep USC out of the Coaches Poll, but their third 30+ point performance in as many weeks was enough to get them back into the AP rankings. USC's defense held Notre Dame to just 267 total yards and only one offensive touchdown in the impressive 31-17 victory under the lights in South Bend. The Irish got back to their turnover-prone ways, and the Trojans made sure to take advantage. Now Lane Kiffin gets the opportunity to play spoiler to title-contending Stanford when the Cardinal come to town this Saturday for the primetime showdown on national television.

23/20. Arizona State

Very little movement in the polls for the Sun Devils, as Dennis Erickson's squad got the enjoyed their off week. They will return to action on Saturday against Colorado at home (basically part of the bye week) before focusing on the home stretch and a potential Pac-12 South division crown. The schedule sets up well for the Sun Devils, who should be favored to represent the division in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. All they need to do is make sure they don't slip up along the way.


Others receiving votes: Washington was dropped from the rankings after their loss at the hands of Stanford, but still received 32 points in the AP and 20 from the Coaches.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:35 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The Stanford Machine

There are two ways that you can take Stanford's 65-21 win over Washington on Saturday night. You can tell yourself that Washington was just a bit overrated coming into the matchup, or you can tell yourself that Stanford is just insanely good at this sport called football. Odds are, for mental health reasons, the rest of the Pac-12 is going to convince itself that Washington was overrated. I'm not in that camp, as I think the Huskies are a good team and that Stanford is just really, really good.

We're nearly two months into the season and I haven't seen any sign that would indicate there's a Pac-12 team that will be able to slow down this Cardinal offense. Just another mind-numbingly efficient, throat-stomping 65-point performance from an offense that is now averaging 48.6 points per game. Stanford ran for 446 yards on Saturday night. 446! Another 7 yards from Anthony Wilkerson and the Cardinal would have had three 100-yard rushers in the game. Good luck trying to stop that, everybody else in the Pac-12. The Stanford Machine will gladly keep coming out with that unbalanced offensive line and pulling the guard just for the fun of seeing you trampled beneath it.

LOSER: Washington State's bowl dreams

This one hurts me a bit because I wanted to believe in Washington State after its 3-1 start just for the story, but the Cougars have now lost three in a row following a 44-21 loss to an Oregon State team that's been anything but good this year. Now Washington State needs to find three more wins on its schedule to go bowling and with road dates against Oregon, Cal and Washington, along with home games against Arizona State and Utah, I just don't see it happening.

WINNER: Lane Kiffin

Kiffykins finally got that signature win he's been looking for since taking over the USC program. The Trojans marched into South Bend on Saturday night and took care of their hated rival with relative ease. In fact, I'm not sure Kiffin has ever called a better set of plays in his life than he did on USC's first two drives of the game, as his offense had the Notre Dame defense completely off-balance and looking lost. The Irish were able to make things close late, but the Trojans defense came through with some huge turnovers to salt this one away. Making things even better for Kiffin and the Trojans, the Irish had a lot of recruits in the house on Saturday night and they were all witness to the USC victory.

LOSER: Colorado football in general

Man, what a beating the Buffaloes took from Oregon on Saturday. The Ducks came into the game without their starting quarterback in Darron Thomas and leading rusher LaMichael James, but it didn't matter all that much. The Ducks still put up 45 points with ease and had 527 yards of offense despite the fact that Chip Kelly called off the dogs with more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter. The highlight of the night for Colorado was a safety late in the third quarter to account for its only points. Still, there's something about losing 45-2 that seems even worse than just getting shutout.

WINNER: Streakers dressed up as referees

Arizona's 48-12 victory over UCLA on Thursday night wouldn't be all that memorable if not for one fan who decided it would be the perfect time for him to debut his new field-storming techniques. For too long streakers have entered the field of play in street clothes, making them easy to spot for security and others. This innovator, however, entered the field in a referee's uniform so that by the time anybody was really aware of what was going on he was taking off down the field shedding clothing with every step. Now, we here at CBSSports.com don't necessarily condone this type of behavior, but we're not going to discourage it either. Especially when it's so creative.

LOSER: Rick Neuheisel

Was there anybody watching UCLA's loss to Arizona on Thursday night who didn't feel as though they were watching the final nails being driven into the coffin of Rick Neuheisel's tenure at the school? Sure, he may survive the rest of the regular season, but I don't think anybody who read between the lines of athletic director Dan Guerrero's words earlier this week can actually believe that he'll be returning in 2012.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:11 am
 

Eye on College Football Midseason Report: Pac-12



Posted by Bryan Fischer

Everybody is still trying to get used to calling it the Pac-12 but the football being played out West hasn't changed much at all from last year. Stanford still has the best player in college football and a punishing style of football that has them on the fringe of the national title race. Oregon continues to put up points faster than anybody and even if a few players are hurt, they just plug another player in to break big plays. There's been surprises too, like Washington doing just fine with new starter Keith Price under center. It's not as strong top-to-bottom as it was last year but there's plenty of quality football (and plenty of money) that Larry Scott couldn't be happier to watch.

With that, let's get onto the superlatives for the year thus far. There was plenty of competition every step of the way, and truth be told we could have handed out some ties on a lot of these categories, but if college football fans wanted ties we wouldn't have overtime, so here we go.

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Stanford. The object of many NFL general managers affection, Luck has gone out and played nearly flawless despite a rebuilt offensive line and a brand new cast of wide receivers. He's tossed 18 touchdowns against just three interceptions and positioned the Cardinal for a Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000. Watch him pick apart any secondary on a nice Saturday afternoon and it's a thing of beauty. Without Luck, one wonders if Stanford even makes a decent bowl game so it's easy to see why he's the Pac-12 offensive player of the year at the halfway point. Also considered: LaMichael James, Oregon; Keith Price, Washington; Robert Woods, USC.

Defensive Player of the Year: Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State. Burfict has built of a reputation for playing beyond the whistle and that sometimes overshadows how good he is between the lines. Despite losing several starters to the Sun Devils defense, the unit has still performed very well. He's much more dangerous on blitzes this season and is sixth in the conference in sacks. Burfict doesn't fill the stat sheet like others might but his impact on the field can be felt on every snap. Also considered: Chase Thomas, Stanford; Mychal Kendricks, Cal

Coach of the Year: Steve Sarkisian, Washington. Need to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history? No problem for this former signal-caller, who has the Huskies offense humming and off to a 5-1 start and an appearance in the top 25. They've got a tough stretch of games coming up but they're almost assured of going to a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Also considered: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; David Shaw, Stanford.

Surprise: Washington State. The conference bottom-dweller for so many years, the Cougars are much, much more competitive in 2011. They've won three games already and should be 4-2 but let a late lead slip at UCLA. There's still an outside shot of a bowl game but considering they're even this good despite quarterback Jeff Tuel has missed most of the season, returning just last week against Stanford. Also considered: Washington

Disappointment:  Utah. Everybody knew it would be a difficult transition for the Utes to a BCS league and the week-in and week-out grid. But not everyone expected the injuries, such as a season-ending one to quarterback Jordan Wynn, and trailing off in the second half of just about every game. They went on the road and beat Pitt so maybe they'll have a little momentum headed into the back half of their schedule (which is much easier than the front half). Still, for a team some touted as the possible Pac-12 South winner, the .500 record isn't what was expected. Also considered: Oregon State; Arizona; Cal

Game of the Year (so far): Utah at USC. We wouldn't exactly call this a scintillating game but it had drama and was hard-fought until the end. The first ever Pac-12 conference game, it pitted the league's most storied member against the league's newest. There was plenty of drama, as the Utes drove down the field in a last-minute to set up a game-tying field goal. But the kick was blocked and, in a unsual series of events, run back by USC for a touchdown while officials signaled that the points would be taken off the board due to unsportsmanlike conduct. Only hours later was their mistake corrected and the points added to the final score, sending Las Vegas sports books into a frenzy. Also considered: Oregon vs. LSU, Arizona State at Oregon.

Game of the Year (to come): Oregon at Stanford. The defacto Pac-12 championship game, this is a top 10 match up with the winner likely headed to the Rose Bowl at the end of the year. The Cardinal led last year before the Ducks stormed back on their way to the national championship game. This year Stanford will likely be favored to win the game at home and they're better equipped to stop Oregon's high-powered offense with the Pac-12's best defense this year. Running back LaMichael James should be back in the starting lineup by then so this is a battle of Heisman trophy runners-up from last year in Luck and James.  Also considered: Stanford at USC, Oregon at Washington.

North Division Champion: Stanford. See above, the division champion will be decided in Palo Alto in early November. Technically Washington still has an outside shot and they do host Oregon but they're not an elite team like the Ducks and Cardinal are. With Andrew Luck under center and an improved defense, the road to the first Pac-12 North title, and league championship, runs through Stanford. Also considered: Oregon.

South Division Champion: Arizona State. Thanks to a head-to-head win and USC being ineligible, the Sun Devils have locked up the South well before the end of the season. They don't have to play Stanford this season but in their first big test against elite team, they fell short against Oregon. Still, the schedule is easy the rest of the way and they will be favored to win out before playing at the North winner in the Pac-12 Championship game at 10-2.

Pac-12 Champion: Stanford. Having the best player in the league, the best defense in the league and the biggest game of the year sets up nicely for first year head coach David Shaw. Winning the inaugural Pac-12 title and a trip to Pasadena for Stanford's first Rose Bowl in over a decade would have been unexpected just two years ago but here the Cardinal are, in the driver's seat. They also have a chance to move into the top five and on the cusp of a national title appearance if still undefeated at the end of the year. Also considered: Oregon.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: October 17, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 4:17 pm
 

Week 8 Picks: Who do you like?

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Each week, the CBSSports.com college football staff offer their choice for the week's Expert Picks. But before we make our selections for Week 8, we spin the wheel o' games to select a handful of contests we want your take on. You can see the results of the voting each Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on Inside College Football, which airs on CBS Sports Network. 

Your options are below, and choose wisely, because if you're wrong we will send somebody to your house to laugh at you. Seriously, we will. Don't test us.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 7

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)

7/5. Stanford

No movement for the Cardinal in the polls for the first time in a while. Perhaps voters only watched the second half of their game against Washington State or checked the box score because Andrew Luck and the offense struggled early in the game before blowing things open late. The issue with this team will be that they haven't played a ranked team at all but that will change with a game against Washington this week and possibly another with USC in two weeks before the big November showdown with Oregon.

9/9. Oregon

It's rare to see two ties in the poll but that's what the Coaches Poll had and the Ducks were involved with one of them. They're still at nine in the AP behind Clemson but are tied with the Tigers in the coaches at eight. It speaks to the perception of Oregon, especially after beating Arizona State at home, that they could be tied with an undefeated team in the polls and into the top eight despite the season opening loss to LSU. They still control their own destiny for the Rose Bowl which is all a Pac-12 team can ask for at this point.

18/20. Arizona State

A big win over Utah one week, a big loss to Oregon the next. The good news is they put up enough of a fight to show voters that they still deserve to remain in the top 25. The Sun Devils fell six spots in the AP and five in the Coaches but have a schedule that allows them to win and move back up into the top 20. They look set to be the Pac-12 South division champion so it might just be a matter of time before they have a second shot at the Ducks.

22/24. Washington

A 5-1 start and plenty of momentum around the program under Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies find themselves back in the top 25 for the first time in over two years. It's actually been even longer since Washington was ranked in both polls, as they are this week, because you have to go all the way back to October 5, 2003. It might be a short-lived stay in the top 25 for the team however, with a trip to Palo Alto to play Stanford this week. Still, quite the accomplishment for Sarkisian and his team.

Others receiving votes: USC (87 points AP)


Posted on: October 16, 2011 3:19 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 7



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Oregon's ground game

When you look at the great programs in college football, whenever they had a string of great seasons, everybody would often say they just kept reloading year after year. In Chip Kelly's offense, it's safe to say that is just what the Ducks are doing right now. Nation's leading rusher out with an injury? That would be crippling to other schools but not for Oregon, who just gave Kenjon Barner the football and all he did was rush for 171 yards and a touchdown against one of the conference's best defenses. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas ran for 73 yards and two scores to give the Ducks their 15th straight win over a Pac-12 team.

LOSER: The Arizona State defense

The vaunted Sun Devils defense, despite losing several starters to injury, came into their primetime game against Oregon ranked second in the conference in several defensive categories and were 11th in the country in turnover margin. Of course, those stats were built up against opponents that don't run an offense anything close to what the Ducks run. They gashed ASU for 530 total yards, including 318 on the ground. ASU never seemed to create a stop in the second half and penalties (16 for 190 yards total) kept giving the Ducks extra chances. The schedule eases up going forward and they should be fine, but Dennis Erickson has to fix a few things if they end up running into Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game down the road.

WINNER: Keith Price

Jake Locker who? The Huskies' signal-caller continued to impress with his grasp of the offense, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers while routing Colorado 52-24. With Price making plays with his arm, Washington has now scored 30 or more points in their first six games - a new school record. He was fifth in the country in points responsible for and should move up on that list, just like he is on the single-season touchdowns thrown list at UW (he's fourth). Price could have padded his stats too had Steve Sarkisian not taken him out of the game before the end of the 3rd quarter. Many expected Washington to take a step back with Price under center but it looks like nothing could be further from the truth.

LOSER: Oregon State's rushing attack

While their in-state rival is running wild, the Beavers can't get anything going on the ground. Quarterback Sean Mannion had to pass the ball 43 times, rarity under Mike Riley before this season, in order to move the ball at all against BYU and was picked twice to give him nine on the year. Freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew returned to the lineup - he rushed for 223 yards in the opener - but that didn't matter at all as Oregon State managed just 59 yards total. Surpisingly, all-purpose threat James Rodgers had only one attempt and wasn't much of a factor at all. A road trip to Washington State for a revenge game might be the only chance the Beavers have at getting another win this year.

WINNER: John White

Another big performer on the ground in the Pac-12? I am sensing a theme among the winners. After taking a tough home loss to Arizona State, Utah went on the road for one of the rare mid-season non-conference games at Pitt. White rushed for 171 yards on 35 carries, one of the key reasons why the Utes held onto the ball for nearly 38 minutes against the Panthers defense that became worn out by the end of the game. Feeding White the ball was partly out of necessity, as the team was without leading receiver DeVonte Christopher and quarterback Jordan Wynn. Jon Hays was making only his second start ever at quarterback and first on the road as well. Considering the offensive line gave up seven sacks, it's clear they wanted to run block for White much more on a chilly day in Pittsburgh.

LOSER: Washington State's moral victories

Last week at UCLA, the Cougars gave up a late lead and saw a victory snatched from their grasp. This week against the conference's top team, Stanford, they were within three at halftime and were creating turnovers and playing Andrew Luck and company very tough. To cap it all off, the Cardinal returned a kick return for a touchdown on the final play of the game to make the score look even worse and push the Cougars' attitude even further down in the dumps. There was a thought that quarterback Jeff Tuel's return would provide a boost but he was mediocre most of the game and never could get the offense going against the stiff Stanford defense. Saturday was the second straight game where Washington State couldn't finish despite being in the game. Even though they were overmatched this week against a superior foe, the way the wheels came off late means there was no moral victory from hanging around early.

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