Posted on: October 24, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:52 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
We've reached the point of the college football season where those preseason watch lists we all remember from a few months ago start to whittle down to lists of semifinalists, and today we've got the 16 remaining contenders for the Davey O'Brien Award. The Davey O'Brien Award is given out annually by the Davey O'Brien Foundation to the best quarterback in the nation, and with all the great quarterbacks we've seen so far this season, it's not easy to cut this group down.
Though when you see the 16 names who made the cut below, you'll have a hard time arguing against any of them.
Matt Barkley, USC
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
Seth Doege, Texas Tech
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Case Keenum, Houston
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Keith Price, Washington
Denard Robinson, Michigan
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Darron Thomas, Oregon
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
It's a pretty nice group, and there isn't anybody in it who I'd argue should be taken out.
Tags: ACC, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Awards, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, C-USA, Case Keenum, Clemson, Darron Thomas, Davey O'Brien Award, Denard Robinson, Houston, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, SEC, Seth Doege, Stanford, Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Wilson, USC, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 22, 2011 10:53 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 11:50 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's first home night game since 1990 was supposed to be all about the Irish. New gold helmets, multiple five-star recruits on the sideline, even talk coming into the game about winning out and going to a BCS game.
USCheard all of the talk about the game and shrugged it off. Rivalry game? It was just another game to them. They were disrespected - first time in school history they were 5-1 and unranked in the polls on top of being a nine-point underdog - and were taking a business trip to the Midwest.
Behind a surprising rushing attack and the reliable duo of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the Trojans pulled off the upset 31-17 and stunned a capacity crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:32 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
NOTRE DAME WILL WIN IF: See if you notice a trend here. In Notre Dame's two losses to start the season, it turned the ball over 10 times. In the four victories since, the Irish have turned the ball over 5 times, including none in the last two games. You think it's a coincidence that the Irish have won those games? I don't. In USC, the Irish will be facing a defense that has forced 10 turnovers on the season and is giving up 23.5 points per game, but gave up 43 points to Arizona State and 41 to Arizona. The Irish offense may be stronger than both of those teams, and as long as Tommy Rees can continue to take care of the football, the Irish should find plenty of success on offense and knock off their hated rivals.
USC WILL WIN IF: The Trojans offense has not been fantastic this season and it's facing a Notre Dame defense that, aside from a couple meaningless fourth quarter touchdowns by Air Force last week, has been very strong over the last month. Much like Notre Dame needs to do, Matt Barkley and the USC offense will have to take care of the ball and use a balanced attack to move the ball down the field and keep Notre Dame's offense off the field. Opposing quarterbacks have completed less than 60% of the passes against the Notre Dame defense, but that unit has also allowed 10 touchdowns through the air and 225 yards per game. So the opportunities will be there for Barkley and Robert Woods, they just need to take advantage of them.
X-FACTOR: Curtis McNeal. While nothing is official yet, after suffering a shoulder injury last weekend, USC's leading rusher Marc Tyler isn't expected to play in this game. Which means McNeal will take over the starting role. He's not as big as Tyler, and while Notre Dame's run defense has been very tough this season, it did give up over 6 yards per carry against Air Force last week. If McNeal can find that kind of room this week and give USC more balance on offense, then the Trojans just might leave South Bend with a victory.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:42 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:21 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
USC WON: As the great Charles Barkley would say, "that was turrible." The Trojans were held to a season-low 310 yards of offense but got a win gift wrapped for them after Cal turned the ball over five times. It's not like USC had to work for the turnovers either, quarterback Zach Maynard just seemed to throw it right to cardinal and gold defenders at the most inopportune moments. While the Trojans' defense looked much improved following a bye week, the offense struggled in the second half and dealt with several injuries.
WHY USC WON: The Trojans came into the game with five turnovers on the season and doubled that number on their annual trip to the Bay Area. Linebacker Dion Bailey had two interceptions and eight tackles to pace the defense and the front seven was active all night getting pressure on Maynard. The offense wasn't sharp but was much more balanced than they have been, with running back Curtis McNeal rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown after replacing an injured Marc Tyler.
WHEN USC WON: Lane Kiffin's squad pretty much took control in the 2nd quarter and never let the Bears back in the game. They started four times in Cal territory in the first half thanks to turnovers and nearly had a pick-six from Nickell Robey to really blow it open. They still had a nice drive early in the third before Matt Barkley hit freshman Marqise Lee on a beautiful fade route with the freshman tip-toeing along the sideline and in for a touchdown. Maynard threw an interception and the defense stuffed a fake punt on the next two possessions before Brandon Carswell scored a seven yard touchdown to put USC in control 20-0.
WHAT USC WON: A game they needed to win before the long trip to South Bend. The Trojans haven't proven they're a good team but they can be an above average one if they can beat rival Notre Dame next week and move to 6-1 on the year.
WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST: The Bears dropped their third straight this season after running into a tough stretch in their schedule. It eases up a bit with Utah, a trip to UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State but they'll need to go 3-1 or better if they want to make a bowl game and keep Jeff Tedford's seat from being burning hot. There just hasn't been any execution in previous games against USC and that continued Thursday night.
THAT WAS CRAZY: USC has outscored Cal 92-3 in the first half the past four years. The Trojans were up 20-0 heading into the locker room in this game.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:25 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the Pac-12, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).
ARIZONA. Obviously things are a bit different down in Tuscon with the ouster of head coach Mike Stoops. The bye week comes at a good time for the interim coach Tim Kish, who is changing up some of the staff duties, including giving offensive coordinator Seth Littrell complete autonomy on offense and possibly hiring another defensive assistant. Several other head coaches have weighed in on Stoops' midseason firing, from Mike Riley to Bo Pelini to Lane Kiffin.
ARIZONA STATE. Dennis Erickson says he always knew that things would work out despite a rough three-year stretch. Athletic director Lisa Love said this season was the one she and Erickson had been waiting for when she hired him. Also, cornerback Osahon Irabor might not play against the Oregon this week so Alden Darby could remain his replacement. Aderious Simmons is likely to start at right tackle. Quarterback Brock Osweiler says his team won't quit and it's Rose Bowl or bust.
CAL. The Bears will play USC at home on Thursday night but AT&T Park isn't exactly 'home' for the team yet, according to Jeff Tedford. He also is hoping that this week's game is not a repeat of last year's game, when the Trojans led 42-0 at halftime. Cornerback Stefan McClure will have the tough task of guarding wide receiver Robert Woods.
OREGON. Injured running back LaMichael James is working hard to get healthy but is unlikely to suit up against Arizona State this weekend. Freshman running back/all-around athlete De'Anthony Thomas will see his workload increase as a result, adding to an already impressive start for the Ducks. Chip Kelly is well aware of what ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict can do and has all eyes on him. Likewise, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be keeping tabs on Brock Osweiler, who might too short for his taste.
OREGON STATE. Head coach Mike Riley is using a bowl game as motivation for his squad and hopes to build off of the momentum of the program's first win. Things have improved in the Beavers' run defense and the offense is putting up more points but they'll still need to win five of seven. Starting wide receiver Jordan Bishop will have an MRI on his injured ankle and cornerback Brandon Hardin will have a checkup in a month on his shoulder injury. Running backs Jovan Stevenson and Malcolm Agnew will practice this week and both could return to action soon.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. Highly touted recruit George Farmer will make his debut at running back on Thursday, something quarterback Matt Barkley is looking forward to seeing. This week's game at Cal means head coach Lane Kiffin will be squaring off against his old mentor Jeff Tedford. Defensive tackle Armond Armstead will make the trip up even though he is redshirting, while linebacker Lamar Dawson and corner Torin Harris are questionable for the game. The game this week will be a big time match up between wide receivers on both sides.
UCLA. The Bruins get Arizona as their next opponent and even though they'll be without a head coach, they're still going to be a problem. No stranger to the hot seat himself, Rick Neuheisel certainly feels for Stoops and how he was fired. The offense does need a bit of a boost and could see freshman quarterback Brett Hundley get some reps this week. Wide receiver Randall Carroll could also see increased playing time based on the number of snaps he's received in practice.
Tags: Aderious Simmons, Alden Darby, Arizona, Arizona State, Armond Armstead, AT&T Park, Bo Pelini, Brandon Hardin, Brett Hundley, Brock Osweiler, Bryan Fischer, Chip Kelly, De'Anthony Thomas, Dennis Erickson, George Farmer, Jeff Tedford, Jordan Bishop, Jovan Stevenson, Lamar Dawson, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, Lisa Love, Malcolm Agnew, Matt Barkley, Mike Riley, Mike Stoops, Nick Aliotti, Oregon, Oregon State, Osahon Irabor, Pac-12, Randall Carroll, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, Seth Littrell, Stefan McClure, Tim Kish, Torin Harris, UCLA, USC, Vontaze Burfict
Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A buddy of mine was talking about how college football right now has a few elite teams and a bunch of others that could be grouped into a couple of classes. After a lengthy discussion, I decided to run with that after week five to see how everyone shapes up. Feel free to get angry at me in the comments.
(In no particular order)
Wisconsin: It's all Russell Wilson for the frontrunners in the Big Ten title race but this is a very good squad that has balance on offense and a very well coached defense.
Alabama: Best defense Nick Saban's ever had plus two great running backs and an efficient offense. The Tide will continue to roll this year.
Oklahoma: Another win, another week they lose some ground in the polls despite being the best team not playing in the SEC.
LSU: They have a Honey Badger so who cares how mediocre the offense has been?
Boise State: Kellen Moore and the offense get all the press but the defensive line is among the best in college football.
We're still not sure how good they are:
Stanford: They have the best quarterback in the country but haven't played anyone of note and lost their best linebacker to a knee injury.
Oregon: Still the class of the conference, they might be better on offense then they were last year.
Oklahoma State: Questions still remain about the defense but Brandon Weeden and company are legit.
Florida: They're a top 25 team but haven't played anyone besides Alabama and will trot out a true freshman in their first road trip against LSU. Yikes.
Notre Dame: The Irish have rolled up 500 yard games like they're no big deal but turnovers are the difference between 5-0 and 3-2.
Nebraska: The defense should be better than what they've shown so far but their struggles are reflective in the team as a whole.
Texas: Undefeated heading into the Red River Shootout, this young team will have their hands full this week but have come along nicely under their two young coordinators.
Clemson: An impressive victory on the road against Virginia Tech but there's no denying that everyone thinks Clemson will be Clemson at some point this year.
Virginia Tech: Many had pegged them as a national title dark horse but that is no more after losing to Clemson at home.
Kansas State: Bill Snyder is a miracle worker but the Wildcats haven't faced a big time opponent until this week.
South Carolina: They have a great running back, a great defense, a great wide receiver but the team itself is a giant question mark week-to-week.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an explosive offense that's difficult to prepare for but the defense remains questionable at best.
Arkansas: The stunning comeback this week proved one thing: the defense is average but the offense can carry this team.
Illinois: Ron Zook is their head coach so there is that but both the offense and the defense have responded when needed to keep the Illini undefeated.
Michigan: The defense does look better but they haven't really been tested by a good team and have yet to play a game outside the Big House.
Good not great group:
Arizona State: Injuries have hurt on defense but they're the class of the Pac-12 South.
North Carolina: Perhaps a little surprising at 4-1 but they've played solid football and bonded as a team with all that has gone on around the program.
Southern Miss: They've lost to Marshall which hurts them in conference play but this is an ok football team that could breakthrough.
Hawaii: Their offense gives everyone fits but it's really hard to comprehend how they lost to UNLV.
Washington: Perhaps the surprise of the Pac-12 North division, the defense isn't super but Keith Price and the offense are very dangerous.
SMU: A big win over a ranked TCU is a huge sign of progress under June Jones.
West Virginia: The loss to LSU was a setback but this is a very good football team that can score some points.
Baylor: They have a quarterback who's among the best at his position this year in Robert Griffin III but the defense has issues.
Auburn: They're winners, that's for sure, but the defense struggles every game and the offense has been inconsistent.
Michigan State: They've got the defense but the offense hasn't clicked like it should under Kirk Cousins.
Cincinnati: There's plenty of questions about this team but they're solid and can beat any Big East team.
Tennessee: They can't run the ball at all but they sure can throw it.
Texas Tech: Undefeated but have struggled in the first half just about every game they've played.
Georgia: SEC East is wide open and the Bulldogs are fighting hard each game so don't be surprised if they make a run for it.
Florida State: Injuries have made them thin but Jimbo Fisher should regroup them and turn them into a good team by the end of the year.
Houston: Best offense to watch in college football is good because the defense will allow points galore.
Looking forward to 2012:
UCLA, Oregon State, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Utah, North Texas, Tulsa, Ball State, Ole Miss, Purdue, New Mexico, UAB, Troy, FAU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Duke, FIU, Iowa State, Colorado State, TCU, USC, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, Bowling Green, Virginia, Idaho, N.C. State, Ohio State, Maryland, Miami, UConn, Western Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Wake Forest, Boston College, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Navy, Air Force, Army, Tulane, Kansas, Northwestern, Temple, Toledo, Minnesota, Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, Indiana, Mississippi State, BYU, Utah State, USF, Pitt, UTEP.
Stat of the week
Via the blog Hustle Belt, the last time Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan all won on the same day: November 5, 1994. Add in the fact that the Detroit Lions won on Sunday and it's a pretty good weekend for football in the state of Michigan.
Stats of the week
- With four touchdowns against Nebraska, Wisconsin's Montee Ball now has 13 on the ground this season. That's halfway to the Big 10 record of 26 (by week 5) and his 14 total touchdowns leads the country. Ball has scored 14 points more than the next person on the scoring list.
- Oklahoma had the ball 15 times against Ball State and scored seven touchdowns. Wisconsin had the ball 10 times against Nebraska and scored seven touchdowns (via Brian Fremeau)
- USC has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time in 119 seasons. Matt Barkley did set a school record for passing yards and total offense against Arizona however.
- Arkansas had nine plays of 20 or more yards against Texas A&M. At one point, receiver Jarius Wright had more yards of total offense than Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Kentucky as well as 80% of the Razorbacks' offense at halftime.
- Tyrann Mathieu has the LSU record for career forced fumbles with eight in 18 games (via Scott Rabalais).
- RussellMania is indeed here. Wilson's masterful performance against Nebraska really was something to behold as he made play after play. The knock on Wisconsin was that they haven't played anyone (they still haven't on the road). That question seems to have been answered with their resounding victory against Nebraska on Saturday however. Wilson was efficient once again, going 14-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He had some beautiful throws, placing the ball perfectly into the hands of his receivers on a few big gains. Though Wilson doesn't look to run like other quarterbacks, he can and will if need be. That added dimension is what separates this Badgers team from previous iterations. On the other side, Nebraska's B1G moment - their first ever conference game - very much exposed them as a team with serious issues.
- Coming into their primetime game, both Florida and Alabama featured top 10 defenses and plenty of future NFL draft picks. Yet, you just got the feeling as Trent Richardson was running through players like a battering ram that the Gators were boys among men. There's plenty of talented four- and five-star recruits but they're still young and almost seemed overwhelmed by the big stage. The swarming Tide defense, meanwhile, was punishing Florida players left and right - including quarterback John Brantley. With a true freshman seeing his first significant game action, plenty of people on Twitter were calling for Charlie Weis to call plays that simply didn't get Jeff Driskel killed by an Alabama defender. Richardson ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns and was pretty much the offense. Good defense, good running game and a big, big road victory for Nick Saban's squad.
- Poor, poor Utah State. The team has been minutes from being 4-0 and likely ranked in the top 25 but instead they're 1-3 thanks to a last second loss to BYU on Friday. They lost to a backup quarterback who threw a pass that was deflected by an Aggie defensive back right into the hands of Marcus Matthews for the game-winning touchdown; which pretty much sums up what Utah State has gone through, coming close to a win before tipping it into the hands of the opponent. They nearly upset Auburn before a perfect onside kick and subsequent score and lost to Colorado State on a failed two-point conversion in OT last week. The Aggies might be the best, unluckiest team in college football.
- I'm still not sure how Arkansas pulled off that comeback other than to say Texas A&M allowed them to. Mike Sherman seemed to deflect some blame for the loss but one has to put this one (and last week's) solely on his shoulders. His first half play-calling has been great but it's like the Aggies go into the locker room and fail to make a single adjustment. They had great success rushing the ball but failed to go for it on a key 4th down in Arkansas territory and punted the ball instead. At that point, the momentum had fully shifted to the Razorbacks, who made play after play to rally from 18 down. A&M looked like they'd be fine in the SEC if you watched that first half but if you watched the second... they looked more like Ole Miss.
- Melvin Ingram had 11 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception but that just wasn't enough for South Carolina, who lost to Auburn thanks to an anemic offense that was actually playing one of the worst defenses in the SEC. I listened to part of the game on radio and I'm glad I did because it saved me having to see some terrible quarterback play on both sides. The Gamecocks' defense is good but the offense has been puzzling - not something one would expect with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey. But then again, they do have Stephen Garcia at quarterback.
- Michigan State's defense is well coached and the best in the Big Ten so far this year but that doesn't explain the offensive ineptitude of Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes had negative yardage for most of the game before getting a 4th quarter touchdown in the final 10 seconds to avoid the program's first shutout in nearly 18 years. As much as people mocked Tresselball, Buckeyes fans would welcome a return to those days in a heartbeat.
- Notre Dame's win over Purdue is best summed up by two words: Michael Floyd. After grabbing just four catches against Pitt, Floyd grabbed 12 for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers. As one would expect given the competition, the Irish were rolling on offense and racked up 551 yards with Cierre Wood running for a career-high 191 yards on 20 carries. Most importantly, there were no turnovers after 15 in Notre Dame's first four games.
- It's rare for an SEC team to leave the South so props to Ole Miss for traveling to Fresno State to play. Randall Mackey had an ok day but made the big play when needed, including an 88 yard drive to seal the win. This is the Rebels' first win over and FBS team and, with more SEC West play ahead of them, could be their last for a while.
- Playing so late, it's doubtful that many in the Eastern or Central time zones stayed up to catch Stanford crush UCLA 45-19 so here's a quick recap: Andrew Luck is really, really good. He had a Heisman highlight moment with a spectacular one-handed catch and somehow managed to stay in bounds. Just as impressive as Luck (23-27, 227 yards, 3 TDs), the Cardinal played before a sellout crowd and looked solid on defense against the Bruins' Pistol offense that looked like it had some life. Still, the story in this game was Luck, who surprisingly called his own plays on a couple of drives Peyton Manning-style. "He called better plays than me," head coach David Shaw said after the game.
Quote of the week
"I apologize to the fans of Nebraska because that was a joke."
- Huskers head coach Bo Pelini on his team's embarrassing loss to Wisconsin and the state of the defense.
4. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
10. Georgia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Senior writer Dennis Dodd will head to Dallas for one of the best events you can go to, the Red River Shootout (or, if being politically correct, Rivalry) between undefeated Texas and Oklahoma. While he's trying the fried beer, Tony Barnhart will be in Baton Rouge for a LSU night game against Florida. Brett McMurphy will pack his bags for Manhattan (Kansas) to see Missouri play undefeated Kansas State and see first hand how good a coaching job Bill Snyder has been doing.
Leaning this way
Oklahoma vs. Texas
I have to imagine that Dan Beebe, from his comfortable Dallas home, will have this game on his television set rooting for both teams to end this in a tie. Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has done some very good things with some young talent and without a doubt has some surprises up his sleeve for OU. That said, the Sooners are the top team in the country and will be scoring enough points to keep the fans singing 'Boomer Sooner' well into the afternoon.
Florida at LSU
This will be the coming out party for true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel with the injury to Jeff Brantley. And by coming out, I mean just that he'll come out. Having seen his film and him throw in person, I think Driskel will be a good quarterback but he's just going to be overwhelmed by the scenery in Death Valley. LSU makes several plays on defense to blow this one open and let the Tigers push the Gators around.
Ohio State at Nebraska
After both teams lost, I didn't really consider this game in this spot until I remembered this was a B1G game not only in terms of conference standings, but the fact that the Tattoo Four will make their return to the Buckeyes. Nebraska was embarrassed on the road but I don't think they'll allow that at home as the Ohio State returns several much-needed starters. In the end though, there's just been such a lack of execution by the Buckeyes as a whole to pick anyone but Nebraska by more than a touchdown.
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffrey, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, Bill Snyder, Bo Pelini, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Harsin, Central Michigan, Charlie Weis, Cincinnati, Clemson, Dan Beebe, David Shaw, Detroit Lions, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Heisman Trophy, Houston, Illinois, Jarius Wright, Jeff Driskel, Jimbo Fisher, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Marcus Matthews, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michael Floyd, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Sherman, Montee Ball, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Peyton Manning, Randall Mackey, RGIII, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, SMU, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Stehpen Garcia, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, UNLV, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 25, 2011 3:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 3:36 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
1. Oregon is still really, really good. The Ducks will take some heat from other parts of the country but there's no denying that they're still a great team and one that admirably lost to an LSU squad that could be the best in the country. The defense isn't quite there yet but the offense is starting to hit its groove as both Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are looking better than they did last year at times. This isn't a team that has put everything together - yet - but it's getting there. A notice to the rest of the Pac-12: the Ducks are running right at you.
2. So long USC, hello Arizona State. Just when it looked like the Trojans might be able to win the South division (without really winning the South division thanks to sanctions), Matt Barkley turned the ball over three times himself and USC collapsed under the weight of the Sun Devils' defense. Everybody thought this would be Dennis Erickson's year and it looked like the team was easily a top 25 team after beating Missouri. But they regressed when they went on the road for the first time and lost to Illinois. Now though, despite all the injuries, it looks like things are clicking on both sides of the ball. They may not be as flashy as Oregon nor can they execute as well as Stanford, but ASU looks like they're definitely the best team in the South.
3. Oregon State is really, really bad. Sure, the Beavers lost to lowly Sacramento State to open the season and got rolled by Wisconsin. But that was without their do everything-threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni. Even against a team like UCLA, with plenty of issues themselves, adding both players wasn't close to enough as the Beavers fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1996. It's still unclear if they have a quarterback after redshirt freshman Sean Mannion went 24-40 passes for 287 yards but was intercepted and had a costly fumble returned for a score. There's little to no consistency and execution one would expect from a Mike Riley coached team is just not there.
4. Cal and Washington will be two tough outs, especially the Huskies. The non-conference slate for both teams didn't really give us a chance to figure out how each would be this season but after the two squared off in Seattle, it's clear neither will be a push over in league play. That's not to say they won't be blown out a few times but both are good on offense and ok enough on defense to get into some shootouts. Keith Price has had no problem running things, nearly hitting the 300 yard passing mark while tossing three touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Huskies to their best start since 2006. Cal still has to work on late game execution but the Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen connection will be something every defensive coordinator will have to game plan for.
5. Still a long way to go for Colorado. Head coach Jon Embree earned his first win last week but getting his second will be a much more difficult task. The Buffaloes had not won a road game since Oct. 27, 2007 and while it was unlikely they were going to break the streak at the Horseshoe, they hardly looked competitive. Tyler Hansen was solid and didn't throw any picks but the offense still lost two fumbles in the first half and had nine penalties to go on top of a host of other gaffes. If they can't improve on their execution, it will be a long, long season in Boulder.
Tags: Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Fischer, Cal, Colorado, Darron Thomas, Dennis Erickson, Illinois, James Rodgers, Joe Halahuni, Jon Embree, Keenan Allen, Keith Price, LaMichael James, LSU, Matt Barkley, Mike Riley, Missouri, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Sacramento State, Sean Mannion, Stanford, Tyler Hansen, UCLA, USC, USC, Washington, What I learned, Wisconsin, Zach Maynard
Posted on: September 25, 2011 2:16 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
ARIZONA STATE WON. By forcing USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) to beat themselves. The nasty Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) defense forced four turnovers and broke the Trojans' back every time they had momentum. The offense picked up key third downs and kept the ball moving down the field without turning the ball over themselves. Every phase of the game contributed to the win as well, with three touchdowns coming on the ground, two through the air and one on defense.
HOW ARIZONA STATE WON: Solid play on offense and a turnover-producing defense. ASU still allowed nearly 400 yards of offense to the Trojans but just when it seemed like momentum was shifting, hard-hitting linebacker Vontaze Burfict or another defender made big play. Anytime you're +4 in the turnover category, chances are there's a 'W' next to your team's name in the box score at the end.
WHEN ARIZONA STATE WON: After USC had put together back-to-back touchdown drives, Arizona State scored 22 unanswered points to put the game away. The key turning point came when Greg Smith sacked Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and forced a fumble which the defense recovered. After that, Cameron Marshall punched it into the end zone for two scores and Tempe started to rock in the desert heat.
WHAT ARIZONA STATE WON: The path to the Pac-12 championship game is clear of perhaps the biggest obstacle on the schedule in the South division. USC already had a win over Utah and with UCLA, Colorado and rival Arizona all looking shaky so far early in the season, it looks like the Sun Devils are living up to preseason expectations.
WHAT USC LOST: The faint hope of claiming the Pac-12 South title. Ineligible for the post-season and the first ever division title, there were hope among some in the USC locker room that the Trojans would be able to prove doubters wrong and show what they could do with their backs against the wall. With that likely not an option (depending on what ASU does), Lane Kiffin will have to retool and refocus his team as they push further into conference play.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Dennis Erickson was 1-8 against USC at three different schools coming into the night while Arizona State had lost 11 straight to USC.
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