Tag:Pete Carroll
Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:31 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 3:41 pm
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National Signing Day Winners and Losers: Pac-12

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Breaking down who won and lost in the Pac-12 on National Signing Day.


WINNERS

Stanford's future backfield. We don't want to say anyone could succeed at quarterback or tailback behind a line featuring Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, and John Garnett. Dame Helen Mirren would fail, probably. We wouldn't like Bill Nye, the Science Guy's odds. Most 12-year-olds would struggle.

But when we're talking about an offensive line class David Shaw said "could be one of the best in college football historywithout hyperbole, it's hard to rule anyone out. And when it comes to players like potential 2012 quarterback starter Brett Nottingham or new running back signee Barry J. Sanderswe think the chances of success are so sky-high as to be nearly guaranteed. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck might be gone, but if the results of National Signing Day are any indication, the Cardinal as a program aren't going anywhere.

Players to watch: DT Aziz Shittu, RB Barry J. Sanders, OT Andrus Peat.

The checkbooks of future Pac-12 assistants. The conversions of five-star Shaq Thompson (pictured) and receiver Jordan Payton to Washington from Cal (even if the latter was only temporary) were already evidence enough for the impact of ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi's move from Berkeley to Seattle. The Huskies capping their late surge by stealing away USC commitment Pio Vatuvei and fending off a late challenge from the Trojans for quarterback Cyler Miles was just beating a dead horse, really.

Which is why any coach with bona fide West Coast recruiting connections is likely about to find himself a much hotter commodity than they were before Signing Day began. The Huskies aggressively pursued Topoi, doubled his salary at Cal with their new conference media money, and saw immediate, dramatic dividends. Topoi might have been the first coach to have his wallet fattened overnight by Larry Scott's TV negotiations, but with results like these, he won't be the last.

Washington players to watch: DB Shaq Thompson, ATH Jaydon Mickens, CB Brandon Beaver.

Jim L. MoraTo silence the doubters for good, Mora will have to win on the field as well as the recruiting trail. But there's little doubt that Mora has at least done the latterWith another high-profile Cal exile safely in the fold in Ellis McCarthy, the Bruins spent Signing Day polishing up an already impressive haul with a pair of blue-chip receivers in Payton and Javon Williams--an area of sore need with Nelson Rosario gone.

The Bruin brass appeared to be aiming to hire the next Pete Carroll when they took a chance on Mora, and though there's still a long way to go before the comparison is valid at the collegiate as well as pro level, this class is a heck of a step in that direction.

Players to watch: DT Ellis McCarthyATH Devin FullerDB Ishmael Adams.



LOSERS

Lane Kiffin's pied piper flute. Around mid-afternoon, this was shaping up to be a typical Signing Day for college football's most notorious late-game recruiter; sure, Vatuvei had gon to the Huskies, but Kiffin had also managed to pull both high-upside end Leonard Williams and No. 1 athlete Nelson Agholor (pictured) out of Florida despite each's various Sunshine State suitors. With Miles, Peat, Murphy, and Shittu all considering the Trojans and Murphy's late announcement rumored to be potentially affected by Peat's, another matching set of Signing Day coups appeared within reach.

Instead, the Cardinal swept the big linemen while Miles stuck with the Huskies. Those decisions didn't exactly make the Trojan class a disappointment--far from it, given that it finished 9th in the country while boasting just 16 (uniformly outstanding) recruits. But it does mark the first time that Kiffin wasn't able to simply snap his fingers on Signing Day and come away with a bushel of five-stars; it will be interesting to see if, in 2013, Kiffin doesn't leave things quite so late.

Players to watch: OL Zach Banner, WR Nelson Agholor, OL Jordan Simmons.

Cal. It's not that the Bears' class wasn't solid, maybe even better than solid; Tom Lemming ranked it 15th despite only having 17 signees, and the Bears did an excellent job of filling needs at both offensive line and wide receiver. It's that it was so close to being a game-changing, program-momentum-turning, spectacular class before Lupoi's defection took the air out of the sails. 

Tedford is right that the commitments at the Army All-American game from Thompson, McCarthy, and Payton didn't mean anything on the Bears' bottom line, but it's silly to think they didn't mean the Bears had a clearcut opportunity to sign all three (and others) they couldn't take advantage of. It's debatable, too, when that kind of opportunity will come again for Tedford.

Players to watch: QB Zach Kline, WR Bryce Treggs, OL Freddie Tagoloa  

Oregon State's secondary. Want another example of the impact of position coaches on current Pac-12 recruiting? Look no further than the Beaver defensive backfield, which saw no less than four players decommit after OSU secondary coach Keith Heyward -- like Lupoi -- defected to Washington. (One of them was highly regarded corner Devian Shelton, who did get Kiffined away to USC.) The Beavers recovered to still sign four defensive backs, but when even Mike Riley was admitting there were holes at corner that went unfilled, it's safe to say things didn't go as planned.

Players to watch: OL Isaac Seumalo, TE Caleb Smith, QB Brett VanderVeen  




Maxpreps photos by Gary Jones and Margaret Bowles.
Posted on: January 25, 2012 7:48 pm
 

Katz, Butler, Baxter transfers to SDSU complete

Posted by Adam Jacobi

San Diego State may be a new member of the Big East, but its football team just got a huge dose of Pac-12 talent. Former Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz, former USC wide receiver Brice Butler, and former USC tailback Dillon Baxter all finalized their transfers to SDSU on Wednesday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and may begin participating in off-season activities with the football team immediately.

Katz and Butler took advantage of the NCAA's transfer exemption for graduate students, as both got their degrees at their schools with eligibility remaining, and are taking their talents to SDSU for one final year without needing to sit out. Baxter's route to the Aztecs is more traditional, as he's still an undergraduate with two years of eligibility left but has to wait until 2013 to start playing ball.

Katz has a strong arm and showed flashes of promise at Oregon State in 2010, but he was beaten out for the starting role in 2011 by freshman Sean Mannion and didn't see action in the Beavers' last 10 games. He will not face a great deal of competition for the SDSU job, as rising junior Adam Dingwall is the only returning SDSU quarterback with any passes attempted in 2011; he went 0-1.

Butler was a four-star, Army All-American recruit for Pete Carroll at USC, but his playing time decreased significantly once Lane Kiffin took over and Robert Woods, Ronald Johnson, and Marqise Lee emerged as the showcase receivers for the Trojans. Butler adds much-needed depth to a wide receiver corps that only returns two players who gained more than 50 yards or three catches last season, and he will likely be a serious contender for a starting spot.

Baxter, meanwhile, was a five-star running back prospect and played as a true freshman for USC in 2010, but Kiffin buried Baxter on the depth chart this season before dismissing him from the team for the season in October so Baxter could "focus on his academics," as Kiffin said in a statement. Baxter was a YouTube sensation in high school, but aside from one absurd spring practice touchdown, he has yet to translate it into big-time success on the collegiate level. Unfortunately for SDSU, Baxter's year of ineligibility means there's still a void at running back, as Third-Team All-American sophomore RB Ronnie Hillman has declared for the NFL draft after rushing for 1711 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011 and being named a Doak Walker Award finalist.

San Diego State begins its spring football session on February 21, and it opens its season in 2012 at Washington on September 1.

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:59 am
Edited on: January 23, 2012 1:52 pm
 

Chip Kelly jumps from Oregon to the NFL and back


Posted by Bryan Fischer

UPDATE: Oregon released an official statement from Chip Kelly on Monday, confirming both Kelly's contact with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and his plans to remain as the Ducks' head coach.

“I am flattered by the interest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization," Kelly explained.  "I enjoyed meeting with the Glazer family and General Manager Mark Dominik but after numerous discussions, I concluded that I have some unfinished business to complete at the University of Oregon.”

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers asked for permission to engage in conversation with Coach Kelly, which was granted,” Oregon Athletics Director Rob Mullens said. “The University of Oregon is one of the nation's preeminent college football programs and, as such, it comes as no surprise the NFL is interested in our personnel. We are pleased with Coach Kelly’s decision to remain as our head coach. Coach Kelly has provided great leadership and remains committed to building on our position among the elite college football programs in the country.”



Two sources with direct knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly had agreed in principle to take the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was in the process of finalizing details of a multi-year contract but has changed is mind and will stay at Oregon. The Register-Guard first reported the news of Kelly's departure and that he would be staying in Eugene Sunday night.

"I don't know what to say... he changed his mind," one source said via text message.

News of the possible departure first surfaced during the middle of Sunday's NFC Championship Game with a report from Portland TV station KGW sports reporter Michael Berk. Tampa Bay fired head coach Raheem Morris in January after 10 straight losses to cap a 17-31 mark over three seasons.

Kelly, 48, is coming off the most successful three-year stretch in Oregon history, capped off with the program's first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years at the beginning of this year. The Ducks are 34-6 in three seasons with Kelly as head coach, including three straight BCS bowls and an appearance in the national championship game in 2011. He came to Eugene as offensive coordinator in 2007 after spending eight seasons at New Hampshire and promptly set a host of school and conference records on the offensive side of the ball.

Numerous questions surround the timing of the move to Tampa Bay, beginning with Oregon's still-open NCAA investigation into recruiting violations surrounding supposed scout Willie Lyles. Kelly is believed to be at the center of the probe regarding, among other things, a $25,000 payment to Lyles for scouting services and any improprieties surrounding former Ducks running back Lache Seastrunk. The school has retained attorney Michael Glazier, a partner in the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King with the nickname 'The Cleaner' for his expertise in dealing with NCAA cases. Oregon received a notice of inquiry in September.

There is also the issue as to whether Kelly's fast-paced spread option offense can translate to the NFL. The Ducks have finished in the top 12 in the country in scoring offense since he took over the reigns and he's terrorized Pac-12 defensive coordinators with an explosive run game and quick passing game. Kelly has zero NFL experience but has not exactly been shy about jumping up a level, telling multiple people that he's wanted to coach in the league at some point in his career. According to The Oregonian he was making around $2.8 million per year under a recently re-worked contract with a buyout in the neighborhood of $3.5 million.

Multiple reports said Kelly was pulled off the road and did not make scheduled in-home visits on Sunday as his contract was being negotiated with the Bucs.



Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 13



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: Matt Barkley

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?

WINNER: Huskies

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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Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:53 am
 

USC routs UCLA as attention turns to Barkley



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?

Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 11



Posted by Bryan Fischer


The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.

People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.

And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.

The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.

The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.

"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.

Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.

As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.

Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.

Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.

Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.

Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.

When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.

BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.

Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.

Stat of the week

Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.

Stats of the week

- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.

- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.

- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.

- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.

- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.

Tweet of the week

"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."

- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Oklahoma

6. Arkansas

7. Stanford

8. Boise State

9. Clemson

10. Georgia

Where we'll be this week

Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.

Leaning this way

Nebraska at Michigan

This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.

SMU at Houston

A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.

USC at Oregon

Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.


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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Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Sooners kick it into high gear a week too late.
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Awaiting the LSU-Alabama showdown, Clemson and Kansas State drop out of the top 10. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
The Big Picture: Luck doing nothing to diminish legend. Read >>
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 12:28 am
Edited on: October 30, 2011 2:46 am
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 56, USC 48 (3OT)

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Stanford had heard from just about everyone that they hadn't been tested this season.

They played their first ranked team last week, Washington, and promptly ran for school-record 446 yards. It was their 10th straight win by 25 points or more, the first time ever that had been accomplished since 1936. Apparently they weren't tested.

They were tested Saturday night; escaping LA with a 56-48 victory after three overtimes in front of a sold-out Coliseum crowd that was rocking like it was in the glory days.

The Heisman front-runner, Andrew Luck, gave voters a game to remember with crisp, efficient passes to 10 different targets to finish 29-for-40, 330 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on the night.

"The stats aren't going to show the plays he made, but he's a really special pocket passer and makes plays with his feet," Lane Kiffin said. "It's why he'll be the first pick in the draft."

The grizzly-bearded Luck nearly gave the game away, throwing a late pick-six that was returned by Nickell Robey for a touchdown to put USC on top 34-27 with just over three minutes remaining.

"Throughout the game he was looking off receivers a lot, that's what he does (so well)," Robey said. "I knew when he looked off he was going to come back to Chris (Owusu). My coach always says trust and believe. When I saw him sit down I just went for it. Luck is a great player, he did a lot of things that wasn't normal in the passing game. He came at us at every angle."

Not only had Stanford trailed for the first time all season after Curtis McNeal sprinted up the sidelines for a 61-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but it was also the first time the Cardinal offense were tested late in the game. The pick-six put the team down seven late in the game. That was no problem for Luck, who led an efficient, game-tying 10 play, 61-yard drive to send the game into overtime.

"I was very disappointed in myself," Luck said of the interception. "There were a couple of seconds there when I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. But the guys believed in me. I was happy there was still some time on the clock to go down there again."

"One thing you can't forget about Andrew is that he is the most competitive guy on our team," David Shaw said. "When a bad play happens he goes completely down in the dumps. He's so mad, he's so upset, he's furious. Then it's like a toilet, he flushes it. It's like it never happened and he moves on even more determined.

"He was so mad at himself, he was not going to let that play lose the game for us."

The Trojans came close to pulling off the upset thanks in large part to one of the smallest players on the USC roster in McNeal, who rushed for a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns. He ended up the goat however, fumbling the ball into the end zone after USC had the ball on the four yard line looking to match the Cardinal's touchdown and two-point conversion to lead off the third overtime. Terrence Stephens punched it out of McNeal as he took a draw up the middle, preserving the win.

Despite coming close to seeing their perfect record blemished, the scoreboard still showed the Cardinal had rang up 56 points. The amount was the most ever scored on USC in the program's illustrious history.

"We just needed one stop, that's all," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "Then we'd all be celebrating right now."

"I didn't know that but I would probably figure out it was close if it wasn't the record. I can't believe anybody would give up that many points. Of course, overtime and (Luck) ended up with a short field now too."

Even Luck's incompletions were things of beauty that every one of the 93,607 fans appreciated - regardless of the shade of red they were wearing. On one play early in the game, Luck was flushed out of the pocket to his left, but still managed to throw a bullet with perfect form to the back of the end zone - while being tackled - that glanced off the hands of his target. It went down in the box score as an incompletion but was nevertheless impressive.

How special is the 6-foot-4, 237-pound signal-caller? He's led an offense that has scored the most points against USC ever - twice - after scoring 55 against the Trojans in 2009. By the way, he managed to so against defenses run by Pete Carroll and Monte Kiffin, who happens to have 45 years of coaching experience. It was also USC's only overtime loss at the Coliseum ever.

"I tip my hat off to him, he's a special player. Whatever grade he's in, I'm glad he's not going to be here next year." USC linebackers coach Joe Berry said. "He's one of those guys that comes along every 15 or 20 years. There's always first round draft pick quarterbacks in every draft but this guy? He's special."

Fourth-ranked Stanford escaped Los Angeles and kept their Pac-12 championship - and national title - hopes alive. Better (Andrew) Lucky than good for one night in October.

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