November 30th

Larry Scott: Pac-12 staying at 12

Larry Scott, on hand in Palo Alto for the Pac-12 championship game between UCLA and Stanford, gave his “State of the Conference” report Friday.

While there will be other quotes of note later tonight, the first one which caught my eye, in terms of quoting, had to do with conference expansion. Other conferences are expanding and contracting so quickly that I, quite honestly, have a hard time keeping track (if you can name the members of the Big East for the 2013 season without using Google, you are much better informed than I).

So, it was natural for Larry Scott to have the question posed: Is the Pac-12 interested in expansion?

Scott’s answer: “”We have determined 12 is the optimal number for us”.

Yea!

But Scott also said on expansion: “In my short three years here, I’ve learned to never say never.”

Boo!

More on expansion:  “We did have the opportunity last fall to evaluate further expansion opportunities. At that time it was clear to me and I told our athletic directors and presidents: We have to envision a world where peer conferences go to 14 or 16 teams. We saw that with the SEC adding Texas A&M and Missouri, the ACC was at 14. I had enough conversations with the Big Ten to know that they would at some stage likely expand. We evaluated not in the context of where the world was today but where the world is going to be five or 10 years ago and that’s a world of 14 or 16-team conferences. We decided we wanted to stay at 12.

Especially after what the Big Ten has just done, our conference makes more sense than any other from a geographic standpoint. We have the logic of natural rivals in each of the markets we’re in. We like playing each other; our schools don’t want to play each other less. The departure from the round-robin and not playing each other has required some adjustments but our priority is keeping the nine-game schedule and playing each other often.

Frankly, you can never be complacent but there’s a sense that we’re right there with any conference in the country in terms of the caliber of our TV deal both financially and exposure-wise. We’ve kind of ticked the box in terms of things we wanted to achieve so there’s no sense that we need to expand for expansion’s sake. We’re in great shape as a 12-team conference.

More quotes from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott:

SCOTT: It’s been certainly a great season for us. It’s been a very intense few years and a great few years for the conference. This season, if in fact Oregon gets selected, this will be three years in a row that we have two BCS bowl teams. I was wondering the other day how many conferences were in that boat. Obviously the SEC is but I think we’re in some pretty rarefied territory. For me, when I think of where the conference was in terms of national perception to where we are now with five or six teams ranked most of the season, I definitely think there is a positive change happening. The national perception is better not just at the top, but in terms of depth.

I look at all of the new coaches. Eight new coaches will have come in since when I started [in July 2009]. Now with Colorado open, it’s nine out of 12. With the investment in these coaches, facilities and other things, the future is bright and I’m feeling good. Certainly from where the conference was at from a football perspective.

FISCHER: What’s been the reaction from all of the bowl partners?

SCOTT: There’s been a lot of excitement at the fact that we have eight bowl teams. Everybody’s happy because they’re going to get a [Pac-12] team and because we’ve had so many ranked teams this year. We’ve had some very happy bowl partners this year. Things have fallen into place very naturally given the way the teams are slotted. Whoever loses the championship game and Oregon State will [go to either] the Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl. Then we have four teams with very similar records to go down the pecking order. Our bowl partners will wind up with good teams and good matchups.

FISCHER: Any exciting new initiatives that are occupying your time?

SCOTT: Well, we’re knee-deep in the future of the postseason and the transition from the BCS to the four-team playoff. There’s a lot of exciting stuff. We have the basic structure in place; we know it’s going to be six bowls. We have revenue sharing in place and a blockbuster TV deal that shows the value that has been unlocked of moving to a playoff. We have a happy Rose Bowl partner; they’ll get four semifinals in the new system. In eight years they’ll have the traditional Pac-12/Big Ten matchup and won’t have to take other teams outside the conferences. There’s a little more certainty and clarity for how the system is going to work now. We have some happy partners in Pasadena.

There are still some issues to work through in building the organization to support [executive director of the BCS] Bill Hancock, how we actually make this work, deciding what the (request for proposal) process will look like for the national championship game, who will be the three additional access bowls, the naming and branding and how the selection committee will work. There’s still a lot to do. Over the next six months, that’s occupying a lot of my time. My fellow commissioners and I will be working on that and it will probably go through the April/May meetings. It should all be resolved by then.

After that, we will start to look at our bowl lineup. It’s a good time for our conference in terms of our strength so it’s nice to take a step back and reevaluate our bowl matchups and what we do. It’s going to be a busy next few months figuring out our future.

FISCHER: A lot of people are clamoring for a bowl game between the Pac-12 and SEC. Any chance that happens down the road?

SCOTT: I hope so but I think it’s most likely in this new four-team playoff. We’re most likely to see the big-time matchups that fans want now that we have a four-team rather than a two-team playoff. In terms of the bowl lineups themselves, they seem to be pretty well entrenched. They’re tied to the Orange Bowl and several Florida bowls so it’s not obvious to me that we’re going to have a contract bowl relationship with the SEC or where that would happen at a respectable level for us. But one of the things I like with the move to a four-team playoff is that we’re more likely to get that Pac-12/SEC matchup in a semifinal or national championship game.

FISCHER: What’s the status of the conference review of Washington State and Mike Leach involving allegations of a former player?

SCOTT: It’s in progress so there’s no news to report as it’s still ongoing. We’re trying to do it as expeditiously but also as thoroughly as possible. That’s what we were asked to do by their president, Elson Floyd, and we’re in the process of doing that.

FISCHER: If you had to look back, what are some of the high points of the football season so far?

SCOTT: There are a lot of high points. I look at the ultimate being having elite teams at the top and having depth to have a national perception that we’re right up there in the pecking order. If I look at those three things, metrics if you could call it that, I think it’s been a big year for the conference. Obviously a cherry on top would be to have a team play in the national championship game but if it winds up that we have two BCS bowl teams, have all the ranked teams we had and the eight eligible bowl teams – and assuming we do well in those games – it will all really help the drumbeat and positive momentum we have as a conference.

Several new coaches have done well. Obviously Washington State, by their own admission, would liked to have had a better first year [under Leach] but they ended on a strong note. If I look at the other three brand new coaches, you’re never sure if they’ll be longer turnarounds or have an immediate impact. I haven’t looked at the preseason predictions but I believe that UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State probably overachieved in terms of what people thought. That’s encouraging to see new coaches do well and have an immediate impact. That was a real highlight of the season.

Fan question: Any progress with UVerse, DirecTV, Charter and others on carrying the Pac-12 Network?

SCOTT: Our team is working on it constantly and it is a top priority. The network is for the fans and want as many people who can get it to get it. There are definitely some constructive conversations going on with some of the companies. I hope to have some additional news in the coming weeks and months. When I’ve been asked about DirecTV, there hasn’t been much progress to report on. I know that has been disappointing for us and for a lot of our fans. At this point in time, DirecTV has for whatever reasons chosen not to listen to their customers who have demanded it. I know there was a lot of upset fans in Oregon about the Civil War. I’m hearing from a lot of basketball fans too who know we have at least 12 games from each of our school on the networks. The sheer quality and quantity of basketball is particularly upsetting to some fans. I’m hoping that some of these distributors will listen to their customers who want it very badly and agree to take it. If they won’t take it, it puts their customers in the position of having to choose somebody else.

I don’t know exactly what the sticking point is with DirecTV but based on what they say to their customers, they’ve used a number of different arguments and been a moving target. They’ve questioned whether our fans really want it and how passionate our fans really are, whether it’s fair to their non-sports customers, whether the price is too high; there’s been a panoply of different answers they’ve given. It’s been a bit of pin the tail on the donkey. I suspect the real reason is financial to a large extent. But obviously they’ve just picked up the Lakers’ network which is much, much more expensive than our networks so I suspect they can afford it and hope they choose to do it

November 29th

San Jose State trying to hang onto its “Coach Mac”

From the San Jose Mercury News …San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre reiterated Wednesday that he has not been contacted about any other jobs. His school is working on keeping him with the Spartans.

“We want Coach Mac to stay here,” SJSU athletic director Gene Bleymaier said Wednesday. “He’s done a phenomenal job. We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep him. We’ve been working on that for months.”

Those measures include looking to increase MacIntyre’s salary, which is in the $450,000 range, and improving facilities. Bleymaier didn’t specify whether the school was eyeing an extension or a renegotiation of his current deal, which runs through the 2017 season. But they are committed to working improving the program in all areas. “It’s everything,” Bleymaier said. “It’s trying to improve the program in every way that we can. Give him the opportunity to try to continue to have the success we’ve had this year and build on that. We’re working to develop a plan to make that happen.”

MacIntyre’s name has come up in discussions regarding several openings. He was a rumored candidate for the Kentucky job that went to Mark Stoops and has been linked to the opening at Cal, among others. He said he hasn’t heard from anybody yet.

“There’s always a million rumors out there, but I haven’t heard anything,” MacIntyre said. “We love it here. We want to be here. That’s just the way it’s always going to be. I hope it’s going to be like that the next 15 yearsthat I’m here.”

Bleymaier, a former AD at Boise State who oversaw its rise from Division II all the way to two appearances in BCS bowl games, sees similarities in the growth SJSU has shown this year.

“There’s no question,” Bleymaier said. “The strides the team made this year. We have an opportunity to be successful for a long time with the foundation that Mac is building here. We’re going to be able to move into the Mountain West next year and compete for a championship in the first year.”

The Spartans made their first appearance in the BCS standings this week at No. 25. With a 10-2 record, they have their most wins since 1987. But MacIntyre thinks they can achieve even more.

“We didn’t win a championship this year,” MacIntyre said. “That’s something we want to do. And then get in a BCS game. That’s something we want to do and I think those are realistic goals in the future. I think the program’s going that way. There’s things we’ve got to do with our team. We’ve got to get better at things. There’s things we got to do with facilities. There’s a whole combination, but everybody’s moving that way. It’s really exciting to me and it’s really exciting to our kids and it’s making a difference on the recruiting trail.”

Colorado not only school interested in Gary Andersen

From the San Jose Mercury News … Utah State’s Gary Andersen has been contacted by Cal about its vacant football coaching position, sources said, but the Bears could face competition for his services.

Andersen, who guided the Aggies to a 10-2 regular-season record and the outright Western Athletic Conference title, also has heard from representatives of Colorado, according to a Denver Post report.

Jeff Tedford, fired Nov. 20 as Cal’s coach, does not appear to be among the candidates to replace Jon Embree at Colorado. The Daily Camera of Boulder reported that a source close to Tedford said he is not interested.

Tedford did not respond to an email inquiry from this newspaper about his possible interest in the Colorado position.

Meanwhile, outgoing UC Davis coach Bob Biggs was skeptical that Boise State’s Chris Petersen — a Davis alum — will be swayed to leave for any other job, including Cal.

The day after former UC Davis coaching legend Jim Sochor suggested that changes at Boise could sway Petersen to look elsewhere, Biggs disagreed.

“Chris is a man of tremendous integrity,” said Biggs, who coached Petersen under Sochor in 1985 and ’86. “If he says he’s not going to do something, which publicly he has said, he is not one to back away from that. That’s just not who he is. He doesn’t play games.”

Petersen is 82-8 in seven seasons at Boise and has turned away advances in recent years by the likes of Penn State, UCLA andStanford.

Andersen, 48, is in demand after resurrecting a Utah State program that hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 1996 when he arrived in 2009. The Aggies were 7-6 by 2011 and this season won their first undisputed conference title since capturing the Big West crown in 1979.

Western Kentucky athletic director Todd Stewart told the Louisville Courier-Journal he has not been contacted by any school seeking permission to talk with Hilltoppers coach and former Stanford assistant Willie Taggart, also considered a potential Cal target.

November 28th

Cal thinks it might have a shot at Boise State’s Chris Petersen

Cal is at least a week ahead (perhaps more) in its search for a new head coach, so it is interesting to chart the Bears’ progress … and their candidates.

From the San Jose Mercury News … Former Raiders coach Hue Jackson expressed interest in the Cal football job, and luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State might not be as far-fetched as some Bears fans think.

Jim Sochor, who coached Petersen at UC Davis and gave him his first coaching job, said Tuesday the changing landscape at Boise might tempt Petersen to make a move after years of resisting big offers.

“A lot of changes have taken place there,” said Sochor, referring to the Broncos’ scheduled move to the Big East Conference in 2014 and the arrival of a new athletic director last year. “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he’s had maybe some change of heart. At some point I do believe he will go elsewhere.”

Sochor hopes that place is Cal.

“He’d be great at Cal. He has all the requisites that Cal would be looking for,” Sochor said.

An Arkansas website, HogCountryonline, posted a story suggesting the Razorbacks were close to a deal with Petersen, although no other media outlets were reporting it Tuesday evening.

Jackson, 47, who was Cal’s offensive coordinator in 1996, told this newspaper Tuesday in a phone interview he has not been contacted. Now a Cincinnati Bengals assistant, Jackson said he would welcome a call from Berkeley.

Jackson, who led the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011, his only season as head coach in Oakland, believes Cal’s potential has a high ceiling.

They should have an opportunity to compete for the Pac-12 championship, BCS bowls, the national championship. Why not Cal?”

One week after Cal fired Jeff Tedford, there was no indication that athletic director Sandy Barbour was close to naming a replacement.

Besides Petersen and Jackson, there were more moving parts with others thought to be on Cal’s list:

A source close to Utah State believes coach Gary Andersen, whose Aggies are 10-2 and won the Western Athletic Conference title, would come to the Bay Area if offered the job.

Sonny Dykes, whose Louisiana Tech squad leads the nation in scoring at 52.3 points per game, was set to interview Wednesday at North Carolina State, according to the News Star of Monroe, La.

The X-factor is Petersen, who is 82-8 in seven seasons at Boise and has been linked to jobs at Penn State, UCLA and Stanford in recent years. On Monday, he addressed the annual rumors, telling reporters that “99.9 percent is always completely false, the problem is 0.1. But there hasn’t even been 0.1.”

One potential complication might be that Petersen and Tedford are good friends. Sochor said there are factors that might work in Cal’s favor.

Petersen’s father still lives in their hometown of Yuba City, and Petersen’s son Sam, who had a brain tumor and cancer of the spine when he was an infant, is healthy at age 13.

Petersen played quarterback for Sochor in 1985 and ’86 but didn’t initially want to go into coaching. “We had to talk him into becoming my head freshman coach,” Sochor said. “Once he did that, it was all over. He was a natural.”

Sochor pointed to Petersen’s familiarity with the UC system, as well as his prowess recruiting in California and nationally. “It all fits,” he said.

Argument for eliminating the nine game conference schedule

No arguments here …

From ESPN … The Mississippi State Bulldogs’ best win this year was over Middle Tennessee, a team that lost to McNeese State. Its four SEC wins came against teams that went a combined 14-34.

Arizona, you beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC. Arizona State, you beat Arizona. USC, you beat Arizona State and Washington. Washington, you beat Stanford and Oregon State. Heck, Arizona’s win over Toledo and Washington’s over San Diego State are better than anything Mississippi State did this year.

Each of you, I suspect, would pound Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, bless their hearts, aren’t very good.

Ah, but the Bulldogs are 8-4. So many college football fans — and media members — look at their eight wins and your seven and say, “Mississippi State is better than Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington.”

This is a ramification of having 7-5 disease, which some years is also known as 6-6 disease.

What’s the big deal? Well, Mississippi State is probably going to go to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl where it will play an NC State team that just fired its coach, according to our friends with ESPN.com’s SEC and ACC blogs. The Bulldogs should prevail — NC State is, after all, the ACC’s only bowl-eligible 7-5 team — and load up a ninth victory.

And at 9-4, my guess is that the Bulldogs will end up ranked in the final AP poll. At 8-5, even after a nice bowl victory, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington will be a a tougher sell.

The last 8-5 team to finished ranked was No. 23 Florida State in 2005.

The 14-team SEC has no 7-5 teams. The ACC has two. The Big East has one. The Big Ten has one.

Look over the Big 12 standings. Notice something?

The Big 12 has one 7-5 team (Texas Tech) and one 6-6 team (Iowa State). If Oklahoma State loses to Baylor on Saturday, both will be 7-5. If West Virginia beats Kansas, as expected, and TCU loses to Oklahoma, as expected, the Big 12 will have two more 7-5 teams.

The 10-team Big 12 could finish the season with four 7-5 teams and one 6-6 team, or three 7-5 teams and two 6-6 teams.

Now, we get to brass tacks: What do the Big 12 and Pac-12 share that the ACC, SEC and Big Ten do not?

If you said a nine-game conference schedule, you should give yourself a hand, pin a rose on your nose and exclaim, “Larry Scott, can we please — PLEASE! — kill the nine-game conference schedule?!”

By the way, Big 12, welcome to the frustration club on this one, though I do seem to recall many of you in past years waving away the nine-game versus eight-game argument when Pac-10 folks raised it. We won’t bring up your weak nonconference scheduling right now because that would be a rude way to greet new members of the club.

The Big Ten actually thought about going to a nine-game schedule. It got wise. The nine-game conference schedule was adopted by the Pac-10 in 2006. It’s always been a terrible idea, but at least back then there was a concrete justification: The Pac-10 played a full round-robin schedule and therefore crowned a true champion because everyone played everyone else, even if some years a complicated tie-breaking system was needed.

Now all it does, by definition, is drop six extra losses into the conference every year and create scheduling imbalance, with some teams having five home conference games and some with four. It hurts the conference in both the human and computer polls.

The end result is this: Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington, instead of sitting at 8-4, become 7-5 teams with little hope of ending up nationally ranked after the bowl season.

Of course, the schedule doesn’t deserve all the blame for a surfeit of Pac-12 mediocrity. If Arizona, USC and Washington took care of business last weekend in winnable games, the Pac-12 currently would have seven ranked teams with eight or more wins. That would have been great fun, though I’m sure giddy Sun Devils and Cougars fans couldn’t care less about that.

College football will play its final year in the BCS system in 2013. The next season, we’ll start a four-team playoff, which is likely the first step toward something bigger and far more lucrative.

Already the dynamic is changing. Where there were once six power conferences, there are now four. A great race for revenue is ahead as the conference pecking order is again redefined.

By playing nine conference games, the Pac-12 only will ensure it starts the race from behind.

Buffs finish No. 2 in final Bottom Ten

Well, CU can’t be first (last) at everything …

The final ESPN Bottom Ten of the season is out, and Colorado finished second to Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles finished 0-12, and fired their coach of one season, Ellis Johnson.

Other BCS Conference schools in the final Bottom Ten include: No. 5 Washington (honorary, for losing to Washington State);  No. 6 Auburn (which fired Gene Chizik two years after winning the national championship); No. 9 Kansas (which is 1-10 under Charlie Weis, with a game at West Virginia still to be played); and No. 10 Illinois (2-10).

November 26th

All Pac-12 team announced

Colorado junior offensive tackle David Bakhtiari was the only Buff named first- or second-team All-Pac-12. Washington State was the only other team with just one player (Utah had two, including a return specialist).

Nine Buffs did receive honorable mention, including four freshmen (three defensive backs):

Defensive back Kenneth Crawley, Fr.; Tight end Nick Kasa, Sr.; Offensive lineman Alex Lewis, So.; Defensive back Marques Moseley, Fr.; Offensive lineman Daniel Munyer, So.; Punter Darragh O’Neill, So.; Defensive lineman Will Perciak, Sr.; Running back Christian Powell, Fr. Defensive back Yuri Wright, Fr.

Major Pac-12 awards:

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.

Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.

Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (the third Duck in four years to win this award).

Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.

Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford (for the second year in a row)

For comparison’s sake, a list of candidates for the Cal head coaching vacancy

Cal’s been at this a week longer than CU, but some of the names will likely be associated with both jobs. From SBN …

Gary Andersen, head coach, Utah State

Gary Andersen is head coach of the resurgent Utah State Aggies. Once one of the worst teams in FBS, Utah State has won its first conference championship since 1936 and won 10 games for the first time in school history. This is a team that won 6 games total in the three years prior to Andersen’s arrival. Andersen has begun to do to Utah State what Jeff Tedford did at Cal. Once known for developing solid defenses, Andersen has also developed a dynamic running game and, more recently, an efficient vertical passing game.

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame

Since joining Brian Kelly and Notre Dame, Bob Diaco turned a thoroughly mediocre team into one of the best defenses in the nation. Now headed to the national championship game, Notre Dame has risen from mediocrity mostly based on defensive improvement. Diaco was recently promoted to assistant head coach and is taking a bigger role in managing the team. He demands excellence and full commitment from his players on and off the field. He also happens to be an excellent recruiter. With ND going to the BCS title game, he will be one of the hottest coaching prospects this year.

Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois

Since being promoted from Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator to head coach at NIU, Doeren has continued the recent NIU tradition of running one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Under Doeren NIU continues to run a vertical spread offense where the QB racks up 3000+ passing yards and 1000+ rushing yards per season. While he inherited a good offense, he has developed a top-25 defense at NIU. This is very impressive since the MAC has some of the best offenses outside BCS leagues: Toledo, Kent State, Ohio, etc. He’s a great recruiter and was Kansas’ recruiting coordinator for several successful years. He also runs a program with a top-5 APR and Doeren was an academic All-American when he played football. He is an underrated coach and could be a steal for whichever program hires him. He has a 22-4 record at NIU (21-1 in his last 22 games) and brought the Huskies their first MAC Championship since 1983. With his strong midwest roots, he may seriously consider head coaching position at Purdue.

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech

While Louisiana Tech was undefeated, Dykes was one of the hottest names for the upcoming offseason. The hype has cooled slightly, but he is still a strong candidate for many open positions. He worked under Mike Leach for several years and was Arizona’s offensive coordinator during those couple years when they were relevant in the late ’00s. He obviously knows offense and his offense has brought Louisiana Tech to national prominence this season. He consistently gets solid QB play in his offense, whether at Texas Tech, Arizona, or Louisiana Tech. His defense at Louisiana Tech has been a glaring weakness. Throughout his career he has been praised as a good recruiter. He reportedly wants his next position to be at a place where he can win, instead of the school that gives him the highest salary.

Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon

Mark Helfrich has a long track record of developing quarterbacks at Boise State, Arizona State, and Oregon. He’s now the offensive coordinator for the best offense in college football. What “offensive coordinator” means is a little unclear, as the offense is still Chip Kelly’s baby. Helfrich does not even call plays at Oregon. He does develop QBs, however. Helfrich is the mystery man in this year’s coaching carousel. The Ducks seem interested in retaining him, though, as he was nearly named head coach when Kelly was on his way out the door to Tampa Bay.

Hue Jackson, former head coach, Oakland Raiders

Hue Jackson has 25 years of coaching experience, including a one-year stint as Steve Mariucci’s offensive coordinator at Cal. Jackson has held position coaching positions at RB, WRs, and QBs, as well as special teams and, oddly enough, defensive backs for the Bengals this season. His star pupils include RB Stephen Davis, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and QB Joe Flacco. He was a head coach at Oakland last year and helped them to an 8-8 season. They started 7-4 but closed out the season with a disappointing 1-4 stretch. The Raiduhs have regressed significantly since Jackson’s departure. His players praised his attention to detail and his ability to keep opposing defenses on their heels. Many of his players speak fondly of him, but one of the most memorable moments of his stint at the Raiders was when he publicly called out his team following the season-ending loss to San Diego last year. He’s arguably our top candidate from the NFL ranks.

Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State

Unless San Jose State starts paying MacIntyre more than $450k per year, the Spartans will have a hard time holding onto the coach after he led the Spartans to 10 regular-season wins this year. The team only had three winning records in the past 20 years. The program was a mess when he took over. They suffered scholarship reductions due to a low APR. He won 1 game his first year, 5 his second year, and 10 (with a chance for 11) this year. That is a remarkable turnaround, made all the more remarkable by the school’s scholarship reductions. Most of his coaching career has been spent on the defensive side (including a couple stints as a DBs coach in the NFL), but both the San Jose State offense and defense have improved tremendously under MacIntyre. With academics cited as a reason for firing Tedford, Cal could take a look at MacIntyre.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State

The white whale. Petersen is that coach that everyone thinks they’ll hire each offseason, yet he remains firmly entrenched in Idaho. Rumor has it he’s interested in leaving Boise State only to coach at Cal or Oregon. Of course, that’s what all fanbases tell themselves when they’re looking to hire him. Last week Arkansas fans were convinced Petersen was on his way to Fayetteville. As part of Petersen’s contract, he must provide written notification 24 hours before he interviews with a school. This means there will be a paper trail when he is considering a school (whether that paper trail is made public remains to be seen). He turned down a UCLA contract worth $4m in salary plus $3m for assistants, so he’s obviously not interested in whichever schools gives him the most money. Of course, we all know what he has done at Boise State. His 82-8 record speaks for itself. Can Sandy Barbour lure the ultimate coaching candidate? Don’t bet on it, but don’t count him out among the candidates.

Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers

Cal alum Ron Rivera will not likely return as Carolina’s head coach. He has spent most of the past 15 years coaching on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL. His success as defensive coordinator with several teams gave him the opportunity to become the head coach at Carolina. With a dynamic Cam Newton at QB, the Panthers seemed poised for success this season. Unfortunately, the team has disappointed and Rivera is uncertain about his future. With a new GM joining the team in the near future, Rivera is unlikely to stay, particularly in light of this season’s results. He does not have collegiate coaching experience, but his ties to Cal and extensive NFL experience make him a candidate worth considering.

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

Roman is a familiar face around these parts. He led the Stanford offense in 2009 and 2010 under Jim Harbaugh and followed Harbaugh to the 49ers where he continues to coordinate the offense. Prior to joining Harbaugh, Roman spent a decade in the NFL coaching offensive lines, tight ends, and quarterbacks. He also coached tight ends and offensive tackles for the Cardinal. He was a great recruiter at Stanford and emphasized academics (lol) in addition to football. With his emphasis on offensive lines, tight ends, and a traditional, downhill running game, he could provide the offense many Cal fans have been dying to see since 2006.

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington

Former Cal linebackers coach and Washington defensive coordinator may be worth a look. He made big improvements to last year’s awful UW defense. It hasn’t been easy, though. The defense’s highlights have been holding top-ten teams Oregon State and Stanford under 20 points, while giving up 52 to Arizona and 31 to Wazzu have been low points. Much of UW’s struggles have been on the offensive side of the ball. Despite the same 7-5 record, Wilcox has made improvements. He’s a good recruiter and an upwardly mobile coaching prospect, but he may not yet be ready for a head coaching position. He’s worth a look, but with the number of other candidates available, he may not be a great choice this year.

November 25th

Oregon 4th in coaches’ poll, but out of national championship picture

A combination of two losses in four games played Saturday could have given Oregon hope to play for a national title.

First and foremost, the Ducks needed arch-rival USC to get its act together and beat No. 1 Notre Dame. Nope – Notre Dame 22, USC 13.

Next, Oregon wanted UCLA to defeat Stanford to set the Ducks up for a repeat in the Pac-12 Championship game – UCLA at Oregon. Nope – Stanford 35, UCLA 17.

Then, the Ducks needed either Georgia to lose to Georgia Tech, or Alabama to lose to Auburn, to eliminate one of those teams ranked above Oregon. Nope – Alabama 49, Auburn 0; Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10.

As a result, Oregon, No. 4 in the coaches poll, No. 6 in the AP poll, is done for the regular season. No Pac-12 title. No Pac-12 title game. No shot at the BCS national championship. The title game will have Notre Dame facing the winner of the SEC championship game between Alabama and Georgia.

This is not to say anyone should feel sorry for Oregon. The 11-1 Ducks are all but assured of a BCS bowl, just not the BCS title game or the Rose Bowl (which will feature the winner of UCLA/Stanford and Wisconsin/Nebraska). The most likely landing spot for the Ducks would be the Fiesta Bowl, to play the Big 12 champion, likely Kansas State (unless 1-10 Kansas can upset the Wildcats next weekend).

As for the rest of the Pac-12 … Stanford moved up three spots, from No. 11 to No. 8, in this week’s poll, while the Cardinal’s victim, UCLA, fell two spots to No. 17. Oregon State, despite being doubled up by Oregon, 48-24, remained at No. 16 in the AP poll.

USC, which has lost four of its last five games, has seven votes in the latest poll, good enough for 34th overall, two spots ahead of Arizona, which lost to Arizona State, 41-34.

Coaches on the move

Six BCS Conference schools have already fired their head coaches, including three from the SEC.  From cbssportsline.com …

Auburn … Gene Chizik was fired only two seasons after winning Auburn’s first national championship since 1957. Since winning the national title following the 2010 season, Chizik’s Auburn teams went 11-14 overall but with a more damning 4-12 mark in the SEC, including an 0-8 record this season. In his four seasons at Auburn, Chizik went 33-19.

Tennessee … Derek Dooley, hired out of Louisiana Tech with a 17-20 record after Lane Kiffin’s abrupt departure just before Signing Day 2010. A promising 6-7 debut for Dooley gave way to a 5-7 2011 season — one capped by a loss to Kentucky, ending the Vols’ 26-game streak vs. the Wildcats — and a 4-7 mark in 2012. Dooley finished his Tennessee tenure with a 4-19 SEC record.

Kentucky … Joker Phillips, the hand-picked successor to Rich Brooks who took over a program coming off of four straight bowl appearances (albeit a school-record four straight bowl appearances) and in three seasons bottomed-out with a 1-9, 0-7 SEC start in 2012. The last of those nine, a 40-0 drubbing at the hands of Vanderbilt, resulted in Phillips being fired with two games left in the season. Phillips coached through the end of the season, finishing 2-10 overal and 0-8 in league play.

Cal … Jeff Tedford, was fired after 11 seasons with the school and a solid 82-57 record. The Bears were the laughingstock of the Pac-12 when Tedford arrived, but a 10-2 season in 2004 and a 10-3 campaign in 2006 made the former Oregon offensive coordinator one of the hottest coaches in the country. The Bears’ momentum stalled, though, and a 3-9 mark in 2012 — and 9-18 Pac-12 record over his final three seasons — wasn’t enough for a 12th year. Possible replacements for Tedford … The Bears could look to the NFL with either Cincinnati Bengals assistant Hue Jackson, a former Cal assistant and Raiders head coach, or Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, a former Bears All-American. If they stay within the college ranks, Boise’s Chris Petersen could get the obligatory phone call, with San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre, Utah State’s Gary Andersen and Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter also possibilities after impressive 2012 seasons.

North Carolina State … Tom O’Brien, fired after six seasons, including a 7-5 record in 2012. O’Brien led the Wolfpack to three bowl games but never finished higher than second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division while compiling a 40-35 record. His teams were only 22-26 in ACC play.

Non-BCS schools looking for new coaches include: Idaho, Western Michigan, Georgia State, and Western Michigan.

November 21st

ESPN picks up national championship playoff coverage

Probably the best fit, so this might not really be news, other than waiting to see how many $$$$$ are involved.

From ESPN … ESPN will be the television home for the college football playoff that begins after the 2014 season, thanks to a 12-year deal announced on Wednesday.

The deal covers the national championship game and semifinals as well as bowl games that will be part of the semifinal hosting rotation in years they don’t host a semifinal game. Earlier, ESPN announced deals with the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls.

The deal goes through the 2025 regular season (2026 bowl games).

ESPN president John Skipper and Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS and committee setting up the college football playoff, announced the deal in principle, which includes rights on TV, radio, mobile TV and WatchESPN. ESPN also gets the rights to the games in 3D, on ESPN Deportes and internationally. It is subject to finalizing documents and approvals.

“Because of college football’s widespread popularity and the incredible passion of its fans, few events are more meaningful than these games,” Skipper said in a statement. “We are ecstatic at the opportunity to continue to crown a college football champion on ESPN’s outlets for years to come, the perfect finale to our year-round commitment to the sport.”

ESPN will televise the BCS Championship Game after the conclusion of this season (Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET) and for one more year before the playoff system takes over.

“Folks are going to love this playoff and the attention ESPN will give to it,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement.

USC freshman quarterback predicts victory

You’re a freshman quarterback, about to start your first game.

And you’re going up against the No. 1 team in the nation, Notre Dame, which has remained undefeated all season thanks to its defense.

So, what do you do? Keep your mouth shut, and prepare as best you can?

Naw. This is USC, so you go Namath and predict victory.

From ESPN … USC  redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek is confident the Trojans will take down No. 1 Notre Dame on Saturday night.

In an interview on 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, Wittek expressed confidence in his abilities — and trust in head coach Lane Kiffin leading into the showdown against Notre Dame.

“If he wants to air it out, let’s air it out,” Wittek said of Kiffin. “If he wants to pound it on the ground, let’s do that. I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna play within myself, within the system, and we’re gonna win this ballgame.”

Smiling big in front of a pack of two dozen reporters after the Trojans’ first practice of the week on Tuesday, Wittek also proclaimed himself ready to go and said he expects to have “a lot of fun” in his first collegiate start.

Of course, it happens to come against Notre Dame at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

“I’ve been ready all season for this to happen — if it did,” Wittek said. “Obviously the circumstances aren’t the greatest with such a great quarterback being hurt, but I’ve been ready for this all year.”

Kiffin said he thought Wittek “was awesome” in practice on Tuesday, starring in all sorts of drills and completing the vast majority of his passes.

Asked if the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Wittek knew the extent of the challenge he was facing with Notre Dame’s dominant defense, Kiffin indicated he might not.

“I think sometimes what’s good is to be so young that you don’t know,” Kiffin said. “I think he’s just gonna go out and play.”

Wittek, ESPN’s 3rd-ranked quarterback in the class of 2011, is replacing the injured Matt Barkley, who suffered an AC sprain in his right shoulder in USC’s 38-28 loss to UCLA on Saturday.

Barkley, a four-year starter for the Trojans, has been ruled out for Notre Dame but could still play in USC’s bowl game next month. Wittek has been his primary backup all season, appearing in three games and completing 8-of-9 pass attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Wittek also took over for Barkley in high school, at Santa Ana Mater Dei, where Barkley started from 2005-2008 and Wittek helmed the team in 2009 and 2010.

Both players enrolled early out of Mater Dei. Barkley won the Trojans’ starting job immediately under former coach Pete Carroll, while Wittek redshirted his first year while behind fellow freshman Cody Kessler on the depth chart.

Barkley said Tuesday he expects Wittek to smoothly lead USC.

“Just talking to the other guys about his huddle presence, it sounds like he’s got it,” Barkley said. “We’ll see what it’s like when he gets into the Coliseum for the first time, but I have no doubt.

“He’s played in big games before, and he’s a tough kid. I think he’s gonna have a great performance.”

Barkley also said Wittek has the necessary tools to excel against the Irish.

“He’s got a gun,” Barkley said. “I think he will let it rip.”

Barkley showed up to USC’s Tuesday practice halfway through the session, with a sling supporting his shoulder. Afterward, he said he was dealing with the disappointment of his collegiate career potentially being over.

“To not be able to suit up and be with my guys, it’s gonna suck,” Barkley said. “But I don’t think one game will define my time at USC. It’s been a tremendous journey.”

Barkley led the Trojans to two wins over Notre Dame on the road but never got the chance to host the Irish at the Coliseum. He sat out of the November 2010 game because of a sprained ankle, and Mitch Mustain started the Trojans’ 20-16 loss.

It’s possible Barkley could still play in the Trojans’ bowl game this season, depending on the bowl and his recovery process.

AC sprains typically require 2-8 weeks of rehab. USC could play its bowl game as early as Dec. 22, which would be five weeks from the day of the injury, and as late as Dec. 31, just over six weeks from the UCLA game.

November 20th

Jeff Tedford out at Cal

From the San Jose Mercury News… Cal has fired longtime football coach, and one-time savior, Jeff Tedford.

The termination comes after two days of discussions between Tedford and athletic director Sandy Barbour — discussions that were focused either on the terms of his dismissal or the conditions under which he would return … conditions that ultimately were not agreeable to both sides.

Tedford worked wonders for the Bears, rebuilding a program that had bottomed in 2011 and turning Cal into one of the top programs on the west coast.

But there’s no getting around that fact that

1. Cal struggled on the field the past few years (failing to qualify for bowls in ’10 and ’12)

2. Cal’s academic were in bad shape, according to one key measure: the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rates

3. The Bears have to sell high-priced tickets to Memorial Stadium to pay down the $321 million debt.

Here are Barbour’s comments from Cal statement on the dismissal:

“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, one that required a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of factors,” Barbour said. “Ultimately, I believed that we needed a change in direction to get our program back on the right track. Cal football is integral to our department and our university, and its influence can be felt well beyond the walls of Memorial Stadium. The program clearly serves as an important part of the connective tissue that binds our community together, and it is imperative that Cal football be recognized as a leader in competitive success, academic achievement and community engagement.

“For many years, under Jeff Tedford’s leadership, our program represented all that and more,” Barbour added. “Coach Tedford deserves credit for the extraordinary effort he undertook to turn this program around and bring us to the heights of a Pac-10 co-championship in 2006. He has served his University admirably, and I will forever be indebted for his commitment and expertise, as well as the positive impact he has made in so many young men’s lives over the years.”

Possible candidates to replace Tedford

SONNY DYKES, Louisiana Tech

In his third season as head coach, Dykes, 43, is a spread offense specialist whose Bulldogs lead the nation at 52.3 points per game. They are 9-2, and have scored at least 50 points six times. He is 22-14 overall at Louisiana Tech. Dykes got a two-year contract extension last season through 2017 and earns about $750,000 per year. He was a finalist for the Houston job a year ago. He coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at Arizona. Cal won’t be the only school to make a call.

HUE JACKSON, Cincinnati Bengals

Jackson, 47, is an intriguing possibility. The Raiders head coach in 2011, Jackson is coaching defensive backs and special teams for the Bengals. But he’s an offensive coach and will return to his specialty soon. He has coached in the NFL since 2001 — serving as an offensive coordinator for the Redskins and the Falcons. The one-time University of Pacific quarterback was OC at Cal in ’96 and for the next three seasons at USC.

RON RIVERA, Carolina Panthers

A former All-America linebacker for Cal, Rivera, 50, is on the hot seat in his second season as head coach of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. His two-year record entering play Sunday: 8-17. He was defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers. The timing could be complicated because the NFL regular season doesn’t end until Dec. 30. But Rivera is popular with Cal folks, and may see this as a great landing spot if Carolina isn’t working out.

GARY ANDERSEN, Utah State

Andersen, 48, has turned things around for the Aggies, posting a 16-8 record the past two seasons, including 9-2 this fall. A year ago, he promised his players he’d get a tattoo of the team’s logo if they reached a bowl game. The Aggies made it for the first time in 14 years, and Andersen followed though (it’s on the back of his shoulder). He was defensive coordinator for five years at Utah, including on Urban Meyer’s unbeaten 2008 team.

MIKE MACINTYRE, San Jose State

MacIntyre, 47, has engineered an amazing turnaround in just three seasons with the Spartans. SJSU won one game in his debut season of 2010 and faced massive academic obstacles. But MacIntyre has changed the culture of the program on and off the field, and the Spartans are bowl eligible at 9-2. His resume includes stops at Georgia and Duke, and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets. The core question: Does he have enough sizzle to inspire Cal fans to buy those ESP long-term season tickets?

The next tier

Any of these could be in the mix if Barbour can’t hook one of her favorites:

JAMES FRANKLIN, Vanderbilt

In his second season at the SEC’s most challenging academic school, Franklin, 40, has coached the Commodores to a 7-4 record. A year ago, he became the school’s first rookie coach to get the team to a bowl game. Franklin is considered a good recruiter with a dynamic personality.

WILLIE TAGGART, Western Kentucky

A former Stanford assistant under Jim Harbaugh, Taggart is the nation’s youngest FBS head coach at age 36. He is credited with helping develop running back Toby Gerhart at Stanford, and previously spent eight years as quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky. Now head coach at his alma mater, Taggart has the Hilltoppers at 6-5 this season, 13-10 the past two years.

TIM DeRUYTER, Fresno State

The first-year coach of the Bulldogs, DeRuyter, 49, has directed FSU to an 8-3 record, including early losses to Oregon and Boise State. He was defensive coordinator at Air Force, Texas A&M and Nevada, but the Bulldogs can play offense, too, with six games this season of at least 42 points.

GREG ROMAN, 49ers

In his second season as offensive coordinator for the 49ers, Roman followed Jim Harbaugh to the NFL from Stanford, where he coached Andrew Luck in 2010. Regarded as something of an offensive mad scientist, Roman, 40, already has 15 years coaching experience in the NFL, having worked for the Panthers, Texans and Ravens. The hole in his resume: He has never been a head coach.

Long shots

Another time and place, maybe. But these seem far-fetched:

CHRIS PETERSEN, Boise State

Petersen, 48, is atop every athletic director’s wish list, but no one has gotten him to budge yet. He reportedly turned down Stanford two years ago, and last December said no thanks to UCLA for the second time, despite a reported contract offer of $4 million per season. The UC Davis graduate is 82-8 in seven seasons at Boise State and apparently happy with a $2 million salary. Think Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few. With both, you make the call, but you already know the answer.

STEVE MARIUCCI, NFL Network

Mariucci is 57, hasn’t coached (or recruited) in college since his one season as head coach at Cal in 1996, and hasn’t coached anywhere in seven years. He made his reputation as Brett Favre’s quarterback coach in Green Bay, and he was 57-39 in seven seasons as coach of the 49ers. In between, he was hugely popular with Cal fans. Mariucci has been mentioned in recent years as a possible candidate at Michigan State, UCLA, USC and Arkansas. He didn’t bite on any of those. Could Berkeley tempt him?

JACK DEL RIO, Denver Broncos

The former Hayward High three-sport legend is defensive coordinator for the Broncos after compiling a 68-71 record in eight seasons as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Del Rio, 49, was a star linebacker at USC, then played 11 seasons in the NFL.

MIKE RILEY, Oregon State

One of the most respected coaches in the Pac-12, Riley is 66-31 at OSU after a 62-14 rout of Cal on Saturday. He was head coach of the Chargers for three years, won two Grey Cup titles in the CFL and played defensive back at Alabama under Paul “Bear” Bryant. His first coaching job: A grad assistant to Mike White at Cal in 1975. But Riley will be 60 before next season and he grew up in Corvallis. There is no reason to believe he’d seriously consider Cal.

GARY PATTERSON, TCU

Patterson, 52, has been where every Cal fan dreams of, directing his Horned Frogs to the 2011 Rose Bowl (a win over Wisconsin), following back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons in ’09 and ’10. In 12 seasons at TCU, Patterson is 115-34, with five conference titles and seven bowl victories. This has been perhaps his roughest season — TCU moved into the Big 12 and is 3-4 in conference play. Patterson turned down a reported $2 million from Minnesota in 2007. Then again, the Bay Area rarely dips to minus-20 degrees.

MIKE BELLOTTI, ESPN

A native of Concord, Bellotti coached Oregon for 14 seasons through 2008, becoming the school’s winningest all-time coach with 116 victories. He became athletic director in 2009, but has done TV analyst work for ESPN and ABC since 2010. A month shy of 62 and out of coaching for nearly five years, Bellotti would be a tough sell.

The college assistants

All talented aides, but Cal likely needs a higher-profile name to run its football operation and wow its ticket buyers:

MARK HELFRICH, Oregon

A hot property at age 38, Helfrich is offensive coordinator for the nation’s highest-scoring team. An Oregon native, he was the youngest offensive coordinator at a BCS school when hired by Colorado at age 32 in 2006. In his fourth season at Eugene, Helfrich is considered the heir to the top job at Oregon if Chip Kelly exits for the NFL head coaching position he is believed to covet.

BOB DIACO, Notre Dame

You figure Barbour will return to her administrative roots in South Bend to make a run at someone on the Irish staff. The hottest name is the 39-year-old Diaco, third-year coordinator of Notre Dame’s stellar defense. He was a two-time all-Big Ten linebacker under Hayden Fry at Iowa. Diaco will be a head coach somewhere soon, but most of his football life has been spent in the Midwest.

NOEL MAZZONE, UCLA

The 55-year-old offensive coordinator has helped lead the Bruins’ resurrection this season under new head coach Jim Mora Jr. His resume includes stops in the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12, where he previously was offensive coordinator at Arizona State in 2010 and ’11, and worked under Dennis Erickson at Oregon State in 2002. He has no head-coaching experience.

JUSTIN WILCOX, Washington

Finishing his first season as defensive coordinator at Washington, Wilcox, 36, spent three years at Cal (2003-05) as linebackers coach, contributing to a 26-12 record and three bowl appearances. Between Cal and UW, he spent two seasons as defensive coordinator at Tennessee then four in the same role at Boise State. The Oregon grad is the son of former 49ers linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox.

NICK ALIOTTI, Oregon

The Ducks’ defensive coordinator the past 14 seasons has ties throughout Northern California. He grew up in Walnut Creek, graduated from Pittsburg High and played at UC Davis. Now 58, he also has coached at UCLA and Oregon State, as well as a stint in the NFL — always as an assistant. For all his success and connections, he doesn’t figure to be in the mix.

No chance

Wouldn’t want him to feel forgotten:

BOBBY PETRINO

The guy wins football games, but the attraction will stop there for most schools, as it should for Cal. Petrino, 51, was fired from his $3.6 million job by Arkansas last spring after lying to his bosses about hiring his mistress to work in the football office. He’s 75-26 as a college head coach, including his stint with the Razorbacks, a job he took after ditching the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of night and leaving his players a note. He seems to be constantly on the prowl for the next job. Whoever hires this guy next will know what they’re getting.

November 19th

Boise State may not be leaving for Big East after all

From ESPN … Boise State, San Diego State and BYU have had conversations with Mountain West membership about the possibility of returning to the league, sources told ESPN.

The talks originated after last week’s decision in Denver by the BCS commissioners to award an automatic access bowl berth to the highest-rated champion to the “Group of Five” conferences. That decision in essence put the Mountain West on equal footing, as far as playoff access is concerned, with the Big East starting in 2014.

The “Group of Five” includes the Mountain West, Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences.

Sources said Monday those talks are expected to bring on greater significance after Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. ESPN reported Rutgers will announce Tuesday it is also leaving for the Big Ten. That means the Big East will lose Rutgers and then potentially either UConn or Louisville to the ACC.

A San Diego State official said: “Nothing changes, we are committed to the Big East.”

With the Big East losing two more schools and having the same playoff access as the Mountain West, Boise State and San Diego State are reconsidering their options. One of the main reasons both schools opted to join the Big East was the draw of more television revenue.

However, it’s unknown how much more the Big East’s future media rights will be worth compared to the Mountain West’s after losing Rutgers to the Big Ten and another member to the ACC. It’s also unknown how much the Mountain West’s media rights deal would increase if Boise State, San Diego State or BYU returned to the MWC.

Even though Boise State and San Diego State don’t join the Big East until July 1, 2013, the schools would have to pay an exit fee to get out of their contract. Both schools signed contracts with the Big East on Dec. 6, 2011, with a $5 million buyout, but that amount was increased to $10 million in January when Navy announced it was joining the league in 2015.

BYU, which left the Mountain West after the 2010 season to become an independent, would have to get out of an eight-year contract with ESPN to rejoin the Mountain West or Big East.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment when asked if ESPN would allow BYU out of its contract.

BYU’s deal with ESPN is worth nearly $4 million a year through 2018, with an option for 2019, sources said.

BYU wouldn’t be able to earn that much in the Mountain West, but the Cougars could be interested in returning to a conference because it would get greater access to a major bowl berth.

As an independent, BYU would have to finish among the top 10 to 12 teams in the nation to earn an access bowl berth. However, if the Cougars were in the MWC or Big East, they could get an access berth by being the highest-rated champion of the “Group of Five.”

The latest conference realignment moves continue to decimate the Big East, which has only one football member remaining from 2003 — a Temple team that initially was dismissed from the league.

In the past year, the Big East has had six schools — West Virginia, TCU, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and now likely Rutgers — leave or announce they were leaving the league, with a seventh school expected to go to the ACC to replace Maryland.

Meanwhile, the Mountain West’s membership next season will consist of 10 football programs: Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming.

When the MWC announced this past summer it was adding San Jose State and Utah State to replace Boise State and San Diego State, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said then the league purposely didn’t expand past 10 in case the Broncos and Aztecs had a change of heart.

“Our board has determined that we’re staying at 10 football-playing institutions,” Thompson said in July. “We’re going to line up with that formation, but at the same time we’ll keep our eyes on the landscape and if there’s a need to change, we’ll do that.”

Maryland leaves ACC for Big Ten; Rutgers likely to join Tuesday

It used to be that coaching changes dominated off-the-field conversations in the college football off-season. For the past several years, though, conference realignment has taken center stage.

The first salvo of the 2012-13 off-season has already taken place, with more movement still to come.

From ESPN … The University of Maryland’s Board of Regents voted Monday to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten and begin competition in the conference in the 2014-15 academic year, sources told ESPN. An afternoon announcement will be made in College Park.

Meanwhile, Big East Conference sources told ESPN that Rutgers will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten on Tuesday.

Once Maryland’s board voted and faxed a letter of application to the Big Ten on Monday, the conference’s council of presidents unanimously approved the Terrapins’ admission, a source said. Maryland, along with seven others, was a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953.

“Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland. Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them exit,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”

Sources at Maryland believe the Terps will be able to negotiate the current $50 million exit fee from the ACC to a lower amount. The additions of Maryland and Rutgers would spur the Big Ten, then, toward negotiations on a new media-rights deal when its first-tier rights expire in 2017.

The stepped-up negotiations between Maryland and the Big Ten, and the conference’s scheduled vote on the Terrapins’ membership, were reported by ESPN over the weekend.

“The question is what’s the future” of the ACC, Maryland regent Patricia Florestano told ESPN.com on Monday. “We’ve got to look to the future.” Asked if the future of Maryland athletics is brighter in the Big Ten than in the ACC, Florestano said, “we perceived it that way.”

One stumbling block for Maryland was thought to be a financial one. Its athletic department has recently dropped sports programs because of budget concerns, and the ACC recently raised its exit fee to the aforementioned $50 million.

Maryland and Florida State were the only two of the ACC’s 12 schools that voted against a $50 million exit fee but lost the vote. Maryland president Wallace Loh was quoted in The Washington Post on Sept. 13 as saying he was against the hike from $20 million to $50 million on “legal and philosophical” grounds.

Under Armour founder and Maryland uber-booster Kevin Plank will not be contributing to the ACC buyout fund, sources tell ESPN. Plank, who started his company during his time as a walk-on with the Terrapins football team, has emerged as the school’s biggest booster and his filing with the Security and Exchange Commission to sell approximately $65 million worth of stock triggered a rumor that it would be earmarked for Maryland. But Plank, who is worth $1.35 billion according to Forbes, is not using the money to support his alma mater.

A source told ESPN that the Big Ten has been itchy about further expansion since Notre Dame made its official move to the ACC two months ago in all sports but football. The source said the Big Ten can justify Maryland and then Rutgers because they are in contiguous states to the Big Ten footprint.

When Maryland and Rutgers join they will move into the Leaders Division occupied by Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana, Loh told the board of regents. Illinois then would shift from the Leaders to the Legends Division.

The addition of the two East Coast schools also would dramatically stretch the Big Ten’s shadow. With Maryland holding down the Beltway, Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., offering up the New York market and Penn State’s strong eastern ties, the league has a solid anchor in the mid-Atlantic states.

Maryland becomes only the second school to leave the ACC. South Carolina was the other, leaving in 1971 to become an independent. The Gamecocks are now members of the SEC.

In the past few years, the nation’s top five conferences — SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC — have added 10 members, unleashing a coast-to-coast domino effect on college programs.

With the move of Maryland and pending move by Rutgers, the ACC and Big East are expected to seek replacement teams. Connecticut is the most likely candidate to join the ACC, sources said, though school officials said that they had not heard from the ACC as of Sunday night. Syracuse (to the ACC), Pittsburgh (ACC) and West Virginia (Big 12) have negotiated early withdrawals from the Big East in the past year.

An ACC official told ESPN Monday afternoon the league has not contacted or approached any schools about replacing Maryland. Any decision the league’s presidents make on future membership will be a “deliberate and strategic assessment of what’s best for the conference.”

However, the ACC official said the league has been contacted by numerous schools inquiring about joining the league.

November 18th

Barkley out for Notre Dame game

It’s tough right now for Oregon fans. Not only did their team lose for the first time in 13 games, but now they are left to cheer for hated USC to defeat Notre Dame.

But even in that, the Ducks can’t catch a break.

From ESPN … USC Coach Lane Kiffin announced Sunday that Max Wittek will make his first career start in place of Matt Barkley.

Barkley was injured in the final minutes of the Trojans’ 38-28 loss to UCLA when he was sacked by Anthony Barr. Barkley stayed down on the field for a long moment, and didn’t play on USC’s final series.

Barkley was a strong Heisman Trophy candidate last season and again this summer after electing to return for his senior year.

But his season has been inconsistent along with his team. Barkley has passed for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns, but has thrown a career-worst 15 interceptions.

Jeff Tedford out at Cal?

UPDATE … The players meeting, scheduled for Sunday night, has been moved to Monday …

From the San Jose Mercury News… The Bay Area News Group’s Jeff Faraudo tweeted earlier this afternoon that a players-only meeting has been scheduled for 5 p.m.

Suffice it to say, coach Jeff Tedford’s future will be the central topic … perhaps the only topic. Whether Tedford has been dismissed by then — or told he will be back for another year — is unknown. Tedford is expected to meet with athletic director Sandy Barbour today (the meeting might have already taken place).

Here’s Faraudo’s tweet:

Word is Cal fb to hold team mtg Sunday at 5 pm. Figure perhaps Jeff Tedford situation may have some resolution by then. Stay tuned.

I don’t know if Barbour had reached a conclusion before Saturday’s 62-14 loss at Oregon State. If not, the performance couldn’t have helped Tedford’s cause. The Bears committed four turnovers, 15 penalties — 15! — and trailed 35-7 at halftime. Cal has lost five in a row, including back-to-back, end-of-season defeats to the Oregon schools by a combined 121-31.

Asked after the loss in Corvallis if he expected to return next season, Tedford said: “I don’t know”.

Tedford would be owed three years of his full salary ($2.3 million per year) if he is dismissed.

Can Oregon still make it to the BCS national championship game?

In the latest AP poll, Oregon fell to No. 5, behind unanimous No. 1 Notre Dame, follwed by Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State, which is undefeated by ineligible for the BCS national championship game. In the coaches’ poll (which counts in the BCS rankings – the AP poll does not), Oregon is fourth, behind only Notre Dame, Alabama, and Georgia.

The more important “poll”, the BCS standings, will be released Sunday night, but the possibilities are already in place for Oregon, which lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14, Saturday night, to still make it to Miami for the title game.

The easiest scenario involves Notre Dame losing to USC next Saturday. If the Fighting Irish fall, the BCS title game will involve two one-loss teams, and Oregon could certainly stake a claim to one of those spots.

Let’s assume, arguendo, that Notre Dame hands USC the Trojans’ fifth loss of the season. How can the Ducks still make the title game?

First, Oregon will need some help from the SEC. Georgia and Alabama are slated to play in the SEC title game. If both teams win their next game – Georgia against Georgia Tech, Alabama against Auburn – the SEC championship game becomes a de facto semi-final game for the BCS championship game. If either the Bulldogs or the Crimson Tide lose their rivalry game (Auburn should be no match for Alabama, while 6-5 Georgia Tech should at least put up a fight against Georgia), then the Ducks would need to root for the team which lost its rivalry game (and eliminating itself from national title contention) to then rebound to win the SEC title.

The Ducks also need help on the left coast.

Stanford, which now controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 North, finishes the regular season on the road against UCLA. The Bruins, as the Trojans discovered, play very well at home. If Stanford falls to UCLA, the door to the Pac-12 title game – and a BCS national championship bid – could re-open for Oregon. The Ducks would then have to beat Oregon State on the road, claiming the Pac-12 North. The Ducks would then get to host UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.

So, if you are Duck fan, your primary rooting interest next weekend is to cheer for hated USC. If the Trojans can’t beat the Irish, though, Notre Dame will be into the title game.

If Notre Dame is in, the only hope for Oregon is for Auburn to upset Alabama or for Georgia Tech to upset Georgia … and it wouldn’t hurt if Florida State beat Florida, just to eliminate the possibility of – God forbid! – another all-SEC title game.

If Notre Dame, Georgia, and Alabama all win Saturday, though, Oregon is out of the national title chase, regardless of what happens in the remaining Pac-12 games …

USC out of the latest poll

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

While Buff fans would take USC’s 7-4 record in a heartbeat, the four losses for the preseason No. 1 team is not what Trojans fans were expecting in August. Preseason Heisman trophy favorite, quarterback Matt Barkley, was knocked out of the UCLA loss with two minutes to play, and may not be available for the rivalry game against No. 1 Notre Dame.

Kansas State, which had been No. 2 in the rankings, fell to No. 7 in the latest AP poll.

Stanford, which took down No. 1 Oregon, moved from No. 14 to No. 11 in the poll.

UCLA, victors over USC, and repeat Pac-12 South champions, moved up two spots to No. 15. Right behind the Bruins are the Beavers of Oregon State, who fell a spot despite beating Cal, 62-14.

Washington, which took care of business against Colorado, is just outside of the poll, tied for 26th. Arizona, which defeated Utah, 34-24, to move to 7-4 on the season, is also close to being ranked, coming in at No. 29, just ahead of No. 30 USC …

 

November 15th

ESPN makes deal for Sugar Bowl

From ESPN … ESPN has reached a 12-year agreement with the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences for the rights to air the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans across multiple platforms through 2026.

The agreement begins in January 2015 with the inaugural game between the SEC and Big 12 champions. Each year, the Sugar Bowl, previously referred to as the Champions Bowl, will be played Jan. 1 in prime time.

The TV partnership was announced Wednesday by ESPN president John Skipper, SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. ESPN had previously announced a new 12-year agreement for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, also beginning in 2015.

ESPN will have the rights to the Sugar Bowl each year no matter what is determined to be the exact postseason bowl rotation as part of the future playoff format. These rights include television, ESPN Radio, ESPN Mobile TV and on smartphones, tablets, online and on Xbox LIVE via WatchESPN. Additionally, ESPN has secured rights to distribute the Sugar Bowl on ESPN 3D and around the world via ESPN International.

“Given the history of excellence by teams in the SEC and Big 12, we recognized the value in securing long-term rights to the Sugar Bowl,” Skipper said in a joint statement with Slive and Bowlsby, adding, “the matchup will provide college football fans with a memorable way to start the New Year on ESPN’s many platforms.”

The SEC and Big 12 recently picked the Sugar Bowl as the site of their new marquee game. Their champions will play in the game, unless those teams are selected for the four-team playoff that also starts in the 2014 season. The Sugar Bowl will be one of six sites in the playoff rotation.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy cited sources on Nov. 6 as saying that ESPN will pay $80 million a year to televise the Sugar Bowl, the same amount the network will pay annually for the Rose Bowl. The Orange Bowl is expected to cost $55 million, sources told McMurphy.

Dan Hawkins may return to coaching in 2012

For what it’s worth …

From the Davis Enterprise … As the current Aggie football season winds to a close this Saturday with one final game against the dreaded Hornets of Sacramento State, it won’t be long before UC Davis introduces its new head coach to take the place of Bob Biggs, who is retiring Saturday after 20 years at the helm, the longest tenure in the history of Aggie football.

And for the first time in many decades, it’s expected that UC Davis will go outside the current roster of assistants to find a head coach.

If you go back through the history of the program, Crip Toomey handed off to Vern Hickey, who passed the ball to Ted Forbes, who handed it to Will Lotter, who handed it back to Forbes, who handed it back to Lotter, who handed it to Herb Schmalenberger, who handed it back to Lotter, who handed it back to Schamalenberger, who handed it to Jim Sochor, who handed it to Bob Foster, who handed it, finally, to Bob Biggs.

Basically, this coaching succession could be called “All in the Family,” but that’s about to end. Trust me on this.

It’s well known that UC Davis is a desirable place to coach. High expectations, to be sure, but a patient and understanding fan base that won’t call for the coach’s head if the local heroes suffer through a losing season every now and then.

While many talented folks would jump at the chance to coach here, one name that keeps bubbling to the top of the head coaching rumor mill is that of Dan Hawkins, who, like Biggs and Foster, is an Aggie alum, having played in the backfield with Ken O’Brien on the great Aggie team of 1982. That team reached the Division II national title game in McAllen, Texas, where it lost, 34-9, to Southwest Texas.

The personable and passionate Hawkins was a successful head coach at NAIA Willamette (Salem, Ore.), before turning Boise State into a national power with a remarkable 53-11 record over five years.

He then left Boise for the University of Colorado of the Big 12, where his high hopes for the Buffaloes quickly crashed and burned. After four straight losing seasons in Boulder, he was fired with three games left in his fifth season, 2010, finishing with a 19-39 mark.

In announcing the unusual step of firing his head coach before the end of the season, Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn said, “The negativity and divisiveness that is associated with the current leadership has become detrimental and is beyond repair to our current enterprise and it’s time to make a change.”

For his part at the time, Hawkins noted that “Life’s an adventure: I’ve always sort of looked at it like that. I’m sure I’ll coach again, at some point, at some place.”

Whether that place turns out to be UC Davis remains to be seen, but he was a popular figure on campus when he was here and he’s maintained ties with UCD loyalists over the years. For certain, he would be welcomed back with open arms, not to mention the expectation that he would lead Aggie football to the Promised Land.

Hawkins, now 52, reportedly received a $2 million buyout from Colorado, which might help to mitigate the dramatically lower salary UC Davis has to offer.

His success at the highest level of college football is well documented, as is his failure at the same level.

If he wants the Aggie job, Hawkins will have to convince the powers-that-be that UC Davis will not be just a résumé-building pit stop on his way back to the big-time.

UC Davis has always been a place where continuity breeds success, and success breeds continuity. Hawkins could fit nicely into that philosophy if he wishes to finish his coaching career at his alma mater.

Cal head coach may be gone by Sunday

From the Monterey County Herald … California coach Jeff Tedford said he expects to meet next week with athletic director Sandy Barbour to discuss his future after the Golden Bears finish their worst season during Tedford’s tenure.

Tedford said Tuesday he will begin a thorough evaluation of what went wrong for the program as soon as the season ends Saturday night at No. 15 Oregon State.

“The first place I will look is in the mirror,” Tedford said. “We’ll do a deep dive and figure out where we can improve.”

Tedford said he will meet with assistants and each player to get their input on how to improve the situation at Cal. The Bears (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) are having their worst season since finishing with a 1-10 mark in 2001 that led to the firing of Tom Holmoe and the hiring of Tedford.

After a bright start to his tenure with seven wins his first year, a school record-tying 10 wins in 2004 and a share of the conference title in 2006, things began falling off the rails during what started as a promising 2007 campaign.

The Bears won their first five games that season and were poised to move into the top spot in the AP poll before losing at home to Oregon State. Starting with that loss, Tedford has a 34-36 mark over his last 70 games.

Cal failed to become bowl eligible for the first time under Tedford in 2010 and has been even worse this season. The Bears have lost four straight games — the longest skid since Tedford arrived — capped by a 59-17 loss last week to Oregon that was the most lopsided for the school since 1999.

“Teams go through adverse moments,” defensive back Steve Williams said. “This is one of our adverse moments. Coach Tedford has been here a long time. He’s been with us a long time. I’m behind him 100 percent.”

The recent struggles led Tedford to this thorough evaluation, where he said he will look at every aspect of the program from recruiting to academics to practice format and scheme.

“We’ll evaluate all of that and take coaches’ input and all the coaches and figure out where we feel like we can improve in every phase,” he said. “You really have to put a microscope on it.”

How can I be better as a head coach? What can I do to help the staff? What can I do to help our players?”

Whether Tedford will get that chance remains to be seen. If Cal decides to get rid of Tedford, the school would owe him $6.9 million for the final three years of his contract.

November 14th

Big East sets its sights on two divisions

Time to get out your atlas, and for Boise State fans to cash in their frequent flyer miles …

From ESPN … The presidents of Big East schools approved a two-division format Tuesday for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

For the purposes of football, the conference will be divided into a western division of Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and Temple, and an eastern division of Central Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida.

All of the schools were pretty clear-cut as to which belonged in the western or eastern division, except Temple, which was placed in the western division.

“This aligment gives the conference and its fans the best of both worlds — national exposure that is a result of the Big East being in six of the top 10 media markets — with a schedule that focuses on spirited regional rivalries,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said.

The Big East championship game, starting in 2013, will played between the East and West champions at the homefield of one of participating teams.

Earlier reports called for the divisions to be called Red and Blue, instead of being named geographically, sources said, but that proved to not be the case.

These divisions will be used for the Big East only when it’s a 12-team league in 2013 and 2014 because, sources said, they create clear identities for the divisions, preserve rivalries and create new ones, and minimize travel.

Conference and school officials were also expected to discuss how the league’s schedule — five games against division opponents and three crossover games — might look in 2013 and 2014.

These divisions could change drastically when the Big East grows to 14 teams in 2015 when the league adds Navy and another school yet to be determined.

Sources told ESPN in September that the league would prefer another team from the West as its 14th member, most likely BYU or Air Force.

League officials already have discussed how to split the divisions when the Big East grows to 14 teams. Sources said the most popular 14-team model would then be Red and Blue divisions that are nongeographic.

The proposed Red Division in 2015 would consist of Louisville, UConn, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, USF and SMU, while the Blue Division would consist of Boise State, Cincinnati, UCF, Houston, Rutgers, Temple and the 14th team.

Each team would play six games within its division and two games against the other division, including one permanent cross-division game. The annual cross-division games would be Cincinnati-Louisville, UConn-Rutgers, Boise State-San Diego State, Houston-SMU, Navy-Temple, UCF-USF and Memphis versus the 14th team.

Those division lineups could be tweaked to appease the Big East’s future TV partners and increase the worth of the media rights deal.

ESPN’s exclusive window to renegotiate with the Big East recently expired, allowing the league to go to the open market in hopes of securing the most lucrative media rights deal. Besides ESPN, the Big East also has had interest from NBC and Fox, sources said.

November 13th

Larger BCS conferences will dominate playoffs in 2014

From ESPN … The BCS commissioners and Presidential Oversight Committee settled on a rotation of six bowls for the semifinals of the upcoming college football playoff system.

Also, the highest-rated champion from the “Group of Five” conferences — the Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Mid-American — will receive an automatic berth in one of the six access bowls.

Earlier, ESPN reported the six-bowl rotation would be used, as well as an automatic bid awarded for the “Group of Five” conferences.

On Monday, the BCS commissioners and Presidential Oversight Committee reached an agreement on additional details to implement for college football’s postseason.

The national semifinals will rotate through the six bowl games, setting up two playoff games and four major bowl games each season. The national title game will be bid out each year through a separate process similar to the Super Bowl.

The six games will include three “contract bowls” and three “host bowls.” The spots in the contract bowls are reserved for teams that have deals with those bowls.

The contract bowls are: Rose (Pac-12 versus Big Ten), Sugar (SEC versus Big 12) and Orange (ACC versus Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame).

While a Big Ten or SEC team could be selected to the Orange Bowl, the commissioners have agreed that when the Rose and/or Sugar bowls are hosting the semifinals, the Big Ten or SEC champion will not be placed in the Orange Bowl. Instead, it would have to be placed in one of the three other access bowls to increase the worth of that bowl, sources told ESPN.

Those remaining three access or “host” bowls still must be determined, but the leading candidates are the Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A, sources said.

With the “Group of Five” earning an automatic bid, that will lock up seven of the 12 berths in the six access bowls. The other five berths will be filled with at-large teams chosen, based on their final rankings, by a yet-to-be-formed selection committee.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby wasn’t concerned that his league does not have a second contract bowl.

“I like our opportunities on the open market,” Bowlsby said, noting the Big 12 has had at least two teams in the top 12 of the BCS rankings in 11 of the past 14 years.

The “Group of Five” conferences fought to get automatic access to the six major bowls. It was especially important for the Big East, which has had an automatic berth into the BCS bowls, but in the new system, the conference will not have guaranteed access unless its champion is the top-rated among the “Group of Five.”

“I think that it’s great,” University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft said.

Added Big East commissioner Mike Aresco: “This is a better plan for us. We’ll work out the revenue. We’ll be fine.”

As far as the “Group of Five” not getting the same access or revenue as the “Power Five” leagues (Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC), Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said the Presidential Oversight Committee unanimously approved it.

“They did it with a smile on their faces,” Perlman said. “They thought it’s fair.”

Sources said the group is close to finalizing the revenue distribution deal for the new playoff. The oversight committee gave the commissioners authority to finalize a media rights deal with ESPN. It is projected to be worth about $500 million a year over 12 years, Sports Business Journal reported.

The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 will receive the biggest chunk of the new revenue. Each of those leagues will receive the same base amount of revenue, sources said. The remaining “Group of Five” leagues — Big East, C-USA, MWC, Sun Belt and MAC — will split a smaller amount among themselves. How the “Group of Five” will divide that revenue is still to be decided.

Each conference also will receive additional revenue for the number of teams it places in the national semifinals and six major bowl games. There also will be an academic component, in which 10 percent of each conference’s revenue is set aside for academics.

Schools within each conference that meet the NCAA’s APR minimum requirements will divide that revenue within its conference, Perlman said.

“Today’s meeting is a unanimous ratification of what we announced last June in Washington, D.C.,” said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger, the chairman of the Presidential Oversight Committee, in a release. “I’m delighted that additional details have been resolved and that everything is on track so fans can enjoy the postseason they’ve been asking for. College football, with its great regular season, is strong and popular — it’s about to get stronger and more popular.”

Next up for the commissioners is naming the new structure, details of the selection committee, the rotation of the semifinals and determining the site for the first championship game on Jan. 12, 2015.

In September, sources told ESPN the site of the first title game has been limited to six bowls: Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, Rose, Cotton or Chick-fil-A.

November 12th

Oregon controls its own destiny for national champioship berth

From ESPN …. Kansas State and Oregon are now on course to play for the BCS national championship.

After Alabama was upset by Texas A&M, the new BCS standings have the Wildcats (.9674) first and the Ducks (.9497) second.
Notre Dame (.9396) is third, not too far behind, but most likely in need of a loss by Oregon or Kansas State to reach the title game on Jan. 7 in Miami.

“Right now I’ve got Oregon playing Kansas State in the final, and unless one or both of them lose, I don’t see that changing,” ESPN Insider Brad Edwards writes. “If Notre Dame wins out and the Ducks or Wildcats lose, the Irish will move into the title game.”

As for Alabama’s run at three championships in four seasons, and the Southeastern Conference’s string of six straight BCS titles, both are in peril.

Five SEC teams follow Alabama in the standings: Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina. But it will take a couple of upsets to give the SEC champion a shot to reach the BCS title game.

Kansas State is second in both BCS polls — the coaches’ and Harris — and in the computer rankings. The Wildcats have two games left, at Baylor on Saturday and home against Texas on Dec. 1, the day of most of the conference championship games.

Oregon is first in the both polls and fourth in the computer ratings. The Ducks have two more regular-season games left, against Stanford on Saturday and the next week at Oregon State. They can clinch the Pac-12 North and a spot in the conference title game with a win against Stanford. If they get there, the Ducks would play either UCLA or Southern California in the league title game.

If the Ducks and Wildcats can avoid the type of upset that dropped Alabama — and there are plenty of good teams left on their schedules — they will play for the national title.

ESPN GameDay heading to Eugene

ESPN’s GameDay crew will be heading to Eugene for the Oregon/Stanford this weekend.

It will be the seventh time ESPN has taken its Saturday pre-game show to Eugene.

Washington State to look into allegations from star wide recevier

From ESPN … Washington State president Elson Floyd has called for a review of claims of abusive behavior by coach Mike Leach and his staff toward players by wide receiver Marquess Wilson.

The decision by Floyd comes one day after Wilson quit the team. Wilson says he left the program because of the actions of Leach and his staff. Wilson says the new staff has “preferred to belittle, intimidate and humiliate us,” and that included physical abuse.

Floyd said in a statement Sunday morning that after consultation with athletic director Bill Moos, he asked the athletic department to report findings and conclusions as soon as possible. Floyd says reviews from both the Pac-12 and the athletic department “should get to the bottom of the matter.”

Leach is in his first season as Washington State coach after spending two years out of coaching. He spent 10 seasons as Texas Tech coach before being fired in 2009 after claims of mistreatment from a player.

After Washington State’s 44-36 loss to UCLA on Saturday night, Leach declined to address Wilson’s claims.

“I’m not going to talk about anyone that isn’t here,” he said.

In a statement issued Saturday night, Moos said it was unfortunate that Wilson decided to quit.

“I believe I join many Cougars in wishing Marquess well in his future endeavors,” Moos said. “We have procedures in place that were developed to monitor student-athlete welfare in all of our sports programs. We will continue to follow those procedures and modify them if needed.”

Wilson, a junior, set school single-season records last year with 82 receptions and 1,388 yards receiving. This season, he leads the team with 52 receptions for 813 yards.

And here’s some commentary on the issue ….

From the Spokane Spokesman-Review… We have now reached the “Coach, are you still beating your players?” phase of the Mike Leach era at Washington State.

Old joke. Not very funny.

And just about the only possible booby-trap that might have given the school second thoughts about committing $11 million of its pot of TV gold to the Calico Jack of the coaching fraternity to save a football program from terminal irrelevance.

So is there anything to the outrageous, and unspecified, claims of the coaching staff’s abuse of players – “physical, emotional and verbal” – in Marquess Wilson’s letter of resignation to the Cougars?

Does it matter?

There was nothing in the statement WSU athletic director Bill Moos issued in reaction to Wilson’s statement to suggest he would cast a harder look at his new coach’s player relations, but just a vague reference to procedures “to monitor student-athlete welfare” being in place. He may have been more aggrieved that Wilson opted to forgo a second sit-down they’d arranged after a meeting last week, but we can only parse a piece of paper for that.

It’s now Washington Statement University.

For administrators and departing players alike.

And for Leach?

“I’m not going to talk about anybody who’s not here,” he said.

And then he did, sort of:

“Clearly, there was some addition by subtraction,” he told the Cougar Radio Network audience, “because we had the best effort of the season.”

In any case, the damage is done, whatever it amounts to be. It’s likely to be subtle and unquantifiable – the odd recruit put off by an unwelcoming aroma, perhaps, though he’ll cite remoteness, weather or ongoing haplessness as his reasons for going elsewhere instead.

Oh, and Leach’s reputation will take another smear, even as he shrugs his continued indifference. Remember what he said last week:

“We’re not changing. This isn’t a democracy. We don’t say, ‘You 125 guys, how do you want practice to be and what direction do you want this or that to go?’ We don’t do that. Our standards are what our standards are, and we’re going to hold them to that.”

Admirable backbone. As long as they’re actual standards, and not just a tool to clear the decks for the sake of clearing the decks.

That Wilson, the gifted receiver who was just seven catches from becoming Wazzu’s all-time leader, finally announced he’s pulling the plug on his Cougar career had the feel of Florida declaring Obama the winner.

That he did it by fax to various news outlets, with the most inflammatory assertions and just hours before his old teammates took on UCLA was something of a radioactive dump on an already toxic situation.

Wilson’s letter was dismaying on several levels, beyond any possibility that his claims have merit. It was quite obviously constructed by his stepfather, Richard Miranda, who sent it out. It offered no details of the “abuse” – probably too strong a word, though we don’t get to decide for the purportedly abused just what constitutes abuse.

It read mostly as an athlete trying preserve his dignity and his marketability after walking out of a drill the rest of the team endured.

Still, tough stuff: “The new regime of coaches has preferred to belittle, intimidate and humiliate us,” the letter said. “This approach has obviously not been successful, and has put a dark shadow on the program.”

It also hits Leach in a vulnerable spot. His reign at Texas Tech came to an end over what was eventually regarded as mostly trumped-up crapola perpetrated by former TV gasbag Craig James, whose son opted for victimhood.

Now a nation has been given leave to wonder whether it was really all that trumped-up, all the documentation in Leach’s best-seller notwithstanding.

Leach denied any charge of physical abuse pretty much as he did at Tech, with a firm, “Absolutely.”

And the emotional and verbal?

“We had a drill,” said receivers coach Dennis Simmons. “Sixty-four guys were out there. One guy chose to leave, three minutes after the drill started. How did I fail him? He wasn’t yelled at or cursed at. He wasn’t chased after, either.”

Is there a difference between Adam James, he of the notorious electrical closet, and Marquess Wilson, he of the soon-to-be-notorious letter, other than a boatload of football talent? Is Wilson just as soft and entitled?

Or is this the Mike Leach standard?

“Unfortunately,” Moos’ statement read, “during times of coaching transitions, departures are not uncommon.”

Oh, but there he’s wrong.

This one is as uncommon as they come.

November 11th

Oregon new No. 1 in AP poll

With Alabama falling at home to Texas A&M, the Oregon Ducks were primed to move into the nation’s No. 1 spot.

The Ducks struggled early against Cal, leading only 17-10 with less than a minute to go in the first half. Then, though, the Ducks blitzed through the Cal defense, routing the Bears in the second half to take a 59-17 victory, and the No. 1 spot in the AP poll.

Alabama dropped to No. 4 in the poll, behind unbeaten Kansas State and Notre Dame. If two of the three teams ahead of Alabama remain unbeaten, college football could see its first non-SEC champion in seven years.

The next highest ranked team from the Pac-12 is Stanford, moving up from 16th to 14th after defeating Oregon State. The Beavers dropped two spots, from 13th to 15th. Stanford and Oregon State will both get their chances against Oregon the next two weekends.

Next in the poll from the Pac-12 is UCLA, in at No. 17. The Bruins raced out to a 44-14 lead over Washington State, holding on in the cold at Pullman to win, 44-36. USC, which handled Arizona State, 38-17, like UCLA, did not move in the poll, remaining at No. 21 this week.

Arizona and Washington remained in the “others receiving votes”, with Arizona coming in at No. 32, while Washington – CU’s next opponent – had enough votes to be considered the No. 41 team in the nation.

November 9th

Minus Matt Scott, “Arizona is Colorado”

From cubuffs.com … This week’s burning question in the desert concerns the health of Arizona quarterback Matt Scott and his status for Saturday’s game against Colorado. The bigger question among Wildcats fans: Is the Pac-12 Conference’s total offense leader really needed against the severely ‘D’ deficient Buffs?

Their gut answer is no, and Scott is considered doubtful after suffering a concussion last weekend. But in the remote chance he’s cleared to play, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez might believe he needs him.

A glance at the Pac-12 stats shows why. Arizona is the only team ranking lower than CU in total defense (497.3 yards a game to 498) and pass defense (293.1-314.9). CU is allowing 46.2 points a game, Zona 35.0, stationing them at Nos. 12-11, respectively, in the conference.

But on the flip side, behind Scott’s 357.4 yards a game – 316 of it passing – the Wildcats put up 520.7 yards and 35.9 points a game to the Buffs’ 293.0 yards and 16.1 points. A Tucson columnist wrote earlier this week: “Minus Matt Scott, Arizona is Colorado. That’s the personnel difference between the two teams: a skilled quarterback. That should tell you two things. One, how important quarterbacking is in football and, two, how well Rich Rodriguez and his staff have coached this season.”

So here’s what might have crossed Rodriguez’s mind over the last several days: Even with a backup quarterback – that would be junior B.J. Denker – making his first college start, what are the chances of Arizona’s offense successfully moving the ball and punching up a load of points against CU? Um, odds would seem pretty good and the oddsmakers agree; the Wildcats are 30-plus point favorites.

And this certainly enters the afternoon’s equation: for the first time in nine games, the Buffs’ offense will open under a new quarterback – either Connor Wood or Nick Hirschman. CU coach Jon Embree said he would make his starter known on Friday or Saturday.

Hirschman has one college start on his resume (last season at Arizona State), Wood none. Both have played in out-of-hand losses over the past month and both have attempted 29 passes. Hirschman has hit 13 for 160 yards and one score, Wood 14 for 160 yards. Both have been intercepted twice.

In five games for Arizona, Denker has completed 13 of 23 passes for 123 yards and a TD. He struggled against the Bruins, completing two of five passes for 12 yards and rushing eight times for seven yards. He fumbled once.

In addition to the teams’ QB questions, there are plenty of others hovering on what is expected to be a cool (low-60s) and possibly rainy afternoon here. For starters:

  • After upsetting No. 10 USC 39-36 the previous weekend, Arizona was hammered 66-10 last Saturday at No. 25 UCLA. How to explain the night-and-day swing and are the Wildcats resilient enough to rebound, possibly minus Scott?
  • At 5-4 overall (2-4 Pac-12), Arizona needs one win to become bowl eligible in Rodriguez’s first season. The Wildcats’ final two games are at Utah (Nov. 17) and against in-state rival Arizona State (Nov. 23). Guess which of the final three games the Wildcats believe will get them to the postseason?
  • After losing five straight (badly) and dropping to 1-8 overall (1-5 Pac-12), how much do the Buffs have left in the tank? They defeated the Wildcats last season in Boulder (49-28), but there’s little similarity this year on either team. Said Embree: “We’re a way different team and I think they are, too . . . I think all those (CU) guys playing Saturday were getting ready for the state playoffs last year. So saying we beat Arizona doesn’t mean anything to them.”
  • Will CU get DB Parker Orms back? He’s also been out with concussion symptoms but returned to practice on Wednesday. Orms expects a game-time decision, but said, “I feel good and my head feels fine . . . but you can sure get out of shape quick.”

Last season, Orms returned to the lineup against Arizona after serving a four-game suspension. Getting back on the field was reason enough to celebrate, then winning amplified that. Even though the Buffs haven’t won this season since their Pac-12 opener at Washington State on Sept. 22, Orms said, “We’re not going in there thinking we’re going to lose; we’re playing to win. That’s how we approach every game.”

November 8th

USC caught cheating against Oregon

From the Los Angeles Times … The Pac-12 Conference reprimanded and fined USC because a student manager intentionally deflated, below NCAA-regulated levels, several balls used by the Trojans in their game against Oregon, the school announced on its website. Deflated footballs apparently can be easier to throw and catch.

The student manager was relieved of his duties.

“Game officials discovered and re-inflated three of the balls before the game and two others at halftime,” the website said. “All balls were regulation in the second half.”

According to the website, USC investigated after it was informed of the allegation by the Pac-12.

“The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game,” the website said.

It is the latest controversy in a season during which USC has forbidden teams from doing stadium walkthroughs, a reporter was banned from practice for reporting on an injury and a USC player switched jerseys during a game.

Meanwhile, Kiffin pleads innocence

USC announced late Wednesday night that an unnamed student manager had been fired after admitting to the school’s compliance department that he deflated five balls before kickoff against the Ducks.

The Pac-12 accepted USC’s self-discipline Wednesday, reprimanded the school and added a $25,000 fine to the football program.

Lane Kiffin is so good at recruiting, so nimble an offensive thinker, that you can feel the potential even as it lays there, untapped. But ESPNLA.com’s Mark Saxon wonders if he can stay out of his own way long enough to let his vision unfold.

“As a conference, our paramount goal is to provide a safe and fair competitive environment for our student-athletes, their teams, and their fans,” commissioner Lary Scott said in a statement.

Athletic director Pat Haden said USC accepted the Pac-12’s reprimand and fine.

“We regret this incident occurred,” Haden said in a statement. “It was unacceptable and we apologize for it. I can assure you this will not happen again.”

That didn’t stop some from thinking Kiffin was behind it. The coach repeatedly has searched for small competitive advantages in his three-year tenure with the Trojans. He has switched players’ numbers on special teams to confuse opponents, has refused to disclose injuries during game weeks, and has motivated his players in the preseason by telling the media he had not voted his team No. 1.

But he insists the program’s latest minor offense had nothing to do with him.

“For all the conspiracy (theorists) that’ll think that we were behind this, I don’t think if we were trying to deflate balls we would direct a student manager on the Oregon sideline, right in front of them, to be deflating balls and be playing with some deflated balls and some non-deflating balls,” Kiffin said. “I’m sure if we knew that, our kickers wouldn’t be very happy with that, either, because no kicker’s ever gonna want a deflated ball.”

Asked Thursday if he understood how people might struggle to believe the manager was not instructed by those with authority to deflate the balls, Kiffin said he did.

“Yeah, I can totally see that,” Kiffin said. “That’s exactly what I said to our compliance department, too. That’s why it was just very frustrating for a distraction like this with none of the players or coaches being involved in it.”

Kiffin also said it was “fair” to question the culture he’s established at USC, where a student manager presumably thought he could get away with deflating balls on the sideline. But Kiffin said he didn’t agree with that perception.

“I don’t believe that at all,” he said. “I believe this was a very isolated incident that had nothing to do with the coaches or the players on this team.”

Oregon looking to set new NCAA scoring records

From the Eugene Guard-Register… When the winningest quarterback and most prolific running back in Oregon history both left the team after the 2011 season, few could have predicted the 2012 Ducks would threaten to be the most explosive offense in college football history.

But behind a freshman quarterback, a first-year starter at running back and the masterful direction of Chip Kelly and staff, that’s exactly what this UO football team has become.

Entering this fall, the Ducks had scored 63 or more points just four times in conference play, ever. Just in the past two weeks, they set a UO record with 70 against Colorado, and then came within two botched placekicks at USC of again exceeding the old record of 65.

For the season, Oregon is averaging 54.33 points per game, just off the FBS record of 56.0 by the 1944 Army team of “Mr. Inside,” Doc Blanchard, and “Mr. Outside,” Glenn Davis. At that pace, the Ducks would finish with 761 points, were they to reach the Pac-12 title game and a bowl, topping the previous record for a 14-game season of 716 by Oklahoma in 2008.

(Never mind that Oregon has had to play full-throttle, start-to-finish just once this season, against USC last week. Using just the Ducks’ first-half scoring as a baseline, they’d be averaging 72 points per game for four quarters, destroying all existing scoring records.)

All of that said, top Pac-12 defenses from Stanford and Oregon State loom for Oregon later this month, after more anticipated offensive fireworks at Cal on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. So, can the Ducks keep this up?

“My expectations,” redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota said, “continue to grow as the season goes.”

Facing a Cal defense that ranks 64th nationally in points allowed per game, the Ducks can set two national scoring records Saturday. Oregon can become the first team ever to score 30 or more points in 23 straight games, breaking a mark currently shared with Hawaii (2006-07) and Oklahoma State (2011-12). And the Ducks can become the first team in the BCS era to score 42 or more in 13 straight games, breaking a record currently shared with Texas (2004-05).

Mariota, it’s fair to say, has exceeded nearly all expectations of a first-year starter — except perhaps for those of LaMichael James, the recently departed all-time UO rushing leader who predicted Mariota could become the best quarterback in school history.

Through nine games, Mariota is completing 70.51 percent of his passes, which is on pace to break the NCAA freshman record of 69.5 by Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in 2007. Mariota’s pass efficiency rating of 168.53 leads the Pac-12, is seventh nationally and first among freshmen, and is within shouting distance of Michael Vick’s FBS record for a freshman (180.4, 1999).

Heading into a matchup with Cal, the Ducks will contend with a defense that has given them trouble at times the past few years, by loading up to stop the run and trusting its secondary to play mostly man coverage. As a more consistent passing threat than predecessor Darron Thomas — not to mention a more explosive runner — Mariota might merit more respect in the secondary.

“I think it might force them to be a little more situational,” UO offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said diplomatically.

Then there’s Barner, whose 321-yard performance at USC last week propelled him into the thick of the Heisman race, and into Oregon’s top 10 in both career and single-season rushing yardage. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry, nearly a yard better than James did in 2010 when he won the Doak Walker Award — to this point the most prestigious individual award ever won by a Duck.

“Everybody contributes to that,” Kelly said. “We’re playing well up front, and obviously it starts up front. But we’ve got guys out wide that don’t allow you to say, ‘Hey, we’ll just play man coverage all the time and pack the box.’ If you do, we’ve got a quarterback who’s pretty accurate — he threw more touchdown passes than incompletions last week. It helps when you’ve got a guy at each spot that’s a pretty good weapon, and they’ve got to defend everybody.”

With explosive sophomore De’Anthony Thomas reduced essentially to a decoy in recent weeks, Mariota and Barner are the faces of Oregon’s offense, a designation tight end Colt Lyerla briefly shared earlier in the season. But Lyerla and the other pass receivers have been critical to the Ducks’ success, too; at USC, Oregon regularly relied on unbalanced formations that made Lyerla an ineligible receiver, keeping him at the line to block for the backs.

The UO receivers were typically brilliant in the running game against the Trojans as well. And Josh Huff caught six passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, one of the best games of his career, as Oregon’s wideouts made contributions in both the rushing and passing games.

Thinned by injuries over the course of the season, Oregon’s offensive line rallied for its best performance of the year, debuting a new lineup to great effect.

With three-year starting guard Carson York and then his replacement, Mana Greig, both out due to knee injuries, the Ducks moved talented tackle Kyle Long inside to guard. That bumped left guard Ryan Clanton over to the right side, but despite the new alignment, the line’s critical presnap communication was never better.

“We were certain of what we were supposed to be doing, which enabled us to come off the ball better than we have all year long,” Greatwood said. “I like the physical tone they set out there.”

The Ducks could be tested Saturday by a Cal defensive front that has given Oregon trouble recently, particularly during games in Berkeley. The Ducks lost at Cal in 2008, 26-16, and won there just 15-13 in 2010, two of just four times Oregon has failed to score 20 points in conference play since Kelly joined the staff.

“They do a good job,” Greatwood said. “They’re going to put a big body in every gap, try to force everything outside to their linebackers, which are a speedy group. They’ve gotten away with playing man on us, and — depending on our formation — an eight- or nine-man front. They’ve done a good job. It’s kind of been feast or famine.”

Indeed, the Ducks feasted on the Cal defense a year ago, winning 43-15 in Eugene, two years after a 42-3 victory in Autzen Stadium. This week, Oregon is a favorite by about four touchdowns, though the Ducks are wary of the challenge the Bears could present.

“This year, they’ve done some different stuff,” Mariota said. “We’ve just got to be ready for all of it.”

Through nine games, Mariota and the Oregon offense have been ready for nearly anything they’ve seen. The results have been explosive — and potentially historic.

November 7th

What each Pac-12 team has left to play for …

A good story from Ted Miller at ESPN …

Pac-12 North Division

Oregon (9-0, 6-0) Playing for: A national championship, for starters. The Ducks have rolled through their season and dropped 62 on USC at home last week. The highest team achievement in college football is well within Oregon’s grasp.

Oregon State (7-1, 5-1) Playing for: The Beavers are still very much in the hunt for the North Division title and therefore a shot at the Rose Bowl. They have to get through Stanford this weekend. If they can do that, the Civil War should be awfully exciting.

Stanford (7-2, 5-1) Playing for: Like the Beavers, the Cardinal are still in the thick of things for the North and a spot in the Rose Bowl. This weekend is huge — as is next week’s game at Oregon. Stanford has had success against Oregon State in recent years, but the track record against Oregon, especially on the road, isn’t great.

Washington (5-4, 3-3) Playing for: After a brutal first half of the schedule — which they emerged from 3-3 — the up-and-down Huskies have had some offensive struggles, but are still in position to gain bowl eligibility and get to a pretty decent middle-tier postseason spot.

California (3-7, 2-5) Playing for: If it’s not too late, maybe Jeff Tedford’s job. The Bears are out of postseason contention for the second time in three seasons, but they could make a statement about their coach — and play super spoilers — this weekend with Oregon coming to town.

Washington State (2-7, 0-6) Playing for: Well, a conference win would be a good start. But this season has shown that new head coach Mike Leach is looking for a certain type of player. And if you don’t cut it, you’re out. Some guys might be playing for jobs next year.

Pac-12 South Division

UCLA (7-2, 4-2) Playing for: Complete dominance and supremacy over the city of Los Angeles. The Bruins control their future from here on out — and if they can get by USC — they’ll have another shot in the conference title game to play a BCS game on their home field.

USC (6-3, 4-3) Playing for: The Trojans are still in contention for the South title, but they’ll have to get through a surging UCLA team to do it. And I’m sure they’d like another crack at Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game with a shot to go to the Rose Bowl on the line.

Arizona State (5-4, 3-3) Playing for: It’s a tougher scenario than either UCLA or USC’s, but the Sun Devils aren’t out of South contention yet. But first and foremost, they have to win out — and beating USC on the road this weekend would be a huge first step. And of course, there is always the rivalry game with Arizona.

Arizona (5-4, 2-4) Playing for: Bowl eligibility is a good place to start, which they can achieve at home this weekend against Colorado. The Wildcats were in a great position after knocking off USC, but the UCLA loss pretty much knocked them out of South contention. I’d imagine a mid-level bowl game would be considered a pretty good first year for Rich Rodriguez. And of course, there is always the rivalry game with Arizona State.

Utah (4-5, 2-4) Playing for: If Reggie Dunn can keep returning kickoffs for touchdowns, the Utes still have a fighting shot at making the postseason. They need to win two of their final three — including at Washington this week and home to Arizona next week. Could be a very interesting November in Salt Lake City.

Colorado (1-8, 1-5) Playing for: A win, any win, anything that the Buffaloes can hang their hat on and call it a step in the right direction. Jon Embree owes it to the few seniors he has to not give up on this year and play for next year (and there are no signs that he has). However, all of the youngsters who have played this year are getting very valuable experience.

November 6th

Arizona quarterback may not be back for Colorado game

From the Arizona Daily Wildcat … Arizona quarterback Matt Scott suffered a concussion in Saturday’s 66-10 loss to UCLA, per athletic director Greg Byrne.

“Matt did suffer a concsussion during the game,” Byrne said. “Many of you saw him receive a blow to the head. Medical staff is taking great care of him.

“The final decision of whether he will play will be made by our medical staff.”

Scott suffered the concussion with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter. As he attempted a throw from Arizona’s end zone, he was tackled by a defender. On his way to the ground, Scott’s head struck the defenders knee.

He was attended to by Arizona’s medical staff and escorted into the locker room.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez holds a weekly Monday press conference, and typically he speaks to the media, and then a few players come in after to answer questions.

On Monday, Byrne felt it was necessary to address both Scott and linebacker Hank Hobson’s injuries suffered against UCLA. Last week, concerns were raised about the decision to keep Scott in the game after it looked like he suffered a concussion against USC, and Byrne addressed that concern.

“Our medical staff has conducted daily evaluations and continuously monitored Matt,” Byrne said. “Last Friday we did final evaluations and did an exertion impact test. Matt was medically and clinically approved to play.”

Hobson was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital after clutching his shoulder and falling to the ground during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. He spent the night in Los Angeles before returning to Tucson on Sunday. Rodriguez said that Hobson suffered a nerve injury in his neck.

Scott and Hobson’s status for Saturday’s game will be announced on the weekly injury report, released on Thursday. If Scott is unable to go, Rodriguez said B.J. Denker would start and receiver Richard Morrison will be his backup.

November 5th

Washington State all-time leading receiver suspended

From the Spokane Spokesman-Review … After reportedly walking out of a conditioning workout last night, WSU receiver Marquess Wilson has been suspended, a school spokesperson said.

WSU announced yesterday that it wasn’t going to practice last night, though apparently it did hold a lengthy conditioning session which Wilson walked out of, according to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Wilson was demoted to second-string at one of the outside receiver positions two weeks ago despite being the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards, as well as the team’s leading receiver this season with 52 catches for 813 yards. Dominique Williams started at outside receiver the last two weeks, but Wilson still led WSU in receiving in each of those games.

While this is the biggest blow yet to a WSU team that has slipped further and further into turmoil over the past few weeks, it’s not necessarily a monumental surprise. Wilson has been singled out by coaches numerous times in practice this season — starting in the spring, and continuing into fall — for lack of effort or lack of aggression. He’s been made to perform up-downs quite a few times, as well.

November 4th

Oregon passes Notre Dame in BCS Standings

From ESPN … Alabama secured its hold at the top of the BCS standings a day after winning its biggest road test of the season.

Kansas State remained No. 2, while No. 3 Oregon passed No. 4 Notre Dame in the latest standings released Sunday night. All three contenders won on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide, No. 1 in both the USA Today and Harris polls, rallied for a 21-17 win at LSU on Saturday and were rewarded by the computer average that makes up one-third of the BCS standings. Last week, Alabama was rated No. 1 by only one of the six computer formulas. After beating LSU, four of the computers rate Bama No. 1. The Tide are 2nd and 3rd in the other computers — Notre Dame is No. 1 in both of those. The average discounts the six computers’ highest and lowest rating.

Alabama’s advantage over Kansas State in the full BCS average increased from to .0359 to .0639. Oregon, ranked second in both polls, jumped to No. 3 after winning at USC 62-51, while Notre Dame barely won at home against Pitt, 29-26 in triple overtime.

Alabama finishes the regular season with home games against No. 15 Texas A&M, Western Carolina and Auburn.

Kansas State plays at TCU this week, then travels to Baylor before finishing at home against No. 17 Texas.

Oregon is at Cal on Saturday night, then at home against No. 14 Stanford, and ends its season at No. 11 Oregon State.

Notre Dame concludes its season away to Boston College, at home against Wake Forest, and at No. 19 USC.

Of the four, only Alabama and Oregon would have to play in their conference championships before bowl season begins.

Former No. 1 USC down to No. 21 in latest AP poll; Stanford drops a spot despite shutout victory

Oregon remains at No. 2 in the latest AP poll, after a 62-51 win over former No. 18 USC. Despite their third loss of the season, the Trojans, No. 1 in the preseason poll, stayed in the poll, dropping to No. 21.

Oregon State, 36-26 winners over Arizona State on Saturday night, remained at No. 13 in a poll in which the top 16 teams all remained in the top 16. Stanford, despite beating Colorado 48-0, dropped a spot, from No. 15 to No. 16, trading places with Texas A&M, who had a more impressive 38-13 win over former No. 17 Mississippi State.

The biggest battle for rankings in the Pac-12 took place between Arizona and UCLA Saturday night. The Wildcats came into the game ranked 24th, while the Bruins went in ranked 25th. After UCLA’s dominating 66-10 victory, the Bruins jumped to No. 17, while Arizona dropped out of the poll.

Arizona, which will try and regains some votes with a big victory over Colorado this weekend, fell to No. 39 in the polling, behind Washington (the Buffs’ next opponent), in at No. 35.

Also worthy of note … West Virginia, which had risen as high as No. 5 in the polls just four weeks ago, is out of the latest poll … Also out is Boise State, which was upset by San Diego State at home Saturday night, 21-19.

Oregon runs over and through USC in Los Angeles showdown

From ESPN … Kenjon Barner rushed for a school-record 321 yards and five touchdowns, Marcus Mariota threw four touchdown passes, and Oregon (No. 4 BCS, No. 2 AP) produced another landmark offensive performance in a 62-51 victory over Southern California (No. 17 BCS, No. 18 AP) on Saturday night.

Josh Huff caught two touchdowns, and De’Anthony Thomas and Daryl Hawkins also caught scoring passes for the Ducks (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12), who outlasted USC in a back-and-forth second half to extend their winning streak to 12 games since the Trojans (6-3, 4-3) won in Eugene last season.

Oregon’s 730 yards and 62 points were the most ever allowed by USC, which began playing football in 1888.

Barner set a rushing record for a USC opponent by the third quarter, topping Curtis Enis’ 241 yards for Penn State in 1996, and smashed the school record shortly afterward as the Ducks gradually pulled away in their closest game of the season.

Utah cruises past Washington State

From ESPN … Reggie Dunn returned a kickoff 100 yards for the third time in two weeks and John White rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns as Utah defeated Washington State 49-6 on Saturday.

The loss was the sixth straight for Washington State (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12), assuring coach Mike Leach of his first losing season.

Utah (4-5, 2-4) has won two straight.

White also caught an 18-yard TD pass as Utah scored on five first-half possessions and led 31-0 at halftime.

Dunn opened the second half with his school-record fourth career 100-yard return. He had an NCAA-record two 100-yard kickoff returns last week.

Utah freshman Travis Wilson completed 17-of-21 passes for 171 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

Washington State’s Jeff Tuel was 23 of 45 for 232 yards, with a 5-yard TD pass to Kristoff Williams on the game’s final play. Tuel was intercepted, fumbled and sacked six times.

The Utes are 11-0 when White rushes for 100 yards. He had 96 by halftime, and carried the ball just three times in the second half before taking a seat in the blowout victory.

White’s 47-yard run around right end gave Utah a 7-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter. He broke two tackles on the play, including one at the 30-yard line that gave him a clear path down the sideline.

Utah took a 14-0 lead on Wilson’s 5-yard TD pass to Max Moala with 3:46 left in the first. The big play in the drive was Wilson’s 24-yard pass across the middle to Anthony Denham, who held on despite a high hit by Casey Locker that knocked Denham’s helmet off and drew a 15-yard personal-foul penalty.

White’s 2-yard touchdown run pushed Utah’s lead to 21-0 with 12:07 left in the half. Four minutes later, Utah led 24-0 after Reggie Topps’ interception set up Coleman Petersen’s 20-yard field goal — his first in six games. Wilson’s 18-yard TD pass to White gave Utah a 31-0 lead at the break.

At halftime, Utah held a 285-116 edge in total yards, 141-15 edge in rushing yards and 7-minute edge in time of possession.

Nothing went right for the Cougars and Tuel, who set a school passing mark with 43 completions last week as Washington State took it down to the wire against nationally ranked Stanford.

November 3rd

Oregon to wear new all-white uniforms for USC game

Just when you thought Oregon and Nike had worked its way through every possible permutation of uniform combinations, they come up with another.

Here is a link to a Nike website, with pictures of the uniforms the Ducks will be wearing for the USC game Saturday … link.

Enjoy …

November 2nd

Pat Haden: “I’m very supportive of Lane Kiffin”

Colorado is 1-7, with a head coach who has a 4-17 overall record in two seasons in Boulder.

USC is 6-2, with a head coach who has a 24-9 overall record in three seasons in Los Angeles.

So who needed a pat on the back from his athletic director this week?

Lane Kiffin, of course.

From ESPN … athletic director Pat Haden still believes coach Lane Kiffin is the right man for the job, despite the Trojans’ disappointing start this season.

The Trojans, who entered the season ranked No. 1, have lost twice to lower-ranked teams and have fallen to No. 18 in the AP poll.

USC’s next opponent is Oregon (No. 4 BCS, No. 2 AP) on Saturday — a game many experts expect the Trojans to lose.

“I’m very supportive of Lane Kiffin,” Haden said Thursday in an interview on ‘ESPNLA Now’ on ESPN 710 radio. “I’ve said this over and over again: I think Lane Kiffin is a very good coach, and I think he has a big-time future here at USC. I really do.”

Kiffin began as the Trojans’ coach in January 2010, before Haden took over for Mike Garrett as the school’s athletic director. But Haden previously was a part of the school’s board of trustees that approved Kiffin’s hiring, and he consistently has praised the coach over the past two-plus years.

He said that’s not changing, even with USC’s unexpected failures this season.

“Do we have to play better?” Haden asked. “Yes. Are we disappointed that we lost two games? Yes. But we’re in a situation this week where we’re playing the No. 2- or No. 3-ranked team in the country, and we can beat anybody that’s on our schedule. Let’s see how this season plays out here.”

 

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