Tag Archives: Brett Hundley

The UCLA Quarterback Will Be…?

In a year of transition for many college football programs in 2015 two of the most interesting reside here in the Pac-12. The changes that have curiosity to them in the conference are at Oregon and UCLA. Oregon has the idea that whenever Vernon Adams makes it to campus that he will be the guy behind center. It’s a little different in Westwood. In arguably the toughest division in college football, the Pac-12 South, UCLA appears to like TRUE freshman Josh Rosen to start for them and that could be a great thing or a not so great thing.

Anybody that follows, coaches, or watches football knows that starting young, inexperienced players can be frustrating. They miss blocks, run through the wrong hole, commit penalties, and the list goes on and on. However, the reward is that as they attain that experience through the season they get better and coaches are willing to deal with the mistakes, so that sets them up for the following season with an experienced team. No position on the field is this inexperience more on display than at the quarterback position. It’s a dicey proposition, quarterbacks make the calls at the line, shift protections, change the play,  and have to read the defense all in the span of about 10-15 seconds. Having freshman quarterbacks can make a coach look real smart or look like he doesn’t know what he’s doing because he is dealing with a steep learning curve with a young player at quarterback.

Enter Josh Rosen, freshman quarterback at UCLA. He is a true freshman, not a redshirt freshman who has had a year to soak up the play book, learned how to navigate campus and find time to complete their class studies.

At the completion of the 2014 season and seeing long time starter Brett Hundley jump to the NFL most people had the train of thought that Jerry Neuheisel who started in place of Hundley when he was hurt, would be the most logical replacement. Neuheisel certainly has the savvy to take the position, but as they went through spring ball it became apparent that the Bruin coaching staff was going to give Rosen an honest look and reps with the team. If it is indeed Rosen who gets the nod at quarterback, the coaching staff is not giving into the pressure of naming a starting quarterback until the very last minute. Seeing how they are handling Rosen, most people believe it is going to be him.

Rosen wants nothing to do with some big announcement on the topic. He just wants to go out and help his team win. “Honestly, whoever starts, we’re all going to be supremely confident in them because if they win the job, they won the job for a reason. They are going to be the best man for the job.” Rosen said during spring practices.

The last few years the question about the quarterback position have not been an issue because of the steady play of Brett Hundley. Hundley threw for over 9,000 yards, got the Bruins a south division title, two bowl victories, but could not lead the Bruins to their first Pac-12 title since 1998. The next quarterback, probably Josh Rosen gets that task. A daunting one considering the division that they are in is extremely tough, plus the conference overall is a gauntlet of deadly Saturday afternoons.

One thing about Josh Rosen that is sticking out besides all the physical tools is his mental make-up and how he is handling everything that is being thrown at him by the coaches. If he has this great mentality of handling pressure situations, then the Bruins and their fans could be in for a rebirth, but lets pump the brakes on crowning him the “next coming” of quarterback for right now. He still has to be named a starter and take snaps on a Saturday afternoon with an opposing defense that wants to take his head off.

“For a young guy, he has such great composure of what’s going on around him and great understanding of all the moving parts and how they work.” Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone commented recently.

With praise like this from the offensive coordinator, it is no wonder why people around the program expect Josh Rosen to be named the starter at some point in the very near future. Rosen is concentrating on feeling more comfortable each and everyday and has even mentioned Brett Hundley in reference to that feeling of trying to feel comfortable.

“Brett was a starter for three years and I bet, each and everyday, he felt more comfortable.” Rosen explained.

In Westwood, the fans want a conference title, yesterday. They don’t want to feel like the little brother to USC. They want success and they want continued success. For that to happen they need a quarterback that is top level. Is Josh Rosen THAT guy? Is he ready for that responsibility? Time will tell, but by all accounts he wants that pressure on his shoulders. Let’s watch and see…

 

Brett Hundley: Good Pro or Not?

People in Chandler, Arizona know him. People in Pasadena, California know him. Pac-12 defenses know him as well. Brett Hundley is a desert kid who made his name in bright lights of Southern California. Now he is going to try and make a bigger name for himself in the brighter lights of the National Football League. The question now for Hundley is will his game translate to the pros and will he be good pro or a complete bust?

After the 2013 season Brett Hundley thought long and hard about making himself available to the NFL, but ultimately decided that he needed another year of touch up before heading to the professional ranks. I thought he would go to the pros in 2013, but was pleasantly surprised when he decided to return to the Bruins. Did he make the right choice? I believe he did. Many scouts believed he was ready and I am sure people around him thought he was ready. Brett Hundley felt he wasn’t and that he needed to be a more polished quarterback if he wanted to be a solid professional quarterback. I believe he will make a very solid professional and maybe something more.

Many people say that you can’t teach size, strength, or athleticism. The player either has it or they don’t. In my opinion, Hundley has all of these attributes that will make him a good pro. He’s 6’3”, 226 pounds, and he can run. The size is there, he can probably put on a few more pounds of muscle, but he has the tangibles. As I said, he can run, but he’s not Marcus Mariota quick, however, in his defense, not many people are.

Does he have the “IT” factor? To me the IT factor is what I call a “players feel for the game”. How does he disseminate all the information that he has to during a game. Will his “feel” translate to the next level. It will. I have seen Brett Hundley twice live and in person. Once in defeat, once in a blowout win. I have also seen him multiple times on t.v.

The first time I saw him was when he was a freshman. The Bruins were playing the Oregon State Beavers at The Rose Bowl. The Beavers won the game, but it was very evident that Hundley was going to make life miserable for defenses over the course of the next three years. He brought the Bruins back from a deep deficit and came within a pass or two of winning the game. He stood tall in the pocket, made some difficult throws, ran when he had to, and just had the poise of a junior/senior quarterback. He did not seem like a freshman that day in Pasadena. I remember telling myself that Brett Hundley would be in the pros in a couple of years and a team would be lucky to have such a talented young guy on their roster.

The second time I saw him live was this past season when the Bruins came into Tempe, Arizona and played the Sun Devils. Walking on the field prior to the game and watching him warm up with his back up and his receivers was something to behold. He had obviously improved his arm strength. Hundley was throwing deep balls with relative ease and his short slant or curl passes were being thrown like a fastball from Randy Johnson. The bullets he was throwing were passes that would break most fingers on most people. His ball was getting to his receivers quick, so I was interested in how he would fare against the Sun Devils. He fared pretty well. He tore apart the secondary of ASU. He passed for 355 yards and led the Bruins to biggest point production in Sun Devil Stadium history, by putting 62 points on the scoreboard. He also threw four touchdown passes and only threw five incomplete passes. It was a tremendous showing. Walking out of the stadium that night I was making comparisons to the first time I saw him and saw the improvement. He was under control, poised, and making throws in rhythm to his receivers. He ran when he had to and made plays with his feet.

What does he need to do to improve? I like his physical tools, however, he does always throw on target when he should. He threw well against the Sun Devils, but it’s not necessarily a strong suit of his. The other part of his game that almost every scout I have seen make a comment about is his down field vision. To many scouts he missed many opportunities deep down field for the Bruins, but that is something coaches can coach him up on.

When he gets looked at by pro scouts he should be able to rate pretty well. Is he worth being a first round pick? Absolutely. Will he be a first round pick? Hard to tell at this point. I think he should be because he has all those physical tools that coaches like. Arm strength, size, mobility, and poised.

He is going to have to perform well at his pro day, personal workouts for teams that are interested, and any personal interviews that he will be going to. The mistake he IS making right now is now missing out on the big opportunity to perform on the field and interview in front of every NFL team. He did not tell anybody at the Senior Bowl that he wasn’t going to attend. Why? Nobody knows, however, missing out on this great opportunity is something that could cost Hundley in his draft stock. Every chance you get to impress and meet scouts, general managers, and coaches from pro teams you have to take. He has to show these people that he is serious about his career and will do anything to make his career happen. Every spot he drops in the draft he is missing out on millions of dollars of a career that has a short shelf life. Let’s hope from this point on he doesn’t miss these type of opportunities.

In the end, I see Brett Hundley falling into that second round area. If Chip Kelly doesn’t mortgage his football team in Philadelphia to get one of the two top picks, Hundley is a guy I can see him taking. He can run the zone read, he can run, strong arm, and has a good work ethic. Plus, he is a Pac-12 guy and Kelly has shown a favoritism toward things he knows well and the Pac-12 football player is something that he knows well. Whatever team gets him is getting a very good player who will work to get to a starting role with that team. Here is hoping that he does just that.

 

PAC 12

Best 10 Wins of the 2014 Season

There were a lot of huge wins this year, even more than I thought once I started going through each week of the season. Many of the wins were a team’s best of the year or best in a few years. Others propelled them into the national conversation, while others locked up playoff berths. I didn’t include conference championship games because considering the stakes those could have been 1-4. It was still tough to narrow it down and there were 15 or so games that could have easily made the list. Here are my Top 10 wins of the 2014 season.

1. Week 12: Alabama 25 Mississippi State 20
This late in the season, this contest was effectively a playoff elimination game. Though the Bulldogs still hung around at 4 in the playoff rankings, it’s hard to see them staying there even if they would have won out. Alabama showed up big time, shutting down the #1 ranked Bulldogs and bursting out to a 19-0 lead. Though the final score ended up looking close, the Crimson tide were up 25-13 until a Mississippi State score with only 15 seconds to go and the Tide reasserted their position as one of the top playoff contenders.

2. Week 6: Arizona 31 Oregon 24
The Oregon Ducks, though somewhat unimpressive after their win over Michigan State, were still rolling as one of the top playoff contenders. This game put into question whether they were a good enough team to make it. Arizona came in and controlled the game from the start, keeping it low scoring. Mariota led the Ducks back to tie it half-way through the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t keep the Wildcats off of Mariota on the final drive after Arizona regained the lead with only a few minutes to go.

3. Week 6: Ole Miss 23 Alabama 17
If the college football world hadn’t been shocked enough already by Oregon’s loss on Thursday of Week 6, Ole Miss compounded that by knocking off Alabama. Ole Miss had been a nice story, and it certainly wouldn’t have been a shock for them to win going into the game, but this was the test to really determine if they were contenders. They proved that and more by stifling Alabama, defeating them using opportunistic turnovers, and launching themselves into unchartered territory in the polls.

4. Week 2: Virginia Tech 35 Ohio State 21
Yes, it was only JT Barrett’s second start, but it’s not like the Buckeyes’ offense struggled mightily in games before or shortly after this contest. Some predicted a Virginia Tech upset, but it was the way the Hokies’ defense dominated the Ohio State offense that was shocking. Going into Columbus to do so made it even more impressive. Considering how the Hokies finished, and Ohio State hasn’t lost a game since, this was definitely one of the better wins of the year.

5. Week 2: Oregon 46 Michigan State 27
Oregon was favored by a fair amount going into the game, but it was a way to start off the season right against a powerful opponent and had huge playoff ramifications. An Oregon loss could’ve affected a lot considering how the rest of the season played out. Ohio State would’ve defeated an 11-1 Michigan State and may have comfortably been in the playoff as the 2 or 3 seed. Oregon would have been a two loss Pac-12 champ and with a best win of UCLA or Arizona, would have been the team battling Baylor/TCU for the final playoff spot. In pulling away from the Spartans, they showed they weren’t going to be bullied by tough teams.

6. Week 7: Baylor 61 TCU 58
This may have been the most entertaining game of the season. Baylor kept their undefeated hopes alive while showing they had the mental toughness to come back from a huge deficit in the fourth quarter. They assumed control of the Big 12 (if only for a week) by putting up over 700 yards of offense against a TCU defense that was pretty good for most of the year and handed the Horned Frogs their only defeat of 2014.

7. Week 7: Mississippi State 38 Auburn 23
Auburn rolled into Starkville ranked second in the country after playing in the championship last year, and Mississippi State was still trying to prove it belonged though they were ranked in the Top 5. The Bulldogs did that and more, jumping out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and not looking back. The win kept them undefeated and left them in a great position to make the playoff if they didn’t lose more than once the rest of the way.

8. Week 6: TCU 37 Oklahoma 33
Oklahoma came in ranked #4 and looking like the team many had picked to make the playoff. Everyone knew TCU was improved, but at #25 were they really a contender? They showed that they were by shocking the Sooners in Norman by holding Trevor Knight to 40% completion percentage and using a late pick six to seal the deal and catapult themselves into the playoff discussion.

9. Week 10: Auburn 35 Ole Miss 31
This game will be remembered more for ending the Rebels’ playoff hopes and Ole Miss losing LaQuan Treadwell to injury at the finish. But Auburn had bounced back from a loss two weeks earlier to Mississippi State and needed to play on the road against a 7-1 Rebel squad with one of the best defenses in the country. Auburn merely went to Oxford and put up 500 yards on that defense and left only a month away from a possible playoff berth.

10. Week 5: UCLA 62 Arizona State 27
After a month of football, UCLA looked nothing like the team many thought could make the playoff in the pre-season, struggling with mediocre opponents. Arizona State on the other hand came into this game ranked 15 with a chance to crack the Top 10 with a victory and gain a lot of early season momentum. UCLA showed up in a big way, blasting the Sun Devils by five touchdowns in their own house. Brett Hundley had 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns, the Bruins had a 100 yard rusher, and UCLA’s defense and special teams each had touchdowns as well.

The Rivalries Continue for USC

The Trojans faced a tough weekend, one that not only featured their dropping out of Pac-12 contention, but that fall coming at the hands of their bitter rival. The Bruins outplayed Troy all game long, allowing only one offensive touchdown to USC until garbage time.

The small shot SC had at a Pac-12 south title was dashed, and UCLA earned the title of best football team in the City of Angels for at least another year.

Picture by Eric Chan
UCLA painted Victory Bell

An overall look at the rivalry:

After five straight victories against the Bruins from 2007-2011, the Trojans have now dropped three straight to their intercity rivals, each by at least three points. The overall record now stands with USC holding the edge 44-31-7. Brett Hundley improved to a perfect 3-0 agains the Trojans and Cody Kessler remains winless against the Bruins. Kessler was unable to get anything going all game long.

It was Steve Sarkisian’s first rivalry game as head coach of USC, and it didn’t go too well. First year USC head coaches fell to 5-8-1 in the rivalry (Lane Kiffin beat UCLA his first year as head coach in 2010).

Before 2012, USC had gone 10-1 against the Bruins since 1999 (12-1 if you count the vacated wins in ’04 and ’05). After losing three straight the tables may be turning.

The winning team in the rivalry gets to keep the Victory Bell-a large bell painted school colors and rung after scoring plays during the rivalry game. UCLA gets to keep it for another year.

A look ahead to next week:

The Trojans get to play their other nasty rival, Notre Dame, next Saturday at the coliseum. Both teams sit at a disappointing 7-4 record, with the Irish having lost 4 of 5 games (albeit three of those losses were to ranked teams, including a loss to current No. 1 Florida State). The Irish started the year 6-0. Three of those losses have been by 4 or less points, with the exception being a blowout at Arizona State (their third straight road game).

As much as I hate to say it, I think there’s a decent chance Notre Dame wins this game. Two tough losses at home will leave them chippy for something to celebrate, and as the season comes to a close a victory over USC would do just that. I think Everett Golson and Co. get the job done in the Coliseum, beating a USC team that has failed to put much together offensively over the past few weeks. A thursday night win over Cal a couple weeks ago was good, but Cal has given up a ton of points all season long (124th in points allowed in FBS). Only two teams have put up less points against UCLA than USC did last week.

My Prediction: Notre Dame, 38 @ USC, 28

A look at the overall rivalry:

Notre Dame has won three of four since USC won 8 straight from 2002-2009. The Irish hold the advantage in the overall series 45-35-5. This is another rival team that Cody Kessler has been unable to beat in his tenure at quarterback. Everett Golson has only faced the Trojans once, in 2012, when the Irish were ranked No. 1 overall and beat Troy 22-13 in Los Angeles.

This will be Sarkisian’s second rivalry game as head coach with USC. The overall record of first year USC head coaches against Notre Dame is a lowly 3-10, which doesn’t exactly bode well for Sarkisian. The last time a first year Trojan head coach beat Notre Dame was in 2002, when Pete Carroll’s squad thumped the Irish, 44-13.

The winner of the game gets to take home the Jeweled Shillelagh trophy, which is an Irish club engraved with the phrase “From the Emerald Isle”.

The Jeweled Shillelagh

Morris, Hoke, Brandon and a Serious Mess

Shane Morris shouldn’t have been allowed to continue playing. Use that as your excuse to fire Brady Hoke. Give Dave Brandon the boot too since he’s clearly lost control of the ship. There, I’ve gotten out of the way the three storylines which have dominated the coverage of Michigan football since Saturday’s despicable display.
I don’t mean to simply write off what are obviously pressing issues, but I’m sure you’ve heard enough already and you don’t need me to simply rehash what everyone else is saying. Yes, concussions are a serious health concern and should be more of a focus. Of course, Hoke is done for. And unfortunately, despite all the good things he has done for the University of Michigan in the past, Brandon is now doing more harm than anything.
May I please write about the actual game now?
I’d like to talk about what happened between the lines because, to me, that’s the most worrisome aspect of this whole situation. Where is the talent? What happened to having second stringers (or better yet, starters) who could dominant those opponents working with less? The Wolverines aren’t just a bad football team because of coaching. They’ve hardly got any good players.
If your quarterback enters graduate school at the university and comes back for a fifth season in the program, he’s not supposed to be supplanted by an unproven sophomore after four games. I can’t remember any other instances of this happening. Now that Morris is on the shelf it looks like the starting job belongs to Devin Gardner for good even though he’s done next to nothing to earn it.
It’s rarely ever solely the quarterback’s fault though. He’s got to have some kind of supporting cast. Michigan’s best offensive performer last Saturday was De’Veon Smith. He had 57 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries.
Trailing for nearly the entire game makes it awfully tough to get a solid ground attack established. When you’re down, you have to air it out and that’s bad news for Michigan. The Wolverine receivers were blanketed by the Gophers’ man coverage all afternoon. Devin Funchess was the team’s leading receiver with an insignificant 37 yards on four catches.
Michigan ran for 83 yards and passed for 88. That’s a grand total of 171 yards of offense. Yikes.

This guy sums it all up.
The official 2014 Michigan fan pose.

Defensively, you never know what to expect from the Wolverines. Minnesota running back David Cobb had a field day. He ran 34 times for a total of 183 yards. That’s right, Cobb had more yards on the ground than Michigan did total. Double yikes.
Where are the playmakers? Someone needs to step and start producing no matter how bad everything else is around them. Plenty of college football teams survive by relying on a game-breaker. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota carried his team to victory two weeks ago. Brett Hundley did the same for UCLA last Thursday. Running back Todd Gurley does it weekly for Georgia. Michigan doesn’t have any of those guys, or anyone near their talent level, on the roster.
I sat on my couch and laughed as the Golden Gophers of Minnesota invaded the Big House and made Michigan look like the team that had lost 39 of the previous 43 games between the two ‘rivals’. That statistic is real. I counted five times to make sure.
My laughing signifies my surrender. The season might as well be over for the Wolverines. All that remains is poor play and lopsided losses.
You diehards better find your sense of humor too, or else you’re in for a fall full of heartbreak.

Pac-12 Quick React: UCLA 62 Arizona State 27

Thursday night, in a contest that matched two teams from the Pac-12 South, UCLA and Arizona State, where the winner has represented the division in the conference championship in each of the last two seasons, the visiting Bruins bested the Sun Devils by a count of 62-27.

Rich: Sun Devils Donate Victory to UCLA

College Football Roundtable’s Mike Wilson and Jeff Rich were on hand for the game, and wrapped it up afterwards, discussing the play of Mike Bercovici, Brett Hundley, the ASU offensive line, and what the future might hold for both of these teams.

Sun Devils Donate Victory to UCLA

 
There’s something to be said for charity. At Arizona State, it’s been well-documented that athletic director Ray Anderson and head coach Todd Graham have gone into their own pockets to the tune of a million dollars, in the interest of advancing the future of Arizona State football, but there was a different benefactor in Tempe on Thursday night, and they were given a good portion of the 62 points they put on the scoreboard.
If the cause was the Bruins of UCLA, the Sun Devils will have plenty to write-off come tax season. One might argue the Sun Devils set themselves up for the wheels to come off with an inefficient use of their timeouts, something that might have come in handy with the back-up quarterback getting his first significant action against the 11th ranked team in the country. Others might tell you the injury gods gave this one to the Bruins on September 13th in Boulder, when starting quarterback Taylor Kelly went down, forcing the seldom-used redshirt junior Mike Bercovici into action.
If there were jitters, they didn’t show early, as the Sun Devils jumped out to a 17-6 lead early, but Arizona State got charitable in the second quarter. It started with an 80 yard catch-and-run from Brett Hundley, who finished with 355 yards passing and 5 (total) touchdowns, to Eldridge Massington to close the deficit to 17-13 early in the quarter. In reality, Hundley threw it about 10 yards, and the Devils’ ole’ defense gave him the other 70. A short Hundley touchdown pass gave the Bruins a lead they would hold on to the rest of the night
Taylor Kelly’s understudy brought the home team right back down the field in 13 plays to the UCLA 17, but it was the 14th play that sealed their fate on this night. Void of timeouts, Bercovici panicked and hit Ishmael Adams at the 5, who took it in for a touchdown, but Adams was wearing a white jersey and the Sun Devils would don black for this big intra-division contest. In addition to the 95-yard pick-six, Adams would add a kick return, and it wasn’t long into the third quarter that the wind was out of ASU’s sails, and in turn, a good majority of the 60,000+ in attendance had cleared out.
It wasn’t all bad all night for the Sun Devils, who dropped their first regular season home contest since 2012. Jaelen Strong put up some pretty good numbers, but we’ll skip those numbers, as many of them came in garbage time. Zane Gonzalez was true on all of his field goal and extra point attempts, including a personal-best 49 yard field goal on the Sun Devils first possession, which put Arizona State up 3-0. Bercovici threw three touchdown passes, but the balance comes when you consider he threw two balls to Bruin defenders, and put another on the ground.

Rich & Wilson: Pac-12 Quick React: UCLA 62 Arizona State 27 [Video]

The Sun Devils had now answers for the right side of UCLA’s defensive line, and predictably ran their offense to the right side of the field all night. He was only sacked once, but it hurt because the ball came loose and UCLA’s Kenny Clark fell on it at the 23. On the next play from scrimmage, Hundley scrambled 22 yards to the ASU 1 yard-line. Lloyd Carrington brought him down, good for Arizona State’s first tackle of the second half, moments before UCLA scored their third 3rd quarter touchdown. In the first 6 and a half minutes after the intermission, UCLA outscored the defending Pac-12 South Champions 21-3, and that was the story.
After ASU added a token field goal, Adams 100-yard kick return put the Bruins up 41-20. The 5’8″ junior cornerback/kick returner put himself on the map in front of a number of NFL scouts on Thursday night. With the result in hand, the only questions to be answered would be the where we’d be with the final score, which was UCLA 62 Arizona State 27. Next up for the Bruins is Pac-12 South opponent Utah, while the Sun Devils travel to Los Angeles to take on the city’s other Pac-12 team, the USC Trojans, who yielded 62 points in this same stadium, a year ago this weekend.

It's Always Sunny in Tempe, Arizona

Not many people spend much time thinking about Arizona State University. In fact, if you aren’t a local, whether or not you’ve seen Jerry Maguire probably influences how much or how little you know about the game of football in the Grand Canyon State. I’d go as far as to say that the school in Tempe gets confused with its in-state rival, Arizona, more than any other “State” in the country, and not in a “let’s keep referring to the Buckeyes as Ohio to be a jerk” sort of way. For many years, the Sun Devils didn’t really deserve much recognition in the College Football world, but maybe that’s beginning to change.

Though I’m sure it’s mostly forgotten by now, it was only 18 years ago that Arizona State was mere minutes from claiming an undisputed National Championship at the 1997 Rose Bowl with Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, and company. An undefeated season was taken away from an Ohio State team led by their former head coach on the sidelines and a quarterback who went to high school down the street in Mesa on the field. It stung, and the locals, mostly ASU alumni in Phoenix, reminded my happy Ohio-born ass of this any time I wore my scarlet and grey around town, even five years later in 2001, when I first arrived in the Valley of the Sun.
By then, the program had faded into obscurity. Jake “The Snake” was still around and playing his home games at Sun Devil Stadium, but he was literally always a day late, playing for the even further obscured NFL chapter in Phoenix. Gone was Bruce Snyder, the head coach that took them to Pasadena after the 1996 season, but was let go prior to the 2001 season, after 3 straight 6-loss seasons. Enter Dirk Koetter, the offensive genius from Boise State, stage left. He put together some nice seasons, but he was 2-19 against ranked teams in his six seasons in Tempe, and an incredible 0-for-12 in the state of California, where four of his nine conference rivals reside.
Though I lived what some would consider walking distance from Sun Devil Stadium from campus, Saturdays that you’d find me at Sun Devil Stadium were few and far between. As a die-hard football fan, albeit one with very casual allegiances to any team in my new hometown, the fact that I didn’t want to throw the cost of about four 12 ounce Bud Lights at a ticket might tell you all you need to know. One notable exception was the big game with the big, bad USC Trojans in 2005.
The sports network from Connecticut decided the #1 Trojans and the 1-loss Sun Devils were worthy of a site visit, so Chris, Kirk, and Corso set up shop in a parking lot north of the stadium for their uber-popular College Gameday show. By the way, that incredible tailgating parking lot no longer exists, having given way to new corporate office building being erected between Tempe Town Lake and Sun Devil Stadium. Back to October 2005, Gameday airs at 7 AM out west, so that meant a 5:30 AM wakeup call for a noon kickoff. I try to take the “act like you’ve been there” attitude with most things in life, but I have to admit I was overwhelmed with how cool this experience was.
We stood to the left side of the stage, our signage viewable over Herbstreit’s right shoulder on close-ups in orange hard-hats with the logo of the show’s title sponsor, Home Depot, on each side. Now, I know it looks like chaos and near-anarchy on TV, but there are rules to being a part of the pep rally. The show was doing a feature on a terminally ill boy that called Notre Dame’s first play for Charlie Weis, but didn’t survive to see it, so Chris Fowler asked for quiet and decency while that ran. The fun police were there too, making sure our signs weren’t inappropriate.
Back then, Trev Alberts was the muck-raker that Mark May is now, though probably a lot more mild than the constant troll-job we see from May these days. He was replaced by Lou Holtz for the studio show with May and Rece Davis, beginning in that 2005 season. Signs noting this, “Why Does Trev Alberts Look Like Holtz” and “Trev Works at McDonalds Now”, were against policy. The sign comparing alumni, specifically with the faces of Pat Tillman and OJ Simpson side-by-side, was held proudly and without objection from ESPN. I was given a sign with a picture of Sean Penn and Ray Walston from Fast Times at Ridgemont High that read, “USC is Bogus, Mr. Hand”.

The students had to get creative, and some of them took it seriously, making sure to poke at Mike Stoops, the head coach at Arizona, citing it being about recruiting. Nine years later, I’m not sure that Gameday signage serves as a recruiting tool, but whatever. I had to scalp a ticket for $90, which is a lot of 12 ounce Bud Lights for a nose-bleed seat in a section that was torn out of the stadium last summer. Predictably, ASU lost, the consensus prediction on the show, but they hung for a half. If you take a few Sun Devils miscues and a lot of LenDale White on the ground, it explains how 21-3 halftime lead turns into a 38-28 defeat for their second loss of the season.
Koetter would last one more season, but in 2007, it was time for the big name hire. He went by the name of Dennis Erickson, who won at Miami and even won at Oregon State. He did his fair share of winning right away in Tempe too, but you tend to remember the disparaging losses more. Erickson technically led the school to a Pac-12 title in his first season, but they lost, and lost badly, to their co-champs on a nationally televised Thanksgiving Night game at home, so I’ve always believe that 2007 Conference Championship banner is held up with a grain of salt, but it’s there. Erickson took them through a couple of unremarkable seasons, but was on the right track in 2011, where the local media was lobbying for him to get a contract extension after a 5-1 start. Then, they pooed the bed.
Enter Todd Graham, a head coach who’d earned a reputation as a mercenary for leaving Rice and Pittsburgh after just one season, but he claimed that this was his dream job. You know everyone took a wait and see approach to that line, back in 2012. He has since put his money where his mouth is, quite literally. While his first season in the desert wasn’t spectacular by most standards, he came up one win shy, a heart-breaking, last second field goal loss to UCLA at home, from winning an admittedly weak Pac-12 South and reaching the conference championship. A year ago, it came down to taking down those same Bruins in the Rose Bowl, and they got it done with 38-33 victory.

Returning to the Pac-12 Championship is obviously a goal for the Sun Devils, who currently sit at 3-0, but their #15 ranking headed into Thursday evening’s contest with UCLA is probably more about the 2013 Sun Devils than this year’s team that has only played Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado. The good news for ASU is that the Bruins, despite their #11 ranking, haven’t looked like world-beaters in their route to 3-0, with wins over Virginia, Memphis, and Texas. The bad news is, it might not take a national championship contender to take down the Devils, who will be without their dynamic three-year starting quarterback Taylor Kelly. On the other hand, it might have been tough to picture their opponent taking down Texas without the services of Brett Hundley, who will start against Arizona State, but their backup got it done.
There is a reason they play the games on the field, and not on paper, so we shall see. The sun is shining, Tim Brando and Fox Sports 1 are here, and we’ve got a couple of Top 15 teams dueling it out, in what could be the de facto Pac-12 South Championship for the third consecutive year. For a couple of hours, Tempe should be the center of the sports universe. I wouldn’t want to miss it.

What We'll Be Talking About on Sunday

After a flurry of big games to start the college football season in weeks one and two, there’s a bit of a break this week with only one matchup between Top 25 teams. The action picks up again in Week 4, but let’s takes a look at some of the key points the college football world will be talking about on Sunday.

Who will look the best? UCLA

UCLA has been flying a bit under the radar this season, because they haven’t been living up to expectations. Many had them as Pac-12 champion and a playoff team, but they have yet to look the part. The first game saw the defense steal the show with three touchdowns while the offense struggled. Then last week QB Brett Hundley finally played closer to his potential, but the defense struggled in the win over Memphis. This is the week the Bruins remind everyone why they were a pre-season Top 10 team. Part of it is because of what Texas isn’t. With David Ash out and Jaxon Shipley questionable, the Bruins defense will be able to focus on shutting down the Longhorns run game. With the Texas offense unable to get anything going, there will be too much pressure on the defense once again. The Bruins will take this one handily, just like BYU did against the Horns last week.

What team will get too much credit? Oklahoma

If the Sooners, about three touchdown favorites against the Volunteers, perform like they should on Saturday, the hype train is going to get more out of control than it already is. After two weeks some are calling the Sooners the most complete team in the country and one of the favorites to make the playoff. While their current rank is understandable, I feel that if they win handily against Tennessee people will start to overrate them, if they haven’t already. Tennessee has been getting some buzz the first couple weeks, but they’re a team that didn’t have a single starter returning on their offensive or defensive line. As a team who has maybe the best combination of lines in the country, Oklahoma should handle Tennessee. The more interesting game will come next week when the Sooners visit Morgantown and play a West Virginia team that caused people to significantly question Alabama this year.

Can South Carolina save their season? Yes

South Carolina is right there with Ohio State as maybe the two most disappointing teams of the season so far. Unlike the Buckeyes, South Carolina doesn’t have a good excuse. After getting rolled in the season opener against Texas A&M, public perception seems to be that Georgia should win fairly easily. I’m not quite as troubled by South Carolina’s performance last week against East Carolina however. East Carolina isn’t a terrible team and it’s not surprising that the Gamecocks would struggle the game after getting housed at home on a national stage and the game before their only chance to salvage the season against Georgia. The possibility is there that South Carolina will simply struggle with spread offenses like A&M’s and be better against traditional ones, similar to what has been the case with Alabama the last few years. Hutson Mason didn’t exactly play lights out in Georgia’s win over Clemson, so if South Carolina can slow the Bulldogs’ rushing attack and use home field advantage to pull out a victory, they’ll be right back in the driver seat for where they want to go this season.

What team gets exposed? Missouri

Missouri has been cruising along the first couple weeks of the season, parlaying wins against San Diego State and Toledo to a #20 ranking. But I don’t think they’re the 20th best team in the country. Maty Mauk has played well for the most part, but he threw 2 interceptions last week and now faces what should be a stout UCF defense. The Knights have up a ton of yards to Penn State the first week in Ireland, but State threw the ball a ton, and I think the Knight defense plays more like the D they were last year than how they performed in the opener. The Tigers gave up over 5 ypc to Toledo last week on run plays which will allow the Knights to shorten the game and keep Mauk off the field. When the Missouri offense is on the field, they will struggle compared to the first couple weeks against a defense that has had an extra week to prepare. UCF wins in an upset.

Will there be continued uproar over Pat Haden running onto the field? No

I didn’t think the Pat Haden situation was a big deal when I saw it, so I was surprised when it was made into a huge ordeal to begin with. Then people started saying he shouldn’t be allowed to be a part of the playoff selection committee. Talk about blowing things out of proportion. Was it stupid for Pat Haden to run on the field during a game and scream at the officials? Yes. Did it look ridiculous and childish? Yes. But who cares? I would expect anyone with such strong ties to a program to be that invested in his school. Now all of a sudden he shouldn’t be on the selection committee; that’s an opinion that makes no sense to me. So if he never ran on the field last week people would assume that he wasn’t going to try and make a case for USC/the Pac-12 during playoff selection committee deliberation? In the end, basically every one of the committee members will have a bias towards some school, and that is why they have the recusal policy. If Pat Haden isn’t going to be allowed in the room when the committee discusses USC, it doesn’t matter if Haden runs on the field every week. Frankly, the type of passion Haden showed last Saturday is exactly the type of person we should want on the selection committee.

Cupcakes For Most in ACC Coastal

When you serve cupcakes for desert, you generally get a lot of fluff and sugar. When the 5 of the 7 teams in the ACC Coastal begin their seasons with FCS schools, there aren’t going to be a lot of surprises. The first week of the season in the ACC Coastal didn’t raise many questions, but it did begin the conversation towards answering a couple. What did we learn in week #1? We certainly learned that ACC Coastal teams can dominate the FCS.
The Pitt Panthers absolutely drilled a Delaware program that has been down the last couple of years. Pitt dominated on both sides of the ball and led 42-0 at halftime. Pitt or any other team in the ACC coastal should have a big day playing Delaware, but this was off the charts. Pitt held Delaware held under 100 total yards on offense and gained over 500 yards against the Blue Hens’ defense. Is this a function of a resurgent Pitt program or a subpar Delaware team that mailed it in when the roof caved in? 61-0 is a big win no matter who you play. We likely won’t know if Pitt is a force in the Coastal until they host Iowa in week 4.
Virginia Tech struggled early in a tune up for their trip to Columbus next week. Little is expected from William & Mary in the CAA this year, but they gave the Hokies a good fight for a half. The Hokies look like they found a quarterback in Michael Brewer who had a very solid, workman-like outing. Freshmen Shai McKenzie and Isaiah Ford looked flashy in their debuts, but I suspect the Buckeyes will be a better gauge of Brewer’s effectiveness and the freshmen will see a defense much bigger, faster, and stronger than the Tribe. If there was a surprise in this game it’s that the Virginia Tech lead was only 17-6 at halftime, but a highly touted VT defense delivered as expected keeping the Tribe out of the endzone in what may be the on-going story for the coming Hokie season.
Duke hammered a badly overmatched Elon team in what was one of the bigger mismatches on paper that yielded the expected results on the field.
The biggest surprise of the cupcake games was likely Georgia Tech vs. Wofford. The Jackets never ran away from what should have been a terribly overmatched Wofford team. In a bigger surprise the Jackets threw for 2 touchdowns. However, it’s not time to declare that Georgia Tech is going “West Coast.” Maybe GT just used the Wofford game to practice a diversified attack for 2014.
North Carolina probably played the toughest of the FCS games against a scrappy Liberty team. As is the case with many FBS vs. FCS games, Liberty was competitive for a half before succumbing to a more talented UNC team. Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood were exciting players before the Liberty game and they did nothing to quell the high expectations for 2014. A capable Liberty offense was surprisingly able to score 29 points against a UNC defense that will need to improve if the Tar Heels are going to live up to their pre-season expectations.
The Coastal teams that did not dine on cupcakes this past weekend were Virginia and Miami. Both teams may wish they played FCS teams to open their seasons with wins, but they didn’t and both stand at 0-1 after one week of play. While Miami played a solid but rebuilding Louisville team, Virginia opened with the #7 ranked ULCA Bruins.
Miami demonstrated that Al Golden still has a lot of work ahead to bring college football glory back to south Florida. Miami hasn’t played in the championship since they joined the ACC. If the Miami defense does not improve dramatically and quickly, 2014 won’t break the championship drought. Miami also showed that winning with a true freshman QB is a tall order. While clearly very talented, Brad Kaaya frequently looked overwhelmed and posted modest results as the ‘Canes fell hard to a better Louisville team.
Virginia UCLA
Virginia provided the most intriguing results of the weekend and may have begun the answer to the burning question of whether or not Mike London can win enough games to return in 2015. While Virginia fell to UCLA 28-20, the Cavaliers outplayed the Bruins for the better part of the game. Frankly, this was a game that Virginia played well enough to win and score a national upset. The Virginia defense led by ACC linebacker of the week Henry Coley held Brett Hundley in check as the potent Bruin offense scored but one touchdown all day. Virginia held UCLA to 7 for18 on 3rd down conversions and 0 for2 on fourth down. One game does not a dominant defense make, but the UCLA game began the conversation about how good the UVa defense can be. If Cavalier the defense continues to play this well, they can keep Virginia in every game on the schedule with the exception of  an away game with Florida State. The offense on the other hand surrendered 21 points and lost the game for the Cavaliers. As bad as that sounds, all was not lost for the UVa offense. The Cavaliers outgained the Bruins in both rushing and passing by small margins and an overhauled offensive line did not yield a sack to a fast and experienced UCLA defense. A flukey scoop and score and bad break on tipped pass were Virginia’s undoing in this game. Is Virginia going to challenge for the coastal crown in 2014? We don’t know. Until the Cavaliers learn to convert well played games into wins, smart money says they will not. However smart money might not bet on the Cavs to finish last either.