Tag Archives: Vernon Adams

Pac-12 Coaching Hot Seats for the 2016 Season

The Pac-12 football schedule is a brutal one for it’s coaches. The conference schedule doesn’t really allow for any team to take a “week off” in terms of preparation because any team can be any team on any given Saturday. Besides the bye weeks, there are no weeks off for coaches and their teams due to the great competition.

The toll this competition takes on coaches is immense. It creates a precarious job situation for them because the pressure to win is always present. With that said, what are the Pac-12 coaching hot seats for 2016. Let’s take a look.

Rich Rodriguez

How close was Coach Rodriguez to leaving the University of Arizona last winter? I would say pretty close. The job offer from South Carolina was real and was for about $1.3 million more than he makes from the Wildcats. So, why would the seat be hot for him?

Well, he is coming off a year in which his program underperformed. Arizona won the Pac-12 South division in 2014, with a little help from UCLA, but wasn’t even close to winning the division in 2015.

Injuries to Anu Solomon and Scooby Wright III hindered the team for a good portion of the season. Not having a ton of experience on their second string hindered what the Wildcats could do on the field. It didn’t happen for the Wildcats.

That speaks to his recruiting job at Arizona. Rodriguez isn’t exactly getting the results out of the guys he has recruited to Arizona. Can he turn this trend around? It remains to be seen and I have my doubts due to my belief that his heart is at Arizona for the long-term.

I don’t think his seat his hot. It’s more of a warm seat than anything, but he certainly has something to prove in 2016.

Rodriguez has to show the fans that there is something to be excited about when they come to watch the Wildcats. There isn’t any excitement around the program coming into next year and that can be a very difficult thing to change, especially in the Pac-12.

I’m not sure if he senses this, but if he is already sniffing around at other jobs, another sub-par season at Arizona just may seal his fate with Wildcat Nation.

Todd Graham

Arizona State is bit of an enigma to many people because it should be a school that is easy to recruit to due to its great weather and shall we say, pretty people. However, one thing has severely lacked in the last 20 years or so: consistent winning. Winning does cure many ills with a program and ASU just has not had it.

Todd Graham comes in with his no nonsense discipline and changes the culture of the program after Dennis Erickson nearly left it in shambles. With a sub-par season in 2015, the Sun Devil faithful are looking at the program with a bit of skepticism. The Sun Devils ended last season with a thud by getting beat by West Virginia in the  Cactus Bowl held in Phoenix.  They were beat in their own backyard. It was not a good look for the program and it put them at 6-7 for the year.

The fans and administration want a return to what the program was trending toward at the end of 2014. The Sun Devils ended that year 10-3, and a bowl game win over a much-improved Duke program had Arizona State fans thinking that a possible playoff berth was in order.

Nope. It all came crashing down last year.

Graham has to right the ship to keep the heat off of him and his revamped staff. There were many changes to his staff last season and he has to get his staff all on the same page with what their goals will be, or 2016 could be even worse for the Sun Devil program.

Mark Helfrich

Is the run of winning big over for the Ducks? Many people are asking that question about mighty Oregon and they are turning their eyes right at Mark Helfrich.

The home-state guy who took over the program from Chip Kelly has certainly had some success. His Ducks made the first ever College Football Playoff. He had a Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota. I believe he is a good coach, but he’s no Chip Kelly.

For as much hate as Chip Kelly took from the Oregon faithful over his lack of kissing the fans’ backsides, he did what no other coach has been able to do at Oregon. Win and win big. He developed players, especially quarterbacks, and that is something people are starting to question about Helfrich.

For two straight years, the Ducks have gone fishing into the lower division school pond to get their starting quarterback. Last year it was Vernon Adams. This year it’s Dakota Prukop.

Is Helfrich going to be able to maintain the level of expectations at Oregon by doing this? I don’t think so.

Oregon Duck fans are a fickle bunch and when things appear to be headed down they get real impatient with the coaches. They will voice displeasure loudly and repeatedly in any forum they can use.

Helfrich’s seat is not boiling hot, but it is certainly toasty.

With last season’s bowl game disaster against TCU still fresh in everybody’s mind, Coach Helfrich has to have his Ducks come out of the gate like gangbusters in 2016 and have some very dominating wins. Otherwise, his toasty seat becomes hot.

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Pac-12 Links: Ducks, Beavers, Huskies, and Cougars

In this dead time of year for college football programs, the season seems like a distant thought, but as we all know, the season will get here in a blink of an eye. When I take a look at the landscape of the Pac-12 it is apparent to me that there are some anxious fan bases around the conference. Many of those teams are in the Pac-12 North division. Let’s take a look at what I am talking about.

Oregon

Is the Duck run of dominance done? Can the coaching staff develop a quarterback for the long-term?

These are both legitimate questions fans have for their beloved Ducks. Ever since Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota left for the NFL, the Ducks have not come up with a long-term quarterback. When Mariota left I figured the Ducks would turn the keys to the Porsche over to Jeff Lockie who was Mariota’s backup. That was a bad idea. Lockie played like a kid who had never picked up a football. Vernon Adams transferred in from Eastern Washington and played admirably for Oregon, but he was only going to play for a year as a graduate transfer. What now?

Welcome Dakota Prukop to Eugene.

Prukop comes to the Ducks from Montana State as a graduate transfer player. What, another graduate transfer? The transfer thing for many fans is something they like as long as the player plays up to their expectations. This is not a long-term aspect of the Duck program that the fans enjoy much, but they have remained fairly silent on it.

After the spring game for Oregon was in the books last week, it was pretty obvious to observers that the quarterback race is down to two players. One is, obviously, Dakota Prukop, and the other is redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen. According to offensive coordinator Matt Lubick the race is still up in the air.

“Going into fall camp, right now I like both guys.” Lubick stated after the spring game.

I don’t buy that. You don’t bring a guy in as a graduate transfer and have him sit. I thought the same thing with Vernon Adams. All the coach speak going on last season about an open competition is same the coach speak going on now.

The development of the back-up quarterback will be crucial for the program as a whole. The program has to think past the present time and look toward 2017 and the long-term health of the Oregon program.

Oregon State

As much as the Duck program is thriving with plenty of difference makers, the Oregon State program is the antithesis. Beaver believers don’t know what to expect in 2016 because the team is so young and has a new quarterback and defensive coordinator. How will head coach Gary Andersen  get the program going in an upward swing?

Darrell Garretson, the transfer quarterback from Utah State who has two seasons remaining, will be the signal caller for Oregon State. Not until the spring game did the Beaver coaches know who they may name the starter. Garretson had a phenomenal spring game by throwing for 263 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Remember fans, it’s the spring game, not a USC defense coming at him.

What Garretson gives the Beavers is some mobility in the pocket and that means he will be either extending plays, or simply running for his life. Hopefully it’s not the latter. The aspects that fans should like about Garretson are that he has real game experience and that he is also playing for his old coach, Kevin McGiven, now the co-offensive coordinator for Oregon State. He knows the offense, so it should be a smoother transition than it would be for any other player coming into this offense.

New defensive coordinator Kevin Clune has his work cut out for him. Many spots are up for grabs on the defensive side of the ball with many key ingredients gone from last year’s team. Clune is going to have to get something done because Oregon State struggled mightily last season.

The Beaves ranked last in the conference in scoring defense, giving up 37 points a game. They also gave up a conference-leading 481 yards per game. To top it all off, they were also last in rushing defense, giving up 225 yards a game.

Work needs to be done in Corvallis to have any shot at a better season than 2015, but the Beavers can’t be all that much worse than they were last season.

Will Coach Andersen be able to work some miracle this season? Time will tell.

Washington

You don’t hear much talk coming out of Husky Nation these days and that is exactly how head coach Chris Peterson wants it. In fact, whenever Coach Peterson is talking about his program, he is underselling his team to the public. One possible reason for this is that he has a team that could be on the verge of a breakthrough type of season. Peterson is trying to pump the breaks on that thought and take a more realistic look at the 2016 season.

The Washington fans see a dominating defense, a quarterback who broke onto the scene in a big way, and a legit breakout running back all coming back in the fall. The word “optimism” is being whispered up in the trees of Seattle, but like I said, Coach Peterson is doing everything to squash that talk.

Jake Browning, the sophomore quarterback, who came to the Huskies as a true freshman and had a solid season, is looking to improve his deep ball for the Huskies. He doesn’t have a cannon attached to his arm, so to improve the deep ball you need to have better protection from his o-linemen and better timing with his receivers. That’s the way the deep ball gets better. So, for Husky fans, improving on the offensive line and with his receivers will be of upmost importance to threaten defenses down the field.

For the sake of Husky fans, let’s hope that Jake Browning continues his great play in the Pac-12. Seeing the Huskies challenge in the conference would be a great sight to see again.

Washington State

Mike Leach finally has higher expectations placed on him at Washington State after a good season in 2015. He has one of the top two quarterbacks in the entire Pac-12 Conference.

Luke Falk is the guy under center for the Cougars and in control of the Air Raid offense for Washington State. Falk has gained some notoriety because the Cougars won last season and because he put up video game type of numbers. What does this young gun want to work on this offseason? He says it’s about making the more consistent play, finding the open man, his footwork, and getting better every single day at practice.

“Really just doing my job the best that I can do it. Going through my reads, being more efficient on my reads; finding the open guy; footwork-there is a lot I can improve on and work on this summer.” Luke Falk said recently.

Mike Leach, who was rumored to be on the hot seat going into last season, earned a bit of a reprieve thanks to a successful 2015 campaign. However, he knows he can’t rest on his success. All it takes is another bad season and the heat gets turned right back up for him.

Leach needs to keep this Air Raid offense going in upward motion, so he can recruit some more talent out to Washington State. From my perspective this is a critical year for Leach and his football program. Take a step backward, he could be fired. Keep the positive motion going and he gets a contract extension and better talent.

Washington State will be an interesting team to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this season.

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Pac-12 Links: What’s Happening in the Pac-12

Being a fan and writer of Pac-12 football there are so many things that are happening on a daily basis that it is beneficial to keep you, the fans, informed on what is happening around the Conference of Champions. Here you go Pac-12 fans….

Down in Tucson… Samajie Grant is looking to take a great leadership role.

At Arizona State, they are looking for a bounce back year in 2016. Can they figure out the quarterback situation and how will the new OC do in his first season at a Power 5 school?

California has to replace Jared Goff. What does this mean for the offense?

Can out Colorado finally break out of the basement of the Pac-12 South in 2016? The talent is better than it has been, but…

Is Dakota Prukop the real deal for Ducks? Will he have a more productive year than Vernon Adams? The Duck fans are just happy he is already on campus.

In Corvallis, hope springs eternal for the Beavers as they look to improve upon Gary Andersen’s initial season with Oregon State.

Christian McCaffrey has Stanford poised for another run at the conference title and Rose Bowl. Can they make a deeper run into the CFB Playoff?

At UCLA, sophomore quarterback, Josh Rosen returns to lead the Bruin attack. Does he have anybody to help him out? Can the offensive line protect him?

Coaching changes, new quarterback, and same old USC football expectations. Do the Trojans live up to them or is it a rebuild year at USC?

Kyle Whittingham doesn’t want to look at this season as a rebuild. He did lose some good offensive firepower at running back, but there is optimism at Utah.

Washington is one of the Pac-12 teams with a returning starting quarterback. Good for Huskies right? Does Chris Peterson finally have the Dawgs going in the right direction?

Mike Leach is coming off his best season as the Cougars head coach. What does he have as an encore for Cougar fans in 2016? Hopefully something similar for them as well as himself.

All Pac-12 teams are in the middle of their spring football practices, so any injuries that happen could obviously change the fortunes of any of these teams. The Pac-12 has many questions going into 2016, quarterback is one of the big ones. Can they get a team back into the college football playoff? It’s only spring time, so time will only tell the story for the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 Football Early Preview: Oregon Ducks

The wins. The uniforms. A Heisman Trophy winner. All great things associated with the University of Oregon football program, but let’s have a rounded view of this program. With all the good, there are questions about what is happening with the Ducks heading into the 2016 football season.

Duck fans, coaches, and players are known for all the flash that they have brought to college football. They have no National Championships. They haven’t found a long term replacement at quarterback. And they had a total collapse in the postseason two years ago to cause fans to wonder if this run of success is over. Is the run over? Good question.

Let’s take a look at 2016 and see what it may hold for the Ducks.

Additions/Losses

Within the coaching staff at Oregon, there have been many changes. Once the total collapse in the Alamo Bowl was complete and fans finally came to grips with their team losing a 31-0 lead, coming back to tie and still losing the game there were changes almost immediately. Don Pellum, long time defensive coach for the Ducks, was demoted to linebackers coach. It took a little while to find a new defensive coordinator, but Head Coach Mark Helfrich finally settled on former Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke to run the Oregon defense. How this will work out is anybody’s guess this early, but we will see how things go through spring practice and with the spring game in late April.

The Ducks lost talented Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost who took the head coaching job at Central Florida. Frost was replaced with Matt Lubik who came to the Ducks three years ago. Will Lubik be able to continue the success in the passing game that came when he joined Oregon? Fans are hoping so, but who is going to be throwing those passes?

With no long term replacement for Marcus Mariota in the system the last couple of years, one has to wonder about the Ducks quarterback development skills. In 2015, the Ducks went with fifth year transfer Vernon Adams. In 2016, the Ducks will turn to another fifth year transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop. Dakota who? Prukop comes from Montana State and unlike Vernon Adams, is already on campus soaking in classes and the playbook. How quickly Prukop will adjust to football in a Power 5 Conference is going to be a key for the Ducks this season because they return most of their skill players. The sooner he becomes comfortable with his running backs and receivers, the better it’ll be for his team.

The question I have is simple. What happens down the road with Oregon at quarterback? Do they have a young player in mind that will be able to step into the position in 2017 or if Prukop gets hurt and is out for an extended period of time?

2016 Schedule

While the Ducks have gone the direction of playing another Power 5 team, like a Michigan State the last couple of years, the preseason schedule still isn’t the toughest. They have played Portland State, Arkansas St, and this year they will be playing the UC Aggies. The tough game on the pre-season schedule is at Nebraska. With Mike Riley having played Oregon numerous times and being familiar with their schemes, this game could be pretty tough for the Ducks.

Looking on the Ducks schedule in terms of importance, you can always go to the Stanford game in Eugene on November 12. This game has turned into a big rivalry game for the two teams and must see television for college football fans. Lately, the game has determined who has won the Pac-12 North Division and got into the conference title game. This is important, but there is a three game stretch where the Ducks play at Washington State, home against Washington, and at California. The Cougars won in Eugene last year, the Huskies gave the Ducks fits last year, and California could be a “trap” game for the Ducks. All three are division games and if the Ducks can sweep these three schools, it sets them up well to get to the conference title game.

Recruiting

The Ducks are unique with recruiting because they are not a perennial top 25 team in the recruiting rankings. The Ducks have a certain type of player they are looking for because they need to make sure the players that come to Oregon fit their style/scheme. Oregon usually looks for speed and length over size, so they are not going to have those huge linemen like an Alabama, Georgia, or even Stanford is going to have. Do they have to modify this approach? Maybe.

Oregon can get away with having this type of thought when it comes to Pac-12 football, but with all the success they have had with it, they have ZERO National Championships. They get to the big games against Stanford, Ohio State, Alabama, or a Michigan State who typically have bigger sized athletes, they get pushed around the field. The Ducks need to get bigger and stronger in my opinion. Who do they have coming into the Duck nest for next year?

The Ducks have a few four and five star guys coming in from high school. One of the highest ranked national players is Tristen Wallace, who is listed as an athlete. He comes in from DeSoto, Texas at 6’3” and 228 pounds. With the early enrollees the Ducks have a receiver named Dillon Mitchell who is 6’0”, 200 pounds and is the 161st ranked receiver.

Recruiting is such a roll of the dice and people don’t usually know how good the player really is until they actually start playing on the college level. Many people usually read a lot into the number of stars a player has next to his name, but stars don’t make the player. The player makes himself the player he wants to be. Just ask Scooby Wright, a two star recruit out of high school.

Final Thought

In the end, the Ducks have questions that need answered at the quarterback position and how these new coaches will mesh with the program. Oregon still has many positives for next year like their returning skill players, but I think the questions that are out there will loom large with the fans. The fans whho are nervous after the Alamo Bowl debacle and are wondering if Oregon can regain its swag and challenge for national championships.

Pac-12 Review and Thoughts on the Future

The Pac-12 season is in the books for 2015, so what was the good, the bad, and the ugly about this season. From the drama at USC, the play of Josh Rosen, Gary Andersen’s first year at Oregon State, Vernon Adams at Oregon, the surprise of Washington State, Jared Goff’s career at California, the success at Utah, the splendid season at Stanford, and the phenomenal individual season of Christian McCaffrey. There is a lot to digest this year for The Conference of Champions, so here we go.

Pac-12 South

USC

The soap opera that is the USC Trojans made expectations just about impossible to meet. We all know what happened with former Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and his drinking issues. That was certainly the headline for a couple of months surrounding the program. It was ugly, real ugly. In comes newly minted Head Coach Clay Helton and proceeds to put his stamp on the storied program of Troy. He goes 5-2 as the head coach, gets the interim “tag” taken off, and then loses in the Holiday Bowl against a sub .500 Nebraska team. Not a great way to start the Clay Helton era, but with the amount of talent that is already on the roster, USC will look to build off of the bit of success that they had in 2015. I will be looking for the Trojans young talent to mature in the offseason and pay dividends in 2016. Fight On!

UCLA

Is there a team that plays in a better venue than the Bruins? Doubtful. When your home field is the Rose Bowl stadium that is a huge recruiting tool for the school. When did that advantage do for the Bruins? Hard to tell at this point. They are fortunate to have Josh Rosen, the top rated high school quarterback on their squad. Being a little lucky to see Rosen play in person, I could see the flash of brilliance that this young QB has. Having Rosen back for his sophomore year will help the Bruins, but it also puts a big target on his back for next season. One area that will be in question will be running back because multi-talented running back Paul Perkins is taking his talent to the NFL. Who is going to replace the 1,500 yard seasons that Perkins put up for the Bruins? Plus, who will the Bruins bring in to replace offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone? I believe the Bruins can recruit players to replace these players, but it will be interesting to see how fast this young talent can assimilate themselves in Westwood. Expectations are high with a young, stud quarterback, and the fan base won’t put up with many losses.

Utah

A season of great success ended with a rather big dud by the Utes going to the Las Vegas Bowl to play their hated rival in BYU. Kyle Whittingham has built something quietly in Salt Lake City and with this past season’s success it will fun to see if Whittingham can keep this going because he will be losing some pretty good talent on both sides of the ball. Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker are just some of the talent that will be leaving. Losing Booker late in the year affected how the offense ran and gave us a decent precursor to how this offense may look in 2016. Internally, the Ute’s have shuffled things around a bit by naming Morgan Scalley their new defensive coordinator. They also have added Justin Ena and Sharrieff Shah as co-special teams coordinators. The key for the Utes will be to keep the stream of talent coming into Salt Lake City to keep the Utes competitive in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South. They need to get a quarterback that can throw the ball down field. Travis Wilson was an average quarterback, so they need a guy that strikes fear into opposing defenses. Building upon this season will be critical for the Utes. Let’s watch and see what happens in recruiting for them this offseason. That can tell us a great deal about the viability of the program moving forward.

Arizona

Things went south on 2014’s Pac-12 South champion in 2015 and injuries were a major player in the decline. Scooby Wright, the national defensive player of the year in 2014 was brought down early in the season and never returned, their quarterback Anu Solomon suffered through injuries, and their running back Nick Wilson could never shake the injury bug. Now, leaning on injuries as the crutch for the season is never something you want to do, but in the fourth season of Rich Rodriguez in Tucson this was something that clearly wasn’t expected. What can they expect moving forward? Well, they can expect Rich Rodriguez to possibly entertain other jobs like he did with the South Carolina opening this past December. With that lurking in the background in Tucson, can the fans truly trust Rich Rod? It makes fans and writers question his commitment to the program and this can adversely affect off season recruiting because if possible recruits don’t think Rodriguez will be there long term who is to say that the Pac-12 South crown they won will be the best it gets for the program. The Wildcats need a healthy Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson to compete, so this offseason will be critical to them and to the health of the program. Losing Scooby Wright to the NFL will hurt the defense as well. Who will replace the mayhem and sacks that Wright provided? There are more questions than certainty with this program right now and those questions need answers that will only come in time. It’ll be a nervous offseason for the fans of the Wildcats.

Arizona State

Pre-season people, myself included, thought that this Sun Devil team could do something incredible this past season. Well, that thought went down the toilet in the first few games of the year. The offense went into slow motion and could never get started in time to completely dominate anybody. They struggled with teams like New Mexico and Cal-Poly which made the fan base boo the team practically anytime struggles were noticed on the field. Personally watching them get destroyed by USC was mind blowing. The Sun Devils looked like a freshman high school team against them and then they go on the road on beat UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Talk about a hot and cold team. The 2015 Sun Devils were the classic definition of that term. The upcoming season will be one of questions. They will have a new offensive coordinator who will be looking for a new quarterback to run Todd Graham’s zone-read type of offense. They had the wrong guy to do that with Mike Bercovici and that was some of the issue this year. Bercovici was guy who liked to go downfield, he was more of gun slinger than a mobile quarterback. They need to have the right personnel to do what they want to do. That’s the key for any football team. Let’s see what Graham and his merry band of Sun Devils can provide for their fans in 2016. Forks Up.

Colorado

What can the Buffaloes do to get out of the basement of the Pac-12 South? Beyond the simple answer of just win more games it’s hard to say. Winning does help, but you have to have the talent to win those games. The question will be about getting that talent to help the Buffs climb out of the Pac-12 South cellar. The Buffaloes are nearly 25 years from their early 1990’s dominance and without any semblance of winning in that time it is no wonder why kids of any talent level are not going to Boulder to play football. Winning gets talent. Period. If you don’t have wins or a recent history of winning, players want nothing to do with you and that is currently being proven out by Colorado being ranked last in the Pac-12 in recruiting by Rivals.com. In the end, Colorado has to recruit better or their spot at the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference will be cemented every year.

Pac-12 North

Oregon

If you are down by 31 to the Ducks you are still in the game. Giving up that 31 point lead to TCU in the Alamo Bowl had to be the low point in the Duck 2015 season, but it did show a glaring question for the Ducks. Can the Duck offensive staff develop a quarterback of their own? I’m not sure they can. The Ducks have another 5th graduate transfer coming to play for them in 2016. Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop is already on campus and enrolled in class unlike the dilemma the Vernon Adams caused the team last summer. Who is behind Prukop that could come in and provide the same thing as him? A bunch of unknown players is what the Ducks have. They will have many of their skill players back, but if there is any instability at quarterback the Ducks are in trouble. That’ll be the question for newly hired Dave Yost, who comes from Washington State to coach the quarterbacks. He has his work cut out for him. It’ll be the major thing to watch in Eugene next season.

Stanford

The season started off ugly with that loss at Northwestern and many questioned if the Cardinal season was over after week one. I doubt Head Coach David Shaw did. He just went to work and figured out what he needed to do to get this team rolling. It turned out that all he needed to do was to get Christian McCaffrey involved in about every part of the offense. Once that happened, things started happening in Palo Alto. McCaffrey had the best single season in total yards ever. I had my eye on this player going into the season and he exceeded every expectation I had for him. The downside was the crushing home loss to Oregon that pretty much kept them out of the college football playoff, but they rebounded and beat Notre Dame and made Iowa look pedestrian in the Rose Bowl. The question I have for the Cardinal is at quarterback and their defense. Kevin Hogan is done and like Oregon have many unknown players behind him. The defense, especially the secondary needs to improve. People could throw on the Cardinal all day and to survive in the pass happy Pac-12, that needs to tighten up.

Washington State

The surprise of the conference by far. I thought they would battle Oregon State for last place in the Pac-12 North. I was way off with that. The Cougars finally got things going with their “Air Raid” offense under Mike Leach. Luke Falk who looked bad against Portland State in the opener as the Cougars lost to a regional foe at home, but came back to lead Washington State to an 8-4 record and raised hopes in Pullman about a comeback for this program. Mike Leach and his team have to come into 2016 and have the attitude of improving on their 2015 record. They will have Falk back as well as plenty of fast, quick skill players. If this doesn’t happen though, Leach goes back on the hot seat with his job.

California

Is Sonny Dykes going to stay long term? Dykes had his name mentioned in other jobs like Missouri and South Carolina and that caused some anxious moments for people in the Bay Area. Will this type of job looking affect the talent that they are trying to recruit? If players think the coach won’t be there, they tend not to show up on campus. The other question will be about who will take over at quarterback. Jared Goff is leaving early for the NFL and certainly Sonny Dykes has benefitted from having a great player under center. This will show me how good of a coach he really is. Can he develop the next quarterback? Does he have a quarterback ready for 2016? California needs to continue this play of getting to a bowl game and getting some much needed winning at Berkley. If they can’t, their hated rival at Stanford will continue to grab all the headlines and the Golden Bears will be an afterthought on the football field.

Washington

What do we have at Washington? We have a program with a storied past, but with a mediocre present. The future is looking up with their quarterback Jake Browning, who will be a true sophomore and Myles Gaskin, who will also be a true sophomore, and reminds me of Reggie Bush with his speed. Head Coach Chris Peterson, who came to Seattle with his reputation at Boise State has seemed to turn the corner with this program. That reputation was called into question with the season opening loss to Peterson’s former school Boise State, but ship was corrected. Here is the question though. Can he continue to recruit the guys that fit his style? If the Huskies can continue to win, the talent will come. Browning and Gaskin have to continue to develop and get better and there is no reason to believe they won’t, the sky is the limit for the 2016 version of the Washington Huskies.

Oregon State

Where do I begin with the Beavers? It’s hard to say because there are so many glaring issues for them going into this off season. The low point for Oregon State was getting blown out on a weekly basis and not seeing any improvement. When Mike Riley left for Nebraska, he left the cupboards pretty bare. The Beavers had a decent offensive line, but a true freshman quarterback, an oft injured running back in Storm Woods and a totally new defense. They had to replace nine players on defense, put in a new defensive scheme, a new offensive scheme, get used to a different way of coaching with Head Coach Gary Andersen. It was a struggle in Corvallis this year. Recruiting is a big key for Andersen and his staff this year, so the losing that happened this year doesn’t become a habit for the Beavers. Questions for the Beavers will be at quarterback again because they started putting Seth Collins at receiver because he’s athletic and tall (6’3). Who will come in to play quarterback if they move Collins to receiver full time? They will also have a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Clune, so more new schemes for those young defensive players to learn. Gary Andersen needs to continue to build the program he wants and the fans need to show patience with this huge rebuilding project. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The Civil War: Oregon and Oregon State

The Civil War game hits the state of Oregon this week with Oregon State and Oregon going at it on Saturday in Eugene. Does this game mean anything this year? The answer to that question depends on your point of view. To fans of both schools it means bragging rights for an entire year. Duck fans want a good bowl game. Beaver fans (myself included) just want a win to ruin the bowl plans of their hated rival 45 miles to the south of them.

For anybody outside of Oregon, the game doesn’t mean anything, but don’t tell that to the Ducks. Oregon has been playing well and is currently on a five-game winning streak that has included wins over Stanford and USC. This late-season push by the Ducks has put them in a position to earn a decent bowl bid. If they can win on Friday against the Beavers, the Ducks could be looking at one of the bowl tie-ins for the Pac-12 or one of the prestigious “New Year’s Six” bowl games. The Fiesta or the Peach Bowl could be possible landing spots due to those bowls being able to take at-large teams.

The Ducks would much rather go to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl games because of the larger payout financially, the impression it would make with recruits, and the positive reaction of their fans. What happens for the Ducks? That will play itself out here in the next couple weeks. For right now, Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country and they don’t want anything or anyone to derail their big dreams. Especially the Beavers.
If the Beavers somehow pull off a huge upset and overcome being a 33.5 point dog in this game, the consequences for the Ducks would be large. It would mean no Fiesta or Peach Bowl game. Instead, probably the Holiday Day Bowl in San Diego. No disrespect to the City of San Diego, the host of the Holiday Bowl, but that is a huge step down in every way for the Ducks. They will come out to play and look to quickly put Oregon State out of their misery.

Misery. That is an appropriate word for the Oregon State season. They come into the Civil War game as a huge underdog riding an eight-game losing streak. Things have not gone as well as Beaver fans would have wanted under new Head Coach Gary Andersen. Oregon State will be coming into Friday’s game looking to take anything positive into the offseason.

Being a huge underdog in a rivalry game doesn’t give much hope to the fans of Oregon State. Can the Beavers give their fans any hope of a massive upset? Anything can happen on any given day, but in this case I just don’t see that happening. At the end of day, talent wins out and the Ducks have much better talent than the Beavers.

The Beaver defense has struggled mightily in the last three games, during which they’ve given up around 2,000 yards of total offense. Heck, last week the Washington Huskies had 329 yards of offense at halftime. A defense struggling that much is going to have a tough afternoon trying to stop Royce Freeman, Vernon Adams, Bralon Addison, and Darren Carrington.

You always want to make a team one-dimensional. But do the Beavers want to make the Ducks one-dimensional at running the ball or throwing the ball?

Either way, the Ducks should have their way with the young Beaver defense. Head Coach Gary Andersen is extremely impressed with what the Ducks have done this year considering that they were left for dead just about a month ago. Royce Freeman stands out for the Beaver coach.

“He’s one of those guys that’s gonna go on to the NFL and play for a long time. He’s a great running back who can do it all.” Andersen said in his weekly press conference.

When asked about the dynamic play of the Ducks’ quarterback in the last few games, Andersen was just as glowing in his observation of Adams.

“Vernon now seems to be I’m sure exactly what they envisioned at the beginning of the season. He’s completely at peace with the offense.” Andersen said.

Is there anybody who thinks that the Ducks won’t win this game on Friday? Probably not. Not even myself, and I’m an Oregon State alumnus. Oregon State has to play fast, loose, and they have to remind themselves that they have nothing to lose. However, if the Beavers can be competitive and give some hope to Beaver fans, administration, and even their coaches for 2016 then good things can come from the Civil War game.

“I think it would be a good steppingstone going into next season for the younger guys,” said senior OSU defensive end Lavonte Barnett.

The Civil War game will be won by the Ducks fairly handily. Don’t give up on the Beavers though, despite the fact that their season has been a huge struggle, Coach Andersen will get this turned around and the Civil War won’t be so one-sided in the future.

Pac-12 Notebook: November Edition

When the calendar hits November everything in college football gets amped up a few notches in the minds of the players, coaches and certainly the fans. In the Pac-12, November means inter-division games that decide who gets to the conference championship game and possibly to the college football playoff. It also means rivalry games that mean just as much to fans no matter what the record of their particular school. With that said, what is going on around the Pac-12 right now?

USC

Remember when people had written the Trojans off? Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” USC has put together some wins in the last few weeks that have people wondering if the Trojans will be the Pac-12 South division champion. They knocked Utah out of a top three ranking and made them look pedestrian. They handled Utah easily, intercepting Travis Wilson three times, all by the same Trojan linebacker. The Trojans then took out a California team that had some momentum and the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Jared Goff. Next up on the hit list for the Trojans was Arizona. To defend Arizona a bit, they have been hit pretty hard with injuries to key players like Nick Wilson and Anu Solomon, but the Trojans didn’t care. They have had their own version of drama this year and have made a turn around, so the credit there goes to interim head coach Clay Helton.

Can the Trojans get this done? Absolutely they can because the amount of talent they have on the field. It is young talent, but talent that many other teams in the conference do not have. The Trojans are relevant for the division title as long as they keep winning. Friday night at Colorado will be another step in that direction. Do I expect them to beat the Buffaloes? Yes, I do, rather convincingly.

The Trojans are 3-0 against the South division, but overall record matters in terms of getting to the conference title game. USC needs Utah to lose one more time to help their cause and that may be a tough thing for the Trojans to get.

I am hoping for the Trojans to add a chaos to what has been a wild Pac-12 season. Fight On!

Oregon

The mighty Oregon Ducks have not been so mighty this year for a variety of factors, but they’ve recently been on the winning side of games since their deplorable performance against the Utah Utes.

With their upcoming game with Stanford, the Ducks have been labeled by many as a “spoiler” for the hopes and dreams of a playoff spot for the Cardinal. Oregon Head Coach, Mark Helfrich does not want anything to do with being a spoiler. To him, that means that your season is beyond saving. While the Duck season has not gone as planned, there is still a hope for them to win the North division in the conference.

“I haven’t heard or talked about any type of spoiler role,” said Mark Helfrich

“We’ve got a really good team to play on Saturday and we’re preparing as well as we can for that one.” Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost explained on Tuesday.

To get to the conference title game would require Stanford to lose against the Ducks and then against California because that would drop them into a tiebreaker with Oregon and Washington and if that happens, the Ducks win the tiebreaker. The players and the coaching staff have plenty in front of them and still have the ability to reach one of their team goals. It’s going to be a tough game this weekend down on The Farm, but not something that is completely out of reach for the Ducks.

For the Ducks to win on Saturday, they have to play a complete game. The offense has to be scoring quickly and often. The defense has to make stops. They have to stop Christian McCaffrey. And special teams can’t give up any big punt returns or kickoff returns. They have to get pressure on Kevin Hogan and keep that Cardinal grinding type of offense off the field so they can get as many possessions as possible.

Can the Ducks get it done? Not this time. To me Stanford is just playing too consistent and with a ton of confidence, plus they are at home. The home crowd will want blood and I believe Stanford will provide it.

Arizona

The Wildcats got out of the gates quick with a 3-0 record, but that record was misleading because of the quality of their opponents. Arizona comes into their game with Utah with questions about their consistency on the field and those questions are well founded.

Arizona gets manhandled by the Washington Huskies 49-3 one week and then almost pulls off an upset of USC last week. Which team shows up on Saturday night in Tucson against the Utes? Wildcat fans are hoping it’s the team that played USC.

The question I have for the Wildcats is their ability to stop Utah running back Devontae Booker. The Cats have been horrible at tackling this season and Booker is famous for running through would-be tacklers, so this doesn’t add up for the Arizona defense. Booker brings another aspect besides his phenomenal running ability and that’s his ability to catch a pass in space. If Booker is catching balls in space and is able to get moving quickly, he’s going to put pressure on that Wildcat defense to stop him.

The other part of Arizona that is being called into question this week and in past weeks is there injury issues. Nick Wilson, Scooby Wright, and Anu Solomon have all missed time and it’s hurt their ability to get any consistency going. For this week against the Utes, Nick Wilson, the often-injured running back for the Wildcats appears to be out and if that is the case then the chance for the Cats to have a balanced attack becomes very unlikely.

In the end, the Cats drop this game by a score of 35-17 because the Utes have more talent and have the ability to make more plays than the Wildcats.

As usual the Pac-12 football season has one of eating their own and this year it just may cost them a spot in the college football playoff. We still have a few weeks to see if that actually happens and hopefully we can squeeze into the playoff and get another shot at another national championship for the conference.

Five You Must See: Week 11

#2 Alababma (8-1) at #17 Mississippi State (7-2) Saturday 3:30pm on CBS

Alabama made a loud statement last week by shutting down LSU completely.  Mississippi State, who’s lost to those Tigers and the Aggies of A&M, has since rattled off four straight wins during the midseason lull in their schedule.  Winning here would give them, Ole Miss and LSU new life in the crowded SEC West race.

This game features two of my favorite offensive players in the country.  Alabama running back Derrick Henry, fresh off a 210-yard, three-touchdown performance, is finally getting some Heisman hype of his own.  Most everyone was focused on Leo Fournette this time last week, but by out-rushing the former frontrunner by 179 yards, Henry has shifted the attention to him.  It’s time for him to follow it up with another stellar game on the ground to let everyone know he’s for real.

On the other side, watch out for (who else) quarterback Dak Prescott.  He’s really the only hope the Bulldogs have in this game.  The senior leads his team in passing and rushing yards, and I’m sure he would lead in receiving too if they had someone who could throw it to him consistently.  He’s also been responsible for 25 touchdowns this season.  For his team to have a chance in this one, Prescott has to go off.

This is the best chance all you Alabama haters have to see the Tide slip up again.  Tune in to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on the call.

#21 Memphis (8-1) at #24 Houston (9-0) Saturday 7:00pm on ESPN 2

Memphis ruined any shot they had at the playoff by losing to Navy last week.  Meanwhile, Houston’s 20-point win over SMU was much closer than the score suggests.  This matchup will likely be a battle of two great junior quarterbacks.

Memphis’ Paxton Lynch is getting some mention as a top QB in this year’s draft class if he decides to declare.  It’s hard to argue that based on his body of work.  He’s one of eight guys in the country who’ve thrown for more than 3000 yards.  He’s ninth in completion percentage at 68.9.  And with 19 touchdowns on just two interceptions he takes care of the ball too.  A signature game in front of a national audience would validate his high draft stock.

Greg Ward Jr. is just as prolific, though his game is much different.  Ward is that dual-threat that we’ve seen open up the NFL to new possibilities.  At 70.4 percent, he ranks second in completion rate.  He’s the top rushing quarterback in the nation outside of Navy’s Keenan Reynolds who has an unfair advantage, running the triple option.  To average 92 yards per game on the ground as a QB is just sick.  The Tiger defense is going to have to keep a spy on Ward all night if they hope to hold him in check.

All of a sudden Memphis finds itself third in the division, needing a win here and a Navy loss to have a shot at the AAC West crown.  Houston, on the other hand, still has dreams of an undefeated season and a playoff spot.  This is easily the biggest game in the AAC’s brief history.

Oregon (6-3) at #7 Stanford (8-1) Saturday 7:30pm on Fox

Oregon is finally playing well.  They’ve won three in a row, but a fourth will be difficult.  Stanford is really good.

The Cardinal calling card has always been a stout defense.  Now that they’ve added offensive firepower to their arsenal they’re an absolute nightmare of an opponent.  They can, and will, pound you between the tackles with Christian McCaffrey who averages 134 yards per game.  That’s made life so much easier for Kevin Hogan who’s completing 66 percent of his passes now that most of them come off a play action fake.

The Ducks are finally getting the production they need from Vernon Adams, which is good news because they’re going to have to outscore the Cardinal to win this one.  In the last three games he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.  Like McCaffrey does for Hogan, Royce Freeman opens up opposing defenses for Adams.  The sophomore standout has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of nine games this fall, with a pair of touchdowns in four of those seven.

It’s been a disappointing season for the Ducks but they’ve still got a chance to spoil Stanford’s playoff party plans.  There should be a fair amount of bad blood in Palo Alto.

#12 Oklahoma (8-1) at #6 Baylor (8-0) Saturday 8:00pm on ABC

The Baylor Bears have been waiting to prove themselves all season, but the Sooners have needed to prove themselves since taking a terrible loss to Texas.

This is the first of three gauntlet games that round out Oklahoma’s schedule.   They’ve got TCU coming to town next week and they’re headed to Stillwater for Bedlam against Oklahoma State in two weeks.  All three are huge obviously, but a loss here would significantly detract from the next two.  A quick note on quarterback Baker Mayfield: he’s completing 70 percent of his passes and averaging 10 yards per attempt.  That combination is astounding and needless to say, no one else is even close to that sort of production.

Baylor’s offensive machine is now operating with a backup quarterback.  Freshman Jarrett Stidham has the keys now after Seth Russell was injured two weeks ago.  He exceeded expectations last week against a formidable Kansas State defense.  He’ll need to be even better against hands down the best defense the Bears have seen all season.

Baylor also has a bumpy road ahead with trips to Oklahoma State and TCU, and a game against Texas on conference championship weekend that looks like the perfect opportunity to trip them up if they’re somehow still standing.  The odds are stacked against them, but that’s pretty much what they asked for.  Let’s see how they handle it.

Washington State (6-3) at #19 UCLA (7-2) Saturday 10:45pm on ESPN

Don’t pass out early.  The nightcap should be fun too.

Washington State has been entertaining this year.  At an astronomical 56.9 attempts and 417.3 yards a game, nobody throws it around the lot like the Cougars.  What else would you expect from a Mike Leach offense?  Luke Falk is another one of those guys completing passes at a 70 percent clip, but when you air it out 56 times a game it brings a whole new meaning to the stat.  UCLA’s defense has been banged up all season.  Falk and company will be aiming to take advantage.

UCLA is still alive despite back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford.  They still control their own destiny with games at Utah and at USC after Wazoo.  Sure it’s tough to ask them to go out and win those last two, but that’s what championship teams do.

Josh Rosen has become a must-watch player for me.  He can make all the throws.  It’s clear he’s got the talent.  Now it’s a matter of him progressing as a quarterback, not just a thrower.  He has to learn how to diagnose defensive schemes and figure out how to consistently move his team down the field in order to take that next step.  I’m excited to see if he can do it.

Do the Bruins come out flat and fall on their faces again, or have they gotten their act together?  Stay up late to find out.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures for the Ducks

With the season getting to and past the half-way point it’s time for teams that are on the brink of disaster to step forward and avoid falling into a lost season. The Arizona State Sun Devils and the Oregon Ducks are in that desperate mode for a win. Desperation can breed focus for a team or it can cause a team to be nervous and tight. What will it do for the Devils and Ducks?

As usual the Sun Devils came out sluggish, couldn’t get anything really going, missed two field goal tries, and made their hometown fans feel real anxious. While the Sun Devils were struggling, the Ducks sprinted out to a 10-0 lead early behind a great 64-yard run by sensational running back Royce Freeman. As the Devils were struggling to find their way on the offensive side of the ball, I was starting to wonder if this early lead for the Ducks would turn into a blowout win for them.

The second quarter was when the Devils got the offense churning. Mike Bercovici led the Sun Devils on a three-minute drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Mike Lucien. That made the game 10-7 and the energy was back in the building. The crowd was back on its feet pleading for their beloved Sun Devils to continue their good play. The Ducks put an end to the good feeling.

The next possession for the Ducks was a quick two minute drill as Vernon Adams connected with Darren Carrington on a 39-yard strike to push the lead back up to 17-7. You could feel the humid air just get sucked right out of Sun Devil Stadium with that score. The Sun Devils were not done scoring though.

Momentum had shifted back to the Ducks and the Sun Devil faithful were back to their nervous selves. The Sun Devils decided that they were going to make this a game however.

The Devils struck quickly. Mike Bercovici hit wide receiver Gary Chambers for a 39-yard strike and all of a sudden it was 17-14 and momentum had once again come over to the Sun Devil sideline.

A sense of urgency with both these teams had become paramount in this game and the second half became much more interesting.

The third quarter was the quarter of fireworks.

Arizona State started with the ball in the third quarter and took it down into Duck territory, but only came out with a field goal. However, that was a major accomplishment for their kicker because he was a having a terrible evening. He had missed two field goals earlier and that may have been in his mind with this one, but he blocked it out and put the ball through the uprights. That made the score 17-17.

Oregon takes over and Vernon Adams immediately throws an interception. The momentum was back in favor of the Sun Devils and five plays later the Sun Devils hit pay dirt when their little stud running back Demario Richards ran the ball in from 22 yards out to make the score 24-17. That score seemed to demoralize Oregon to an extent. They appeared flat, disinterested, and just about ready to get back on the plane to Eugene, however, they were only down by a touchdown.

Oregon is a team that has been trying to find itself all year in this post Marcus Mariota era. It’s been a struggle for them because Mariota did so much for them and may have been able to hide some of their deficiencies, and the Pac-12 teams they have been beating up on for the past three years have exacted a bit of revenge upon the Ducks.
Oregon takes the ball and connects on a field goal to bring the score to 24-20, in favor of the Sun Devils. Could the Ducks take the lead and win this game?

The Sun Devils were not going to go quietly into the night for the Ducks. ASU came up with a quick score again. A 34-yard run by Kalen Ballage, a great pass to DJ Foster for 25 yards, and then a one-yard pass from Bercovici to Demario Richard in the end zone made the score 31-20 Arizona State and Sun Devil Stadium was rocking and rolling.
Desperation causes weird things to happen. Enter Charles Nelson of Oregon.

Charles Nelson takes the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to the house and the control that the Sun Devils had seized was GONE in the blink of an eye. That made it 31-27. The Ducks were not done with scoring in the quarter. They proceed to take their next drive and score on a 62-yard score by Kani Benoit and now Sun Devil fans were looking for anxiety pills because their 11 point lead had totally disappeared and became a three point deficit at 34-31.

In the fourth quarter all hell breaks loose.

ASU takes their opening drive of the quarter and ties the ball game up at 34. Now it’s anybody’s game and that feeling of whoever has the ball last will win the game is coming over me. Can either team take control of a game that they both need in a profound way? The answer came, at least I thought, a few minutes later when the Sun Devils got a five yard touchdown pass from Mike Bercovici to his tight end Kody Kohl to put Arizona State up by seven at 41-34.

We all know that as long as there is time on the clock, anything can happen, and that is exactly what happened. The Ducks, the team with the frantic offense, the team with the ability to score in bunches, and the team that can strike lightning fast does just that. They score with Vernon Adams falling away, throwing the ball to the back of the end zone and one of their talented receivers reaching up and snagging the ball for the score. Let’s not forget that there were 12 seconds left in the game. Tie game at 41 apiece. Sun Devil hearts were breaking all over the stadium.

We go to one overtime. Both teams score touchdowns and the score remains deadlocked at 48. How ASU is in this predicament is beyond me at this point because they have about 350 yards rushing and had the Ducks gassed, but crazy things happen in the Pac-12 on a Thursday night.

The second overtime begins. Both teams score touchdowns and we are knotted up at 55-55. The tension is thick and I have no idea who is going to win because neither defense is really playing well at all. They are tired and it looks like they will play until the next morning.

Play starts for the third overtime and the Ducks score on a touchdown throw, but it appeared that Bralon Addison had his foot out of bounds on the catch. It goes to replay. The controversial play is upheld. The Ducks, by rule had to go for a two point conversion, but it fails. Sun Devils take over and Mike Bercovici is intercepted by Duck defensive back Arrion Springs. Ball game.

At the end of the day, the Oregon Ducks made one more play than the Sun Devils. The play calling by the Sun Devils certainly should be called into question, but football is about making plays when needed. Arrion Springs of Oregon, made that play and maybe saved a season for his team.

More Than A Friday: Kill, Sloppy Football, and Site News

The Golden Gophers have been something of an uncomfortable subject in these parts, at least as a talking point. Understand, this is the Northern Illinois perspective that motivates that feeling of awkward towards the University of Minnesota, and specifically their departing head coach Jerry Kill.

When Kill led our beloved Huskies, he did well. In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, NIU named Kill to replace the retiring Joe Novak after a disappointing 2007 season. Novak did many good things in Dekalb, but no one was writing home about what they did during that 2-10 season, which featured a 34-31 home loss to another directional Illinois school, Kill’s Salukis of Southern Illinois.

Kill went 23-16 in his three seasons leading the Huskies. He lost the Independence Bowl and the International Bowl in his first two seasons, and led the team to an 8-0 record in conference play before a devastating loss to Miami in the 2010 MAC Championship, which turned out to be his final game in the mid-major ranks. Were the Huskie faithful upset to be abandoned by their leader prior to the Idaho Potato Humanitarian Bowl? Sure.

Should they have been? Yeah, why not? No one, even a small school in rural Illinios wants to hear their program isn’t good enough for a man to finish what he started. Argue the flaws of the system, or the machine that is College Football as a business, if you will, but no matter how much I support the red and black, Minnesota is a better job than Northern Illinois.

NIU won their bowl game with an interim coach and ended up getting a huge win in the human resources department, poaching Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill. So, it’s been “screw Minnesota” for the last six seasons, but the next guy did them dirtier.

Now, to be fair, Doeren was a staggering 23-4 in his two MAC Championship-winning seasons at NIU. His 2012 squad was and remains the only Mid-American Conference team to crash the high-major party, but that Orange Bowl berth against Florida State would be another contest the student athletes would take on without their full time head coach. Doeren would see plenty of Florida State in his next gig, with a guaranteed matchup against the ‘Noles in the ACC Atlantic Division. To date, he’s had little success with NC State in that regard, where’s he’s 0-for-2, with 2015 contest yet to be played.

As far as Kill is concerned, it was another “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” case with Minnesota, with Tim Brewster’s 2010 squad failing to achieve victory against the Huskies in Week 4 at home. Raise your hand if you recall anyone coaching the Gophers between Glen Mason and Kill1Note: my hand is not raised.. I suppose we can anticipate Kill having a role on the Big Ten Network in the near future.

Kill isn’t walking away because he cannot win, Minnesota is 29-29 with three bowl appearances since he’s taken over. He hasn’t lost his passion for a game that seems to have threatened to take his life, at least from where I sit. He’s choosing his remaining years over the game, and that’s admirable.

Going back to 2005, his heath issues have been among the world’s worst kept secrets. He had a seizure while leading SIU in 2005, and in 2010, he was treated for dehydration after a game at Northern. From 2011 to 2013, Coach Kill had four gameday seizures, promoting a 2-game leave of absence in 2013, but all seemed well when he returned to the Gophers sideline in 2014, where he seemed to have coached without incident.

Then, this week, he retired, citing health reasons. And, it was admirable. Poof; the animosity from NIU was gone. They felt bad for the guy. You might even say they were grateful for what he did for the Huskie football program and maybe even his mark on the game of College Football. This led me to wonder if we might want to let the Doeren thing become water under the bridge, but no such thing was happening.

“Oh no. NC State can still suck it!” And there you have it.

Whatever I Watched Last Night, It Wasn’t Good Football

I honestly don’t know how, in a vaccuum, I could watch a 3 OT College Football game with a dog in the fight, and come away unentertained or unimpressed, but Oregon and Arizona State did just that on Thursday night in Tempe. The Sun Devils ran 100+ plays on offense, but ignored their bread and butter for the most part, running the football. The ground game is also Oregon’s go-to, but they got away with not going to that well tonight, with a 61-55 road victory.

I prefer physical football, and I think we got that from Oregon’s Royce Freeman and ASU’s Kalen Ballage, who exploited your garden variety poor tackling we’ve become accustomed to in Pac-12 Country. The visiting Ducks didn’t seem to need physical as much, as they relied on explosive plays and defensive breakdowns, and the Sun Devils were happy to yield the latter of just enough occasions to prevent the Ducks from flying back to Eugene with a 4-4 record in a disappointing season.

Oregon’s problems aren’t new. Through this dominant run that seems to have come an end this season, they’ve never been fantastic on defense. It just hasn’t shown because the offense scoring 60 points per game2That’s a perception stat, not a researched one., which masks a lot of defensive deficiencies. The code seems to have been cracked; pick them apart and don’t let them off the field on third down.

Another thing, Vernon Adams, for all he gives you, just isn’t Marcus Mariota. Say what you want about system quarterbacks, but Mariota would thrive in whatever system he played in. Ditto for Mark Helfrich. He isn’t Chip Kelly, and when the Ducks find their backs against the wall, they don’t have that guy on the sideline with the confidence to know they’ll overcome the adversity. It didn’t show so much in Year 1 with Helfrich, but it was there.

As for the Sun Devils, they have turned the corner as a program, but they’re not ready for prime time on a consistent basis. Give it up for Todd Graham, building this program into something better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, a team that plays with pride and counts on its defense to win, but they’re missing too many pieces to get it done in 2015. It doesn’t mean he should be on a hot seat3Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either., but he has to keep the Arizona high school talent in state and in Tempe. There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this state, and he’s still still going with Mike Bercovici.

Don’t get me wrong, Berco plays with the heart of a lion, and we saw plenty of that on Thursday night, but they can’t take the next step without more talent at the most important position on the field. Now, we just have to see if this 4-4 start is a slide back to mediocrity or simply a down year for Graham and the program. For a great program, these should be the worst of times, but if we’re back to business as usual at ASU, those three consecutive 10-win seasons we saw from Graham to start his tenure with the Devils will soon be easily forgotten.

MTAF News

I want to take a minute to introduce some additions to our More Than A Fan family. B. George Young, Chase Holik, and Nick Brzezinski joined our staff this month. BG will offer a little bit of local flavor to people in my neck of the woods, as our Arizona columnist, so stay tuned to what’s happening in the World of Sports, here in the desert from Mr. Young. Chase joins us from Austin, Texas, where College Football is kind of a big deal; he’ll opine on what’s happening in the state of Texas and the Big 12. Nick’s column will debut next week, with a zany breakdown on everything from the weekend, and I sincerely hope you look forward to that at least half as much as I do.

Josh Flagner is a familiar name around here, or at least he should be, he launched the site and handed me the keys last month. He’s been around with his football picks, and he’ll continue to do that for rising TV star Jeff Nomina’s NFL Pick ‘Em Contest, but I’ve given Josh a new role. It will be similar to what BG is doing for my local market, but back in Cleveland. Yes, we do have a fantastic regional site for Cleveland sports at MTAF Cleveland, but I felt it was unfair to neglect my native land on an all-sports site, like our publication’s main page is.

That’s all for this week; I wish you all the best for a great weekend, as my two worlds collide at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, where the Cardinals visit the Browns for the first time since 2003.

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1. Note: my hand is not raised.
2. That’s a perception stat, not a researched one.
3. Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either.