Tag:Marqise Lee
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
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Spring Practice Primer: USC


Posted by Bryan Fischer


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at USC.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 6.

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14.

Returning Starters: Nine on offense, eight on defense and both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Dealing with expectations.

USC safety T.J. McDonald and quarterback Matt Barkley are easy to tell apart if you see them walking around Heritage Hall or roaming around the Coliseum but they could not be more alike on paper after a remarkable run to close out last season. Both are captains, suit up in the cardinal and gold wearing number seven, each runs half the team and, most importantly to the Trojans in 2012, Barkley and McDonald announced they would return to school for their senior seasons on back-to-back days in late December. After two years without a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, the message both talked about was so clear that it's become the program's unofficial motto as they head into spring practice: unfinished business.

In many ways, this is about where everybody expects USC to be year-in and year-out given the program's history. A No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll to close out 2011 and, with 19 starters returning and a favorable schedule, expectations are running high for the first time since Lane Kiffin took over in Los Angeles.

"I really don't think it's expectations as much as it is being free - we kind of feel like we're being let out of prison," Kiffin said. "It's normal now. It's refreshing not to have the negative distractions. People will talk about expectations and all of that but the good thing is we have practice at dealing with that from our time here before."

USC will likely end up as the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country and despite scholarship limitations, will bring in ninth-ranked recruiting class with several five-star playmakers to supplement the group that will head out to Howard Jones field. It may be a return to normal with the national spotlight once again on Troy and Heisman candidate Barkley but for this group, it is something new. While the media will certainly be swarming like they did in the good old days and accolades and praise will come early and often, it's worth remembering that from the seniors to the freshman, this team hasn't faced anything like these expectations before. Will they play too loose or be wound too tight? It's something to keep tabs on.

"This is all about going out and preparing really well and practicing hard," Kiffin added. "It has been very refreshing to not deal with so much negativity and distractions, some of which was based on me and some on the sanctions."

2. New staff and new look.

For the first time in the Kiffin-era, the still youthful head coach has had to deal with some staff turnover. While the big stage the program provides has attracted more than it's fair share of coaches looking to boost their resume, the fact that two coaches left so close to spring practice definitely added a question mark or two to the team's outlook. Scottie Hazelton will take over as linebackers coach and was a surprise pick by many but he brings a solid resume that includes being the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State last season as they won the FCS national championship. It's not a flashy hire by any means and it will be interesting to see how Hazelton deals with the level of competition taking a leap but luckily for him he'll have most of last year's linebacking corps back.

USC hasn't had a full-time secondary coach since right before the 2011 season following the sudden departure of Willie Mack Garza due to NCAA issues. Kiffin took his time in landing a replacement but lured Marvin Sanders out West after he had just taken over as FAU's defensive coordinator. Mostly known for his time as Nebraska's secondary coach, Sanders has coached several top NFL draft picks and contributed to some very good Cornhuskers defenses. He'll take over a group that needs some development but is among the deepest on the team, especially at safety.

"It's going to be refreshing to have a spring with all these guys in place," Kiffin said. "There will be some growing pains but we'll be rolling by the time we get to the fall."

The final hire might have drawn the most press given new receivers coach Tee Martin's place in Tennessee lore. Though his group dealt with drops in his final season at Kentucky, Martin is known for being a good recruiter and helped turn Randall Cobb into an All-American the year before. He'll have the best group of wide receivers in the country to work with this spring, led by All-Americans Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to go along with former five-star George Farmer.

3. Line depth.

The biggest question marks surrounding the Trojans are centered on the trenches. Four of the five offensive linemen return but replacing a top three NFL Draft pick in Matt Kalil will be not be easy despite the unit becoming the biggest surprise of the team last year. The interior of the line is the strength with Marcus Martin and John Martinez solid at the guard spots and All-American candidate Khaled Holmes leading the way at center. Kevin Graf will get first shot at replacing Kaili at left tackle while Aundrey Walker will be on the other side. Both played those positions in high school and, with several starts under their belt already, should ease some concerns. Beyond that though, and depth is still an issue until the fall.

The outlook at defensive line is not so rosy, with three starters gone and the Pac-12 leader in sacks impressing everybody at the NFL Combine. Pencil in Wes Horton and Devon Kennard at the end spot but depth behind them and who takes over at tackle will be the reason Ed Orgeron is up late at night (and not just the Red Bull). Those inside the program expect a lot out of sophomore George Uko.

"I'm really looking at seeing how well these tackles, Aundrey and Kevin do," Kiffin said. "I also really want to seeing the continued development of our defense with so much experience coming back and with two new coaches. I really want to be a dominant defensive team like (USC in) '02 or '03. Big five turnover or seven sack games, the type where you have just a suffocating defense."

If the Trojans are going to live up to expectations, figuring things out along the lines will be paramount this spring.

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Posted on: February 7, 2012 9:27 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 9:31 pm
 

USC WR coach Gilmore headed to Oakland

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Just a few days after losing linebackers coach Joe Barry to the NFL, USC is down another staff member after wide receiver Ted Gilmore accepted the same position with the Oakland Raiders, a source told CBSSports.com.

Gilmore, 44, came to USC just a year ago from Nebraska, where he spent six years coaching receivers and four holding the role of recruiting coordinator.

A Wichita, Kansas native, Gilmore played his college ball at Wyoming before starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant there. He also had stops at Kansas, Houston, Purdue and Colorado before his stint at Nebraksa.

Under Gilmore, USC's receiving corps had a breakout year in 2011. Sophomore Robert Woods developed into a Biletnikoff Award finalist and teammate Marqise Lee was named a Freshman All-American. Whoever takes Gilmore's spot will not only have those two to work with but former prep All-American George Farmer and incoming five-star athlete Nelson Agholor.

Head coach Lane Kiffin, in addition to Gilmore and Barry's spots, is also looking for a defensive backs coach. The Trojans' Spring practice starts in just four weeks as the team likely heads into 2012 as a pre-season top two team.

The Raiders are becoming familiar with poaching Pac-12 assistants having hired former Stanford defensive coordinator Jason Tarver on Monday.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 7:48 pm
 

Katz, Butler, Baxter transfers to SDSU complete

Posted by Adam Jacobi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the CBSSports.com conference realignment home page.

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 6:24 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 Freshman All-America team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CBSSports.com has released it's annual All-America Team in college football, voted on by staff, writers and bloggers from CBSSports.com. Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Robert Griffin III headlines the list. With a talented freshman class making an impact in 2011, the freshman All-America Team is listed below.

The SEC had the most players on the team with eight players, followed by the Pac-12 with six players.

CBSSports.com Freshman All-America Team

Offense

QB -- Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
RB -- Isaiah Crowell, Georgia
RB -- Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
WR -- Sammy Watkins, Clemson
WR -- Marqise Lee, USC
TE -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
OL -- La'El Collins, LSU
OL -- A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL -- Will Whitman, Harvard
OL -- Marcus Martin, USC
C -- Reese Dismukes, Auburn

Defense

DL -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL -- Scott Crichton, Oregon State
DL -- Anthony Johnson, LSU
DL -- Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
LB -- Dion Bailey, USC
LB -- Denzel Perryman, Miami
LB -- Jeremy Grove, East Carolina
DB -- Merrill Noel, Wake Forest
DB -- Tevin McDonald, UCLA
DB -- Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB -- Blair Burns, Wyoming


Special teams


K -- Andre Heidari, USC
P -- Brad Wing, LSU
All-Purpose -- De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Returner -- Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Pac-12 conference, which placed three teams in the top 10 in the first year as a 12 team league.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

A redshirt junior, Luck led the Cardinal to a second consecutive 11-1 regular season and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Against Notre Dame, Luck set a new school record for touchdown passes and broke the Stanford career record held by John Elway with 80 in three seasons. The Cardinal offense averaged 43.6 points per game this year and 480.9 yards of total offense and no one in the conference has meant more to an offense than Luck does to his. Thus, the future top draft pick is CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Player of the Year. Just as important, the native Texan also came back to complete his degree during his final semester on the Farm - in architectural design

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, California

A tackling machine during his time in Berkeley, Kendricks once again led the Bears in tackles and was fourth in the conference in tackles per game. He also had 13 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and helped lead the Cal defense to rank 27th nationally in total defense.   

FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR

Marqise Lee (USC) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Both players from the Los Angeles area burst onto the scene early and produced highlight play after highlight play for their teams this season. Lee finished the season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns while paired with his former high school teammate Robert Woods. He was instrumental in USC's upset win over Oregon with 187 yards receiving and a total of 325 all-purpose yards. Thomas set a Ducks freshman record with 16 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,921 all-purpose yards to finish second in the Pac-12 to his teammate LaMichael James.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lane Kiffin, USC

In his second season in charge of the Trojans, Kiffin has deflected criticism and NCAA sanctions to finish 10-2 and ranked in the top five in the country. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the country, USC finished 17th in the country in total offense in 2011 and the defense jumped nearly 30 spots nationally. Under Kiffin the team essentially won the Pac-12 South division and beat rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. USC lost to 4th-ranked Stanford in triple overtime but ended Oregon's 19-game winning streak.

All-Pac-12 Offense

QUARTERBACK

Matt Barkley, USC

Wait, the player of the year wasn't the best quarterback? Such was the case in the Pac-12, which had an embarrassing amount of good signal-callers. Barkley took the leap to another level this season despite his two best wide receivers being underclassmen. The junior passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and threw for 3,528 yards. Though Barkley wasn't named a Heisman finalist or had the same load to shoulder in the offense like Luck, he makes the first team as the best quarterback in the conference. You could say the margin at quarterback was so thin between the two that Luck's receiving abilities put him over the top for player of the year.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, Oregon, and John White, Utah

Despite missing two games, James still led the conference in rushing with 1,646 yards - 242 yards more than second place White. The flashy Ducks running back also led the nation in yards per game and was third in total purpose yardage. In his first year in a BCS AQ conference, White certainly made a lasting impression as the focal point of the Utes offense that dealt with plenty of injuries.

WIDE RECEIVER

Marquess Wilson, Washington State, and Robert Woods, USC

Here's a scary thought if you're a Pac-12 defense, four of the top five receivers in the league were either a freshman or sophomore. That includes Wilson and Woods (both sophomores) who turned in brilliant seasons that land both of them on the All-Pac-12 team. Wilson is a name many people don't know about because he plays on the Palouse but he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Woods was hampered by injury late in the year but still finished with a school and conference record 111 catches to go with his 15 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Coby Fleener, Stanford

It was pretty much a lock for one of the Cardinal's tight ends to fill this spot given their role in the offense. Fleener turned in a productive senior campaign, leading all tight ends in yards (648) and touchdowns (10). He also finished the year with an impressive 20.3 yards per catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Tony Bergstrom, Utah; Garth Gerhart, Arizona State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Matt Kalil, USC

There were plenty of great quarterbacks and offenses in the Pac-12 this year and one reason why was the abundance of great offensive linemen. Stanford allowed nine sacks all year while USC allowed a nation's best eight.

All-Pac-12 Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dion Jordan
, Oregon; Nick Perry, USC; Travis Long, Washington State; Star Lotulelei, Utah

Perry led the league in solo sacks with nine, good enough for 12th in the nation, and had 14 tackles for loss this season. Jordan wasn't too far behind him in terms of numbers and was an issue for opposing offensive lines all year. Lotulelei was the top nose tackle in conference and Long was one of the bright spots in an average Wazzu defense.

LINEBACKER

Mychal Kendricks, California; Chase Thomas, Stanford; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Kendricks was an impact player for Cal's stingy defense and Thomas led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. Hoffman-Ellis didn't put up gaudy stats but was a strength on the Cougars defense.

SECONDARY

Nickell Robey and T.J McDonald, USC; Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett, Oregon

Despite his size, Robey locked up opposing receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw to the other side of the field while McDonald roamed around and delivered some vicious hits. The Ducks defense wasn't quite as sharp as it was last season but it was still tough to throw against Pleasant and Boyett, who helped Oregon finish with 16 interceptions.

SPECIALISTS

PK Andre Heidari, USC; P Jackson Rice, Oregon; Returner De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Heidari made 15-of-17 field goals and every extra point this year. Rice led the Pac-12 in punting and was sixth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. Opponents returned just 12 of his punts and he was also named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the country's top punter. Thomas had two kick returns for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards a return.

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

USC routs UCLA as attention turns to Barkley



Posted by Bryan Fischer


LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin did what he could to get Matt Barkley to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

USC receivers just kept running routes and, thanks to Barkley, UCLA fell on the wrong end of a rout once again.

It had been 534 days but USC could finally say they were bowl eligible too.

The Trojans have to win at least six games next season to qualify for a bowl of course - a near certainty given the amount of talent returning in 2012 - but on the Coliseum turf Saturday night, they could finally say they had the right to play in one after shutting out their crosstown rival UCLA 50-0.

The only question left in 2011: One more year or thanks for the memories Matt?

"This night is too special to take away from what we've done," Barkley said. "I don't want to worry about my future, I want to spend my time enjoying the night. We've worked hard for this and we deserve to celebrate a little bit."

Barkley's team jumped the gun a little, singing the fight song while he was in the middle of his press conference.

"That gave me chills."

In what could have been the quarterback's final performance under center, he went out close to perfect: 35-for-42, 423 yards and a school record-tying (his own, by the way) six touchdown passes.

The fans want an encore next year and you can understand why.

"When he gets back from New York we will sit down," Kiffin said. "Unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he is not coming back.

"I probably shouldn't say this but I look up to Matt Barkley. He has been through a lot of adversity. Basically all of his dreams about football were taken away with the sanctions. I don't know any 39-year olds that can handle things the way he did, much less any 19-year olds."

The pitch to stay is easy enough he doesn't have to say much at all.

USC started just only four seniors, two of whom were on offense. Just nine players who saw any significant playing time won't be back next year prior to any NFL defections. Biletnikoff finalist Robert Woods (13 catches for 113 yards, two touchdowns) will return and Marqise Lee (13 catches for 224 yards, two touchdowns) will be just a sophomore. Every starter on the offensive line could return, including potential first round left tackle Matt Kalil, who he said is a "package deal" with Barkley earlier in the week.

Even the defense is loaded, with two freshman tying for the lead in tackles for the first time in school history.

So the question will be, for the next several weeks, will he stay or will he go?

"I've been in his ear trying to get him back," Woods said. "Of course the decision is his but I feel like we could go a long way with him."

"I haven't started yet," Lee said with a grin. "But I'm going to."

Kiffin has been on record saying that sure-fire first round picks should leave but his tune has changed over the past few months. Not much of a joker, he's cracks plenty about his quarterback coming back.

With Barkley the Trojans can emerge from their bowl ban (and start scholarship reductions) as a top five team, primed to compete not only for a Rose Bowl but a national title like the good old days under Pete Carroll. The blond-haired Southern California kid could lead his dream school out of the program's toughest days and back to the promise land.

"We are coming out of the dark," said Kiffin about 2012.

USC has a great film department so they may have already sold the script to Disney.

"It means a lot knowing the Trojan family has my back. It's going to be tough," the signal-caller added. "I'm still enjoying that game and enjoying this night."

The Coliseum crowd started the "One more year" chant early. After watching the Trojans' scoreboard get a workout though, it wasn't clear who they wanted to come back more, Barkley or UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.

The loss dropped him to 26-32 overall, 17-15 in the conference at his alma mater. Though Neuheisel has yet to beat USC, he talked about the gap between the school 14 miles away being closed earlier in the week - after UCLA backed into the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon.

"That was a pretty strong statement to make," Kiffin said. "Our players took that very personal. It was talked about a lot and not by me at all. I think they really felt disrespected."

After Saturday, the gap may never have been wider.

"I'm going to evaluate this program at the end of the year like I always have," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "We've got another game to focus on and it's a big game.

"It's a devastating loss for any Bruin fan or anybody in that locker room or any of the coaches."

UCLA gave up a 98-yard scoring drive and defensive backs had trouble all night preventing receivers from getting behind them for long scores. They allowed the Trojans' smallest offensive player, running back Curtis McNeal, to take a simple off tackle play 73-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Quarterback Kevin Prince was the lone bright spot but ended up as the team's leading rusher, not exactly the plan.

In many ways it was over before it began.

"The first drive," Neuheisel said of when he knew he had a problem. "We couldn't stop them and we were too inconsistent on offense to be in a scoring fest and it just got out of hand."

The Pac-12 office said USC could only say they finished in first with their 10-2 record and could not call themselves South champions. They gave their blessing for UCLA to do, despite finishing second, however.

Tomato, tohmato. First place vs. South champion, the scoreboard did the talking.

"It shows who really is the Pac-12 champion," Kalil said.

In the locker room after the game, the team found shirts adorned with "Pac-12 South Champions" awaiting them from athletic director Pat Haden.

Across the country there are plenty of fierce rivalries but nothing quite like the crosstown showdown that takes place at the end of the season every year in Los Angeles. Office bragging rights are at stake. Friends won't speak to each other afterward. In plenty of cases it pits brother versus brother - including on the field.

Tim McDonald was a two-time All-American safety for USC. Son T.J. followed in his footsteps and started for the Trojans when he was a freshman at the position. Younger brother Tevin took a different path and signed with the Bruins, ending up as the starter opposite his brother Saturday night.

T.J. will take home bragging rights once again and likely spend Christmas detailing his interception in the red zone that ended one of the few Bruins scoring threats.

"It's a big thing," McDonald said of the pick. "But for us to get that shutout, for this crosstown rivalry, to play this way in the last game of the season, this was our bowl game. We had nothing to leave out on the field and we did that."

Kiffin's squad took the title of city champions for the 12th time in 13 years. Though they had the (NCAA) book thrown at them and doubters aplenty, they lived up to the school's 'Fight On' motto throughout the turmoil that had engulfed the program the past few years and, it seems, is starting to disperse.

"We had a lot to play for this year," Barkley said. "We were playing for this university, the history of this program. You're playing for personal pride, you don't want to just flush the season down the toilet. There were a ton of things that we were playing for and that motivated us."

Woods became the school and conference leader in receptions early in the second half. Barkley broke Matt Leinart's school and conference record with his 39th touchdown pass of the season.

"It's unreal, I never thought this would happen," he said. "I remember watching that year that he had."

The Trojans were not eligible for the Pac-12 championship or a BCS bowl but they stated their case one final time that they could beat anybody in the country in 2011.

"The way we're playing, I think we could," Barkley said.

So what about next year?

Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:13 pm
 

Keys to the game: UCLA at USC

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: Though there is certainly a talent deficit in Westwood, that doesn't mean the Bruins can't win and end their crosstown rival's promising season with a loss if they put together a well executed game plan. The Pistol offense has had it's moments recently and can give the Trojans plenty of problems if they move the ball consistently. UCLA will need to be flawless against a good team and the defense - especially the secondary - will have to take a step up if Rick Neuheisel is to win this for the Pac-12 South title and, probably, to save his job.

USC WILL WIN IF: The running game has started to pick up for the Trojans as both Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal have given opposing defenses something else to worry about other than the trio of Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. With firepower like that, they really just have to keep doing what they did against Oregon last week but against a defense that is in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12.

X-FACTOR: Emotions. This is USC's final home game and therefore final game of the season as they serve out their two-year bowl ban. It could also be Barkley's final game in the cardinal and gold so you wonder if emotions will get the best of him and others on the team. Likewise, UCLA will come in looking to pull the upset so if they face some adversity early on, their reaction will be key as to whether they can turn momentum around.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: USC

It's hard to get more maligned than the Trojans were. They had their legs chopped off by the NCAA. There were plenty of doubters after back-to-back "down" years. There was no bowl at the end of the season and, to many outside of Heritage Hall, no hope. This team was loaded with enough highly recruited players that coach after coach kept calling USC the most talented team in the Pac-12 however. Still they sat at the lowest ranking in school history with an 8-2 record and couldn't even move up a spot in the polls despite teams losing ahead of them and a blow out win against Washington. It was like Rodney Dangerfield was the athletic director and Lane Kiffin was the head coach.

But this team, young and inexperienced in key spots, took the school's 'Fight On' motto and ran with it. Their losses were self-inflicted (turnovers against both Arizona State and Stanford did them in) but the wins and numbers put up were impressive. The offense is one of the best in the country led by Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and emerging star Marqise Lee. The defense is passable but improving. Yet they were a two touchdown underdog for the first time since 1998. The Trojans shocked the college football world Saturday night in Eugene, no doubt about it. Amid the chaos of a crazy week 12, USC emerged victorious and the players in cardinal and gold told everybody that their brief hiatus away from the top was over. The Trojans may not be conference champs and will sit at home with no bowl game to go to but they appear to be back, even if some insist they never left. Fight on indeed.

LOSER: Larry Scott

There was a chance the Pac-12 was in the BCS re-match discussion come Sunday morning but that ended as soon as it looked like Oregon's slow start would be too much to overcome. Thanks to Arizona State's loss to lowly Arizona, the Pac-12 South is rivaling the SEC East and ACC for mediocrity with USC ineligible. Two-loss Oregon will likely head to the Rose Bowl while one-loss Stanford's BCS chances (and millions of dollars for the conference coffers) will likely boil down to luck and some bowl committee betting on Andrew Luck. The team that can't go to a bowl has inflicted losses that hurt more than one team's perception. Then again, Scott isn't too much of a loser considering the cash that will soon flow to the league with the new media deals he deftly negotiated.

WINNER: The SEC

Let's face it, the fans on the West Coast are not best buddies with those in the Southeast section of the country. The SEC fans think the Pac-12 folks have no earthly idea what defense is while those with an ocean view think those with a gulf view have no idea what offense is. Oregon's loss ended any talk of an LSU rematch and shut the conference out of the title game discussion and partially out of the national picture. On the bright side, they're not the ACC, Big East or Big Ten.

LOSER: Oregon's swagger

The Pac-12 has been Oregon's playground the past few years. Back-to-back league titles (of the Pac-10 variety), a 19 game win streak in the conference, a trip to the Rose Bowl and national championship game. USC's dynasty was cool with the celebrities on the sidelines but the Ducks, they had a different kind of spotlight and a different kind of swagger. Uniforms? Most, um... unique in college football. The recruits love them. Offense? Check and check. If you were playing Oregon, better bring your A-game and you just might hang with them for the first half. The video production team was top-notch too, how could anyone not get pumped up after watching something like this:



The swagger that every Oregon player, every Duck fan, carried around with them after Saturday is still there. There is, without a doubt, a significant part of the luster taken off of the program after the loss to USC however. Boise State, Auburn and LSU proved they were beatable but the Trojans proved they were no longer to be feared afer going into Autzen and smacking the Ducks around for three quarters and holding on in the fourth. Another conference title and Rose Bowl berth likely await the men in green/yellow/black/silver/etc. come January but the recent loss meant a significant hit to Oregon's swagger. 

WINNER: Pistol Rick

UCLA's final home game of the season was a must win for Rick Neuheisel if he was to show enough progress to keep his job. Not only did the Bruins get bowl eligble, but they kept their improbable run to a division title alive with a 45-6 win over Colorado. Style points helped too, outgaining the Buffaloes 553-229 and help run off three wins in four games. After last week's loss to Utah, who really knows if the program has turned the corner but for Neuheisel, who wants to win at his alma matter more than anyone else, a big win at the Rose Bowl will certainly go a long ways after the season.

LOSER: Jon Embree

Embree is a Colorado alum and desperately wanted to end the Buffs' 23 game road losing streak. Family bragging rights were up for grabs too as Embree's son, Taylor, was a wide receiver at UCLA and said the game meant "eternal bragging rights" earlier in the week. The younger Embree had just two catches for 13 yards but can always call out scoreboard whenever family arguments break out. Given the way Colorado played - putting a solid claim on being the conference bottom-dweller - there weren't many positive things the elder Embree could take home Saturday.

LOSER: LeBron James

One of several NBA All-Stars at Autzen for the USC-Oregon Game, James and his fellow jobless companions watched most of the game from the Ducks sidelines. With a reputation for failing to close out games, naturally LeBron was a frequent (i.e. easy) target to make fun of on various social media platforms following the loss to the Trojans. It seems as though the man who took his talents to South Beach just can't win so he kind of has to be made a loser this weekend.

WINNER: West Coast Heisman hopes

Andrew Luck lost his grip on the lead for the Heisman Trophy last week but looked much sharper against Cal to help his stock rebound some. The big mover was Matt Barkley, who has the numbers to get to New York and now has the signature win to piggyback on. After this weekend, it seems like both signal-callers will at least make the trip East to lay their claim on college football's most prestigious award.

WINNER: Snow games

Utah has been welcomed to the Pac-12 with open arms and gone from the desert heat of Arizona to the perfect weather of Southern California to - this week against Washington State - the snowy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The Utes came out with a close, 30-27 overtime win in a Palouse snow storm. The victory gave the Utes hope of making an appearance in the Pac-12 title game and it was fun to see a few photos from so that has to put snow games in the winners column.

LOSER: Pac-12 athletic directors

There's an opening at Arizona and Dennis Erickson's loss to the Wildcats likely means he's headed out of Tempe. Neuheisel's status is still TBD after the season and though there's progress on the Palouse, it's doubtful Paul Wulff keeps his job. That means the athletic directors around the Pac-12, flush with some new media deal cash, will have to go make some important hires. Already the rumor mill has placed Mike Bellotti, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach at a school out West and speculation is only bound to heat up more as the regular season winds down. There's going to be plenty of pressure to make the right hire and just as importantly for some ADs, go out on a limb and let a coach go. Going to be an interesting, stress-filled weeks for a few well paid people heading Pac-12 athletic departments.

 
 
 
 
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