Tag:Heisman Trophy
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
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Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.

As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.

Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.

Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.

The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.

Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.

The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.

It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.

It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.

"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.

"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."

Nothing like beating a rival.

Stat of the week

In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.

Stats of week

- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)

- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.

- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.

- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).

 - LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.

Yard-by-yard

- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.

- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.

- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.

- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.

- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.

- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.

- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.

- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.

- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.

- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.

- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.

- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.

- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.

- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.

Tweet of the week

"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.

- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. USC

6. Oregon

7. Boise State

8. Arkansas

9. Houston

10. Virginia Tech


Where we'll be this week

I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Leaning this way

Georgia vs. LSU

Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.


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 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.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 12:28 pm
 

PODCAST: Free Bruce Podcast with Heisman Pundit

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Plenty to talk about in this week's Free Bruce Podcast as Bruce Feldman and Bryan Fischer chat with Chris Huston, the publisher of HeismanPundit.com. The guys talk about who's leading the Heisman Trophy race, if a player from a BCS non-AQ team can win the award and what are some of the important factors to keep in mind about winning the trophy.

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer. 



Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Keys to the game: USC at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Trojans have retooled on defense with faster linebackers and are better equipped to handle the Ducks speed than they have been in previous years. Creating stops are as important as containing big plays and getting the ball back to an offense that has more weapons than anybody Oregon has seen all years. The emergence of Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have given a nice boost to the running game and they'll need to continue to have Robert Woods and Marqise Lee making big plays if USC wants to pull off the upset.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The game plan is always the same for the Ducks, apply pressure by scoring quickly on offense and apply pressure - more literally - on defense by being aggressive with the front seven. Chip Kelly was very aggressive against Stanford and we'll see if he continues to keep that up against a team that has a lot more athletes that can create big plays on both sides of the ball. Oregon is in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl and could even be playing for a rematch in the BCS title game so don't be surprised if they want some style points on national television and for Heisman Trophy candidiate LaMichael James.

X-FACTOR: Matt Barkley turnovers. USC has been in games with Oregon for a half but, like most of the Ducks opponents, have fallen apart in the second half. If Matt Barkley continues to be efficient in the passing game and spreads the ball around to his receivers, the Trojans have a chance. If he turns the ball over once or twice though, it will be hard to see an upset. The margin is just that thin for this team but no doubt they have the talent to get a win if Barkley plays well.

Posted on: November 13, 2011 11:59 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Phil Knight

Before Saturday's Oregon-Stanford game, commissioner Larry Scott presented the Pac-12 Championship Trophy, fitting considering the game to be played a few minutes afterward would pretty much decide who will be raising it for the first time ever. Right as Scott was concluding his presentation however, Nike boss and Oregon uber-booster Phil Knight strolled in, walked right by the trophy and into his box with just a slight glance at the regular season's ultimate prize. He looked to be in a good mood and it's hard to blame him; not only is he filthy rich, he has degrees from both Stanford and Oregon so he couldn't really go home a loser. But thanks to the result on the field, his beloved Ducks will likely be raising that trophy he walked by after winning their 19th straight conference win.

LOSER: Andrew Luck's supporting cast

Drop. Drop. Sack. Pressure. Missed field goal.

It was not a pretty outing for the Cardinal Saturday night and especially not for the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner that lead them to a spotless record, Andrew Luck. The defense had plenty of issues keeping up with Oregon's speed and allowed too many big plays, forcing the offense to play from behind the whole game. Luck's normally reliable tight ends dropped several passes, including a few easy ones on third downs, and the lack of speed at the wide receiver position was evident when there was nobody to stretch the field and nobody could create separation. As badly as the previously impeccable quarterback played in building up the nation's longest winning streak, he failed to live up to expectations against the Ducks - 271 yards, three touchdowns but two interceptions - in large part because it looked like he was the only good player on the field wearing red.

WINNER: Parkas

There was something in the air on the West Coast Saturday and whatever it was, you need a heavy coat to protect you from it. The weather at most of the Pac-12's games outside of the one in Palo Alto was not good to say the least. There were sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (and gusts all the way to 70!) in Colorado, Washington brought Seattle's weather down to Los Angeles, it was rainy and snowy in Pullman with temps in the 30's and UCLA played Utah in a snow game. It wasn't the greatest weekend to head out to a game but coat sales went through the roof in just about every campus bookstore.

LOSER: Coaches' sense of security.

Just a few weeks ago, people were talking about how Dennis Erickson had won his way off of the hot seat and maybe even into a contract extension. Thanks in large part to beating Erickson, many thought Rick Neuheisel had bought himself some time. Tim Kish destroyed Neuheisel on national television had some buzzing. It's the bottom of the Pac-12 circle of life and it's cost each of the three any sense of security about their job status. Even Paul Wulff, who pulled off maybe his biggest win since taking over in Pullman, is no sure thing to return next season. You could end up seeing as many as five schools change coaches in the offseason, a notable contrast to the relative stability the conference has had.

WINNER: The Quack Attack

In the battle of speed versus size, it's safe to say that in the Pac-12 speed always trumps size. Oregon's fast-paced attack with speedy running backs and receivers in space have been unstoppable in conference play, winning 19 straight games (only three by less than double digits). Chip Kelly is also aggressive, going for it on fourth down a few times and calling a few risky screen plays after Darron Thomas made about 15 bad decisions on the first one he called. It's not just that they have home run threats, the Ducks force other teams to game plan much differently than any other team in the country. If you happened to see DeAnthony Thomas racing up the sidelines in sixth gear while everyone in Cardinal looked like they were in first, that's just the Quack Attack at work.

LOSER: The Pac-12 South

With USC ineligible for the South title, the race to represent the division in the Pac-12's first ever title game is quickly becoming a race to the bottom, not the top. Arizona State was thought to have control and seemed destined to beat the Oregon/Stanford winner in early December. Then they lost to UCLA late at the Rose Bowl, putting a lot more scenarios on the table. Both lost Saturday, keeping the Bruins - somehow - in control of their destiny. Even Utah isn't out of the race as it looks like three teams could end the season at 5-4 in the division with the Trojans actually sitting atop the standings. A mess? Yes, and one reason why the Ducks are a shoe in for another Pac-12 title.

WINNERS: Coug'n it

Washington State had lost five in a row before hosting Arizona State team and thanks to some wet, snowy conditions pulled off a big upset that had to give some hopes for every Cougars fan out there. Freshman quarterback Connor Halliday ran the offense well against a solid Sun Devils defense, passing for 494 yards and four touchdowns despite the conditions to set a freshman school record. The defense made a few late stops in the 4th quarter and you could see signs of life - despite a rash of injuries - up in the Palouse. It still looks like a long shot to get bowl eligible but stranger things have happened. Still, the losing streak is over, it's unlikely they'll finish as the conference bottom-dweller and Paul Wulff might have earned himself another season with the signs of progress.

LOSER: Steve Sarkisian

Returning to his old stomping grounds at the Coliseum, Sarkisian ended up being the one getting stomped on. It wasn't pretty, a 40-17 loss, and it was made even worse by the fact that the offense was held to just 265 yards, had a safety and gave up six sacks. Sarkisian is close friends with USC head coach Lane Kiffin and the two talked afterward but still had pain Sark that he not only lost but was routed. The Huskies are bowl eligible for the second season in a row but need to turn things around after back-to-back losses.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 1:28 am
 

Heisman race heats up as Luck falls back to pack



Posted by Bryan Fischer


STANFORD, Calif. -- Heisman moments tend not to just happen, they're built up. Sure they'll catch you off guard from time-to-time but they rarely just come out of nowhere to the front of our collective concious.

Every bit of the listed 6-foot-4, 237-pounds, Andrew Luck was deemed better than any of his peers or predeessors by pundits, NFL coaches, general managers and scouts. For every two minute drive, red zone touchdown or play action fake, it was a work art. Saturday's game against Oregon was supposed to be his. Another trip to New York was certain but, in Stanford's biggest game in decades, this was supposed to be his moment.

It wasn't.

"Not good enough to win," Luck said, in an aww-shucks manner, of his performance in a 53-30 loss. "Worst game of the year I guess."

Statistically, you could make the argument it wasn't. Realistically? It's hard to think of anybody giving Luck as much trouble as the Ducks' defense did. Pressured all night, he finished 27-for-41 for 271 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw a pick six. He lost a fumble. He was sacked. He was un-Luck like but wasn't unlucky.

"They do present some exotic formations, such as four guys to one side and what not," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We talked about it as a staff how to handle it, making plays."

Luck didn't have to be great on his home field to wrap up college football's most prestigious trophy but he did have to be good. Playing from behind entire night, it was clear that the future top draft pick lacked any kind of wide receiver to stretch the field and even his normally reliable tight ends dropped several passes to slow momentum as the nation's longest winning streak fell just as hard as the Cardinal's outside chance at playing for the national title.

"I knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk," Luck said. "I had no grand delusion of it for our team. We still have football left and, for that, I'm grateful."

Credit Luck for having a space between the two words, college quarterback, that describe him every Saturday though. Despite losing to the only team to beat him the past two years, he was as even-keeled as ever afterward, answering questions about a difficult loss like they were the easy questions one of his midterms.

"It's disappointing obviously. You always want to have a good game," he said. "A disappointment, yes, but life goes on. We have two more big ball games coming up."

There was no Heisman moment on the slippery turf for the signal-caller but that doesn't mean he has no chance of hoisting college football's most prestigious award up in New York. The clear front-runner when the day began, he's likely to keep his spot at or near the top of most lists but there's no question that every turnover against Oregon made others' chances that much better.

"This game is not fatal to Luck's Heisman hopes," said Chris Huston, who runs HeismanPundit.com. "Voters will not blame him for this loss. The Heisman race is an individual award and, while Luck will lose some ground, he remains the favorite."

In some minds the only one to put on a performance worthy of the award was LaMichael James, who rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns as he continues to return to form following an elbow injury. Enough to get back in the discussion, maybe, but if you're looking for a moment in the game it was undoubtedly on one of James' long runs.

"His missing two games this year killed his Heisman chances," Huston added. "He just won't have the numbers to come close to winning."

For James, the 23 point win might be enough for another trip to the Heisman ceremony. For Luck, the 23 point loss might be enough to hold him back from bringing the trophy home.



Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:37 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 53 Stanford 30

Posted by Bryan Fischer

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Game of the Century, West Edition, featured plenty of defensive plays, mistakes on special teams and one of the teams ready to press for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. The only difference between that tussle in Tuscaloosa last week and this defacto Pac-12 championship in the Bay Area? There were touchdowns. Plenty of them.

Oregon's speed went over, around and - at times - through Stanford's size as the Ducks ended the nation's longest winning streak with a 53-30 win over their division foe to take control of the conference title race. Both teams got off to their normal slow start in the first half but the Ducks, who are now 24-0 when leading at halftime under Chip Kelly, utilized big plays from Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and Josh Huff to pull away from the Cardinal in the second half.

The most impressive performance of the night came from the Oregon defense that constantly put pressure on Andrew Luck and seemingly brought the Heisman Trophy front-runner back to the pack, of which James might have run his way back to. Without the team's top wide receiver (Chris Owusu) and top tight end (Zach Ertz), Luck was forced to throw into coverage often after his receiving corps could not create much separation, tossing two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. Without a speed threat to guard against, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti pressed his cornerbacks and used safety help over the top, limiting Stanford's bread and butter offense of quick short and intermediate throws.

That didn't mean Luck and company couldn't move the ball or get stops on defense. They just didn't do enough. It's not hard to argue that this was Stanford's biggest game in decades but they never could do enough to slow down Oregon, who proved that they're the Pac-12's best team and well on their way to their third straight conference title.

They even got a glimpse of the trophy, as commissioner Larry Scott officially presented it before the game in the press box. Given the way the South is playing out (UCLA lost, Arizona State and Utah are unranked, USC is ineligible), you wouldn't blame the Ducks' uber-booster Phil Knight for asking if he could take it home with him on his private jet.

He'll have to wait a few weeks to officially hoist the silver trophy for the first time ever but after Oregon settled things on the field Saturday night against #2 Stanford, it's a matter of when - not if - any more.

Quack.
 
 
 
 
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