Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

Pac-12 spring storylines


For the past three seasons, Oregon has become accustomed to being the top dog — or, duck — in the Pac-12 with two Rose Bowl berths and a BCS championship appearance. Heading into 2012, can Oregon make it four conference titles in a row?

After all, change is in the air for Pac-12 teams, from saying hello to new coaches to goodbye to some of the best players in college football. But some familiarity returns, too. USC is once again feeling preseason love and could be back to contending for national titles after finishing a two-year bowl ban.

It all starts sometime. Here’s what storylines we’re watching in the Pac-12 this spring:

Can the Quack Attack fly without missing a beat?
Oregon executes the “next guy in” philosophy as good as any program in the country. So the fact that running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas left for the NFL is less worrisome than some of the other off-the-field distractions the Ducks have had since their Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Coach Chip Kelly reportedly nearly left for the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Bucsor maybe not — and the NCAA’s investigation into UO’s recruiting practices took another step forward last week with the “proposed findings of violations.”  The good news is that Kelly does a phenomenal job at keeping his players focused on the task at hand. Spring practice is going to look a little different for the Ducks without James and Thomas, but the players asked to fill the void should be able to do so in a business-as-usual way.

Stanford, you got some replacin’ to do, too 
Yes, Stanford has to replace quarterback Andrew Luck. That’s going to be a point of emphasis with all Cardinal coverage until the first snap of the season is taken. But coach David Shaw has more gaps to fill than the one Luck is leaving behind. Stanford loses two outstanding lineman in Jonathan Martin and David DeCastroas well as a senior-laden receiving group. That’s not even counting the three starters from the team’s secondary that will be replaced, including all-conference safety Delano Howell. 2012 will only be Shaw’s second season as head coach, but it has more of an intrigue than Shaw’s first year where he was handed the keys to a football team littered with All-American and All-Pac-12 players.

New coaches, ahoy!
Four Pac-12 teams will be breaking in new coaches this spring: Arizona (Rich Rodriguez), Arizona State (Todd Graham), UCLA (Jim Mora) and Washington State (Mike Leach). Rodriguez and Graham will have plenty to talk about when they meet for the Territorial Cup this year. Both have Big East ties, with Graham coaching under Rodrguez for two seasons at West Virginia. Leach and Mora join the Pac-12 after getting fired from their previous jobs following the 2009 season. Spring practices for these four programs should be a lot of fun as most of the new coaches are known for airing it out on offense.

Return of Troy?
USC became the media’s sexy pick to win the Pac-12, and maybe a BCS championship, next season when quarterback Matt Barkley announced he would be coming back for his senior year. Receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back, too. But the biggest question for the Trojans is depth. Scholarship reductions as a result of NCAA sanctions mean USC will have to make the most of the talent available and USC only signed 12 players this past signing day. Simply put, there is no room for error. The effects of the depth chart belt-tightening may not be felt right away, but health and production will start to be a top priority for USC this spring.

Last spring for Jeff Tedford?
A 7-6 season and Holiday Bowl loss to Texas has fans in Berkeley a little restless with Cal coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears haven’t won 10 games or at least a share of the Pac-12 title since 2006 when they defeated Texas A&M in the, you guessed it, Holiday Bowl. And it’s not as though Cal doesn’t have talent — the Bears have always had plenty — but when Washington scooped up ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi last month, it cost Tedford’s program some top-notch recruits. Going into spring, Tedford is going to have questions, fairly or not, about his job security. Sept. 1’s kickoff against Nevada probably can’t come soon enough for the 11th-year coach.

Starting Northwestern CB ruled out vs. Ohio State

Michigan State tight end Josiah Price, left, catches a pass for a touchdown against Northwestern's Trae Williams during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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Struggling mightily in the passing game, Ohio State may have caught a bit of a break as the Buckeyes look to rebound from just their fifth in the four-plus years under Urban Meyer.

On Northwestern’s official injury report, cornerback Trae Williams is listed as out for the Wildcats’ Week 9 matchup with the Buckeyes in Columbus. Williams is dealing with an injury that the school has not specified.

The redshirt freshman also missed the Week 8 win over Indiana because of the injury.

Prior to that, Williams had started the previous four games, the first four starts of his collegiate career. This season, Williams has been credited with 20 tackles and has one of the Wildcats’ seven interceptions.

With Williams sidelined, Alonzo Mayo will get the start opposite Montre Hartage. The redshirt freshman made his first career start in place of Williams last weekend.

Louisville, WKU announce three-game series

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 06:   Louisville Cardinals cheerleaders perform during the game against the Murray State Racers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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A pair of FBS schools from the state of Kentucky will be getting back together on the gridiron after a sabbatical of nearly two decades.

Louisville and Western Kentucky announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement on a three-game series that will actually be played in the not-too-distant future. Two of the games will be played at the U of L’s Papa John’s Stadium in 2018 and 2020.

The third will be played at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium in 2019.

“It’s great for both schools that we were able to resume this series against an in-state school of Western Kentucky’s caliber,” U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement. “Because of the proximity of both schools, I think it’s a tremendous win for the state of Kentucky and each fan base. I’m thrilled we were able to lock down a three-game series versus WKU.”

“We are excited to begin a football series with the University of Louisville,” Jurich’s WKU counterpart, Todd Stewart, said in his statement. “These three games will be exciting for both fan bases and good for college football in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We continually try to develop strong non-conference schedules each year while also focusing on regional match ups that enable our fans to attend games outside of Bowling Green. A series with Louisville checks all of those boxes, and we appreciate Louisville’s administration and football program for their efforts and cooperation.”

The two teams have met 31 times previously, with the first coming in 1922 and the most recent in 1998. The Cardinals hold a 19-12 advantage in the series.

The Hilltoppers are currently coached by former Cardinals quarterback Jeff Brohm.

Virginia Tech grabs control of ACC Coastal with win over Pitt

Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans (4) throws the ball against Pittsburgh in the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/John Heller)
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It’s not quite over, but No. 25 Virginia Tech will be firmly entrenched in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal heading into the final month of the regular season.

Thanks in large part to 406 yards passing from Jerod Evans, Tech was able to survive off a fourth-quarter rally by Pittsburgh and secure a 39-36 road win Thursday night.  Evans’ performance was easily the best of his career, and just the second time he’s gone for 300-plus yards.  The first (307) for the first-year starter came just two weeks ago in a loss to Syracuse.

Evans was also part of an offense that rolled up a season-high 556 yards on the night.

With the win, Tech improves to 4-1 in conference play, tied with North Carolina for the Coastal lead.  However, by virtue of the Hokies’ Oct. 8 win over the Tar Heels, they control their own destiny in the division.  Tech has three league games remaining — at Duke (0-3) and home games against Georgia Tech (1-3)  and Virginia (1-2) — and, if they win all three, they will represent the division in the ACC championship game.  UNC would need to win out plus see Tech lose at least one game in order to win the division.

Pitt fell to 3-2, with those two losses coming to VT and UNC, meaning they have essentially eliminated themselves from Coastal contention.  In a losing effort, Pitt running back James Conner contributed 141 yards and three scores on the ground on just 19 carries.

Jury awards former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary $7.3 million after defamation suit

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 24: Former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary stands in line with other mourners as they wait to pay respect to former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno during a public viewing at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the campus of Penn State on January 24, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85, died due to complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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A Pennsylvania jury has awarded former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary a whopping $7.3 million on Thursday evening in a case that found the school defamed him for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the jury (which included two PSU employees) took just under four hours to render the verdict. While the lawsuit is not completely over because a judge has to rule on McQueary’s whistleblower claim, the verdict is nevertheless a blow to the Nittany Lions after the school was found guilty of defamation and misrepresentation in the case.

McQueary, a former quarterback in State College and an assistant under Joe Paterno, was at the center of the Sandusky scandal back in 2011. He allegedly witnessed Sandusky’s sexual assault of a boy in team facilities back in 2001 and reported what he saw to Paterno and others, but nothing was done about the crime. The revelations a key part in a case against Sandusky and eventually led to the ouster of Paterno and McQueary’s subsequent loss of his own job at the school.

The timing of the news is probably not what Penn State fans wanted to hear about this week after they celebrated the program’s biggest win since the scandal last Saturday in a come from behind victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State.