Arizona Wildcats

Getty Images

QB Justin Herbert returns to lineup for Oregon as Ducks bottle up Khalil Tate and Arizona

1 Comment

Oregon has been listless offensively the past few weeks without starting quarterback Justin Herbert but his return to the lineup injected plenty of life into Willie Taggart’s team in a 48-28 win over Arizona that also made the Ducks bowl eligible at the same time.

Herbert’s numbers were not flashy or spectacular given the offense he plays in but they were a huge boost given how poorly backups played in his absence after breaking his collarbone early in the year. He finished the night with just 235 yards through the air (along with an interception) and a touchdown pass while also making an impact with his wheels, surprising nearly everybody in Autzen Stadium with a 40 yard scramble for a touchdown in the first quarter.

As nice as it was to have the signal-caller back, his teammate Royce Freeman did most of the heavy lifting as he no longer faced a loaded box full of defenders. The senior made his first trip to the end zone since September (coinciding with Herbert’s injury) to move past LaMichael James as Oregon’s all-time leader in total touchdowns. He also passed TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson for 10th on the FBS career rushing yards list early in the game and managed to end the night with 134 on the ground and a total of four scores. Backup Tony Brooks-James added another 124 yards as the Ducks’ rushing attack was humming like days of old.

Perhaps the more eye-opening aspect of the victory was the UO defense though. The bottled up dynamic Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate better than just about any Pac-12 defense has this year and held him to only 32 yards rushing. Forcing the dual-threat star to become a passer was the game plan and the Ducks executed it at a high level, limiting him to 159 yards passing with a score and a pair of interceptions.

Running back Nick Wilson rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats, whose most notable play was probably a pick-six by Dane Cruikshank that was negated by a taunting penalty in the first half as he finger-waged his way to the end zone. The offense later punched it in but it was emblematic of a frustrating night for Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff.

Both teams have gone through their up’s and down’s this season and while it looked as though Arizona was on the upswing entering Saturday night, perhaps it’s Oregon who can claim the same thanks to their starting quarterback looking healthy and as back in business.

Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin among 16 Maxwell Coach of the Year semifinalists

Getty Images
2 Comments

One recent branch of Nicktator’s coaching tree will be vying with his former boss for one set of coaching honors.

The Maxwell Foundation on Thursday announced its 16 semifinalists for the 2017 George Munger College Coach of the Year Award.  Alabama’s Nick Saban is one of the select 16, as is Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin, who spent the previous three seasons as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

The SEC leads all conferences with four semifinalists, followed by two each for the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten.  The Pac-12 is the lone Power Five conference with just one.

Kiffin is one five Group of Five semifinalists, joining UAB’s Bill Clark, UCF’s Scott Frost, Army’s Jeff Monken and Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford.  The MAC and Sun Belt are the lone conferences without at last one semifinalist.

15 semifinalists unveiled for prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year Award

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the most prestigious awards in college football has whittled down the list of players who will be able to claim the famed hardware this season.

Wednesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced its 15 “Players to Watch,” essentially semifinalists, for its prestigious Player of the Year Award. The Camp Award is voted on by the 130 FBS head coaches/sports information directors and is the fourth-oldest award in the sport.

“It’s been another exciting college football season with many teams and players still in the hunt for national recognition,” Foundation president Michael Madera said in a statement. “We’ve identified some outstanding players and we know the final weeks of the regular season should be even more thrilling.”

Players on both sides of the ball are eligible, but just four defensive players made the cut — North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson and Washington defensive end Hercules Mala’afa. Six of the 15 semifinalists are quarterbacks, the other five are running backs.

Only two players from a Group of Five program, Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton and San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, are included.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, last year’s Camp winner, is a semifinalist once again.

Below is the complete “Players to Watch” list:

Josh Adams, RB, Junior, Notre Dame
Saquon Barkley, RB, Junior, Penn State
Bradley Chubb, DE, Senior, North Carolina State
Sam Darnold, QB, Sophomore, USC
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Junior, Alabama
Baker Mayfield, QB, Senior, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson, QB, Junior, Louisville
Jaquan Johnson, DB, Junior, Miami
Bryce Love, RB, Junior, Stanford
Hercules Mala’afa, DE, Junior, Washington State
McKenzie Milton, QB, Sophomore, UCF
Rashaad Penny, RB, Senior, San Diego State
Mason Rudolph, QB, Senior, Oklahoma State
Khalil Tate, QB, Sophomore, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Freshman, Wisconsin

Khalil Tate runs for over 200 yards (again) in another record-setting romp for Arizona

Getty Images
1 Comment

A college football Saturday can be a very long day. You get up early, eat some breakfast with the sun peeking through and, depending on your time zone, won’t go to bed until it gets dark — in Hawaii.

But let me tell you, no matter how long the day can drag on, watching Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate should be on your list of things to absolutely tune in for every single week. I mean it, every single week.

The Heisman contender had another stellar outing on #Pac12AfterDark this week, which should come as no surprise given that the Wildcats were playing a pretty bad Oregon State team at home (they won 49-28) and set a new school record for rushing yards in the process. The opponent doesn’t really matter though because Tate is just so fun to watch and might be the closest thing we have to a human cheat code in the real life version of NCAA Football.

Just watch this 71 yard touchdown run he had and pay attention to that extra gear the final 30 yards or so he uses to simply blow past some defenders that had an angle on him:

According to the school, that was Tate’s fifth rush of 70 or more yards on the season and his 11th rushing touchdown on the year, which ties him for 8th all-time (Trung Canidate) in single-season school history. Keep in mind he’s only been the starter — at quarterback — for six games.

All told he finished the game against the Beavers with 206 yards on the ground and two scores in just three quarters-worth of work, while also throwing for 68 yards on 5-of-7 passing. That puts him at 1,293 yards for the season — on just 111 carries for what would be an FBS record 11.6 yards/carry if he keeps things up.

We were all pretty impressed with the video game numbers that Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has been putting up but Tate has been just as good if not more so after taking over as the starter for Rich Rodriguez. There are still two games left in the regular season for the Wildcats (against Oregon and in-state rival Arizona State), which gives us two more opportunities to see if anybody can stop the most dynamic player in the country right now.

USC clinches Pac-12 South with win over Colorado, leaving three Power Five divisions unsettled

Associated Press
1 Comment

Five down, three to go.

On the strength of Sam Darnold‘s right arm, USC eventually outlasted a feisty Colorado 20-0 in Boulder.  Darnold, who could be the overall No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft if he decides to forego his final season of eligibility, passed for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He added a touchdown run for good measure.

Ronald Jones chipped in 132 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground, while the Trojans returned one interception — and nearly a second late — for a score as well.

USC is now 7-1 in conference play with one game, rival UCLS, remaining.  Two teams, Arizona and Arizona State, are at 4-2 entering Week 11 although only one could potentially tie USC as the in-state rivals square off in the regular-season finale, leaving one with at least three conference losses.  That doesn’t matter, though, as the Trojans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams.

As such, USC is headed to its first Pac-12 championship game since 2015 and its second ever since the game was first played in 2011.

Just who they will face remains very much up in the air as Stanford (6-2), Washington (5-2) and Washington State (5-2) are all still vying for the North’s spot.  The Cardinal beat the Huskies Friday night, but lost to the Cougars in Week 10.  Stanford will be hoping for a win over Cal next weekend and a Wazzu loss to UW in the Apple Cup two weeks from now to clinch.  If the Cougars win out, they will represent the division regardless of what happens with the Cardinal; the Huskies need to win their remaining two games and have the Cardinal trip up against the Bears.

The Pac-12 South is the fifth Power Five division to be decided, joining both the ACC Atlantic (today) and Coastal (also today), the Big Ten West (also today) and the SEC East.  That leaves, along with the Pac-12 North, the Big Ten East — Ohio State has essentially wrapped up that division, though — and the SEC West still without an official champion.