Another week in Pac-12 play brought another Hail Mary victory. The Arizona State Sun Devils had their prayers answered Saturday.
Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici rose to the occasion during his second career start to steal a last-second victory from USC. The scoreboard read 38-34 after junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong stunned the Trojans.
Bercovici was the catalyst, though. Arizona State trailed 34-25 with 3:02 remaining when the Sun Devils’ inexperienced quarterback decided to take over the game.
Once the Sun Devils had possession of the ball after a kickoff, it took Bercovici one play to close the gap. The junior from Calabasas, Calif. connected with wide receiver Cameron Smith for a 73-yard touchdown.
Arizona State got the ball back for the last time with 23 seconds left. After two attempted passes, Bercovici dropped back and lobbed a moonshot toward the end zone. With five different USC defenders located around the goal line, Strong undercut them all and ensnared the 46-yard pass for the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
Bercovici finished the contest with an eye-popping 510 passing yards and five touchdowns. Strong contributed a whopping 202 receiving yards. These efforts came against the nation’s 10th-ranked passing defense. Arizona State actually doubled the average USC passing yards surrendered per game entering Saturday’s contest.
Arizona State’s starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, who is recovering from an unspecified foot injury, was expected to return to the lineup next Saturday against the Stanford Cardinal. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham may decide Kelly needs more time to heal after Bercovici’s stunning performance.
Arizona State’s duo weren’t the only players to put up big numbers. USC running back Javorius “Buck” Allen finished the contest with 229 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. USC is relying more and more on the running back as the weeks progress. Allen carried the ball 29 times, which is a season high.
As for the rest of USC, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.
Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.
“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”
Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.
Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.
Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.
“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”
Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.
The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.
While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.
However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.
If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.
It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.
The season does not begin today, but if it did Penn State would be without one of its best players.
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin confirmed to the press at Big Ten media days that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown are presently suspended for a “violation of team rules” dating back to spring practice. The suspension is slated to end Aug. 1.
Gross-Matos, a junior, led Penn State in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) while registering 54 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season. He enters the year a candidate for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I talk to him all the time,” Franklin told Lions247 of Gross-Matos, despite the suspension. “[He is] doing great.”
Brown, also a junior, posted eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in 2018.
Santino Marchiol‘s college football career was brief and scandalous, and now it appears it’s over.
Marchiol first joined the news cycle at Texas A&M, where he attempted to cast himself as a whistleblower against NCAA violations committed by Jimbo Fisher‘s staff. When that stick of dynamite turned into a dud, Marchiol transferred to Arizona to reunite with the coach who signed him out of IMG Academy, but he was gone from Tucson as quickly as he arrived after video surfaced showing Marchiol using a racial slur against his black teammates at Texas A&M.
Marchiol returned to his native Colorado in attempt to walk on at CU, but that comeback attempt has once again died before it could live as it turns out Marchiol was arrested for domestic violence on June 24. From the Denver Post:
According to Pueblo police records, Marchiol was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. on June 24 and booked on suspicion of second-degree assault bodily injury, a felony. Marchiol faces two misdemeanor assault charges, court records indicated, as well as a violation for contempt of a court protection order. He was released on bail June 25.
“Santino was never enrolled as a CU Boulder student,” Colorado said in a statement. “He was invited to be a walk-on for the football team this fall. Coach Tucker has since rescinded that invitation.”
Marchiol would’ve had to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA rules, but now it seems as if he may sit out the remainder of time as it’s unlikely any other college football staffs will take on a player who attempted to narc to the NCAA on violations that, frankly, aren’t a big deal to begin with, then was caught using a racial slur against black teammates and then was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence.