Assorted items from Tuesday’s Pac-12 football coaches conference call:
ASU coach Todd Graham admits it could be a challenge equaling Oregon’s level of conditioning Thursday night, saying, “We’re not in the shape we want to be in. It takes two years to run our type of tempo.”
Regarding the month-early Big Game Saturday, Jeff Tedford sounded dismay about the lack of respect for tradition: “We have to be careful about that. You see so many things, like Texas and Texas A&M not playing anymore. You see so many traditional rivalries that (aren’t played) anymore. When you start moving these to the middle of the season . . . there has to be a stand for some of the rivalries and traditions of college football, and not everything about TV.” Cal and Stanford elected not to try to play their annual game on Thanksgiving weekend because of annual rivalry-game activities associated with it, and got stuck with Saturday due to several scheduling and TV restrictions now in place.
Chip Kelly takes issue with the notion that the Ducks haven’t really been tested yet, telling me, “You go say that to the Husky fans. I ain’t doing that. One of the reasons we’ve been successful here is, everybody we play, we give the utmost respect to. That’s not just talk. In our league every (Saturday), you’re going to look up and say, ‘Did you see that score?’ Whatever. The fact is, as the Ducks go to ASU Thursday night, nobody has come within three TDs of them since Fresno State did it, and that was in garbage time.
While Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are widely considered the best 1-2 receiving combination in the country, OSU’s Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton are outdoing them, statistically at least, combining to average 244.6 yards a game to 173.5 for the Trojan pair. And both Cooks and Wheaton have higher averages per catch as well. “When you’re 3-9 (as OSU was a year ago),” says Mike Riley, “there isn’t really anybody that thought about it (preseason recognition) too much. These kids really like football, they complement each other, block for each other. They’re very, very competitive, and I love that about them.”
Meanwhile, Riley says he worries about letdowns by his 5-0 team, adding, “I don’t even know that they know what they’ve done at this point. Well, they know. They just get ready and go play. It’s not reflected in a negative or cocky way.”
The Cardinal has played two road games and not scored an offensive TD, and David Shaw says, “That’s not us.”
During this year’s premature Big Game week, everybody remembers the crazy five-lateral finish of 1982, but Shaw has vivid memories of 1990, when he was a player at Stanford. Cal stopped a late Stanford two-point conversion to keep a 25-24 lead, but was penalized for delaying the game by celebrating. Stanford recovered an onside kick and as a final pass was falling incomplete, a Bear was called for a late hit, allowing John Hopkins to kick a 39-yard field goal that won it. Reciting it in detail, Shaw says, “That sequence still gives me chills.”
Lane Kiffin concedes, “We’re not playing our best in the passing game, by any means,” and said of his conservative play-calling at Washington, “We didn’t have a very good (passing day) Saturday up there, and just kind of played to the game because our defense was playing well.” Saturday against Colorado, QB Matt Barkley should chase down Matt Leinart’s Pac-12 career touchdown-pass record (he’s three shy, at 96), and Robert Woods ought to get the four catches he needs to equal USC’s career-receptions mark.
One of these weeks, Utah is going to get the ball to John White, because Kyle Whittingham keeps saying he needs it more. He carried 13 times against USC and 11 against UCLA. “The last two weeks, he probably had only half the carries he should have,” Whittingham says.