Observations and updates, variously culled from Tuesday’s Pac-12 football coaches conference call:
USC visits the Wildcats this week, and the quarterbacks provide a matchup they first contested in high school, when Matt Scott’s (Arizona) Centennial High team of Corona, Calif. met Matt Barkley’s (USC) Mater Dei squad. Centennial was second-ranked nationally, Mater Dei was fifth, and Barkley’s team won 51-37 as he threw for 364 yards on 21 of 31 completions. Scott threw for 170 yards and ran for 176 (and running back Ryan Bass, who would go to Arizona State and then transfer to Idaho, had 329 yards rushing on 44 attempts). Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez doesn’t know that history, but he does know about Barkley. “He’ll likely be the first pick in the NFL draft,” said Rodriguez. “We’re facing one of the all-time greats.”
Todd Graham says the Sun Devils had 13 misalignment errors defensively last week – not a good idea against Oregon. “They were better in person than I thought they were on film, and I thought they were pretty good on film,” he says. Defensive tackle Will Sutton suffered a bone bruise around the knee, and hasn’t practiced the past two days, but Graham is hopeful he might be able to go this weekend against UCLA.
The Buffs have given up 50-plus points two weeks in a row for the first time since 1962, and given that the opponent this week is Oregon in Eugene, don’t rule out that it becomes three straight.
“Their defense is phenomenal,” says Jon Embree. “They have creatures over there. It’s unbelievable. They don’t hit you, they hit through you.”
Even Chip Kelly, the consummate one-game-at-a-time practitioner, seems hard-pressed to sell Colorado as a imminent threat Saturday. The Ducks are a 46-point favorite, and Kelly says coming off a solid 43-21 win at Arizona State, “We have a standard and a vision of what this thing’s supposed to look like, and these two days (Monday and Tuesday) I’ve been real pleased with how they practiced.” After the Buffs comes USC next week, so the goal no doubt is to get Colorado dispatched quickly, get nobody hurt and get into the film room.
David Shaw doesn’t want to hear any talk of letdowns this week with Washington State looming and the Cardinal just off their mid-season thrashing of Cal. “We’ve talked a bunch with our team, that we’ve let a couple of games get away from us (Washington and Notre Dame),” Shaw says. “We’ve got to start playing our best football for weeks, not for a quarter or a half. I’ve challenged our guys to improve the second half of the year, in order for us to get the highest seed, to get to the best bowl game we can.”
Saturday’s UCLA visit to Arizona State marks the first matchup of any of the four new coaches in the league in 2012. Asked who ASU QB Taylor Kelly reminds him of, Jim Mora said, “Jeff Garcia. He’s gritty-tough, accurate outside the pocket, got a little street-ball to him.” Meanwhile, Bruins QB Brett Hundley returns to his Arizona roots; he’s from nearby Chandler. “He’s a kid who’s very level-headed, and kind of unaffected by game-day environment,” says Mora. “I think he’s the right kind of kid to handle it.”
The last five Arizona-USC games have been decided by seven points or less, and Lane Kiffin says ‘Zona QB Matt Scott is capable of making it six straight cliff-hangers. “He’s a phenomenal player,” Kiffin says. “I didn’t realize he’s as fast as he is. You’ve got to give a ton of credit to Rich Rodriguez. To think he could completely change an offensive system . . . they could very easily be 6-1.”
Kyle Whittingham, who has been talking up the need to get the ball more to last year’s workhorse, John White, now has a new target – bigger back Kelvin York, who careened for 52 yards on 10 carries at Oregon State. “Without a doubt, you’ll see, going forward, those carries being more split,” says Whittingham. It’s also driving the Utes coach crazy that his team has but two interceptions: “It’s really a mystery, why we can’t intercept the football. Last year, we led the league in interceptions. We’re teaching it, coaching it the same way this year, with essentially the same players.”