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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 24, 2013 at 1:46 PM

The lowdown from Pac-12 coaches on Tuesday’s teleconference . . .

Arizona

‘Zona coach Rich Rodriguez made a defense for the Wildcats’ early schedule, which wasn’t entirely convincing.

“You still have to go out there and win ‘em and play well,” he said. “I think San Antonio (UTSA) will win some games, I think UNLV will win some games and I think Northern Arizona will win some games at their (FCS) level.”

Arizona State

The Sun Devils are getting questioned about whether defensive tackle Will Sutton got too heavy in the off-season (to 305 pounds), but Todd Graham scoffed at that notion, saying Sutton is getting double-teams and that ASU has faced primarily run-oriented opponents that have kept sack numbers down. Sutton has only half a sack after getting 13 a year ago.

Graham also said the defense of Stanford – which meets Washington State Saturday night – “is better than I thought. They’re physical, tough and fly to the football.” They also harassed QB Taylor Kelly, and, says Graham, “We blew a lot of coverages in protections, but you’ve got to give Stanford a lot of credit. They’re very complex in their zone pressures and they’re very good at it.”

California

In what could be a 200-play game, the Bears visit Eugene Saturday, and Sonny Dykes is impressed with what he sees in the Ducks on both sides. The defense, he says, will take chances “because they’re so good on offense. It allows them to play incredibly aggressively (on defense), where maybe other teams are afraid to do that. I think Oregon feels they can do that – give up a big play – and it’s not that big a deal, because they’re going to score points.”

Colorado

Colorado hasn’t played since Sept. 7 because of a flood postponement against Fresno State and then a bye week. It gets Oregon State in Corvallis.

“It seems like three years ago since we last played,” quipped Mike MacIntyre. “We’ve been trying everything we can to try (to simulate) the speed of the game. This is almost like an opening game.”

MacIntyre said his team has done more scrimmaging in the three-week interim to try to stay sharp. Meanwhile, the game will match two of the conference’s top receivers in CU’s Paul Richardson and OSU’s Brandin Cooks.

Oregon

A year ago, the Ducks led the nation in turnover margin at plus-1.62 a game. That’s sometimes an indication a team is about to regress to the mean, but not so in 2013: Oregon hasn’t turned it over yet in three games, while forcing seven.

“It’s the No. 1 contributing factor to winning and losing,” said Mark Helfrich, who spoke briefly about converting takeaways, then said, “We can’t talk about the other part. It’s like a no-hitter in baseball.”

Oregon State

OSU made a switch at middle linebacker against San Diego State, which helped the Beavers stiffen in the second half in a 34-30 comeback win. Redshirt freshman Rommel Mageo of Pago Pago, Samoa replaced sophomore Joel Skotte.

“He’s an outstanding worker,” Mike Riley said of Mageo. “He played on the scout team a year ago, and I thought he had all those natural-looking, middle-linebacker instincts. He really came on a lot and the defensive coaches just decided to put him in the other night and he did a nice job.”

Riley said RB Storm Woods is recovering nicely from a concussion but is unlikely to play Saturday. And he indicated OSU could get back two, and possibly three, offensive linemen after its bye week that follows Saturday’s Colorado game.

Stanford

David Shaw says he’s impressed with Washington State’s defense, which his team faces Saturday.

“They’re playing smart defense,” he said. “You don’t see guys out of position. You see a very coordinated effort. You don’t see a lot of bombs going over guys’ heads, you don’t see a lot of open receivers, you don’t see a lot of runs going for 30- and 40-yard gains.”

UCLA

The Bruins just announced a drive to build a $50-million football-only facility on campus, which in the Pac-12, is keeping up with the Joneses.

“We’ve got this beautiful setting, tremendous academics, but adding a brand-new football-only facility of this magnitude is just going to be another draw,” said Jim Mora.

Mora said the facilities race hadn’t really dawned on him until recently, with his deep NFL background until he took the UCLA job.

“I don’t know that initially I understood the issue,” he says. “In the NFL, you pick the players, they don’t pick you.”

USC

Lane Kiffin said he was made aware Tuesday of the NCAA decision to give Penn State relief on its scholarship restrictions related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, saying, “I think that’s awesome, knowing what it’s like to go through it, managing numbers. For Bill (O’Brien, Penn State coach) not to have to do that is great for him.”

Kiffin said he hasn’t talked to AD Pat Haden about seeking some sort of similar relief for USC, which is still losing 10 rides a year as a result of the Reggie Bush infractions, but he said he’s “always thought” the school should be given a break on the issue.

Utah

Kyle Whittingham said “it’s amazing how fast he’s developed” in reference to soph QB Travis Wilson, who is Pac-12 offensive player of the week. But the status of linebacker Brian Blechen, who has knee tendinitis, is “same-old, same-old. As we get deeper into the season, obviously the possibility of redshirting goes up.”

Washington

When UW coach Steve Sarkisian was asked about it being “cool” that there is a “doubleheader” in town Saturday – with Washington State playing Stanford Saturday night at CenturyLink Field – he said, “What doubleheader?”

Arizona has started with three overmatched opponents, and while Sarkisian said he couldn’t speculate on that philosophy, he did say he liked what Washington has done with tough games in his tenure, saying, “I love the fact we’ve been tested . . . that won’t change in the future, for sure.”

Washington State

Last year, Stanford sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel 10 times in its 24-17 victory, something the Cougars must avoid with a less mobile quarterback in Connor Halliday.

“It’s a concern,” Mike Leach said. “Stanford is big and physical up front. We’ve (at quarterback) just got to stay out of the way (of pass-rushers) and react to things. We can’t be in the same spot all the time, otherwise they’ll tee off on you.”

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