NCAA

Heisman Watch: Luck dethroned

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Heisman Watch: Luck dethroned

It's still not the appropriate time to destroy the BCS. Several different scenarios have to play themselves out before we go down that road.

Therefore, let's get straight to the Heisman Watch...

Rank Player, Position, School Recent Game Stats Season Stats Next Game 1 Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State 31-37, 423 yards, 5 TD in 66-6 win at Texas Tech 313-428 (73), 3635 yards, 31 TD, 9 INT At Iowa State 2 Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 27-41, 271 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT in 53-30 loss to No. 7 Oregon 221-313 (71), 2695 yards, 29 TD, 7 INT, 2 rush TD California 3 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 32 rush, 127 yards, TD in 24-7 win at Mississippi State 204 rush, 1205 yards (5.9 YPC), 18 TD, 318 rec. yards, rec. TD Georgia Southern 4 Case Keenum, QB, Houston 22-29, 325 yards, 3 TD in 73-17 win over Tulane 279-376 (74), 3951 yards, 37 TD, 3 INT, 2 rush TD Southern Methodist 5 LaMichael James, RB, Oregon 20 rush, 146 yards, 3 TD in 53-30 at No. 4 Stanford 153 rush, 1207 yards (7.9 YPC), 12 TD, 175 rec. yards, rec. TD USC (No. 18 AP Poll)
On the bubble: Landry JonesQBOklahoma, Kellen MooreQBBoise State

Analysis:

1) Brandon Weeden -- Weeden was ranked fifth in last week's standings and and I also said, "Trap game coming up this weekend as the Cowboys head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech." Well, the 28-year old, former 2nd round pick of the New York Yankees, had a near perfect performance in the Cowboys' 66-6 beatdown of the Red Raiders (I still don't know how Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech at home a few weeks back). Weeden has a better completion percentage and has thrown more touchdowns than Andrew Luck. He has also thrown for nearly 1,000 more yards than Luck, but it's hard to take this into account given that he has thrown the ball 115 more times (Luck averages 8.6 yards per attempt compared to Weeden's 8.5 yards per throw). Ultimately, Weeden is in the driver's seat now because if the he plays exceptionally well in two more Oklahoma State victories, the Cowboys will be playing in the national title game and he could very well win the Heisman.2) Andrew Luck -- Oddly enough, Luck was able to overcome a pick-six he threw near the end of regulation against USC three weeks ago, but wasn't able to lead Stanford back after his first quarter interception was turned into eight Oregon points (they characteristically went for two and were successful). The reason? Oregon is flat-out better than Stanford. Luck wound up throwing two interceptions (the second was a dropped pass that deflected right to an Oregon defender who returned it for a touchdown) and he also lost a fumble. He also throw three touchdowns and for the majority of the game looked every bit like the Andrew Luck we are accustomed to seeing. However, he admitted it was the worst game he played all season and Stanford suffered a blowout loss that dropped them to No. 9 in the BCS. Thus, Luck was knocked off his perch by Weeden. But do not fear Stanford fans -- because Luck has two more opportunities on national television to regain the top spot.
3) Trent Richardson -- The future Doak Walker Award winner received a season-high 32 carries against Mississippi State, and racked up a modest 127 yards and a touchdown. It will be hard for Richardson to leap both Weeden and Luck at this point, and because his team only has two games left, he could end up getting leaped by either Case Keenum or the other running back who checks in at No. 5 (who both have three games left to accumulate stats). Forget the Heisman, Richardson just hopes that either LSU or Oklahoma State slip up so he can showcase his talent in the BCS title game.4) Case Keenum -- Shockingly, Keenum wasn't able to break any more NCAA records over the weekend after he did so three consecutive weeks prior (what's left to break?). He has done everything needed to become a legitimate Heisman candidate, and will definitely be in New York for the presentation if Houston finishes 13-0. Consider yourself warned Case -- if your team loses, you will not make a BCS game and you will fall out of the Heisman race. See: Kellen Moore.
5) LaMichael James -- Remember when Oregon lost to LSU back on September 3 and LaMichael James' Heisman hopes were dashed because he only rushed for 54 yards (he also rushed for a TD and led Oregon with 61 receiving yards)? Well, despite the fact he missed two games because of a gruesome elbow injury he sustained against Cal on October 6, James is back in the Heisman hunt after rushing for 146 yards and three touchdowns against the No. 4 ranked Stanford Cardinal. In two fewer games than Richardson, James has rushed for two more yards -- made possible by his three straight 200-plus-yard performances against Missouri State, Arizona and Cal. James should put up huge numbers over the Ducks' final three games, cementing an invitation to New York City.
Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

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AP

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.

Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.

Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.

"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."

Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.

Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.

The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.

The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.

For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.

Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.

"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.

Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.

The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

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AP

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”