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Pac-12: Mike Leach's meltdown was predictable
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The all-knowing Mac

He may not have predicted Washington State's complete meltdown, but former Utah coach Ron McBride pretty much nailed his forecast of the Cougars' visit to Rice-Eccles Stadium last weekend.

On his weekly radio show with former BYU coach LaVell Edwards, McBride called a 43-6 Ute victory. That seemed like a stretch, considering Utah was just a 12-point favorite. Mac cited as evidence WSU's good showing in a 24-17 loss to Stanford, suggesting that bad teams have trouble sustaining a full effort in consecutive weeks.

He was absolutely right, judging by the Utes' 49-6 win. Utah gained a season-high 453 yards — coach Kyle Whittingham said 600 yards was within reach, had he not reined in his offense — and WSU allowed six sacks.

Cougar coach Mike Leach said his offensive line's performance "borders on cowardice." He also made his offensive and defensive linemen appear in the postgame interview session, rather than any requested players.

Things got worse Sunday, when leading receiver Marquess Wilson walked out of a conditioning workout. Leach has suspended him for at least this week's game against UCLA.

For his part, Leach said Tuesday that he also called out himself and his coaching staff, not just the players. "I don't know why, but that seems to be ignored," he said.

Father, son share in disaster

USC's defense has been exposed by Arizona and Oregon in losses the past two weeks, with the Trojans allowing totals of 101 points and 1,318 yards.

That creates an interesting staff dynamic, considering that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is the father of USC coach Lane Kiffin.

When it was suggested during the Pac-12's weekly coaches' teleconference that his father's NFL experience does not translate well to dealing with spread offenses, Lane Kiffin agreed with the theory. "I'm not going to be defensive of that," he said.

Because he calls the offensive plays, Kiffin basically tries to ignore what's happening with USC's defense during games. Having watched the film, he labeled the defense's performance "disappointing." He still cited the offense's three turnovers as a factor in the 62-51 loss, in addition to the Trojans' allowing a school-record 730 yards.

"We've got a chance to win that game, even with all that going on," he said.

Different league

In 2009, every Mountain West team — one through nine — beat the schools that finished below them in the standings and lost to the teams that finished ahead of them. For instance, third-place Utah lost to TCU and BYU, while beating everybody else.

The Pac-12 in 2012 is much more volatile. The best examples of the ups and downs involve UCLA, Arizona and Washington.

UCLA lost 43-17 to Cal and beat Arizona 66-10. Arizona pounded Washington 52-17, in between the Huskies' wins over then-Top 10 teams Stanford and Oregon State. The Wildcats also beat USC, before being blasted by UCLA in a game the Bruins led 42-3 at halftime.

Having spent his entire career in the NFL before coming to UCLA this year, Jim Mora marvels about how college football games can get out of hand. "I'm used to games where if you get a 10-point lead on somebody, it's a pretty big lead," he said.

Husky anomoly

USC's success on the ground is part of the answer, but this is the biggest question about any Pac-12 defense this season: How did Washington hold Trojan receiver Marqise Lee to two catches?

In losses to Arizona and Oregon, Lee caught 28 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Stanford coach David Shaw, a former NFL assistant, said Lee's recent performance was approached only by Randy Moss in 1997, when Shaw was scouting college receivers.

"I've never seen a college receiver do what Marqise Lee has done the last month, ever," Shaw said. "It's unbelievable to me."

Lee's game-by-game statistics:

Opponent Rec. Yds. TD

Hawaii 10 197 1

Syracuse 11 66 3

Stanford 8 100 0

California 11 94 2

Utah 12 192 1

Washington 2 32 0

Colorado 6 103 1

Arizona 16 345 2

Oregon 12 157 2

Totals 88 1,286 12

Pac-12 • Ron McBride saw Ute blowout coming, reasoning that bad teams can't sustain efforts
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