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Pac-12 football: USC claws way into thick of South race

Published November 5, 2013 2:40 pm

College football • Interim coach Orgeron pushing right buttons for Trojans
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

USC has gone from merely hoping to become bowl-eligible to playing its way into the Pac-12 South race with a 3-2 record in the month since Ed Orgeron became the Trojans' interim coach after the firing of Lane Kiffin.

USC lost at Notre Dame, but Orgeron has beaten Arizona, Utah and Oregon State in conference play. The Trojans (6-3) visit California this week and later will face Colorado and UCLA.

Orgeron is unlikely to keep the job permanently because USC is such a high-profile program. Yet the way the players and assistant coaches have responded to his leadership is impressive — particularly in overcoming a series of injuries.

"For me personally, it's been very gratifying every day to walk in here," Orgeron said. "I can't give our coaching staff enough credit."

The assistants have uncertain futures, but the team is improving and winning. The players responded well to the fresh start, and that's rewarding for Orgeron.

"I'm just really enjoying being with them," he said. "Seeing them have fun again, wanting to come to practice, walking around with their chest out and their eyes up — not in a cocky way."

Stanford grads are tough enough

In the response to bullying by teammate Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team in a move that some have attributed to his Stanford background — and not in a positive way, citing an apparent lack of toughness.

"That's stupid," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Linking what happened in Miami to Stanford is moronic. ... The person [Incognito] we're talking about has a long track record. We have smart kids, we have tough kids, we have kids that are doing extremely well in the NFL."

As of the opening week of the 2013 season, Stanford ranked fourth among Pac-12 schools with 25 players on NFL active rosters and practice squads.

Ups and downs at ASU

Arizona State coach Todd Graham has experienced a tumultuous few days since the Sun Devils' rout of Washington State last Thursday.

Graham and his son, Bo, an ASU assistant coach, were riding in a small plane on a recruiting trip to Dallas when the plane abruptly lost altitude and had to make an emergency landing in Albuquerque, N.M.

Then ASU athletic director Steve Patterson was hired by Texas on Tuesday. Graham is secure at ASU with a 14-7 record in his second season. But where this could get interesting is if Texas coach Mack Brown retires, with Graham a natural fit for the Longhorns as a former high school and college coach in the state.

As for the potential distraction, "I can't do anything about what people say," Graham said.

ASU included an exit provision that would prevent Patterson from hiring an ASU employee this year, the Arizona Republic reported.

Jack fits the description

If you're wondering what kind of athlete Utah is trying to recruit in an effort to compete in the Pac-12, the answer is Myles Jack. The problem is the fast, explosive linebacker from the Seattle area already plays for UCLA. Asked about Jack on the coaches' weekly teleconference, Utah's Kyle Whittingham said his staff pursued him and "without a doubt, he would have come in and started as a freshman. He's going to be a force in this conference."

Jack ranks second on his team with 35 solo tackles in eight games. He's credited with a blocked kick and seven pass deflections, plus an interception that secured the Bruins' 34-27 victory at Utah.

Asked about Jack's impact as a freshman, UCLA coach Jim Mora said he's "not terribly surprised, because it's Myles."

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt No. 1

Oregon (8-0)

Ducks have won 17 straight conference road games

No. 2

Stanford (7-1)

Defense has allowed 22 total points in last two games

No. 3

Arizona State (6-2)

Sun Devils scored TDs on first three drives vs. Utah last season

No. 4

UCLA (6-2)

Sophomore QB Brett Hundley already No. 3 in career total offense

No. 5

USC (6-3)

Utah, Oregon State combined for one offensive TD vs. Trojans

No. 6

Washington (5-3)

Huskies held Colorado to 141 total yards last year

No. 7

Oregon State (6-3)

QB Sean Mannion: 3 interceptions in first eight games, 3 vs. USC

No. 8

Arizona (6-2)

Wildcats among BYU's possible Fight Hunger Bowl opponents

No. 9

Utah (4-4)

Utes staged huge upset of Devils 40 years ago in snow, cold

No. 10

Washington State (4-5)

Cougars' remaining opponents in bowl quest: Arizona, Utah, Washington

No. 11

Colorado (3-5)

Buffaloes' offense came to life vs. UCLA with 26 first downs

No. 12

California (1-8)

Anticipation building for trip to Colorado next week