Feature Articles

Unitas Award Preview

The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. awards the top senior collegiate quarterback in the country every year with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. This year’s five finalists are John Beck (BYU), Kevin Kolb (Houston), Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), Troy Smith (Ohio State) and Drew Stanton (Michigan State).

Following are the comparative stat lines for these five finalists:

John Beck, BYU 261 – 371 (70.4 %) 3,510 yds, 30 TDs, 6 int.
Kevin Kolb, Houston 266 – 393 (67.7 %) 3,423 yds, 27 TDs, 3 int.
Brady Quinn, Notre Dame 274 – 432 (63.4%) 3,278 yds, 35 TDs, 5 int.
Troy Smith, Ohio State 199 – 297 (67.0%) 2,507 yds, 30 TDs, 5 int.
Drew Stanton, Michigan St. 164 – 269 (61.0%) 1,807 yds, 12 TDs, 10 int.

See anyone who stands out like a sore thumb? Yes, it’s baffling why Stanton is even on this list. Besides having the lowest marks of any finalist, his team had a losing record and failed to qualify for a bowl game. In the Big Ten Conference alone, Wisconsin’s John Stocco and Iowa’s Drew Tate, both seniors, produced better passing numbers and consequently, their teams are bowl-bound.

One game could have made a difference for Stanton and the Spartans this year. On Sept. 23, Michigan State was undefeated after its first three games and were hosting a Notre Dame squad that was coming off a blowout loss to Michigan. The Spartans raced to a 17-point halftime lead over the Irish and it appeared Drew Stanton was well on his way toward numerous post-season awards.

Instead, Quinn rallied Notre Dame while Stanton and the Spartans wilted in the second half. The 40-37 comeback victory catapulted Quinn and the Irish into an eight-game winning streak, and ultimately, an invite to the Sugar Bowl. Had Stanton’s second-half performance even remotely come close to matching his output in the first half, Notre Dame would be playing in a second-tier bowl game and, quite possibly, Stanton would be heading to New York City this week–instead of Quinn–as a Heisman Award finalist.

Brady Quinn’s signature game in 2006 certainly came against Michigan State, but if you happened to see it, you would have to agree that it was more of a Spartan meltdown than anything else. The same can be said for another comeback win against UCLA. The Bruins dominated Notre Dame in South Bend until the closing two minutes when Jeff Samardzija took a pass and miraculously eluded UCLA’s entire back seven for a game-winning 45-yard touchdown play. It was all Samardzija and Quinn just fed him the rock a few yards off the line of scrimmage in what was supposed to be a very safe, keep the sticks moving type of pass route.

Quinn’s stats against Michigan and USC are the most telling with regard to where he fits into this group of finalists. Against Michigan, his completion rate was 50 percent (24-48, 248 yards) and he threw three picks in addition to three scores. Although he didn’t register any interceptions against USC, he was effectively contained, completing less than 50 percent of his passes (22-45) for only 274 yards.

This pattern holds true with virtually every big-time opponent Quinn has faced. In last year’s Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, he managed a 29-45, 286-yard performance free of any picks or TDs. Last year against USC, he was 19-35 for 264 yards, with one score and one interception. Quite simply, Quinn is a rock-solid quarterback, but he has failed to distinguish himself from the pack on the biggest stages of his collegiate career.

Kevin Kolb is one of only 10 players in NCAA Division I-A history to surpass the 12,000-yard mark in passing, with 12,568 heading into Houston’s matchup with South Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. His signature game this season was a remarkable 21 for 28, 313-yard, four-TD, no-interception performance in a 34-25 upset win over Oklahoma State.

In two other games of note, Kolb almost engineered an upset victory over the Miami Hurricanes, losing 14-13 on the road. He was 18 for 28 for 196 yards and no interceptions in that game. He also rallied the Cougars from 16 points down to Rice with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of the first game of the year. That win proved to be the deciding factor in Houston’s claim to the West Division crown of Conference USA.

John Beck was selected as the preseason Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year and he did nothing to dispel that projection throughout the course of a record-setting season. He set a conference record by winning the offensive player of the week honors seven times throughout the year and walked off with the season-ending honors as well with a unanimous vote.

BYU lost only two games in the regular season–twice on the last play of the game against two BCS opponents, Arizona (16-13) and Boston College (30-23). Nevertheless, Beck turned in outstanding performances in both games, going 28-37 for 286 yards and one TD (with another TD pass called back) against the Wildcats, and 38-59 for 436 yards, one TD and two picks against the Eagles.

Nearly every one of the Cougar games featured a signature Beck performance, but the two that stand out the most came against bowl-bound Texas Christian (10-2) and Utah (7-5). Beck went 23 of 37 for 321 yards and three TDs against TCU and 28 for 43 for 375 yards and four TDs against Utah, with the last score being the game-winner as time expired. With 10,646 yards passing in his career, Beck has passed Jim McMahon, Steve Young and countless other BYU greats, and now stands second to only Ty Detmer in that category on BYU’s career passing yardage list.

Since he became the de facto starting QB for Ohio State following last season’s narrow home loss to Texas, Troy Smith has but one game on his resume that he wishes he could take a mulligan. It came in a 17-10 road loss to Penn State last year. Since then, Smith has led the Buckeyes on a nation-leading 19-game winning streak and the No. 1 ranking throughout the entire 2006 regular season.

Known for his clutch play in big-game situations, he has engineered three straight victories over arch-rival Michigan, including this year’s 42-39 thriller that was easily the highest-rated college game on TV in 2006. In that game, Smith went 27 of 37 for 300 yards and one TD, while picking up 37 yards on the ground off 11 carries with another touchdown.

Ever since his MVP performance in last year’s 34-20 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame (19 of 28 for 342 yards, two TDs, plus 66 yards on 13 carries) Troy has been the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy this year. He only helped his cause by going 17 of 26 for 269 yards and two TDs on the road in a huge 24-7 win over Texas, which, incidentally, was the second-highest-rated college football game this season.

Every post-season award has its own criteria for evaluating and determining a winner. In the case of the Unitas Golden Arm Award, we think it’s only fitting that the winning quarterback possess the icy cool, confident leadership that Johnny U himself exhibited on the field. All things considered equal, either Troy Smith or John Beck should be the QB to take this prestigious award home.

How to Prognosticate the Rose Bowl Game

Earlier this week, the Michigan and USC football teams met on separate nights at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, a posh 69-year-old Beverly Hills restaurant, to be honored in the 51st Annual Lawry’s Beef Bowl for their stellar regular season accomplishments and forthcoming participation in the 2007 Rose Bowl Game.

During the course of their respective Beef Bowl events, Michigan consumed 613 pounds of prime rib and USC downed 630 pounds, making it the first time the Wolverines had lost in the legendary event since 1988, which, incidentally, coincided with Bo Schembechler’s last Rose Bowl victory in his coaching career on Jan. 1, 1989.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have to be envious of the Lawry’s Beef Bowl track record of predicting the Rose Bowl Game winner. Thirty-five Beef Bowl winners in the previous 50 years of the event’s history have gone on to win “The Granddaddy of Them All” for a .700 winning percentage.

Will it hold true this year? Strangely, Michigan is the only Big Ten team with a winning record in the Beef Bowl and a losing record in the Rose Bowl, so it came as a bit of a shock to local Los Angeles media covering the event when their Trojans staged the improbable prime rib upset.

Of course, this tradition is just as much tongue in cheek as it is beef in mouth, even though an official tally is conducted by the restaurant’s general manager, Todd Johnson.

“The event is a celebration of champions and not one of gluttony, as the media are sometimes wont to portray it,” says Johnson. “However, it reached legendary status long ago–back in the Seventies–with the players and the media, so we play along with it enough to keep it fun for everyone.”

The event originated in 1956, prior to the 1957 Rose Bowl Game, with the intent of honoring the student athletes who had won their respective conference championships. It was made possible because the Big Ten Conference and Pac-10 (back then it was the Pacific Coast Conference) already had a 10-year existing relationship with the Tournament of Roses Association and the Rose Bowl Game, and both conferences agreed to participate in the pre-game event.

Over the years, all sorts of enhancements have been made to the event’s program. The Rose Queen and her Royal Court are special guests at every event, and the players and coaches now receive limited edition trading cards, mini-footballs and pins, that are among the rarest Rose Bowl Game collectibles each year.

The Sporting News calls the Lawry’s Beef Bowl “the best tradition” of the college bowl game season. During its 51-year history (which happens to make the event older than 28 of the 32 bowl games staged this year) 159 consensus All-Americans and 12 Heisman Trophy winners have participated in the tradition.

A “who’s who” list of college football’s greatest coaches have led their teams to Lawry’s on their road to the Rose Bowl, including Joe Paterno, Don James, Duffy Daugherty, Barry Alvarez, John McKay, John Robinson, Hayden Fry, Terry Donahue, Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, and even Woody Hayes.

However, Hayes only let his Buckeyes participate one time during his reign. That was the 1957 Beef Bowl, prior to the 1958 Rose Bowl Game. Ohio State won at both the training table and on the gridiron that season. Woody’s win-loss record in five other Rose Bowl Games when he wouldn’t let his players participate in the Lawry’s Beef Bowl? Yep, you guessed it. A dismal 1-4.

In total, 17,300 student athletes have been feted since 1956 in Beverly Hills and since 1983 at its sister Lawry’s Beef Bowl event in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl’s participating teams.

Last year, during the Golden Anniversary celebration of Lawry’s relationship with the Tournament of Roses Association and the Rose Bowl Game, Richard N. Frank, the chairman of Lawry’s and founder of the Beef Bowl event, was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

So, when you’re kicked back in front of the tube today, watching the Rose Bowl Game, keep in mind that history dictates that as winners of this year’s Beef Bowl, USC has a 70 percent chance of winning “The Granddaddy.”

Q&A: Outland Trophy Winner Kris Farris on Mark Weber

In this interview, former UCLA All-American offensive tackle Kris Farris offers BYU football fans some unique and personal insights into the Cougars’ new offensive line coach, Mark Weber.

Under Weber’s guidance at UCLA, Farris earned consensus first team All-American honors as well as the Outland Trophy award for best interior lineman in the country as a junior in 1998.

Farris didn’t give up a single quarterback sack that year. In fact, the entire Bruin line yielded only 10 sacks in 1998, while helping their offense rack up a single season school record of 5,847 total yards. UCLA won the Pac-10 title that year and lost a heartbreaking 38-31 nail-biter to Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game.

Following his junior season, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Farris the 74th pick overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.  Two weeks after the draft, Farris broke his ankle, which kept him off the playing field for two years of painstaking rehab. He then signed with the Buffalo Bills and cracked into the starting lineup, only to break his leg against the Steelers. He decided to retire after being picked up by Atlanta in 2003.

Farris earned a bachelors degree in English at UCLA and is currently working toward an MBA at his alma mater. He is Sales Manager for Crest Steel, a steel distributor serving the Western United States.

CG365:  Do you recall the first time you met Coach Weber?

KF:  I actually first met him during recruiting when I was in high school, but he was at UNLV, I think.  It wasn’t more than a handshake at the time, but he reminded me later when he came to UCLA that we had met.

Aside from that, I didn’t officially meet Coach Weber until my sophomore season.  We were in off-season conditioning and Coach (Bob) Toledo walked in with him and Weber was this bald, stern-looking guy and I thought, “Oh boy, what are we in for now?”

Now, he always talks about the first time we met, too. The year before he got there—my freshman season—I had played really poorly. It was like I was starting more because the cupboard was bare.  So, I walked into his office, and he always says the first thing I said to him was “I’ll bet you already heard how bad I am.” He says my shoulders were slumped over and we sat there and talked for a while. It was the first of many talks we had over the next six months. He had a lot to do with helping me get my confidence back and helping me learn how hard I needed to train in the off-season in order to succeed.

CG365:  Would you credit Coach Weber with helping develop you as an offensive lineman?

KF:  I credit him more than anyone else. Coach Toledo gets credit, and it didn’t hurt to red shirt behind Jonathan Ogden for a year—watching him work and how he did things, obviously, helped me a lot.  But, Coach Weber guided me a lot. He talked me through a lot of things. We’d go out to practice and one of the main things he taught me, and I actually still use it in life, I’d go out to practice and run around like a chicken with my head cut off, because I thought, “I’m so bad. I want to be good.”

Coach Weber would say, “Look, you’re not going to get there overnight.  Let’s pick out one thing together everyday that you can work on, and we’ll keep on working on that one thing until you master it, and then we’ll move on to something else.”

That made learning all the nuances of the position and developing my skills a lot more simple.  By the end of my college career, it evolved from “let’s work on your stance” into “let’s work on getting this one step a few inches wider.” We had really got to the point where we were honing in a lot more on refinements that elevated my game. It really helped me out.

CG365:  As you were working on all those little intermediate skill steps, did Coach Weber help you put it all together and see the big picture?

KF:  Yeah, big time. I remember walking into the film room after the Washington game late in my first season under Coach Weber and he told me that I had finally put it all together. I had a dominant performance in a really important game for our team against a top player in the conference. I am still proud of that moment; it showed me that all of the hard work I had put in during the off-season and after practice every day was paying off.  That game skyrocketed my confidence and it carried over into the USC game, our bowl game, and the next season. Twelve months later I won the Outland Trophy.

CG365:  What were your observations of Coach Weber as a recruiter at UCLA?

KF:  He was a really good recruiter. He brought in a lot of key players. He brought in Cade McNown’s replacement, who started for four years, and several blue-chip offensive linemen, that I know of. He was just a really good recruiter.

CG365:  What do you think are Coach Weber’s greatest strengths as a position coach?

KF:  He is great at fundamentals. In that position, especially when you’re trying to mold raw players coming out of high school, you need to spend a lot of time teaching them what to do with their footwork and their hands. You know, “Put your hands right here.  Don’t put it on their chest, I want you to put it three inches to the left of their number.”  You know, he’s just real precise with the fundamentals.

I always found him really approachable, too, where we could just go in and watch film together or talk things over after practice. We could sit out on the field a half hour or more after practice talking about things, even the most mundane stuff, but that’s how committed he was to fundamentals and helping make his players better.

CG365:   What was he like during game time, say, like if he noticed something that your opponent was doing differently than what you saw in their game film?

KF:   He’s really solid in game situations. We’d huddle up after we got off the field every single time, and he has that great ability to tell which players need to be yelled at and which players just need a pat on the back, like “Hey, you’re better than this. Calm down.  Stop worrying about all this other stuff and work on this one step because the player you’re going against is coming upfield more than going outside,” or something like that.

CG365:   As a junior, you didn’t allow a QB sack, and your entire unit only gave up 10 the entire season. How do you think those accomplishments reflect on Coach Weber and his responsibility for your offensive line unit?

KF:  Well, Coach Toledo was always talking about how good our offensive line was and how we were dictating the tempo in practice and our team’s success in the games. Coach Weber really impressed on us how we were pretty much the key to how the team was doing.  If practice wasn’t going well for the whole team, he’d pull us aside and say, “Hey, you can’t let this happen—you guys set the tone for the whole thing.”

If he felt we needed more intensity, he’d ratchet us up a notch and all of the sudden, we’d have more intensity and the whole team would get more out of practice.

He was really big on us being the core unit of the team and instilling pride in us that we were responsible for the quality of the team’s preparationity. And Coach Toledo definitely bought into that philosophy.

CG365:  What kind of memories do you carry with you from that incredible season when you received a lot of personal awards, UCLA won the Pac-10, and you played in the Rose Bowl Game?

KF:  It was unreal—a once in a lifetime type of experience. We were such a close knit team. The offensive line unit we had that year are still good friends of mine. We were close and spent a lot of time off the field together. We’d go out to dinner together once a week.  We knew each other’s personality so well and how we would react to different things, and we communicated really well.

We had a couple sophomores who had joined the starting unit that year and they stepped up and did a great job. It was a kind of a whirlwind year but really exciting. I think we all have a lot of pride in that year. I got a lot of the accolades that year, but I was just the guy the media chose—our entire line play was incredible.

CG365:  What special skill does Coach Weber bring to BYU’s offensive line that they haven’t seen in previous coaches?

KF:  I keep thinking of the word “polish.” He knows how to polish a player’s skill set.  Like I said, he’s really good at fundamentals and if they’ve got a solid unit already, he’s going to step in and really analyze their game and figure out how to make them even better. He knows how to make a good player great, and a great player even better. He helped make me a lot better than I would have been, and everyone else in our unit, too.

CG365:  BYU plays UCLA this coming season in the Rose Bowl Stadium.  How might Coach Weber’s experience at UCLA and playing in Rose Bowl Stadium help prepare the BYU squad for that game in September?

KF:  Well, he did work with Coach Dorrell for a year or two so he probably knows a bit about how UCLA prepares and such. There might be something valuable there he can tap into and relate to his players. As far as playing in that environment, I’m sure he’ll bring them to the stadium the day before and show them that at the end of the day it’s just a grass field like the one they practice on. For sure, he’ll know how to help keep his unit focused in that game.

CG365:  Do you recall any favorite stories or quotes of Coach Weber that have stuck with you throughout the years?

KF:  Not really that I can recall, but what I’ve always remembered and loved is the fact that he instilled a lot of pride in us and it was always just like, “Hey, this game’s on you guys.  If we’re gonna win this game, it’s on you guys.” That’s such a great feeling.

It’s a lot of pressure he put on us, but we’d respond to it and perform because he’d prepared us and we were ready to go. And none more so, than when there were six minutes left in the game and we had a little bit of a lead. He’d just huddle us up and say, “Okay, just like I said.  It’s on you. You guys are gonna win this game for us right now.”

CG365:  One of the most important responsibilities a college coach has is to help young men prepare to survive, succeed, and make positive contributions to society when they finish playing football.  What are your thoughts and feelings about how Coach Weber helped you prepare in that regard?

KF:  Well, it’s been nine years since I left for the NFL, and I still talk to him about every six months.  I think that says a lot about the type of impact he has on his players.  He wasn’t one of those coaches that are all football, football, football. He always asked me how I was doing in my classes. Graduating was always really important to him.  Since I was leaving after my junior year, he always impressed upon me the importance of returning and completing my degree.

I’ve talked to him about jobs I was going to take like the career I have now after I retired from the NFL. I consulted with him back when I was trying to decide whether to take the Buffalo Bills offer or one from New Orleans after I left the Steelers.

He’s been like a life mentor to me. He’s a good friend and his advice and help has gotten me a long way and I trust him. His expertise on the football field carries over off the field.  Football’s a great metaphor for life, and when you’ve got a great coach like Coach Weber who has helped you on the field, it easily carries over off the field.

CG365:  Based on your collegiate experience with Coach Weber, what advice would you give to a young college lineman at BYU regarding this coming season?

KF:  I would say that you need to trust him.  He might tell you to do some things differently than your previous line coach said.  He might take something you think you do really well and say, “Let’s break this down and start over and kick it up a notch.” He understands the big picture, and the fundamentals he teaches are correct, so I think the big thing is to just really trust him.

A Different Type of Star QB

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, UCLA quarterback hopeful Ben Olson responded to a remark made by the reporter who was perpetuating the mythical notion that no quarterback who served a two-year Latter-day Saint mission had ever returned to become a star quarterback.

Olson, who served his mission to Canada from 2003-2005, offered a response oozing with confidence, one that ought to have UCLA fans drooling at the thought of having him at the helm of the Bruins’ offense for the next three years:

“It’s important to me, plus I’m blessed with a lot of talent,” Olson said. “I’m better than any other guy that’s gone on a mission.”

You have to love that sort of self-assurance from this redshirt sophomore, even if it’s not exactly wrapped up in fact. You see, there happens to be a respectable group of returned missionaries preceding Olson who have already delivered Big Ten, Pac-10, and Mountain West Conference championships, not to mention bowl game victories, including two in “The Granddaddy of Them All” during the past twelve years.

So, the question that begs to be asked is “what does it take to be a star quarterback?” John Elway gained star status as a quarterback in college, even though he never led Stanford to a Pac-10 title or even a bowl game appearance. Who determines star worthiness—the critics or the fans?

The following five returned missionary quarterbacks accomplished star-quality achievements on the gridiron after volunteering two years of their lives to religious pursuits. Did their success translate into stardom?

Darrell Bevell, Wisconsin Badgers

Bevell served his mission in the Cleveland, Ohio region. He was a four-year starter (1992-95) in Madison and finished his career as Wisconsin’s all-time leading passer with 19 school records and two Big Ten marks.  He is best known to Badger fans as the quarterback who led Wisconsin to a victory over highly favored UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl championship was the first ever for Wisconsin, and it capped a 1993 regular season which saw the Badgers go 10-1-1 and claim a share of the Big Ten Conference championship, the program’s first conference title since 1962.

Brad Otton, USC Trojans

Otton served the beginning of his 2-year mission in Italy and completed it in Brooklyn, New York. A transfer from Weber State, the lanky 6’5” field general led USC to the Pac-10 title in his senior year (1995 stats: 196-of-370, 2,649 yards, 20 TDs and 10 interceptions). His remarkable performance in the 1996 Rose Bowl Game victory over Northwestern was a fitting exclamation mark to his college career (29-44, 391 yards, 2 TDs).

Brandon Doman, BYU Cougars

Doman served his mission in Argentina.  He didn’t win the starting quarterback job at BYU until the next to last game of his junior year. He engineered back-to-back wins in those two starts with the final victory of the season coming on the road over instate rival Utah in the last game of LaVell Edwards’ sterling career. As a senior in 2001, Doman was a unanimous All-Mountain West Conference first team selection and Heisman Trophy candidate, leading the Cougars to an undefeated conference championship season, a Liberty Bowl appearance and 12-2 overall record. He was the second ranked passer in the nation and second in total offense (2001 stats: 261-408, 3,542 yards, 33 TDs, and 503 yards rushing and 8 TDs).

Paul Peterson, Boston College Eagles

Peterson served his mission in Nicaragua.  After earning 2002 J.C. Grid-Wire All-America honors as a quarterback at Snow College (leading the NJCAA in passing yards and TDs) he transferred to B.C. and immediately challenged for the starting QB job. He took over starting duties with three games left in the season and promptly led the Eagles to victories over Virginia, Rutgers and 12th ranked Virginia Tech. He went 16-25, 244 yards, and 2 TDs in a 35-21 win over Colorado State in San Francisco Bowl. The next season B.C. won their first two games, making Peterson the only Eagle QB to ever go undefeated in his first six starts.  He finished 12-2 as a starting quarterback at Boston College, capping it off with an MVP-winning performance (24-33, 236 yards, 2 TDs) over North Carolina in the Continental Tire Bowl—even though he broke his leg and missed the bulk of the second half action.

John Beck, BYU Cougars

Beck served his mission in Portugal.  He is the quarterback that Ben Olson would be competing against for the starting role at BYU had Olson remained in the Cougar program.  He is one of only two quarterbacks to start all four years in the BYU program, with Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer being the other.  As a freshman, Beck earned Academic All-Mountain West honors and second-team All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore.  Last year was his breakout season, being named team offensive MVP, Academic All-MWC, and All-MWC first-team. He threw for 3,709 yards, and ranked fifth nationally with 309.1 yards-per-game average.  Beck currently ranks second all-time in Mountain West Conference history with 7,136 career passing yards and this year he has already been named the MWC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News and Blue Ribbon and projected as a Top 10 NFL QB prospect by nearly every draft analyst.

So what is it that makes a college quarterback a star?  What will be the measuring stick for Ben Olson when compared to other returned missionary QBs? Is it conference championships, bowl game victories, eye-popping statistics, gutsy performances in the clutch, or a combination of these achievements?

All five quarterbacks, with the exception of John Beck, have led their teams to league titles or bowl game victories, and he has one year left to do it.  If you ask Beck, he’ll tell you that glossy stats and postseason awards mean nothing without achieving team goals. For his part, he won’t consider himself a star quarterback until he has helped BYU win a conference championship and a bowl game. His only comparison for greatness is found in the accomplishments of the legendary signal callers who came before him.

Ben Olson doesn’t need to measure himself against other returned missionary quarterbacks to be considered a star quarterback.  He need not look any further than Westwood for inspiration and a more meaningful measuring stick. Former Bruin QBs like Gary Beban, John Sciarra, Tom Ramsey, Rick Neuheisel, Wayne Cook, and Cade McNown all delivered Pac-10 titles and four Rose Bowl victories in six appearances to their alma mater.  And, Ben, be happy in knowing that most UCLA fans also consider Troy Aikman a star—and he accomplished neither.

USC Blanks Irish, 38-0

USC shut out Notre Dame in South Bend today, 38-0. It was the largest margin of victory ever for the Trojans over the Golden Domers in the history of the series. It was also the first time USC shut out the Fighting Irish in South Bend since 1933, and the worst home loss Notre Dame has suffered since 1956. The Irish were limited to 163 total yards while Trojan back-up QB Mark Sanchez went 21 for 38, 234 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Commentary: Notre Dame is now 1-7 with four games remaining and the loss to USC guarantees Charlie Weis his first losing season in South Bend. The Fighting Irish never looked this bad under Bob Davie or Ty Willingham. It’s downright embarrassing and excuses are lame when you have perennial Top 20 recruiting classes to work with. Expect Weis to walk the plank in 2008 with his job on the line.

ASU Rips Cal, 31-20

Arizona State spotted Cal a 13-0 first-quarter lead and then rallied to a resounding 31-20 victory to hand the Golden Bears their third consecutive loss in Pac-10 play.

Running back Dimitri Nance registered 85 yards rushing and three TDs on 21 carries to lead the Sun Devils to the win. Cal’s Heisman candidate, DeSean Jackson, was limited to 88 yards receiving and a score on five receptions.

After reaching the No. 2 ranking in the nation just 15 days ago, with a realistic chance to eventually play in the BCS title game, Cal will now have to settle for a second-tier consolation bowl game in the postseason.

Commentary: ASU is the only undefeated team remaining in the Pac-10 this season. The Sun Devils will face their toughest test next Saturday when they travel to Eugene, Ore., to take on the one-loss Ducks. The Sun Devils own a 4-6 lifetime record at Autzen Stadium, having won the last two times they played there, in 2002 and ’06. It will be the second consecutive week that Oregon has hosted a matchup between two top-10 ranked teams.