Tag Archives: Pac 12

Vincent’s All-Time Pac 12 Skill Position Team: Meditations on McLeod Bethel-Thompson

I have a feeling my team is going to be a lot more dysfunctional than Matt’s (and leaning more on players’ NFL careers as well). As you’ll see, I’ve placed a big emphasis on players who’ve outperformed expectations both on- and off- the field. As for how they would play together, good god, this team would be a train wreck. But, as the adage goes, you wouldn’t be able to keep yourself from looking at it. Anyway, on to the picks!

Quarterback: McLeod Bethel-Thompson (UCLA)

If you’re reading this blog, you likely remember/experienced/drank and sobbed through the 2007 Notre Dame football season. That 3-9 season was the worst in Notre Dame history, highlighted (lowlighted?) by 0-38 losses to both Michigan and USC and the team losing to Navy for the first time in 44 attempts. The team’s first win of the season was posted against a UCLA team that had their first- and second-string quarterbacks knocked out of action, forcing them to play third string walk-on McLeod Bethel-Thompson, a man whose name befits a law firm more than a football jersey. That game featured 140 total yards from the Fighting Irish (less than half of UCLA’s output) and no touchdowns other than a Jimmy Clausen sneak and a Mo Crum fumble recovery. Bethel-Thompson, seeing his first game action, posted  an inspired12/28 for 139 yards, 0 TDS, 4 INTS, and 1 fumble lost for a touchdown statline in UCLA’s 6-20 loss to the Irish. After that season, Bethel-Thompson transferred to D I-AA Sacramento State where he finished his career with a sub-50% completion rate.

You may have thought the McLeod Bethel-Thompson story came to an end after an uncelebrated stint in D I-AA football. Rational thought would lead you to no other conclusion. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that this man, this third-string walk-on scrub, was currently gainfully employed as a third-string QB for the Minnesota Vikings. I contemplated putting Matt Leinart in this slot; despite his pro failings, he had what was quite possibly the best career of any quarterback in college football history. But Leinart, unlike my man MBT, currently is without an NFL job and is getting shade thrown his way by his college football contemporaries who’ve gone on to bigger and better things. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, for succeeding despite all rational expectations to the contrary, you win the top spot in my All-time Pac 12 team.

Running Back: LenDale White (USC)

With all the “is he/isn’t he fat” discussion over Eddie Lacy, let’s not forget the contributions of unquestionably out-of-shape/shockingly effective LenDale White. White’s reduced to a punchline nowadays but his on-field accomplishments, namely forming college football’s most destructive “Thunder and Lightening” backfield with Reggie Bush  and vulturing double digit touchdowns from Chris Johnson, were nothing to shrug at. The real reason LenDale White holds a permanent place in heart, however, was his claim that he dropped 30 lbs solely by cutting Patron out of his diet. After cutting his tequila weight, White’s productivity took a sharp turn downward (see our first installment of Kwanametrics below), proving the football gods work in bizarre ways:

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Kwanametrics: Did cutting Patron help LenDale White?

In his halcyon, Patron-chugging days of 2008, White scored 15 touchdowns. After cutting it out of his diet, his production dropped to 2 touchdowns.

Conclusion: Cutting Patron did not help LenDale White.

Wide Receiver: Mike Williams (USC)

USC receiver Mike Williams had a stellar freshman and sophomore year at USC and then decided to put all his eggs into the Maurice Clarett legal train, believing he could declare for the 2004 NFL draft immediately after his Sophomore year. Silly Mike Williams! After having a positive lower court ruling reversed in the Federal appellate court by panel including none other than future Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, denying him and Clarett the opportunity to participate in the 2004 NFL Draft, Williams had no choice but to sit out an entire season of football. Despite sitting a year out of football, Williams was still drafted in the first round by the Detroit Lions (as they are wont to do) where he underwhelmed before finding a short-lived career resurrection with Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. Becoming a millionaire (albeit briefly) and having my name tied to a high-profile federal court case are among my life’s goals, and Mike Williams, for having accomplished both of those things, I salute you.

Wide Receiver: Jeff Maehl (Oregon)

Not much to say about Jeff Maehl. Not much he would say about himself. Hard-working. High motor. While Darron Thomas and LaMichael James were scorching the earth and grabbing headlines, Maehl was the gritty, white man hustle glue that quietly put together the best non-Cam Newton college football team of 2010.  Here, enjoy this highlight video of Maehl set to similarly gritty rapper Eminem’s “Cinderalla Man” :

Tight End: Tony Gonzalez (Cal)

Undoubtedly the elder statesman of my All-Pac 12 team, Tony Gonzalez earns the TE spot for helping redefine the position was his versatile play and continually turning back the clock to rack up incredible statistics as he nears 40. A consummate professional, I was happy to see Gonzalez win his first playoff game last year as an Atlanta Falcon. It’s almost a disservice to him to place him on this mostly farcical list, but Tony Gonzalez definitely earns his spot as a member of my All Pac-12 team.

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Matt’s All-Time Pac 12 Skill Position Team: Are You Not Entertained?

For each conference, we’re picking our all-time favorite set of skill position players (1 QB. 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE). The purpose of this isn’t to pick the best players of all time, but just to pick and write about our favorites or throw together an interesting group of players and imagine what they would’ve been like on the field together.

If the Pac 12 has had nothing else, it’s had a bunch of colorful characters over the past couple decades, and those guys are the focus of my team. These guys (with one exception) would dominate the headlines for their antics, and they’d also be a pretty damn good team on the field. Here goes.

Quarterback: Ryan Leaf (Washington State)

leafRyan Leaf has become such a caricature that people forget he was actually a great college quarterback: in 1998, he finished third in Heisman voting and led WSU to a Pac-10 championship. But the real reason I picked Ryan Leaf (other than the fact that he, Marshawn Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson, and Gronks would form the Most Interesting Team in the World) is that he’s the most fun Pac 10/12 quarterback to Google. Here are some results on the first few pages of a simple search: “Are the Ryan Leaf Comparisons Fair for Johnny Manziel?”(Bleacher Report), “Why Jimmy Clausen is the Second Coming of Ryan Leaf” (Bleacher Report… Ryan Leaf is basically the human version of Bleacher Report, or vice versa, I think), a few dozen “turning over a new Leaf” puns, and this picture.

Running Back: Marshawn Lynch (Cal)

Beast Mode. Skittles. Grills. It’s only a matter of time before Marshawn Lynch becomes Cal-Berkeley’s 72nd Nobel laureate.

Wide Receiver: Keyshawn Johnson (USC)

C’MON, MAN! After all the USC hating in this blog over the past couple days, I’m picking a USC player? Yep. I actually don’t mind Keyshawn, though that’s probably because I’m too young to remember him playing for USC (though his numbers were ridiculous). He’s a pretty entertaining guy, and he’d fit in perfectly with Leaf, Lynch, and Gronks (though probably not with Mark Bradford: see below) to help make this Pac 12 ensemble one of the most brash and talented groups you could put together.

Wide Receiver: Mark Bradford (Stanford)

Who is Mark Bradford? Yeah, I didn’t know either, until I Googled “guy who scored the game-winning touchdown in Stanford’s huge upset of USC”. Mark Bradford is that guy. If you don’t remember this specific game, it was in 2007, USC was #1 in the Coaches’ Poll, and Stanford was 1-3 and a 41-point underdog. Long story short, Stanford mounted a fourth-quarter comeback that culminated in a game-winning touchdown reception by none other than Mark Bradford. He’s a bit of a misfit on this team of otherwise notably insane individuals, but he’s earned his spot. Though I forgot his name for a while (if I ever knew it), Mark Bradford will always live on as a legend in my books. 

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (Arizona)

Actually, it might not be a good idea to put Gronks and Ryan Leaf on the same team. I doubt they’d last a full season without at least one of them ending up seriously injured, incarcerated, or both. But Gronks is both a beast (obviously) and just the right amount of crazy to fit into this team. To be honest, I don’t remember him playing in college at all, but that’s on me because his stats are pretty impressive. The combination of talent and entertainment value is too much to pass up here.

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Matt’s Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Andrew LuckI hate you, Stanford, but goddammit do I respect you. Yesterday I picked Stanford as my least favorite team in the conference, and today I’m picking them as my favorite*. Basically, I hate Stanford when they’re playing against my favorite team, and I pull for them against everyone else. As I discussed yesterday, the overemphasis on toughness can get annoying, but maybe that’s just because I’m jealous. You can’t help but respect them.

As far as we can tell, Stanford has achieved their recent success the right way. Elite academics. Not much drama and no significant scandals that I can recall. They were led to success on the shoulders of a smart, likable guy who apparently can’t get enough of architecture. They’ve made BCS bowl appearances each of the past three seasons and won two of them. Sure, Harbaugh was/is kind of an asshole, but it was in a goofy, entertaining way (again, unless your favorite team was playing against him). Since Harbaugh has left, David Shaw has become one of the most respectable coaches in the sport, and it looks like the program is here to stay.

Okay, really. The real reason I like Stanford? Clearly, it’s because Stanford spawned Ty Willingham**, my favorite women’s golf coach of all time. Just kidding. The real reason is that Stanford now regularly beats USC, and that’s something we can all rally around.

So today we salute you, Stanford, goofy tree and all.


*Am I covering my bases because the odds are that one day I’ll have a boss who’s a Stanford grad? No way. Okay, maybe.

**A sign of how far Stanford football has to go? Ty Willingham is second in career coaching victories with 55.

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Vincent’s Least Favorite of the Pac 12: Colorado

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the five major college football conferences, focusing on one conference per week over the next five weeks. We introduced the concept of the series in this post last Friday. Each Monday, our writers will discuss their least favorite teams in each conference, and today we begin with the Pac 12. Also, due to our extreme bias as irrational fans of Notre Dame, we decided that for our least favorite teams in the Pac 12, we had to choose a school other than USC, which would have been the unanimous choice.

As Matt mentioned, we decided to avoid writing about USC because it’d be too obvious. Hating USC as a Notre Dame fan isn’t an opinion, it’s an axiom. So this column is actually more accurately described as Least Favorite PAC-12 Team *non-USC Division, adding another asterisk to the many that surround USC football.

Picking a least favorite team is easy when you have strong hatred for one. For me, this doesn’t apply to any team in the PAC-12 *non-USC division. Therefore, I thought about this question in terms of the team which had the fewest qualities that would make me cheer for them. With that in mind, Colorado Buffaloes, come on down!

Underdogs are always fun to root for, and when you’re arbitrarily picking teams in conferences to hitch your wagon to, teams at the bottom are always appealing. That said, it’s one thing to buy a fixer-upper from the junkyard and another to pick up disparate parts from the scrap metal pile. If you’re an advanced statistics kind of person, Colorado ranked 124th in 2012 F/+ rankings, putting on display the country’s sixth-worst offense and second-worst defense.  If you’re not, watch this GIF of CU QB Jordan Webb running a first down QB sneak in a 38-3 lost to Washington. If I had a shred of emotional investment in Colorado football and watched that play live, anger tears and a broken TV would have been inevitable.

Hope springs eternal with San Jose St. savior Mike MacIntyre coming onboard as the HC next year, but to me, the odds on reaping the joys of Colorado fandom just seem far too long. Colorado, for being the team that would be most likely to lead me to a mental breakdown, I award you the title of Least Favorite in the PAC-12 *non-USC division

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Matt’s Least Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the five major college football conferences, focusing on one conference per week over the next five weeks. We introduced the concept of the series in this post last Friday. Each Monday, our writers will discuss their least favorite teams in each conference, and today we begin with the Pac 12. Also, due to our extreme bias as irrational fans of Notre Dame, we decided that for our least favorite teams in the Pac 12, we had to choose a school other than USC, which would have been the unanimous choice.


Aside from USC, I don’t really harbor strong feelings–good or bad–for any Pac 12 program. I’ve only been to the west coast one time in my life, and it was an overall pleasant experience. I don’t know anyone who went to a Pac 12 school, and I’ve never been to any games on a Pac 12 campus. That being said, this pick is based solely on the fact that a certain Pac 12 school has become a huge pain in my favorite team’s ass. Plus, the tree. No one likes the tree.

From 2002 through the 2008 season, Notre Dame beat Stanford seven straight times. Then, in 2009 Stanford broke the streak by beating ND on the way to an 8-5 season, its first winning season in several years. We know the rest of the story: from 2010 on, Stanford has been really, really good and has become (arguably) the toughest, most hard-nosed team outside of the SEC. What was once a guaranteed win has become one of the toughest games on the ND schedule year in and year out.

Has head coach David Shaw taken the “tough” identity a little too far? Maybe, if this tweet from Paul Myerberg is accurate. Will too much toughness be the end of Stanford’s excellent recent run (yeah, I’m reaching…)?

Only recruiting the “toughest guy on the team” has some interesting implications:

  • Shaw can never recruit two guys who played together in high school — only one can be the toughest!

  • Stanford is going to have the toughest punters and kickers in football history… but will they be able to kick?

As a Notre Dame fan, I can only hope that musclebound, inaccurate kickers lead Stanford’s descent back to the ranks of the cellar dwellers.

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Beginning Next Week: The Commutes College Football Extravaganza

College Football

Courtesy of Flickr user starmanseries

Believe it or not, we have only five full weeks left until the first college football weekend of 2013. Before long, we’ll all be able to feel normal about drinking at 9:00 AM on Saturdays again. To help pass the five weeks until that glorious day, The Commutes will publish a five-week series of posts about college football, with each week focusing on a particular major conference (Pac 12, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big 10). As most of our writers are fans of an independent program, we figured it’d be fun to offer our outsiders’ views on each conference.

Each Monday through Thursday will feature our writers’ takes on a different topic related to the conference:

  • Monday — Least favorite team/school in the conference. Everyone has that team they hate in a particular conference, whether for a good reason or not. Didn’t get in to school there? Got arrested there? Hating on schools is fun, especially when you’ve got a case of the Mondays.

  • Tuesday — Favorite team/school in the conference. Even if you’re a fan of an independent team, you usually have a crush on some other teams and like a little something on the side.

  • Wednesday — All-Time Conference Skill Position Team (1 QB, 1 RB, 1 TE, and 2 WRs). The purpose of this isn’t to pick the best group of skill position players in the history of the conference, but to pick favorites or just throw together an interesting group of players. Jamal Lewis, Matt Jones, and Aaron Hernandez on the same team? It’d be like Urban Meyer’s all-time dream team of crime. Anything is possible.

  • Thursday — Free-for-all. These posts can be about anything and everything relating to the conference.

We’ll be starting next Monday with the Pac 12, the conference-we-want-to-get-out-of-the-way-because-no-one-actually-gives-a-shit-about-it.

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