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Wait, how many USC quarterbacks are starting?

Wait, how many USC quarterbacks are starting?

There was a streak in jeopardy in week 17 of the 2012 season. With former Trojan Carson Palmer injured, the Raiders skipped over his former USC teammate, Matt Leinart, and started ex-Ohio State Buckeye Terrelle Pryor at quarterback for the season finale. Since the Chiefs had previously benched Matt Cassel for Brady Quinn, if it wasn’t for Greg McElroy missing the Jets last game against the Bills — which reinserted Mark Sanchez into the starting lineup for New York — USC’s streak of consecutive weeks with a starting quarterback in the NFL would have ended. Instead, the streak is now up to 81 weeks with at least one of Sanchez, Palmer, Cassel and/or Leinart starting.

As impressive as that might sound, it’s not even halfway to the record. You can take a second to think about which school had the longest run with at least one of its former players starting at quarterback, but first, another bit of trivia: I noticed that in week 12 of the 2009 season, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, and Carson Palmer all started. But believe it or not, that’s not a record, either.

In week 13 of the 2000 season, five quarterbacks from the University of WashingtonWarren Moon, Mark Brunell, Damon Huard, Chris Chandler, and Brock Huard — were starting in the NFL. Add in Washington State’s Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf, and seven quarterbacks that played college in the Evergreen State were starting in the NFL that weekend.
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A year after having a sack in the BCS National Championship Game, Upshaw forced a key fumble in the Super Bowl.

A year after having a sack in the BCS National Championship Game, Upshaw forced a key fumble in the Super Bowl.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun pointed out an interesting bit of trivia today: Courtney Upshaw has now won back-to-back titles in college and the NFL. Back in October 2009, the Minnesota Vikings were 5-0, and new additions Brett Favre and rookie Percy Harvin were a big part of their success. Harvin had won the national championship with Florida and Tim Tebow in 2008, and I wondered: how often does a player win a national championship in college and then win the Super Bowl the next season?

As of that post, only three players had won a college championship their last season in college and then were starters on a Super Bowl champion the following year: Randall Gay (LSU 2003, New England 2004), William Floyd (Florida State 1993, San Francisco 1994) and Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh 1976, Dallas 1977).

So, has that changed? In 2009 the Saints won the Super Bowl, but they had no rookies from Florida. Alabama won the BCS Championship in 2009 and had seven players drafted in April 2010, but none of them landed on the Packers.  The next year Cam Newton and Nick Fairley helped the Auburn Tigers win the championship, but none of their players found themselves as New York Giants a year later. In 2011, the Crimson Tide won another national title, and Courtney Upshaw was named the Defensive MVP of the game.  Alabama defeated LSU in the Super Dome, the site of where Upshaw’s Ravens just won the Super Bowl.

With nine starts, Upshaw qualifies as a “starter” on the Ravens, so he joins Dorsett, Floyd, and Gay as the only players to to start for a Super Bowl champion a year after winning the national championship. In an odd twist, if we require a player to start for the two teams, Gay drops off the list: he was a nickel back on the 2003 LSU Tigers, behind future NFL cornerbacks Corey Webster and Travis Daniels. Dorsett has the most impressive two-year run, as he ran for for 1,948 yards and 21 touchdowns and won the Heisman Trophy for the Panthers in ’76 and then rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Cowboys a year later.
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Previewing the Conference Championship Games

There are six conference championship games this weekend. Here’s a short preview breaking down this weekend’s action. All times Eastern.

MAC Championship (Detroit, MI)

Friday, 7PM: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois (-6.0)

What is inside of Dri Archer?

Weeknight MACtion doesn’t get better than this, and this is one of just two conference championship games featuring two 11-1 teams. The SRS hit the nail on the head, telling us that NIU is 6.2 points better than Kent State on a neutral field. The stars here are Northern Illinois’ quarterback Jordan Lynch and KSU’s running back Dri Archer. Lynch leads the MAC in Y/A, AY/A, TD/INT Ratio, and Passer Rating, and oh by the way leads the conference with 1,611 rushing yards and ranks third with 16 rushing touchdowns.

Archer, meanwhile, leads the MAC with 1,795 yards from scrimmage has scored 18 touchdowns. But here’s the killer stat: he averaging 9.7 yards per carry, the highest average of any player with at least 100 carries since at least 2000. In his spare time, Archer averages 38.2 yards per kick return, the highest average of any player with at least 12 returns since at least 2000.

Kent State lost to Kentucky, which didn’t seem odd at the time — because we’re talking about Kent State — but looks absurd in retrospect. The Golden Flashes received an SRS grade of 4.4 for that game. Northern Illinois’ one loss was on opening weekend against Iowa, an 18-17 loss in Chicago where NIU led most of the game.

My pick: NIU -6

Pac 12 Championship (Stanford, CA)

Friday, 8PM: UCLA @ Stanford (-8.5)

If we looked at the SRS standings from a week ago, we would set this line at Stanford -5.6. But the current projected SRS spread would be 8.6, mirroring the actual line. So how much do we take away from last week’s game, where Stanford had everything to play for and UCLA seemed content to walk away unscathed?

It’s tough to say. Jim Mora’s Bruins have been an exciting team to watch this year, but Stanford’s defense is well-equipped to stop any rushing attack. Runing backs Johnathan Franklin (UCLA) and Stepfan Taylor (Stanford) have been workhorse backs, each rushing for 11 touchdowns, ranking third and fourth in the conference in rushing, and chipping in in the passing game. And while freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has been outstanding for UCLA, I have a feeling he’s going to wind up very frustrated on Friday night.

My pick: Stanford -8.5

CUSA Championship (Tulsa, OK)

Saturday, 12PM: Central Florida @ Tulsa (-1.5)

These are the two best teams in Conference USA, but that isn’t saying too much. The SRS puts UCF as 3.1 points better than Tulsa, so this game should be a push in Oklahoma. The Golden Hurricane handed UCF their only conference loss two weeks ago in Tulsa, but UCF has the more impressive resume this year losing to just Ohio State and Missouri out of conference. Tulsa lost to Iowa State and Arkansas, and just lost on the road to SMU. So why am I going with the Golden Hurricane? Because Tulsa has gone 16-2 at home the last three years, with the only losses coming to teams ranked, at the time, 8th in the country (Oklahoma State and Houston, in 2011). The final score two weeks ago was misleading, as Tulsa outgained UCF by well over 100 yards rushing, average 1.9 more yards per pass, and won the first downs battle, 26-14.

My pick: Tulsa -1.5

SEC Championship (Atlanta, GA)
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Gene Stallings coached in the NFL in the late ’80s, in between the Jim Hanifan and Joe Bugel eras of Cardinals football. He was the man who led the team as the franchise relocated from St. Louis to Phoenix. He coached under Tom Landry for over a decade in Dallas. But Gene Stallings will always be remembered for working under Bear Bryant and for embodying what it meant to coach Alabama football.

Stallings played on Bryant’s famous Junction Boys team at Texas A&M, and coached under Bryant when the Crimson Tide won national championships in ’61 and ’64. After his failed stint in the NFL, Stallings returned to Alabama, this time as the head coach. His crowning achievement was winning the 1992 national championship, capping a 13-0 season.

So why the background on Stallings today? One of the fun things about owning a website is seeing where your traffic comes from. I noticed a bunch of hits were coming from RollBamaRoll.com. So I went to the site to see what was driving the traffic (as it turns out, a random link to this passer rating article) and I found this great quote by Stallings on another page:

Everyone keeps talking about our game with Miami [in the 1993 Sugar Bowl]. The reason we won against Miami is this: We had the ball 15 minutes more than they did. We ran the ball for 275 yards against Miami. They ran the ball for less than 50 yards. When the game was over, we won. After a game, it may not look good. The alumni may be asking why we are not entertaining them. Let me assure you that our job is to win football games. You win football games by running the ball, stopping the run and being on the plus side of giveaway-takeaways.

You get five pass attempts and no more.

I think every coach1 at every level has, at some point, uttered a phrase to essentially the same effect. It is quintessential Alabama football, but it could have just as easily come out of the mouth of Greasy Neale or Bill Cowher or Vince Lombardi. Of course, whenever I read a quote like that, two immediate questions come to mind. Is it true? And how can I determine if it’s true?
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  1. Mike Martz excluded, of course. []