Mailbag: Best nonconference matchups?

May, 23, 2014
May 23
6:00
PM PT
A quick thank you to everyone who messaged me asking if we were safe from the fires in San Diego. The Gemmell clan is well. Many thanks.

To the notes!

Ryan in New York writes: Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. My MAIN man Kevin. UCLA vs Texas? C'mon man. That has stinker written all over it. Did you see this year's draft? ZERO Texas players drafted for the first time since leather helmets. New coach, new system, new philosophy, too. And the quarterback situation is an absolute disaster. The Horns are also picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12, too. On paper, the matchup has some appeal, but in reality you're pushing a rock up a hill, unless you're in Westwood, where it's a dream scenario -- you get credit for pushing around a former super power without really being challenged. Though your point about ASU is a good one, but that's another discussion. You're way too smart for this. What gives? Hyping the conference? Enhancing [Brett] Hundley's Heisman profile? An ex-girlfriend a Horns grad? Peace out.

Kevin Gemmell: Ya know, as I was typing out my Take 2 with Chantel, I could almost hear my mailbag dinging with a note from Ryan.

[+] EnlargeBevo
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIs UCLA-Texas a marquee nonconference game? It's tough to steer elsewhere among the Pac-12's other nonconference matchups (other than Michigan State-Oregon, of course).
Here’s the thing about Take 2s ... someone has to go first. And Chantel’s pick of Oregon-Michigan State was the obvious choice for no other reason than it’s the best choice and the best nonconference game.

You can read my explanation on why I picked UCLA-Texas after that one. But sure, we can look at a couple more.

As I noted in the Take 2, I think there’s always intrigue with Notre Dame, which will again play three games against the Pac-12 this season.

Notre Dame went 2-1 against the Pac-12 last season, with USC and Arizona State both stumbling over themselves late in the game, and Notre Dame swept the Pac-12 in 2012 by knocking off Stanford in overtime (see the quick forward progress call) and the Matt Barkley-less Trojans.

Plus, given the controversy that swirled around the Fighting Irish trying to pull out of their date with the Sun Devils in Tempe, I’d imagine that’s a game that will draw a big crowd, and the Irish will catch some guff from the Sun Devils faithful.

Here’s a look at the nonconference games for each team:

  • Arizona: UNLV, @UTSA, Nevada. So Nevada here as the best one?
  • Arizona State: Weber State, @New Mexico, Notre Dame. The aforementioned Notre Dame game has to be the best one (unless you’re dying for a trip to Albuquerque, in which case you can take the "Breaking Bad" tour).
  • California: @Northwestern, Sacramento State, BYU. I’d like to see the Golden Bears pull off a shocker at Northwestern. But for now, let’s just get through Sac State.
  • Colorado: Colorado State (neutral), @Massachusetts, Hawaii. No doubt, it’s the Colorado State game that’s the most important for the Buffs.
  • Oregon: South Dakota, Michigan State, Wyoming. Any questions?
  • Oregon State State: Portland State, @Hawaii, San Diego State. Anyone else remember just how close that game was last year against the Aztecs?
  • Stanford: UC Davis, Army, @Notre Dame. I actually find myself wanting to see San Jose State back on the schedule. Though considering how Stanford’s last game went in South Bend, I think that will be a fun one.
  • UCLA: @Virginia, Memphis, Texas (neutral, sort of). One of these games can bolster UCLA’s national reputation. And it’s not Virginia or Memphis.
  • USC: Fresno State, @Boston College, Notre Dame. The Notre Dame game is obviously a traditional rivalry and I don’t see any issues with the Trojans whopping a Fresno State team (again) that doesn’t have Derek Carr or Davante Adams.
  • Utah: Idaho State, Fresno State, @Michigan. No BYU this year (insert emoticon frowny face). But the game at Michigan should be a good one between a pair of former Mountain West coaches feeling their seats heating up.
  • Washington: @Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, Georgia State. You could start me, Kyle, Ted and Chantel at quarterback in each of those games and Chris Petersen would still start 4-0 in his career at Washington. (Well, maybe not Ted).
  • Washington State: Rutgers, @Nevada, Portland State. It’s doubtful Rutgers or Nevada will make the national championship game like Auburn did last season. Still, the Scarlet Knights were a bowl team last season.

So there you have it. After the Oregon-Michigan State game, which one would you choose? I could see an argument for one of the Notre Dame games or Utah-Michigan. But given the goals and expectations for UCLA this year, I think their matchup with Texas is next in line.


Eric in Woodbridge, Virginia, writes: Kevin, regarding your entry on preventing points after turnovers, North Division: I distinctly remember Stanford giving up a touchdown to Oregon on a blocked field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Did you leave it out because it was a special teams play? Thanks, keep up the great work.

Kevin Gemmell: You are correct. Rodney Hardrick did block a field goal attempt and return it 65 yards for a touchdown. But I did not include it because it doesn’t count as a turnover in the “traditional” statistical sense -- which only takes into account fumbles and interceptions. Same for safeties.

Speaking of safeties, I came across an example in the Cal-Washington State game where a safety followed a turnover. With third-and-1 at the WSU 1-yard line, Kalafitoni Pole forced and recovered a Brendan Bigelow fumble. On the next play, Teondray Caldwell was tackled in the end zone by Deandre Coleman for a safety.

That’s a situation in which WSU didn’t give up a touchdown, so good for them for making a goal-line stand. But they still yielded points by failing to capitalize on a turnover and giving up a safety.

That’s an example where WSU gets dinged in my stats for not scoring off a turnover. But in the grand scheme of things, they still only gave up two points, as opposed to seven had Bigelow scored. (Technically, I guess you could call it five points, as Cal scored a field goal after the safety kickoff).

So stats and raw numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

So if you look at the box score for that Stanford-Oregon game, the Ducks are dinged with two turnovers (both fumbles that Stanford turned into field goals) and zero Stanford turnovers.

If you want to go by the letter of the rule, which I did, then Stanford didn’t allow a touchdown following a turnover all season. If you want to go with the spirit of the rule, you’d be right. In either event, be it one touchdown or zero touchdowns allowed, it’s still an impressive number.


Jim in Phoenix writes: The video on Brett Hundley as Campus Enforcer was pretty lame, and a half (fannied) rip off of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.

Kevin Gemmell: I can’t link the Tate video because there is some non-blog-appropriate language. You’re free to Google it and have a laugh.

I also thought of the Tate video, but I thought this one was still funny. Perhaps it was a college student paying homage to the Tate video. Or maybe it was a couple of guys having fun for a spring talent show. Either way, it’s the offseason and it was good for a chuckle. If you don’t like it, it cost three minutes of your life and I’m sure you can successfully move on and put it behind you.


Chilly in Sacramento writes: Thanks for your good work. I just sent a message to Ted and wanted to include you, too, but I messed up the copy and paste ... so I'll make this quick. Check out this web article on the most delusional fan bases in college sports. (This was linked in SI.com's Extra Mustard today.) I think a fun exercise for this horrid time of year for football fans would be to rank the Pac-12's most delusional football fan bases. Since you guys get more than your share of emails from biased Pac-12 fans, you would be the best people to evaluate. I think measuring a delusional fan base would involve some kind of balance between subjective impression of your team (expectations of immediate and long-term success and view of status of your team as a college football "power" or "elite" or place in the spectrum) vs. objective measures (current and historical success). If you have done something like this on the blog before, I am sorry I missed it. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: So what Chilly is basically asking me to do is light an offseason fire and then smother it with gun powder to try to put it out.

Not going to fall for it, my friend.

Ranking fanbases, while fun, is as futile as most preseason rankings. Every group has that fanatic (where the word "fan" derives from, not ironically) who refuses to listen to reason. No matter what logic you throw at him or her, they'll still come back with a lot of "Yeah, but stills..." and "Maybe, buts...". Conversely, every fanbase has that clear-headed thinker who can separate fact from fanaticism. And the rest of every other fanbase falls within the bell curve.

[+] EnlargeAutzen Stadium
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsOregon fans have had a lot to cheer about in recent years.
Some are more vocal than others, sure. Oregon fans do quite a bit of chest-thumping. And it’s deserved so long as they keep winning 12-13 games a year or there is a poll involving them. Most Washington fans will always believe this is their year. To which I say, right on.

ASU and UCLA fans have resurfaced the last couple of seasons, and with good reason. There will always be Utah and Oregon State fans calling for their coach’s head. And there will always be Colorado fans who are convinced a zero-win season is just around the corner. Washington State fans are also making a bit of a comeback ... led by the always-opinionated Cougar Brian.

The occasional Stanford fan will loathe David Shaw no matter what he calls in certain situations. Most will golf clap their team's success and continue to embrace #nerdnation.

USC fans will always pipe in when we've written too many UCLA articles (cough, Ryan in New York). Arizona fans came out of the woodwork after the Oregon win, and then right back in after losing to ASU for the second consecutive season.

Cal fans have been quiet lately.

But that’s the beauty of this time of year. You can go down the schedule and check off wins and losses. Right about now, most Cal, Utah and Colorado fans are looking at their schedules and thinking, “Yeah, I think there are six wins out there to get to a bowl game.” And there might be.

But I’m sure last offseason almost every Stanford fan had Utah checked off as a win (though Jon Wilner continues to remind me that he picked the Utes to win that game in the preseason, to which I continue to say "bravo") and almost every Arizona fan had Oregon checked as a loss.

If ever there was a time to be delusional about your team and get your hopes up, this would be it. So I say have some fun with it and dream big.

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