Opening the mailbag: LSU owns Pac-12

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
5:02
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

I would encourage you to follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. Otherwise you will miss my tweets, and that could damage that space-time continuum.

To the notes!

Brady from Portland writes: Does Washington beating Stanford help or hurt the national perspective of the strength of the Pac 12?

Paul from Portland writes: Ted, it's games like tonight's (Wash/Stan) that give the Pac-12 a bad name. We have a team like Washington that gets crushed 41-3 by LSU, then beats Stanford, which is ranked #8. Why does this always happen in the Pac? Is it parity or just lack of consistency?

Ted Miller: Yes, in the beauty contest that college football is, where perception is the primary measuring stick as opposed to head-to-head games, the Huskies defeat of Stanford hurt the national perception of the Pac-12, particularly in comparison to the SEC.

Here's how this works.

After LSU beat Washington 41-3, it established a challenging benchmark for the Huskies vs. the rest of the Pac-12 vs. LSU. If a Pac-12 team wanted to compare itself to LSU, the theory goes, it must win in a similar fashion when it plays Washington. Perhaps not by 38 points, but at least by two TDs or more. And a loss to the Huskies! Wow, that would confirm inferiority without question!

Welcome to the transitive property of college football: If A (LSU) is greater than B (Washington) and B (Washington) is greater than C (Stanford) then A (LSU) is greater than C (Stanford).

And, of course, as Stanford already has beaten USC, that also makes LSU greater than the Trojans.

Now, most of us know this logic isn't sound -- even theoretically. Every season it fails to hold true in numerous cases, such as Stanford beats USC, Oregon beats Stanford, USC beats Oregon.

Heck, Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season and then battered the Tigers in the national title game. Every game is different. Home and road matter. Injuries matter. A single dropped pass in the first quarter can send transformative ripples throughout a game.

Still, we all use the transitive property of college football, typically when it props up our own conception of things. Last night on Twitter, it wasn't just SEC fans who were using the transitive property with LSU and Stanford. It was national writers.

And, as one piece of analysis, it's not completely invalid. In fact, common opponents are really the only way we can compare teams that don't play, such as trying to compare LSU with Stanford, USC and, after next weekend's Huskies visit to Eugene, Oregon.

In terms of real influence, let's put it this way: Would you pick Stanford to beat LSU on a neutral field, based on what we've seen thus far this season? Me neither.

Still, the transitive property of college football best functions as a device for trash-talking. It was used against the Pac-12 last night, but you know you've used it before against fans from another conference. I certainly have. It's even possible the Pac-12 blog will employ it if Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Wisconsin post big wins this season.

As for Paul's question for why it happens, yes. It's parity. It's inconsistency. It's new Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes having a bad game in his first-ever road start. It's the Huskies producing two huge offensive plays when the Cardinal executed poorly. It's the Huskies having a really sound defensive game plan.

Upsets happen all the time in college football, but the best programs seem to avoid them the most.

Which is why Chip Kelly's Ducks seem to be in pretty good position all of the sudden in the Pac-12 -- and national -- pecking order.


Franklin from Columbia, S.C., writes: Living in SEC land, I admit that following the PAC12 is a guilty pleasure of mine and after watching the the Oregon St. - UCLA game and listening to all the recent talk about Oregon's other team, I decided to take a look at how they stack up for next year. Am I crazy or does the CFB world need to be put on notice about the 2013 Oregon State squad? By my count, they figure to return 8 starters on Offense and six on Defense. Their O-Line will remain in great shape with Fr. Center Isaac Seumalo's ability to play any position (to account for Sr. Colin Kelly's departure). They're incredibly deep at WR and TE and look to have no problem accounting for Markus Wheaton and Colby Prince graduating. On Defense, they seem to rotate their second string on about 35% of their plays which will help account for the loss of CB Jordan Poyer, S Anthony Watkins, and LB Feti Taumoepeau. The only question seems to be how they will replace the 6-3 354lb DT Castro Masaniai. Their schedule stacks up favorably playing Washington, Stanford, and USC in Corvallis and no world beaters on their OOC schedule. If they can pick up a JC transfer or two.... dare I say, that squad may just be National Championship material.

Ted Miller: I noticed this, too, when I was writing about the Beavers Thursday. There are a lot of nice pieces coming back for the Beavers in 2013, including quarterback Sean Mannion, his entire O-line and some key guys on defense.

That said, there are some important parts that need to be replaced: wide receiver Markus Wheaton, both starting defensive tackles and cornerback Jordan Poyer. Most folks would consider Wheaton and Poyer the Beavers' two best players, and they also are good leaders.

Still, Oregon State certainly appears to be trending up after a two-year downturn. Not sure if I'm ready to list the Beavers as potential national title contenders next fall. But it's early. If they end up winning nine or 10 games this year, they certainly will be in line for a nice preseason ranking.


Drofdarb23 from Boise, Idaho, writes: The UW defense looked significantly better last night under Justin Wilcox's direction. Any chance they can upset the Ducks at Autzen next week? Wilcox's Boise State defense in 2009 held Oregon's offense to 6 first downs, 152 yards and 8 points.

Ted Miller: Always a chance.

I was very confident USC would beat Stanford. Nope. I felt nearly as confident that Stanford would beat Washington. Nope.

But those two upsets shared something important: The underdog was playing at home. Oregon will be playing within the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium. Big difference.

I will admit my curiosity has been piqued, though. What might Wilcox add to this bitter rivalry, which has been so one-sided during a run of eight consecutive Oregon wins by at least 17 points? The plot certainly has thickened after the win over Stanford, which completely reversed the recent trend in the series of Cardinal domination.

I thought Stanford would fall to USC because its secondary wouldn't be able to keep up athletically with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. That was completely wrong. I thought Stanford would be able to control both lines of scrimmage against the Huskies. That was mostly wrong.

And I think Oregon will beat Washington because of superior athleticism across the board. I think the Ducks offense is much more advanced with its first-year starter at quarterback, Marcus Mariota, compared to Stanford and Nunes. I don't think the Huskies' O-line matches up well with a rugged, speedy Ducks front seven.

Of course, they do say boneheaded predictions from the Pac-12 blog happen in threes.


Kyle from Corvallis writes: While I'm a Duck alum and hardcore Duck fan living in Corvallis, I just wanted to let you know that on your Friday 4 downs segment you called Markus Wheaton "Kenny Wheaton." While I'm sure you know that someone such as myself can appreciate the slip-up I felt it my duty as an avid reader to let you know.

Ted Miller: Gaaaaa! Man, that is bad.

The Friday Four Downs video is a tough one. Kevin and I grumble about how it often requires multiple takes to get through four different storylines in a quick fashion without messing up. As you can tell from that one, my mouth and brain sometimes don't communicate very well.

By the way, who is Kenny Wheaton? Never heard of him. Did he ever score or anything?

(Again. Gaaaa!)

Ted Miller | email

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