- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Happy Friday. This is the mailbag.
Or, as I like to say, "A place where dreams come true."
Not unlike an Iowa cornfield.
To the notes!
Ned from Costa Mesa, Calif: I'm not sure if you've heard about the most recent controversy, but the UCLA Athletic Department has made numerous threats to the USC Band with regards to a pre-game tradition. As you probably know, the USC Band's drum major stabs the middle of the field prior to the USC Band taking the field for pregame. Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, USC's Band Director for the past 42 years, emailed all alumni last night to tell them that he has made the decision not to have the drum major stab the field, in, as I read it, under threat of being banned from future games at UCLA. A portion of USC's Band has traveled to every home, away, and bowl game for over 25 years. Dr. Bartner made it clear that supporting the football team is the Band's priority and he would not jeopardize an appearance at future games. Its a shame that UCLA has chosen to embarrass their university by turning to petty things. This only distracts from what promises to be a great football game.
Ted Miller: If I were the USC drum major, I'd stab the darn ground and let the chips fall where they may.
I get where UCLA is coming from. And I get that this is a bit of willful gamesmanship between rivals. But I don't see how the Bruins win here. If UCLA opts to ban the USC band from the USC-UCLA game because of a small stab mark at midfield, there would be a local and national uproar. I believe the sentiments -- and mocking -- would be overwhelmingly against UCLA. Journalists would be particularly irritated, because they'd be forced to search for moments in college football history as petty and as inane as this, which feels like a particularly taxing bit of research.
And then USC would ban the UCLA band, and a rivalry would get less fun and more stupid. Certainly less musical. We certainly don't need that.
Yes, the USC tradition of Mr Drum Major Trojan stabbing the field is annoying to all fans who are rooting against the Trojans, at least when it happens on their home field. But it's been going on for a long, long time, and, by any measure, is an established part of the college football tapestry. It has nothing to do with UCLA specifically. It's just a USC tradition.
Know what would really help the UCLA cause? Kicking the pooh out of USC on Saturday and then making that a new tradition.
John from Edmonds, Wash., writes: Ted, it's interesting to note that two of the supposed "cupcakes" on Oregon's non conference schedule, Arkansas State and Fresno State, are both quietly achieving outstanding seasons, and both may end up at 9-3.
Ted Miller: You hit on something that is interesting, but just not for Oregon.
The Pac-12's nonconference schedule has proven much tougher than it originally projected. Here's how things stack up per team:
Arizona: Toledo (8-3), Oklahoma State (6-3)
Arizona State: Illinois (2-8), Missouri (5-5)
California: Nevada (6-4), Ohio State (10-0)
Colorado: Colorado State (3-7), Fresno State (8-3)
Oregon: Arkansas State (7-3), Fresno State (8-3)
Oregon State: Wisconsin (7-3), BYU (6-4)
Stanford: San Jose State (8-2), Duke (6-4), Notre Dame (10-0)
UCLA: Rice (4-6), Nebraska (8-2), Houston (4-6)
USC: Hawaii (1-8), Syracuse (5-5), Notre Dame (10-0)
Utah: Utah State (8-2), BYU (6-4)
Washington: San Diego State (8-3), LSU (8-2)
Washington State: BYU (6-4), UNLV (2-9)
Nineteen of the 27 FBS nonconference foes the Pac-12 has played (or will play, as this count includes, USC-Notre Dame) own winning records and are bowl eligible. Eleven have eight or more wins. Two of those remaining seven have five wins and could become bowl eligible. And the Pac-12 is 17-9 against them with one game remaining.
Not too shabby. And, no, no other conference even comes close to matching this.
And, yes, this should all work together to boost the Pac-12 in the computer rankings, thereby further boosting Oregon in the BCS standings.
Ryan from Salt Lake City writes: What do the Utes need to do next year to be a competitive PAC 12 team? I understand the need for depth and a QB who can actually run and lead the offense, but after watching a failing team I wonder about the coaching staff. I think Kyle Whittingham is a great coach and I would be upset to see him go, but I don't see him running his coaching staff and making enough changes during games to make them competitive. I mean no disrespect to the Utah football coaching staff but its time to get aggressive and form your team around a formula that works best and not try this or try that during games they should have/could have won.
Ted Miller: Stay the course and grow up.
Here's the reality: The AQ conference folks were and are right, and the defiant non-AQ folks were and are wrong. There is a significant difference playing in an AQ conference and a non-AQ one. The Mountain West is a tough league, but if you dump a Mountain West team into the Pac-12 -- or the Big 12, see TCU -- it is going to struggle. At least at first.
Why? Well, it's fairly simple: The quality of players. It goes like this:
Big-Time recruit three years ago: I really like Utah. Coach Kyle Whittingham looks scary but he's a really good dude. And Salt Lake is underrated. Have you eaten at the Red Iguana? Yummy.
AQ coach: Whittingham scares me, too, so please don't tell him I said this, but Utah plays in the Mountain West. Its champ plays in the Las Vegas Bowl. That's where the Pac-12 sends its No. 5 team. I mean, you look like a big-time player to me. Don't you want to play in the big-time. Or are you afraid? You don't look like a fraidy cat to me, but, well, maybe you are.
Not sure it goes exactly like that, but that basic approach does work. An overwhelming majority of big-time recruits, as well as the best so-called diamonds in the rough -- see programs like Oregon State -- would rather play in an AQ conference.
Utah is now a member of the club (how are those Pac-12 Diamond Cards treating you, MUSS members?). But it's got to find its footing. It's got to figure out its new recruiting base. Whittingham has repeatedly said that the Utes are getting into living rooms with the sort of guys who told them "no thanks" before. But it figures to take a few more recruiting classes to narrow the talent gap, which is best reflected in terms of depth, rather than a starting 22.
Utah has been competitive from the start. It went 8-5 last season and was a home choke vs. Colorado away from playing for the Pac-12 title as the South Division representative. This season, after star-crossed quarterback Jordan Wynn went down, Whittingham decided to go with a true freshman quarterback. Travis Wilson is promising, but he's green.
Sure, there were some high expectations for an easy transition. Sure, some of us thought the Utes might be in the thick of the South Division race this season, but that assumed a reemergence of Wynn. And maybe the crossed fingers over the offensive line didn't work out.
I'd advise patience, Utah fans. I know that's not what you want to hear, but the right course of action often isn't the easy, fun, quick-fix.
Derek from Seattle writes: I wanted to get your thoughts on Washington reprimanding a local newspaper writer for tweeting too much during a Husky basketball game recently. Restrictions are also in place for Husky football, and I could go either way on this. I'm a sports reporter, too, and a social media professional. I feel it's foolish for the UW to try and control the medium like this, no matter what digital broadcasting rights are in place. What's stopping a fan from getting live updates from ESPN Game Tracker or any number of smartphone apps? If the reporters aren't tweeting during the game, somebody else will be. At least these folks are professionals. That said, I believe too many sports reporters are heads down tweeting during games these days. They aren't watching the game itself and miss many of the important ebbs and flows and little details, and it shows in their below average stories at the end of the night. I think sports reporters are worse off because of Twitter. It's killing their craft. Stop tweeting about the score. Tweet about the scowl the star player has been wearing ever since he was called for a personal foul, or how the bench players are chatting with cheerleaders and no one seems to notice. What do you think about this policy?
Ted Miller: You make two good points. And one I disagree with.
First, it's stupid for Washington to limit Tweets. The decision smacks of a self-important administrator who likes to make rules. I know it's not AD Scott Woodward, because he's one of the smartest guys around.
Second, I almost like the rule for selfish reasons. Guys who Tweet pure play-by-play during games are annoying. There are beat writers out there who think it's fun to Tweet big plays before they happen on TV because that makes them smart. It doesn't. It just proves TV has a delay, which everyone knows.
I realize a good percentage of my Tweets from games aren't exactly genius -- my oh so witty, "That's not what USC wanted…" when Matt Barkley throws a 90-yard pick-6. But I do try to avoid the, "Stepfan Taylor for 4 yards. 2nd and 6 for Stanford at the Oregon 44. Nice 4-yard run."
As for Twitter, I think the opposite: It's one of the the best things that has happened to journalism in a decade. It provides immediacy and unfiltered access to guys who know what they are talking (Tweeting) about. It provides more opportunities for guys who have inside information -- pros who actually talk to players and coaches -- to share what they know at meaningful times.
I check my Twitter feed relentlessly throughout the day. It helps me keep up with folks in the business whose reporting and opinions I respect, and even some I don't, but who sometimes Tweet interesting or controversial things. Or just rumors.
While many are still just figuring out how to use Twitter and what it could mean in the marketplace of ideas and information, know that it is here to stay.
At least until it gets MySpaced-to-Facebook by the next iteration of The Next Big Thing.
Ryan from Bend, Ore., writes: Could it potentially help the Pac-12 to not have two BCS teams? If Oregon wins out, it seems unlikely we would and thus, the opposite of last year without USC, all of our bowl teams would move down a notch, giving them a better chance to win and a better postseason record...
Ted Miller: Two ways to look at it.
First, if the Pac-12 doesn't get two BCS bowl teams, yes, it means the Pac-12 will put forward better teams into its contracted bowls. That likely would mean a better overall bowl record.
And, yes, it was annoying last season that folks didn't realize USC's ineligibility meant the Pac-12 was forced to drop a top-10 team from its bowl schedule and bump everyone up a notch, which was a big culprit in the 2-5 bowl record.
But I'm not sure Pac-12 athletic directors like that idea. It means the conference doesn't get to split up the additional $6.1 million a conference gets for a second BCS bowl team.
But, Ryan, seeing that neither of us gets any of that money, it would be fun to snark other conferences about the Pac-12's, oh, 6-2 bowl record at season's end.
Moosealbany Albany, Ore., writes: Mr. Miller - I just posted this in the comments section to your stats of the week just for your FYI: The hyper-link Ted embedded in the last bullet indicating that there are not 124 FBS teams does not seem to go anywhere for me. Is this working for anybody else?? That said, if a person bothers to Google "FBS Teams 2012" there are a whole lot of articles about how there really are 124 FBS teams this year. There were 120 FBS teams in 2011. If you take 120 and add 4 you get to 124. Not sure what math ESPN is using here...In terms of the argument that the 4 new teams are "transitioning" - I get that. WKU went through that for a year because in their first year with the "big boy" they played a schedule that was half FBS teams and half FCS teams as a NCAA-approved way of acclimatizing to the tougher competition. Of the 4 new teams this year (UTSA, Texas State, UMass, and So. Alabama) the only one that is doing that is UTSA which is playing 7 FBS foes and 5 FCS foes. The other three schools are each playing 11 FBS foes and only 1 FCS foe. Meaning they are playing a "real" schedule and not a transitive one.
Ted Miller: Do you want to know who ranks last in the nation in rushing offense? I know I do.
Click here. It's a link to the NCAA's official statistical ranking for rushing offense.
See Washington State -- 32.9 yards per game! It's ranked last. We know this because Washington State is the last team with a number listed to its left. And what is that number? It's 120.
Below the team officially ranked last -- insert sigh from Coug fans -- are four teams without numbers. They are numberless because they are not officially included in the statistics. Those four teams are officially "Reclassifying/Provisional." That is according to the NCAA, not the Pac-12 blog, though we probably can all agree the Pac-12 blog has more gravitas than a room full of NCAA folks.
Here's the home page for FBS statistics. I spend a lot of time there. Check out all the team rankings. They share something: 120 ranked teams.
If it seems I'm being, God forbid, smug here, it's because I did read the comment -- apparently your comment -- that described me as "lazy." It annoyed me.
I can take it that folks often incorrectly correct me (Many correctly correct me, but that's not my point here). It comes with the job, as do tenacious critics. It does, however, become annoying when they then aggressively editorialize about how their incorrect correction proves I'm a dummy.
I am far from perfect. No really. I make mistakes. Bad predictions. Typos. Sometimes I "mis-remember."
But lazy is something I don't think I am.
Well, at least in terms of this job. My midsection about this time of the year starts to suggest I'm becoming slack with my exercise.