Mailbag: Pac-12 the best conference?

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
6:00
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Happy Friday -- just two more of these before College Football Eve!

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To the notes!

Costi from Phoenix writes: Ted, Pac-12 bias aside (if that is possible), how good will the conference be this year? We have repeatedly debated over it being the number 2 conference, is there any possibility of the Pac-12 being the best this year? Also, does a Pac-12 team have to win the national title to be crowned the best conference? Because lets face it, with as much talent as there is in the Pac, it is nearly impossible to go undefeated in this conference.

Ted Miller: No, you don't have to win the national title to be considered the best conference, but it sure helps. There were plenty of times the SEC didn't look all that strong, top to bottom, during its run of seven national titles, but arguing overall depth is just another highly subjective college football debate -- one that's easier to make when you're raising a crystal football over and over again.

As it is, the Pac-12 sets up this fall to be as strong as it's been in recent memory. While there's the typical offensive star power, what's more notable is the strength coming back on defense and the offensive line. From a preseason perspective, you have two legit national title contenders in Stanford and Oregon and seven teams that look top-25 worthy: the Ducks and the Cardinal, UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State and Washington.

The Pac-12 earning a "best conference" nod? Well, it starts with winning the nonconference games. Then it goes to getting two BCS bowl teams, preferably one playing for and winning the national title. And then it's overall bowl record.

If the Pac-12 posts a strong nonconference record, ends the season with five to seven nationally ranked teams and wins its bowl games, particularly the BCS ones, then folks might call the Pac-12 the best conference in 2013.




Jon from Portland writes: Brandin Cooks #22 ?!?!? I would provide written reasoning on why he should be higher, but writing them down will only frustrate me further.

Ted Miller: I suspect Cooks will be higher on the postseason list, but if you ranked him higher in the preseason, you'd be speculating, which we are trying to avoid too much of in the preseason.

The chief issue with Cooks: He needs to prove he can thrive without Markus Wheaton. Wheaton was first-team All-Pac-12 last year and Cooks only honorable mention for a reason. Wheaton has arrived as a true No. 1 receiver. Cooks was a No. 2.

And, by the way, only one receiver ranks ahead of Cooks on the list. Can you guess who that is?




Nick from Ottawa, Canada, writes: Question I saw on the big ten blog and I wanted to see what your opinion was: In a scenario where the top three teams at the end of the year are Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama, the first two teams are 13-0 and the Tide is 12-1. Is there any realistic scenario you see where an OSU team with a 25-game winning streak doesn't make it to the championship game? And if not, who would be their opponent?

Ted Miller: Oregon and Ohio State would play for the national title and Alabama would get left out, though there are some circumstances that might complicate things.

What if the rest of the Big Ten or Pac-12 has a horrible season while the SEC has six top-10 teams? What if Alabama's only loss -- say, a nailbiter with LSU on Nov. 9 -- happens with starting QB AJ McCarron out with an injury? And what if the Crimson Tide, having already won two consecutive titles, beats an undefeated, top-ranked Georgia team for the SEC title?

Ohio State plays a weak schedule. What if the Buckeyes are so unimpressive while winning that some pollsters drop them, particularly with sentiments that Alabama should have a chance to defend its title, not to mention that Oregon likely would be heavily favored against the Buckeyes.

As noted: Potential variables.

But those variables and how they play out with the computers and pollsters would have to be meaningful enough that they would outstrip an unbeaten team from an AQ conference. I'd rate that as unlikely.




Pete from Denver writes: It seems like a lot of people are very high on UCLA. I agree that there offense looks pretty good minus a RB, but the D is highly questionable especially the secondary. That coupled with a tougher schedule this looks like a team that could lose 5 or 6 games instead of 2 or 3. Is there something I am missing or do you agree that UCLA is a little overhyped?

Ted Miller: UCLA's schedule is a reason to speculate the Bruins might take a step back record-wise this year while actually being a better team than in 2012. Most notable: The Bruins play Oregon, while top South Division rivals USC and Arizona State do not. That's a significant advantage for the Trojans and Sun Devils. Further, some injury questions, particularly on defense, might give a prognosticator pause.

That said, the Bruins' front seven, led by the beastly Anthony Barr, looks strong, even with some voids on the D-line. The secondary will be young but may be more physically talented than the 2012 unit. On offense, it's hard not to put a "buy" rating on QB Brett Hundley.

I do think the range of what UCLA might do this year is pretty broad. I wouldn't be shocked by 10 wins. Or seven.




Ryan from Seattle writes: I know you have a take on this: What about LSU coach Les Miles bringing Jeremy Hill back, and the TCU coach blasting him for it?

Ted Miller: Good for Gary Patterson. And bad for LSU, the judicial system in Louisiana and Les Miles.

First of all: Watch the video. Hill didn't just get into a fight. He sneaked up behind someone who was either hurt or extremely intoxicated and cold-cocked him as hard as he could.

So Hill is: 1. A coward; 2. Cruel. Just imagine if the victim, whom Hill never acknowledges during his worthless and insincere apology, was a friend of yours or your son? Or, really, you.

Oh, and this is not his first moment of being a cruel bully. You could pretty much get a "ditto" from me on this Greg Doyel column.

What's almost as revolting is all the people around Hill who join in -- trading high fives and laughing. Where's the moral compass?

It makes me cringe to see Miles call call Hill "a good person." The overwhelming evidence is that he is not. Would Miles say the same if someone randomly clocked him from behind? Nope.

Now, we've got some discipline questions in the Pac-12, too, most notably with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian and preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who got a DUI in the spring. In some big-picture ways, a DUI is more serious than what Hill did, at least in terms of what could happen when a drunk person gets behind the wheel. It could -- and many times has -- led to multiple deaths.

Further, it appears Sarkisian is about to get hit with tons of media grief when he decides not to suspend Seferian-Jenkins for the season opener against Boise State. While Sarkisian's track record with discipline is strong -- and he was quick to dump defensive end Andru Pulu after he brutalized a guy at a party -- such a decision is going to smack of a "winning above all else" mentality.

Still, Seferian-Jenkins' DUI doesn't make him a toxic person. His was a horrible mistake in judgment that he can learn from.

With Hill, we have video proof that when he sees a hurt person, his chief reaction is to assault him. How can he not be viewed as a danger to society?

Ted Miller | email

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