Mailbag: Duck, Cardinal consternation!

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
6:13
PM ET
Happy Friday.

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To the notes!

Robert from Portland writes: There is always talk about who's the best player or qb or running back every year. Then at the end of the year there is the talk about who is more likely to do it the next year. More often than not players don't repeat performances. This brings me to my question, who was the last running back to lead the nation in running one year and then come back and do it again? LaMichael James is doing it so far this year yet doesn't seem to get any recognition. All while missing TWO games.

Ted Miller: If James leads the nation in rushing for a second consecutive year, he will be in super-elite company. The last guy to do that turned out OK: LaDainian Tomlinson at TCU in 1999 and 2000.

As far as not getting recognition, you mean other than 1. Winning the Doak Walker Award last year as the nation's top running back; 2. Being a Heisman Trophy finalist; 3. Earning unanimous 2011 preseason All-American honors?

James dropped off the Heisman Trophy radar this season for three reasons: 1. He didn't play well against LSU in the opener; 2. He hasn't played many marquee opponents since then; 3. As you noted, he missed some action.

And if he has a lights-out game against Stanford in a victory -- think his 2010 performance -- then he'll again be on a shortlist of Heisman candidates.


Derrick from Omaha writes: One thing I have not heard mentioned regarding the Oregon-Stanford game is prep-time. Chip has only lost 5 games, 4 of those were to teams who had a month or more to get ready. The fifth was to Stanford who was coming off a bye week.Chip's Ducks have never lost to a team that played a game the previous week.Is this a real factor? Do you think this impacts this week's game?

Ted Miller: Yes, it's a factor and yes I think it impacts this week's game.

I will quibble with your saying this doesn't get mentioned. And I'd bet Chip Kelly would, too.

It's an unbelievable number, really, when used positively: It's darn near impossible to beat a Kelly offense with just one week to prepare.

On the other hand, it's more often been used in the negative: An elite defense with extra time to prepare can control Kelly's offense. Kelly, fairly, has repeatedly countered that the defenses that had extra time to prepare -- other than Stanford in 2009 -- were pretty elite.

As for this week, it's all about Stanford's defensive players not getting fooled by misdirection, maintaining their gap responsibilities, executing their assignments and tackling well. Oregon makes it hard to do all that, and it seems it's even more difficult without extra time to practice and train players' eyes.

But it is pretty interesting: If Stanford beats Chip Kelly's Ducks, it will be the first team to do so with just one week to prepare.


Pedro from Eugene, Ore. writes: Why do you have Stanford atop your most recent Pac-12 rankings but pick Oregon to beat them in Palo Alto? The rankings are your opinion, so wouldn't you rank the team to win a head-to-head matchup higher? Or has your Magic 8 Ball predicted a fluke upset?

Aaron from Seattle writes: Gotta wonder about you picking Oregon over Stanford, but having Stanford to the National Championship and Oregon to the Rose Bowl.... wanna show your math on that one?

Ted Miller: Can't a girl change her mind?

With the bowl projections, I hadn't really started thinking about the Oregon-Stanford game. Just like the power rankings on Monday, those projections were based on what happened in the previous 10 weeks.

But when I really started thinking about the game, this is what exploded out of my head, not unlike Athena bursting from Zeus' noggin!

Of course -- as noted -- I may have just had a bad burrito for lunch.

And there was just a little bit of not wanting to spoil my super-shocking prediction.


Alex from Las Vegas writes: Regarding the UCLA/Texas game at Cowboy Stadium, why do Pac-12 teams agree to play games at "neutral sites" that are anything but neutral. Why couldn't Oregon fly the extra 1/2 hour to Baton Rouge or UCLA just go to Austin? At least then they get whatever love that is associated with playing tough road games. Given the windfall of cash that the conference is about to get, can't they drive a harder bargain when it comes to schedules?

Ted Miller: I hear you. LSU-Oregon didn't feel like a neutral site game, and UCLA-Texas certainly won't.

So why can't Oregon play LSU in Phoenix or UCLA play Texas in Lambeau Field? My best answer is no one is trying to set up those games, while Jery Jones is doing so in Cowboys Stadium. And he's paying program's big bucks to come visit.

And, by the way, Cowboys Stadium is really impressive. I'm certain that the players will be goosed about the game, even if their fans are in a big minority.


Chance from Portland writes: What do the computers base there rankings on in the bcs poll?

Ted Miller: Most of the computer polls don't reveal their formulas because, of course, those formulas are so super-secret-awesome.

I can tell you that they don't include margin of victory, which was mistakenly removed after the 2004 season because -- waaaa! -- coaches were worried about running up the score.

Here's a hand-dandy guide to the computer polls.


Kyle from Jerusalem writes: Ted, I'm confused. Alabama lost to LSU at HOME last weekend and didn't even score a touchdown, and the ducks lost to them on a neutral field at the very beginning of the season. I know the SEC has a stronger conference, and how the computers would favor them. But how do the human polls explain putting Alabama at #3 and not at least behind the ducks and the other undefeated teams? And, if the remaining one loss teams fall, does Alabama really deserve to play in the "Game of the Century, Part II" when the ducks have shown they have matured as a team since the beginning of the year?

Ted Miller: The human polls have Alabama at No. 4. The BCS standings rank Alabama No. 3, but the Crimson Tide has only a very small edge over No. 4 Stanford due to the computers, which will disappear -- and not reappear -- if the Cardinal beats Oregon on Saturday and then wins out.

But, yes, one of the travesties this season was Oregon getting dumped from No. 3 to No. 13 and No. 14 in the AP and coaches polls, respectively, after it lost a glorified road game to LSU. It was as though a false narrative -- LSU dominated Oregon -- got started and the public never allowed the facts of the game to change a good, SEC story.

Further, to me, pollsters should have given Oregon credit for having the courage to schedule the game. I know if LSU had lost, I certainly wouldn't have dumped the Tigers 10 spots in my power ranking vote for ESPN.com.

In many ways, you can, in fact, argue Oregon's performance against LSU approximated Alabama's. The Ducks produced three long TD drives: 19 plays, 79 yards; 13 plays 68 yards; 10 plays 70 yards. Alabama produced no TD drives, though it did have 62-yard and 79-yard drives, which netted three points. And we've noted before the statistical similarities on both sides of the football.

Other than the Ducks losing the turnover battle 4-1.

All that said, I voted Alabama fourth and Oregon sixth, just like most everyone else. Why? Alabama has a better resume at present, see wins over Penn State and Arkansas. And, to be honest, I think Alabama would beat Oregon.

That said: I'd much rather see a rematch with Oregon and LSU than Alabama and LSU. Just in terms of pure entertainment purposes. Oh, and I'd go to the game if Oregon was in it.


Isaac from San Francisco writes: Well you blew it. While we educated folks like all the big words and cultural references and your funny little comments which aren't always that funny really, you still don't know anything about football. Stanford is going to crush Oregon. And you picked Oregon. What will that make you, smart guy?

Ted Miller: Well, by my best estimation, if Stanford beats Oregon that would make my prediction of Oregon beating Stanford incorrect.

But thanks for calling me smart.

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 11/22