Mailbag: Why isn't USC giving Mustain a look?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Happy Friday... It's a sparkling day in Portland.

To your notes, the first earns an apology from me.

Mike from Atlanta writes: Todd,I have never read your material, and after viewing your idea of the top 25 Power Rankings, I don't think I ever will. How can you possibly justify ranking BYU 23rd and not even listing FSU??? I am not even a Seminoles fan, but I have to believe you made a mistake or are trying to upset a lot of Seminole fans. They almost beat UM (ranked 9 on your list) and they crushed BYU, who by the way, beat Oklahoma (number 8 on your list). Maybe you are biased against East Coast teams, or maybe you honestly think that BYU is better than FSU. Whatever the case may be, those two teams played each other and the visiting team prevailed by more than three touchdowns. I hope you can take just a few minutes to answer my question. I would really enjoy reading your point of view. Thanks.

Ted Miller: It's Ted, not Todd, but I guess I deserve that.

Got a lot of notes like this.

My response: A screw-up on my part. Florida State just got lost while I shuffled and re-shuffled my rankings.

If I could do it over -- which I do this week -- I'd drop the Seminoles in at No. 15.

My bad.

Nathan from Portland writes: Are you surprised that the Ducks aren't better? A lot of analysts (wisely) predicted a step down from last year-- but their offense has been unimpressive. What do you see as the key for improvement?

Ted Miller: First, we don't know the season's whole story. Recall things were iffy early on last year before Jeremiah Masoli became the nation's best pass-run quarterback and the Ducks rolled to a final top-10 ranking.

But, yes, I thought they'd win at Boise State. And I didn't think Masoli would be so out of sorts to start the season, though I can think of three or four long passes that were dropped that might have changed things significantly.

Yes, just a handful of plays can change everything -- imagine, Ducks fans, if you could ask this, "Will Jamere Holland ever drop a pass?"

As for what the problem is: It starts with a young offense line that got whipped at Boise and is still getting its legs under it. In fact, there isn't an area on offense that is thriving, though it seems like LaMichael James will offer some nice playmaking at running back.

The defense has been fine, perhaps better than expected after some big losses on the line and in the secondary.

As Chip Kelly told me yesterday, experience was the key ingredient in the improvement from game one to game three.

And if the Ducks win game four, well, full-steam ahead.

Andrew from Berkeley, Calif., writes: Your discussion of the linebacker and cornerback depth in the Pac-10 is spot on. Based on how many playmakers there are in the conference, do you think this year that the Pac-10's defensive units from top to bottom are the best in the nation? (ie. better than the fabled stout SEC defenses)

Ted Miller: Hey, thanks!

It's early. Alabama, Florida and South Carolina certainly have elite defenses. Let's see how the Pac-10 crews rate vs. them by mid-season.

That said, I've been covering the Pac-10 since 1999. This feels like the best year for defense in the conference since I started.

I also will be curious to see how things stack in the NFL draft this spring, particularly if a couple of big-names bolt early.

Kalin from Oakland writes: Hello Mr Miller,My name is Kalin I'm 9 years old. My dad finally encouraged me to write you.I love my cal bears! Like I told my daddy back in December at the emerald bowl in San Francisco: "wouldn't be cool if cal and Miami ended up in the championship game next year?" both teams are very good this year. What do you think? (Dear Mr Miller I went ahead and told my son to write to you. He is very interested in covering sports at some capacity when he grows up, he tells me. Of course that could change. I worked in Miami for a few years.

Ted Miller: Miami-Cal for the title, eh? Wouldn't be the nuttiest championship game.

Both teams, however, have a lot of work ahead -- just look at this weekend with Miami visiting Virgina Tech and Cal headed to Oregon. And then Cal gets USC and he Hurricanes get Oklahoma.


And, Kalin, there are a few Cal fans just a bit older than you -- some call them "Old Blues" -- who probably would be just as happy to see the Golden Bears in their first Rose Bowl since 1959.

As for sportswriting, good luck. My advice is to write, write, write and study hard in school. Also, you can't be a sportswriter if you don't always obey your parents and teachers.

Just please don't take my job.

Ben from Stanford, Calif., writes: Some things have been said in the last week by Coach Sarkisian of Washington about his team practicing with the music turned off to simulate the quieter atmosphere in Stanford Stadium for their game this weekend. Whilst I would admit that Stanford Stadium is, at times, less than full, the student section is becoming rowdier by the minute encouraged by some encouraging performances and a Head Coach who truly cares about the program. So next time you are at Stanford for a game, I would like to invite you to come and spend some time with the students down in the RedZone and get a sense of how the nerds at Stanford do it.Thanks

Ted Miller: Only if you find out why the graduate English program at Stanford rejected me in 1991.

"Dear Mr. Miller: You are not smart enough to attend graduate school here. Go away. But thanks for the application check.



Got a curiously similar note from Cal, by the way.

Oh, wait. Football.

Winning is the key. Just look over at your friends at Cal. During a few games I covered during the Tom Holmoe Era, I can recall hearing mostly crickets in Strawberry Canyon.

Stanford is a rising program, with a nice stadium and the most entertaining band in the country. My guess is that as the wins pile up, more folks will notice.

Mike from Phoenix writes: ASU is going to take it to Georgia. 42 - 30.

Ted Miller: I'd be fairly surprised if these teams combined for 72 points, but your prediction is duly noted.

Samuel from Helmand, Afghanistan writes: What is the deal with Mitch Mustain? He got better arm strength, more experience and decision making in the pocket than Aaron Corp, but he's going to do punts now? Is this a move to prevent Corp from transferring to another school or is Mustain that deep in the doghouse? While watching the Washington game going into the 4th quarter and Aaron Corp still under center, it showed very poorly on the coaching staff. I'm still an avid Trojan fan, but reality is that we may end up losing a couple more games, and is not from rebuilding, but for poor coaching and poor playcalling.Thanks

Ted Miller: No, Samuel, thank you. From all of us.

As for your question: You are not alone. I get the feeling many USC fans just want to see what Mustain can do, even if the message coming from Heritage Hall is that he's not playing because he's the third-best quarterback.

As Pete Carroll noted, the most popular player on a team with a struggling offense is the backup QB -- or in this case, No. 3.

Even during the Mark Sanchez Era, however, Corp's advantage vs. Mustain was decision-making. The feeling I get from watching practices, talking to coaches and guys who cover the team is that Mustain has never consistently outplayed Corp -- even though he's had a couple of impressive scrimmages when he did just that.

The folks who want to see Mustain now, though, are wondering if Mustain might just be a mediocre practice player who can thrive in games. The early returns are that Corp was worse under game pressure, though it's not fair -- or wise -- to judge a player by his first-career start.

I don't think many would have been disappointed if Carroll had inserted Mustain in the fourth quarter against Washington.

Still, any coach will tell you, a quick QB change can come back to bite you.

So Carroll's position is: Matt Barkley is No. 1, Corp No. 2 and Mustain No. 3 because that's the competitive pecking order and the pecking order that gives USC the best chance to win.

As for the play calling, feel free to question it. It didn't work against a defense that lacks speed in the secondary, so Carroll and Jeremy Bates deserve as much blame as Corp.

Eric from Corvallis writes: Ted, im confused. Most of the time everyone seems to think that Oregon State isn't any good, and yet showers a ranked Cincy team with mounds of praise after winning "a huge" game. If the beavs are so bad, then what gives? Help me out.

Ted Miller: I noticed that, too.

It was like folks wanted to praise Cincinnati for winning a tough road game but didn't want to give too much credit to the Beavers, a team that has finished ranked in the final top-25 three consecutive seasons.

Still, Oregon State has earned enough street cred that it will return to the top-25 if it wins is next two games: Arizona and at Arizona State. Losing to the eventual Big East champ won't damage the final sheet too badly.

Dalton from Austin, Tx., writes: That's the best quarterback we've played in nine years here." HERE, meaning HERE at WASHINGTON. Carroll was NOT referring to all of the teams that USC had played.Very, very sloppy Ted. You misunderstood a statement by one of college football's top authorities. Based on that misunderstanding, you wrote an erroneous article. You need to withdraw your article and post an admittance of error.

Ted Miller: Dalton is referring to this.

No, I wasn't wrong.

Glad to clear that up for you though.