Opening the mailbag: Ducks are Huskies!
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To the notes.
Shad from Eugene, Ore., writes: I'm a Duck fan. I loved watching Peter Sirmon and Justin Wilcox play here and I think they've both turned into great coaches. Now they work for dogs though, what should I do?! I'm having a hard time hating them as much as I ought to, even though their talents will make an already very scary Husky team that much better. What is the appropriate etiquette when a respected former player starts coaching for hated rivals?
Ted Miller: I had two reactions when the hiring became official. 1. Great hires by Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian; 2. Wow. Both are Ducks. And I'm guessing lots of serious Pac-12 fans -- not just Oregon and Washington fans -- thought the same thing.
You've got to admit it's amusing. Wilcox's brother, Josh, was at the Rose Bowl working for Comcast SportsNet -- some of you might recall him catching 11 passes for 135 yards and a TD in the Ducks’ 38-20 loss to Penn State in the 1995 Rose Bowl -- and he was able to laugh when I asked him if he would feel conflicted or start wearing purple. My guess is Wilcox will continue to love his brother, only without wearing purple. And he'll hope the Ducks beat the Huskies 3-0 every year.
But once we get past the amusement -- and there will be plenty of moments, at least this first year, when Wilcox and Sirmon quietly will crack wise with each other about being inside Husky Stadium with the home team -- it gets down to this: This is a business. It's a high-stakes game of winning and losing, and that sort of pressure quickly wears away emotional biases for jersey colors.
If the Huskies defense improves under Wilcox -- and there is every reason to believe it will -- Wilcox probably won't last more than two or three years before getting significant looks for head coaching jobs. Wilcox is a West Coast guy, so a move back to the West suggests that's where he wants to end up. Joining the Huskies was a business decision, and both parties benefit only if Wilcox does well.
Same for Sirmon. He's an up-and-comer. His next step is running a defense. If the Huskies defense improves, and the LB play is notably good, Sirmon will raise eyebrows as a potential coordinator, the next step for him up the coaching staircase. And if, say, Oregon State offered up a defense, he'd jump at the chance, even if that meant standing on the opposite sideline during the Civil War.
My take for Oregon fans: Wilcox and Sirmon are great Ducks and always will be, but that doesn't mean you should dislike Washington any less. Or want the Ducks offense to take it easy on the Huskies defense. When Wilcox and Sirmon don the purple shirts, they become Huskies. And that means they are only slightly more likable than Mephistopheles.
And, likewise for Washington fans: Once in purple, Wilcox and Sirmon are your guys -- yes, Huskies -- particularly if the defense starts forcing three-and-outs.
Still, I dug this up from The Oregonian in 2009. It's an article about the Huskies-Ducks rivalry. It made me smile.
First-year [Oregon] graduate assistant Peter Sirmon said he had "a little passion for Washington" while growing up in Walla Walla, Wash. But that quickly went away as soon as he suited up against them as a standout Ducks linebacker from 1996-99.
"Once you've played in the Oregon-Washington game, you realize that no other game shares the same intensity," Sirmon said. "When you're at Husky Stadium or you see those purple jerseys running out of the Autzen tunnels, you can tell that it's not just a regular game."
Sirmon kept that rivalry going when he played for the NFL's Tennessee Titans, making friendly bets with Tennessee teammate Benji Olson. The former Washington offensive lineman will be honored at the game Saturday and Sirmon looks forward to exchanging more friendly rivalry talk with his friend.
"For years and years and years, they dominated the Northwest," Sirmon said. "In fact, they dominated the West Coast. It was a big step for this Oregon program when we started beating them consistently."
Now Wilcox's and Sirmon's job is to reverse that trend, an embarrassing one for Washington. You should expect them to pour every ounce of passion into it, wanting to beat Oregon perhaps even worse than any other team because losing to family is almost as bad as losing to an enemy.
Sean from Portland writes: What's your sense as to how much people are looking forward to this Championship game? To me it seems like people aren't caring nearly as much as they have in years past. this could easily be because I am living in Pac-12 country, but I'd like to hear your take on this.
Ted Miller: I've noticed some SEC/rematch exhaustion in the comments section. Some have said they won't watch the game.
I think that's crazy talk, though, of course, I respect everyone's right to talk crazy.
If LSU beats Alabama, it will have posted perhaps the most distinguished season in college football history. It will have beaten nine teams -- counting the Crimson Tide twice -- that were ranked when the Tigers played them. It will have beaten six teams ranked in the final BCS standings, including three in the top six. It will have beaten two BCS bowl game winners (Oregon and West Virginia).
And it will have done so without great play at quarterback, which I find very NFL-ish.
Will the game be as much fun as the Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl? Maybe not. As much as everyone touted the great defense in the first game, it was as much about terrible -- and terribly cautious -- offensive play.
Still, these are two epically good defenses. Count on me watching. And I'm guessing more than a few folks who claim they are boycotting the game will, too.
Jake from Boise, Idaho writes: You question the non-conference schedule for the Ducks next year but as you may recall, Oregon had a home-and-home series scheduled with Kansas State that was cancelled by the Wildcats. Also consider that last year, Oregon got hammered in the polls for shooting itself in the foot in a virtual road game against LSU. It's a subject you've mentioned at times in the past year: is it really worth playing a difficult non-conference schedule when the risk-reward can be so high?
Ted Miller: It is true that Kansas State backed out of a home-and-home series with the Ducks, and New Mexico backed out of a repeat game this year in order to get a bigger -- and less humiliating -- payday at Texas.
And your point about the overreaction in the polls to the LSU loss is valid, though it's notable that the Ducks moved back up fairly quickly with wins as well as a realization that LSU was really, really good.
I love tough nonconference games. I see them as true measuring sticks for the national pecking order. It certainly helped LSU gain respect on the West Coast. I'd hate for Cowardly Lion scheduling practices to take over in the Pac-12. The alliance with the Big Ten will make that difficult.
If Oregon had won that game, however, and ended up 12-1 after losing to USC, my guess is the Ducks would have finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings -- with all other games across the nation remaining the same -- and played for the national title. So there was a potentially high reward.
Yes, there also was a high risk. But Oregon's season turned out OK, right?
And let's remember: This is supposed to be about competition. Avoiding it is lame, even if some schools artificially elevate their standing by doing just that.
Matt from Chicago writes: Watching OSU's offense dismantle Stanford's D made me wonder how things might have been different had Shayne Skov been healthy. Dude was a beast the few times I saw him play in 2010. Any insight as to his progress, and whether he'll back in a Cardinal uni next season? This Trojan wouldn't mind seeing him in the NFL!
Ted Miller: Not sure Oklahoma State "dismantled" Stanford's defense. The Cowboys rushed for 13 yards, so it certainly wasn't a linebacker issue.
As for Skov, he's a beast, but this was a serious knee injury, requiring two separate surgical procedures to repair his ACL and MCL. He won't be available for spring practices, but the prognosis is good for a full recovery by preseason camp.
And my guess is he's got a nice future playing on Sundays.
Every VT Fan and any self respecting Michigan Fan from Blacksburg, Va., writes: How was Danny Coale's catch not a catch? I asked you about Coale's catch because the officials were from the pac-12.
Ted Miller: This note refers to the officials' decision to overturn a diving TD catch by Virginia Tech's Danny Coale in overtime of the Sugar Bowl against Michigan. The official explanation was Coale briefly -- really, really briefly -- lost possession of the ball as he hit the ground, negating the touchdown.
My feeling -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that Virginia Tech fans, with all due respect, disagree with the call? That's it, right? I'm on the right track, right?
I thought it was a catch, but this picture does give you pause. Just a little. I still think it was a catch. But I'm just a lowly Pac-12 blogger.
And, as our your Pac-12 fans will tell you, we are shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that Pac-12 officiating left you wanting.
Please, tell our visitors from Virginia Tech how much you like Pac-12 officiating.