This is a quick makeup mailbag from Friday.
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To the notes!
David from Eugene, Ore., writes: The Oregon spring game was the last time I'll step foot in Autzen as an undergraduate, and I must say, while Mariota was able to lead his team to victory, there wasn't a unit on the field that really made me feel comfortable about the future. Do you think the Ducks will be a BCS bowl team this season? And what reasoning have you come up with regarding your answer?
Ted Miller: First of all, don't ever put too much into a spring game. The most important thing for each and every spring game is to get through it with no more injuries. As far as revealing much about a team, it's almost impossible to make educated judgements. For one, schemes are vanilla because no body wants to show too much. Second, every good play is a bad play. And vice versa. A great run for the offense exposes poor execution on defense. A sack on defense exposes poor execution on offense. Etc.
Do I think the Ducks will play in a BCS bowl this season? Yes.
If you look at the Ducks' schedule, the only time they likely will be an underdog is at USC on Nov. 3, a game that should have national title implications. It's not unreasonable to predict that Oregon will go 11-2, losing twice to the Trojans -- in the regular season and the Pac-12 championship game. Or maybe Oregon wins both or splits the games. Bottom line: It's not difficult to see 11 wins. That might, in fact, be the best over-under number.
Why am I high on the Ducks? For one, coach Chip Kelly's track record is pretty OK. Sure, he's lost six games. But he's also won 34, which isn't too bad for three seasons. After three consecutive conference titles, it's not smart to bet against him, or his new quarterback.
I also like the defense, which will rank in the top-third of the conference and top-25 in the nation. I like running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver/running back De'Anthony Thomas. I like the offensive line and tight end Colt Lyerla. I like the specialists. If the receivers are at least solid, this will be a top-five team.
If the Ducks go 11-2 and lose twice to USC, my guess is the Trojans go to the national title game. If the Trojans face plant at some point and end up merely winning the conference and going to the Rose Bowl, I'd guess the Ducks would be a compelling choice for an at-large BCS bowl berth.
And things don't set up badly for 2013, either.
Daniel from Rexburg, Idaho writes: I love the Beavers but in all honesty I don't see them winning more than five this year (if that). Ya we are strong in certain areas but NO team can win with poor offensive line play and a very weak DT unit. Is is possible for a team to play in a bowl while casting such a poor line? (lets be honest Issac wont have THAT big of an impact this year) And how on earth can we stop a spread without strong DTs or a really effective LB unit?
Ted Miller: You are right about the questions -- both lines. I think things will be OK at linebacker, though not up to the standards of a just a few years ago.
Now, I've never been accused of being a "glass half-full guy." When I see a half-empty glass, which is the more accurate way to describe it, I am certain that my worst enemy just enjoyed the best part of my beverage, found a 20 carat diamond in the bottom, used that to buy a beach house in Malibu and only left behind backwash for me. And probably germs that will give me the sniffles.
But I see some reason to be half-full with the Beavers, though a number of things have to fall in place. Start with the offensive line. What if offensive tackle Michael Philipp rediscovers his mojo, incoming freshman Isaac Seumalo is as good as advertised and UCLA transfer Stan Hasiak has gotten himself under control? Toss in Josh Andrews, Grant Enger and Colin Kelly, who have 28 starts between them, and promising Michael Beaton, and there's hope for the O-line.
While most point to the O-line first as a question, I think the D-line is as big of an issue, even with both defensive ends, Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn, back. There's an across the board lack of depth, and things are particularly worrisome inside. Castro Masaniai, Andrew Seumalo, Mana Rosa and Mana Tuivailala look like the top-four guys, and none at present is a guy who will worry an opposing offensive coordinator.
On the upside, the track record of quarterbacks in their second year starting for Mike Riley has been strong, and Sean Mannion will have an experienced, speedy cast of receivers. My guess is the passing game will be strong. If the running game becomes merely adequate, this offense will score points.
Now can it get to at least six wins and earn a bowl berth, which I would deem a successful season after going 3-9 last year? The Beavers didn't do themselves any favors with the nonconference schedule -- Wisconsin and at BYU -- and there are no obvious gimmes, other than Nicholls State in the opener.
While I certainly can pile up a list of "Ls" while going through the schedule, this team also hints at past Beavers squads that were counted out in the preseason but somehow pushed their way into the Pac-12 race.
Five is probably the over-under for this team, but I'm a leaning toward picking the over. We should have a good idea of the direction by mid-October. After a bye, the Beavers play winnable games against UCLA, Arizona, Washington State and BYU. They probably need to win three of those to have a chance at six or seven victories.
Matt from San Francisco writes: With Cal not having a bye week this year, how much will that grind affect them?
Ted Miller: What are you talking about? California has a bye on Nov. 24, the last weekend of the regular season. That will come in handy if the Bears are playing for the Pac-12 title on Nov. 30.
We jest. No, Cal has a pretty rough schedule: 12 consecutive weeks, road games at Ohio State, USC and Utah. On the other hand, it's good that Stanford, Washington and Oregon all have to come to Berkeley to play in fancy, renovated Memorial Stadium.
Last year, Colorado played 13 consecutive weeks. The Buffs schedule was so bad it was absurd. But, curiously, they played their best ball at the end of the year, winning two out of their final three, including a shocking upset win at Utah, which knocked the Utes out of the Pac-12 title game.
It's perfectly reasonable to believe that a no-bye schedule will grind a team down. An off-week in October or early November can do wonders for those accumulated bumps and bruises -- or stingers and sprained ankles.
If the Bears stay healthy and are playing well, they'll probably be fine with suiting up every week. Who wants to break positive momentum? And if they are banged up and struggling, the no-bye schedule will be duly noted.
Mark from Boston writes: You may want to revisit some articles written by Peter Keating a few years back. They were about a corrective mouth guard used by the N.E. Patriots. The key is, it was developed with Marvin Hagler to address the boxers glass jaw.This is the common denominator to athletes that become prone and boxers who get ko'd easily.
Ted Miller: One of the points that surprised me during the Fiesta Bowl Summit panel, "Sports-Related Concussions: Facts, Fallacies and New Frontiers," was the specific mention multiple times that mouth guards DO NOT decrease the likelihood of a concussion.
They do, however, protect your teeth.
Husky Nation from Seattle writes: Were we unkind to you during your stay beside our equatorial-most fjord? Or are you just making it clear that you owe no allegiance to us by your relatively consistent immoderate remarks?Yet we still read you Ted. We still read you. What does that say about us?
Ted Miller: I'm guessing you are referring to this little ditty about the Ducks and Huskies, two American football teams living in the Northwest.
I get a lot of the "You abandoned us" from Huskies fans. Even a few Washington coaches or officials have tweaked me -- mostly good naturedly -- for allegedly favoring Oregon over Washington.
My response is this: How do you describe Oregon's past four seasons in anything but glowing terms (I include Mike Bellotti's final year)? And how would you describe the Washington program overall since 2003, even with the recent upward trend under Steve Sarkisian?
Further, how would a Washington fan write up the last eight years of the Huskies-Ducks rivalry? When I included this line from a Ducks fan, "We've beaten you eight consecutive years by an average margin of 25 points and never by fewer than 17 points," it was merely a statement of fact, supported by the record book. There is no way to sugarcoat it, but feel free to try.
I loved my time in Seattle. I really, really miss the food. And walking everywhere. I enjoyed covering the 2000 Rose Bowl season (though the Curtis Williams spinal injury was horrible). And I found the program going rear-end-over-tea-kettle a drudgery to cover because it's never fun to be around unhappy people who are busting their rear ends but nonetheless failing to succeed.
My present job is to cover 12 teams fairly and accurately. If a team is doing well, I will write, "This team is doing well." And if a team is doing badly, I will write, "This team is doing badly."
Despite what many insist, I don't favor -- or dislike -- any team in the Pac-12. Honest. What I do root for is to be entertained. And for the Pac-12 to be relevant in the national picture.
Therefore, I do want something out of the Oregon-Washington rivalry. I want it to be on ESPN in prime time as a battle of top-10 teams.