Welcome to this week's mailbag.
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To the notes!
Nick from Boise writes: Will the Pac-12 take a step forward or backward this year in its relative power ranking with the other conferences?
Ted Miller: Interesting question. My guess from today's vantage point is it will remain the same. Most folks probably would rate the Pac-12 as the No. 3 or 4 conference behind the No. 1 SEC and No. 2 Big 12, which perks up considerably with the addition of West Virginia and TCU. The Pac-12 and Big Ten seem to be fighting for the third spot.
I'd rate the conference No. 3, ahead of the Big Ten, but not with an overbrimming confidence I was correct.
It seems pretty clear the Pac-12 has two elite teams: USC and Oregon. The conference can gain ground in the national pecking order if those two play as expected and at least a couple other teams notch some nice nonconference wins and climb into the top 25.
Stanford gives the Pac-12 a third top-25 team in the preseason. Washington, Utah and California look like three teams that, if things fall into place, could also make a move. UCLA also might be an interesting team to watch.
It also would help if the bottom picks up and the conference produces eight or so bowl-eligible teams.
Some of you are slapping your foreheads, just wanting me to shill for the conference -- as I am accused of doing by many fans in other conferences when I question their preconceptions. But this debate really isn't about the Pac-12 blog's position. It's about observing what's out there, even though perception is hardly inviolable. The best way for the conference to improve its power ranking is winning nonconference games and bowl games. Going 2-5 in bowl games doesn't help, even if a made Stanford field goal in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State would have changed perceptions.
How can the Pac-12 gain ground? Well, what if Washington upsets LSU? Or California wins at Ohio State? Or UCLA celebrates the arrival of Jim Mora with a victory over Nebraska?
There are a lot of those games: Arizona has a shot against a rebuilding Oklahoma State team at home. Arizona State has Illinois and Missouri, which would allow the conference to backdoor a win against the SEC. Oregon State has Wisconsin visiting Corvallis. Notre Dame and BYU both have multiple Pac-12 games. And it would help if no nonconference foe notches an upset against the conference -- say Colorado at Fresno State or San Diego State at Washington.
Of course, the Big Kahuna is the national title. If a Pac-12 team left a bootprint on the forehead of the SEC champ, that would help perception.
Ty from Salt Lake City writes: What are the chances John White IV becomes a serious contender for the Heisman?
Ted Miller: I get asked this sort of question a lot. So the following answer works for any of your favorite potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
White is a good running back who, nonetheless, enters the season as a decided darkhorse when you talk about Heisman candidates. How he gets into the Heisman race is simple: 1. Win; 2. Pile up big numbers.
Let's say that White, after averaging 150 yards and scoring six touchdowns in his first four games, takes center stage for a Thursday-night ESPN showdown with top-ranked USC. The game previews would undoubtedly focus on him and a fellow on the other sideline by the name of "Matt Barkley."
An introduction: Juan Blanco Cuatro, this is opportunity. Opportunity, this is Juan Blanco Cuatro.
And let's say White, with the nation watching, and SEC fans rooting for USC to lose so their team doesn't have to get whipped by the Trojans in the national title game, goes nuts, rushing for 188 yards and two scores in a Utes' upset win.
Somewhere near the top of the Pac-12 blog game story -- and everyone else's -- it would say: "And John White now becomes Heisman Trophy candidate, Ty from Salt Lake City."
Malamute from Quack Hell, Wash., writes: I'm curious about what [Pac-12 commissioner Larry] Scott thinks about the following but wondered your thoughts on these as well: - Will OOC S.O.S [out-of-conference strength of schedule] play a part in the new playoff scenario? - What do you think about the Hancock's involvement in the selection committee and playoff process? I think it's bad news. He oversaw the system that we just ditched. On what planet does it make sense to have the same guy involved in a new process? - Do you have any concerns about any biases that may rear up during the playoff process against PAC 12 teams? - Will you come up to Seattle to check out both the team and the new stadium?
Ted Miller: "Quack Hell, Washington?" I lived in Seattle for nine years and never got to visit.
Will OOC S.O.S play a part in the new playoff scenario? Yes, nonconference scheduling and overall strength of schedule will matter. Hopefully a lot. The question is how. This was a key issue for Larry Scott. Conferences, such as the Pac-12, which play nine conference games and a tough nonconference schedule need to get a bonus when compared to conferences that play eight conference games and a weak nonconference schedule. The "Our conference is too tough to play a tough schedule" argument needs to be discarded because it's stupid and unfair.
What do you think about the Hancock's involvement in the selection committee and playoff process? BCS executive director Bill Hancock is a really good guy who has a thankless job. He's not unlike a defense lawyer hired to represent an obviously guilty person. In the end, it would be more dubious for him not to do his best, which is what Hancock did when standing up for the BCS. Further, he's an administrator. Ultimate decisions about the BCS and now the four-team playoff weren't his. He merely is the guy who does the bidding of the presidents and conference commissioners. In other words, most of the dirty work, such as dealing with the media. I think he'd do a fine job administrating the next chapter of the college football postseason if that happens.
Do you have any concerns about any biases that may rear up during the playoff process against PAC 12 teams? Yes. And so does Scott. Folks with some influence in the process from the West Coast side of things need to remain vigilant and fight to make sure potential biases are confronted.
Will you come up to Seattle to check out both the team and the new stadium? Hopefully. Kevin and I go where the winning teams are. If the Huskies start winning, we'll be there.
Blue from San Francisco writes: Ted, just thought you should know that Top Dog is setting up shop inside Memorial this year. Get excited.
Ted Miller: I just gained five pounds thinking about that.
By the way, a Cal spokesperson told me this might not yet be a done deal. Keep your fingers crossed.
Bryan from Torrance, Calif., writes: Hi Ted, Just wanted to let you know that the Nick Ekbatani Fund has reached it's goal of $50,000. Here is the link. I first heard about this through this blog, so I want to thank you and everyone who sent a donation for this cause. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to your posts about the upcoming football season.
Ted Miller: Awesome. Our hopes and prayers are with Nick.