Mailbag: ASU exposed or Ducks that good?

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
5:00
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the notes.

Kevin from San Antonio writes: Was ASU totally exposed last night vs. Oregon or is Oregon so much better than everyone else that you can't use the game as a measuring stick for ASU?

Ted Miller: Neither.

Before I go off on a tangent of Football Game Rationalizing 101, let me establish what matters: Winning.

A team is what it does. Judgments in football -- all sports, really -- are what the scoreboards say when the clock expires. You can hush a guy playing football "What if?!" by merely noting, "Sure, if what happened didn't happen then the game would have been different. I will grant you that."

So, duly noted.

I suspect -- and away we go -- that the Oregon-Arizona State game would have been much different if Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton didn't get hurt on play No. 2. The supporting evidence I have for that position is twofold: 1. Sutton caused a fumble on play No. 2, his last in the game; 2. Sutton is a freaking beast and no defensive player in the conference has been better this fall.

Do I think Arizona State wins if Will Sutton doesn't get hurt? No. When Kevin and I both picked Oregon to win we did so assuming both teams would be at full strength.

Before the game (with a healthy Sutton), I thought Arizona State was an eight-win team, which is well ahead of where I saw them in the preseason, when I thought it was a five-or-six-win team. What I've seen this season is encouraging for the program in general, even with that dreadful first half against the Ducks.

Before the game, I thought Oregon was a top-five team and a legitimate national title contender. I feel more confident in that position after the game.

What I've learned through the years while covering something like 160 college football games live is that they are fragile things. Dumb luck plays a much bigger role in games than folks typically allow, just as one boneheaded lapse of concentration can cause massive and irreparable hemorrhaging. And a coach can roll the dice on a scheme or play call and become a genius/idiot when he truthfully is neither.

Coaches often say one play doesn't decide a game, but I think that's frequently wrong. A Stanford fan could give you two examples over the past year.

The very best coaches are able to create winning cultures that reduce the random variables and maximize their teams' performance. Such teams dominate most days and find ways to win on the rare occasions when they are out of sync. Yes, we're talking about the Oregons and Alabamas of the world.

I think if Oregon and Arizona State played 10 times at full strength in Sun Devil Stadium, half of those games would be far more competitive than what we saw Thursday night. And I think the Sun Devils might steal one. You probably could say that about most good teams matched against great teams.

Now, let's return to the part where I remind myself and you that imaginary college football doesn't matter.




John from Lake Oswego, Ore., writes: If Oregon wins out and the only loss for the Beavs is to Oregon. Could Oregon go to the natty and the Beavs to the rose bowl or would a pac12 south team go to the Rose Bowl?

Ted Miller: Did you just use the word "natty"? For shame.

John, you are not allowed to read the answer to your own question. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office. You're fired.

Stop peaking, John. You have been sanctioned. Don't make me send Kevin after you. He's from San Diego. You know what they say about hardcases from San Diego, don't you? The mild weather makes them most unpleasant, particularly in October, when the fish tacos take an inexplicable but inevitable dip in quality.

If Oregon State finishes 11-1, and Oregon wins the Pac-12 North and advances to the NATIONAL TITLE GAME, the Beavers would almost certainly go to the Rose Bowl.

Why? Because, if Oregon finishes undefeated, there isn't a scenario where the South Division loser in the Pac-12 title game wouldn't have at least three defeats. It's difficult to imagine that any team with three defeats, including one on the last weekend of the season, would be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS standings, which is required for a team to be picked for a BCS bowl.

Even if, say, USC was 9-3 and ranked 14th, the Rose Bowl would almost certainly pick a one-loss, top-10 Oregon State team, even though the Trojans are a big ticket TV attraction.




Erik from Seattle writes: I'm a concerned Husky fan. I love the staff that [Steve Sarkisian] has built and I think he's doing a solid job recruiting. I don't doubt that he was the right guy to turn this program around post-Willingham, but I walked away from the LSU, Oregon, and USC games wondering if he's the right guy to take us to the next level. How much more time do we give him? Not to be selfish, but what if he's a 7-5, 8-4, middle of the road guy? We're not competitive with Oregon, LSU, and often on the road. I know that very few teams have been competitive w/ Oregon recently and it's nearly impossible to win in Death Valley at night, but do you see him as a next level guy? Talk me off the ledge, Ted.

Ted Miller: In the six seasons before Sarkisian was hired, the Huskies won 18 games. In three and a half seasons under Sarkisian, they've won 22.

Sarkisian took over an 0-12 team and went 5-7. The Huskies hadn't won a bowl game since 2000 when Sarkisian led the Huskies to a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska in 2010.

Further, when things didn't take a step forward in 2011, he took aggressive action to fix things, firing Nick Holt -- a longtime coaching friend -- and most of his defensive staff and hiring Justin Wilcox and luring away Tosh Lupoi from California.

Next year, Sarkisian moves his team from decrepit Husky Stadium into a newly remodeled Husky Stadium, which might be the best venue on the West Coast (we'll see).

Sure, it would be nice for Huskies fans if the program were headed for the Rose Bowl in year four under Sarkisian. But Sark inherited a major rebuilding job. He's laid a nice foundation. There are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Is he a sure thing? No. Few coaches are.

But he's a highly respected guy. He's a good recruiter. I'd advise patience. I have a hunch you might see some rewards for it in 2013.




Nick from Boise writes: I am one of those rare objective Duck fans. Among an undefeated Oregon, an undefeated K-State, a one-loss Notre Dame, and a one-loss SEC team, who deserves to play Alabama for the National Championship? My gut says the SEC team based on quality of opponents, but it is likely the computers give the edge to Oregon. And the computers are supposed to take in strength of schedule, so that must be the right answer, right?

Ted Miller: An objective Duck fan? I feel like I stepped out my front door and saw an ivory-billed woodpecker!

We've got so much football left that speculating on these sorts of scenarios is pretty useless. What if Notre Dame's one loss is a blowout defeat at USC? And what if the Big 12 starts devouring itself and Kansas State ends up with no wins over teams with fewer than three losses? And which SEC team? Not all SEC schedules are created equal.

Further, unbeaten in an AQ conference almost certainly would trump any 1-loss team in an AQ conference. If Oregon is 13-0 and the only or one of two unbeaten teams, it's almost certainly going to play for the title.

Further, the polls form two-thirds of the BCS standings versus one-third for the computers. That means if Oregon is No. 2 in both the coaches and Harris polls, its computer ranking will have to be pretty terrible for it to be eclipsed by a team beneath it in the human polls.

So, as I've said and typed before, the odds are extremely favorable that Oregon, at 13-0, would play for the national title.




Robert from Greenwood Village, Colo., writes: I just wanted to comment on the use of "curb stomp" in your article about the arizona state-oregon game. I don't think it is appropriate to use that phrase. I think by using the phrase you are paying homage to the act itself which is horrible. I think using that phrase goes right along with "oregon raped arizona state" on the level of classy that it isn't. I have heard those phrases used by young people and I think we don't need a public figure, especially one that predominately has a sphere of influence in young males, to use such barbaric language. Just keep in mind how playing football, coaching, watching and reading about football are all ways to reach people. I think that "curb stomping" is not an appropriate when considering how influential you are.

Ted Miller: I agree. A bad and pretty darn thoughtless choice of terms on my part. I winced when I re-read it.

I was writing quickly last night. Quickly and witlessly. My bad.

Ted Miller | email

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