- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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It puts the mail into the bag or else it gets the hose again.
Pat in Portland, Ore. writes: Kevin, Long-time reader, first-time writer. Full disclosure: I sent this same message to your colleague Ted Miller. How about a little perspective on the last two weeks of college football: A week ago, then-No. 12 Stanford beats then-No. 9 UCLA by two touchdowns at Stanford and the win is considered a "good win" and a "thumping" of UCLA by those covering the game. Two weeks later, No. 2 Oregon beats now-No. 12 UCLA by four touchdowns at Oregon and pundits are lauding UCLA for playing Oregon evenly in the first half. It should be noted that UCLA's two touchdown drives in the first half at Oregon were 28 yards and 38 yards and the result of two Oregon turnovers deep in their own end. UCLA never scored again and Oregon blew by them in the second half, yet many people are wondering "what's wrong with Oregon?" As the Ducks prepare for their toughest test of the season at Stanford, a little more perspective. Everyone wants to point to last year's game, which is certainly relevant, but it was also Oregon's worst game of the year in many ways, some of it due to Stanford, but most of it self-inflicted. If you look at the history of Stanford and Oregon, over the past 15 years, Oregon is 10-3 with a 41-24 point differential. I predict 17 points is what the difference will be this year -- in Oregon's favor. There's no question in here, just perspective. It will probably be another close game in the first half, but just like Washington and UCLA, Oregon will step away from the competition when it matters most. I'll let you and Ted debate this.
Kevin Gemmell: Well, it’s a good thing my mailbag comes out on Tuesdays and Ted’s is on Fridays. But he’s certainly free to take a swing at it as well.
Perspective is good. Nothing wrong with it. And yours seems perfectly reasonable.
It’s not just last year’s game, though, it’s the last four that we should be looking at – because all four involved David Shaw and Mark Helfrich in some capacity. I think what you’re talking about with UCLA-Stanford and UCLA-Oregon is more of what the national reaction was … not the Pac-12 blog reaction. We understand one, how tough Stanford played in beating UCLA; and two, how tough Oregon played in beating UCLA.
The Bruins are a pretty good football team, so that should certainly qualify as a quality win for both programs.
It’s still early on to make too many predictions about next week’s showdown. But you won’t make many enemies among your Oregon brethren by picking a 17-point margin.
I think people expect perfection from Oregon. So when they do something that’s imperfect, like fumbling on the second play of a game, alarms go off. But obviously this team is talented enough to recover from that. They score a lot of points, so they are able to get away with a mistake or two. Given Stanford’s style of offense, they can ill-afford to make mistakes. We saw what Tyler Gaffney’s fumble almost cost them in Corvallis. That’s not to take anything away from a great performance by Gaffney, it’s just the reality of Stanford.
To your point about self-inflicted wounds in last year’s game, I think a lot of that had to do with Oregon not really being in a tight game up until that point. Maybe the USC game counts, but that one never really felt in doubt.
Now this Oregon group is a lot more experienced and they’ve had that game where a team punched back pretty hard. And they are a better team for it.
Speaking of close games, Stanford is now 10-3 in the last year-and-a-half in games decided by eight points (one possession) or less. So if this one is tight again in the fourth quarter, it’s going to be interesting to see which outfit is able to draw from its experience.
Mike in Utah (formerly of Oregon) writes: It just cracks me up reading all the idiotic comments coming from the East Coast regarding the Ducks! After completely dominating their schedule so far to date with blowout after blowout and being ranked No. 2 in every poll they continue to be slammed by the East Coast lunatics who obviously watch nothing else but trashy East Coast football! I myself know the Stanford game is the biggest test of the season, including a possible matchup with Bama in the title game, which they will crush by 20 points easy (the SuckEC is way overrated this season). Look for Oregon to finish perfect this season with a 2014 national championship for the Pac-12!
Kevin Gemmell: Another perspective without a question. The passion is appreciated.
I will say I think the national media has smiled more upon the Pac-12 than it has in recent years. And it’s reflected in the rankings.
Consider Washington only dropped five spots after losing back-to-back games to Stanford and Oregon. People recognized how tough of a stretch that was. Same for UCLA, which has fallen 11 spots in the last two weeks. And considering how the offense has performed (in the face of a lot of injuries and youth), I think that’s fair.
The idea of conferences being overrated and underrated is obviously subjective. The only available data is a combination of human polls and computer rankings – i.e., the BCS. So let’s look at the most recent BCS rankings and you can decide for yourself.
In the top 10, you have two SEC teams (Nos. 1 and 9), two Pac-12 teams (Nos. 2 and 5), three ACC teams (Nos. 3, 7 and 8), two Big 12 teams (Nos. 6 and 10) and one from the Big Ten (No. 4).
But conference strength is about depth, so let’s look at the next 10. The SEC has four (Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14) to the Pac-12’s one (No. 20).
Not saying it’s right or wrong. It just is what it is. I’ll let you make your own determination.
Bringing the answer full circle, Oregon has indeed performed well to date, and if it continues to perform well, the Ducks have the best chance to advance to the BCS championship, where we’d finally get to see that Alabama vs. Oregon showdown.
Ryan in New York writes: Mr. Gemmell, How did UCLA’s "signature wins" do today? I'm talking about Nebraska and Utah? I'm still trying to figure out what that special brew is in Pasadena. ... If Oregon doesn't make mistakes, that game isn't even 28 points. ... Just asking, sir. Thank you.
Kevin Gemmell: Poor Ryan. His Trojans are having a bad year and his normally playful quips are turning more and more spiteful and negative toward the Bruins as the year goes on.
By the way, the “brewing” part he’s referring to is from my prediction a couple weeks ago – where I picked Stanford to beat UCLA.
What I was talking about when I said something special was brewing in Pasadena was the way UCLA has been able to come together under unbelievable adversity this year. But it seems your schadenfreude knows no limits.
As for the Bruins, I think this is probably where most people expected them to be. They’ve dropped two games, back-to-back road games, at Stanford and at Oregon. Sure, if they would have won one of those games then it would be seen as a huge step forward. But they didn’t. C’est la vie.
The Bruins are 5-2 with both losses coming to the two best teams in the league. We’re going to go out on a limb and say they get bowl-eligible this week with a win over Colorado. And then they control their destiny in the South Division – which is what we believed would be the case. So you can be snarky and spiteful. But it won’t detract from my opinion of the job Jim Mora has done this year.
Colin in Seattle writes: What do you make of this Huskies team now? Are they a mediocre team that won against overrated opponents and then got exposed, or are they a talented team who lost to some tough competition and then had a confidence breakdown? Where do you see them through the end of the season and beyond?
Kevin Gemmell: The only real slip-up I’ve seen so far from Washington is the Arizona State game.
My guess was that they’d start 4-0. And, much like UCLA, having to play Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks is brutal. But it wasn’t just that they lost to Arizona State. It was the way they lost. The Sun Devils get all the credit for outcoaching, outperforming and outmuscling the Huskies. Maybe they were gassed after playing the Cardinal and Ducks in consecutive weeks. Oh well. Too bad. That’s life in the Pac-12 and the North Division. You have to be able to bring it every week. And the Huskies didn’t bring it in Tempe.
Washington has four guaranteed games left, and likely a fifth, to still make this a very successful season. A 10-win season. Double digits. Haven’t had that since 2000.
Let’s take a gander at the remaining games on the schedule. Hosting Colorado is probably a win, and thus another year of bowl eligibility. But the preseason hopes were higher. I get that.
Then it’s back-to-back road games at UCLA and Oregon State before hosting the Apple Cup to close out the year. I can see a 4-0 finish. They got Cal at a good time. But if the Tempe version of Washington shows up, I could also see a 1-3 finish. My guess is that was just an off week.
Kevin Gemmell: Yes.
If this was a chat, I’d be able to get away with that answer. But this is the mailbag, and you deserve a more thorough answer.
So let’s look at the numbers:
Bishop Sankey: 199 rushes, 1,162 yards, 12 touchdowns, 145.25 yards per game, one fumble lost, first downs per rushing attempt 29.1 percent, 29 zero or negative rushes, 27 rushes of 10-plus yards. 16 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown.
Ka’Deem Carey: 157 rushes, 924 yards, 10 touchdowns, 154 yards per game, one fumble lost, first downs per rush attempt 31.2 percent, 11 zero or negative rushes, 18 rushes of 10-plus yards. 18 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
As you can see, remarkably similar numbers. The big difference here is that Carey has played in two fewer games. He’s done his work in six games to Sankey’s eight. Both were solid when they squared off in the rain, with Sankey’s squad getting the victory as he carried 40 times for 161 yards and a touchdown. Carey rushed 30 times for 132 yards and a score.
Both are 5-foot-10 in the 203 to 209 range, give or take a steak dinner.
So with all that said, I stand by my initial answer.
5hChantel Jennings and Ted Miller
1dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller