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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Opening the mailbag: Part I

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Mailbox is backlogged... sorry for taking to long to get to it.

Phil from Eugene writes: WOW it's great to know that only two teams play in the pac-10!! Seriously this is the pac-10 blog not the LA blog. How about you expand your coverage because i'm tired of hearing about an overrated USC team who only has 4 returning starters on Offense and a Bruins team that had an uneventful year!

Ted Miller: Phil, sorry about the LA focus but there's a simple explanation: I was in LA to focus on the LA schools. Got more LA stuff coming up over the next couple of days. Went to Eugene, Corvallis, Seattle, Pullman and Tucson in the spring, hit Tempe, the Bay Area and LA in recent weeks. I will do my best to cover all 10 programs as thoroughly as possible, but when you see a date-lined story, know that I'm in that city for a reason. Like, say, I'm going to be in Eugene for the Washington-Oregon game (a trip that likely will include a martini and Oysters Rockefeller at Adam's Place).


Tom from Scottsdale writes: Let's play a numbers game. I'll give you a number that represents the amount of sacks ASU will give up during the regular season. And you will give me a number that represents ASU's win total reflecting upon my number. 1) 55 2) 40 3) 25 4) 10.

Ted Miller: A well-thought out question my fellow Scottsdalian! I'll bite: 55 sacks = 6 wins; 40 sacks = 8 wins; 25 sacks = 10 wins; 10 sacks = 11 wins. My guess: somewhere between 25 and 40.


Mike from Hemet, Calif. writes: If coaching and recruiting make all the difference, how can you justify UCLA as 8th in the conference? Even with a down offensive line, there is more talent on this team than any other save USC. Now with arguably the best trio of coaches in the pac-10, and maybe the nation, I think eighth is absurd! I see your best case/ worst case, and you have everyone beating us, in both cases. Will we even win a game? Please! It doesn't matter, it makes the "I told you so's" so much better.

Ted Miller: Mike, your question confuses me -- coaching and recruiting? Rick Neuheisel is responsible for one recruiting class. And I don't know where you got the idea that "there is more talent on this team than any other save USC," but whoever told you that has never seen UCLA practice. Neuheisel, DC Dewayne Walker and OC Norm Chow will coach these guys up, but it will require all their coaching ingenuity to fill in the significant talent gaps on this team. Yes, the Bruins have plenty of good players, particularly on defense. But every team struggles when it has, as you call it, "a down offensive line" because that's where scoring starts. The uncertainty at QB is also a bit more than a minor issue. And if UCLA's QB and OL exceed expectations and the Bruins win eight or nine games, then I will tip my cap to Neuheisel and gladly accept the "I told you sos."


Brandon from Corvallis, Ore., writes: Ted, Please don't tell me you think Lyle Moevao can lead the Beavers to a great season. Combining his lack of size, inexperienced o-line, and questionable arm, I cant see a great season coming. I hope I am wrong. What is your take on Ryan Katz? I enjoy watching him and look forward to the future

Ted Miller: Moevao is one of the questions with the Beavers heading into 2008, but he's only a minor one for me. I saw a more confident, accurate QB during spring practices and word is he's continued to improve. It doesn't hurt that he's got a strong supporting cast at receiver. He's also a charismatic guy who the offense will rally around. So I wouldn't worry about Moevao. I'd worry about: 1) A rebuilt front seven on defense; 2) A thin group on the offensive line. As for Katz, got to admit I haven't seen enough of him to form an opinion, but what I read has been almost entirely favorable.


Joe from Springdale, Calif., writes: If Mitch Mustain gets the start against Virginia and does a great job, can we expect him to start against Ohio St. even if Mark Sanchez is healthy?

Ted Miller: Joe I saved your question and tossed it at Pete Carroll on Monday. His answer? He's not even going to entertain a "what if" scenario. Which is the right answer. I then told him that it was a question from a USC fan and he told me that's probably why I finally asked him a good question. But so as to not leave you high-and-dry: My guess is Sanchez is the guy even if Mustain -- or Aaron Corp -- plays well against UVA. That's because Virginia likely will be the weakest team the Trojans play all season.


Nathan from Boston writes: I'm wondering if people are reading into Chip Kelly too much. Perhaps the Ducks' success last year has more to do with Dixon's seniority last year. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe their best seasons were during Harrington, Clemens and Dixons' senior years. Based on this trend they'll be so-so the next two years and fantastic for Costa's Senior year.

Ted Miller: Not an unfair point, and I'd guess Kelly would say as much. We tend to swing for extremes with coordinators, and Kelly is the latest flavor of the month because the Ducks offense, at its peak last year, was as good as any I've seen, other than perhaps the 2005 Trojans. On the other hand, I didn't see Dixon's brilliance coming, and I don't recall a single soul predicting big things for him. So Kelly deserves some credit. Still, experience is typically something a QB needs to really thrive and it generally comes through a few hard knocks here and there. So, yes, Costa might struggle this year at times. My guess, by picking Oregon second in the conference, is he won't struggle so much that the Ducks lose a bunch of games.


Chris from Portland writes: Last season's defeat of USC by the Oregon Ducks was received as a dethroning by many of the Duck faithful. The Ducks subsequently lost 4 games after losing numerous players to injury. If they can beat USC (again), could this be the start of a new era in the West?

Ted Miller: No.

Sorry. USC ain't going anywhere, even if the Ducks win a second in a row.


Nick from St. Paul writes: Ted, the last time ASU really came to life and did what the program is capable of, they had a surprise season from Derrick Rodgers, who went ballistic for a year before heading pro. Are any of the additions of the past 2 years in the defensive front 7 capable of having that sort of effect for the Sun Devils this year? Vazquez or James Brooks, perhaps?

Ted Miller: I really like Arizona State's foursome at DE -- Dexter Davis, Luis Vasquez and James Brooks and Jamarr Robinson. Davis and Vasquez are known commodities -- perhaps the best DE tandem in the Pac-10. Robinson had three sacks in the spring game, and Brooks -- a 283-pound redshirt freshman -- certainly passes the sight test. Still, I don't suspect any of these guys are going to go ballistic and record, say, 15 sacks. My guess is they'll combine for perhaps 30 sacks, though, and be a major headache for Pac-10 QBs.


Barrett from New York writes: With all the preseason talk of hot seats and what Mike Stoops needs to do to keep his job, what does Coach Stoops need to do to earn back fans?

Ted Miller: Win six or seven games this season -- seven is a lot better -- and get the Wildcats to a bowl game. It probably would be in Stoop's best interest to win the bowl game if his squad ends the regular season 6-6, because 6-7 doesn't really represent much improvement over the past couple of years. My guess is that he gets it done. This schedule is wired for a breakthrough.


Stacy from Louisville writes: Does the way Pete C
arroll runs his practice contribute to the injury bug that always seems to hit the Trojans? Were it not for injuries this is a program that could have won a couple of more national titles.

Ted Miller: Stacy is referring to the physical, high-energy nature of USC practices, which involve more full-contact banging than most schools (and make Trojans practices incredibly entertaining). To this question I'd say: Maybe. Probably. But I'd also counter that the way USC practices has contributed to two national titles and six consecutive top-five rankings. And it's not just about helping the Trojans prepare for games. Recruits who stop by on "Competition Tuesdays" -- when the full-contact work peaks -- tend to get caught up in the intensity and the festival-like atmosphere because USC practices are open to the public and often are packed along the sidelines.