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Friday, October 28, 2011
Opening the mailbag: Doubts about Luck?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Happy Friday.

Sorry I'm late. Stuff happens.

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To the notes.

Tracy from Memphis writes:  On your answer to Burke from Boise on the chat, don't be so dogmatic on this Andrew Luck thing. Sometimes the best pro prospect isn't the best college player. A great example of that was about 15 years ago when Peyton Manning was at Tennessee and Tommie Frazier was at Nebraska. Making the case that Manning was a better college player than Frazier when he wasn't even the best QB in the SEC East (Danny Wuerffel was) is ridiculous. So, it isn't just stats with Clemson's Tajh Boyd (who by the way was run off from Tennessee by LANE KIFFIN). Clemson is 8-0 (when they were 6-7 last year), Boyd is playing through a bad hip with underclassmen at WR, TE and RB and is carrying a sieve of a defense. Ditto Robert Griffin III, who has an incredible 205.7 passer rating (22 TDs, 2 INTs, 78% completions) without anywhere near the talent around him that Andrew Luck has. Luck is pretty mobile, but no way he has 2250 total yards and 24 TDs behind Baylor's offensive line. And not having to play TCU, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas like RGIII does really helps Luck's cause too. Yes, Luck will be drafted much higher than Boyd, Griffin, Kellen Moore etc. but Tommie Frazier wasn't drafted at all. This is COLLEGE so it helps to have a more open mind.

Paul from Eugene, Ore., writes:  Ted, the Heisman is not supposed to be "for the best player in college football" as you said in your chat today. It is the equivalent of the MVP award in any pro sport. Being the best player means nothing if you don't put up great numbers. You can go to the Heisman trophy official website if you still don't understand. Are you really going to tell me that people thought Troy Smith was the best player in college football? By your logic people should vote for the Heisman winner based on who they think will be drafted highest.

Ted Miller: Here's the exchange in question:

Burke (Boise): if "Luck plays for a team that runs more than it throws," how is he the Heisman front-runner?! He will be a great pro, he's a great college player, but in terms of THIS season (disregarding last season as you must do) Moore, Boyd, RG3 and Wilson are having as good or better seasons. That doesn't even take into account Richardson. Oh, and Stanford has played NO ONE.

Ted Miller  (3:35 PM): The Heisman Trophy is supposed to be for the best player in college football. If you held a COLLEGE FOOTBALL draft, every coach in the nation would pick Luck first. For me, the fact that Luck calls running plays at the LOS instead of passing plays because he sees things like a coach instead of a player who wants fancy stats is another reason to give him the Heisman. The award shouldn't just be about numbers. Though I personally like your boy Kellen Moore because I think he deserves a "career achievement" honor.


First, Tracy, you've thrown a lot of stuff at the wall, some of which sticks and some doesn't. And, Paul, yes, lots of folks, including me, voted for Troy Smith for Heisman because we thought he was the best player in college football. (I gave up my vote after joining ESPN.com).

Again what I typed in the chat:  "If you held a COLLEGE FOOTBALL draft, every coach in the nation would pick Luck first." I even did ALL CAPS to emphasize I wasn't talking about his NFL prospects.

The Heisman Trophy vote is different things to different people. For one, it's for all practical purposes an Offensive Player of the Year Award. If it wasn't, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh would have won in 2009.

It also often becomes a "Best Player on the Best Team Award." The thing that makes Peyton Manning a bad comparison is his "Florida problem." A huge chink in a Heisman candidate's armor is losing important games.

And so it is with Luck. I don't think Luck wins the Heisman Trophy if the Cardinal doesn't at least win the Pac-12. And I think he's a certainty if the Cardinal finishes 13-0.

There are a lot of Heisman voters and a lot of different ideas about criteria. Statistics? Absolutely. Winning? Crucial. How "good" a guy REALLY is? Can't ignore it. Intangibles/character? For me, that's a part of it, but others feel differently.

If I were debating someone who finds Luck's passing numbers -- outstanding, efficient but not spectacular -- lacking compared to someone else, I'd merely point out that Stanford has won 15 games in a row, the last 10 by 25 or more points, which hasn't happened in the modern era of college football. Luck is supported by one of the nation's best defenses, so he's not desperate to pile up points and passing yards. Further, he calls his own plays at the line of scrimmage, more often than not checking down to a running play that gains 10 yards instead of a passing play against two deep safeties who are quaking in their boots.

I love Tajh Boyd and Robert Griffin and Trent Richardson, and I was a major part of the "character rebellion" that inspired the FWAA to selected Kellen Moore as the first-team All-American QB in 2010 over other candidates with troubling off-field questions.

But, folks, Luck is special in so many ways -- numbers, talent, character, brains, humility, a righteous off-season beard -- that if Stanford wins out there should be exactly zero question who gets the stiff-arm trophy in December.

Justin from Portland, Ore., writes:  Thanks Ted! You picked OSU to lose, again, which means we'll win. No Jordan Wynn = a LONG day for Utah, especially with OSU's D coming on. (Sean) Mannion will probably have some mistakes in this game against a good D, but not enough to cost the game as Utah struggles to do anything on O. Payback for the game we gave away to Utah in 2008. Utah isn't going to rally... They are a complete dumpster fire at QB without Jordan Wynn. I totally respect Utah's program (unlike the national media) and what they've done over the past years. Just glad its this team and not the 2008 team that's opening up their first year in the Pac-12, because that 08 team would have made some noise.

Ted Miller: Justin gets respect because he tells me I'm wrong BEFORE the game is played.

Lots of notes gloat about my wrongness after the game, which is sort of silly.

Justin, you have full trash-talking rights if the Beavers win, which they always do when I don't pick them.

Cats from New York writes: What is the likelihood Arizona hires Chris Petersen and or another big-time coach like Gus Malzahn - someone that can get rid of the spread and run a pro-style game?

Ted Miller: That seems like two pretty extreme examples on the "big-name" list.

Petersen is an absolute home run. Huge long shot. But his consistent success, which has included a substantial upgrade in the talent at Boise State, to me makes him a much different candidate than Dan Hawkins was back in the day. I think Petersen is just one of those coaches, to quote Bum Phillips, "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."

Gus Malzahn? Not the same thing. You might want to study the post-Cam Newton Auburn numbers here. If you're going to go the coordinator route, I'm on record as a big fan of Wisconsin's Paul Chryst.

But the likelihood of a big name coming to Tucson is directly related to the likelihood that Arizona will pay someone more than $2 million a year, as well as promise at least that much to pay a nine-man staff.

David from Sacramento writes: There's no question that CAL hasn't been the same since the 2007 Oregon St. Kevin Riley scramble. Anywho, This is the way i look at cal. They haven't gone to the Rose Bowl since the 50's and obviously haven't been much of a factor in the conference in the last 50 years. Are they cursed like the Red Sox were? I mean, was Kevin Rileys scramble in 2007 the Bill Buckner of 1986 ????? And is watching SC win titles and Rose Bowls like watching the Yankees as a Red Sox fan? What is it? "The Curse of the great Pappy Waldorf" or how bout "The curse of the great Nate Longshore getting hurt so Kevin Riley scrambled" or maybe "The curse of the Great Mack Brown" Please come up with something witty to describe this torture of being California Golden Bear supporter.

Jerris from Queens, NY, writes: The Bears should roll over UCLA, which is awful on defense? After reading that as an Old Blue, I completely expect Cal to be shut out by a shockingly adept and inspired UCLA defense. That's just how it works.

Ted Miller: I have no biases among Pac-12 teams. But I do love Cal fans.

They send me notes like these. Per capita, they send the fewest, "You're a &%$ idiot" notes and the most 2,000-word essays. I love the earnestness. And humor. If the ultimate Cal fan were played in a movie, Adam Goldberg would get the part: Smart, hopeful, neurotic but in the end mostly centered. (And before Cal fans take offense he dated Christina Ricci. 'Nuff said, eh?).

David, give me some time to think about it. Cal fans deserve the effort.

Jack from Washington, D.C., writes: Why all the love for Woods in the PAC-12 Superlative tracker and Heisman watch and no mention of Allen. Woods is a top-shelf talent, no doubt, but Allen has equal yardage and ypg on fewer receptions and doesn't have the benefit of Barkley throwing to him. His one-handed grab last week alone should get him at least an honorable mention.

Ted Miller: Keenan Allen is a great player. He and (Robert) Woods look like the first-team All-Pac-12 receivers.

But! Woods team is 6-1 and Allen's is 4-3. And Woods has eight touchdowns to five for Allen.

Let the season play out. If Allen leads the conference in receiving yards, and the Bears win seven or eight games, he'll get plenty of notice.

Peter from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Please make my birthday wish come true and answer this question: Looking at ASU's remaining schedule, it looks like they'll win out (at least on paper). Who do you think poses the biggest threat to a 10-2 regular season record? I'm going to defer to the rivalry aspect and pick UofA but I'm curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

Ted Miller: The obvious answer is either Arizona or California, which look like the two toughest games.

But good teams often blow it on the road against teams they overlook (see USC through the years). That's why you should fret road games at UCLA and Washington State the first two weekends of November. Those strike me as worrisome.

And happy birthday.

Don Hallstrom from Denver writes: I wanted to see if you could give me some information about Cal Football recruiting? I recently saw a listing of top 50 projected classes and Cal wasn't even in the list. How is their recruiting going?Do you think the new facilities will ultimately help with the recruiting?

Ted Miller: Here's Cal's list of eight commitments, which looks fairly solid to me.

It's too early to panic about a recruiting class. From what I can tell -- recruiting is not really my bailiwick -- the Bears are in on a number of top players. Coach Jeff Tedford has signed consecutive strong classes, so there's no reason to expect a decline for the 2012 class, particularly with USC only allowed to sign 15 players, per NCAA sanctions.

And, yes, I think shiny new facilities will further boost the Bears' efforts.

Jay from Encinitas, Calif., writes: You may want to check again about the all-time record between UCLA and Cal. The Bruins lead the series 49-31-1, including winning 18 straight during the 70's and 80's. The Bruins are 10-4 versus Cal at the Rose Bowl, winning 4 of the last 5 games played there.

Ted Miller: Correct. Got a lot of notes on this, including a number from some potty mouths.

I could whine that the info was wrong on the OFFICIAL PAC-12 RELEASE, but if I had paused and thought, "Hmm, does Cal REALLY lead its series with UCLA 50-29-1?" I would have then double-checked.

So my bad.