Friday, April 6, 2012
Mailbag: Who cares about the Rose Bowl?
By Ted Miller
Welcome to the mailbag.
Follow me on Twitter. Doing so is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Promise.
To the notes.
Richard from Aspen, Colo., writes: With the BCS announcing their thoughts on the future of the post season, there seems to be a lot of talk about trying to preserve the tradition of the Rose Bowl in the new format. Having talked with a number of my Pac-12 friends, their seems to be a common sentiment of "What tradition? The BCS has already ruined the Rose Bowl. Why save it now?" It's hard to argue that point with teams like TCU, Texas and Oklahoma playing in the game, over the last decade, not to mention all the runners up who've played in substitution of a conference champion playing in the national title game. So what's the point? Why should we save the Rose Bowl when the other conferences are willing to throw away their high dollar bowls in favor of a playoff? And why should the other 9 FBS conferences bend over backwards to appease the B1G and Pac-12 when AQ status appears to be going away?
Ted Miller: Oregon's game with Wisconsin seemed plenty Rose Bowl-y to me.
I may be the wrong one to comment on this because, having covered every BCS bowl game multiple times, my conclusion is none even approaches the atmosphere of the Rose Bowl. I love Miami, Phoenix and New Orleans as destination cities. But when the game itself is played, the Rose Bowl is like nothing else in American sport.
This isn't just a West Coast bias, by the way. Repeated confirmation on this has come from fans and media from outside the Pac-12 and Big Ten who have witnessed a "Rose Bowl." To get the Rose Bowl, you have to attend one. And you almost never hear an "overrated" from anyone who has (though a losing team's fans don't seem as nostalgic).
That, in itself, reflects some of my, perhaps personal, perspective here. To me, the Rose Bowl is more about pageantry, date and venue than the teams playing in it. While a, say, Texas-Michigan Rose Bowl gives everyone a jolt -- most notably California fans (all together now, "GRRRRRRRR!") -- I'm not sure many walked away from that 38-37 thriller in 2005 going, "Neh."
But this isn't just about romance, either. It's about money. The Rose Bowl is the most valuable of all the bowl games, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 know this. They want to protect it as an asset, despite compromises to make the present form of the BCS happen that ended the purity of the matchup.
The ideal scenario for the Pac-12 and Big Ten is some sort of playoff that allows the Pac-12 to make more money AND continue its special relationships with the Rose Bowl. Will that happen? I wouldn't, at present, bet against it.
As to why the other conferences would bend over backward for the Big Ten and Pac-12: Well, because they want to get a deal done and the Pac-12 and Big Ten hold a lot of power in getting one done.
Kyle from Bellevue, Wash., writes: What do you think of Husky fans pulling out the old "WDWHA" (we didn't want him anyway) with Max Browne? I feel like it's a pretty big deal that Washington has lost out on the state's top prospect for two years in a row now, but many seem to brush it off as inconsequential, pointing out the fact that there are already a few highly touted QBs on the roster. Through the abysmal and embarrassing decade of football that preceded the Sark hire, Dawg fans obviously are gasping for any type of positivity. However, do you think Husky fans have become too complacent with mediocrity and too apathetic regarding the shortcomings of the program?
Ted Miller: Ah, it appears someone noted my Twitter exchange with some Huskies fans.
Couple of points here: A team always wants to sign the best in-state guys. Period. That's why the "build a wall around the state" recruiting cliché began.
In the glory days of Don James, Washington typically signed most of the best in-state players. Washington State got some, too. And a couple bolted. But the Huskies were, in most cases, the first choice of top athletes who prepped in the Seattle-Tacoma area, where most of the state's population is based.
Washington going forward as a top-25 program under Steve Sarkisian will sign a majority of the top players in the state. Sarkisian did just that in 2011, but he fell short in 2012. And the residue of that affects the perception of Max Browne picking USC over the Huskies.
Browne is not only the best prospect in the state of Washington, he also may be the best QB in the nation. How many times does the state of Washington produce the No. 1 QB in the nation anyway? Getting him would have made a statement for Washington, not to mention provided recruiting momentum -- as in, "Hey, Mr. Top-Rated receiver. Do you see who just committed to us? Better get on-board the Max Browne Express!"
Not getting him also makes a statement, but it's not one we should overblow. Just note. It's clearly something, but not everything. That statement? That's obvious. The Huskies haven't yet locked the borders of the state under Sarkisian.
Not overblowing things? Well, this is hardly grounds for Huskies fans to jump into their beds and wail into their pillows about the unfairness of things -- "Max Browne! WAAAAAAAAAA!"
For one, the last time a so-called elite QB from Skyline High School (Sammamish, Wash.) bolted the state, things didn't go so badly. Jake Heaps struggled at BYU, got benched and now he's transferring to Kansas. And Washington ended up with a guy named Keith Price, who's turned out OK. The Huskies also signed two highly rated QBs in February, one from out of state (Cyler Miles) and one in-state (Jeff Lindquist).
Further, some general perspective: You can't get everybody. I remember talking to an elite player from the Seattle area who told me, "I was so sick of the rain, they had no chance with me." Some guys purely want to get away from home, for whatever reason.
I was a piddling high school player in Atlanta whose specialty was provoking unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from opposing players by being really -- really -- annoying, but if I had been good enough to have my pick of colleges I would have left the Southeast. Why? Adventure, academics and a need to get away from fried food.
Ultimately, if Sarkisian keeps signing top-25 classes that produce wins on the field, it's really not that big of a deal where the players are from. But Huskies fans have a right to be demanding of their program, and Browne opting to sign with USC is one of those moments to file away in a folder titled, "Potential Red Flags."
By the way, Sark and his highly paid staff are big boys. They know all this.
Aaron from Pullman, Wash., writes: So I've noticed you've made a lot of mentions about Oregon, Stanford, and UW being the top 3 of the Pac12 North. You even have OSU as a "surprise team". Just out of curiosity with an amazing new coach (Mike Leach), a returning Veteran QB (Jeff Tuel), and an amazing group of receivers which includes Marquess Wilson; what would convince you that WSU can crack the top 3 in the North? Let alone be the "surprise team" that can join the PAC 12 bowl hunts!
Ted Miller: I do think the top of the Pac-12 North Division pecking order goes Oregon, Stanford and Washington. I think California is a dark horse to break into that troika. And I think Oregon State is a team that could dramatically improve, which means to me going from 3-9 to 6-6.
Washington State? It went 4-8 last year and I'd rate it's over-under on wins at six. It helps not to play USC. It hurts to play at BYU and UNLV in the nonconference slate. Road games are never easy, even if the Rebels aren't supposed to be good.
I was higher on the Cougars before two likely starting linebackers got the boot. When you're switching to a 3-4 defense, and you are replacing the three starters from last year's 4-3, well, do the math. Further, there are questions on both lines. And you never know how quickly the adjustment will be with a new coach and new systems.
So there are questions. But if you are looking for reasons for optimism, you hit on a few: Leach is a maestro of the passing game and Tuel has a good receiving corps with which to work.
I've sort of got a wait-and-see attitude here. That could change quick with a season-opening win at BYU.
Let's put it this way: I don't see the Cougars breaking into the top three of the North. But I'd certainly not be surprised if they get to a bowl game.
AJ from Los Angeles writes: CAN THE USC BE A LEGITIMATE NATIONAL TITLE CONTENDER CONSIDERING THE "D" IS MEDIOCRE?
Ted Miller: YES.
And if the Trojans stay healthy on their defensive front, the defense will be better than mediocre. Perhaps much better than mediocre.