Friday, September 14, 2012
Mail: ASU details, Cal worries, Utah issues
By Ted Miller
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To the notes!
Colin from Macomb, Ill., writes: I saw you were in ASU newly renovated football offices interviewing CTG. What did you think of the make-over and do you think that type of thing makes a difference for a program?
Ted Miller: Funny you ask because that was a discussion topic between athletic staffers and me while I wandered around the football offices. Things really look good up there. Major upgrade, from colors to design to just a basic "well made" look.
Does it make a difference? Heck if I know. My first response would be making something look good is always better than not. But USC's football building was mostly a dump during the Pete Carroll years, and that didn't seem to matter. It almost was a source of pride.
But the big-picture takeaway from renovated offices -- really, just a few coats of paint when you get down to it -- is that everything matters because it might matter.
To me that's part of new coach Todd Graham's oft-noted emphasis on attention to detail. Details matter. It's best to have great athletes, but great athletes get beaten all the time by athletes -- and teams -- who prioritize the details.
Does being on time to everything matter? Maybe, maybe not. But it's a detail that successful coaches emphasize. Does hustling from every Point A to every Point B on the practice field matter? Maybe, maybe not. But it does seem that coaches who demand constant hustle win more.
Arizona State, at present, can't snap its fingers and produce facilities that are as sparkly as those at Oregon and, now, California. But it can put up a new coat of paint in its coaches offices and care about how things look.
Coincidence that the Sun Devils looked like they had a new coat of paint during a 2-0 start? Maybe, maybe not. But I'm a strong "maybe so" lean.
Pete from Denver writes: Do you think the pressure rises on Cal and Tedford to have a good showing in Ohio after watching UCLA, OSU, UA and ASU play so well this weekend?
Ted Miller: I think other Pac-12 teams playing well while the Bears don't is, yes, a bad thing for Jeff Tedford. Particularly teams making immediate improvements with new coaches.
Now, keep in mind that we're two games into the season. We don't know whether these nice starts for Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State and UCLA are going to hold. But if they do, and those teams all earn bowl berths or, perhaps, one or two of them win eight or nine games, and the Bears finish with a losing record, that would fuel Tedford's critics.
How could it not?
I think Jon Wilner does a nice -- and fair -- job of pointing out the challenges ahead for Tedford, as well as his contract situation that includes a potentially hefty buyout.
With a visit to USC coming after the road date at Ohio State, it's not unreasonable to go ahead and project a 1-3 start. Most folks in the preseason envisioned a 2-2 start, with an opening win over Nevada, so Cal is beneath expectations. Further, you have to wonder whether the Bears have the confidence and mental toughness not to let a 1-3 start take the starch out of them.
The uptick of several Pac-12 teams that appeared middling at best in the preseason also doesn't help. There are no gimmes on Cal's remaining schedule. Heck, the lone gimme on the schedule, a bad Southern Utah team, pushed the Bears well into the second half.
These are trying times in Berkeley. In the preseason, this looked like a bowl team with the potential to finish as high as third in the Pac-12 North. That might still happen. But at present, getting to six wins requires optimistic math. And a second losing season in three years certainly won't cool Tedford's already warm seat.
JP from Salt Lake City writes: I'm dropping you a line to express disatisfaction over the grief the Utes took about not pulling their weight for the rep of the conference when they dropped a game to [Utah] state. That was their first non-conf loss since joining the pac 12. And they provided 1 of only 2 bowl wins for the conference last year. I thought folks were a little quick to grab pitchforks and torches.
Ted Miller: Welcome to the Pac-12. Losing to Utah State will never get you a conciliatory pat on the back here. Just like Cal's loss to Nevada was greeted with indignant head slaps from Bears fans and from Pac-12 observers.
As a member of what I guess we still call an "AQ conference," you cannot escape ridicule when you lose to a "non-AQ conference" team. Even losses to Boise State or BYU or Nevada -- quality programs -- invite ridicule. Mostly because they invite ridicule from fans of other AQ conferences, and we'd prefer to avoid that.
This, you are going to find, is the way things are for you now. As I once told Spiderman, "With great power, comes great responsibility."
I know Utah won its bowl game last season. I know that, coupled with its wins over BYU and Pittsburgh in the regular season, gave the Utes one of the more distinguished nonconference performances in the Pac-12 in 2011.
Check your calendar: It's 2012.
This is how the Pac-12 blog works: You win, we write nice things about you. You lose, we don't. Often we call for perspective, and the loss to Utah State certainly merits perspective. But we typically ridicule first, then offer perspective. That way we produce two stories and get more blog hits and hopefully avoid getting beaten by our bosses for one week.
Further, there was a timing issue. The loss to Utah State stood in stark contrast to what other Pac-12 teams did last weekend. And it was easy to lump the Utes in with poor old Colorado because: 1. You both lost games to teams you shouldn't lose to; 2. You both are new members of the conference.
Hey, beat BYU on Saturday. Then the Pac-12 blog will single out your grit and mental toughness for bouncing back despite losing starting quarterback Jordan Wynn.
Rob from Santa Clara, Calif., writes: Nearly every year USC travels across the country to play someone. It cracks me up that people expect them to travel so much and win each game by 5 TDs.I will ask you again: Did USC travel more miles this weekend than Alabama has in the past 3 seasons?
Ted Miller: I'm not going to do your math, but I hear you. Ask the Big Ten about going from coast to coast. It's not easy. That's why Georgia recently chickened out of a series with Oregon. It strongly suspects it would get butchered in Autzen Stadium, so it went all coward and begged out of a signed game contract.
Reality, Bulldogs. Don't waste our time with excuses.
And I hear you about interpretations of that game. I keep reading how Syracuse's defensive line won the battle with the Trojans' O-line. Er, the Trojans rushed for 258 yards and yielded two sacks.
But the reality is style points matter for USC, fair or unfair. A two-touchdown win over what I suspect will be a bowl team apparently wasn't very stylish for some.
Still, USC's task is simple, whatever the micro-analysis week to week: Win every game. If the Trojans do that, they will play for the national title.
Duck fan in Texas writes: how much should the duck fans make of the severe second half struggle in Fresno game? A couple of fumbles, and the defense allowing 25 to a team that is lower echelon in comaprison to the teams they will face in the future.
Ted Miller: I don't think it matters at all.
You'd like your team to play four great quarters every week, even when it's ahead by 40 or 29 at the half. It just doesn't happen, particularly with reserves on the field.
I don't put too much stock in how a team looks in wins over inferior foes until we see how that team looks against quality teams. Then, if you wish, you can extrapolate back and say, "See! I saw this coming when the third string gave up 14 fourth-quarter points to Arkansas State!"
I mean, Alabama gave up 21 points and 341 yards to Georgia Southern on Nov. 19 last year. Didn't seem to be an issue in the national title game. Or the NFL draft.
Tom from New York writes: I'm from The NOC, one of YouTube's new partner sports networks. I wanted to share a new PAC-12 comedy piece we just produced. We sum up every stereotypical PAC-12 fan in a single sentence! Check it out it. We'd love you to share it if you enjoy!
Ted Miller: There you go.