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Friday, August 15, 2014
Mailbag: Do the Utes belong in the Pac-12?

By Ted Miller

Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Spencer from Indianapolis writes:  The media has said more then once that you can't judge Utah until its 4th season in the pac 12. Beacuse of recruits, Money, ect. With that being said where should Where should Utah finish this year to say they belong 4 years into the Pac 12. And some will say 6 and 6 is a good season with how they have finished the past 2 years. But i want to know 4 years ago where the Utes should be finishing this year.

Ted Miller: If we're going to dabble in the "Does Utah Belong?" question, we should ask the same of Colorado, California and Washington State, which have worse Pac-12 records over the past three seasons since the Utes joined the conference. Probably Arizona, too, as it's won one more Pac-12 game during that span than the Utes.

My point is that Utah belongs. It hasn't cracked the top half of the Pac-12 in three seasons, but that can be said for a lot of conference teams.

Of course, there has been a worrisome downward trend, going from 4-5 in 2011 to 3-6 in 2012 to 2-7 last fall, which is sort of the reverse of Arizona as the Wildcats have gained ground under Rich Rodriguez.

If I were a Utah fan, I'd look simply for improvement. A team that can go 4-5 in this league, as the Utes did in 2011 when the going was a bit easier, is going to be pretty darn good. If a 3-6 finish in the Pac-12 includes a perfect nonconference mark, which would mean a win at Michigan, I'd also rate that as a pretty strong showing.

In other words, if Utah earns bowl eligibility in 2014, I'd rate it as a successful season.

Steve from Menlo Park, California, writes:  Ted, over the last 5 years, Stanford is 6-0 against UCLA. Yet you still put UCLA ahead of Stanford in your power rankings.

Ted Miller: We are just evil like that.

In our defense, we are not alone. The Coaches Poll and ESPN.com power rankings also had UCLA ahead of Stanford. Our guess is the AP poll will do the same.

Why? Many, including your humble #4pac (the witty hashtags we're going to use for our crew this year), believe UCLA is going to take a step forward and Stanford a step back this season. That said, many might be wrong on one or both counts. That happens.

One quick and under-noted observation: UCLA plays host to Stanford on the final weekend of the regular season -- Nov. 28, a Friday night no less. I am prepared to call that an intriguing season finale that might have a few eyes on it from across the nation.

Nick from Seattle writes: Is Thomas Duarte a WR or TE? ESPN has him listed as a WR. I run a PAC12 fantasy league and I need to know what position he is. Sounds like he is a TE.

Ted Miller: He is officially listed as a receiver, and UCLA doesn't list anyone as a tight end. Of course, he's 6-foot-3, 225 pounds -- I recall thinking he looks bigger than that -- so he could easily be mistaken for a tight end. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone calls him his "Y" receiver, which is mostly where he dumps his big, tight end looking receivers.

All that said, he earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors as a true freshman and was listed as a tight end by the conference. So go figure.

As for a fantasy league, Duarte is a guy whose numbers should bounce up nicely this year. He might be the Bruins best red zone option.

Paul from San Carlos, California, writes: Indulge a pet peeve: Those who downgrade a team in rankings for having a tough schedule. Rankings should be solely about which team is better. Which team has the easiest path to a good record should play no role.

Ted Miller: Fair point. So do we need a distinction?

Are we making predictions with rankings? If so, then schedule plays a role. If you were looking for a reason to worry about UCLA, schedule would be a good place to start. Conversely then, I'd rate Iowa a top-15 team.

Or are we ranking teams only based on how good we believe they are? If so, that methodology shouldn't consider the schedule ahead, arduous or easy.

That said, most folks who do top-25 rankings based on their perception of how good a team is and what it has accomplished wouldn't take their list to Vegas and use it religiously. Sometimes a team "deserves" a ranking, even if you wouldn't bet your hard earned money that it would beat a team you rank a few notches lower.

Ed from Los Angeles writes: Ted - I see that the Lunchtime Links daily feature is coming much less frequently these days. I find that it is informative because it usually has a link to every team in the PAC-12. Please consider restoring it in the future.

Ted Miller: Our links feature will continue to appear five days a week, only we've moved it to the morning hours -- 8 am ET, 5 am PT, specifically.

We also aren't going to be as assiduous about getting a link for every team.

If you want to blame someone for that, it's on folks who don't support their local newspapers. There just aren't as many professional beat writers as there used to be. With daily newspapers going out of business or charging for subscriptions, and other sources not reliably providing professional material, it's often too difficult to produce a link for every team, every day.

Jeremy from Scottsdale, Arizona, writes: I demand to know who the masterminds are at ESPN that created these college football Power Rankings. Somehow, Arizona State is ranked 5th in the PAC-12 Power Rankings ahead of Washington in the 6th spot. At the same time, Washington is ranked 20th in the overall college football top 25 Power Ranking and Arizona State is nowhere to be found? I freely admit that I'm not a genius, but how is this possible?

Ted Miller: Easy answer.

The ESPN.com top-25 was produced by 13 people, none of whom participated in the compiling of the Pac-12 power rankings. So you have two different crews producing two different types or rankings.

Eric from Petaluma, California, writes:  Ted, the position of many an Oregon State fan is a little more nuanced than you claim in your recent article regarding the OSU UO rivalry, though I'm confident with more than a small paragraph allowed per team what you would have said was something like this:I am fine with Duck fans rooting for OSU, as long as it is genuine. I do the same and generally root for the Ducks. What is irksome is when duck fans in one breath call Oregon State the much more patronizing "little brother" and then say "I root for OSU when they are not playing Oregon, I don't understand why you can't do the same" in the next, and in a tone that is ripe with moral indignation. As soon as one insults with patronizing language that translates to "I am better than you because my football team is better", one loses the moral high ground all together, and resentment is justified. Therefore, while I don't mind rooting for Ducks, I don't blame my fellow beavers  for not doing so, nor should any other reasonable person.

Ted Miller: I could see Eric sitting at a conference table with a gaggle of other Oregon State fans, each of them sitting opposite an Oregon fan. He makes this point, and then Greg from Hillsboro, Oregon, and his Ducks cohorts go, "Oh, I never understood your feelings on this. So sorry."

Then everybody hugs it out and agrees their rivals will be their second favorite team. They sing "Kumbaya" and "Lean on me," and then go out for dinner at Beast in Portland.

Kris from Seattle writes: When is the best/case worst case coming out! Those are great!

Ted Miller: Thanks for your thoughts but, unfortunately, as previously noted, that series has been retired.

You can read last year's versions here for the sake of nostalgia.