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Monday, May 17, 2010
Opening the mailbag: Rodgers vs. James

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Wanted to post the mailbag on Friday from the home offices in Bristol, Conn., but ACC blogger Heather Dinich told me you guys had already started your weekend early and would be unavailable until Monday.

To the notes.

Cam from Albany, Ore., writes: Preseason All American, Dark horse Heisman hype, Pac Ten awards, national media attention: Jacquizz Rodgers has all of these things. What he does not have, with two attempts, is a season as good as LaMichael James had last year. Quizz leads LaMichael only in rushing touchdowns in a year, and Oregon scored on the ground with no less then six different people last season. Long runs, average, yards/game: In all of these categories James is measurably above Rogers. OSU fans will claim Quizz means more to his team then does LaMichael, and they are right. But since when did lack of depth make a player better? And wasn't Quizz flat shut down against both Oregon and Cal last year? Why no love for LaMichael?

Ted Miller: LaMichael James is an outstanding back. He could become an All-American candidate. Heck, even a Heisman Trophy candidate.

But you lost me when you asserted that James had a better season that Jacquizz Rodgers. Cam, you get a frowny face.

James rushed for 1,546 yards last year. Rodgers, 1,440. James averaged 6.7 yards per carry and Rodgers 5.3. Ergo, you write, James had a better season.

You leave out this: Rodgers scored 22 touchdowns (one receiving), James 14. Now to me, TDs are important in football. I realize there is a camp where they are not so important -- the 2008 Washington squad apparently found them burdensome -- but I am not a member of that camp.

You, fairly, note that "Oregon scored on the ground with no less then six different people [seven actually] last season" as a reason for James scoring fewer TDs. In fact, four Ducks had at least three rushing TDs. No other Beaver had more than two.

So ... everybody knew Rodgers was coming and he still found the end zone. James? Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was just as much of a threat, see 13 rushing touchdowns. A defense didn't know what to expect from Chip Kelly's fancypants offense that in 2008 had Jeremiah Johnson averaging 7.2 yards per carry -- and LeGarrette Blount 7.3. Heck, a converted cornerback, Kenjon Barner, averaged 6.0 per carry as James' backup last fall.

Has any Oregon tailback not been successful under Kelly?

But let's just say that a comparison of Rodgers and James as running backs is close (which it is). Rodgers résumé also includes this: He was one of the best receivers in the conference last year, catching 78 passes for 522 yards. James caught 17 for 168.

Now, I've begun to suspect that Oregon State fans are secretly asking me this question -- it seems to come up every mailbag -- because they know my position (you know, the correct one). There is no argument here: Rodgers is the Pac-10's best running back based on what he has done thus far.

Projecting forward? Ah, that is why we play the season!


Brandon from New York writes: Why is everyone bullish about Stanford? I consistently see them on the fringe of top 25 lists and i am confused how a team that barely scratched the top 25 last year with the best player in the country is generally assumed to be BETTER after losing said superhuman. I wasn't aware they had a tremendous defense, and Stanford is no Ohio St or Va Tech when it comes to winning with special teams. Luck may be great, but seems like he's set up to disappoint without the support of some other QBs in the Pac (Locker, Foles, anyone not under arrest at UO)

Ted Miller: First of all, if Andrew Luck has played in the Sun Bowl, Stanford would have beaten Oklahoma and ended up 9-4 and ranked in the final Top 25, which would have paved the way for even more 2010 Cardinal bullishness.

Toby Gerhart is a big loss, no doubt, and that's a legitimate reason to question just how good Luck will be in 2010. Still, he's a major talent and a future first-round NFL draft pick. Moreover, he's got seven other returning starters around him, including four of five offensive linemen and all of his main receivers.

Luck is where most of the Stanford hype starts, but there's also intriguing up-and-coming talent on the Cardinal that should break through in 2010, particularly on the defensive front-seven, such as sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov, junior end Thomas Keiser and sophomore end Chase Thomas. The biggest question is the secondary, but word out of spring drills is that crew looked much-improved.

Stanford is a program with momentum. Folks are impressed with the coaching and recruiting of Jim Harbaugh, and last season felt more like the start of an upward trend than a flash in the pan.


Kevin from San Francisco writes: I see the 2010 Cal Bears being the most boring 8-4 team in the country. Kevin Riley will (finally) settle in and become the mediocre QB that he was meant to be. I love Shane Vereen and see him rushing for 1500+ yards but I just don't see No. 34 stealing the hearts of media pundits. Do you agree? I'm already looking forward to the 2011 season when our stellar recruiting class has matured into super soph's.

Ted Miller: 8-4 sounds like a pretty good record for Cal in 2010, so I guess I agree.

If Vereen rushes for 1,500 yards, however, it's a good bet that he'll steal at least a few media pundits hearts. And I'm not so sure that Riley won't be better than mediocre in 2010. After all he's been -- suffered -- through, it would be nice for him to walk away from his senior season hearing a few cheers from Cal fans.

Though, after reading your letter, it appears Cal fans may need a pick-me-up -- or Prozac.


Jay from Seattle writes: Just saw [Washington president] Mark Emmert drive by me in Madison Park behind the wheel of a brand new Lamborghini Murciélago. Does the NCAA pay that well and what happened to his Prius?

Ted Miller: Jay, I'm glad you wrote. Emmert told me he was going to "borrow" my car. That was May 12!

Yes, the NCAA pays well, Emmert's predecessor, the late Miles Brand, made $1.72 million, according to 2008 tax records. And Emmert was doing OK already, making more than $900,000 a year at Washington.

[Note: A school spokesman has confirmed that the Lamborghini doesn't belong to Emmert, though the school has a relationship with the manufacturer, which you can read about here .]


Barrett from La Grande, Ore., writes: I'm the S.I.D. at Eastern Oregon University and thought I'd pass along a story from our Spring Game. 21-year-old Dylan Steigers passed away after a hit in the game. Not sure if you could share any info on something like this, just being a West Coast guy I thought I'd try. There is also a foundation in his name beginning and for his two-year-old daughter.

Ted Miller: A terrible story. Frightening and sad.


Raymond from Tucson writes: Joyless ride: Oregon State trio sentenced to community service -- I think they should clean the bathrooms after each OSU home game including the visitors locker room. This might be harder than making trips to a retirement community and driving golfers in carts or serving on the food line at the local Salvation Army.

Ted Miller: Not a bad idea. We obviously should keep them away from golf carts.


Al from Pasadena, Calif., writes: A guy that sits next to me at the office is originally from Atlanta and transplanted to the West Coast. Although a diehard Georgia fan, he has become a Pac-10 football believer over the years. SEC fans are quick to discount the Pac-10 as a "wine & cheese conference." I know this because I lived in the South for 4 years. Being a native of Atlanta yourself, why can't the rest of your SEC brethren look at things objectively?

Ted Miller: I know that guy!

SEC fans? What makes SEC fans so great is their lack of perspective. As for the "wine & cheese" belief: That's just trash talk. SEC fans don't really believe that. At least, not the smart ones.