Pac-12: Capital One Bowl

Opening the mailbag: Pac-12 & Fiesta Bowl

April, 5, 2011
Happy Tuesday.

Missed last week's mailbag, so we're coming back at you three days late.

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Glen from Sacramento writes: What do you think the likelihood of the Fiesta Bowl losing BCS status to the Cotton Bowl is? That is, the New Cowboys Stadium version.Could this benefit the Pac-12, if the Fiesta were demoted, yet still a high profile (New Years?) bowl? Us Pac-10'rs have long been annoyed by the lack of high profile western region bowls available for our conference. We're stuck watching numerous SEC/Big10 matchups in Florida on New Years day, while a 2nd place, maybe 1 or 2 loss, Pac-10 team often plays in the Holiday Bowl (or now Alamo Bowl) on Dec 30, against a 4th or 5th place Big-12 team.With 12 teams now, can we start pulling some weight with respect to bowl arrangements?

Ted Miller: It's certainly possible that the Fiesta Bowl will get the boot from the BCS. But you know what the Powers That Be in college football want? The story to go away. If you took a magnifying glass to other BCS bowl games -- heck, most bowl games -- you'd almost certainly find similar levels of excess, though maybe not on as grand a scale. Know why there are so many bowls, and why so many fight to maintain the present bowl system? We don't even need a word to answer: $.

Understand: Longtime Fiesta Bowl president and CEO John Junker got away -- allegedly -- with such stunningly excesses because he'd built a stunningly successful enterprise.

If the Fiesta Bowl gets banished from the BCS, the Pac-12 would make sense as a suitor, a topic Bud Withers of the Seattle Times visited on Tuesday. And you really can't count out Larry Scott, the conference's aggressive commissioner, from making any move.

But it's not a slam dunk. For one, the conference's bowl contracts are signed through 2013. So, the Pac-12 can't just swoop in and scoop up the Fiesta Bowl, at least not immediately, or without some complicated legal wrangling.

Further, what would the matchup be? Could the Fiesta Bowl, which presently is aligned with the Big 12 champion, and Pac-12 put together a deal that lures the Big Ten or SEC away from one of their Florida Bowls -- the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl? Or would the game automatically go after the No. 2 team from the Big 12, which presently plays in the Cotton Bowl, if the Cotton Bowl becomes a BCS bowl and gets the Big 12 champion instead of the Fiesta Bowl?

And would the Fiesta Bowl even want the Pac-12? If it could match the No. 3 team from the Big Ten or SEC versus the No. 2 team from the Big 12, it might prefer that matchup. Why? Those conferences offer more big stadium teams with fans who travel in large numbers and fill up hotel rooms and stadiums -- particularly ones trying to escape cold weather.

The present situation is complicated and fluid. My guess is the Fiesta Bowl, after cleaning house, won't get dumped by the BCS. But you never know.

And I'd guess Scott at least has a raised eyebrow over potential opportunities here.

Phillip from Springfield, Ore., writes: Can I ask you a question? Why is everyone --even you -- so high on Oregon winning the PAC-12 hands down. Is their any hope that they will fail big time to get this done. I will give you 2 reasons why i think they will fail.1being they are new at this being on the big time level. 2 they cant stay on the level with the big boys of college football. And now i will throw this out there: Colorado will not be easy for Oregon. I know they are down but it is in their house they can get it done, not to mention a host of teams that i did not mention. And before you think it, no i am not from Colorado i am a Beaver fan. i will listen to any thing you respond about this. i am a fair man i love collage football.

Ted Miller: There's always a chance that Oregon could not live up to high -- read: top-five -- expectations in 2011. There are always disappointing teams, just as there are surprising teams. When quarterback Jeremiah Masoli got the boot, most folks didn't anticipate the Ducks would actually be better off and end up playing for the national title.

In fact, I got no email last preseason from Ducks fans stating, "You're an idiot. Obviously, Oregon will play Auburn for the national title. How can you not see that? Can we get a writer who knows anything!?!"

As to why folks are high on Oregon, well, that's pretty easy.

The Ducks are the two-time defending Pac-10 champions. They have won 41 games over the past four seasons and have finished ranked in the top-11 the past three seasons.

Sure, they lose some key athletes from the 2010 team that played for the national title, including three linemen on both sides of the ball, but the competitions to replace them feature experienced, talented players. As a media member, it's meaningful when a backup is familiar to you.

Further, quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James give the Ducks the nation's best backfield, which is nice, the secondary looks outstanding and recent recruiting has been strong. There are no obvious holes that Ducks fans should lose sleep over.

And, you know, this Chip Kelly guy. He sorta seems like he knows what he's doing.

Washington and Oregon State fans -- and Pac-12 fans in general -- don't want to hear this but Oregon is a "big boy." No, the Ducks can't match Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Alabama, etc., in historical terms, but the present suggests they are every bit those program's equal. Or superior.

C-Note from San Francisco writes: When's the Pac-10 Blog officially changing its name to the Pac-12 Blog?

Ted Miller: This is the most popular inquiry I get. I've answered a few times, but will reiterate again.

If you go here -- the official conference website -- the conference remains the Pac-10 until the change is official on July 1. That's not just for business purposes: Pac-10 spring sports are on-going.

For our informal purposes, I only refer to the conference as the Pac-12 -- unless I suffer a brain cramp, which I do regularly -- and I am now covering both Utah and Colorado with all the love and respect and pride I have for my other 10 children.

And, yes, when the name change is official, everything will shift over, the blog and the Twitter account. And hopefully the fine folks at the newly minted Pac-12 office will send me some new logos for the background in my videos.

Dana from Dallas writes: Fact check on your CU-Utah "once a bitter rivalry" piece. I'm proud to announce that CU picked up it's 18th NCAA championship a few weeks ago. Your column only gave CU credit for 17. The Buffs just want to show some more good faith efforts prior joining the Conference of Champions.Utah came into the championships ranked #1 in the nation, only to place second when it was all said and done.

Ted Miller: My bad. And more fuel to the simmering enmity between Utes and Buffaloes.

Jeremiah from Mukilteo, Wash., writes: You gotta check out this link. The general public has got to know about [Washington State coach Paul] Wulff's shady recruiting practices. This has got to be a secondary violation somewhere, right?

Ted Miller: And, in a first, the Pac-12 blog enters into the field of scatology.

Opening the mailbag: Bowls, Bellotti & Buffaloes

November, 11, 2010
A special welcome to this week's mailbag.

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To the notes.

Bobak from Minneapolis writes: Wow, the New Mexico Bowl! Is that all the Pac-12 is really worth? I thought the expanded conference was going to get us something respectable.

Ted Miller: Got a lot of this reaction. And I hear you. Everyone wants the Capital One Bowl to boot the Big Ten and match the SEC No. 2 vs. the Pac-10 No. 2 in a super-awesome-kick-butt game.

That's not going to happen for a couple of reasons. Contracts are already signed. And the Capital One Bowl is pretty juiced about its present situation.

But adding New Mexico Bowl is about a seventh bowl slot for a 12-team league. It's not so bad. It's regional, for one, which is important for a low-rung bowl spot. And ever been to Santa Fe? Pretty cool, right? It's about an hour away from Albuquerque.

As far as juicing up the Pac-12 bowl schedule with a Jan. 1 game going forward, that's going to take some creativity and salesmanship from commissioner Larry Scott. But at present, he's probably aiming those qualities at signing a mega-TV deal that helps the conference keep up financially with the SEC and Big Ten.

Once that's signed and everybody is rich, then Scott can ponder how to improve the Pac-12's bowl arrangements.

Joel from Toppenish, Wash., writes: Mike Bellotti would be an ideal fit [for Colorado]. He knows the dynamics of the conference. Recruiting really took off under his watch. The surrounding communities of both universities are quite similar; small to medium size college towns with 'green' minded citizens.

Ted Miller: Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti would be a good choice for Colorado, though I'd have to rub my eyes to see him on the visitor's sideline at Autzen Stadium.

But Colorado is also different from Oregon -- read this interesting interview with former Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett for some details.

In short, Colorado doesn't embrace the "arms race" in college football at nearly the pace Oregon has. Said Barnett, "There’s a disconnect between what it takes to compete at that level and what’s being done." For one, there are facility issues. And money issues -- Colorado isn't going to pay head and assistant coaches as much as they'd make at other top BCS programs. There are rules that limit multi-year contracts for assistants, which makes it hard to lure and retain staff members.

Now, if Bellotti just wants to coach again in a highly livable place that would be grateful to get back on the winning track, Colorado seems like a pretty cool place to land.

Sean from Sacramento writes: Let's suppose Cal notches the win over Washington at home at the end of the season. If that's the case, how do you feel Cal's season went? Most of us look at it as somewhat disappointing, but at the same time, Cal was predicted to finish seventh, and now appear as if they'll finish sixth, maybe even fifth if they can pull an upset against Stanford or Oregon. Wouldn't this be the first time in a long time that Cal actually did better than was expected of them for the season?

Ted Miller: Sean, I like the positive angle. Don't get much of that from Cal fans these days.

And if Cal finished 7-6 with a bowl win, it would be hard to call the season a failure. Perhaps lackluster and unsatisfying but not a failure.

But I think Jon Wilner made a valid point on Oct. 19 that's still relevant on Nov. 12th: It's not just the losses. It's the size of the losses that are worrisome.

Wilner pointed out that in coach Jeff Tedford's first seven seasons, the Bears lost just three games by two or more touchdowns. That's three out of 30 defeats. In other words, the Bears were almost always competitive, even when they lost.

However, since 2009 -- 22 games -- Cal has been beaten by two or more TDs seven times. That means -- with Oregon and Stanford still ahead on the schedule -- the Bears have been blown out in nearly one-third of their games over the past two seasons.

That's not good. To me, therein lies the reasonable disappointment and frustration for Bears fans. And therein lies something Tedford probably needs to solve during the 2011 season, or "hotseat" talk that felt unwarranted over the past few seasons will become valid.

David from Portland writes: Do you think that Heisman voters might be hesitant to cast their votes for Cam Newton due to the allegations that are out there now? I don't think anyone associated with Heisman voting wants another situation where the guy they voted for is stripped of the award. I know they're just allegations at this point, but even as a Duck fan, I think Newton is the best player in the country right now and should win the award if voting were held today.

Ted Miller: The short answer is yes. You'd figure guys like Oregon's LaMichael James, Boise State's Kellen Moore and Stanford's Andrew Luck will earn some votes from Newton defectors.

This is a sensitive, difficult situation, though. There's a lot of smoke here -- on a variety of issues -- but you want to give a young man and the institutions involved the benefit of the doubt.

You know. Just like SEC fans treated USC during the Reggie Bush ordeal that led to draconian sanctions from the NCAA after a four-year investigation turned up almost nothing that hadn't been reported three years before.

Greg from Portland writes: Looking ahead to next year with the Pac 10 adding 2 new teams and currently Utah ranked a top 15 team I have a 2 part question. First with the addition of Utah and Colorado how do you see the Pac 10 matching up against what some commonly think as a much better conference in the SEC? Second, how do you see Utah doing next year playing a Pac 10 schedule of teams? From what I understand Utah is a very young team and will have most of they have this year back next year.

Ted Miller: The addition of Utah and Colorado means the Pac-12 gets a new member that's played in two BCS bowl games and has been a regular member of the top-25 and even the top-10 in recent years. And, in Colorado, the conference gets a program trying to regain its mojo.

The additions make the conference stronger, particularly if you are optimistic about Colorado rebuilding fairly quickly. Will the additions make national pundits view the Pac-10 as the equal of the SEC? Probably not, particularly with USC trending down while yoked with NCAA sanctions. And is Jim Harbaugh going to stick around at Stanford?

What the Pac-10 needs to gain more national esteem is four or so programs that are regularly in or around the top 10 or 15. It's not hard to imagine that in the future, particularly if USC bounces back and Oregon keeps it up under Chip Kelly.

But, to me, the big winner in expansion might be the Big Ten. If Nebraska continues to climb, and Michigan gets back on track, which seems inevitable, the 12-team Big Ten might challenge the SEC. A seventh stadium with more than 70,000 capacity is also impressive.

Note: I am talking about perception. I think the reality is the quality of play in the Pac-10, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 already is comparable, and debating a pecking order is a moot issue that fans love and media members enjoy cultivating.

As for Utah in 2011, based on its current depth chart, it will welcome back six starters on offense -- including QB Jordan Wynn -- and seven on defense. My guess is the Utes will be a factor in the inaugural season of the Pac-12 South.

Scott from Phoenix writes: I wonder why no one has talked about LaMichael James coming out early. He is a red-shirt sophomore which I think is eligible based on the three years out of high school rule the NFL uses (unless it is three playing years or red-shirt years don't count).It is hard to fault running backs who come out early because the NFL window for RBs closes at around age 30. I also am not sure what more James would need to prove. Sure if Oregon does not go to the NC game and/or James misses out on the Heisman those are still there but for an RB that is a heck of thing to miss out on a year of NFL salary.

Ted Miller: I think it's perfectly valid for folks to wonder if James might enter the NFL draft this spring. If he's a certain first-round draft pick, which I'm not sure he is, he should seriously consider it.

Ducks fans, any of you have thoughts on that?

Joel from Eugene writes: Hey Ted,Just saw your video mailbag about Costa and I have a couple notes (This is intended to indicate that for the most part I enjoyed your point of view). First, While the focus of the video was on the backup QB, in Costa's situation I feel like is abilities as holder on special teams was valuable as well (see the Arizona game last year) and the loss there could be felt in a clutch situation later in the season. On a much more pedantic note, Oregon fans would have Dixon's injury burned into their Amygdalae (centers for emotional memory), which are at the edge of the cortex.

Ted Miller: Wait. I think I used to date Amy G. Dalae. She was very emotional and never forgot anything I did wrong, which means she had massive brain.

Good point about Costa being the holder. I think Ducks fans should relentlessly talk about that, thereby ensuring it won't be an issue that leads to a soul-crushing moment in a big game.



Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25