Pac-12: Cincinnati Bearcats

Jones says 'No' to Colorado

December, 6, 2012
The Colorado coaching search continues as Cincinnati's Butch Jones has declined an offer to replace Jon Embree in Boulder.

It has been reported that Jones was offered a five-year, $13.5 million deal this week.

So what's Plan B? From the Boulder Daily Camera:
Colorado officials are likely to contact San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre or Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, though DeRuyter has been a head coach for only one year and might not have the experience CU desires in its next head coach.

Athletic director Mike Bohn and his bosses have a list of targets that also could include former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, but its unclear if Tedford would have interest in the job. Earlier in Colorado's search process, a source who had spoken to Tedford said the coach viewed Colorado as a difficult place to win. Tedford was fired at Cal three weeks ago after the Bears finished the season 3-9.

It's never good to get publicly turned down by your first choice. And based on a false report from one newspaper that Jones had accepted the offer, this was a very public rejection.

But Buffs fans shouldn't get too worked up. Arizona State and UCLA both had bumbling coaching searches last year and things appear -- at least based on Year 1 -- to have turned out OK.

MacIntyre and DeRuyter are probably better fits anyway than Jones, who has no West Coast experience.

Coach Watch 2011: Three go down?

November, 27, 2011
Rumors and reports are swirling that Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and Washington State coach Paul Wulff will shortly be terminated.

From the Arizona Republic:

Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love did not return messages left by The Republic on Saturday, but multiple sources confirmed that the end is near for coach Dennis Erickson, and his dismissal could come soon.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Dan Guerrero, the Bruins' athletic director, will sit down with UCLA's football coach after the season is over to discuss the future. That could be as soon as next weekend, after the Bruins play Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.

Neuheisel's chances of retaining his job are bleak, according to influential people close to the program who did not want to be identified publicly because the decision was not final.

The general gist is Neuheisel will coach the Pac-12 title game on Friday at Oregon. The Orange County Register named candidates to replace Neuheisel:

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is expected to be fired following Pac-12 championship game against Oregon with Boise State coach Chris Peterson [sic.], Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Cincinnati's Butch Jones the leading candidates to replace him.

From the Seattle Times, which names former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach as a top candidate to replace Wulff:

Sources close to the situation say Wulff, whose Cougars lost 38-21 to Washington on Saturday at CenturyLink Field, will be dismissed after a meeting with athletic director Bill Moos, barring a last-minute change of direction by Moos. It could happen as early as Sunday, possibly Monday.

A reversal of thinking is unlikely, and sources familiar with the process say the Cougars will have former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach at the top of their list of possible replacements. Leach has been out of coaching since 2009 after a controversial exit from Tech that resulted in him suing the school.

Sumlin and Leach also likely will be connected to the Arizona State job.

These three guys started the season on the hot seat. All three showed signs of getting off it at various times. But, alas, they couldn't make a turnaround stick.

Tough business. College coaches are paid well, but their job security is always precarious.

End result is it appears the Pac-12 will feature four new coaches -- Arizona has already hired Rich Rodriguez -- next fall.
The conventional wisdom is Oregon State's already formidable trip to Wisconsin on Sept. 10 became even more daunting Monday with the Badgers' addition of quarterback Russell Wilson, a transfer from NC State who passed for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career with the Wolfpack.

Maybe. Makes sense. Wilson, who has one year of eligibility remaining and can play right away because he has already graduated, is a dual-threat quarterback who also has, by the way, played baseball in the Colorado Rockies' minor league system after being a fourth-round pick last year.

[+] EnlargeNC State's Russell Wilson
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireDoes the addition of Russell Wilson give Wisconsin a bigger advantage over Oregon State?
Further, the Badgers' play at quarterback was mediocre to bad this spring, with no one stepping to the fore to replace Scott Tolzien. Wilson, it would seem, is an instant upgrade, even over Tolzien. Wilson completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and rushed for 435 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Tolzien's 2010 numbers, though good enough to get the Badgers to the Rose Bowl, don't even compare.

The general feeling is this makes Wisconsin the Big Ten favorite. Which makes the Beavers look like road kill, right?

Again, maybe. But we live in a world of unintended consequences. There are no sure things, and the unexpected often happens.

For one, Wilson will be learning a new offense with new teammates with only a month or so this summer and fall practices to prepare. That's not easy. Sure, he's a veteran college QB. But he'll still be the new guy -- not unlike incoming freshmen.

His first order of business? Decisively beating out Jon Budmayr, Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. If Wilson is only marginally better, or if there's doubt within the team that he earned the starting job, then things could get prickly in the locker room.

The ideal situation for Oregon State would be for Wilson to not get a warm-up game before the Beavers come to town. That's not the case. Not only does Wisconsin open against UNLV, it also has a couple of extra days between that Thursday, Sept. 1 opener to iron out the kinks and get ready for the Beavers.

Oregon State opens its season against Sacramento State, giving it a preseason game in which to get in rhythm without revealing a lot. The Beavers certainly should be able to get more from the Badgers-Rebels game film than Wisconsin will from the Sac State film.

Wilson should make the Badgers better, but it's reasonable to believe he will be better as the season matures than he is early-on, when he's still figuring out the offense and his teammates. So Oregon State has that going for it.

With or without Wilson starting, the Badgers will be heavy favorites when Oregon State visits. The Beavers are coming off a 5-7 season with lots of questions and they do not own a distinguished record for starting fast. They've, in particular, suffered a few bad nonconference whippings on the road in the early-going -- see ill-fated trips to Louisville, Boise State, Cincinnati and Penn State.

The conventional wisdom will write this one into the Oregon State loss column before it's played, and the Badgers' addition of Wilson makes it less risky to do so in pen rather than pencil.

Right? Well, maybe. Let's just say lots more folks figure to tune into the Wisconsin-UNLV opener than before.
New UCLA defensive coordinator Joe Tresey was fired at Cincinnati before the 2009 season, lasted only one year at South Florida and then couldn't get any other job other than with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League last fall.

Ergo: Desperate hire by Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, right?

Not really. The devil is in the details. As for the numbers from coordinating defenses, Tresey's are solid.

2007 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats led the nation in turnover gained (42) and interceptions (26). They ranked eight in sacks per game (3.23). What about points? They were 13th in the nation: 18.77.

2008 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points). They were ninth in the nation with 2.86 sacks per game. Didn't force as many turnovers, though: Just 22. Of course, that's four more than UCLA forced last year and would have been tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in 2010.

2009 at South Florida: The Bulls ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th (tied) in scoring defense (19.8 points). They forced 23 turnovers that season.

So what about those details? Well, recall that cryptic "timing issue" that Neuheisel alluded to Tuesday as to why then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, fired Tresey? Well, that's mostly what it was.

Following the 2008 season, Tresey thought he had been hired as Miami's defensive coordinator, so much so that he told Kelly that he was leaving. But then Tresey and Shannon couldn't finalize a deal -- it apparently was over what position Tresey would coach -- and Shannon left Tresey at the altar. That interview, combined with Kelly's desire to switch to a 3-4 from Tresey's 4-3, drove a wedge into the relationship, and Kelly then made plans to move on with Bob Diaco, who's now with Kelly at Notre Dame. So Tresey was out of a job.

It's meaningful then that Tresey quickly landed on his feet as the defensive coordinator of a Cincinnati foe in the Big East: South Florida. It's not easy to get a job after national signing day, but Bulls coach Jim Leavitt wanted Tresey.

So why did Tresey last just one year at South Florida? Wasn't his fault. Leavitt was fired in January of 2009 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.

Incoming coach Skip Holtz brought in his own guy to coach the Bulls' defense: Mark Snyder. So, in mid-January, Tresey was out of work, though he was a good soldier for the Bulls until he got pink-slipped, which Holtz even acknowledged.

That is how he ended up coaching in the UFL.

Is Tresey a spectacular hire? No. Bruins fans would have been more juiced to get Vic Fangio or Rocky Long, Neuheisel's first two choices.

But considering how the nearly two-month search played out in the media -- it didn't seem pretty, did it? -- Neuheisel landed a solid, experienced candidate who figures to bring an attacking, aggressive scheme, which the Bruins didn't have last fall.

And, by the way, it's not like Neuheisel isn't invested in this decision. He's fully aware that 2011 is a win-or-else season for him in Westwood.

Some more stories on the Tresey hire here and here and here.

Coaching issues not done at UCLA

February, 15, 2011
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel admitted that his nearly two months search for a new defensive coordinator was "long and exhaustive," but even the hiring of Joe Tresey has not completely ended the coaching intrigue for his team.

For one, the Bruins still have a vacancy on the defensive side of the ball after Neuheisel fired line coach Todd Howard last week. While Neuheisel said he "probably" would be looking for a defensive line coach, he and Tresey have not decided position responsibilities for 2011. Tresey is a secondary specialist but he has also coached linebackers. Presently, Tim Hundley is the Bruins secondary coach and Clark Lea oversees linebackers.

Further, Tresey is a 4-3 coach. One of the reasons Neuheisel fired Chuck Bullough in December is a stated desire to adopt a 3-4.

During a conference call Tuesday, Neuheisel said what he most wanted was "flexibility." For his part, Tresey said that his scheme is a "multiple 4-3" and that "we have the ability to play some 3-4."

Said Neuheisel, "It became very clear listening to Joe explaining his tactics that there are a lot of different ways you could go."

It is no secret that Tresey wasn't Neuheisel's first choice. Neuheisel even said last week that he "had the guy picked three times" but things didn't work out.

Neuheisel wasn't sure of the date he first interviewed Tresey -- either late December or early January -- but he then turned his primary attention to other candidates, such as Rocky Long, Vic Fangio, Randy Shannon and Rocky Seto. Part of that, he said, was a familiarity with the other candidates that he didn't have with Tresey.

"I wanted to be thorough; I didn't know Joe," Neuheisel said. "I wanted to be right."

That included Neuheisel calling Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Kelly, while head coach at Cincinnati, fired Tresey after the 2008 season, and one of the reasons -- at least one made public -- was Kelly's desire to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Neuheisel noted that he needed to understand what he called a "a hiccup" on Tresey's resume.

"I wanted to get to the bottom why that happened," Neuheisel said. "I was comfortable after the conversation with both Coach Kelly and with Joe that there wasn't anything that would be of concern to me going forward with Joe as our coordinator. [The problem at Cincinnati] was a timing issue."

Tresey said that Neuheisel kept him in the loop on where he stood throughout the long and exhaustive search.

And, in the end, he got the job.

UCLA finds a defensive coordinator

February, 15, 2011
A lot of names have been attached to the UCLA vacancy at defensive coordinator, but the guy Rick Neuheisel tapped on Tuesday was not one of those names.

Joe Tresey, 52, a former defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and South Florida, has been named UCLA's defensive coordinator, ending a lengthy and winding search since Chuck Bullough was fired on Dec. 18.

“He has an aggressive style that forces turnovers and negative-yardage plays and I feel our players, especially our youngsters, will benefit greatly from his style of play," Neuheisel said in a statement. "He is a fine teacher and I can’t wait for him to get started.”

Tresey coached at South Florida in 2009 and Cincinnati -- under current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly -- from 2007-08. Last year, he was the defensive backs coach for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. (Recall that Bulls coach Jim Leavitt was fired in January 2010 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.)

In 2009, South Florida ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th in scoring defense (19.8 points) while compiling an 8-5 record. The Bulls forced 23 turnovers that season. In 2008, Cincinnati ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points).

Tresey is a secondary specialist "with a reputation for forcing turnovers and piling up sacks."

But also consider this paragraph from a Tampa Tribune story on Tresey's hire at South Florida: "Tresey was fired last month by Bearcats coach Brian Kelly, who said he had philosophical differences and was shifting to a 3-4 defense, but the move could have also been prompted by Tresey's talks with Miami."

Recall that one of the reasons Neuheisel dispatched Bullough was a desire to switch to a 3-4 scheme. Tresey is a 4-3 guy.

Here's a Q&A with Tresey, also from the Tampa Tribune.

A 1982 graduate of Ohio State, he also has coached at Central Michigan (2006), Georgia Southern (2004-05), Akron (2002-03) and VMI (1999-2001).

Before Neuheisel tapped Tresey, a multitude of coaches were touted as potential candidates, including Vic Fangio, Randy Shannon, Rocky Long, Chuck Heater, Teryl Austin, Rocky Seto, Jeff FitzGerald and Steve Brown.

Ranking the BCS conferences

May, 24, 2010
Ranking the BCS conferences: It's an exercise that guarantees at least one constituency will think you're a genius and another will think you're an idiot.

It's easy to dump the Big East into sixth place: Eight teams, not enough elite teams, not enough depth. After that, the margin of separation between the other five seems thin and wildly subjective.

Of course, SEC adherents will start to fulminate if they are not given a free pass into the top spot. Something about four consecutive national championships (it's an annoying point because it's hard to counter).

But let's look at the 2010 SEC for a moment. Here's a ranking of the SEC quarterbacks. It's basically Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and a bunch of nobodies and question marks. It's fair to say nine teams have serious issues at the position. At the end of the season, when we're talking about dominant SEC defenses, let's remember this cast of "Whos?"

Also, consider this interesting comment from ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper when asked about whether Mallett should be judged differently from other QBs because he plays against "SEC defenses": "First of all, let's dispel this myth that throwing for a bunch of yards and touchdowns in the SEC is somehow a more impressive feat. I wasn't high on Tim Tebow, partly because he threw into massive windows as an SEC quarterback. I was pretty high on JaMarcus Russell as a prospect if he maintained his work ethic, but I said then that he, too, was throwing into massive windows. I don't question that the SEC produces a lot of talent, but the quarterbacks also play a lot of cupcakes, and the depth of the conference is still a matter for debate."


Further, you could make a case that the SEC heading into 2010 is Alabama and Florida and a bunch of maybes. And the Crimson Tide must replace eight starters off their dominant defense, while Florida lost nine guys to the NFL draft. Lots of questions there.

In fact, just for fun. Match the SEC and the Pac-10, but do it from the bottom up. Here's Chris Low's post-spring power rankings. And here's mine for the Pac-10.

Vanderbilt beats Washington State, Arizona State beats Kentucky, UCLA beats Tennessee, Arizona beats Mississippi State, Washington beats Ole Miss, California beats South Carolina, Stanford beats Georgia, Oregon State beats Auburn, Oregon beats LSU and USC beats Arkansas.

Of course, you can't just drop Alabama and Florida, two of the nation's top-three programs (Texas is the third).

Which is why we're still ranking the SEC No. 1.

The larger point is the difference between BCS conferences is marginal, despite the huffing and puffing you hear to the contrary.

When I began reviewing what was coming back in each conference, I considered ranking the Big Ten No. 1 based on the Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin triumvirate, but then it seemed like the Big Ten has less depth than the Pac-10, ACC and Big 12. Then I thought the Big 12 looked good with Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Missouri. Then the ACC looked underrated.

Then I just needed to get on with it.

(By the way, here's a good place to see how many returning starters each team has).

1. SEC: While I have a hunch the SEC won't be on top at season's end, the impressive track record earns the conference the top spot.

2. Big 12: Five legitimate Top 25 teams and respectable at the bottom.

3. Big Ten: Top-heavy, but very good at the top.

4. Pac-10: The apparent lack of a national title contender hurts, but the conference has nine teams that could win at least six games.

5. ACC: The conference has big upside -- it might end up No. 1 at season's end -- but its track record is disappointment (see Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl). The SEC gets the benefit of the doubt. The ACC still has to prove itself.

6. Big East: Only obvious preseason Top 25 team is Pittsburgh. Based on the Sugar Bowl, we're in wait-and-see-mode with a Brian Kelly-less Cincinnati.

In and out: A look top, eligible Pac-10 transfers

February, 25, 2010
Athlon has a nice list of college football transfers who may have a significant impact this fall, including a number who transferred to -- and from -- Pac-10 programs.

Here's our take.

Incoming Pac-10 transfers:

QB Steven Threet, Arizona State (from Michigan) -- Threet finally has found a system that works for him with the Sun Devils after his previous schools -- Georgia Tech and Michigan -- changed coaches and adopted option offenses that didn't fit his skill set. He'll compete with Brock Osweiler for the starting job this spring (Samson Szakacsy will be limited because of a continuing elbow problem).

WR Aaron Pflugrad, Arizona State (from Oregon): Go ahead and pencil in Pflugrad as a starter at a position of need for the Sun Devils, who lost their top-two receivers, Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams.

WR Josh Smith, UCLA (from Colorado): The Bruins have a lot of guys back at receiver, but those guys weren't terribly explosive last year. The hope is that Smith will add some big-play capability.

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA (from Notre Dame): While the Bruins lost Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya, Fauria will combine with junior Cory Harkey -- and perhaps hybrid receiver Morrell Presley -- to give the offense plenty of punch at the position.

Outgoing Pac-10 transfers:

QB L.D. Crow, UCF (from Stanford) -- Crow was stuck behind Andrew Luck. 'Nuff said.

QB Chris Harper, Kansas State (from Oregon) -- Harper never seemed comfortable at Oregon and said upon transferring that he wanted to be closer to home. He's a talented athlete but raw as a QB.

RB Raymond Carter, Colorado State (from UCLA) -- Couldn't break through in Bruins' crowded backfield.

RB Aundre Dean, TCU (from UCLA) -- See Carter.

WR Vidal Hazelton, Cincinnati (from USC) -- Big things were expected out of him at USC -- he was the Trojans' leading receiver in 2007 -- but he got hurt early in 2008 and decided to transfer over an apparent conflict with coaches over whether he could redshirt or not. Trojans could have used him in 2009.

DT Kaniela Tuipulotu, Hawaii (from Arizona): He started seven games in 2008 but slid down the depth chart -- injuries were an issue -- and opted to transfer to his home state.

Pac-10 lunch links: Tedford says QB competition is on

February, 9, 2010
In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly's supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person's lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one's soul.

Opening the mailbag: Talkin' Kiffin, Riley and aggrieved teams

January, 15, 2010
The mailbag has been away for awhile -- last Friday's efforts were ruined by Pete Carroll -- and the bag overfloweth.

David from San Diego writes: Ted this is in regards to your blog "Riley to USC: Thanks but no thanks""Feel free to pause for a moment and soak in the warm glow of a coach who radiates contentment and isn't driven by greed and naked ambition." Ted I normally really like your stuff but that is the most arrogant and condescending statement I have seen you make. So any coach who wants to move up, maybe for more money, maybe to a bigger name program, or maybe just to someplace he has always wanted to coach at is "driven by greed and naked ambition?"Maybe Riley just likes being a big fish in a small pound, maybe he likes living in Oregon, you know there are people who do? So he is something special cause he is comfortable where he is at, yet if another coach wants to move up the latter they are low lifes, is that what you are saying? Please tell me I am misreading what you are trying to say?

Ted Miller: Not an unfair point, but I think I'm being misunderstood. I suspected I might be when I typed that, and thought about clarifying, but decided not to muddy the point of a short story about Mike Riley with my a lengthy sidebar on my personal philosophies.

First, you're inferring -- not unreasonably, I admit -- that I was specifically tweaking Lane Kiffin for leaving Tennessee after one season to go to USC. I was not.

For the record: I think Kiffin made a smart move. He'd rather coach USC than Tennessee. USC is a better, more storied program than Tennessee. He'll make more money. He's a West Coast guy anyway.

And, by the way, I am on record as a guy who mocks the maudlin stories and columns that pop up like sad little flowers whenever a coach leaves program A for program B.

Major college coaching is a demanding job with little security. If a coach believes he's got a chance to improve his finances and situation by making a move, he should.

Despite how fans -- and some reporters -- regard a college football team, it's not a family. It's a business.

I particularly dislike hypocrisy. My guess is 95 percent of the people acting sanctimonious about this -- probably more -- would leave their present job without a second thought for, say, a 100 percent raise.

So why did I write that about Riley? Because there's something refreshing about his attitude. Because there's something inspiring about a guy like Riley thriving in a brutal business that often rewards the disingenuous and those who are willing to take short cuts.

I feel I can understand the coaching business -- and even be sympathetic to the motives of those who are often working the angles -- while also recognizing a conspicuous demonstration of character.

I'd go so far to say that Riley is role-modeling what we should all be seeking for ourselves: He's well-liked, well-paid, respected, successful, secure and content.

To me, that casts a warm glow.

Eric from Las Vegas writes: My question is about the media frenzy over Kiffin's move to 'SC. I hear a lot of opinion writers say that he is a "weasel" for lying to his players. I'm curious as to why we didn't hear this same outrage towards other coaches who have left their jobs. Are we not to feel sorry for the freshmen at Cincinnati for Brian Kelly leaving? I'm hoping you can explain the difference to me.

Ted Miller: Eric, everybody's got their own take.

There was some negative chatter about Kelly leaving -- some of it later retracted -- but it was limited for two reasons: 1. Notre Dame is an obvious and significant promotion from Cincinnati; 2. Kelly had distinguished himself at Cincinnati.

Kelly, by the way, is going to awaken the echoes. Great hire.

Questioning what Kiffin has accomplished in his career is fair, and he said so during his introductory news conference. He was 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders and got fired before his second season was over. He went 7-6 in his one year at Tennessee in a season when the SEC wasn't terribly good. He lost at home to UCLA; the Bruins only road win in the Pac-10 came at Washington State.

As for the name-calling, that's just part of the game, part of operating in the media spotlight.

If, 10 years from now, Kiffin is sitting in his office in Heritage Hall reflecting on his second national title, the hiring controversy that surrounded him will become a curiosity, a bit of color to add to a lionizing profile.

You know, like the stuff they are writing about Nick Saban this month, as opposed to 2007.

Kent from Mariposa, Calif., writes: Gee, Ted, thanks for dumping on the Bears. But didn't' they beat your darlings, Arizona and Stanford ,in back-to-back weeks (two teams you ranked above them, who had identical records)? Also, great to mention the back-to-back games against Oregon and U$C in your top 10 moments. Maybe you tried to make yourself feel better by piling on after you touted them in the preseason. What about Best and Vereen each almost hitting 1,000 yards?By the way, I do enjoy your blog, but ESPN seems to like to stick it to Cal.

Ted Miller: Sorry.

California was decisively beaten in its final two games. In fact, Cal was decisively beaten in five games this season. It got blown out by Washington in the regular season-finale, and the Huskies were only one game behind the Bears in the final Pac-10 standings.

The parity among the No. 2 through No. 8 teams made it difficult to rank things -- you can go in circles about who beat who. The power rankings are about "at that moment" and are not a slave to the standings. And, as I noted, there was a bit of forward-thinking mixed in.

I don't feel too bad about ranking Cal eighth. And, yes, you are correct: I am mad at Cal for making my preseason prediction of potentially wonderful things for the program look stupid.

Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: In regards to your final Pac-10 rankings, I don't see how it's justifiable to rank Oregon State, USC and Stanford ahead of Arizona. Sure we stunk it up in the Holiday Bowl. But one game shouldn't reflect on the body of work over the whole season. Remember we won AT Corvallis (vs. Oregon State, who you gave the No. 2 spot just because they played their last regular season game for the Rose Bowl, remember that Arizona did the same the week before).

Andy from Vail, Ariz., writes: Final Power Rankings -- First, love reading your stuff every week. Thanks! I do, however, take exception to your final power rankings. Arizona beat all three teams immediately above them in the regular season, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State. You hammer AZ about the lackluster performance in the Holiday bowl, rightfully so, but you give a pass to Oregon and especially Oregon State for their woeful performances?? One game does not a season make, and our body of work deserves more love! :))

Ted Miller: Kenny, Andy and other Wildcats fans who wrote, you all may be right. I'm certainly more sympathetic to your position than I am to Kent's.

Yes, I may have been unduly influenced by the Holiday Bowl.

But let me point to a note from frequent mailbag contributor and Arizona fan, "Raymond from Tucson," who also didn't like my final Power Rankings.

He wrote in response to my entry on bowl ratings, "'The Holiday Bowl, a 33-0 Nebraska blowout of Arizona, was down five percent.' I turned the game off at half. So I contributed to the 5%."

I, however, was not allowed to turn off the game. Because it's my job, I had to watch the entire thing. All of it.

All of it!

By the end, I was bleeding from my eyes and ears.

So, that's why I may have screwed over your Wildcats.


Opening the mailbag: Are recruiting rankings meaningful?

December, 18, 2009
Everybody get my Christmas list?

To the notes.

JT from New York writes: Do you think the success of Utah, Cincinnati, Boise, and Oregon, and the fall of USC, Georgia, and Notre Dame, will put a damper on the star system for recruits and the overall ranking of recruiting classes? Seems that the emphasis placed on the incoming guys becomes less and less relevant (or relates less to success) every year given the season ending outcomes.

Ted Miller: Short answer: No.

Folks love reading about recruiting. They love ratings. They love the whole thing, even when they are complaining about it.

Any responsible recruiting guru will tell you that the "star system" is an inexact science, but measuring things in shades of gray is part of college football -- see the national polls and BCS system as a whole.

I also don't know if the recruiting rankings look that much different than the final polls. If you go here, you see a lot of Alabama, Texas, Florida, USC and other national powers.

If you're asking why schools that typically don't rank highly in recruiting seem to end up scattered throughout the national polls annually, there are a handful of explanations.

Evaluation: Some staffs are particularly good at projecting how a high school senior might develop physically over the next few years. They also seem to see the inner football player. Oregon State's Mike Riley would be a good example, as would Arizona's Mike Stoops.

Development: A good strength and conditioning program is critical, and nutritional guidance is often underrated. On the field, it's about assistant coaches who are superior teachers of fundamentals and technique. Often less highly rated guys take coaching better, too.

Coaching: A well-coached team can make up for talent deficiencies by outsmarting its opponent. I'd throw Brian Kelly and Chris Petersen into that pool and I suspect you could add Chip Kelly, though he's been a head coach for just one year. Those guys strike me as schematic savants. But coaching isn't just a big brain. It's also motivating and unifying a locker room. Again, that's Riley and also Jim Harbaugh and, though he's also a newbie, Washington's Steve Sarkisian.

Kai from Castro Valley, Calif., writes: The new thing in college football is to leave high school early and join college spring camp. What are your thoughts? Good or Bad decision?

Ted Miller: It's not really a new thing. I recall back in 1991 being among the throng who couldn't wait for super-recruit Eric Zeier, the pride of Marietta (Ga.) High School, to win the starting quarterback job of Georgia. But it seems like early-entry -- some call it "greenshirting" -- really became more popular over the past five or six years.

The reason players opt for early-entry is simple: They want to get their career started and showing up early might help them play sooner.

Quarterbacks, particularly, seem to want to get a head start with the playbook and coaching -- see Philip Rivers, John David Booty (who skipped his entire senior year of high school), Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Matt Barkley, Richard Brehaut, etc.

The oft-cited downside: What about enjoying your senior year of high school? Why skip a step growing up?

That's not invalid, though it might be a tad sentimental.

To me it comes down to this: What's right for the young man and his family?

If a player is that focused on football and getting his career started, then there's no reason for him to spend his final months of high school trying to figure out when everybody's parents are going out of town so they can throw a righteous house party.

Also, there are a number of advantages for the student-athlete: He gets more bang for his buck on scholarship -- it's a free semester. And it also gives a young man a chance test drive the school and program before he gets lost in a crowd of 25 or so incoming players.

This is a nice story on the topic by the LA Times' David Wharton.

Mike from Seattle writes: After reading your post on the pac-10 quarterbacks returning next year I found myself wondering who is the deepest?

Ted Miller: That's tough to evaluate, but here are the backup situations (class standing is for 2010).

Arizona: Junior Matt Scott. He started three games last year, so he's not completely green.

Arizona State: Both junior Samson Szakacsy and sophomore Brock Osweiler saw significant playing time in 2009. Michigan transfer Steven Threat, a junior, started eight games in 2008. One of those three will start.

California: Neither sophomore Beau Sweeney nor junior Brock Mansion have seen significant action.

Oregon: Senior Nate Costa and sophomore Darron Thomas are a solid tandem with some game experience.

Oregon State: Sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Peter Lalich will compete to replace Sean Canfield this spring.

Stanford: Redshirt freshmen Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will be very green behind Andrew Luck.

UCLA: Sophomores Richard Brehaut and Nick Crissman will start spring behind sophomore Kevin Prince on the depth chart. Brehaut threw 17 passes in 2009, Crissman two.

USC: Junior Aaron Corp and senior Mitch Mustain will backup sophomore Matt Barkley, unless one opts to transfer.

Washington: Junior Ronnie Fouch stepped in for an injured Jake Locker in 2008, though things didn't go well. Redshirt freshman Keith Price and incoming freshman Nick Montana also are in the mix.

Washington State: Junior Marshall Lobbestael figures to be sophomore Jeff Tuel's primary backup.

Kevin from Fullerton, Calif., writes: What do you think about the Beavs playing TCU next year along with Louisville and at BSU? Yikes! Not a great schedule for starting fast. I'm excited because those are all great games, but I'm just not confident the Beavs can win big, early OOC games.

Ted Miller: It's great that Oregon State is giving college football fans games that they can get excited about. Both Boise State and TCU probably will start out next year ranked in the top-10, and Oregon State also figures to be ranked in the preseason, perhaps even in the top-15.

Now, we all know that Oregon State has started slowly in recent years, but the 2010 squad will be veteran at just about every position other than quarterback. So the Beavers may be more in sync early.

Win these games, and the Beavers could launch a special season. And, even if they lose, they will have plenty of ranked teams in the Pac-10 they can crawl over as they make their typical late-season run back into the national polls.

Still, it's a brutal slate, particularly playing TCU in Texas and Boise on the blue turf. And some folks still will sniff over TCU and Boise State not being BCS conference teams, no matter where they are ranked. Losing to, say, a 15th-ranked Penn State squad still doesn't carry as much downside as losing to a No. 6 Boise State team.

Please, that's not my idea. Just the way it is.

If I were the Oregon State athletic director, I wouldn't have scheduled these games. If I were an AD, I'd always go with an A, B, C scheduling philosophy, with "A" being a marquee game with a BCS conference foe, a "B" game vs. a solid team -- not a Boise State or TCU -- and always at home and a "C" game with a patsy.

Still, it's hard to raise too much hell about matching up against two ranked programs during the early-season. I can't wait to watch both those games.

Aaron from "SEC country" writes: Maybe the Pac-10 is generally the #1 conference. When you look at the map, they should be! Where the SEC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 and ACC - 55 of the 65 AQ schools - are all either contiguous or co-located and must compete with each other for players and exposure, other than outlier Colorado the Pac-10 is the only game in town west of Texas.Example: the SEC. 4 of 9 SEC states are shared with ACC and Big East schools (i.e. Florida, which has 2 ACC schools and a Big East school). The SEC East borders ACC and Big East country to the north and east and Big 10 country to the north. The SEC West borders the Big 12 and Big 10 to the north and west. So, programs like Miami, FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Louisville, Missouri and Cincinnati compete directly with the SEC for players, coaches and media attention. Whatever obstacles the Pac-10 has, that sort of direct competition is not among them!Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has a whole 1/4 of the country to itself! So, the question must be asked: isn't the Pac-10 doing a better job of exploiting this clear advantage?

Ted Miller: Maybe.

First, I would direct you to this map of U.S. population density.

Second, I think some of the Pac-10 blog readers would say, "You had me at your first sentence."

Opening the mailbag: How could you forget Ricky!

December, 11, 2009
Happy Friday.

To the notes.

Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: You must be as blind as the rest of the Pac-10 media leaving Ricky Elmore (who DID lead the Pac-10 in sacks) off your all conference team, right?

Ted Miller: First, making these teams is never easy. There are always reasonable arguments to support guys who got left off.

I picked California's Tyson Alualu and Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim as my two first-team All-Pac-10 ends over Elmore, who led the conference with 10.5 sacks.

Alualu finished third on the Bears with 60 tackles, which was the most among conference defensive linemen. He also had 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.

Elmore had 43 tackles, which ranked seventh on his team, with11.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.

There seem to be three sets of numbers out there for Te'o-Nesheim. The Huskies official website credits him with 11 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. The Pac-10 credits him with 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss. The NCAA with 10 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.


In any event, Te'o-Nesheim also had 37 tackles, which ranked seventh on his team. But this put him over the top with me: Five forced fumbles.

All three have good resumes, but based on the overall numbers -- and the scuttlebutt I pick up during the season -- Alualu and Te'o-Nesheim get the nod.

There's also this: Both of them are seniors. Elmore is a junior.

So we'll see him next year.

Jared from Portland writes: It seems to me that having the BCS rankings use the Coaches poll is a bad Idea. For one, the coaches are biased and benefit themselves when they rank their teams high. For example see Brian Kelly as the only coach to cast a No. 1 vote for Cincinnati. Point two is that while head coaches have a great understanding of how good other teams in their conference are, I don't think they know about the rest of the country. How many ACC games do you think Mike Riley watched this season? Why doesn't the BCS use the AP Poll which is written by guys whose job it is to watch and analyze college football 24-7?

Ted Miller: I'm with 'ya completely.

It's absurd that the sport information director, er, coaches vote is included in the BCS standings.

Back in ancient times -- you know, pre-BCS -- there wasn't a whole bunch of money at stake, so the voting wasn't viewed with as much skepticism.

Now, just imagine a coach sitting there knowing if he votes Team X two or three spots higher -- and demotes Team Y a couple of notches -- it might mean an extra $4.5 million for his conference.

That's why the coaches vote needs to remain transparent.

As for the AP poll, it pulled itself out of the BCS formula after the 2004 season.

Polls in themselves are nothing more than beauty contests that are laden with various sorts of regional biases and inconsistent methodology. Most voters spend a lot of time on their ballots and do their best. But some don't.

It's the system we have and I have little hope of it changing dramatically anytime soon.

So learn to love it.

Chris from Eugene, Ore., writes: How about the job Coach Greg Roman did for Stanford. Toby G is good, but they really did one amazing job running the ball. It always seemed Gerhart would have about 10 plays a game in which he was untouched for 5 yards downfield. Oregon, USC, ND and UW DC's had no answers and at times you wondered if it mattered who was running the ball.

Ted Miller: A good point. Stanford's young offensive line -- only one senior -- was dominating at times this year, and Roman and Tim Drevno deserve a lot of credit for that.

A lot of folks -- media and fans -- were wondering if the O-line would fall off when Chris Dalman left unexpected last year. It didn't.

Aaron from Miami writes: Why is it that voters (for all-conference teams, Heisman Trophy, etc...) are allowed to turn in the ballots before all the games have been played? I ask this because the Ducks only have one first team all-Pac 10 member. I would be curious if that would have been the case if the ballots were sent in after the Civil War. Would Masoli be first team ahead of Canfield, would it have been James ahead of Rogers? Maybe not, but it would have been nice to see. I don't want to take anything away from those two players they had amazing years and are very deserving (even after the Civil War was played), but the Ducks won the conference by two games!!! Also I have a feeling that this trend is going to end up giving the Heisman Trophy to an undeserving Colt McCoy (did you see that last game) because voters sent in their ballots early.

Ted Miller: The "why" is convenience and efficiency.

And let's face it. There are some folks who are going to vote for "their" candidate, no matter what the numbers say. Those are the sorts who got their ballots in early.

As for my take: I think all awards and honors should not be voted on before the final game. It's an award for the season, and the season is 12 games long. Waiting an extra day or two for results shouldn't be a big deal.

By the way, I think Gerhart should win the Heisman, but I'd stop well short of saying Colt McCoy is "undeserving."

Tom from Palo Alto writes: Thought you'd enjoy some number-crunching I've done on recruiting across the country -- it really validates the tough job Washington, Wazzou, Oregon, and Oregon State have.

Ted Miller: For the recruiting obsessed, Tom's considerable work will be very interesting.

Kelly a finalist for national coach of the year

December, 10, 2009
It's been a heck of a first season for Oregon's Chip Kelly.

Already named the Pac-10 coach of the year, Kelly is one of seven finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

The other six finalists are Texas' Mack Brown, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, Alabama's Nick Saban, TCU's Gary Patterson and Boise State's Chris Petersen.

The award is voted on by the Football Writers Association of America and will be announced at a reception on Jan. 5 in Newport Beach, Calif.

Wrapping up the Pac-10 regular season

December, 8, 2009
It was a strange, unpredictable and exciting year for the Pac-10.

All of those terms, however, can't hide the fact that the conference didn't produce a second BCS team for the seventh consecutive year. And didn't deserve one -- five teams finished 8-4 behind 10-2 Oregon.

On the plus said, the Pac-10, which finished 21-9 in nonconference games (.700), earned a widespread reputation among pundits as the nation's deepest conference, and perhaps its best, top-to-bottom. Nine teams received votes at some point this season in the AP poll and seven were ranked at some point. Seven teams won six or more games and earned bowl eligibility.

Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesStanford running back Toby Gerhart is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Five teams were ranked in the final BCS standings, more than any other conference.

That's dandy. But did we mention the lack of a second BCS bowl team? That costs the conference $4.5 million each year it happens.

For comparison's sake, the Big Ten has lost six consecutive BCS bowl games, but it's had two BCS bowl teams six of the past seven years. Do the math.

While the conference's nine-game round-robin schedule certainly hurts the effort to get two BCS bowl teams, the conference also deserves its share of the blame for not coming up big in a number of marquee nonconference games.

Oregon State lost to Cincinnati; Oregon lost to Boise State; Arizona lost to Iowa; Washington lost to LSU; Arizona State lost to Georgia; Stanford lost to Wake Forest.

Sure, no other conference played teams ranked No. 3, 6, 10 and 12 in the final BCS standings, but a couple of wins certainly would have helped the cause.

Beyond the national issues, the internal churn within the conference standings was particularly noteworthy. For the first time in seven years, USC didn't at least share the conference championship and earn a berth in a BCS bowl game. Moreover, there was real mystery who would win the conference title until the final week of the season.

While the teams at the top scrambled, the Trojans, the preseason favorites, took a shocking tumble to fifth place.

That is as big a story as anything else.

Offensive MVP -- Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart turned in the best season of any offensive player in the nation. He finished second in the nation with 145 yards per game and first with 26 rushing touchdowns. The first-team All-Academic pick even passed for a TD. All that earned him an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York.

Defensive MVP -- UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Price led the conference with 22.5 tackles for a loss, a number that ranked third in the nation. No one else in the conference had more than 14.5 TFL. He also had seven sacks and forced two fumbles. All that despite frequently fighting through double-teams.

Newcomer of the year -- Oregon's running back LaMichael James.

James, a redshirt freshman, ranked second in the Pac-10 and eighth in the nation with 123 yards rushing per game. His 1,476 yards set a new conference freshman rushing record. He also scored 14 touchdowns and ranked first in the conference with 6.87 yards per carry. James led the country with 20 runs of at least 20 yards.

Coach of the year -- Oregon's Chip Kelly.

It's impressive that Kelly led Oregon to a Pac-10 championship and its first Rose Bowl since the 1994 season in his first season as head coach. But everyone knows it was more than that. The performance at Boise State in the season-opener was abysmal. And LeGarrette Blount's behavior afterwards was even worse. But Kelly kept his locker room together, and the Ducks won 10 of their final 11 games. Not a single person in the country thought that would happen on Sept. 3.

Biggest surprise -- Arizona.

The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the preseason media poll. The Pac-10 blog, an unabashed Wildcats believer, only picked them fifth. But they are headed to the Holiday Bowl, which makes them first among the three teams that tied for second in the conference. Once embattled coach Mike Stoops led the Wildcats to an 8-4 finish, despite losing their quarterback, top receiver and dominant left tackle from 2008, and then seeing their All-American tight end, Rob Gronkowski, go down to injury in the preseason.

Biggest disappointment -- USC.

USC's dynasty wasn't going to last forever, but the general thought is a rival would seize the title in a tight race, not that the Trojans would go belly-up. An early loss at Washington was surprising, but it fit USC's previous M.O., -- a stumble vs. Pac-10 underdog followed by reassertion of dominance. Then came a 27-point loss at Oregon. And, two weeks later, Stanford gleefully ran up the score in a 55-21 win. Completing the deluge, Arizona handed the Trojans their second loss in the Coliseum, 21-17, in the season-finale. The Trojans, once ranked fourth in the nation, now have a date with Boston College in the Emerald Bowl as the Pac-10's No. 5 team.

Game of the year: Oregon 44, Arizona 41 2 OT

Speaking of Arizona, this double-overtime defeat at home ended up costing the Wildcats the Rose Bowl. But both teams played so well and with such energy in this back-and-forth affair, it was more about Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli willing his team to victory. This might not just have been the best Pac-10 game of the year, it might have been the best period.

Beavers wanted all-or-nothing game with Ducks

November, 23, 2009
That a bus full of men driving out of Eugene, Ore., was cheering the Ducks on Saturday night is not surprising at all. That it was full of Oregon State Beavers, well, that's something entirely different.

But the Beavers celebrated the Ducks thrilling 44-41 double-overtime win over Arizona just like many residents of the state that will become the center of the college football universe on Dec. 3.

"I think everybody saw the irony in that," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

Forgive the Beavers if they found a way to love on their rival Ducks. Their reasoning is sound, even from the perspective of this being another college football case of Hatfields and McCoys, though some Beavers fans may still be shaking off a frisson of disgust over such behavior.

"What they wanted for everybody's sake was a clear-cut deal," Riley said.

Clear cut? How about a Civil War with the stakes being nothing less than the Rose Bowl for the No. 8-ranked Ducks (9-2, 7-1) and the 16th-ranked Beavers (8-3, 6-2)?

The winner goes. The loser doesn't.

Two teams enter, one team leaves for Pasadena. The other listens to trash talk for 364 consecutive days.

Oregon hasn't played in a Rose Bowl since after winning the Pac-10 in 1994 (it also won the conference title in 2001 but was forced to play in the Fiesta Bowl because the Rose Bowl was the BCS championship game that year).

The Beavers Rose Bowl drought stretches all the way back to 1965.

Funny fact about 1965: That's the year a 12-year-old Riley moved from Wallace, Idaho, to Corvallis. The coach who led the Beavers to the Rose Bowl, Tommy Prothro, had bolted for UCLA, and the school replaced him with Dee "The Great Pumpkin" Andros, who hired Bud Riley as his defensive coordinators.

So Riley is well aware of how long it's been since the Beavers played in a Rose Bowl.

"Hopefully, there's some kind of significance there," he said, politely playing along with a reporter's insisting that there was.

Both teams will be off this weekend. It would seem to benefit the Beavers that they get extra time to prepare for the Ducks spread-option attack. Last year, the Beavers could have earned a Rose Bowl berth with a Civil War victory at home, but the Ducks and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli whipped them, 65-38.

The extra days, however, mean extra hype and extra thinking time. That's why Riley broke his normal routine and immediately talked to his team Sunday about the game and its meaning.

"It's lurking out there and everybody knows it," he said. "There's no sense not talking about it."

But his message probably sounded a lot like what Chip Kelly is telling his Ducks. The Ducks mantra is "win the day." Riley instructs his Beavers to "stay in the moment."

It might sound yawningly simple, but a consistent applying of both takes on the same message is a notable reason why these teams are in position for the big prize. Neither, after all, got caught up in dwelling on the past when things didn't start well.

Oregon's slow start at Boise State is a part of the permanent, national tapestry of the 2009 season. Oregon State's consecutive defeats to Cincinnati and Arizona were less loud but no less dispiriting for a program that was hoping to end a pattern of starting slowing.

"I had no idea who this team could be early-on," Riley said. "And when we lost those games, you naturally worry."

What happened next is Oregon State became itself -- a team that makes a late charge into the national rankings seemingly every season. The Beavers have won six of seven since the calendar flipped into October.

Now, to quote, Riley, "It's all out there in front of you."

They've got nine days to "live in the moment" and try to avoid thinking about the Rose Bowl.

Good luck with that.



Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12