Pac-12: Frank Cignetti

Staff changes: California

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
11:00
AM ET
Only Oregon and Washington didn't experience any staff turnover this offseason, so we're running through the staff changes for the other 10 Pac-12 teams.

Next up is California, which had considerable turnover on both sides of the ball but particularly on offense.

Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.

Out
Andy Ludwig, offensive coordinator/QBs (San Diego State)
Steve Marshall, offensive line (Colorado)

In
Jim Michalczik, offensive coordinator/O-line
Marcus Arroyo, quarterbacks

Out
Kevin Daft, receivers

In
Eric Kiesau, receivers/passing game coordinator

Out
Al Simmons, secondary

In
Ashley Ambrose, secondary

Reaction: This is a lot of turnover, and seeing that coach Jeff Tedford has gone through offensive coordinators like Charlie Sheen through, er, girlfriends -- himself, George Cortez, Mike Dunbar, Frank Cignetti, Andy Ludwig and now himself, Michalczik, Kiesau and running game coordinator Ron Gould -- it's not unreasonable for Cal fans to wonder what the heck the problem is. Shoot, Tedford even changed strength coaches (Out: John Krasinski; In: Mike Blasquez). If you wanted to paint a dark picture, you could go for "Desperation & Instability" after the first losing season of the Tedford era. But there is this small comfort for Bears fans: This is a good staff, certainly better than 2010. Michalczik and Kiesau are known quantities: They know Tedford and coached with him when things were clicking in Berkeley. Michalczik might be the best line coach in a conference that has a lot of good line coaches. After signing an outstanding recruiting class, Tedford remarked to me. "It's like reassembling the band." The real test, though, is the quality of music that is played this fall.

More coordinated? Reviewing coordinator changes

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
11:06
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Coordinators often impact a team as much as a head coach.

Five Pac-10 teams changed one or both coordinators during the offseason for various reasons.

Here's a rundown:

California
Offensive coordinator

  • Out: Frank Cignetti. Returned home to become Pittsburgh's OC after one year with the Bears.
  • In: Andy Ludwig. Ludwig, who had just been hired away from Utah in December to be Kansas State's offensive coordinator, had previously followed Jeff Tedford as OC at Fresno State and Oregon.
  • Skinny: Considering the Bears struggled to pass the football in 2008, losing Cignetti isn't that hard of a hit. Ludwig had an uneven ride at Oregon when Mike Bellotti wanted to reinvent the Ducks' offense, but he's respected among his peers and Utah did OK during his tenure, right?

Oregon
Offensive coordinator

  • Out: Chip Kelly. Kelly just moved over into the corner office and became the head coach. He'll still call plays this season.
  • In: Mark Helfrich. Helfrich, a Medford, Ore., native hired away from Colorado, learned the passing game from former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter.
  • Skinny: It will be interesting to see how this goes. Kelly is very hands on and, make no mistake, this is his offense. But Helfrich, 35, escaped a tough situation at Colorado and now can learn a spread offense from one of its maestros. Also, say what you want about his Tempe tenure, Koetter could really run a passing game, so Helfrich figures to contribute ideas.

UCLA
Defensive coordinator

  • Out: DeWayne Walker. Walker, one of the best defensive coordinators in the Pac-10, not to mention an ace recruiter, was hired to right the perennially flagging New Mexico State program.
  • In: Chuck Bullough. Bullough was promoted from linebackers coach, which should bring a high level of continuity.
  • Skinny: Bullough, a former two-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Michigan State, will bring more fire than the laconic, cerebral Walker (though Walker always struck me as super-intense). Also, defensive bloodlines don't get much better than Bullough's. His father, Henry, an NFL defensive coordinator for 23 years, was called the "Doctor of Defense."

USC
Offensive coordinator

  • Out: Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian was hired as Washington's head coach.
  • In: John Morton/Jeremy Bates. Morton was promoted from receivers coach to offensive coordinator. Bates, a former quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos, was hired as assistant head coach for offense and will call plays.
  • Skinny: There's a lot to work with at USC, so the expectations are extremely high for any coordinator. A fair percentage of USC fans weren't particularly happy with Sarkisian, who will call plays this fall for the Huskies. Morton ensures continuity, while Bates brings new ideas. And, of course, Pete Carroll figures to have his say, too.

Defensive coordinator

  • Out: Nick Holt. Holt was hired away from USC by Sarkisian to run Washington's defense.
  • In: Rocky Seto. Seto was promoted from secondary coach.
  • Skinny: Carroll calls the defensive plays, so this is his defense. But Seto has been with him since he arrived at USC and has always been a Carroll favorite. In terms of personality, the boisterous Holt is very different from the mellow, spiritual Seto.

Washington
Offensive coordinator

  • Out: Tim Lappano/Jim Michalczik. The affable Lappano landed on his feet as the Detroit Lions' tight ends coach.
  • In: Doug Nussmeier. He was hired away from Fresno State as quarterbacks coach but was promoted to coordinator when Michalczik bolted for the Oakland Raiders.
  • Skinny: Sarkisian is running the show, but Nussmeier will play a big role in helping quarterback Jake Locker transition from a spread-option to a pro-style scheme. Losing Michalczik, who did a fantastic job coaching California's offensive line under Tedford, was a blow.

Defensive coordinator

  • Out: Ed Donatell. He coached the Huskies one year, and injuries and a lack of talent likely made it one of his worst in coaching. Now the Broncos' secondary coach.
  • In: Nick Holt. Holt was lured away from USC by Sarkisian with the promise the Huskies' D would be entirely his. And the big paycheck didn't hurt.
  • Skinny: Holt has an opportunity to earn his bona fides after working in Carroll's shadow. He doesn't have a lot to work with now, but if he and Sark recruit like crazy and build a dominant defense, like the Huskies had in days of yore, then he'll get his own head coaching gig.

Tedford and Ludwig finally connect

February, 20, 2009
2/20/09
7:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Andy Ludwig has finally caught up to Jeff Tedford instead of just following him.

Tedford hired Ludwig Friday to replace Frank Cignetti as the Bears offensive coordinator. Cignetti bolted this week for the same post at Pittsburgh.

Ludwig had just been lured away from Utah by Kansas State in December.

Like Cignetti, Ludwig will call offensive plays, a responsibility Tedford yielded in 2008 in order to focus more on the overall management of the program.

Here's the official release from the school.

Interesting note: Ludwig twice has replaced Tedford as an offensive coordinator.

He first took over the Fresno State offense in 1998 after Tedford left the post for Oregon. He then again followed Tedford as Oregon's offensive coordinator in 2002 when Tedford became Cal's head coach.

This is a good hire for Tedford.

While Ludwig struggled a bit trying to set up a spread-option offense at Oregon -- per orders from head coach Mike Bellotti -- he has a good reputation working with quarterbacks, which is exactly what Cal needs.

Tedford isn't a spread-option guy, so his philosophies should mesh well with Ludwig.

Friday mailbag: Oregon and California stuff the bag

February, 20, 2009
2/20/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Answers for your weekend.

Tyler from Hillsboro, Ore., writes: I am a die hard duck fan and in a objective point of view, is it safe to say based on their schedule that the ducks can possibly only drop 2 games? i think they will struggle at Boise state and its always a game with usc at home. or with a talented offense and low expectations on d could they run the table.... i think they are 1 year away from being a contender.

Ted Miller: The Ducks should be good next year and the year after that. And maybe even the year after that, and that, and that.

As for the 2009 slate, it seems to set up pretty well. It won't be easy at Boise, but the Broncos lose some good players from 2008, just as Utah does. California, USC and Oregon State all come to Eugene.

There's not a game on the schedule the Ducks can't win. If a psychic told me the Ducks would finish 10-2, I'd go: "Sure."

And, yes, 2010 seems to set up even better in terms of personnel. But let's wait on making predictions there.


Ricky from Los Altos, Calif., writes: What is it about Jeff Tedford that he just can't keep any OC's?

Andrew from Berkeley writes: First we lose Michalczik, and now Cignetti after just a season? If we had known Frank would bail on us so soon, we should've just promoted Jim in the first place. ...On second thought, is that still a possibility? Could Tedford lure him back as OC? I mean, he already bailed on Washington...or is this just another wild fantasy of mine? I just want our monster O-line coach back in a bad way.

Ted Miller: My guess is it's a wild fantasy to think Michalczik would bail on the Oakland Raiders to come back to Cal. He told folks after he left Washington -- without ever overseeing even a practice -- that he'd always wanted to go to the NFL. And he got a big raise to work with a close friend, Tom Cable.

As for the big picture with coordinators and Tedford, there are a couple of issues here. First, he's gone back-and-forth on calling plays. Most coordinators want to call plays. Second, even if Tedford doesn't call plays, the Bears use his offense. Most coordinators want to use their own offense.

Moreover, turnover is part of the business. Guys chase bigger paychecks or bigger opportunities.

And keep in mind: Few major college jobs include a higher cost of living than the Bay Area. You only need to make $158,000 in Pittsburgh to match a $300,000 salary in San Francisco.


Doug from Concord, Calif., writes: I enjoyed reading your Pac-10 capsules, but you made a major omission on Cal's page. Mike Mohammad will certainly slide into one of the starting LB spots, most likely on the inside.

Ted Miller: Doug is referring to my view of "what to watch" for California's spring practices.

I considered Mike Mohamed a returning starter -- that's why I said "three vacancies" in the 3-4 defense -- by virtue of him being the Bears' second-leading tackler and starting the final six games ahead of Eddie Young.

Those caps were mostly about the spring competitions. Mohamed figures to be in the hunt for all-conference honors. He's a sure-thing.


Brad from Madison, Wisc., writes: How can you completely leave out any mention of Arizona FR QB Richard Morrison in your recent rundown of the Arizona Wildcats? He is at least, by most anyways, considered their prototype AB of the future and has a very good shot at winning the starting role outright. Your omission is utterly puzzling to me. Please explain.

Ted Miller: First, an Arizona fan in Wisconsin! How are those winters treating you? Of course, last time I was up there, I had a blast. Hint: Brats make everything better.

As for Morrison: This was a "what to watch" this spring. Morrison, an incoming freshman, arrives this fall. So we won't be able to watch him this spring, thus the omission.


Kathryn from Clovis, Calif., writes: It seems that everyone is assuming that come fall Riley will be the QB at Cal. Why? Nothing about his '08 season warrants such an assumption for '09. Which further surprises me as to why Cal is such a fashionable pick to finish 2nd in the conference and possibly dethrone USC. A team with so many questions at QB does not deserve such respect.

Ted Miller: Riley will start out ahead of Brock Mansion because Riley is an experienced starter and Mansion has yet to play an important minute in a college game.

That doesn't mean Mansion won't beat Riley out. But odds are heavily in Riley's favor, based largely on experience.

Also, Riley has flashed skills in the past, most notably the comeback effort in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl. He was playing fairly well when Jeff Tedford benched him early last season.

My guess is that Riley will show more confidence this spring with Nate Longshore gone.

As for Cal in general, the Bears welcome back 17 starters from a nine-win team that beat Oregon.

I'm giving them respect.

Pac-10 lunch links: Washington staff complete

February, 20, 2009
2/20/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's going to be 76 in Scottsdale today. Just thought you'd like to know.

  • From the Pitt perspective, the Panthers made a keen move luring offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti back east from California.
  • Another take on the Bryce Brown Circus
  • Oregon State is taking steps to cut costs during this delightful economic downturn.
  • Bucking the trend of other marquee quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez is expected to throw at the NFL combine. Will this guy step in for Sanchez? USC might finish third for this late-signing recruit.
  • With the hiring of Dan Cozzetto as O-line coach and promoting of Doug Nussmeier to offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian's staff is complete at Washington -- and it's on budget.

Will Tedford call plays again?

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
6:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It's fair to say that few California fans -- or reporters -- are treating offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti's one-and-done bolt from Berkeley to Pittsburgh as a big deal.

The loss of offensive line coach Jim Michalczik? A big deal. He's credited with creating and maintaining the Bears consistently strong running game under Jeff Tedford.

But Steve Marshall was a good hire to replace him.

Few would say Cal's quarterback play -- that was Cignetti's responsibility -- was good last year. The Bears ranked seventh in passing offense and sixth in passing efficiency in the Pac-10, despite using two quarterbacks with significant experience.

The larger issue, explored here by Jonathan Okanes, is whether Tedford can replace Cignetti with someone he trusts calling the offensive plays.

That potential someone will be calling plays from Tedford's offense -- not his own -- so not every quality offensive mind will jump at the chance. This is hardly a post with complete autonomy.

Tick, tick, tick. Spring practices start March 10.

What about Tedford calling the plays again? 

Perhaps. But recall that Tedford admitted last year that he lost touch with his locker room during the second-half slide of 2007. He only gave up play-calling responsibilities in 2008 because he wanted to have a more active role in supervising/managing his team.

So, here are the issues as we see them.

Calling plays is a huge job. Can Tedford find the right guy to do it? And can he find the right guy to coach his quarterbacks in the process?

Bears fans know that solid quarterback play could make or break 2009.

And, failing that: Is Tedford willing to again take over the play-calling duties? And, if so, does that mean he risks losing touch with his locker room again?

These are big questions, particularly considering that Cal has the talent to challenge for the Pac-10 crown next fall and reach its first Rose Bowl since 1959.

Pac-10 lunch links: Former EWU AD fires back at Wulff

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Born on this date in 1473: Nicolaus Copernicus. He's known for asserting the earth revolves around college football. Nic was a huge Pac-10 fan, by the way.

Report: Cignetti leaving Cal for Pittsburgh

February, 18, 2009
2/18/09
3:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti is leaving the Bears after just one season to take the same post with the Pittsburgh Panthers, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

So coach Jeff Tedford is again looking for an offensive coordinator with spring practices less than four weeks away.

Pac-10 lunch links: Has Bryce Brown dropped Miami?

February, 18, 2009
2/18/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Did you know that Barry Manilow didn't actually write the songs that make the young girls cry? You should seethe over that injustice for at least a half hour.

  • If California is about to lose offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to Pittsburgh, perhaps it will feel good for Bears fans to ask if his play calling was predictable.
  • What's a day without a report on prep running back Bryce Brown? It appears his previously "soft" commitment to Miami has become positively squishy. Or he's just trying to get another headline. Oregon and USC remain in the hunt. Or maybe the Trojans are out of it.
  • Here's a report that says touted JC receiver Tyrece Gaines is now a done-deal for Oregon, which is a big boost for the Ducks receiving corps.
  • Some interesting positions changes for Oregon State.
  • Bob Condotta explains why there hasn't been an announcement on the Huskies new offensive line coach.

Pitt makes offer to Cal's Cignetti

February, 18, 2009
2/18/09
10:28
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A report says California offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti has been offered the same post at Pittsburgh, and that Cignetti, a Pittsburgh native, is leaning toward bolting back East.

That means Cal coach Jeff Tedford could be looking for a new man to lead his offense with less than four weeks until spring practices begin.

And that would mean the Bears will change offensive coordinators for the fifth time since 2005.

That also means further upheaval for an offense that will be intently focused on a quarterback competition between Kevin Riley and Brock Mansion this spring, improving a lackluster passing game in general and breaking in a new offensive line coach in Steve Marshall.

Hardly insurmountable, particularly with an experienced team, but not exactly ideal, particularly for a team that's eyeballing USC atop the Pac-10.

Is Cal about to lose another coach?

February, 17, 2009
2/17/09
8:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

News out of Pittsburgh is that the Pitt Panthers want to lure California offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti back to his hometown.

Based on a blog entry from Cal beat writer Jonathan Okanes, it appears things are moving quickly.

Cal has already lost highly respected offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, who left for Washington and then the Oakland Raiders.

While Cignetti has only been in Berkeley one season, it's hardly ideal for Jeff Tedford to hire another offensive coordinator with spring practices starting on March 10.

Mailbag: Does Oregon move down without Costa?

August, 26, 2008
8/26/08
7:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

This is going to be a regular Tuesday feature.

Brazeau from West Linn, Ore., writes: I'd appreciate your thoughts on the pre-season rankings. Seems to me that a team failing to be ranked in the pre-season Top 15 has a tough climb getting to a BCS bowl game, particularly if that team is from the Pac-10. Why not scrap the preseason polls altogether and begin ranking teams about five games into the season?

Ted Miller: This is a frequent complaint from media and fans: "Why not wait until a few games into the season before ranking teams." We don't wait because folks love polls and lists and rankings. As for teams that don't get a high preseason ranking, it's actually not that hard to earn your way in. They should schedule ambitiously and beat good teams. Moreover, when I've voted in polls, I penalize teams with soft schedules even if I ranked them highly in the preseason. For example, I voted Texas Tech 10th in my vote for ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Why? Because I think Texas Tech is really good. But because of the Red Raiders' cowardly scheduling philosophy, I will only push them down as they play Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU and Massachusetts, and they won't have a chance to move up until Oct. 4 when they play Kansas State. At that point, my guess is they'd be around 15th, and their athletic director should be ashamed for making his loyal fans actually pay money to see these ridiculous games.


Mike from Boston writes: I wanted to ask you two questions regarding the decision to start Kevin Riley at QB for Cal. Tedford stated that Nate Longshore would also play against Michigan St. so I was wondering what you saw his role being, and how much playing time do you think he will get. Secondly I was wondering how they were planning to use Riley's mobility would it be only a last resort when all receivers were covered, or will they implement designed scrambles?

Ted Miller: I asked Jeff Tedford about Longshore's playing time today, and he said that he has yet to make a decision. My guess is that if Riley is burning it up against Michigan State, Tedford will be slow to make a change. If Riley is merely doing OK, my guess is we'd probably see Longshore in the second quarter. Then, after halftime, Tedford and new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti likely would adjust their plan according to what they'd seen. As for Riley's scrambling ability, I doubt the Bears will adopt too many designed QB runs. Riley's mobility does mean he can make positive plays when protection breaks down. I also wouldn't be surprised to see more designed roll outs.


Jordan from Eugene, Ore., writes: Ted, Give me the best reason why Oregon doesn't beat USC this year. Obviously after last year's beating in Eugene it was obvious that USC couldn't handle our offense. Everyone says the D-Line is weak yet we have tremendous D-ends. With the secondary we have that can't be matched by any other team in the country, it will allow us to free up all those LB's for the run. I don't think there is a receiver playing for USC that any of the three stars in our secondary couldn't cover man to man for most of the day.

Ted Miller: My best reason? You mean other than USC's players are better? What do you mean 'USC couldn't handle the Oregon offense'? The Ducks won 24-17, their lowest point total in a win on the season by 11 points. And I wouldn't casually write away issues on the interior D-line -- that would get a big forehead slap from any defensive coordinator. And the Ducks secondary is as good as any in the country, but I would suggest playing man-to-man "most of the day" vs. USC would be a big mistake. The Trojans receivers underachieved last year. I've got a feeling we won't see a repeat of that.


David from Agoura Hills, Calif., writes: What is your prediction for the Stanford-Oregon State game on Thursday? I personally think the Cardinal will win. Even though Oregon State has dominated the Cardinal the past few years, I think this year because Oregon State has quite a few offensive issues, and Stanford's defense is on the rise, the Cardinal will be able to pull it off.

Ted Miller: My prediction for the Stanford-Oregon State game: painnnnnnn.

Just call me Mr. T.

I think this is going to be a really tight game and I've gone back and forth on it. But my final verdict is . . . predictions come Thursday.


Kevin from Los Angeles writes: Will any team in the Pac-10 stay close to USC in a game and who?

Ted Miller: Absolutely. USC has lost seven games since 2002 and five of those defeats came to Pac-10 teams -- the last regular-season loss to a nonconference foe was to Kansas State on Sept. 21, 2002. Last year, the Trojans lost two Pac-10 games (Stanford and Oregon) and won three other conference games by a touchdown or less.

Someone will challenge the Trojans this year. Probably more than one team.

Will someone beat the them? USC has lost two Pac-10 games each of the past two seasons, so the odds are good that the Trojans won't go undefeated in the conference.

Who? The easy answer would be Oregon, Arizona State or California, and I'd take Oregon first out of that group (though not with the zeal of Jordan from Eugene above).

But my longshot is this: USC heads to Arizona on Oct. 25, the second of back-to-back road games. Hmm.


Darryl from Oakland writes: Now that the season is about to begin, are you sticking with your original predictions for the Pac 10, or are you feeling the urge, because you know it's true, to move Cal into the #2 slot.

Ted Miller: Yes, for now, I'm sticking with Oregon, though a lot of that prediction was based on all the great things I'd heard about Nate Costa, who's now out for at least eight weeks with a knee injury. I get to see the Ducks Saturday against Washington, so I'll get a first-hand look. And the great thing about the new ESPN.com conference blogs is I get to redo my power rankings every Monday. As for Cal, let's just say my esteem for them is higher after watching them practice. Let's see what happens this weekend with Michigan State.


Eric from Portland writes: What are your thoughts about Roper being the quarterback for the Ducks? Was the Sun bowl a fluke in your mind? Nobody around here seems to know how effective he will be in the spread system.

Ted Miller: The Sun Bowl was very impressive, but I thought that was as much about the Ducks regaining their mojo and remembering they were a good team, even without Dennis Dixon, not to mention it was a fabulous offensive game plan. I saw Roper in the spring and he was inconsistent. Also, my impression was he and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly weren't on the same page, and that Kelly was much higher on Costa. But the word from every media outlet, as well as head coach Mike Bellotti, was that Roper had been outplaying Costa of late, before the injury. So we shall see. Seems like Roper coming on late while hearing everyone handing the job to Costa demonstrates some mental toughness. One Duck fan in the mailbag called me an "idiot" for suggesting that the spread-option elements will be limited with Roper. Let me restate that: The spread option elements will be limited with Roper, who is a skinny guy with good speed, not an option quarterback like Costa.

Opening the Mailbag: Part II of II

August, 6, 2008
8/06/08
12:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

Sonny from West Seneca, New York writes: I'm sick of USC's high rankings each year. What are the chances that Notre Dame upsets them this year, and could their be any other upsets in SC's future?

Israel from El Paso, Texas writes: So, like many other college football fans I've been scouring any source of college football news and waiting eagerly for the season. Then I noticed this, Rivals.com has tabbed USC as the number one team in the country. I would love to write out a question more eloquently regarding this topic were I able to put the puzzled look on my face into words (coming from a USC fan no less). Is there any reason for Rivals doing this?

Ted Miller: Gosh. It sounds like a USC and Notre Dame fan are sharing a thought, eh? Sonny, sorry the high rankings bother you. As soon as the Trojans start stringing together losses, we in the media promise to rank them lower. As far as chances for upsets this season, the Trojans have lost six times over the past five years, each of them upsets, so there's always a chance. As for Notre Dame beating USC, er, well, Stanford beat USC a year ago. Stranger things have happened. Not many. But some. As for Rivals ranking USC No. 1, Israel, they could do worse, considering the Trojans have finished in the top-four six consecutive years and have won two national titles and played for a third and are loaded with NFL prospects (again).


Michael from Phoenix writes: I was arguing with friends the other day about another integral part of college football, the marching band. I thought it would be interesting if you did not only a ranking of overall performance and creativity in pac10 bands but if you could also rank the best fight songs in the conference. It's obvious when you ask a student in the conference they will always say their fight song is the best so i thought a ranking from a third party would be decisive in this debate.

Ted Miller: Glad you asked. Best band: Stanford (funny, funny, funny). Best fight song: USC's "Fight On!" And I'd rank both in the national top-five, too.


Chris from South Pasadena, Calif., writes: Instead of focusing just on non-conference games because the PAC 10 only plays 3 and and the Big East plays 5, why is there not more focus on the total of regular season games a team plays against BCS schools? Look at the just released Coaches Poll. Only 9 of the top 25 teams will play 10 or more games against BCS Schools (23 if you exclude BYU and Fresno St. because they can't). Only 2 (USC and WFU) play more than 10. All of USC's games are against BCS teams (counting ND as a BCS team). Meanwhile, LSU, Wisconsin, and Texas Tech only have 8 BCS teams scheduled. Furthermore, look at conferences and percentage of teams within a conference that will play 10 or more BCS teams. The PAC 10 is at 90% (only Arizona won't). No other conference is even close. Why does this not get more attention? If the PAC-10 only played 8 conference games like everyone else then half the teams would likely have another win, especially if they had schedules like the SEC.

Ted Miller: Yeah... what he said.


Alex from Las Vegas writes: A few questions about the Pac 10 non conference schedule. First do you think that a tough non conference schedule plus 9 conference games contributed to last years rash of injuries. Second, why does the Pac 10 give WAC and MWC schools a fair shake by agreeing to go on the road. Finally, why do some Pac 10 teams like OSU and WSU schedule road games without demanding a return visit? It makes the conference appear second rate. Can't they find BCS schools that would agree to play both home and away?

Ted Miller: 1) Yes, games vs. BCS foes typically last into the fourth quarter, which means starters play longer than they would against directional schools; 2) Because the WAC and MWC deserve respect and attract comparable crowds to many Pac-10 schools; 3) OSU and WSU can't get home-and-home series because they play in smaller stadiums (45,674 and 35,117, respectively) and can't offer a big-gate guarantee like, say, LSU or Auburn can. Texas Tech uses this as an excuse to avoid playing anybody worth a pooh.


Evan from Boulder, Colo., writes: Love the part about Dennis Dixon. There's no doubt in my mind Oregon would have won the national championship with him healthy. That poses a question however in my mind... With the oregon secondary having Patrick Chung, who many says is the best defensive player in the country after.. sigh.. USC's linebacker.. and you saying Nate Costa could fill Dixon's shoes, why is nobody putting out any hope for the Ducks? Last year with a healthy Dixon Oregon proved they cannot lose to anybody, by scoring 50+ points a game. Isn't it safe to say, that if you could find someone with 95% of Dixons skills, that Oregon would at LEAST be in the running for the pac-10 title??

Ted Miller: I picked Oregon second in the Pac-10, and the coaches' poll ranked them 20th in the preseason. That sounds like hope to me. If you're wondering why they weren't plugged in to unseat USC and compete for the national title, there's a couple of reasons: 1) The Ducks lost their final three regular-season games in 2007; 2) They've got a number of questions to answer. Costa is one. I'm a guy taking a leap of faith that Costa will play well out of the gate, but the idea he will match -- or be 95 percent of -- what Dixon did last year is difficult to fathom. Further, the Ducks have issues with their up-the-middle defense, particularly at tackle.


Dylan from Berkeley writes: What kind of changes in style of the offense is Frank Cignetti going to bring to Cal? Is his style similar to Tedford and will it change what types of recruits the program is looking for?

Ted Miller: My guess is you'll not be able to tell much difference. Cignetti and Jeff Tedford both like balanced offenses, so the Bears don't figure to start throwing 50 times a game. Here's a story from Bleacher Report on this very topic. It's hard to answer this in large part because the two quarterbacks in competition -- drop-back passer Nate Longshore and the mobile Kevin Riley -- are very different. At the end of the day, Cignetti's offense, which is REALLY young at receiver, will play to its strengths in terms of personnel -- duh -- but we won't really know how the Bears offense will look until a few games into the season.


Ari from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Ted as I respect your opinion which is based on facts you have gathered over the course of the last number of months, I must admit you forget how FAST USC will be compared to Ohio State. Speed is what Ohio State cannot compete with. They lost at home to a Illinois team that had one month to prepare for a USC team that demolished them with speed. Yes they had more experienced players on the SC team, but the defense of USC will overpower the slow and big guys of Ohio State. Just you watch. And by the way, it won't be as close as you think. USC by 2 touchdowns. Not to mention that the tailbacks of SC are going to tire out the Buckeye defense. We'll see who is right.

Ted Miller: Maybe. The good news is we'll find out in just over a month. I mean, how freaking great is that game going to be? When folks (read: SEC and Big 12 fans) get bent out of shape about me knocking their nonconference schedules, they forget that great
nonconference games are often better even than rivalry games in terms of generating true national anticipation. Think about the Texas-Ohio State series or Tennessee-California.

Q&A with new Cal offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr.

July, 15, 2008
7/15/08
5:33
PM ET

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
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