Pac-12: Jim Mora Jr.
After you read that, you can then read these highlights and wonder why certain parts got cut and what that reveals about me clearly having a bias for/against your team.
Because I do so root for/against your team.
RIPstardust (Las Vegas): Stanford seems to be a major role with recruiting the past few years. If they get decent QB play, is there any reason not to expect that they stay in the BCS picture for the foreseeable future?
Ted Miller (3:02 PM): I think Stanford had set itself up well to remain in the top-half of the Pac-12 and to regularly be in the mix for top-level bowls. But I don't want to commit to the idea of Stanford as a team regularly playing in BCS bowls. That happened with the best QB in a generation. There's a little bit of wait and see with what might be next.
Adam (Boulder): With the commitments of both [Kenneth] Crawley and [Yuri] Wright, do you see the Buffs secondary immediately improving from last season?
Ted Miller (3:05 PM): We might want to wait until we see these guys play vs. college competition, but it's hard to imagine the Buffs secondary could be much worse. It certainly seems like it will be more athletic in 2012. And speed helps ... a bunch
Les Miles (Oregon): Is the battle between [Marcus] Mariota
and [Bryan] Bennett really that close? I just see Bennett as that "next level" QB. Would be foolish to not start him
Ted Miller (3:14 PM): I don't know. It seems some think that way, but with closed practices it's hard to say. Based on what I've seen of Bennett, if Mariota is better, then he must be pretty darn good. But if I were laying money on it, I'd pick Bennett to start.
KEITH (UCLA): WHATS YOUR THOUGHTS ON UCLA RECRUITING SO FAR
Ted Miller (3:19 PM): IT'S GOING BETTER THAN EXPECTED SINCE MORA TOOK OVER. LOVE THE 300 POUND DT Ellis McCarthy. SEEMS LIKE HEADED FOR TOP-25 CLASS.
RH (The Cloud): What is closer to the truth? DT left Oregon because his stock could not get higher ... or he left because he was going to get seriously challenged for the starting gig in 2012?
Ted Miller (3:26 PM): The former ... I think he's ready to get paid to play. I'm not one of the guys who thought he'd get beaten out. In conversations with [Chip] Kelly, he never even intimated that as a possibility.
Matt (PDX): Thoughts on Kellys flirtation with the NFL? Was it a contract issue (not enough $ from the BUcs, or Uncle Phil stepping up) or did he really have a last minute change of heart? DO you see him leaving in the 2-3 years if the opportunity arises again?
Ted Miller (3:28 PM): I think he still wants to be Oregon's coach. But he's very competitive. Some day he'll want to take on a new challenge. I'd say it's 50-50 if he's still Oregon's coach five years from now. That said, he may have had a eureka moment and decided he loves coaching Oregon.
JohnC (SLC): What's the likelihood the league goes to an 8-game conference schedule?
Ted Miller (3:30 PM) coaches want it, ADs don't... Larry Scott understands the value of 8-game schedules... if the Pac-12 becomes the only conference with a 9-game slate, I'd expect he might push for a change, sooner rather than later.
Tylurker (Land of Oaks): Are you excited to visit the new press box at Memorial Stadium? You have to admit, the view to the west from Strawberry Canyon is the best in the Pac12 (though, Montelake is nice). How you think the product on the filed in 2012 will compare with the upgraded facilities?
Ted Miller (3:36 PM) If [Zach] Maynard gets better, Cal has a chance to win 8-9 games. As for the press box, I can't wait. I was there in 2008 when the Bears beat Oregon in torrential rain storm... I was typing under a trash bag so my laptop wouldn't get wet... a real, live press box would make the Strawberry Canyon experience even better.
Brad (San Diego): UCLA didn't have any trouble recruiting good talent during the Neuheisel era, but still can't win on the field or in recruiting against USC. What are the biggest things that have to change to make those happen, and will it happen in the Mora era?
Ted Miller (3:45 PM): 1. Stars aren't the only thing. It seems some of those touted guys weren't as good as they were projected to be; 2. Culture ... UCLA needs that "all-in" culture that typifies winning teams -- see Oregon. That's about discipline, about dedication, about doing the extra work in the weight room and film room. That's about caring. And it would help to solve issues on the O-line and QB.
Palouse Pillager (A sea of apples): Mike Leach being such a hot name. What is the mark of success for him and WSU? What does he need to do by when to keep his sweet scent of eliteness and his job?
Ted Miller (3:48 PM): Bowl game in 2012. 8-9 wins in 2013... repeat, and cycle in a 10 win season every once and a while...
bubba (denver): What do you think the chances of Nick Foles getting drafted by my Denver Broncos, i think he would be a good fit. if not in denver, where do you think he will land?
Ted Miller (3:49 PM): Not a good thing for Foles because he'd immediately become the starter.. better to get some seasoning for 2-3 years.
Nick Holt (in a cardboard box): What are you hearing about Oregon's sanctions? Seems like they're going to get something if DT is leaving early and Chip wanted out too
Ted Miller (3:51 PM): 1. Kelly came back, so that dispels that; 2. Nothing to do with Thomas... sanctions wouldn't touch him in 2012.I don't think Oregon is going to get hammered. They'll get something, but nothing that threatens their place at the top of the North.
Gerald (Sacramento) Is Connor Halliday the toughest S.O.B you have seen in a while. I mean playing with a lacerated liver after Star hit him. I was so impressed with him when I heard that. Do you think he will start for WSU this year?
Ted Miller (3:56 PM) Both Halliday and [Jeff] Tuel have shown uncommon toughness. I'm a Tuel lean, but Leach has a new system. We'll have to see how each adapts.
Lance Romance (Winnipeg, Canada) Now that the dust has settled, [Brock] Osweiler declaring seems more and more like the right move for him.
Ted Miller (4:01 PM) Well, if he gets picked in the first round, then yes... And if he goes in the 2nd, that's not so bad either. But it makes you wonder if he took a step forward in 2012 if he could have ended up a top-15 pick... But, yes, his decision looks better today than it did when he made it.
UCLA needed a special NCAA waiver just to get into a bowl game. Illinois lost its final six games and had assistants threatening to boycott this game. Is it any wonder that the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl was, shall we say, a little ragged?
How the game was won: The Illinois offense disappeared over the second half of the season and didn't do a whole lot in this one, either. But the team's defense remained stout throughout the seaosn and was inspired to play hard for interim coach Vic Koenning, their former defensive coordinator. The Illini defense came up with a score, sacked UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince five times and allowed just 220 total yards. The Bruins' only points came when they got a short field in the first half and when they connected on a bomb with 29 seconds left and Illinois already starting to celebrate. Defense wins minor bowl championships.
Turning point: UCLA led 7-3 and the Illinois offense was completely stagnant late in the third quarter. That's when the Bruins provided a gift. Prince's sideline pass was picked off by cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who had nothing but open field in front of him as he ran it in for the 39-yard touchdown. Hawthorne never took his eyes off the quarterback, and Prince misread the coverage. That pick-six sapped the spirits of the Bruins and loosened things up for the Illini.
Player of the game: Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. His passing numbers weren't terribly impressive (18-for-30, 189 yards, one touchdown) and he struggled early on. But Scheelhaase took on the brunt of the running game with leading rusher Jason Ford suspended for this game, finishing with 110 yards on 22 carries. He also had a nine-yard catch, giving him more total yards than UCLA's entire offense.
Stat of the game: Thanks in large part to the sacks, Illinois outrushed UCLA 179-19.
Record performance: Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus was credited with 1.5 sacks, giving him a nation's best 16 this season. That tied the school record set by Simeon Rice. He got in on his second sack despite being held on the play. Mercilus was one of the most improved players in the nation this season and will almost certainly skip his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.
Strangest stat: UCLA finishes the season with eight losses, yet the Bruins played in a bowl game. It might be a while before we see that happen again.
Unsung hero: Illinois' Ryan Lankford. He averaged 45.6 yards on five punts, with two downed inside the 20. He also had three catches for 24 yards. Now that's versatility.
Best call: Midway through the fourth quarter, UCLA came after Scheelhaase on a blitz. But Illinois had the exact right call on: a slant pass to A.J. Jenkins. The one guy the Bruins couldn't leave open caught a short strike from Scheelhaase and glided in untouched for a 60-yard touchdown. The score became crucial when UCLA tacked on that touchdown in the final minute.
What it means: Not much of anything. Both programs will wake up on New Year's Day with new head coaches -- Jim Mora Jr. for UCLA, Tim Beckman for Illinois. So both teams will mostly have a blank slate, and they'd rather forget most of the 2011 season, anyway. Beckman will drastically change the offense to a spread, and he has to be happy to see Scheelhaase turn in a confidence-building bowl performance. Beckman will need to keep the defense playing at this level without Koenning. Mora needs to improve the overall toughness of the underachieving Bruins and change the attitude around the program .
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Tyrone Willingham was nearly fired as Washington's coach following the 2007 season, so know that the folks in power -- both inside and outside the university -- have been cogitating about who the Huskies next coach will be for some time.
School president Mark Emmert loves his football. He was chancellor at LSU when he bypassed the authority of athletic director Joe Dean, fired coach Gerry DiNardo and lured a guy by the name of Nick Saban away from Michigan State.
|AP Photo/Elaine Thompson|
|Washington president Mark Emmert, left, and athletic director Scott Woodward need the next Huskies football coach to revitalize the fading program.|
Remind me: Did that work out for LSU?
Emmert hung around the football team so much when things started to turn around that Tigers beat reporters dubbed him "Jerry Jones."
With Emmert's long-time right-hand man Scott Woodward recently elevated to athletic director -- think Robin to Emmert's Batman -- know that the athletic department will speak with one voice.
And that voice both wants and needs to sing an inspiring tune to the beleaguered Huskies fan base.
Two names would be sweet music to most Huskies fans: Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Seattle Seahawks assistant Jim Mora Jr.
Both have ties to Washington and legendary coach Don James. And both would be expensive.
Some might wonder why Pinkel, a finalist for the job when Rick Neuheisel was hired after the 1998 season, would leave Missouri after building it into a national power, but more than a few connected folks believe Pinkel could be in play.
Of course, the Huskies will have to substantially beat the five-year contract extension that Pinkel signed last December that guarantees him $1.85 million annually.
Mora already has been announced as the Seahawks next head coach after Mike Holmgren steps down at the end of the season, and word is he'll pocket top NFL coaching dollar, previously reported as perhaps as much as $5 million annually.
It's likely that feelers were sent out weeks ago.
But, considering that word of Willingham's forced resignation didn't leak out until Monday's press conference began, it's clear that Emmert and Woodward, both extremely media-savvy, are working very hard to keep a lid on things.
So everybody is going to trot out the usual suspects to replace Willingham:
- Other Pac-10 head coaches: California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley.
- Respected mid-major head coaches: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Fresno State's Pat Hill, Tulsa's Todd Graham, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and TCU's Gary Patterson.
- Hot coordinators: Texas' defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (who was LSU's defensive coordinator when Emmert was at LSU), Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and USC OC Steve Sarkisian.
It's also probably worth it to toss former Oakland Raiders head coach and USC assistant Lane Kiffin's name into the mix.
The general feeling is Emmert and the moneyed friends of the program will be willing to put together a hefty contract for the right guy.
The need to immediately generate positive momentum suggests they will be looking for a name that makes a splash, which means a salary between $2 and $3 million a year. Maybe even more, considering the high cost of living in Seattle.
Worrying about a "splash" might seem superficial -- just hire the right guy -- but it's not. This is a critical juncture for the Huskies. It's not just about restoring the fading tradition of winning, which could take a few years due to poor recruiting from Willingham.
The next coach will need to inspire a sagging fan base during an economic downturn to invest in a massive and necessary renovation of Husky Stadium.
The city of Seattle also needs something to get excited about.
With the Sonics bolting for Oklahoma City, the Mariners in disarray and the Seahawks sagging even in the milquetoast NFC West, Seattle is hungry for some good sports news.
The Huskies used to be the team that most reliably carried the winning banner, and they were always the team that generated the most passion -- and that includes hate coming from the city's Washington State minority.
Husky Stadium use to be one of the nation's most feared venues. Under Willingham, the Huskies have lost 13 of their last 15 home games.
In recent years, it wasn't just that Huskies fans felt frustration and even anger over the downturn. It was that some were turning away from the program.
The next Huskies coach needs to immediately inspire hope. And then he needs to win.