Pac-12: Joe Roth

Happy Friday.
 

Opening the mailbag: In Oregon's defense

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
8:11
PM ET
Not sure if you guys have joined this club, but it's what all the cool kids are doing.

To the notes.

Jason from Columbus writes: Defense wins championships. Oregon's defense stinks. Do the Buckeyes have to kill them again to prove this?

Ted Miller: First of all, I'm curious: Do Ohio State fans really view the Buckeyes 26-17 Rose Bowl victory as a "kill"? Or is this just a fringe interpretation or a bit of trash talk? In terms of being an actual assessment, it's ridiculous.

Anyway. Oregon may not have a great defense but it has a good defense. It's hard to explain this to people because, well, it requires explaining.

Most folks look at the 339 yards per game the Ducks have surrendered and say, "Neh!"

The first approach for the defense (ha!) is to point out that Oregon's fast-paced offense -- the nation's No. 1 offense in total yards and scoring -- ranks 98th in time of possession and therefore forces its defense to see a lot of plays. That's when a Ducks defender points to yards per play. Oregon gives up 4.58 yards per play, which is better than Penn State, Alabama and Florida, which are each top-20 defenses. But that number isn't really exceptional.

But this number is: 370. That's how many plays the Ducks defense has faced this year. Know how many defenses have faced more? Seven. And all of them rank 82nd or below in total defense, and five are in the 100s. Oregon ranks 52nd in total defense.

So what? It's the Ducks own fault for seeing so many plays. Just make a stop and they wouldn't see 370 plays, right?

Eureka! The Ducks do get stops. They rank ninth in the country in third-down defense. Ohio State, by the way, is 16th.

Oh, and by the way, Oregon's scoring defense ranks 15th in the nation (15 ppg). Keeping teams from scoring is good, right?

Qualifier: All these statistics -- good and bad -- are skewed. We are only five games into the season. And Oregon's defense dominated some terrible teams and hasn't looked great against Pac-10 offenses (557.5 yards per game in two games, including 6.3 yards per play).

Still, the fact that those two Pac-10 foes -- Arizona State and Stanford -- who rank in the top-17 in the nation in total offense could only score one total TD in the second half between them is pretty exceptional.

Arne from A_fop writes: According to the same logic that west coast fans and and the national media used against LSU and Auburn in 03 and 04 (which successfully deprived LSU of the AP title and kept Auburn out of the title picture altogether), Oregon, who played FCS Sacramento State, winless New Mexico, and a lousy Tennessee team, should be excluded from the national title picture because of their terrible nonconference schedule. It isn't their fault that Tennessee has fallen on hard times? Well, the same was true of LSU and Arizona in 03. And if playing an FCS team was supposed to be this horror for a national title contender when it was Auburn in 04, well UO knew that they were going to be very good this year and kept Sacramento State on their schedule anyway. And don't peddle the "UO plays 9 conference games" line. USC only played 8 conference games in 03 and 04, where Auburn and LSU played 9 thanks to the SEC title game. In order to be consistent and not hypocritical, you should take the position that Ohio State is more deserving of the national title game than is Oregon because of the Buckeyes' much tougher OOC slate. And yes, I recall your column from back in the day when you stated that Utah was more deserving of the national title than Auburn in 04 because of their tougher OOC schedule, so the hypocrite would be you personally.

Ted Miller: Wow, there's a lot here. Many tangled strands of argumentation that seemed to be strongly against the Pac-10 blog! What fun. Arne, as many of you know, is a frequent contributor to the comments section. He's not much of a Pac-10 fan, but we welcome all opinions to the Pac-10 blog. And he's clearly a bright, knowledgeable guy.

First of all, Oregon played Portland State, not Sacramento State.

Second, there are two layers to nonconference scheduling: Reality and intention. The reality is scheduling Tennessee or Georgia this year means you got an easy win if you're a decent team. Only no team that scheduled the Volunteers or Bulldogs thought that would be the case. The intention when the game was scheduled was to play a challenging foe. That should be rewarded, just as cowardly scheduling should be penalized. And, by the way, the Vols certainly didn't look lousy at LSU.

In 2003, Auburn was ranked sixth in the preseason poll. Many thought it would be a national title contender, starting with The Sporting News. USC, with quarterback making his first career start, went into frenzied Jordan-Hare Stadium and whipped the Tigers 23-zip. Auburn's SEC offense had 164 yards playing a Pac-10 defense, by the way. The next weekend, the Tigers lost at Georgia Tech. An exposed team thereafter played inconsistently throughout the rest of the season.

In 2004, Auburn tried a different approach to its nonconference scheduling. It played Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech. That worked wonders. With a clear intention of avoiding tough nonconference foes, Auburn went undefeated.

Connect the dots. It's not difficult. Lots of teams in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have done so and adopted what we should all starting calling the "Auburn in 2004 -- certainly not 2003! -- Approach to Nonconference Scheduling."

Oregon's intentions this year were far different than Auburn's in 2004. Further, Arne, you need to incorporate location into your analysis. The Ducks traveled across the country to a 100,000-plus seat stadium to win at Tennessee. Auburn played all of its nonconference games in 2004 safely at home.

In other words, it's disingenuous to compare the two schedules. Heck, New Mexico went 9-4 in 2007. The Ducks didn't know the Lobos would become an FBS bottom-feeder when the schedule was made.

You compare LSU's trip to Arizona in 2003 to Oregon's trip to Tennessee. Really, Arne? Tennessee won the SEC East in 2007. It went to a bowl game last year. In 2003, the Wildcats were five years removed from their last winning season. They'd won six Pac-10 games over the previous three seasons.

Further, you write: "And don't peddle the 'UO plays 9 conference games' line. USC only played 8 conference games in 03 and 04, where Auburn and LSU played 9 thanks to the SEC title game. In order to be consistent and not hypocritical, you should take the position that Ohio State is more deserving of the national title game than is Oregon because of the Buckeyes' much tougher OOC slate."

I don't get the logic here. Oregon's nine conference games this year shouldn't count in comparison to Ohio State's eight this year because USC played eight conference games in 2003 and 2004? Why would I not peddle that? It's an incredibly strong fact in the Ducks favor, one that the computers in the BCS rankings will certainly recognize.

Despite all this, the Ducks don't automatically jump the Buckeyes in my or any other final poll. If Miami, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin are all highly ranked at season's end, despite losses to Ohio State, and the Pac-10 ends up with just a couple of ranked teams, then that will be a huge factor in making a distinction between the potentially unbeaten Buckeyes and Ducks. And the computers also will take note in the BCS standings.

One final question: Please e-mail me the column where I wrote, "Utah was more deserving of the national title than Auburn in 04 because of their tougher OOC schedule." Not sure I understand what you're saying I wrote.

Chuck from Clayton, Calif., writes: Saturday is homecoming for Cal. To Cal fans it's the Joe Roth game. Please mention the website: joeroth12.com. It has everything one would need to know about Joe Roth & why Cal honors him every year. Go Bears!

Ted Miller: Worth a look, whether you are a Cal fan or not. Roth was an exceptional person. It's a sad story that is also inspiring.

Chris from Oregon writes: Every time I open your predictions and see that you've picked the Beavers to upset yet another highly ranked team, my heart sinks. I immediately get out my pool of games for the week and mark the Beavers opposition to win. So far this year I'm 2 for 2. So please Ted, for the sake of all Beaver fans, I beg of you to stop. I don't know how much more our hearts can withstand.

Trevor from Salem, Ore, writes: Ted, can you make me a promise? If UA beats OSU this weekend will you please NEVER pick the Beavs to win a game again? Thanks.

Mike from Milwaukie, Ore., writes: As an Oregon State fan, I am BEGGING you reconsider your picking us over Arizona.BEGGING.PLEADING.It's not too late to say it was a typo and your editor screwed up.

Ted Miller: I remember in 2008 when I darn near got the Beavers to the Rose Bowl by picking against them (almost) every week. But so many Oregon State fans got on my case, I was forced to explain my mystical ways.

Of course, some caught on. But it was too late. The karmic forces rebelled.

I picked Oregon State to beat TCU. Wrong. Boise State. Wrong.

But I got a good feeling this week about the Beavers in Tucson!

So relax.

E-dogg from Bend, Ore., writes: Yo Ted! Good times talking shop with you out in Eugene last Friday night. You made about 10 obsessed college football fans nights..... Most famous celebrity I have seen since I bagged Drew Bledsoe's groceries back in 2005. Oh yea, Go Beavs.....I see you picked them to win again......Thanks a lot for the jinx bro.

Ted Miller: I showed this note to my wife, using my finger to underline "most famous celebrity."

She told me to take out the garbage.

Opening the mailbag: Polls and your takes on Blount

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
8:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Included a handful of notes at the bottom about the LeGarrette Blount reinstatement for your perusal. Please keep in mind that if you want a note to get attention -- be part of the mailbag -- you can't include shotgun blasts of profanity and borderline racist talk.

Ethan from New York writes: Oregon ranked below California? Really? Is there East Coast bias in the polls or is it just East Coast ignorance?

Ted Miller: Polls are interesting things, eh?

Is there some East Coast bias? Sure. Probably some. But consider the voting patterns of AP voters here. A strange thing happened on the way to East Coast bias -- you have a lot of West Coast voters consistently voting Pac-10 teams lower than the rest of the country. And some of these polls are even more generous to the SEC than folks who live in SEC country.

Why? Maybe that's the way they truly feel.

But of late I've been thinking about how the Internet has further clouded the rankings process.

Many voters have their own blogs where they post their votes. These blogs are commercial creations. They want traffic.

How does a blog generate traffic? One way is controversy. I'm not going to specifically critique anyone's vote. Feel free to critique mine here. But I've raised an eyebrow or two at a few published polls I've seen.

Meanwhile, the completely nuts coaches poll -- better known as the Sports Information Directors Poll -- this week shows why the "coaches" votes should either be made public or the poll disbanded. It certainly shouldn't be part of the BCS process because it's the biggest conflict of interest in the history of conflicts of interest.

The AP poll doesn't count in the BCS standings, so there's not much sense in getting too bent about it, though it also has traditionally been the most valid poll, which is why most folks continue to see USC as the true national champion in 2003.

The voting process if loaded with variables. It's incredibly difficult to be consistent. Often you rank team A ahead of team B, but you'd never bet money on team A if they were to play team B tomorrow.

Boise State is ranked ahead of USC. Would anyone pick Boise State to beat USC? No. My guess is Vegas would set a double-digit line.

Still, the consensus is the Broncos deserve a higher ranking, a position I share.

The Pac-10 blog certainly has picked on polls it were felt were biased or indefensible.

But that's the system we live in. College football is a beauty contest. And it won't change until we have a playoff, which you shouldn't hold your breath hoping for.


Rodney Gaylor from Jackson, Miss., writes: Cal, Washington and USC all have bye weeks before playing UCLA. Considering that, do the bruins have a chance in any of those games other than Washington?

Ted Miller: Did you know USC had a bye before it played Oregon State last year (though it was a Thursday night game)? It also had a bye before losing at Oregon State in 2006.

Byes can be good. And they can be bad. The best thing about a bye is resting hurt players. But a team that is playing well often would prefer to maintain its momentum and rhythm.

Vegas sorts will tell you putting too much value on bye weeks is a kiss of death.

Not to mention the fact that USC-UCLA is a rivalry game and Cal isn't exactly burning things up on the road these days.

Or that this is college football, where the unexpected happens so often it's cliché.

So, to answer your question, yes, UCLA has a chance in all three games.


Nathaniel from Clackamas, Ore., writes: Ted, you're not nuts. I think that Cal is going to beat USC this week but I think it will be really close and perhaps even by a field goal. Everyone said I was nuts last week when I said Oregon would beat Cal and because of that I won a case of beer. If I'm hot again then perhaps you will be too. I suggest stick to your guns and find a friend who thinks otherwise and start thinking about what kind of beer you want to drink!

Ted Miller: What I'd really like is a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Mmmm.

But I got a lot more mails supporting the "nuts" vote rather than the "not nuts."


Matt from Tucson writes: What does Arizona have to do to be ranked? Wins over Wash and Stanford? Or more? With our only loss coming to a no 13 Iowa, I'd think two more wins would do it.

Ted Miller: A lot depends on what happens in the bottom half of the poll -- to jump into the poll without beating a ranked team the Wildcats might need some attrition at the bottom.

Of course, a win at Washington, particularly if the Huskies beat Notre Dame on Saturday, might be enough. If the Wildcats then also beat Stanford to improve to 5-1, my guess is they'd be a sure-thing in the top 25.


Matt from Warren, Ore., writes: At what point will you consider the 2009 UO defense elite? From my heavily biased point-of-view (that may be redundant since I am a Duck fan) they have a very good chance of being the best UO defense ever.And, yes, it is difficult to type and drink the lightning-yellow cool-aid at the same time.

Ted Miller: Oregon's defense was mostly solid in the season's early going and turned in a stellar effort in the 42-3 win over Cal. While the Ducks D gets hurt by its fast-strike offense, which means no rest for the defense, it needs to post impressive numbers to be considered elite. Forget the yards, though 329 yards per game isn't too bad. It's about points. If the Ducks end up giving up less than 20 per game -- they are at 20.5 right now -- they will earn an "elite" tag. At least from me.


Aaron from Memphis, Tenn., writes: On "will the real Cal please stand up!", when Jeff Tedford took Cal to 7-5 and 8-6 in his first 2 years, he and Cal became one of the most hyped and exposed coaches programs in the country. But ever since he and Cal have consistently failed to live up to the hype or justify the exposure by build on any success. In 2003, Cal beats USC, but lose to Oregon State and UCLA the next 2weeks. In 2004 they go 10-1 but lose the bowl game to Texas Tech and then go 8-4 in 2005. In 2006 they blow the Pac-10 title with an inexplicable late season loss to Arizona. In 2007 they rise to #2 in the country before collapsing so badly that only a 3 point win over WSU allows them to back into a bowl game. When will you acknowledge that coming up small is a pattern for Tedford and his program? Now when Mack Brown used to do this, the local and national media used to shred him. The criticism played a huge role in his leaving North Carolina and almost got him fired at Texas (many of you do not remember that program pre-Vince Young). Philip Fulmer, Tommy Tuberville, Lloyd Carr, and John Cooper went through the same, and those guys won conference and in some cases national titles! Why Tedford does not get the same criticism is a question that you media types have to answer.

Ted Miller: Texas. Tennessee. Auburn. Michigan. Ohio State.

And Cal-Berkeley.

You name five of the 13 winningest programs in college football history. And Cal, which ranks 30th, and did most of its damage before the facemask was invented.

In the eight years before Tedford's arrival, Cal averaged 3 wins a season.

And now Cal has been to six consecutive bowl games. It went to six from 1958 to 2002. Hey, and it's 5-1 in those bowls.

Have you been to Texas, Tennessee, Auburn, Michigan and Ohio State? How do their facilities compare to Cal's? It's not even close. (At least until Cal gets done with its renovation of Memorial Stadium.)

Has Cal thrown up on itself in big games? Yes. Has it failed to maintain a top-10 ranking a couple of times under Tedford. Yes.

And, yes, it's fair to question why that has happened.

But the coaching category Tedford belongs in more than any other is: Done more less.


Lamar from Dallas, Ga., writes: Ted, did you just call GA half a team in your ASU blog? Be careful in your comments because last time I checked GA is 12-4-1 against the Pac1! ASUcaught GA looking ahead to a real game with LSU, besides you take away the 3 TO"S GA had & your sundevils scored 3 points against our weak defense as you call it. That really makes ASU"S offense look bad huh? Besides, just like last year, the cheating officials cheated AJ GREEN out of a TD in the 4th, you know damn well his right foot was in bounds! Also when do you let a player push a referee out of the way before a ball is snapped? He threw a flag.

Ted Miller: Lamar, you may need to re-read my article about Arizona State. Also, Georgia is 10-4-1 against the Pac-10, and before sweeping Arizona State it had last played a Pac-10 school in 1987.

However, you are correct. If you took away many of Arizona State's good plays and many of Georgia's bad plays, Georgia would have won by more than a late field goal.

Can't understand, however, why the Bulldogs would be worried about LSU. The Tigers nearly lost to at Washington, a team that went winless in the Pac-10 last year. That game should be a breeze.


Jacob from Stanford, Calif., writes: We all know Saturday's Stanford-UCLA game will match strength vs. strength with Stanford's run offense and UCLA's run defense. Who do you think has the advantage on the other side of the ball, UCLA's offense or Stanford's defense?Also, do you think Chris Owusu will get any more opportunities to return kicks this year?

Ted Miller: First, if I were a coach I'd kick away from Owusu but I wouldn't go nuts trying to avoid him. Yielding huge chunks of field position multiple times a game by popping up a short kick or kicking out of bounds, to me, is a bigger risk than Owusu's chance to go yard again.

As for UCLA's offense versus Stanford's D, before last week, I'd have called it a push. Stanford's defense is physical but lacks elite speed at all three levels. The Bruins offense has athletes who could hurt the Cardinal. But Washington also had athletes at the skill positions, and the Huskies struggled to get much going last week against the Stanford D.

Of course, the Huskies didn't get many plays because Stanford dominated the ball, particularly in the second half.

So, I'd give Stanford the edge, particularly playing at home against UCLA's inconsistent backup quarterback, Kevin Craft.


DCDuck from Bethesda writes: Ted, I see you voted Oregon #1 in your blog power rankings but then voted USC five spots ahead of them in ESPN's power rankings. Not as bad as three of your colleagues voting Cal ahead of Oregon this week, but still, what gives?

Ted Miller: Zing!

No, actually, I view the Pac-10 power rankings as more fluid than the national poll. I think it makes it interesting to give slightly more heft to the past week's work than the entire season, which is what my national vote is about.

Oregon beat the previous week's No. 1 Pac-10 team in its Pac-10 opener. That merits a big jump within the conference. USC is 1-1 in the Pac-10 with only a win over Washington State.

But the Trojans also have a win over Ohio State while Oregon lost to Boise State. That gets more heft in the national rankings.

Now is that some tortured reasoning or what?


Chuck from Clayton, Calif., writes: Put a link to this website: joeroth12.com...Every year Cal dedicates their home game against an LA school to the memory of Joe Roth...his story is a sad one but he left a lasting impression on thousands.

Ted Miller: Done.


Scott from Portland writes: i'm shocked that you think this is a good idea. This is a poor decision from any angle, Blount should be held accountable for his actions like any other person would be. Whatever happened to natural consequences in life? What does this teach Blount? Here we have a kid who has had multiple instances where his maturity and self control have been called into question, and each time he's gotten a slap on the wrist, losing nothing. NO, this has to stop, it is completely unacceptable that the University of Oregon is even contemplating this, let alone acting on it. It is now time for the conference or NCAA at large to step in and put a stop to it. Playing college sports at an elite university is a privilege, not a right, LeGarrette Blount lost that privilege on opening night in Boise.

Derrick from Omaha, Neb., writes: As an Oregon fan living in Omaha. I view Kelly's decision about Blount as having the interest of the kid at heart. That is not just because I am an Oregon fan, I look at coaches and think that the majority of them are doing what they think is right for their players. When Tom Osborne brought back Lawrence Phillips, I felt like coach Osborne had proven himself to be a good person, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I don't think Coach Osborne would "use" a player just too win. I hope coach Kelly is the same way.

John from Woodbridge, N.J., writes: Ted Miller/Joe Schad must be 1-being paid off by Oregon, 2-smoking weed, or 3 not aware how many volatile acts this LeGarrette Blount committed. I guess maybe he can do a OJ simpson or Plax Burs and wave a gun around and shoot someone or themself and these 2 (Ted Miller/Joe Schad) will fine another reason why should society should forgive him, so he can try to make millions in NFL, then blow the money and cry why he doesn't make enough...Craptree is almost there...Maybe OREGON should make him go to ANGRY MANAGEMENT CLASSES TO LEARN WHY BLOUNT ACTS LIKE THIS...Also Oregon owes him nothing, HE IS LUCKY TO STILL BE GOING TO SCHOOL FOR FREE

Hutch from Eugene, Ore., writes: Ted, so with all of this Blount stuff about getting reinstated. What about all of us Duck Fans who don't want that guy on our team. I have been much happier to call myself a Duck fan since he has been gone, no thats not because we're 3-0 without him. I like character guys on our team and I think those guys are winners (and have proven it) Whats your take on it?

Ted Miller: Everybody's got a right to his or her opinion.

You can read mine here and here.

Pac-10 lunch links: Remembering Todd Doxey

July, 15, 2009
7/15/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to 50 words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

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