Pac-12: Miami Hurricanes

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
6/18/14
10:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

REST OF “KICKER U” RANKINGS
46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Position U: Tight ends

June, 17, 2014
6/17/14
11:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Tight End U” for the 2000s?

1. Miami (84 points): While it has been relatively quiet since its positional heyday early in the 2000s, Miami still easily tops this list. With seven tight ends drafted, including first-round picks Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen, the Hurricanes far surpassed the next closest programs at the position. They don’t get extra points for this, but they also produced arguably the top tight end in the NFL today in 2010 third-round pick Jimmy Graham, who's now starring for the New Orleans Saints.

Award winners: Kellen Winslow, Mackey (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Kellen Winslow (2003).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Shockey (2000, 2001), Kellen Winslow (2002, 2003), Greg Olsen (2006).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jeremy Shockey (2002), Kellen Winslow (2004), Greg Olsen (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Everett (Round 3, 2005), Jimmy Graham (Round 3, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dedrick Epps (Round 7, 2010), Richard Gordon (Round 6, 2011).

2. Iowa (66 points): Dallas Clark leads the way thanks to a 2002 season after which he won the John Mackey Award and was a consensus All-American. But Iowa had a consistent run of tight ends in the 2000s, with first-round pick Clark and five others getting drafted -- most recently third-round pick C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was the fifth tight end selected this year.

Award winners: Dallas Clark, Mackey (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Dallas Clark (2002).
First-team all-conference: Dallas Clark (2002), Brandon Myers (2008), Tony Moeaki (2009), C.J. Fiedorowicz (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dallas Clark (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Scott Chandler (Round 4, 2007), Tony Moeaki (Round 3, 2010), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Erik Jensen (Round 7, 2004), Brandon Myers (Round 6, 2009).

3. Missouri (64 points): Missouri hasn’t had as much success placing tight ends in the pros as some of the other top programs on this list, but the Tigers have an award winner (Chase Coffman won the 2008 Mackey Award) and three consensus All-American tight ends (Coffman, Martin Rucker and Michael Egnew) since 2000. Not too shabby.

Award winners: Chase Coffman, Mackey (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Martin Rucker (2007), Chase Coffman (2008), Michael Egnew (2010).
First-team all-conference: Martin Rucker (2006), Michael Egnew (2010, 2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Martin Rucker (Round 4, 2008), Chase Coffman (Round 3, 2009), Michael Egnew (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.


4. Wisconsin (64 points): One All-American (Lance Kendricks in 2010, when he led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches), six first-team All-Big Ten picks (Kendricks, Garrett Graham twice, Mark Anelli, Travis Beckum and Jacob Pedersen) and six drafted players helped Wisconsin nearly earn the runner-up spot in the tight end rankings.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Lance Kendricks (2010).
First-team all-conference: Mark Anelli (2001), Travis Beckum (2007), Garrett Graham (2008, 2009), Lance Kendricks (2010), Jacob Pedersen (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Owen Daniels (Round 4, 2006), Travis Beckum (Round 3, 2009), Garrett Graham (Round 4, 2010), Lance Kendricks (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mark Anelli (Round 6, 2002), Jason Pociask (Round 5, 2006).

5. Georgia (62 points): It doesn’t have the national awards to show for it, but Georgia seems to boast an outstanding tight end nearly every season. The best example of that is how the Bulldogs keep placing tight ends in the pros – starting with Randy McMichael, Ben Watson and Leonard Pope and leading all the way up to Arthur Lynch, who just went to the Miami Dolphins in the most recent draft. The Bulldogs have built an impressive legacy at the position that looks to continue.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Randy McMichael (2001), Leonard Pope (2004, 2005), Martrez Milner (2006), Orson Charles (2011), Arthur Lynch (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ben Watson (2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Randy McMichael (Round 4, 2002), Leonard Pope (Round 3, 2006), Martrez Milner (Round 4, 2007), Orson Charles (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Arthur Lynch (Round 5, 2014).

6. BYU (56 points): Independents Notre Dame and BYU are hurt in these position rankings by not being members of a conference -- thus they couldn’t earn points for all-conference selections, although BYU did as a member of the Mountain West up through 2010. In fact, the Cougars earned 36 of their 56 points by having six tight ends named to the All-MWC team between 2001 and 2009. Notre Dame certainly belongs higher on the list, considering that it has had nine tight ends drafted, including first-round pick and 2012 Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Dennis Pitta (2009).
First-team all-conference: Doug Jolley (2001), Jonny Harline (2005, 2006), Dennis Pitta (2007, 2008, 2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Doug Jolley (Round 2, 2002), Dennis Pitta (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tevita Ofahengaue (Round 7, 2001), Spencer Nead (Round 7, 2003).

7. Virginia (54 points): Heath Miller is a one-man wrecking crew here, single-handedly accounting for 38 of Virginia’s 54 points thanks to a Mackey Award-winning season in 2004 when he was a consensus All-American and went on to become a first-round draft pick. Miller also won All-ACC honors in 2003.

Award winners: Heath Miller, Mackey (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Heath Miller (2004).
First-team all-conference: Heath Miller (2003, 2004), John Phillips (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Heath Miller (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chris Luzar (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Billy Baber (Round 5, 2001), Tom Santi (Round 6, 2008), John Phillips (Round 6, 2009).

8. Stanford (48 points): Stanford is arguably the top program for tight ends right now, but that’s a fairly recent development. Of the six Cardinal tight ends drafted since 2001, four have been since 2010, led by second-round picks Coby Fleener and 2012 All-American Zach Ertz. Stanford posted a rare double in 2013 when Ertz and Levine Toilolo were both picked in the draft’s first four rounds.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Zach Ertz (2012).
First-team all-conference: Alex Smith (2004), Coby Fleener (2011), Zach Ertz (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Teyo Johnson (Round 2, 2003), Alex Smith (Round 3, 2005), Coby Fleener (Round 2, 2012), Zach Ertz (Round 2, 2013), Levine Toilolo (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jim Dray (Round 7, 2010),

9. Colorado (46 points): Colorado hasn’t had much to brag about on the football field over the last several years, but the Buffaloes are still hanging on in the tight end rankings. Daniel Graham’s outstanding 2001 season (including a Mackey Award and a consensus All-America designation prior to becoming a first-round draft pick) is a big reason why Colorado makes the top 10.

Award winners: Daniel Graham, Mackey (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Graham (2001).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Graham (2001), Joe Klopfenstein (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Daniel Graham (2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Joe Klopfenstein (Round 2, 2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Quinn Sypniewski (Round 5, 2006), Nick Kasa, Round 6, 2013).

10. UCLA (46 points): As with its fellow No. 9 on the list, Colorado, UCLA can thank a single player for its spot in the top 10. Marcedes Lewis accumulated 32 of the Bruins’ 46 points with a 2005 season when he won the Mackey Award, was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 pick and then went on to become a 2006 first-round draft selection.

Award winners: Marcedes Lewis, Mackey (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Marcedes Lewis (2005).
First-team all-conference: Mike Seidman (2002), Marcedes Lewis (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Marcedes Lewis (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Mike Seidman (Round 3, 2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jeff Grau (Round 7, 2002), Bryan Fletcher (Round 6, 2002).

REST OF “TIGHT END U” RANKINGS
44 – Notre Dame; 40 – Clemson; 38 – Arizona State, Florida, Louisville; 34 – Oregon, USC; 32 – Minnesota, North Carolina, Purdue, Rutgers; 28 – Tennessee; 26 – Oklahoma; 24 – N.C. State; 22 – Kentucky, Washington; 20 – Arkansas, Maryland; 18 – Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech; 16 – Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas; 14 – Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State; 12 – South Carolina; 10 – California, LSU, Michigan State, Oregon State; 8 – Boston College, Northwestern; 6 – TCU, Utah, Duke, Syracuse; 4 – Alabama, Kansas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech; 2 – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Mississippi State; 0 – Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State, West Virginia

Oregon-Stanford: Respectful rivalry grows

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
12:00
PM ET
David Shaw Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsStanford coach David Shaw is 1-1 against Oregon and 30-5 overall.

Stanford had just torn the hearts out of Oregon and its fans inside Autzen Stadium. The Ducks' unbeaten season had ended in shocking fashion. National championship hopes had been kicked to the curb.

"It's such an honor to come into this stadium and beat a phenomenal team," the Stanford quarterback said after the victory.

A gracious, classy and perhaps rare take from a college player. But no, that was not Kevin Hogan talking about the Cardinal's 17-14 overtime upset of the Ducks in Autzen Stadium last Nov. 17 that ruined the Ducks' drive for a berth in the 2012 national title game. It was Stanford's backup quarterback, Chris Lewis, talking about the Cardinal's 49-42 win in Autzen Stadium on Oct. 20, 2001, that ruined the Ducks' drive for a berth in that season's national championship game.

Lewis' postgame quote, however, generally sums up the Oregon-Stanford series, which Thursday night again will be the Pac-12 game of the year. There appears to be little animosity and a good dose of respect between the Ducks and Cardinal, who both own road wins as underdogs against each other in the past three years.

Though they are very different institutions, playing football in very different ways and, well, dressing very differently while doing so, the rivalry between the Pac-12's top two teams in the past four seasons doesn't include much ill will compared to the rivalries between Oregon and Washington and USC and UCLA.

Perhaps it should, at least in terms of what Stanford and Oregon have taken away from each other through the years, and not just during their recent and simultaneous rise to join the nation's elite.

Nine times since 1964, Stanford has handed Oregon its first defeat of the season. Twice it was the Ducks' only defeat. Without a loss to Stanford in 1995, the Ducks would have played in a second consecutive Rose Bowl in Mike Bellotti's first season.

Oregon has returned the favor of late as Stanford became nationally relevant. The Cardinal lost just one regular-season game in both 2010 and 2011. To Oregon.

Stanford's win in Autzen Stadium last year was shocking in many ways. The Ducks had owned the Cardinal and Andrew Luck the previous two years, so much so that in advance of the 2012 season, Stanford coach David Shaw openly admitted his team had an "Oregon problem," though he reasonably noted that the entire Pac-12 shared the Ducks conundrum.

Yet, as stunning as it was to witness the Cardinal shut down the Ducks' offense last November, the 2001 game eclipsed it 20-fold in terms of sheer nuttiness.

While some of Oregon's younger fans might not remember 2001, the older ones surely slapped their foreheads upon seeing the name "Chris Lewis" again. In that contest, the unbeaten and fifth-ranked Ducks were seemingly cruising, leading 42-28 in the fourth quarter at home, with Stanford quarterback Randy Fasani knocked out of the game in the second quarter.

But things went haywire in the fourth quarter, particularly on special teams, when Stanford blocked two punts and recovered an onside kick. Still, it appeared the Ducks would prevail 42-41 when they blocked the potentially game-tying PAT.

Unfortunately for Oregon, quarterback Joey Harrington was turning in his only poor performance of the season. On third-and-1 from Oregon's 30, Harrington was hit by safety Tank Williams, and his throw was picked off by diving defensive end Marcus Hoover at the 33 (it was Harrington's second interception of the game). After Stanford scored the go-ahead TD, Harrington, who had led nine fourth-quarter comebacks in his career and was popularly known as "Captain Comeback," threw four consecutive incompletions from the Cardinal 37.

The normally straightforward Associated Press report noted that the game "had everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."

Oregon, one of the earliest victims of a BCS controversy, went on to finish No. 2. Bellotti showed up at the Rose Bowl, host of the BCS title game, to watch Miami stomp overmatched Nebraska, a team that was blown out in the regular-season finale by Colorado, a team the Ducks had crushed in the Fiesta Bowl.

Yes, there were a fair share of what-ifs from the Ducks, not unlike last year, though it's worth remembering that Miami team was one college football's all-time great squads.

Of course, things were much different for both Oregon and Stanford in 2001. Neither team had established itself as a consistent national power. In fact, both would go through significant downturns thereafter, particularly Stanford.

In 2007, both programs made inspired decisions that inspired initial befuddlement among media and fans: Bellotti hired Chip Kelly away from New Hampshire, an FCS team, to coordinate his offense, and Jim Harbaugh was plucked away from San Diego, another FCS team, by Stanford. Harbaugh brought along Shaw to coordinate his offense.

As isolated events, the Stanford-Oregon game on Oct. 20, 2001, and some buzz-less coaching hires in 2007 didn't resonate nationally. But from a long-term view, they are notable dots to connect for what has become one of the nation's best and most meaningful rivalries.

Even if the teams don't provide much cartoonish trash talk to foment the hype.
Happy Friday.
Knock, knock (Who's there?!)

Mailbag. (Mailbag who?!)

Mailbag your pooh pooh face.

(Knock-knock joke just dictated to me by my 4-year-old).

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

Donald from Eugene, Ore., writes: First off, I agree with Andy Staples that Oregon's punishment was appropriate and what USC SHOULD have received. But I was wondering if Chip Kelly had forewarning about the "Show Cause" punishment and knew Oregon would have been forced to fire him if he had stuck around Eugene? So he didn't really escape, as some people suggest, as he wasn't going to coach The Ducks in 2013 anyway. He actually did Oregon a favor by leaving before spring practice.Also, why doesn't the NCAA mandate a standard contract clause for all head coaches making them financially liable for any violations occurring under their watch regardless if they are still at the school or not?

Ted Miller: You know in the movie, "Being John Malkovich," when everyone just starts going "Malkovich!" "Malkovich!" "Malkovich!" That's what it sometimes feels like being a college football writer with Staples around, "I agree with Andy Staples!" "I agree with Andy Staples!"

I mean, really, how hard is to be right all the time when you're bacon's biggest advocate?

I agree with Staples' idea about allowing recruits to take official visits beginning in January of their junior year of high school as a good way to reduce cheating.

And yet I don't agree that Oregon coach Chip Kelly would have been fired after the NCAA ruling, in large part because we don't know what the NCAA would have ruled if Kelly were still the Ducks coach. I do know Oregon would only have done that as an absolute last resort.

For one, Kelly and Oregon have had each other's backs in this from beginning to end, even when Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. I sense zero hard feelings between school and former coach.

If the NCAA had given Kelly a "show cause" as a sitting coach, Oregon would have had the option of firing him or going back in front of the Committee on Infractions to defend Kelly and itself against additional sanctions. The NCAA can't make an institution fire its coach.

Kelly might have been suspended, or the school might have been hit with other penalties. It's difficult to say.

But I think Kelly's 18-month "show cause" was largely symbolic and was given specifically because he was no longer at Oregon. If he were still in Eugene, I don't think that he would have been given that sanction. I think the NCAA would have found an additional way to hit him and the program -- in order to support the NCAA's attempt to hold head coaches more accountable -- but I don't think, based on my reading of the ruling, the NCAA would have wanted to hit Kelly with the worst penalty he could get as a sitting coach.

As for the NCAA mandating contract standards, that won't happen because institutions don't want to surrender their authority on contracts. Further, NCAA efforts to standardize penalties also have run into resistance through the years.

(Read full post)

Poll: Pac-12's best BCS moment

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
7:00
PM ET
On Wednesday, we provided you with our top five Pac-12 BCS moments.

Here's what we wrote (our polls can only included five choices, so if you think Oregon and Stanford both winning BCS bowl games this past year qualifies, go with other):
SportsNation

Best moment for the Pac-12 in the BCS Era?

  •  
    31%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    29%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,226)

1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.

2. USC wins "real" national title: In 2003, USC was No. 1 in the AP and coaches polls at season's end. If you had eyes and knew anything about football, it was clear the Trojans were the nation's most talented team on both sides of the football, a notion that was reinforced the following season. Two teams picked by computers played in New Orleans -- most folks outside of Louisiana don't even remember who -- and that forced the Trojans to settle for three-fourths of a national title after dominating Michigan 28-14.

3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top 7. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.

4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.

Ah, but as you all know we are not infallible. Not entirely, at least.

So what's your take?

Hope springs in the Pac-12

May, 22, 2013
5/22/13
9:00
AM ET
The 2013 season will be the final year of the BCS era.

And there was much rejoicing!

So, what have been the Pac-12 highs and lows of this often confounding system? Thanks for asking!

Best

1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesReggie Bush and USC ran away with the 2004 national title.
2. USC wins "real" national title: In 2003, USC was No. 1 in the AP and Coaches polls at season's end. If you had eyes and knew anything about football, it was clear the Trojans were the nation's most-talented team on both sides of the football, a notion that was reinforced the following season. Two teams picked by computers played in New Orleans -- most folks outside of Louisiana don't even remember who -- and that forced the Trojans to settle for three-fourths of a national title after dominating Michigan 28-14.

3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top seven. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.

4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.

5. Oregon and Stanford both win: The 2012-13 bowl season wasn't good to the Pac-12, but Oregon pounded Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks finished ranked No. 2 and Stanford was seventh. It was just the second time two Pac-10/12 teams won BCS bowl games in the same season.

Worst

1. Just one BCS national title, lots of frustration: No conference has more legitimate gripes with the BCS system than the Pac-12. Multiple seasons saw the conference have teams skipped over, most notably Oregon in 2001 and USC in 2003 and 2008. And ask California fans about how Texas coach Mack Brown gamed the system in 2004, preventing the Bears from playing in the Rose Bowl.

2. USC's three-peat gets Vince Younged: It's difficult to look at Texas's epic 41-38 win over USC as anything but great college football art -- perhaps the all-time greatest game -- but Trojans fans don't feel that way. The loss prevented USC from claiming three consecutive national titles and, of course, a second BCS crown for the Pac-10/12.

3. Oregon falls short versus Auburn: Oregon looked like a great team and Auburn a team with two great players before the BCS title game after the 2010 season. The Ducks chose a bad time to play one of their worst games of the season, but they still nearly prevailed before being undone by a dramatic game-winning drive from the Tigers.

4. Make a field goal, Stanford: Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed three field goals, including a certain game-winner from 35 yards on the last play of regulation, in the Cardinal's 41-38 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2011 season. Williamson also missed from 43 yards in overtime, which set the Cowboys up for the win. Stanford dominated the game, outgaining the Cowboys 590 yards to 412, with a 243-13 edge in rushing.

5. Ducks drop Rose Bowl: Oregon fell flat in Chip Kelly's first BCS bowl game, with the favored Ducks losing to Ohio State 26-17 in the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season. Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor had perhaps the best game of his career -- 266 yards passing, 72 rushing -- and the Ducks offense struggled, gaining just 260 yards.

Bad news, good news for Oregon

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
11:00
AM ET
Oregon and the NCAA agree: The football program committed major violations in connection to the Willie Lyles case, The Oregonian and Portland, Ore., television station KATU reported Monday.

The disagreement, however, that prevented Oregon and the NCAA from reaching a summary judgment is this, from The Oregonian:
Oregon and the NCAA, however, reached an impasse late in 2012 while attempting to agree on the severity of one violation concerning the Ducks' $25,000 payment to Texas-based talent scout Willie Lyles. The Ducks believe the impermissible "oral reports" delivered from Lyles constitute a secondary violation; NCAA enforcement officials believe them to be another "major violation."

It makes sense that's at issue, although the Pac-12 blog is of the mind that this impasse was more about the NCAA's committee on infractions (COI), which demanded a hearing, than the NCAA's enforcement staff, which seemed to be in accord with Oregon.

The strength of Oregon's position is the way the NCAA reacted to other recent cases, as well as the gray area with NCAA rules on recruiting services.

The strength of the NCAA's position is that it can do what it wants, then justify it after the fact, such as when former Miami athletic director Paul Dee said about USC's Reggie Bush, "High-profile athletes require high-profile compliance," which he just spun together for reporters because it doesn't exist in the NCAA rulebook.

Still, there is good news for Oregon from these reports, and it might be more important than what led the story:
However, the documents also state NCAA enforcement staff said they had "no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct," key points when it comes time for punishment to be considered, KATU reported. Oregon is expected to appear before the NCAA's committee on infractions sometime this year.

"Lack of institutional control" and "unethical conduct" are the killers when it comes to penalties. Those quash postseasons and handfuls of scholarships. Of course, these documents are dated, so it's possible, if unlikely, the COI could up the ante.

Further, Oregon's case is probably helped by the program's big news this year: The departure of coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Violations connected to Lyles came on Kelly's watch. He's gone. That should soften the eventual blow to some extent.

To show you the university's thinking, it "proposed to self-impose a two-year probation for the football program and a reduction of one scholarship for each of the next three seasons."

It wanted to be whipped by a wet noodle three times.

Yet even if you doubled that -- four years of probation and two scholarships for each of the next three seasons -- you're not talking about a major hit to the program. Signing just 23 and maxing out at 83 scholarships for the next three years won't knock the Ducks out of the nation's top 10.

Mailbag: Oregon losing ground?

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
6:00
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

Click here to follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mailbag.

Bishop from Eugene, Ore., writes: Let's assume that Marc Helfrich takes over as head coach, and the upcoming NCAA sanctions don't include a post season ban, How do you feel about those "Way to early" predictions you made. Can Oregon still chase the ever so elusive National Championship bid? Or is "RoseBowl or Bust" the best we can hope for now?

Ted Miller: Chip Kelly's departure puts a big question mark by Oregon. No way around it. If I were redoing the first 2013 Pac-12 power rankings, I'd do a reversal at the top and rate Stanford No. 1 and Oregon No. 2 for that reason alone.

Does that mean I don't think Oregon can win the national or Pac-12 championship in 2013 without Kelly? No. It merely means uncertainly has been introduced into the equation that wasn't there before. We have to account for that. We can suspect that Helfrich will do fine -- as good or maybe even better than Kelly -- but he's never been a head coach before.

Heck, the Ducks could run the table even if Helfrich doesn't turn out to be the long-term answer. There's enough talent and leadership left behind for the team to run itself. For a precedent for that, recall when offensive coordinator Larry Coker took over for Butch Davis at Miami in 2001 and went unbeaten and won a national title his first season, but was fired five years later. The Ducks aren't as talented as that epically good crew of Hurricanes, but it's a reasonable parallel.

As I've noted before with personnel issues when evaluating teams for the season to come: When there's an obvious void to fill, and the individual filling it is unproven, projecting everything turning out peachy isn't sound reasoning. It's optimism.

The truth is, it will take a few years to get a good measure of Helfrich as a head coach. We need to see him recruit an entire team and put his stamp on the Ducks in terms of the totality of the program before passing an educated judgment.




Sorael from Illinois writes: Hey Ted, Am I the only person who thinks the media and fan negativity around the USC program will actually help them? If Kiffin is a decent coach at all(it's debatable), he can use this to foster an us-against-the-world, no-believes-in-us type of mentality. I could see this being, just the right type of motivation to get the USC players from a me-first to a team-first focus. A focused USC TEAM would be scary for the rest of the conference.

Ted Miller: No, there's a guy in Des Moines who thinks the same thing.

Your thinking is reasonable. It's clear the Trojans didn't do as well as the front-runners in 2012, which was notably different than their going 10-2 in 2011 with just about the same personnel, when they were feeling forgotten and disrespected.

"Us against the world" or "no respect" can help a locker room remain focused and motivated. Stanford coach David Shaw is clearly a believer in that. Many athletes respond to outside doubt, particularly when a coach repeatedly points it out. In contrast, Chip Kelly actively avoided that -- at least he claimed to when speaking to reporters.

So maybe that will help the Trojans. Many of them were celebrated prep athletes who'd never encountered adversity before, so maybe they will grow after getting their lips bloodied.

But motivational ploys only go so far, just like the overrated pregame speech.

What wins games is a constant attention to detail and an obsession with getting better, which includes all aspects of the game -- mental, physical and emotional.

Lane Kiffin can point to all the negativity at the start of spring practices. He can talk about how folks are writing off the Trojans. He may have his players' rapt attention while he speaks. But the real issue for Kiffin is the consistent quality of the day-to-day process of running his football team.

And, yes, I've been reading too many Nick Saban quotes.




Peter from Tempe, Ariz., writes: What can you tell me about Arizona State's chances thus far against Notre Dame next year? Clearly we have a lot of time between now and the game but if you were Todd Graham and staff looking ahead what's your biggest worry? They obviously have a very good defense but I don't think many people were impressed offensively. It seems like we have a great opportunity to pull an upset considering who we have coming back defense-wise. Assuming our JC WR recruits pan out we could have a very potent offense too.

Ted Miller: I think Arizona State has a good chance to win that game if it ignores a crowd that will be heavily in favor of Notre Dame inside Cowboys Stadium and plays to its potential.

That, to me, is the biggest issue: the environment. Notre Dame will not be athletically superior to the Sun Devils.

Notre Dame welcomes back 14 position player starters, and QB Everett Golson should take another step forward. Further, the Fighting Irish have been recruiting well under Brian Kelly. Still, the program is a few players away from being super-elite. I suspect several teams would have bested the Irish in the national title game, including Oregon and Stanford (recall that Stanford nearly won at Notre Dame before it switched to Kevin Hogan at QB).

I think the Pac-12 is fully capable of going 3-0 against Notre Dame next year, with Stanford and USC also getting their annual shots at the Irish.




John from El Dorado Hill, Calif., writes: Ted, if you were a Las Vegas handicapper and Team A had an extra week to prepare for Team B (who did not have an extra week to prepare for Team A), how many points would that be worth for Team A when you set the opening line?

Ted Miller: 4.378 points.

There are too many variables to your question, though I'm sure someone could pencil out the math by reviewing historical results. I'm just not sure how much you can trust an average number when you're dealing with specific teams that introduce myriad variables.

How good are Team A and Team B? Is one or the other about overwhelming you with talent (like LSU), or is it scheme-heavy (like Boise State)? What about injuries? Does the extra week provide critical extra time for one team to get healthy, while not doing so for the other? Is one of the teams coached by Nick Saban and the other by, say, Tyrone Willingham?

I think a mediocre team with a mediocre coach won't get much benefit from an extra week of preparation against a good team with a good coach. And the opposite is also true.

I will say I think extra prep time is a demonstrable an advantage. Just consider this season in the Pac-12:
  • Oregon State 27, UCLA 20.
  • Arizona 52, Washington 17
  • Oregon 43, Arizona State 21
  • UCLA 45, Arizona State 43.

In each case the winning team had extra time, though it wasn't always an extra week.

Poll: Biggest Pac-12-BCS controversy?

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
2:00
PM ET
This week, with the advent of a four-team playoff, we, er, paid tribute to the BCS.

SportsNation

Which of the following was the Pac-12's worst BCS moment?

  •  
    33%
  •  
    28%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    19%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,753)

On Monday, we'll publish some of your thoughts about BCS controversies, but first a poll.

Question: What was the Pac-12's worst moment with the BCS?

I'm sure there are some strong opinions on this, depending on which team you root for. And against.

To us, the fanbases that surely feel the most outrage are USC (2003), Oregon (2001, 2005), California (2004) and Utah (2004, 2008).

USC was everybody's No. 1 team in 2003. Other than the computers. Oregon twice got screwed out of BCS bowls, including a title game berth in 2001. California fans still spit every time the hear the words "Mack Brown." And Utah twice found out perfection wasn't good enough if you weren't a "have" in an AQ conference.

What's your take?
We're saying goodbye to the BCS today, even though the BCS isn't going away until 2014. Oh, well.

So what are the Pac-12/10's best and worst BCS moments?

Best

The Pac-12 has won one BCS national title (though just about everyone believes USC to be the "true" 2003 national champion). So that has to be conference's best BCS moment: USC's undisputed 2004 championship.

The 2004 Trojans were dominant with quarterback Matt Leinart; running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White; receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett; and a defense led by defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson and linebacker Lofa Tatupu. They outscored foes 496 to 169.

In the BCS national title game in Miami, they stomped Oklahoma 55-19 and made USC a repeat national champ under Pete Carroll.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2000, Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and Oregon State whipped Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Pac-12 has produced two BCS bowl teams four times, but this is the only year it won both games.
  • While Utah was not a member of the Pac-12 in 2004 and 2008, it's worth noting the Utes capped undefeated seasons both years with wins in the Fiesta Bowl over Pittsburgh and the Sugar Bowl over Alabama.


Worst

Not to make this all about USC, but the worst BCS moment was USC's exclusion in 2003, despite being ranked No. 1 in both major polls.

Those who had eyes knew that the Trojans were the nation's best team. But the computer chips liked LSU and Oklahoma better, even though the Sooners were fresh off a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

The AP poll would go on to crown USC the national champion, as did the Football Writers Association of America, after it whipped Michigan in the Rose Bowl. As for the coaches poll, it was contractually obligated to vote LSU No. 1 after its ugly win over Oklahoma. Three coaches, nonetheless, showed courage, rebelled and voted USC No. 1.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2001, Nebraska was picked over Oregon to play Miami for the national title, even though the Cornhuskers were stomped 62-36 by Colorado in their final regular-season game. The Ducks went on to whip Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska got bludgeoned by the Hurricanes 37-14.
  • In 2004, Texas coach Mack Brown lobbied hard for his Longhorns to eclipse California in the national polls. It worked, as the 10-1 Longhorns climbed past the 10-1 Bears and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the standings for no justifiable reason and thereby finagled their way into the Rose Bowl, where Cal hadn't been since 1959.

Pac-12 teams left in the lurch

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
10:30
AM ET
Our theme today, as part of our "Love to hate" week at ESPN.com, is "Left in the lurch." This is about coaches who bailed out on a Pac-12 program at an unexpected or awkward time. We're not including Urban Meyer leaving Utah for Florida or Jim Harbaugh leaving Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers because their departures were not unexpected and came only after unprecedented success.

Of course, these situations vary greatly in terms of circumstances and reaction. There aren't many college football jobs out there considered better than one in the Pac-12, so most of the coaches who bailed out on their programs left for the NFL.

But here is a sampling from the Pac-12. Feel free to provide your own thoughts below.

  • [+] EnlargePete Carroll
    AP Photo/Don RyanPete Carroll stunned USC fans when he left after the 2009 season to coach the Seattle Seahawks.
    California got dogged twice. First, after going 10-2 in 1991, Bruce Snyder bailed on the Golden Bears for Arizona State. It's rare for a coach to jump from one conference program to another, and it certainly hurts more. Then, in 1996, Steve Mariucci lasted just one year in Berkeley before jumping aboard with the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Dennis Erickson twice left Pac-12 teams for sunnier pastures (at least in theory). After two years at Washington State, Erickson bolted for Miami after the 1988 season. Then, after a strong run at Oregon State from 1999-2002, Erickson left Corvallis for the San Francisco 49ers. He has repeatedly said that was the worst move of his career.
  • Dick Vermeil lasted two seasons at UCLA. After going 9-2-1 in 1975 and upsetting No. 1 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, he left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Rick Neuheisel shocked many when he left Colorado for Washington before the 1999 season for a million-dollar contract, which was at the time considered exorbitant. He left behind NCAA sanctions for the Buffaloes and immediately got into trouble with the Huskies. It didn't make folks in Boulder feel any better when the Huskies and Neuheisel swept a home-and-home series over the next two years.

But two departures really stand out.

Don James is on the short list of greatest college football coaches of all time. In 18 seasons at Washington, from 1975 to 1992, he won a national title and four Rose Bowls. He went 153-57-2 (.726) and set a then-record of 98 conference victories. From 1990-92, the Huskies won 22 consecutive games.

He is the Dawgfather.

And that's why many Huskies fans will tell you the lowest moment in program history is when he resigned in protest of NCAA and Pac-12 sanctions on Aug. 22, 1993. (James really, really didn't like Washington president William Gerberding and athletic director Barbara Hedges, either).

His resignation just before the season forced Washington to promote defensive coordinator Jim Lambright, a good man and a good defensive coordinator but not an ideal fit as head coach. Other than a Rose Bowl victory after the 2000 season under Rick Neuheisel, things have never been the same in Husky Stadium. Not yet, at least.

A more recent shocker: Pete Carroll bolting USC after the 2009 season for the Seattle Seahawks.

Carroll's hiring in 2001 was widely panned, but all he did thereafter was build a college football dynasty, winning national championships in 2003 and 2004 and falling just short of a third consecutive title in 2005 in a thrilling loss to Texas. He went 97-19 (.836) in nine seasons (11-2 versus rivals Notre Dame and UCLA), won six BCS bowl games and finished ranked in the AP top-four seven times. He won 34 consecutive games from 2003-05 and coached three Heisman Trophy winners and 25 first-team All-Americans.

So, yeah, he accomplished a lot. And many thought he would coach USC for life, though many others also suspected the lure of the NFL would prove too much.

It was the timing of his sudden, stunning departure that frustrated many Trojans fans. While Carroll has repeatedly denied oncoming NCAA sanctions had anything to do with his decision to leave, that's a hard line to buy. He skipped town after a 9-4 season that featured blowout losses to Stanford and Oregon and left behind a team with a two-year bowl ban and deficit of 30 scholarships over three seasons.

Still, not unlike how James is viewed by Huskies fans, Carroll is mostly spared the wrath of Trojans fans because of what he accomplished.

There's no question, however, that both programs were left in the lurch.
Happy Friday.

This is where you follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Dave from Birmingham writes: Not sure I get you. Why would you not want the four best teams to play in a playoff? That's what a playoff is about. I know there's a subjective part to this but that's inevitable. Is everyone that afraid of a consensus favoring the SEC because the SEC is the best conference?

Ted Miller: In a word, yes. And no matter how you frame it, that so-called consensus remains subjective. And I know this from experience.

In 1996, I worked at the Mobile Register and I was arguing with Mike Griffith, who then covered Alabama for the Register and voted in the AP poll. Now, everybody argues with Mike, but I thought he was being particularly obtuse this particular afternoon because he was touting Arizona State. I was blathering that Arizona State would have four losses if it played in the SEC.

Yes, I once was one of them. Why? Because that was the way I was raised. Football in the south, as writer Rick Bragg once ostentatiously pandered, is like a "knife fight in a ditch"! That's a bunch of silliness, but such sentiments nonetheless are inculcated into fans and they seep into the media coverage -- in the Southeast as well as other parts of the country where fetishizing the peculiarity of the South is embraced. So I understand the roots of the "just because" reaction of so many SEC fans. And I experienced its power as a sportswriter.

When I moved out to Seattle to cover Washington, I still had a "just because" feeling about West Coast vs. Southeast football. When Miami came to Husky Stadium in 2000, I thought the Hurricanes would blast the Huskies. Ergo, my initial transformative moment was watching Washington physically manhandle the Hurricanes. Don't be fooled by the final score: The Huskies owned Miami that day.

My point: Regional biases are strong and they cloud thinking, even when they feel rational. That's why there needs to be a safeguard in our new four-team playoff system for some degree of objectivity, which prioritizing conference champions provides.

I know any questions about SEC super-awesomeness make SEC folks angry. I know: Six crystal footballs. No one is doubting the SEC's ability to dominate the BCS system. And I have no doubt that dominance of a subjective system -- a beauty contest, really -- has helped push the SEC closer to something that can be judged as a more objective superiority (read: self-fulfilling prophecy).

But if we're going to have a national college football playoff, we need to create a selection process that doesn't leave open the possibility of a tag always going to a runner from a certain conference, just because.


Edward from Atlanta writes: Do you think USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff are better at recruiting than Pete Carroll and his staff? I look at the fact that Lane Kiffin is only working with 15 scholarships and he is still bringing in top recruits after everything that has taking placed. Just imagine if he did had all his scholarships he would probably have a top 3 or top 5 recruiting class every year.

Ted Miller: No.

Kiffin and his staff are recruiting very well, but they can't do much better than Pete Carroll and his staff did from 2002-2009. You say top-three to -five each year? Carroll landed the No. 1 class multiple times. Any rare rating outside the top five was deemed an off-year. Carroll's recruiting run rates among the best run a program has produced -- think Bobby Bowden in the glory years at Florida State.

It's also worth noting that Carroll and Kiffin share two ace recruiters: Kiffin and Ed Orgeron.


Jeff from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Who do you think is going to be the starting quarterback for ASU to begin the season?

Ted Miller: That's a tough one. When I watched practice, I thought Mike Bercovici was so much better as a passer that he should be the guy. But then you have to realize that new coach Todd Graham wants to run some spread option, and that requires the quarterback to be a running threat. Bercovici is no running threat, while 6-foot-5, 242-pound Michael Eubank is. And Eubank has potential as a passer, though at present he's raw.

The easy answer is start Bercovici but use some packages with Eubank. But that's sort of a fan answer. Most coaches don't like playing two quarterbacks. They'll tell you if you play two, it means you don't have any. And QBs are not big fans of sharing the job.

I used to be a Bercovici lean, but now I'm leaning toward Eubank. Here's why: This team is much better at running back than at receiver. Even with Bercovici's live arm, this probably is going to be a run-first offense, and it makes things much more difficult for a defense if it must account for the QB as a runner. Eubank can become at least an adequate passer. Bercovici is unlikely to do the same as a runner.


Mark from Garden Grove, Calif., writes: If you could play matchmaker, which Big Ten/Pac-12 schools would you pair for the 2017 season -- and why?

Ted Miller: OK, I'll bite, basing things on where the college football world is today.
  • Oregon-Ohio State: Urban Meyer vs. Chip Kelly. 'Nuff said.
  • Arizona-Michigan: The Rich Rodriguez Bowl.
  • Stanford-Wisconsin: Two really good schools that play smashmouth football.
  • Oregon State-Michigan State: All that green would have the Beavers feeling like they're play Oregon.
  • USC-Penn State: Two old-school powers whose uniforms are among the most recognizable.
  • Nebraska-Arizona State: Any Sun Devils recall 1996?
  • Northwestern-California: Two elite academic universities.
  • Washington-Iowa: A rematch of the 1982, 1991 Rose Bowls, both won by the Huskies.
  • Colorado-Purdue: Two great mascots. (Colorado would have been a good one for Nebraska, too.)
  • Utah-Illinois: Utes vs. Fighting Illini.
  • Washington State-Minnesota: The Cold Bowl.
  • UCLA-Indiana: Two old-school basketball powers playing football.

Rapsai from Eugene, Ore., writes: Ted, with Oregon's lack of depth at RB, do you see Josh Huff maybe sliding into the backfield to play some RB for the Ducks next season?

Ted Miller: A perfectly reasonable solution if there are injury issues in the backfield.

Does it make me a bad person that I don't think the Ducks are going to hurting at running back? I just think with Chip Kelly's emphasis on speed in recruiting that the Ducks will pretty much have an answer at RB, no matter how many guys get hurt. Recall that Kenjon Barner started out as a defensive back.


John from Los Angeles writes: I guess this falls into my "you know your old when you have a story for everything" file. In reading the post about Jonathan Ogden going into the HOF, I noticed your comment on his massive size. My buddies and I take a football road trip every year. We used to include the Baltimore Ravens in the trip because Will Demps (former Ravens safety) played at the high school where my buddy is the AD and he would get us tickets. Anyway, after a game against the Bengals at Cincinnati we are standing next to the Ravens team bus talking to Demps, Ogden and his people come up next to us - and he literally blocks out the sun!! You truly cannot appreciate how BIG the guy is until you stand right next to him. My buddy is wearing his USC cap (he is a big fan), so to amuse myself I keep whispering "Jack, show Ogden your hat." My friend kept his back to Ogden the entire time.

Ted Miller: I remember covering the 1996 Citrus Bowl between Ohio State and Tennessee -- which was cool because both were ranked No. 4 entering the game -- and walking up to the Ohio State bus. I saw No. 75 horsing around around this itty-bitty guy with a bald head who was No. 27.

The itty bitty guy was 6-foot-3, 240-pound, Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George, and No. 75 was 6-foot-7, 325-pound Orlando Pace, who at that moment was the biggest dude I'd ever seen.

And Ogden -- at 6-foot-9, 345 -- darn near dwarfs Pace.

Only guy who ever impressed me as more spectacularly large was Shaquille O'Neal.


Breathe, USC fans, breathe.

In fact, I'd suggest you ignore what happened Tuesday with Ohio State and its slap on the wrist from the NCAA for a massive systemic breakdown and a coverup by head coach, Jim Tressel.

Yes, when you hold up the Ohio State case and the USC case, it's impossible not to conclude the Ohio State case was far more severe. It was, of course, without question. No informed, objective person believes differently.

[+] EnlargeUSC Trojans
Kirby Lee/US PresswireTrojans fans spell out the word playoffs, but there won't be any postseason play for USC this season.
But here's the thing: Being outraged will accomplish nothing. You will be unhappy and your team will still be docked 30 scholarships over the next three years for what one player secretly did while Ohio State will be down just nine scholarships over the same time period for the rule-breaking of five with full knowledge of their head coach. And your unhappiness will provide great joy to folks who don't like your team.

Adopting a placid pose — at least as best as you can — will be good practice for handling potentially more infuriation ahead. The NCAA also likely will give even worst upcoming cases — North Carolina and the University of Miami at Paul Dee — less severe penalties than it gave USC.

Why? Because the NCAA treated USC unfairly — everybody in college sports knows this — and it likely won't revisit such irrational harshness. In the end, the justification for such severe penalties, meted out in contrast to past precedent, was little more than "just because."

But the NCAA, an organization not endowed with a sense of self-awareness, failed to foresee when it curb-stomped USC that among the lawbreakers in college football, the Trojans were jaywalkers amid a mob of bank robbers. Ohio State's sanctions, in fact, represent a return to NCAA normalcy: Mostly toothless penalties that will have little effect on the program's prospects, other than a single-season bowl ban.

There we go again: Fretting the particulars and the injustice of it all.

The point is USC fans have been quite reasonably been shaking their fists at the heavens or, more accurately, the NCAA home office in Indianapolis for two years. That anger has accomplished nothing, other than emboldening taunts from opposing fans.

You know: Fans whose teams didn't finish 10-2 and ranked No. 5 in the nation.

And therein lies the ultimate revenge: Winning.

It's hard to imagine the next five years won't see a USC downturn. Losing 30 scholarships is a tough burden. Things could be particularly difficult in 2014 and 2015, when the true cumulative impact arrives. And it could be even more galling if Ohio State is back in the national title hunt those years. Maybe playing Miami in a Fiesta Bowl rematch!

But if the Trojans can somehow remain in the picture, perhaps playing in a Rose Bowl -- or two -- along the way that would be a heck of a panacea, wouldn't it?

It's a longshot, sure. But other than that, we've got nothing for you USC. Sorry.

Easy, now. Breathe, breathe. Happy place. Happy place.

Oh, no. That's exactly what we were trying to avoid.

UCLA taps Mora to replace Neuheisel

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
2:37
PM ET
Jim L. Mora, a two-time NFL head coach with almost no college experience, is UCLA's new football coach, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com.

And UCLA made the official announcement a short time later.

Mora, 50, is currently an analyst for the NFL Network. He was fired from his last coaching job -- a single season with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 -- after going 5-11. His only college coaching experience? He was a graduate assistant in 1984 at Washington, where he played from 1980-83.

Are Bruins fans going to immediately embrace this hire with buzzing enthusiasm? Probably not, particularly after Arizona and Washington State made splashier hires with Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach.

I like how ESPN LA's Peter Yoon describes things here:
True, Mora isn’t exactly the splashy, big-name hire many UCLA fans were hoping to land, but there are reasons to believe his hire makes a lot of sense.

First, he has no UCLA ties in his past. Second, he is a defensive-minded coach. Third, he has no noteworthy experience as a college coach.

That bucks the trend of the past three UCLA coaches who are seen as the holy triumvirate of mediocrity. Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Neuheisel were all Bruins assistants at some point before they became head coach; Dorrell and Neuheisel were UCLA players.


Before joining Seattle, Mora served as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006. In his first season with Atlanta, the Falcons went 11-5 and made it to the NFC championship game. His teams went 8-8 and 7-9 the next two seasons and he was fired. But keep in mind, he was dealing with QB Michael Vick -- a stellar talent with a terrible work ethic and attitude at that time, something Vick has owned up to after he got out of jail.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJim Mora takes over the head coaching position at UCLA, his first on-field job since coaching the Seattle Seahawks in 2009.
A former Washington Husky reserve who played for Don James, Mora is a defensive guy with a strong resume working with secondaries.

That last part should be encouraging for Bruins fans. His area of specialization is stopping the pass. There, you might have heard, is a lot of throwing in these parts.

Mora also has the potential to be a charismatic recruiter. The parallel UCLA folks are surely thinking of -- whether they want to or not -- is USC's hire of Pete Carroll in 2001. Carroll had little college experience and was generally thought of as a mediocre-to-bad NFL head coach. Just about everyone panned his hire and mocked then-athletic director Mike Garrett's bumbling coaching search (which was a true comedy of errors and sloppiness).

Trojans fans eventually changed their feelings. There's a possibility that Mora will do the same.

"As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem," Mora said in a statement. "Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn't present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin."

It's fair to say Mora was the Bruins' third choice. Boise State's Chris Petersen and Miami coach Al Golden both rejected previous entreaties.

I know UCLA fans don't always appreciate using USC as a measuring stick, but, again, Carroll was the Trojans fourth choice after an 18-day search. He was widely seen as a lightweight.

So this is an outside-of-the-box hire. At the very least, skeptical Bruins fans can grab hold of that.

Further, it's worth noting that a massively negative reaction would serve no useful purpose for the program. In fact, 11 other Pac-12 programs are likely poised to print out such reactions and use them against the Bruins in recruiting.

Meanwhile, the Bruins will play Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31 with interim coach Mike Johnson, who took over after Rick Neuheisel was fired two weeks ago.

Here's the LA Times on the Mora hiring.

The LA Daily News.

And the Orange County Register.

What's up with ASU, UCLA searches?

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
11:28
AM ET
While the bowl games were big news over the weekend, UCLA and Arizona State continue to look for new head coaches.

Here's some skinny.

At UCLA, ESPN LA's Peter Yoon reported that interim head coach Mike Johnson would like to be considered for the job. Here's his update on other candidates:

UCLA has been turned down by Boise State coach Chris Petersen, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions, and eliminated Houston coach Kevin Sumlin as a candidate after meeting with him on Saturday, according to a source. Al Golden of Miami is considered the next top target, though Golden recently signed a four-year contract extension at Miami.


There's some chatter out there about former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora, Jr. My take: That would be a good hire. While things went badly for Mora in Seattle, let's recall that he was the first choice to replace Tyrone Willingham at Washington. He's a charismatic guy with an NFL sensibility that would translate well at UCLA. Recall that the last time a team in LA hired a charismatic guy with an NFL sensibility who had folks scratching their heads turned out OK.

Here's Jon Gold's take in the LA Daily News.

Sources have said that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who met with Sumlin in Houston on Saturday, is essentially rebooting the search and at this point, there are no clear-cut favorites. Miami head coach Al Golden, whom Guerrero interviewed for the job during the post-Karl Dorrell vacancy, is among the candidates, along with SMU head coach June Jones. Sources indicated on Saturday that there was minimal interest in former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti.


UCLA has been the sort of job that more than a few folks thought might lure Bellotti back into coaching. But it doesn't seem, at least at this point, that he's high on the Bruins' list.

Meanwhile, at Arizona State, it appears that Sumlin might not be completely out of the picture, but that SMU coach June Jones' name is front-and-center at present. Still, there are plenty of other names in the rumor swirl. Writes Doug Haller:

Arizona State officials on Saturday met with SMU coach June Jones for more than three hours in Texas.

A report surfaced Sunday that ASU was in position to announce Jones' hire shortly after the university learned of its bowl destination. That wasn't true. According to a source, the Jones push slowed Sunday night. That doesn't mean it's over, but it could be an indication that ASU is having second thoughts.

Sources confirmed Sunday that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora is still in the mix. Baylor coach Art Briles has emerged as a candidate.

I continue to hear ASU likes Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

Also, despite reports that ASU has backed off Sumlin, he still could be in play, especially if Texas A&M goes another direction in its quest to replace fired coach Mike Sherman.


In other words, neither coach search has moved -- at least according to reports -- decisively in one direction.

So stay tuned.

SPONSORED HEADLINES