Pac-12: Notre Dame

The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts; but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?

Elite WR Agholor picks USC

February, 1, 2012
Receiver Nelson Agholor (Berkley Prep, Tampa, Fla.) has announced he will sign with USC.

Agholor, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, the nation's No. 6 receiver and No. 47 overall on the ESPNU 150, picked the Trojans over Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

Opening the mailbag: More on Graham crackers

December, 16, 2011
Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Zach from Mesa, Ariz., writes: Not sure how I should feel about Todd Graham coaching my Sun Devils. Seems like a used-car salesman and he really hasn't done anything.

Mike from Philly writes: I'm not going to call you an idiot, even though that might help get this published, but you've missed the mark on Graham. Not sure if he can coach, but he's completely full of it. He's a liar. He's spineless. Why would anybody want him to lead their sons?

Ted Miller: Got plenty of feedback on my admittedly quasi-Machiavellian takes -- and here -- on Todd Graham bolting Pittsburgh after one year for Arizona State and texting his departure to his players instead of meeting with them face-to-face. I have many thoughts on this, but I'd rather not do another 1,000-plus word column. So I'll try to be brief. Briefer, at least.

Let's start with this: Recall just a week ago when Graham said, "I don't know how else I can say it. I've said it on three different occasions. I'm not going to be the Arizona State's coach."

Oh. Wait. That wasn't Graham talking about Arizona State. That was the best coach in college football. That was, gulp, then Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, talking about Alabama, not Arizona State, and who just days after saying that became... wait for it... wait for it...

Alabama's coach!

And what did Saban say when he later sat down with ESPN Chris Mortensen, who asked if Saban's disingenuousness would be an issue for him in recruiting going forward?

"The number one thing for me, Nick Saban, whatever anyone thinks, is to be a good person," Saban said. "Honesty, integrity, loyalty, being fair and honest with people is always been the trademark of what I've done."

So know that when Graham talked about how important "relationships" were for him Wednesday, that same forehead slap of indignation over the unintentional irony has happened before. And will again. It's the nature of their business.

You cannot compare Saban's and Graham's resumes, of course. But Saban has long been a climber at the highest level while Graham has been scratching and clawing -- some might suggest scurrying -- to arrive at an A-list job. That means you often leave unhappy people in your wake.

Do any Alabama fans care about Saban's messy departure from Miami? Are you kidding? No coach in America is more beloved by his fan base. Why? Have you looked at Saban's win-loss ledger and trophy case?

Same goes for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, who didn't even finish his only season with the Atlanta Falcons before bolting for the Razorbacks, leaving behind only a note for his players.

Graham, suffice it to say, is not alone in the Hall of Coaching Transition Infamy. Don't gloat Arizona fans. You might recall your new coach, Rich Rodriguez had some issues at West Virginia, too.

Then let's consider this name: Mike Riley.

Riley left Oregon State in 1998 after just two season -- his hometown team! -- for the San Diego Chargers, where things went badly. But he got lucky. The Beavers were willing to re-hire him in 2003, believing he'd learned the proverbial "the grass is always greener lesson." No coach in the nation has been more loyal to his university since then while not getting super-rich. At $1.3 million a year, Riley is now the second lowest paid coach in the Pac-12.

He could have doubled his pay when Alabama came calling. He could have tripled his pay when USC came calling. But he remained loyal. And he's been praised for it. Which is nice.

Yet now, despite averaging nine wins a year from 2006-09 at a program that didn't post a winning season from 1971-98, two consecutive losing seasons have him sitting on the conference's hottest seat heading into 2012. There's a vocal minority of fans who believe he should be fired now. A larger percentage believe he needs to make a staff overhaul. My belief is he won't survive a third consecutive losing season.

If Riley had been "disloyal" to Oregon State and bolted in 2010 for USC -- he was widely seen as then-athletic director Mike Garrett's first choice -- he would have more job security today than he does now and a far more financially-secure future for his family. This side of the story is rarely considered, but such cautionary tales pass by word of mouth among coaches -- i.e., watch your back and look out for No. 1.

Maybe Graham is a double-talking con artist. Or maybe his circumstances and opportunities just have been different than other coaches, particularly in terms of timing. Maybe he felt like he and his family being unhappy at Pittsburgh was a good enough reason to leave for a place they wanted to go.

What Arizona State fans need to know is this: This is a tempest in a teapot. It's the story of the week. If Arizona State wins eight games next year, there will be grins all around in Tempe. And if the Sun Devils go to the Rose Bowl within five years with Graham, his exit from Pitt will, at most, be a curious sidenote.

Brian from Pullman, Wash., writes: In your post "Imagining the perfect coach," you said that "There are only 10 or so destination jobs in college football -- places where there really isn't a move up." I'm curious to know which universities you believe are on this list.

Ted Miller: My list of 13 destination jobs would include (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas and USC.

Of course, everyone's personal list would be different. I'd rather be the coach at Stanford or California -- Bay Area! -- than Nebraska or Oklahoma. But the quality of area restaurants is more important to me than most coaches.

And immediate circumstances matter. Even before the Penn State scandal, following Joe Paterno would have been an extraordinary challenge. No one likes to be the man after the man.

Factors? Tradition, stadium size, all-time winning percentage, recruiting base and revenue.

Lolita from Riverside, Calif., writes: My name is Lolita Anderson. I am Dres Anderson's mother. I am so elated! Thank you so much for my son's recognition. You absolutely made our family's Christmas! By the way what rubric do you use when making these decisions? This is Awesome!!! Go Airforce! Go Utes!!

Ted Miller: Most of it has to do with on-field performance.

But some of it is based on having a cool mom.

Arizona lands touted tight end

June, 7, 2011
Is a Rob Gronkowski sequel coming to Tucson?

Tight end Taylor McNamara (San Diego, Calif./Westview) has committed to Arizona, ESPN's Greg Biggins reports.

A member of the ESPNU150, McNamara had offers from USC, Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Miami, Maryland and Kentucky.

So this is a big get for the Wildcats.

"There were a lot of reasons why I liked Arizona. I'll have a chance to play early there, I'm comfortable with the school and the direction the program is going in, it's close enough to home for my parents and coaches to come and watch me and I like the players on the team and trust the coaching staff there," he told Biggins.

McNamara, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, is the Wildcats' third commitment.

Some notes on the schedule

January, 5, 2010
The Pac-10's 2010 schedule will once again feature the nation's toughest nonconference slate, as well as games on Thursday and Friday.

And, once again, most of those nonconference games are on the road.

The season opens with USC's visit to Hawaii on Sept. 2, a Thursday night game on ESPN, but the first weekend includes four tough road tests.

Saturday, Sept. 4
  • UCLA at Kansas State
  • Oregon State vs. TCU (Cowboys Stadium)
  • Washington at Brigham Young
  • Washington State at Oklahoma State

Other tough nonconference road games: Oregon at Tennessee (9/11), Arizona State at Wisconsin (9/18), USC at Minnesota (9/18), Oregon State at Boise State (9/25), Stanford at Notre Dame (9/25), UCLA at Texas (9/25).

As for nonconference home games: Iowa at Arizona (9/18), Colorado at California (9/11), Virginia at USC (9/11), Syracuse at Washington (9/11), Louisville at Oregon State (9/18), Wake Forest at Stanford (9/18), Houston at UCLA (9/18) and Nebraska at Washington (9/18).

The first weekend of all Pac-10 games is Oct. 2, but Stanford visits UCLA on Sept. 11 for the first conference game of the season.

A quick thought: After USC played perhaps the nation's toughest schedule in 2009, things dial back in 2010. No nonconference foe figures to be ranked in the preseason, and the Trojans will play host to Oregon, California and Notre Dame. While three of the first four games are on the road, each is manageable and, from Oct. 2 until the end of the season, there are no consecutive road games.

Oregon, the Pac-10 front-runner, plays at Tennessee, at USC, at California and at Oregon State.

Carroll not fretting about USC defense

November, 18, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

USC coach Pete Carroll doesn't see any reason for massive scheme or personnel changes after Stanford rushed for 202 against the Trojans previously impenetrable defense last weekend.

He said it came down to two busted plays.

"They had a 40-yard scramble and they had a 40-yard play where guys missed tackles -- that's it," Carroll said. "It's nothing more than that. It's no mystery or nothing."

Two plays gained 80 yards -- Carroll termed them "freebies" -- while the other 38 netted 122 (3.2 per rush).

That's not as dominant as Carroll would like, but Stanford and tailback Toby Gerhart have run well against just about whoever they've faced (other Arizona State and TCU the second and third game of the season).

"Give [Gerhart] credit for a good run -- he's done that all year -- but we had four of our top guys bounce off the guy," Carroll said.

Stanford's 367 total yards did drop USC from No. 1 to No. 2 in the nation in total defense behind TCU (222.5 yards per game), though the Trojans 3.52 yards per play is No. 1 by a significant margin (.28 yards). USC also fell to sixth in run defense (90.2 yards per game), but remained No. 1 in scoring (8.3 ppg).

So there's no panic yet as the Trojans head into a bye week before facing Notre Dame on Nov. 29.

"They earned them -- I'm not taking anything away from them," Carroll said. "But there's no cause for distress."

Notre Dame-Washington has lost its luster

October, 22, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Notre Dame's visit to Washington on Saturday is a train wreck for Tyrone Willingham without a doubt, but it's a train wreck that won't satisfy most rubberneckers because the ruins and carnage are no longer mysterious or resonant.

The plot lines may be worthy of a raised national eyebrow but are entirely lacking the buzz they once promised.

Notre Dame is on the rise in Year 4 of the Charlie Weis era. Conversely, Washington's decline under Willingham has reached a breakneck pace to the tune of a winless season and an 11-31 record.

So this game, circled in red ink in 2005 as a potential final measure of the wisdom of Notre Dame's controversial firing of Willingham -- and the Huskies decision to then hire him -- no longer possesses intrigue.

Notre Dame is 4-2 and has once again become a national recruiting power. Washington is 0-6 and is on its way to its worst recruiting class in recent program history. Chances of Willingham coaching the Huskies next year fall somewhere between zero and none at all.

Still, the questions must be asked, even though reporters expected to gain no insight from Willingham concerning what must be going on inside him.

"I think what I always try to do is take the Tyrone Willingham out of things," he said.

Asked how that could be possible, he replied, "That's something that everybody else will dwell on. After we finish [the Monday news conference], I will be simply focused on our football game and try to move our football team in that direction. And at some point, some of you will tire of that and move on to something else.

Willingham, though growing grimmer and grimmer after every defeat, continues to profess hope for a turnaround.

He insisted "there are some positives with how our guys are fighting." Later, he talked of "hoping that the breakthrough comes this year."

(Read full post)

Best case-worst case: USC

August, 7, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

You know how a season can be magical? Every Pac-10 team has experienced that at least once over the past 14 years.

  • Arizona in 1998
  • Arizona State in 1996
  • California in 2004
  • Oregon in 2001
  • Oregon State in 2000
  • Stanford in 1999
  • UCLA in 1998
  • Washington in 2000
  • Washington State in 1997 and 2002

And USC in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 ... Or is that just 2003 and 2004?

(Perhaps that's a bonus for rooting for any team other than USC: The Trojans magic threshold these days is national championship or bust.)

On the other side of the coin: Know how a season can be just dreadful?

Every Pac-10 team has experienced it during that same span.

  • Arizona in 2003
  • Arizona State in 2001
  • California in 2001
  • Oregon in 2004
  • Oregon State in 1995
  • Stanford in 2006
  • UCLA in 1999
  • USC in 2000
  • Washington in 2004
  • Washington State in 1998

So let's look at how magic or disaster might play out for each Pac-10 team in 2008, starting with USC.

Best Case: USC wins national title

Any concerns that USC might start flat at Virginia while looking ahead to Ohio State are quickly flattened by an overwhelming show of force in Charlottesville. Mark Sanchez splits four TD passes between Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton and Stafon Johnson rushes 15 times for 142 yards and a score as the Trojans pitch a 42-0 shutout. The Cavaliers gain just 104 total yards and afterward accuse USC linebacker Rey Maualuga of eating one of their tailbacks. Maualuga denies the allegation (hic).

That sets up the 2008 season's Game of the Century, but it turns out to be no game at all. The Trojans speed overwhelms the Buckeyes in a 28-10 victory, and's servers are similarly overwhelmed by I-told-you-so messages left for a certain Pac-10 blogger who predicted otherwise.

The Trojans proceed to rumble unscathed through their remaining schedule, though Arizona becomes the first team to score more than 20 points on their dominant defense. Stanford also proves surprisingly stout, refusing to be cowed by the whole "revenge" angle the media relentlessly works before the game. Charlie Weis has Notre Dame dress in green head-to-toe, but USC throttles the Irish 66-3. The Trojans then serenade Weis with, "It's not easy being green," as he slinks off the field.

In the season finale, UCLA sprints into the halftime locker room excited about a 10-10 tie. Sanchez then splits four second-half touchdown passes between freshman WR Brice Butler and RB Joe McKnight as the Trojans roll for a 41-10 victory.

In Miami for the national title game, Florida fans go nuts when USC DT Fili Moala calls Tim Tebow a "poor-man's Jake Locker." The Trojans then sack Tebow six times and hold him to 17 total yards in a 31-0 USC victory.

After the game, a wide-eyed Urban Meyer admits that USC is the greatest team in the history of the world. SEC fans, coaches and administrators gather in a secret meeting in Birmingham and agree that SEC teams shouldn't play USC ever again because "they'd just open a can of whup-butt on us."

Worst Case: Dynasty implodes

USC looks flat and unfocused at Virginia, and coach Pete Carroll yanks QB Mark Sanchez after his third interception. Backup Mitch Mustain comes off the bench to salvage a 21-20 victory, but center Kristofer O'Dowd is lost for the season to a back injury, the first of seven starters who will suffer season-ending injuries.

With Ohio State coming to town, Carroll announces that he remains pumped and that Sanchez will again start. Mustain tells the LA Daily News that Carroll is going the way of the Song Girls. Ohio State sprints past the Trojans 24-7, and the nation mourns the Buckeyes almost certain selection to another BCS title game.

On Monday, Mustain announces he's transferring. Carroll tells reporters that he remains pumped but that Aaron Corp will start at quarterback at Oregon State.

The 3-0, 12th-ranked Beavers and their completely rebuilt front-seven dominate the Trojans struggling offensive line, sacking Corp seven times in a 17-3 win.

Carroll says he's a little less pumped than normal.

On Wednesday, the NCAA announces major sanctions against the USC athletic program for violations uncovered in the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo investigations.

Carroll admits he is no longer pumped. The Trojans fall to 3-4 with a 35-20 loss at No. 14 Arizona. Wildcats coach Mike Stoops shows he's pumped by making like a revival preacher on the sidelines.

The Trojans appear to right themselves with wins over Washington, California and Stanford (sweet revenge!) but Notre Dame and genius coach Charlie Weis expose the overrated USC defense in a 47-21 win. Weis calls timeout with 0:03 remaining so he can throw one last touchdown pass.

A decidedly unpumped Carroll shakes hands with a decidedly pumped Rick Neuheisel after UCLA showcases a brutal running game behind a dominant offensive line, rushing for 353 yards in a 28-24 victory.

Super-recruit and USC commit Mat Barkley announces he's changed his mind and will sign with UCLA.

Carroll is hired as the defensive coordinator for the Phoenix Cardinals.

"I'm pumped," he says.

(OK, all that's sort of silly ... USC's worst case is a loss to Ohio State and a second-place finish in the Pac-10 -- with sanctions handed down over the Bush matter by the NCAA. And Carroll bolts for the NFL).

Opening the Mailbag: Part II of II

August, 6, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Miller: Yeah... what he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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