Pac-12: O.J. Simpson

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To the notes.

Clarence from Cincinnati writes: Stanford is 4-9 against Oregon since the turn of the millennium. Stanford's superstar, Andrew Luck, was 1-2 against Oregon (with both losses in the years he was runner-up for the Heisman). Those two losses were lost in an Oregon-dominant fashion (2010: 52-31 at Autzen; 2011: 53-30 at Palo Alto). The 2010 loss was especially critical as it was Stanford's only loss that season. Listening to fans and analysts, one would think that Stanford has dominated Oregon for years, when they have just recently figured out the Oregon puzzle. Is Stanford in the midst of dominating Oregon for years to come, or is it just that Stanford is a solid program that has been able to beat a rival two consecutive times? (As a cross-sport comparison, the Los Angeles Clippers hold two consecutive Pacific Division titles.

Ted Miller: Wait. Are you accusing the media of over-hyping an angle instead of taking a more measured perspective? I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that you would say such a thing.

SHOCKED!

You probably think I'd drop a completely irrelevant reference to the Washington-Oregon rivalry and how Washington-Oregon is so much COOLER just to get a rise out of folks. Of course, I would never do that, though you well know that Oregon-Washington is SO much COOLER. (I used my best Eric Cartman voice while typing that.)

First of all, 4-9 since 2001 is irrelevant. The present incarnation of Oregon-Stanford starts with Jim Harbaugh vs. Chip Kelly in 2009, a Stanford upset, by the way, that leaves the relevant count at 3-2 Stanford.

Second, call it fair play. We once wrote -- endlessly, from the Stanford perspective -- on Stanford's "Oregon Problem." So after consecutive Stanford victories in the series and resulting Pac-12 North titles, it only seems fair we reverse our position and give Oregon a Stanford problem.

Further, it's the related nature of both "problems" -- the Stanford defense. In the Ducks' wins in 2010 and 2011, they scored 105 points combined. In their losses the past two seasons, they scored 37 points combined. I can't help but feel those numbers are meaningful.

When Luck lost two in a row to Oregon in his prime, the problem was the Ducks' style and speed, not to mention Kelly's "oh no he didn't!" aggressiveness -- recall that audacious onside kick that transformed the 2010 game. The Ducks seemed to have the Cardinal's number, something that David Shaw didn't deny or hide from, which struck me as a smart coaching move.

Enter Derek Mason. There's a reason he's now the head coach at Vanderbilt. He figured out a defensive scheme that contained the Ducks and didn't allow them to dictate the game's tempo. But it wasn't only about some mystical scheme. Much of the squeeze Stanford put on Oregon's offense wasn't terribly complicated. Mason emphasized containment, winning one-on-one battles, tackling in space and then convinced his defense they were the unstoppable force of nature, not the Ducks.

The buy-in in 2012 in Autzen Stadium was tremendous. And stunning. That carried over to 2013, though I am -- sorry, Stanford fans -- one who believes a healthy Marcus Mariota would have made that game much different.

The reality is these are two elite programs whose annual matchup is even more fun because of the contrast of styles, though the idea that Oregon doesn't play physical football is inane.

Do I believe Stanford will dominate Oregon for years to come? No. I picked Oregon to win the Pac-12 this year -- I picked Stanford last year -- and I think the Ducks will take care of business in Autzen Stadium on Nov. 1.


Jim from Los Angeles writes: I'm curious why you repeatedly state that Taylor Kelly was better than Brett Hundley last season? Yes, I realize that ASU won the South, and that Kelly took second-team honors, but Hundley had the better passer rating (153.7-139.6) and total QBR (82.3-74.9). Factor in UCLA's offensive line injuries and that no UCLA receiver was as good as Jaelen Strong and I think Hundley was noticeably better last year.

Ted Miller: Well, the two main reasons you stated: 1. Kelly was named second-team All-Pac-12 over Hundley by the Pac-12 coaches; 2. He outplayed Hundley in their head-to-head matchup in the Rose Bowl, a game that decided the South Division.

While Hundley's efficiency numbers were better, Kelly passed for more yards per game (259.6 vs. 236.2), produced more yards of total offense per game (303.1 vs. 293.8) and was responsible for more touchdowns (37 vs. 35). The Sun Devils also averaged more points per game (39.7 vs. 36.9).

That said, I think I used the word "nipped" more than a few times to describe any distinction between the two. Both had fantastic seasons with comparable numbers.

Further, you might have noticed this: We rated Kelly No. 5 and Hundley No. 3 in our preseason countdown of the Pac-12's top-25 players.

Hundley is a tremendous talent who still was a little raw last year. I think it's fair to rate Kelly's 2013 season as better, just as I think it's fair to project Hundley to do more this fall. And probably in the NFL, though I've also learned not to count Kelly out.


GQ from Los Angeles writes: Ted, you must be a baseball writer also and vote for the Hall of fame. Regardless of what you think about a person, you cannot ignore a person's accomplishments. As bad a person that O.J. Simpson turned out to be, ignoring what he did on the football field makes this conversation a farce. It's like saying Hitler wasn't a great politician. Sports are based on statistics and many sports writers are not qualified to make social judgments. That is not what they were hired to be.

Ted Miller: Wow. Steroids. Alleged murder. Hitler.

I wrote about 400 words on this, then cut it and came up with this briefer conclusion: I am qualified to make the social judgment on this blog that O.J. is out. If you wish to celebrate O.J., start your own blog.


SirTrojan from Camas, Washington, writes: Ted, Please pass this on to Ms. Jennings. Her piece on music choices for Pac-12 coaches was, on the whole, amusing and well thought-out. However I have a major beef with her selection for USC's music. What would happen if Arthur Bartner were to read that column and become inspiried to incorporate "Let It Go" into the band's repertoire? With the penchant the Spirit of Troy has for playing a singular song over and over and over and over and over (you get the clue) I would swear off all allegiance to USC immediately! You see, I have a 2 1/2-year-old girl whose singing makes Rosanne Barr sound like Michael Bublé. Can you guess her favorite song that assaults my ear drums morning, noon and night? This could quickly spiral downward. Please don't let me end up homeless in Fargo, N.D.

Ted Miller: SirTrojan wins the award for note that made me grin this week.

No. 1, I bet your wife would give you a frowny face for writing: "... I have a 2 1/2-year-old girl whose singing makes Rosanne Barr sound like Michael Bublé." The rule I've found with moms and their child's singing is it sounds like an angelic chorus, at least until we dads are officially advised otherwise... and best to get that in writing.

No. 2, I knew my 5-year-old was truly my son when "Let It Go" came on the radio -- briefly -- and he went, "Gaaaaaaa... Dad, I hate this song.... change it. Oh, the horror... the horror..."

(The "Heart of Darkness" reference may be an embellishment on my part.)

Greatest season in USC history?

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
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USC Trojans football has been defined by great teams and great individual seasons for decades. How about seven Heisman Trophy winners, starting with Mike Garrett in 1965 and finishing with Reggie Bush in 2005 -- though there is, of course, an asterisk by Bush's name due to NCAA violations.

ESPN.com launched its The Season package Monday, which looked at the best seasons recorded for each major college football team, and we tapped Marcus Allen's 1981 Heisman campaign as No. 1 for the Trojans. That pick, while we feel pretty good about it, wasn't easy.

SportsNation

Who had the best season in USC's history?

  •  
    37%
  •  
    7%
  •  
    3%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,090)

That's why we're curious about your takes.

In order to narrow our field to five, we dropped Garrett and O.J. Simpson from the running. Garrett's numbers don't hold up, while we'd just as soon not hear Simpson's name ever again.

So that leaves Charles White, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Bush as choices for you to unseat Allen.

As for Allen, he was pretty spectacular in 1981, becoming the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, a number he shattered with 2,427 yards. He also won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, finishing with 2,683 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns. In addition, he was the Trojans' leading receiver and set 14 new NCAA records and tied two others. Further, he beat out a star-studded list of candidates: Georgia's Herschel Walker, BYU's Jim McMahon and Pittsburgh's Dan Marino.

A downside? His team finished 9-3 and No. 14 in the final AP poll. A big finish is where White, Allen's tailback predecessor, has Allen beat.

White's USC teams won the Rose Bowl in 1978 and 1979, splitting a national title in 1978 with Alabama and finishing second behind the Crimson Tide in 1979, his senior season. That year, White led the nation with an average of 194.1 yards per game. In the last 10 games of his senior season, he averaged 201 yards rushing per game. He finished with 2,050 yards (including the bowl game) and 19 TDs. His 6.2 yards per carry bested Allen's 5.6, too.

White unseated Oklahoma's Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman winner, with a dominant percentage of first-place votes (453 vs. 82).

Leinart and Bush were sort of a tandem during USC's dynastic run under then-coach Pete Carroll, nearly leading the Trojans to three consecutive national titles.

In 2004, Leinart led the Trojans to an undefeated national title run, including a dominant victory over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Orange Bowl. He became just the third QB in three decades to lead his team to back-to-back national titles. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,322 yards with 33 TDs and six picks. A three-time All-American, he was 37-2 as a starter and placed third in the Heisman race in 2005, when Bush won over Texas' Vince Young.

As for Bush, it wasn't just numbers for him. A human highlight film, he's probably the flashiest of all USC Heisman winners. He led the nation in 2005 with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and ranked fourth in the nation with 133.85 yards rushing per game. He finished with 1,740 yards rushing and an eye-popping 8.7 yards per carry with 16 TDs. A great receiver, he also had 39 receptions for 481 yards and two scores. He returned punts and kicks as well. He set a Pac-10 record with a spectacular 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State and earned perhaps dubious honors as the namesake of the "Bush Push" against Notre Dame.

Finally, there's Palmer, a four-year starter who suffered through some lean years before leading the 2002 Trojans to the opening of their dynastic run. He won all Heisman voting regions after he passed for 3,942 yards with 33 TDs and 10 picks, completing 63 percent of his passes.

Palmer also didn't have anyone to lean on while winning over voters. He was the first West Coast winner of the award since Allen. Palmer mostly rewrote the Pac-10's passing record book and went on to become the first pick of the 2003 NFL draft.

That's a pretty scintillating list. So how do you rank them?

Building a Pac-10 'House of Pain'

August, 5, 2010
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Here's our take on the most painful losses for each Pac-10 team.

Feel free to disagree.

Arizona

Oregon 44, Arizona 41, 2OT, 2009

With "College GameDay" on campus for the first time, Arizona fans stormed the field in celebration. Prematurely. And that set up a red ring of disappointment around the field at packed Arizona Stadium, when Jeremiah Masoli rallied the Ducks late for a tie in regulation and then a win in double-overtime. As it turned out, if the Wildcats had won, they would have gone to the school's first Rose Bowl. Masoli tied the game at 31-31 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with six seconds left, capping a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Two plays before, he had converted an 8-yard pass on fourth-and-5. Masoli scored the game winner from 1-yard out in the second overtime. It was his sixth touchdown of the night -- three passing and three running. It may have been the best game of 2009.

Arizona State

Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17, Rose Bowl, 1997

So close to a national championship. The Sun Devils' 11-0 regular season included a 19-0 victory over defending national champion Nebraska, and they looked poised to win in Pasadena when Jake Plummer, on third-and-11, scrambled for a touchdown and 17-14 lead with 1:40 to play. But the Buckeyes weren't done. They drove 65 yards for the winning score, with David Boston hauling in a touchdown pass from five yards out with 19 seconds left. That pass was thrown by Ohio State's backup quarterback, Joe Germaine, who came off the bench to earn game MVP honors. Germaine was born and raised in Arizona and grew up rooting for ASU but opted to go to Ohio State because the Sun Devils coaches wanted him to play defensive back.

California

USC 23, California 17, 2004

Cal dominated the best USC team of the Pete Carroll era -- the Bears outgained the Trojans 424 yards to 205 -- but a comeback attempt fell short at the end. It was the Bears only regular season loss, despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers tying an NCAA record by completing 23 consecutive passes. Rodgers was nearly perfect until three throws missed from the USC 14-yard line in the final minute. Cal was undone by poor special teams play and three turnovers (versus one from USC). Making the defeat even more bitter: After a lobbying effort from Texas coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns eclipsed the Bears in the BCS standings and played in the Rose Bowl, which relegated Cal, which hadn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1959, to the Holiday Bowl, where they played without passion in an upset lost to Texas Tech.

Oregon

Arizona 34, Oregon 24, 2007

It's hard to decide between the 49-42 loss to Stanford in 2001 -- the Ducks lone defeat that season -- or this one (the 2000 Civil War defeat also deserves note). The Stanford loss -- after leading 42-28 -- ended a 23-game winning streak and was the Ducks first home loss in four years. It also cost the Ducks a shot at the national title against Miami. At Arizona in 2007 on Thursday night on ESPN, the 8-1 Ducks were ranked No. 2 and quarterback Dennis Dixon was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. They led 8-7 and were driving when Dixon blew out his knee (he'd first hurt it 12 days before versus Arizona State). Things mostly fell apart from there, in the game and over the final two games of the regular season. Here's the distinction: 2001 and its final No. 2 ranking still rate as the best season in program history. If Oregon had beaten Stanford, however, it would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl, the BCS title game, and that Hurricanes team was, well, awesome (in the real sense of the word). If the 2007 Ducks had won out and played LSU or Ohio State for the national title, their chances would have been very good to win the program's first national title. Instead, the season ended in major disappointment -- the Sun Bowl -- and an overwhelming sense of what might have been.

(Read full post)

Pac-10 football Mt. Rushmore?

February, 9, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Sure some of you folks already have seen this but it may have gotten lost in the recruiting hoopla for many of you: ESPN.com did a state-by-state "Mt. Rushmore" of sports.

You can vote for your favorite here. And here's the index.

It was notable to me that the only two Pac-10 football presences were Don James for Washington and Pat Tillman for Arizona. Pac-10 hoops produced John Wooden for California and Lute Olsen for Arizona.

By way of comparison, two of the four picks from Alabama and Florida emerged from college football.

Wonder how some of you might envision a Mt. Rushmore of Pac-10 football.

To me, the two certainties would be Don James and John McKay.

It would be hard not to include Pete Carroll. Tillman would be a good one -- good granite chin, too.

If it were still 1993, O.J. Simpson would be a possibility.

Who else?

Terry Baker? Terry Donahue?

Frank Kush? Howard Jones?

Marcus Allen? Pappy Waldorf? Carson Palmer? John Elway? Troy Aikman? Jim Plunkett? Gary Beban? Charles White?

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

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