Pac-12: Reggie Bush

Amid tangled feelings, USC to honor Carroll

September, 24, 2014
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Pete Carroll won't be at USC on Saturday when he will be one of 16 former Trojans inducted into the university's Hall of Fame class, but it's not too difficult to wax nostalgic imagining his name again reverberating in the Coliseum where he helped establish a college football dynasty. It also will be impossible not to recall that he bolted shortly before NCAA sanctions sent a wrecking ball through the program he constructed.

That program is 37-18 (.673) in the four-plus seasons since he left, which isn't bad for many teams, particularly when operating with scholarship reductions. But this is USC, and Carroll went 97-19 (.836) in nine years. He won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships. The program he led to 34 consecutive victories during a remarkable span of dominance, however, is coming off an enfeebled effort at Boston College. While those NCAA sanctions will no longer yoke the program going forward, they are still being painfully felt, see a scant 61 scholarship players available Saturday against Oregon State.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
AP Photo/Michael ConroyLove him or hate him, former Trojans coach Pete Carroll will be inducted into USC's Hall of Fame.
The distance between the program 10 years ago and now seems vast. Can that distance again be traversed? The Pac-12 at present is much deeper than the Pac-10 he ruled. The effort at BC also had some wondering if his top acolyte, Steve Sarkisian, owns even an approximate resurrective power, though it might be worth recalling Carroll went 6-6 and lost to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl his first season.

USC fans are going to cheer for Carroll in absentia on Saturday, as well they should. But for some there will be a tangle of competing feelings, which are aggravated by the uncertain present and future of the program.

Very few fame narratives are straight lines in our culture. While college football isn't Hollywood or national politics in terms of a Pavlovian response to scandal, you can't name too many coaches who posted careers without well-reported embarrassments, particularly over the past two decades when media coverage expanded exponentially. At least, not too many successful ones.

While the totality of their work on the field and general consensus about their overall character often wins out over the longterm for their lasting public perception, a legitimate evaluation can't ignore the ugly events that happened under their watch. So it is with Carroll.

He took over a foundering national power that went 19-18 over the three seasons before he arrived and built a dynasty. He went 6-1 in BCS bowl games. The Trojans also were crushed by NCAA sanctions for extra benefits Reggie Bush and his parents received when Carroll was head coach. More than a few outsiders, as well as a few insiders, believe Carroll dashed for the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 after spurning previous NFL entreaties because he wanted to get out while the getting was good.

There were other reasons that might have motivated him to leave, other than the NCAA. It shouldn't be omitted that Carroll bolted after his worst season since 2001, his first at USC. The Trojans had lost three of their final six games in 2009, including the humiliating 55-21 "What's your deal?" defeat to Jim Harbaugh and Stanford. His last game was an Emerald Bowl victory over Boston College -- no irony intended -- and the Trojans finished 9-4 overall.

There were whispers that his magic was gone, a not entirely unpopular take with opposing coaches. Carroll had started to miss on some recruits, and others who had sign ended up becoming highly rated busts.

Carroll has repeatedly and adamantly denied he left because he was worried about the direction at USC or impending NCAA sanctions. In fact, this summer he told the Los Angeles Times that he wouldn't have left the Trojans, even for a five-year contract worth about $35 million and near total control over personnel decisions, if he'd known how severe the sanctions would be.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh
AP Photo/Matt SaylesPete Carroll's No. 11 USC Trojans lost their third game of the season to Jim Harbaugh and his 25th-ranked Stanford Cardinal on Nov. 14, 2009.
"Had we known that that was imminent ... I would never have been able to leave under those circumstances," he told The Times. "When I look back now, I would have stayed there to do what we needed to do to resolve the problem."

That's an eyebrow-raising assertion that can't be measured for factuality, so you can choose to believe it or not. While there are many, many coaches more predisposed to spout bull manure than Carroll, he has always been media savvy and is not above a little gamesmanship during interviews. He knows saying that might score him some points with USC fans. It is, however, just words.

Of course, what he produced on the field is his truest measure, at least for how we, the observing class, evaluate his professional output. His hiring in December 2000 was widely mocked as bumbling athletic director Mike Garrett settling for his fourth choice. A lot of pundits wondered if his "Win Forever!" shtick would work in the NFL, where he'd previously failed, when the Seahawks gave him a big and blank check. He's proven two sets of naysayers wrong, joining Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win a Super Bowl and a college national championship.

He's even won the PR battle with the NCAA. The overwhelming consensus now is the 2010 sanctions against USC were unfair, even borderline corrupt. That ruling, in fact, might even be viewed as a Point A for the NCAA's recent decline into a feckless body that can neither govern effectively nor enforce rules. With Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami and Penn State seemingly being far worse transgressors of rules and decorum in recent years than USC under Carroll -- Head coaches lying! Academic fraud! A booster running amuck! A child molester on staff! -- the Bush ruling has become more of a negative reflection on the NCAA than Carroll.

In 2000, Carroll was a coaching afterthought. Nearly 14 years later, he's persevered into rarefied air, where he merits consideration for greatness.

USC fans are going to cheer when Carroll's name is announced and remember him fondly on Saturday, as well they should. It's also probably time for the conflicted to untangle their feelings about the man.

Top 10 Pac-12 seasons

August, 7, 2014
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ESPN.com has been looking at the greatest seasons in college football history this week -- overall and by team.

Today, we look at the 10 greatest seasons in Pac-12 history. And, yes, we made the overall success of a player's team part of our evaluation.

Feel free to disagree.

(Note: It was a management decision to exclude great Utah and Colorado seasons that occurred outside of the conference. So no Rashaan Salaam nor Alex Smith).

1. Marcus Allen, USC (1981): He was the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards, piling up 2,342 yards in 12 games. Finished with 2,683 yards of total offense and 23 TDs. He won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

2. Matt Leinart, USC (2004): The Heisman Trophy winner as a junior, 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 interceptions.

3. Jim Plunkett, Stanford (1970): Stanford's only Heisman winner, he piled up 3,189 yards of total offense and was responsible for 22 touchdowns. He led the Cardinal to the Pac-8 title and an unset of No. 2 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

4. Charles White, USC (1979): White led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory and No. 2 final ranking on his way to the Heisman Trophy. He led the nation with an average of 194.1 yards per game, finishing with 2,050 yards and 19 TDs.

5. Terry Baker, Oregon State (1962): He won the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award, passing for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns, and producing 2,261 yards of total offense. His 24 total TDs led the nation. The Beavers won their final seven games, finished 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl.

6. Reggie Bush, USC (2005): While his name is shrouded in controversy and his 2005 Heisman Trophy was officially taken away, you can't take away what he did on the field, which included nearly leading USC to a third consecutive national title. He led the nation with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and ranked fourth in the nation with 133.85 yards rushing per game, which included a stunning 8.7 yards per carry.

7. Gary Beban, UCLA (1967): UCLA's only Heisman winner, he piled up 1,586 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns. The only downside is he went 1-2-1, including losing to USC, in his final four games.

8. Ryan Leaf, Washington State (1997): Forget for a moment his NFL flop and post-football shenanigans, he was brilliant in 1997, leading the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in 67 years. He passed for 3,968 yards and was responsible for a whopping 40 TDs. Finished third in Heisman voting.

9. Steve Emtman, Washington (1991): He was the centerpiece of one of the greatest Pac-10/12 teams of all time, a Huskies crew that dominated foes on its way to a 12-0 record and a split national title with Miami. He won the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy and was the Pac-10 defensive POY. The consensus All-American finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman, leading a defense that yielded 9.58 points per game.

10. Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2002): Suggs set an NCAA record with 24 sacks on his way to becoming a unanimous All-American, Bronko Nagurski Award winner, Lombardi Award winner and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He also had 31 1/2 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles. The downside is the Sun Devils went 8-6 and weren't terribly good on defense as a whole.

Greatest season in USC history?

August, 5, 2014
8/05/14
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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?


USC officially will be done with NCAA sanctions on Tuesday, so the Los Angeles Times published a package this weekend looking back and projecting forward, talking to -- or getting turned down for interviews by -- some of the key players in the most egregious miscarriage of justice in the history of NCAA enforcement.

It's not inaccurate to say the NCAA's indefensible and farcical ruling against USC football is a notable part of the organization's humiliating and entirely justified downward momentum over the past four or so years, both in terms of public perception and in the courtroom, as well as the movement for autonomy among the Big Five conferences.

The NCAA is incapable of fairly and consistently policing its member organizations. That's as good a reason as any to diminish its power.

From the Times:
As many of you know, I've ranted and raved about the USC case numerous times through the years -- such as this and this and this. While some have implied that the source of my strong feelings on the matter emerges from some sort of USC/Pac-12 bias, that's simply inaccurate. It's always been about facts and fairness. Truth is, it's been a pretty easy argument to win -- over and over again.

That said: This feels like a great week for the Pac-12 blog. I am weary of the whole mess. Too often it disturbed my typical Zen-like equilibrium.

USC has spent the last four years getting justifiably mad. The Trojans best course going forward is to get even.

Pac-12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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We're looking back at the BCS era, which lasted from 1998 to 2013, so it made sense to make an all-Pac-12 BCS-era team.

Here's our shot at it. You surely will be outraged over the player from your team who got left out.

With our evaluation, NFL careers came into play with only the offensive linemen because they are so difficult to compare.

Offense

[+] EnlargeMatt Leinart
Jeff Lewis/USA TODAY SportsFormer USC QB Matt Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, threw 99 career TD passes.
QB Matt Leinart, USC: Nearly won three national titles. Won 2004 Heisman Trophy and placed third in 2005. Threw 99 career TD passes.

RB Reggie Bush, USC: The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was one of the most dynamic players in college football history. (Bush returned the Heisman in 2012.)

RB LaMichael James, Oregon: Two-time first-team All-Pac-12, 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous All-American finished his career ranked second in Pac-12 history in rushing yards (5,082) and TDs (53). Nips other stellar RBs such as Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Stanford's Toby Gerhart and USC's LenDale White.

WR Mike Hass, Oregon State: Two-time first-team All-Pac-12 and 2005 Biletnikoff Award winner was the first Pac-12 player to record three consecutive seasons over 1,000 yards receiving. His 3,924 receiving yards ranks third all time in the conference. This, of course, could have been fellow Beaver Brandin Cooks or USC's Marqise Lee, who both also won the Biletnikoff Award.

WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC: A two-time consensus All-American, he set the Pac-12 standard with 41 touchdown receptions.

TE Marcedes Lewis, UCLA: A 2005 consensus All-American and John Mackey Award winner as the nation's best tight end. Caught 21 career TD passes.

OL David Yankey, Stanford: A unanimous All-American in 2013, he was a consensus All-American and Morris Trophy winner as the Pac-12's best offensive lineman in 2012.

OL Sam Baker, USC: A 2006 consensus All-American and three-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

OL Ryan Kalil, USC: Won the 2006 Morris Trophy. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

OL David DeCastro, Stanford: A unanimous All-American in 2011 and two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

OL Alex Mack, California: A two-time winner of the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best offensive lineman (2007 & 2008).

K Kai Forbath, UCLA: Consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award winner in 2009. Made 84.16 percent of his field goals, which is nearly 5 percent better than any other kicker in conference history.

Defense

LB Rey Maualuga, USC: Was a consensus All-American and won the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player in 2008. Three-time first-team All-Pac-12.

LB Trent Murphy, Stanford: 2013 consensus All-American and two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

LB Anthony Barr, UCLA: Consensus All-American 2013 and two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

DL Will Sutton, Arizona State: Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Morris Trophy winner in 2012 and 2013. Consensus All-American in 2012.

DL Haloti Ngata, Oregon: A consensus All-American and Morris Trophy winner in 2005.

DL Rien Long, Washington State: Won the Outland Trophy and was a consensus All-American in 2002.

DL Terrell Suggs, Arizona State: A unanimous All-American in 2002 after setting NCAA single-season record with 24 sacks. Won the Lombardi Trophy. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

CB Chris McAlister, Arizona: Unanimous All-American in 1998. Three-time first-team All-Pac-12.

CB Antoine Cason, Arizona: Won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back in 2007. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

S Troy Polamalu, USC: Two-time All-Pac-10 and consensus All-American in 2002.

S Taylor Mays, USC: A three-time All-American, he was a consensus All-American in 2008. Two-time first-team All-Pac-12.

P Bryan Anger, California: A three-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and two-time Ray Guy semifinalist.
Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. Or else.

To the notes!

Brian from Denver writes: Like other Stanford fans, I was a little freaked out by the second half performance last Saturday evening - sullied the first night of my long Telluride weekend, for crying out loud! With time I've come to think of it as less of a "conservative fail" and more as part of Coach Shaw's long play. With the win already in hand, get some backups playing time against a ranked conference foe, and continue the early-season sandbagging, so that more of the playbook remains unavailable for film review. And use the dismal late performance to help the team focus. Make sense to you? Oh, and please keep printing the Duck fans' "Which SEC team will we play in the title game?" questions. That hubris will make 11-7 all the more enjoyable.

Ted Miller: What Brian's not saying is he was forced to break the seal on his Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve to un-sully things.

Before I engage this question, let me tell you a story that I might have used before. After another blowout Oregon victory -- I don't remember which one -- several local reporters quizzed Chip Kelly on why the running game struggled in the second quarter. He found this amusing. And perhaps a bit annoying. The Ducks had won by 40-something, yet the media focus was only on what didn't go well, and only for a couple of series at that.

[+] EnlargeTy Montgomery
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezTy Montgomery scored two first-half touchdowns against ASU, helping Stanford to a 29-0 lead.
He brought this up to me later during a casual conversation, and I told him that reporters needed something to write about, an angle. They can't just write "Oregon was again awesome today. The end." They needed to find something to distinguish one blowout win from another. I don't think he got my point, just as David Shaw was probably more defensive than he needed to be after Stanford beat a ranked team by two touchdowns but had a bad fourth quarter.

Coaches think differently than sports writers. Just as fans often do, too. I don't think any less of Stanford -- or Shaw -- because of that bad fourth quarter, but it certainly was worth writing about.

If Stanford had just hummed along at a steady pace and won 42-28, the victory would have been viewed as a solid win, with perhaps some folks questioning the defense. But the Cardinal led 39-7 after three quarters and looked completely dominant getting there, so the fourth quarter became an unexpected plot twist.

It reminded me a bit of USC's win over Penn State in the 2009 Rose Bowl, when the Trojans led 31-7 at the break but only won 38-24 when the Nittany Lions gamely scored 17 fourth quarter points. At halftime, I was wondering if AP pollsters might go ahead and vote with their brains and rank USC No. 1. Some might have if the Trojans had won 50-10.

As for the "long play," I understand what you are saying, but I think Shaw's hope was that his backups, many of whom see regular action, would be able to maintain the game's status quo. Still, there, indeed, may be a more valuable longterm payoff.

The Cardinal was able to make a statement with a decisive victory and, because of the poor fourth quarter, maintain a sense of having a chip on its shoulder. That Shaw and many of the players seemed a little chippy afterward might prove to be a good thing. I'm guessing it helped them focus on Washington State this week.

Michael from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Not to say that I am a USC fan, in fact watching them lose and struggle might be my second to watching the Sun Devils win...when we do win that is. But I do have to ask how do you feel about Penn States penalties being reduced and the NCAA rejecting USC's appeal? Quotes from the article here on ESPN "There is no comparison between USC and Penn State," and "USC's appeal was denied and there is no further consideration being given." I do love watching them lose, but I do know what a disadvantage they are at because of this, and I wonder how you and the media feel about this. Is it fair? Who regulates the regulators?

Ted Miller: No, nothing has been fair about the NCAA's handling of the USC case. It was distinguished by buffoonery in both the investigative and punitive phases, as well as questionable motives from the members of the Committee on Infractions.

There isn't an objective person in the world -- in the UNIVERSE -- who is familiar with the details of the case who doesn't believe USC was treated unfairly, and that position has been strengthened through the years as the NCAA has handed down toothless punishments for far more serious violations than what Reggie Bush and his ethically challenged parents did.

The problem is the regulators are the regulated -- the COI was made up of representatives of other institutions -- a couple of whom represented schools that had been whipped by USC. At some point in their heads they decided to ignore the facts of the case as well as past precedent and just hammer USC. It required a massive rationalization -- "We're doing wrong for the greater good!" -- with a strong spice of Machiavellian impulse -- "We can't beat USC without trumping up charges!"

But I've written about this so, so many times. I am relieved that this might be the very last time.

Matt from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Ted, Is WSU uniquely positioned to play physical with Furd? I said it in the preseason as strange as it is to say a Mike Leach teams strength is their Defensive front 7. Through 4 games they have done nothing to disprove that.

Ted Miller: I think Washington State's strong front seven -- cough, cough -- gives the Cougars a chance against Stanford, particularly with the Cardinal O-line missing All-American guard David Yankey, who is dealing with a personal, family matter.

[+] EnlargeConnor Halliday
AP Photo/Butch DillFor the Cougars to beat Stanford, they will have to protect quarterback Connor Halliday.
I don't know if I'd say "uniquely positioned," as there are a lot of good front sevens in the Pac-12. But I think the Cougs are good enough to potentially contain the Cardinal's bread-and-butter power running game and force QB Kevin Hogan to pass.

The bigger question might be how the Washington State offensive line matches up with the Stanford front seven, which is one of the best crews in the nation. The Cougs still have no running game, so can that line protect Connor Halliday and give him time to throw downfield?

South Park from San Francisco writes: Best defense in the Pac-12 based on the eyeball test? Oregon, Stanford, or USC.

Ted Miller: USC and Oregon have been more impressive thus far, but I suspect at season's end Stanford will have the Pac-12's highest rated defense. All three appear to be among the best in the nation.

Tai from Klamath Falls, Ore., writes: Hi Ted, Every time you address the idea of paying players, including in today's chat, you emphasize the need to abide by Title IX, and suggest that any system of pay must be equitable across all sports. Wouldn't it be possible to bypass all of that, while still allowing star athletes in revenue sports to get a share of the massive amount of money their performance generates, by simply removing the restrictions on their ability to profit from their own likeness? You don't have to directly pay them, which of course does run afoul of equity concerns. Just let them go out and get sponsorships. All athletes, equally. If an athletic equipment company wants to hire a member of the crew team to be in an ad, they can, and if a fan wants to pay for the autograph of a softballer, that's okay too. I mean if someone decides that a member of the marching band is super skilled, and thinks they might be the next Yo Yo Ma, and wants to buy their autograph, there's no cry of outrage over lost "amateurism" there, right? So let a football player do the same. Let the market determine how much each athlete deserves to earn beyond their scholarship (if anything).

Ted Miller: That is a reasonable idea. But, as with anything when it comes to the paying-college-athletes conundrum, it has the potential for myriad, negative unintended consequences.

Starting with this: What if it becomes standard at Oregon that all Ducks get Nike endorsements, and that star players get as much as $1 million?

How many schools could match that?

The rich ones could, of course, the Alabamas, Ohio States, Texases and USCs. It then would become such a massive recruiting advantage that many programs that are presently competitive on a national level would be forced to simply drop out of the game.

Maybe that's what's eventually going to happen anyway. But I'm rooting against that outcome. I don't want college football to be reduced to, say, 30 or so superpowers competing for the national title, NFL style. That's not the game I grew up loving. Call me old fashioned.

Perhaps there could be limits, rules and regulations to even things out. But then you'd just have more limits, rules and regulations that programs try to circumvent. So ... new ways to cheat!

Your idea sounds like a simple, equitable, free-market solution. Unfortunately, I doubt it would play out that way.

Tony from Clackamas, Ore., writes: Feel free to put this question in your Getting-Way-Ahead-of-Ourselves file, but I am curious if you think Oregon could surpass Alabama in the rankings if both teams finished the year undefeated. On one hand it really doesn't matter (as a Ducks fan) provided the Ducks finish 1st or 2nd in the BCS at the end of the year. On the other hand, there seems to be a ton of sentiment that the PAC12 might be the best conference this year and Alabama has lost a few first-place votes to Oregon. As of today, each would finish the season with three wins against ranked foes. Would voters recognize the depth of the PAC12 and reward Oregon? I could see Oregon cutting into the #1 votes over the next 9 weeks considering they play a tougher schedule and face Stanford on the road.

Ted Miller: If the Pac-12 ends up with five or six ranked teams on Dec. 8, with, say, UCLA's and Stanford's only losses coming to Oregon (and each other), and the SEC isn't as strong top-to-bottom, it's possible the undefeated Ducks would eclipse the undefeated Crimson Tide, at least in the BCS standings, if not the human polls.

But Alabama will get a significant benefit of the doubt, particularly if it's clear that Oregon and Alabama will play for the title in any event. The sentiment will be that the two-time defending champions are No. 1 until someone proves otherwise, particularly when the SEC has won seven titles in a row.

And that doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Jeff from Portland writes: Ted you need to read and post this story in your lunch links. It is extremely well done. It detail Josh Huff and some life obstacles.

Ted Miller: An excellent story. Heartwarming. Kudos to Huff for his resilience.

And, by the way, Oregon fans, you guys often squawk about the coverage in The Oregonian. Why not write a nice note to Jason Quick, who obviously put a lot of effort into telling you guys Huff's story?
Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.

Pac-12 mailbag

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
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Ted's back next week. I'll be off. And then we'll both be in Los Angeles for Pac-12 media day. Start thinking of some questions.

As always, follow us on Twitter.

To the notes!

Terry in West Linn, Ore. writes: Where would Marqise Lee be in a list of Trojan greats if you could only pick one football season in each player's career? Who is your ''Greatest Trojan ever?" I've never seen a better receiver.

Kevin Gemmell: We're looking at one season only? Yikes. Hard to overlook Marcus Allen and his 2,427 yards and 22 touchdowns in 1981. He had 433 carries in 12 games. That's a crazy amount. Consider last year's league leader in carries was Stanford's Stepfan Taylor who had 322 in 14 games. Allen set or tied 16 NCAA records during his time at USC and was the first player to ever break 2000 yards (2,342, technically bowl games didn't count back then).

In 2005, Reggie Bush averaged 8-point-freaking-7 yards per carry. That's a pretty good season, also.

If you're talking just wide receivers, then yes, Lee is at the top of the conversation with his 2012 numbers (118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 touchdowns). There have only been two other USC receivers to have at least 100 catches in a season, Keyshawn Johnson in 1995 and Robert Woods in 2011. Lee was prolific last season and he should have been -- at the very least -- a Heisman finalist if not the winner. Something I've previously railed about.

But if I were drafting No. 1 overall, like the WeAreSC folks did earlier this week, I'd probably go with Allen.




Denny in Seattle writes: On several occasions over the last few months, I've seen you use the phrase "non-traditional rivalries" when referring to Oregon-Washington. What does that mean?

Kevin Gemmell: You're not the first to ask, and I'm a little surprised by all of the blowback that comment gets. It's one of those things that you write and don't really think it's a big deal, but I guess to a lot of people it is.

Let me say, first off, that I'm in no way trying to downgrade the rivalry between Oregon and Washington or Stanford and USC or USC and Notre Dame by using the phrase non-traditional rivalries. I just think of "traditional" rivalries as the ones that are traditionally played at the end of the season: Cal-Stanford, USC-UCLA, Arizona-Arizona State, Oregon-Oregon State, Washington-Washington State.

Ask most Stanford fans would you rather beat USC or Cal, they'd say Cal. Or, let me re-phrase that: Who would they rather lose to? USC or Cal?

Ask Washington fans who they'd rather lose to, Oregon or Washington State? I'm sure the Oregon loss hurt last year. Since you're writing from Seattle, I assume you're a Washington fan -- you can't tell me the Oregon loss tasted worse than the Washington State loss.

All of those games are great rivalries -- and it's OK to have more than one rival. Oregon-Stanford is certainly a rivalry game these days and I think UCLA and ASU is blossoming into one. The Utah-Colorado "rivalry" seems forced. Maybe it will develop into one. Maybe not.

I'm just using the term "traditional" in regards to the teams that typically play at the end of the season. I guess from now on I could get into semantics and say "regional" rivalries. But I think those games I mentioned mean just a little bit more than that.

By the way, I love that people get passionate over semantics. That's what makes college football so great.

(Read full post)

Mailbag: Oregon, USC and the NCAA

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
5:30
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. We can't guarantee it will make you smarter, but it probably will.

To the notes!

Bruce from Los Altos, Calif., writes: Re: Oregon's penalties for NCAA infractions. How do you think these will stack up against the loss of 30 (THIRTY) scholarships which USC lost. Remember, we had exactly ONE player and, at worst, one assistant coach involved. The Oregon situation has more players and the HEAD coach involved in what the NCAA has already called major infractions. Is there any hope that the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships?

Ted Miller: No. There is no hope the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships for USC. For one, USC already lost its appeal. Second, the 2014 class will be the final one under NCAA limitations.

Look: Everybody knows USC got screwed by the NCAA. Not just in the "In my opinion, the sanctions for the Reggie Bush case were too severe" way, but in the "The process was corrupt and the judgment unjustifiable" way.

And I don't think anyone in the country has hammered this point home as much as me.

A couple of years ago I was at USC, having a casual conversation with athletic director Pat Haden. Then, for whatever reason, I started to rant about USC's NCAA case. Not because I have any specific affection for USC, nor because I wanted to brownnose Haden, but because it really chafes me how horribly unfair the process was, how faulty the conclusions were, and how devoid of leadership the NCAA was when it refused to take corrective action against this unquestionably failed process.

No, I wasn't standing on a soapbox, but I got pretty wound up, as I am wont to do. You know what Haden said? "Let it go," he told me.

And he was right.

As for comparing the USC and Oregon situations, I have three words: Blueberries and potatoes (you thought I was going to type "Apples and Oranges," but I'm just way too writerly for that!).

I seriously doubt sanctions against Oregon will even approach those against USC. There is a gray area with Oregon, whether you think it passes the stink test or not.

But, well, with the NCAA, you never really know.




Tim from San Diego writes: What is up with Ucla recruiting? They are still recruiting right? After the top ranked class in the Pac this year, why has that momentum translated to more commits? They have 1(?), while the Pac12 blog is providing updates on the other schools recruiting efforts. Please advise.

Ted Miller: Clearly, UCLA is doomed.

I called up Jim Mora and asked about this tragic recruiting situation.

"I was going to recruit some guys," Mora didn't say. "But I first needed to catch up on 'Breaking Bad.' Then I got sleepy. Took a 35-day nap. Then Kevin Gemmell called and we chatted for, like, a week. Just, you know, talking about life and relationships. Noel Mazzone came over and we made a brisket and watched 'The Notebook.' Wait. What was the question?"

Tim, UCLA had just one commitment at this time last year. Didn't get No. 2 until June. Got No. 6 on Sept. 22, same day the Bruins lost to Oregon State in week four.

Seems like everything turned out OK.

Remember: Recruiting is like most things. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.




James from Salt Lake City writes: I just read an article on why the Utes should abandon the spread offense and switch to a power offense that is able to control the clock and slowly wear down defenses. The article states it would be similar to what Stanford has done and states several players like Karl Williams, Radley, Poole, Murphy, and Scott as well as others as their weapons to do this. I have seen the Utes at practice and thought the article was crap until I finished it. It had several good points and made more sense then what they have accomplished so far this spring. I also think they would have more options and success especially whe utilizing both tight ends. This goes against the trending PAC 12 offenses but may also give the Utes an edge in their conference games. What are your thoughts about the Utes running a power offense and do you think they could be more successful in the PAC 12 with it?

Ted Miller: I have a confession. I do have a preference when it comes to offenses. I tend to favor the one playing for the winning team. So I like Oregon's offense. And Stanford's. Also like Alabama's offense.

I know that's flip and not what you're looking for, but what we're ultimately talking about is not a scheme, but what's going to be effective. If Utah has the right personnel and coaching, it can run an effective spread. If it has the right personnel and coaching, it can run a pro-style or power attack.

But, ultimately, it's about winning the game, whether that's 17-10 or 52-35.

I do think changing coordinators and schemes, as the Utes have done three times since 2010, make establishing an offensive identity difficult. I'm sure coach Kyle Whittingham believes the same. When he hired Dennis Erickson to co-coordinate with Brian Johnson, he specifically cited the lack of an offensive identity.

Part of that struggle has been dumb bad luck: Norm Chow leaves after a season to become Hawaii's head coach; quarterback Jordan Wynn can't stay healthy, etc.

My feeling is Erickson has been brought in to help season Johnson, so a couple years down the road Johnson can take over with his own scheme.

As for power versus spread: The general feeling is spread or pistol offenses help teams with fewer five-star athletes compensate with misdirection. Alabama and USC aren't spread teams, because they get those A-list guys.

The question is can Utah push into the top-third of the Pac-12 as a power team? Can it get the athletes and the linemen to make it work, as Stanford has? And that's on both sides of the ball, by the way, because you've got to consistently stop opponents if you're not going to score 45 every Saturday.

Perhaps, James, the Utes look to you like they would be a better power team in the short term -- as in this fall. But this is ultimately about establishing a brand of football the program can recruit to and win with over the long term.

I don't think lining up in an I-formation with the quarterback under center is a long-term answer for the Utes.




Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Did you see the USC spring game? Is it possible that the Trojans are actually better at WR this year? With Lee, Agholor and some combo of Blackwell, Flournoy or Rogers? And in all honesty who do you think should be throwing to them this year?

Ted Miller: Are you asking me if losing Robert Woods is a good thing?

No.

All of those guys, other than freshman Darreus Rogers, were there last year. Heck, George Farmer, now out with a knee injury, also was there, at least when he wasn't hurt. The problem last year with the Trojans' passing game, which was pretty darn potent just based on raw numbers, was not a lack of talent. It was execution and play-calling. The Trojans were too focused on the blinding talents of Marqise Lee, instead of distributing the ball to other playmakers, which would have kept defenses off-balance.

That said: I don't think receiver is a question mark for USC. Just about every team in the country would trade their top-two guys for Lee and Agholor.

As for quarterback: Cody Kessler made more plays this spring and was more consistent than Max Wittek, but Wittek has an arm that will make NFL scouts swoon. Coach Lane Kiffin doesn't seem to be in a hurry to name a starter, so the competition is almost certain to go at least a week or two into fall camp.

And, with a fairly forgiving early schedule, I almost wonder if Kiffin might give both guys a chance when the lights are on.




Jeff from Tucson, Ariz. writes: UA will be a much tougher out than last year. Their defense has now had a year to get used to a new scheme, and returns all starters. The offense, even with a bad injury to Austin Hill, has many weapons including the nations leading rusher, and now comes Davonte Neal a transfer from ND. I am excited and believe the Cats will challenge for the South title.

Ted Miller: Hmm.

First off, Arizona wasn't an easy out last year. It beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC, and pushed Stanford into overtime.

I hear you on the defense, but I'm not so sure you should write off the loss of Hill so easily. And you guys all know where I stand on losing quarterback Matt Scott.

To me, it all comes down to how much production the Wildcats get at quarterback. The defense will be better. The offensive line should at least be as good. Running back Ka'Deem Carey is an All-American. The receivers, even without Hill, are solid.

But Scott ranked sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game in 2012. That is not easy to replace.




John from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, UK writes: Hey Ted,First off, thanks for the Blog. I read it all the time, but right now I am deployed to Afghanistan, so it is particularly nice to read it and get a piece of home. I especially like the creative ideas you guys come up, like the Buy or Sell piece, with in the off season to keep us fanatics involved. I'm a Washington grad, husly fanatic, so I always have to wait until you go over all of the other schools before we get to the Washington schools. Can't we reverse the order every once in a while? It's not our fault we fall at the end of the alphabet! In fact, you could just leave Oregon out if you wanted to.Thanks again.

Ted Miller: John, first off, thanks for your service. Stay safe.

We can't leave out Oregon, but I will now announce that our "Most Important Game" series is dedicated to John and all of our readers whose teams are discriminated against alphabetically.

And we do try to reverse things every once and a while, so Arizona doesn't always have to go first. Or the Cougs last.




Francis from Federal Way, Wash., writes: I know this isn't about the Pac 12 but a football icon has died today in the Great PNW! I know since you used to live here you've heard about PLU (Pacific Lutheran University) and their football coach Frosty Westering. Well he passed away today and he's one of nine other coaches that have won 300+ college football games. Hoping you can give him a shout out and all great things he accomplished on and off the field. I had a chance to have him come and be a "guest coach" for a day for my old high school football team (Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma...Sefo Luifau Colorado recruit). He was such a motivational, positive guy that brought the best out of anyone. Made the crappiest player on the team feel he was just as important as the best player on the team. Anyways, just thought you'd like to know and as a committed reader of the Pac 12 blog hoping you can do a little write up on him! Keep up the good work and GO COUGS!

Ted Miller: Class act. Great coach. Even better man.

I must admit that I never had the privilege to talk to him or write about him, but I certainly, as a nine-year Seattle resident, was familiar with him and his glowing legacy.

My former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague Art Thiel frequently cited him as an example of what a coach should be.

Here's his tribute to the man.

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: Revisiting McNair, NCAA and USC

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
6:30
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

Angry USC fan from Heritage Hall writes: Would you please, please, please comment on what is going on with former USC assistant coach Todd McNair's case against the NCAA?

Ted Miller: Who the heck is Todd McNair, USC and this NCAA of whom you speak?

Kidding.

Been getting a lot of notes -- this was a less salty, self-created amalgam of them -- about Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller stating in a ruling the day before Thanksgiving that the NCAA was "malicious" during its investigation of McNair and the NCAA.

My response? Well, duh.

McNair, of course, was the linchpin for the NCAA slamming USC with a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years.

The NCAA really, really wanted to hammer USC. But to do so it had to prove USC knew that former running back Reggie Bush and his parents were getting extra benefits from a pair of would-be sports marketers during Bush's time as a Trojan. The problem the NCAA had, as the Pac-12 blog has pointed out a few times, is there was no credible evidence that USC did. So, as the Pac-12 blog has pointed out a few times, the NCAA just decided there was evidence and McNair was it and it didn't care that it was utter malarky.

(The position USC should have known is not unreasonable. The Trojans weren't blameless. That's never been our position. If the NCAA went that way, however, sanctions wouldn't have been nearly as severe).

Yes, the NCAA railroaded McNair and USC. That's been the position of just about every neutral observer who is knowledgable about the case. Some folks in the comment section below will argue differently. And what they will do is type things that are ignorant, irrelevant or untrue.

But this was true before Shaller's broadside to the NCAA. What USC fans really want is relief, and that's not happening. USC won't get its scholarships restored in 2013 and 2014. The single reason for that is there won't be any resolution in time to make USC whole. The McNair vs. NCAA case will take a while, and then any backward looking inquiry from the NCAA, unlikely in any event, would then move at its typical glacial pace.

USC AD Pat Haden isn't interested in talking about the McNair case. Why? Through a spokesman, USC told me it reasonably views the case as McNair vs. the NCAA, not USC vs. the NCAA. USC has moved on.

Further, McNair still has a ways to go to win his case, though Shaller did note "the former coach has shown a probability he can win his defamation claims."

What would be great fun, however, is the case going forward and the NCAA getting embarrassed for its shoddy investigation and ethically dubious behavior.

From Dennis Dodd's story on Nov. 27:
Documents that the NCAA is aggressively trying to keep under seal appear to show improper involvement by NCAA staff and committee members in the landmark USC decision more than two years ago.

A judge's decision made public last week -- and obtained in full by CBSSports.com -- shows that at least three persons may have improperly tried to influence the NCAA's powerful infractions committee to find former USC assistant Todd McNair complicit in the Reggie Bush case. Lawyers for McNair are trying to show the association violated its own rules and procedures in investigating their client.

Two non-voting members of the NCAA infractions committee and NCAA staffer allegedly tried to influence voting members inside the 10-person committee. The judge's decision contains excerpts of emails that he has determined show "ill will or hatred" toward McNair.

If those documents get unsealed, I've got a $5 bill that says it will be really, really embarrassing for the NCAA. As noted by Dodd, Shaller himself already concluded that the NCAA had a "reckless disregard for the truth."

I'm no lawyer, but a "reckless disregard for the truth" sounds to me like a bad thing for the NCAA to have.

A New York Times columnist went as far to wonder if leaked documents here might turn out for the NCAA like they did for Big Tobacco.

Or the NCAA might just settle with McNair and hope he goes away quietly.


Aaron McCool from Portland writes: I keep hearing how Manziel is "the one the got away" for Oregon. I'm not disputing that he's an amazing athlete, but it seems that A) if Oregon had to rely on Mariota in the same way the Aggies rely on Manziel instead of handing the ball off a large percent of the time, their stats might be similar; B) if Mariota had played an extra 8+ quarters (instead of sitting a number of second halves), their stats might be similar; C) Mariota checks his progression better than Manziel and tends to tuck and run less as a result. Again, Manziel had a great year against some great competition, but I don't think that they can be compared based solely on stats and I don't think the talent gap is there. What do you think?

Ted Miller: Both redshirt freshmen are great players. Manziel topped my Heisman ballot for ESPN.com.

If you're asking me which player I'd rather have, I'd say Mariota. Without a pause.

Mariota is a better passer. He ranks sixth in the nation in pass efficiency, completing 70 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Manziel is 17th, completing 68 percent of his throws with 24 TDs and eight picks.

Of course, Manziel passed a lot more, throwing for 3,400 yards compared to 2,500 for Mariota.

And Manziel rushed for 1,181 yards with 19 touchdowns. Those are good numbers for a running back. Mariota rushed for 690 yards and four scores.

Further, the most impressive performance of the season was Manziel against No. 1 Alabama. Mariota had some nice games, but he was mediocre against the best defense he faced: Stanford.

There is no question who should be getting Heisman and All-American attention: Manziel.

But, as you note, Mariota barely played in the second half of games this year, and certainly didn't need to throw much when he did see a third quarter. If Oregon had played a lot of close games, Mariota's numbers would have been better.

I also think the 6-foot-4 Mariota is a better NFL prospect.


Theo from Portland writes: I am an Oregon State Beaver fan and feel disrespected by the "2012 Pac-12 regular-season wrap" post. The Beavers are not mentioned ONCE in the article even though everyone would agree that this season was unexpected and we had an incredible turnaround. I think the article should be amended or a "2012 Pac-12 regular-season wrap Part 2" needs to be written to give credit where credit is due. The comments on the original post mirror my frustrations. Please fix this oversight.

Ted Miller: I made note of Oregon State's turnaround in the video above the story, which was about the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The Pac-12 blog tapped Stanford's David Shaw for that, but took not of Mike Riley at Oregon State and Jim Mora at UCLA.

In this week's power rankings, I also noted about Oregon State, "If it's not the best one-year turnaround in Pac-12 history, it's certainly one of the best."

In retrospect, I do wish I'd in some way noted the Beavers turnaround in the body of the article, but noting the nice performance by the third-place team in the North Division didn't fit in with the more general, big picture themes of the article.

Mailbag: What would Redd mean for USC?

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
7:15
PM ET
Greetings.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Preston from Portland writes: Silas Redd is good, quite good, but not great. If he does in fact go to LA to join the Trojans, how big of an impact would he have on USC's season?

Ted Miller: Oh, I'd say Redd is pretty darn good. He was second-team All-Big Ten in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns. He's generally considered Penn State's best returning offensive player -- and unquestionably its most explosive.

USC's already-loaded offense would be significantly better with Redd, who's a pretty good receiver out of the backfield, by the way, Matt Barkley. Paired with Curtis McNeal, the Trojans might then have the nation's best backfield tandem. Just like they do at receiver. And quarterback, though Barkley is only one guy.

Let's put it this way: How much better do you think Oregon was with Kenjon Barner behind LaMichael James? Or USC with LenDale White sharing time with Reggie Bush? Or California with Marshawn Lynch seconding J.J. Arrington?

Two elite running backs are a HUGE boon to an offense.

Further, the underrated McNeal, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2011, has a history with injuries. So Redd not only offers a 1-B in the backfield, he offers an an insurance policy.

An added bonus with Redd aboard would be touted incoming freshman Nelson Agholor being able to stay at his best position -- receiver -- rather than switching to running back.

Redd would be a huge get for the Trojans, one that addresses a need area with a proven, ready-to-suit-up star.


Troy from Spokane, Wash., writes: So it seems some of the local media has tried to lower the expectations for the Huskies this year, saying things like the offense will take a step back, and that 7.5 is too big of an over/under for a win total this year. I am happy with the program's progress under Sark so far, but like many of us, would like to see the program to continue to improve. What should our expectations be this year and going forward?

Ted Miller: Eight wins would be a successful season for the Huskies. And, as I've previously noted, I think the Huskies' breakthrough to a double-digit win, top-25 season could come in 2013, when quarterback Keith Price is a senior, a number of other players hit their peak maturity and new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's schemes have settled in.

Oh, and they return to a fancypants, remodeled Husky Stadium.

I think Washington makes a big leap forward on defense this year. I think there's solid talent that underachieved in 2011 under Nick Holt. There are two big questions: 1. The offensive line; 2. The schedule.

The big measure to me is if the Huskies get to their Oct. 20 game at Arizona with three wins. That would mean upsetting at least one among this gauntlet: at LSU, Stanford, at Oregon and USC. If that happens, there's no reason they couldn't run the table thereafter and win nine games.

But I think eight wins is a fairly optimistic number for the regular season.


Cy from Anaheim writes: With all this talk of how dynamic De'Anthony Thomas is, what are the chances that George Farmer of usc comes out and has a better season? both have similar playing styles and skill sets...

Ted Miller: Absolutely. Let's remember that Farmer was high school teammates with Marqise Lee, and there weren't many people who thought Lee was the better of the two (Robert Woods also played for Junípero Serra (Calif.) High School but was a year ahead of Farmer and Lee).

Farmer, who has outstanding speed, was beset by injuries last season but he also seemed a bit overwhelmed by college football. An abortive move to running back also didn't really work out.

The expectation is that if Farmer can stay healthy, he'll become a big-time offensive weapon. And, yes, perhaps he'll eventually battle Thomas for the title of Pac-12's most dynamic player.


Rich from Phoenix writes: I'm a die hard Sun Devil fan, but I have to say that I'm shocked that any media member would a) pick the Devils to win the PAC 12 South and b) pick them to win the conference championship game. ... Do you know who in the media made those predictions? And what backing do they have to make that vote? With the new coaching staff and system to implement, an untested linebacker corp (aside from McGee) plus a new starting quarterback and untested receivers, I can't see how they could be tops in the conference, let alone their division. But if their votes have some merit, that will bring me a little more hope going into this season. What are your feelings going into the season for the Sun Devils?

Ted Miller: I don't know which three voters in the Pac-12 media poll picked Arizona State to win the South Division and to win the Pac-12 title game. If I were running the poll, I'd take their vote away for future years because it's not a defensible vote. I don't see media polls as sacred or anything, I just think you have a responsibility if you vote to not take an idiotic position.

No offense, ASU. It's just that the Sun Devils have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-12 -- 10 -- from a team that imploded last season and fired its coach. They are adopting new schemes on both sides of the ball, schemes that are very different from last year.

All that said, I think the Sun Devils have a legitimate chance to win six games and to become bowl eligible. Forget how Todd Graham left Pittsburgh and all the bombast that followed: I think he's a good fit for what this program needed -- discipline and structure. If the Sun Devils get solid play at quarterback, they will win some games, though I'd rate their over-under for victories at four. Maybe five.

And I'd be beyond stunned if they won the Pac-12.


Ryan from Salt Lake City writes: How come you shafted Utah on your media day coverage? You have an "On Stage" article for every team in the conference but Utah. What's up with that?

Ted Miller: Typically before every season I descend into hell and consult Mephistopheles about which Pac-12 team I should screw over that coming season. Kevin joined me this year, which is cool because -- and this might surprise you -- there is an outstanding spicy food place on the third level that I wanted to show him. I really like spicy food.

Well, after chatting with Nick Saban, er, I mean, Mephistopheles, he said it should be Utah. Something about a past trip to New Orleans bothered him. Kevin agreed. I said I didn't want to do Utah because Kyle Whittingham is the closest thing to a pit fighter in the conference. Pit fighters are both cool and a little risky to harass. But I was outvoted. Kevin and Ni ... Mephistopheles shared a cackle with each other.

So that's why we didn't included Utah with our "On stage..." feature during media day. It will be the first of many slights, curses and mishaps that will befall the Utes because of this random bit of evilness from the Pac-12 blog.

You might hear an alternative explanation that yours truly had a WiFi glitch that killed the unsaved piece when I tried to post it, but you should ignore that perfectly reasonable explanation.

We didn't redo the post because, well, it would have been fiction. Utah was no longer on stage.

But here's a quick question for you outraged Utes: How many other Pac-12 teams, other than the two picked to win the North and South Divisions, got a video and a story from media day?

And, if you want to see Utah "on stage," just go here (you can hear me cloaking my preseason curse as a question about defensive tackle Junior Salt to Whittingham and a follow-up with Star Lotulelei at 7:40).


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.

WeAreSC links: Two years after sanctions

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
1:54
PM ET
Garry Paskwietz writes: Two years ago, the NCAA dropped what many thought was the kill shot to USC's program. But the Trojans haven't only survived thus far, they have thrived in the aftermath.

Video: Garry Paskwietz and Jeremy Hogue discuss the two-year anniversary of the NCAA sanctions being handed down against USC.

WeAreSC links: Recruiting Friday

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
1:17
PM ET
Greg Katz writes Insider: While 10 Trojans were selected in the 2008 draft, walk-on receiver Brad Walker saw his career, which was highlighted by being the intended receiver on Reggie Bush's ill-fated lateral against Texas, end.

WeAreSC recruiting mailbag Insider: Erik McKinney fields questions from readers about recruiting in the Southeast, defensive back recruiting, and possible near-future commitments.

Garry Paskwietz writes: With the selections of Matt Kalil by the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 4 pick, and Nick Perry by the Green Bay Packers at No. 28, USC adds to its NCAA-best number of all-time first-round draft picks.

Erik McKinney writes Insider: Tempe, Ariz., defensive back Priest Willis is the inspiration for a feeding frenzy, as schools from all over the country lobby for his services.

McKinney writes Insider: Pinetop, Ariz., fullback Chans Cox is being looked at as both an offensive and defensive player in recruiting.

More McKinney Insider: Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., offensive lineman Dane Crane has seen his recruiting increase in recent weeks.

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