<
>

Opening the mailbag: Finessing a couple of Oregon questions

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Happy Friday.

First, this:

Alex from Santa Ana, Calif., writes: Hey Ted, Mater Dei is in Santa Ana, not Newport Beach. Big difference

Thanks Alex. Quite a few folks caught this error, since corrected.

My explanation: A little knowledge is dangerous.

I knew that Matt Barkley went to Mater Dei. I also knew Matt Barkley is from Newport Beach.

Doh.

My bad.

Coaches say teams improved the most between Week 1 and Week 2.

You guys did your part. Hope I can keep up.

To the notes...

Jimmy from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Just pondering over the Pac-10 bowl arrangements and how can there be no PAC-10 vs SEC game? Both are powerhouse conferences and the matchup possibilities are endless. Does location have something to do with this, are the commissioners on both sides worried about bad publicity, why no game?!

Ted Miller: Two reasons.

1. The SEC has great bowl arrangements, and they negotiate bowl contracts from a position of strength.

2. The Pac-10 has a reputation, fair or unfair, for not travelling well, so potential bowl partners would be nervous about shelling out big bucks for a team that might not sell all its tickets.

Neither conference is worried about the other. Both just want to make money.

The Pac-10 has tried in the past to get the Florida bowls interested. Those efforts have failed.

Not saying it could never happen. It's just going to take some ingenuity -- and a better economy -- to make it happen.


Noah from Burbank, Calif., writes: Do you think that Oregon's bad game can be attributed to a combination of a few factors that spelled doom for the Ducks before they even took the field last week? A new head coach, playing a ranked opponent on the road, and questions on both lines? I would think that any team in the nation no matter the talent in the other areas could avoid an upset given these three factors.

Ted Miller: The first two things I took away from that game were about Boise State: 1. Chris Petersen is a great head coach; 2. Justin Wilcox is one of the nation's best D-coordinators, and I'm not sure I wouldn't rank him in the top five.

[Quick story about Wilcox: On our trip down from Seattle to Scottsdale in the summer of 2008, my wife and I stopped by Boise State to see the blue turf. It wasn't there -- they were redoing the surface. Still, we walked into the football office and ran into Wilcox. He had no idea who I was but he gave us a quick tour and couldn't have been more pleasant. So he's a heck of a guy and a heck of a coach.]

Boise State's plan was better than Oregon's.

Does that make Chip Kelly a failure as a head coach? No. But he got outcoached in this one.

The Broncos did things on defense that consistently fooled and outflanked the Oregon O-line. Moreover, it's possible that the Ducks offensive coaches overestimated the physical skill of their line as well as their ability to withstand adversity.

On the plus side: I'd be willing to bet that quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has already played his worst game of the season.

Understand this about game plans, too: I've talked to some very good coaches and coordinator through the years who've told me that every game plan is a roll of the dice as much as a chess match. Sometimes when you -- with justification -- anticipate one thing, you get the opposite.

As for your points, they are valid. It was a tough situation for a new head coach with new personnel on both lines.

Obviously, the measure of Oregon and Kelly is going forward. How this team responds over the next few weeks might be more revealing about Kelly than if the Ducks were coming off a 3-point win.


Dan from Yokosuka, Japan writes: Why is it that everybody is worried about the experience at QB of USC when the guy on the other sideline isn't exactly the most QB either?

Ted Miller: I get the best notes from Yokosuka!

There's a big difference between a true freshman making his first-ever start on the road and a sophomore who is 10-1 as a starter playing at home.

Doesn't mean Matt Barkley won't play well and Terrelle Pryor will, only that Barkley has never done this before and Pryor has. So if you value experience, Pryor has a lot more.


Ian from San Francisco writes: In your recent column on Terrell Pryor, you state that he is 10-1 as a starter for OSU. However, that is not true: he lost to both Penn State and Texas. Trust me, as an OSU fan, I remember...

Ted Miller: Senior Todd Boeckman started the Fiesta Bowl.


Brett from Blodgett, Ore., writes: How bad do you think the NW schools will suffer now that the bowls will be allowed to pick who they want vs the old way of PAC ranking? Since the middle of the PAC is usually a 1 game difference I see the NW teams being perennial lower bowl teams.

Ted Miller: Brett is referring to how the new Pac-10 bowl contracts allow the bowls to pick teams and not base their selection exclusively on conference finish.

So the Holiday Bowl, picking No. 3, could take an 8-4 UCLA team over an 9-3 Oregon State team just because it might sell more tickets and get higher ratings.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

As for Northwest teams, Oregon and Washington wouldn't like get shafted. Both travel well. Oregon State and Washington State might.

Don't panic yet. While money is at the center of almost everything, there is something to be said for shame.

Say a bowl is deciding between UCLA and OSU in the above scenario. And say the Beavers beat the Bruins by three TDs.

My guess is the bowl would be hard-pressed to take the Bruins, and there would pressure from the conference to be fair.

But if UCLA finished a game behind the Beavers, but beat the Beavers, then picking the Bruins MIGHT be justifiable.

What these new rules do is allow a bowl to look out for itself and its financial interests. But issues of fairness, hopefully, won't disappear.


Reyes from Los Angeles writes: You're wrong with regards to USC-OSU. I'm a UCLA fan but even I have to admit USC is going to win in a blow-out. You're giving an over-rated OSU team way too much credit. Their "Pride" will only last about two quarters. If anything UCLA faces a tougher opponent this week in their game against Tennessee. At least the Vols showed some ability in routing their opponent on both sides of the ball. It's will be USC by at least 3 touchdowns.

Ted Miller: Me! Wrong!

Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of silly persons!

Entirely possible.


Gravy from Philadelphia: Have any Georgia fans gotten back to you about you calling them a finesse team?

Ted Miller: Ah, Gravy, this question is just like your name.

No, our particular Georgia friend has been quite silent of late after he long ago took exception to this post, when I wrote: "Oklahoma State plays host to Georgia on Sept. 5 in one of the marquee nonconference games of the year. That might be a more favorable matchup for the Cowboys because the Bulldogs are more of a finesse offense and don't feature as physical a running game as the Ducks do."

I saw that as a statement of fact, but some thought I was tweaking Georgia.

So let's see.

Oregon gained 565 yards in its 42-31 Holiday Bowl victory over the Cowboys, including 307 yards rushing.

That's why Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said: "What happened to us against Oregon is they hit harder than we did and were tougher than we were in the fourth quarter. Up front they beat us on both sides of the ball. As a staff we were very disappointed in ourselves in our preparation. And our players were disappointed they outhit us in the fourth quarter."

Last weekend, Georgia had 257 yards yards of total offense and 95 yards rushing.

Different teams, different year. Sure.

But the numbers are so extreme they cannot be ignored, and anyone who says they should be ignored isn't making a legitimate point. They're being silly.

Curiously, after the game, Georgia players said the Cowboy defense was as good as any they see in the SEC: "With their offense getting all the credit, the defense is playing like they're trying to prove people wrong," Georgia's Joe Cox told Sports Illustrated. "They have as much talent as anyone we play [in the SEC]. And they clearly now have the hunger, too."

Ah, SEC defenses. I wonder how often Washington will match the 478 yards it gained against LSU vs. Pac-10 defenses this year?