- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Happy Friday. This is the mailbag.
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To the notes!
Insulted from Beaver Nation writes: Kevin Gemmell wrote an article today on how the Ducks are not excited about the prospects of going to the Rose Bowl this New Year's. I shouldn't say all the Ducks, but namely Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas. I'm sure that the vast majority of the Oregon team is excited about playing in the Rose Bowl. Marcus Mariota, for one, hasn't played in a Rose Bowl. That being said, I'm incredibly insulted by their comments. There are 11 teams in this conference who would kill to be in their position right now. I understand a NATIONAL title berth is the next step for the program, but come on, there are teams in the Pac-12 who have NEVER been to the Rose Bowl, let alone won one. Does the Pac-12 have a right to be offended, and furthermore should the Tournament of Roses Association be insulted? If you're Mark Helfrich, are you telling your guys to keep comments like that to themselves?
Ted Miller: Yes, Helfrich probably will tell Huff and Thomas there's a price for being honest. The ole adage does apply: "If you can't say something nice, don't talk to the media."
They should have kept these feelings to themselves, mostly because they came off as entitled. That didn't work for Marie Antoinette and Leona Helmsley, and it won't work for Huff and Thomas.
You have a right to be offended. And jealous. Know that Cal and Arizona fans, in particular, join you in your outrage.
Further, Oregon went to the Fiesta Bowl last year and has only been to two Rose Bowls in the past four years, going 1-1 in those games. They aren't like USC under Pete Carroll, which, after playing for the national title in the Rose Bowl after the 2005 season, went to three consecutive Rose Bowls. I recall chatting with then Trojans LB Rey Maualuga about that in 2008, when a USC team that was clearly the nation's best was getting squeezed down in the BCS standings. He said, "... all the veterans are getting tired of seeing Disneyland and all the same stuff we've been seeing the past couple of years. That national title is why we all came back. But sometimes things just don't go your way."
Oregon, like USC in 2008, entered the season thinking national championship, and for much of the season the Ducks were on track. Just like last year, there's clearly some, "What Might Have Been," seeping into the locker room.
However, I tend to yawn at stories like this -- quote-centered controversies based on college athletes not carefully staying on message with the general athlete-to-reporter pablum about playing one game at a time and giving 110 percent.
I knew even before Huff and Thomas spoke that they were disappointed not to be playing for the national title, and that the Rose Bowl is only a consolation prize.
That said, the second-best thing any college football team can do any given season is win a Rose Bowl. Hopefully they recognize a shot at that, particularly if it's against unbeaten Ohio State, is a pretty nice parting gift.
Bryce from Portland writes: Ted, not to say the future is written, but it is looking like Alabama will be going to the national championship for a third straight year. If that happens, and they beat Florida State or Ohio State or whomever, I have a question for you. Is that good for the sport of college football? I know professionally, the NFL doesn't want one team to dominate year after year (Patriots). But seeing as there are not competitive laws governing CFB, do we see a change occur if Alabama continually dominates? Or the SEC for that matter?
Ted Miller: It's fan-freaking-tastic for Alabama. Pretty darn good for the SEC, though the rest of the conference is starting to look like not much more than a supporting cast for the Crimson Tide.
For the rest of the nation, it's not good.
My main response? Either somebody has to beat Alabama or Nick Saban has to retire or go elsewhere. And it's up to the rest of the nation to take down the SEC once we start a four-team playoff.
There are, however, things athletic directors in other conferences can do to bolster the non-SEC cause. Chief among those: Insist that the SEC play nine conference games, which would eliminate these November days-off games that significantly bolster the SEC late in the season. As in: Alabama plays Chattanooga this weekend while the Pac-12 plays six conference games.
John from Eugene, Ore., writes: Why is a 10-2 Wisconsin a more appealing at-large team than a 10-2 Stanford? Most bowl projections that have Wisconsin and Stanford winning their final games predict that Wisconsin will get an at-large bid to the Orange Bowl.
Ted Miller: Wisconsin is more appealing because it will sell more tickets and buy more hotel rooms than Stanford.
Bowl games, most notably the Sugar Bowl, are not about great matchups that folks want to watch on TV. They are about boosting the local economy, particularly tourist-driven places such as New Orleans and, to a lesser extent, Miami.
Garrett from Eugene, Ore., writes: Looking at the Heisman list, I am surprised to see so many underclassmen. Why do you think there was been such a rise in talent in underclassmen? Or is it the media being willing to give the Heisman to an underclassman after Tim Tebow won it as a sophomore and Johnny Manziel won it last year as a freshman?
Ted Miller: I don't think the media pays too much attention to how old a player is. It pays attention to production and winning.
The reason there are few senior Heisman winners is because a player good enough to win the Heisman typically is good enough to enter the NFL draft after three years in college.
But there does seem to be a clear youth movement at quarterback. I think you can attribute that to the growth of 7-on-7 football nationally. Young QBs are now playing football year round, like prep hoops stars on AAU teams, and that sharpens their command of the game. Also, there seem to be more pass-first high school attacks out there, with many running spread options not unlike what you see across the Pac-12.
Freshman quarterbacks arrive far closer to finished products, mentally and physically, than they did 10 or 20 years ago.
Brandon from Albuquerque writes: You picked Wazzu not to be bowl eligible, but also picked them to beat Utah to become bowl eligible all in the same week?
Ted Miller: Yes. Sorry.
At the beginning of the week, the possibility was there that Utah might get starting QB Travis Wilson back. The news of his season-ending concussion -- and possible long-term issues -- convinced me to pick the Cougars.
I also revisited the Washington State-Arizona game on Monday -- after the Sunday bowl projections -- and was impressed with how the Cougs played on both sides of the ball.
Kyle from Wichita writes: Ted, I'm curious how your visit to Manhappiness [Manhattan/Kansas State] was? I haven't seen any articles about it. As a passionate fan of the school, sports teams and the city I'm always curious to see what others think of the experience. I hope it was first class and you were treated exceptionally well
Ted Miller: I'm sure we'll have something for you shortly on ESPN.com.
As far as my personal experience, it couldn't have been more enjoyable. Everyone at Kansas State was great, from the administration to the fans. I enjoyed hanging out in Manhattan -- a great college town -- and had a great time at the tailgate. It was nice that the game was pretty darn entertaining, too.
This is why I agitate so hard for good non-conference games. Road trips to unfamiliar places are almost always rewarding.