This week’s mailbag is just like last week’s. Only better!
Pete in Austin, Texas writes: Do you see any way the Beavers could get into the top 25 before they play Stanford?
Kevin Gemmell: The Beavers are slowly starting to rebuild their brand. But losing to an FCS team is a stigma that isn’t easily washed away. Stuff like that sticks with voters, and many will continue to punish the Beavers in the rankings long after it’s probably warranted. A slow start against Hawaii and a miracle win over San Diego State didn’t help the cause.
Let me ask you, Pete, even if Oregon State is 6-1 when the Stanford game rolls around, do you think they’d be worthy of a top 25 spot based on their six wins? Because I’m not sure that I do.
Oregon State’s first seven games were already seen as games they should win -- so dropping one of them is a dent in their perception. Dropping one to an FCS team (an FCS team that is now 2-2, by the way, following back-to-back road losses at Toledo and at Sam Houston State) is a gash in the side of the hull.
I give a ton of credit to Mike Riley for holding this thing together amid all of the defensive injuries. He’s got Sean Mannion playing like a first-round draft pick and he’s convinced his team that the Week 1 snafu was more aberration than actuality.
But top 25? They may pick up a few votes at 6-1, but I don’t see enough to get them back in the rankings. Beat Stanford, and then we’ll talk.
Richard in Fort Hood, Texas writes: Marion Grice of ASU seems to get no national attention why is that? He leads the nation in total touchdowns rushing/receiving combined. He had 4 against Stanford and 4 against USC. Is he the most underrated player in the conference? Also DJ Foster also seems to be lost in the conversation around the PAC12 but he’s just as deadly.
Gemmell: I wouldn’t say Grice is underrated in the conference. People in these parts know who he is and what he’s capable of.
Nationally? That’s a different story. It’s a bit like how folks treated De'Anthony Thomas the last couple of years. Is he a running back? Is he a receiver?
Grice is a hybrid. A hybrid that has an outstanding nose for the end zone. But he only averages 3.9 yards per rush. And he only has 256 yards. But then again, he’s also got eight rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns.
If “hybrid” was a defined role, I think we’d hear a lot more about Grice nationally. But when you look at the top running backs, does he fit? Maybe, but he doesn’t have the same measurables as some of the other backs in the league. Same for receiving numbers. His lack of national hype is a product of the system Arizona State runs and the role he plays within that system.
Some national recognition would be nice. But the folks in the Pac-12 know what they are up against when going against Grice. And league-wide respect goes a lot further than glancing national recognition.
Clemson fans everywhere write: Idiot, dummy, grumble, gumble, fool, nitwit, nincompoop – how could you rank Georgia ahead of Clemson -- grumble, grumble. Ted Miller is a genius. Grumble, grumble, pinhead, ninny, imbecile, dork.
Gemmell: I threw in nincompoop on my own, but that’s the gist of multiple notes.
Everyone has their own system of ranking. Personally, I don’t give as much weight to Week 1 games as some others might (the exception being losses to FCS teams, see above). Teams have had extra time to prepare for that game and it’s not always the strongest measuring stick. Just to localize it a little bit from a Pac-12 perspective, Washington’s Week 1 win over Boise State isn’t quite as signature today as it was three weeks ago now that Broncos are 3-2. (Oh yeah, for everyone who ripped me for not having Boise in my Week 1 top 25, all I'm hearing are crickets …).
I remember last year when I took heat for being one of the first to put Clemson back in the top 10 and not punishing them as much for the Florida State loss as some others did. Where were you guys then? Huh!? Huh!?
To me, Clemson’s three-point win at home in the season opener doesn’t carry as much weight as what Georgia has done since then. It lost to Clemson, a top 10 team, on the road and I rightfully dropped the Bulldogs (I think 10 spots). But since then Georgia has beaten two top 10 teams in South Carolina and LSU. It's 3-1 with three of four games against top 10 teams. That’s bought them enough credibility, for now, to overtake Clemson, which has done nothing but paste South Carolina State and Wake Forest and dispose of a so-so NC State team.
Right now, in my mind, Georgia has the more impressive resume. But that doesn't mean things will stay the same a month from now. If Clemson is still undefeated after its two week stretch against Florida State and Maryland, it will have an argument for moving up. Especially because Georgia’s schedule ramps down with Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt -- all games Georgia should win. If all things are equal on Halloween -- an undefeated Clemson team and a one-loss Georgia team -- that would mean Clemson has added two top 25 wins and is still undefeated. And then you’ll see them -- at least on my ballot -- ahead of Georgia.
Brett in Price, Utah writes: I came across this article from 2010 written by Pat Forde. As a Utah fan, it is a shame to see USC fall this far. Although, I am not sure what exactly they were thinking with when they hired Kiffin. Another interesting fact, Kyle Whittingham is the only coach to have survived the PAC 12 South since its inception. No real questions, just observations. Thanks for the blog! I love reading it. Go Utes!!
Gemmell: Thanks Brett. I recall reading that piece too with great interest. I was still at the San Diego paper at the time, but had made a few trips up to UCLA and USC for some offseason features, etc. And I remember thinking Pat was either going to eat a lot of crow in a few years or look pretty darn smart. Right now, he’s looking pretty darn smart.
Good observation on Whittingham. Crazy to think that we’re only in the third season of “Pac-12” and there are no holdover coaches from that division from the Pac-10 days. Coaching continuity is huge. And I think Utah has already made significant strides this season. In another couple of years, they’ll be ready to make a push into the tier of South contenders.
Oscar in Irwindale, Calif. writes: Hey Kevin! I know it’s just rumors and the details are sketchy but what’s the deal with the whole leaving Lane Kiffin at the airport deal! I just hope it’s not true and USC has more class then that! Just saying.
Gemmell: Not true. His car was at the airport, per Chris Huston at Heismanpundit.com I know Chris. I consider him a friend and I trust his reporting.
Right now it's open-season schadenfreude for anyone and everyone that Kiffin directly or indirectly offended, tweaked and irked. And they aren’t shy about coming out of the woodwork to make an already uncomfortable situation look even worse.
As for the timing? Meh. Makes no difference in my mind if it was at 3 a.m. or 7 a.m. Gone is gone.
Brady in Seattle writes: Admit it Kevin. You've been hoping for a long time for Kiffin to get fired just so you could refer to it as "Operation changing Lanes". Well played, my friend. Kudos.
Gemmell: Thanks Brady. It’s funny you brought that up. My wife -- a high school English teacher and the hardest editor I’ve ever had -- sent me an email Monday morning indicating that since I used “Lanes,” plural, that would indicate that another person named Lane would have to be the new coach.
It’s a fair criticism from my significantly better half. The only Lane I could come up with was Lane Meyer? (I want my $2).