Mailbag: Secrets & Rose Bowl scenarios

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Tyler from Nashville writes: Does Stanford beating USC raise or lower the perceived "quality" of the PAC12? I feel like if an upset like this were to have happened with SEC teams, the rhetoric would be "Look how deep the SEC is" as opposed to "Look how week the top of the SEC is"

Ted Miller: I think the most reasonable reaction is that Stanford's win was as much about the Cardinal being better than projected as USC perhaps being worse.

But what about college football is reasonable?

USC is a big show, perhaps the biggest show in college football. The Trojans, at least when they are again in the national picture, are going to be the lead story in just about every case.

Lane Kiffin's little tiff with reporters this week was national news. Heck, it made ESPN's "Sports Center!" The next day, there was a national story about there being no story. Meanwhile, at Washington State, we don't know who's going to start at quarterback against Colorado. Says the college football nation, "Neh."

But this isn't the media's fault. USC attracts eyeballs. If the headline says, "This story is about Lane Kiffin," more people will read it than if the headline were, "Key player hurt for Kansas State."

So the primary focus on Stanford's high-quality win was, instead, USC's failure to live up to its preseason hype. At least so far.

But Stanford got almost as big a boost in the national polls as USC was docked. The secondary takeaway, even if it seemed buried nationally, was that Stanford looks pretty darn good. Again.

So now the Pac-12 appears to have three elite teams. The issue is can anyone become a national title contender. And then, of course, finish the deal. The Pac-12 doing that would be the ultimate way to gain national respect.

Does the SEC sometimes seem to thrive on fumes of how good everyone seems to think Alabama and LSU are? Sure. But the conference has won six consecutive national titles. Positive spin comes easier when you do that.

My early feel for this season is most folks outside of Pac-12 territory see the Pac-12 as better than expected, a legitimate contender with the Big 12 for second-best conference. I suspect Stanford's victory, while inspiring anti-USC cackles, also included a quiet recognition in the reasonable part of most fans' brains that the Pac-12 has quality depth and a nice troika of elite teams.

Austin from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Taylor Kelly has looked better than I had expected. If he keeps improving and the core players stay for their senior year, what do you think about ASU's chances next year?

Ted Miller: The Sun Devils will have a nice crew of guys coming back in 2013 -- eight of 13 listed starters on offense and eight of 11 starters on defense.

I'm a believer in the idea that experience at quarterback -- if the QB has played well -- is the most important box to check for team in advance of a season. (Experience on the offensive line being second).

But let's see how things go the rest of the way for the Sun Devils. If this team keeps playing well and wins a bowl game, that would provide plenty of positive momentum heading into next season. It would then be easy to project them finding their way into the South Division race.

James from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Do you think Arizona has a shot this weekend vs Oregon?

Ted Miller: Yes.

That answer is my "Homage to Chip Kelly" response of the week.

Dallas from Los Angeles writes: As a UofA alum, this weekend's game is huge for the program.One thing I have not seen anyone mention is if the Ducks defense is as good as you all say, how come they have given so many points against inferior opponents playing at home?34 pts vs Arkansas st? Really?25 pts vs Fresno?14 vs tenn tech? 7 pts on opening drive. These guys were so small, looked like a jv team out there!Untested and possibly overrated.Looking forward to the upset this weekend!

Ted Miller: I think Oregon's defense is good because of my estimation of the talent of its players. This is a deep, talented and experienced crew. Is the unit the equal of LSU or Alabama? No. But it's a top-25 unit.

The Ducks led their first three overmatched opponents 35-7, 35-6 and 50-10 at the half. What I take from the Ducks giving up 24.3 points per game is they played backups in the second half. And they, perhaps, got a little bored.

They've won all three games by at least 17 points, so it wasn't like their defense was asked to tighten the screws in a close game. I suspect, if that is the case on Saturday, they will be up to the task.

That said: Arizona's offense is by far the best unit the Ducks have faced. I'd be a little surprised if the Wildcats don't at least meet the Ducks' points allowed season average.

Mike from Southie, Mass., writes: Interesting scenario here- USC runs the table the rest of the way, Oregon beats everyone outside USC, Stanford beats everyone outside Oregon. That leaves USC at 12-1, Oregon at 11-2, and Stanford at 11-1. Let's just say in this particular scenario, USC sneaks into the BCS National Championship. The obvious candidate to replace SC in the Rose Bowl then becomes Oregon, who owns the head to head tie breaker with Stanford. But my question is this- is it an absolute certainty that the Ducks would get the nod over the Cardinal? What if, say, Notre Dame and UCLA both finish in the Top-15 of the final BCS rankings? Stanford would then own wins over highly-ranked USC, Notre Dame, and UCLA, whereas Oregon would only have the win over Stanford to hang their hat on. In all likelihood it would be Stanford, not Oregon, who would be ranked higher in the final BCS rankings under these circumstances. Furthermore, the Cardinal haven't been to the Rose Bowl in over 10 years, whereas Oregon has been to two of the last three. Do you imagine either of these factors would weigh into the Rose Bowl committee's decision?

Ted Miller: An interesting question, further clouded by Oregon playing in two of the past three Rose Bowls.

The Rose Bowl would have the option, in your scenario, to pick whoever it wanted between Oregon and Stanford. There would be no guiding rules, so the Rose Bowl would choose the team it felt was best for the Rose Bowl as a business entity.

It's possible that Stanford's schedule would rate as significantly more challenging, particularly if Notre Dame and UCLA, teams the Ducks don't play, keep winning. And Oregon would have two losses to a team Stanford beat, which you'd figure would have the Ducks below the Cardinal in the final BCS standings.

Still, Stanford's loss to Oregon would come on Nov. 17, the second to last weekend of the season. A late-season loss resonates more, just as USC's early-season loss to Stanford would resonate less.

By the way, the "How" of all these losses also would matter. Does Stanford lose on a last-second field goal in Autzen Stadium or does it get whipped by two touchdowns? And what about the two USC losses for Oregon? Are they tight? Or do the Trojans roll twice? Lots of variables for a difficult distinction.

Then there's TV ratings, tickets sales, hotel room sales and all that business of a bowl game. Oregon's having played in the game twice in the past three years would be countered by the Ducks likely still having a larger traveling party. Stanford fans did a pretty good job at the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl the past two years, but I still think the Ducks would rate higher.

Further, it's possible Oregon could feature a Heisman Trophy finalist in De'Anthony Thomas. The star factor would favor the Ducks, as would the "Wow" factor. Oregon's fast-paced, high-octane style of play would probably make for higher TV ratings. Pairing the Ducks with, say, Michigan and QB Denard Robinson, would make a nice advertisement.

So if I were handicapping this scenario, I'd guess Oregon would be the pick, justified by two things: 1. It beat Stanford and won the North Division; 2. Oregon would be better for ticket sales and TV ratings.

Alex from Davis, Calif., writes: I have to say that I disagree that any university ought to be required to disclose the injury status of their players. I understand that you have a job to do and that fans always want as much information as possible, but this is college football, not the NFL. First, the only real reason anyone NEEDS to know injury status is for gambling. Although it isn't illegal (in Las Vegas), gambling should not be part of college football. Second, as the NCAA loves to point out, these are "amateur" athletes and furthermore are kids. They deserve at least a little privacy, even if the injury is minor. If the player wants to disclose the injury, the coach ought to let him, but if not, no one should be obligated to share that information. Third, disclosing that a player has an injury can be dangerous to the player. I don't want to believe that there are players or coaches who would or will deliberately target injured players in the NCAA, but after the Saints bounty scandal, why take the risk? Furthermore, as stated previously, these are kids. Things get emotional on the field and a young player might target an injury in the heat of the moment.I don't think a fan's hardcore fandom entitles him or her to know everything about every player on his or her favorite team. I also don't think that the desire to be able to accurately predict outcomes of games justifies releasing medical information about players.

Ted Miller: I understand your position. And I hear it. I don't feel THAT strongly about this, other than my desire -- like all reporters -- to present accurate information to readers.

A couple of things.

First, I think most fans misunderstand the "gambling" angle. I'm not going to root too deeply here, but a lack of accurate, published injury information is what many gamblers want. That creates a potential edge for the guy willing to go the extra mile to get information. And that willingness could lead to situations no one wants.

Second, I find the"privacy" and "amateur" angle a bit disingenuous. College football is big business. Further, universities are, in the vast majority of cases, state sponsored institutions that get public money. I know fans love winning and they will support anything a winning coach does to fight off the media gaggle, but since when is a lack of transparency a good thing in this country?

Further, when you shut down media access to practices and information -- in general -- it means there's no monitoring of a big business operating inside a state sponsored institution. A coach then can do whatever he wants behind the curtain. That's fine for Xs and Os, but he also is free to make compromises that he doesn't particularly like but he views as beneficial to the overall health of the program.

And do you really need to ask what could possibly go wrong?

Eric from Washington DC writes: Lost in all the hubbub about DirecTV not providing the Pac-12 Network(s) is the fact that Comcast is STILL refusing to provide it in several major markets, including the Washington, DC area, where I live. Personally, I live in a DC apartment building that isn't set up for ANY satellite service. Comcast is the only provider I'm able to get that has or is working on a deal. In many ways this is even MORE ridiculous than the DirecTV situation. Comcast actually has a contract to carry the network(s) but is cutting out several major urban markets with significant numbers of Pac-12 fans and refusing to provide any explanation. I guess I'd just like to see a little bit more public attention devoted to this to see if we can't shame Comcast and/or the Pac-12 into at least telling us why this is happening.

Ted Miller: I hear you. I have Cox in Scottsdale but because Cox doesn't provide the national Pac-12 Network feed, I can't watch Pac-12 games on my computer. It's really annoying. Cox's justification is simple: Because we can, because we suspect you are too busy or too lazy to make a change.

The cable/satellite business is a nasty one, as we've all learned this from this interesting Pac-12 Network birth. Cable and satellite companies don't want to give you a great product. They want to give you as little as possible while keeping your business. They make more money if you are unhappy but still subscribing than if you were thrilled with your service because you are constantly seeing the product and service improve.

The only leverage you have is to: 1. Constantly complain. 2. Switch services.

In terms of complaint, you should seek out public forums in which to gripe. And you should be relentless. In terms of switching, you should specifically document to the provider you are dropping WHY you are making a change. The more that happens, the more you force the provider to respond to the marketplace.

Margaret from Birmingham, Ala., writes: I live in the town of love for Nick S and Ala football and I do love them but I have fallen in love with the Oregon Ducks...I have adopted them as my second team. Anyone who can wear those uniforms needs all the love they can get. I love the uniforms!!!Go Ducks.

Ted Miller: There you go, Oregon. An SEC convert. One down, several million to go.