Opening the mailbag: Players, player hating and Stendhal

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Good afternoon. On the Pac-10 blog it's always happy hour.

To your notes!

Steve from Tucson writes: If the WSU vs. UW model works, do you think this will carry over to a potential ASU vs. UA @ University of Phoenix Stadium? My view is that there are enough U of A fans in the Phoenix area + Tucsonans willing to travel to carry the game. Students are tough to draw during the "traditional" thanksgiving weekend game so I don't think they would get ripped off very much by moving the game to Glendale (AZ).

Alex from Las Vegas writes: I think the rest of the Pac-10 should follow the Apple Cups lead and hold the big in-state rivalry on a neutral field. It would balance the number of home and away games for the conference season, neutral site games always have a great atmosphere and it would underscore the fact that the Pac-10 has the best rivalries in college football.
Ted Miller: Hmm. Is it possible I have become a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist?

I recoiled when I first read the proposal to move the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. Maybe the idea of not being able to go to the Coug and watch Chad Eaton flick beer on purple-clad Huskies fans any more made me sad.

Lots of folks agree with me. But lots of folks apparently disagree (see above).

My take is rivalry games are best when they are on-campus. Sure, Florida and Georgia and Oklahoma and Texas have great traditions with off-campus, neutral sites. But, to me, those are the exceptions.

But, as in many things, I could be in a minority.

What do you guys think? Would you want your rivalry game played in a neutral venue?

Such as: The Civil War in Portland or Arizona-Arizona State in University of Phoenix Stadium?

Raymond from Tucson writes: It's never to early for your 2009 PAC-10 predictions for finishing 1-10. I'm sure you will provide each school breakdown but I think I am looking for a real gut check on USC this year from experts. I'm looking to find that someone who is willing to say "USC is a true champion but in 2009 it will take a Trojan Horse trick to repeat as PAC-10 Champions. I want to see somebody use more than just rubber stamping statements like; 1. USC will reload 2. USC are champions until they lose the title. 3. Its USC then the PAC-9... USC has to replace their best offensive weapon (the QB) and the majority of their defense. USC tuffest games are ALL ON THE ROAD. Are you going to be the ONE who has the strength and vision to predict SC falling from its throne?

Ted Miller: Strength and vision! That sounds like me!

Not sure yet, Raymond. I'm still a USC lean, but as many have noticed, I've been developing a Cal jones this offseason.

Sweatervested from Mobile, Ala., writes: Ted, Good day to you sir! I have a question about recruits committing early. I would ask Chris Low on our SEC blog, but he has so many fans he may not get around to answer. Do you think committing early does more harm than good? Recruits these days seem to want to be catered to, and they seem to change their minds often.

Ted Miller: We meet again, Sweatervested, scourge of the Pac-10 blog!

The answer is Louisiana-Monroe and Utah!

Ah... but you played that darn Mobile card, so I have to be nice.

As for your question -- I know Chris is busy as heck -- no, I don't like early commitments, but each prep athlete and his family should do what's best for them.

If I'm a prep All-American linebacker at UMS-Wright playing for Terry Curtis and I love the Crimson Tide, maybe I should just get everyone off my back and commit.

But I'd advise my son -- who's four-months old but wears nine-month clothes by the way -- to make all five official visits, which is the only way to make an informed decision.

Plus, visits are fun and they are a great way to see other parts of the country, expenses paid.

And don't you owe me some royal red shrimp?

Stephen from Los Altos, Calif., writes: The NCAA knows who their cash cows are, so I thought nothing would become of this USC Investigation Probe until I heard the words 'lack of institutional control.' What do you realistically think will become of this situation? Outside of punishing EWU, the NCAA hasn't made any statements for a long time. Do you think that they may be making up for lost time with these UCONN and USC situations?

Ted Miller: Ha! Like I'd know what the NCAA might do.

The decision to combine the Reggie Bush-O.J. Mayo cases suggests that the NCAA is focusing on oversight within USC's athletic department as a whole. My intuition is that means some sort of sanction will come out of this, though it's hard to say if it will involve the dreaded scholarship cuts and postseason bans.

My personal take, as many of you know, is that the Bush case is incredibly difficult to dump on the football program. I've read all the stories and the book, and the connections to the program are tenuous, at best.

The Mayo case feels different. And the two paired together create a "where there's smoke, there's fire" impression that's hard to shake.

Will that end up being "a lack of institutional control"?


But my gut says it may end up being the lesser "failure to monitor," which should spare the programs from crushing penalties.

Eric from Terre Haute, Ind., writes: Do you think ASU's Michael Jones will garner any interest from NFL teams?

Ted Miller: I think Jones will get drafted on the second day because his decent speed and 6-foot-4 frame will raise at least one GM's eyebrow.

Vince from Scottsdale writes: please, please, please mention something about Pat's Run in your blog, especially in light of Coach Snyder's passing. I realize you live here in the valley and were most likely going to have a full blown entry about the foundation and the run itself but I just wanted to make sure it gets the recognition it deserves. I personally feel that the legacy of Coach Snyder was kind of put on the backburner by ESPN in favor of the baseball deaths that occurred on the same day. He was an important part of ASU, a strong proponent of the Tillman Foundation and an all around good person.

Ted Miller: Did it, but if you missed it, here it is.

More details, here.

Alex from Carlsbad, Calif., writes: I know you want to shy away from the top 30 list in Friday's mailbag, but I'm curious about the Mays' vs Berry topic. Mays doesn't have the "stats" that Berry does, and it's my opinion that he does his job so flawlessly, that you don't see it happening. Can you find the total amount of "big plays" Tennessee's defense gave up compared to SC's? Then maybe some SEC fans will give credit where credit is do.

Ted Miller: I know some see me as an SEC gadfly, but I'm just into telling the truth or at least gathering the facts and not making judgments on
teams and conferences based on stadium size.

And, with that in mind, Berry, my friend, is the truth.

Mays is a more spectacular athlete, by Berry has been more productive statistically by a wide-margin, and that can't be completely explained away by scheme.

Yes, USC had the nation's best pass defense in 2008. But Tennessee ranked 11th, and the Vols only gave up eight touchdown passes (USC gave up six).

And Berry's supporting cast was vastly inferior -- only end Robert Ayers would have started for USC.

Now, as I wrote, I still think it's wide-open on who gets picked first in the 2010 NFL draft. Mays could make up ground this season, and Berry could, perhaps, lose some in a new system. But that is not a majority opinion -- most favor Berry, in large part because of his production.

John from Portland writes: Ted, What's your sense of WSU's ability to compete in the PAC10 over the next 5-10 years. Seems that budget and facilities will become more and more of an issue.

Ted Miller: My sense is that Washington State has been to two Rose Bowls since 1997 and the Cougs won 30 games from 2001-2003. Have budget and facilities issues gotten that much worse during that span?


The Cougs can compete. They've proven it before and I bet they'll prove it again.

Or my friend Jim Moore's head might explode.

John from Seattle writes: Hey, Ted, I just had a discussion with my wife about the percentage of people who would get a Stendhal reference. I said 10 percent, she said one. As for a Beckett allusion, well, since this is a college football blog, I'll upgrade it to 12 percent. Though as it's a Pac-10 blog, with all those Cal and Stanford folks (and OK, UCLA and USC aren't terrible), I might go as high as 14 percent. Might. It's probably closer to the one percent, of course. As a writer, I understand how fun it is to drop in literary references, even if only one percent of my audience gets it. And it's fun as a reader, too. So keep it up, but you should challenge your readers to Name That Writer! And now I must go on. I can't. But I will.

Ted Miller: Literary references? You mean those random lines before my lunch links? Those are just my original scribblings. Really! And who is this Stendhal? Didn't he play defensive end for Stanford in the '80s?

John, I try to touch a lot of cultural bases -- high and low -- with those entry lines. Hopefully, folks find it amusing.

Of course, pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.

Jason from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: Where was Nic Grigsby on your Top-30 list? He was only 4th in the conference in rushing as a Sophomore and tied for 4th in TD's. And all this was while splitting time with Keola Antolin. I would think based on production AND potential, he would have made the list.

Nick from the Bay Area writes: why don't you go on web cam and post a video on youtube where you say "based on my top-31 list, i am saying that i think cameron jordan is, at most, the eighth best defensive end in the conference"... and then keep a straight face for at least 5 seconds... seriously, i dare you to try.

John from Oregon writes: I'm sure you do this to cause questions to be raised but...You have Blount listed as the 4th best running back in the Pac-10??? McKnight has how many yards on how many carries? Rodgers is a fun little story but that is it. Blount would have had 1800 to 2000 yds last year if the Ducks didn't have Jeremiah Johnson. I'll give you Best but outside of him the only other Pac-10 running back who will be in the NFL in the next two years is Blount. Get your act together.

Ryan from Berkeley writes: Now that you have posted the whole list, I think that you have underrated Alterraun Verner.

Dan from Austin, Tx., writes: While I am an Arizona Wildcat, I'm gonna give another guy props first. Toby Gerhart is rated way too low. He is a beast and one of the hardest RB's to bring down not to mention he rushed over 1000 yds sharing time at RB? Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight from USC are rated way too high !! Everyone is on the USC bandwagon but to have these two guys high on the list and not even have Nic Grigsby make the top 30??? Grigsby is the other lone thousand yard rusher in the Pac-10 and rushed for more TD's than McKnight and Johnson combined. I'm not saying Grigsby is top 10...but he HAS to be in the top 30!

Raffy from Los Angeles writes: While Taylor Mays may be an exceptional safety, no Pac10 OC's are game planning around him...In January of 2010, the one player the world will associate with Pac10 football will be Jahvid Best. It is an easy out to put an SC player at the top of this list (happens often I imagine) but let's face it, among college football players in 2009, few if any are comparable to the electricity and sheer physical talent that is Jahvid Best. Hard to appreciate from Bristol and other points east, but Best is a singular running back talent that must be watched to be appreciated

Ted Miller: Great points. Duly noted.

My top-30 list no longer will be carved into granite with gold leaf accents and hung from the highest point of Mt. Olympus.