Opening the mailbag: Corp vs. Barkley

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

First, good catch for those of you who noticed the problem with this on my Best Case for California:

Florida nipped Cal 43-42 in triple-overtime when Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes tipped away a Riley pass on a 2-point conversion.

Obviously, for that to happen in triple overtime it would have to be a 2-point margin because both teams are required to go for two in the third OT. I was so focused on a 1-point victory that, hey, I forgot my math.


To the notes:

Rob from Los Angeles writes: With all that's going on with the USC quarterback situation, and what you're hearing in general, what do you think is the most likely outcome of the Corp/Barkley saga going into the first two games of the season?

Ted Miller: With USC, there aren't a lot of secrets. What I hear is what you hear.

USC has two good quarterbacks. Aaron Corp is more experienced, faster and makes fewer mistakes.

Matt Barkley is a spectacular talent who looks like a sure future NFL first-round pick. He's smart and mature and poised. But. BUT! He's also a true freshman, and rarely do true freshmen lead championship teams.

Corp emerged from spring with a solid lead.

It appears that during summer work, Barkley's arm and composure wowed teammates. Conversations I've had with various players suggested that more than a few were buying into Barkley as a real possibility.

That seed of momentum carried over into preseason practices. Barkley seemed to start fast, while Corp was his steady self. Then Corp got hurt. Based on effusive praise from players and coaches, the general feeling is Barkley is going to win the job.

But it appears Corp will return sooner -- one week -- rather than the reported three weeks. So there may be a couple more chapters here before the opener on Sept. 5.

And it seems possible that San Jose State may see two quarterbacks, though that's just my guess, not something coaches are saying.

Tyler from Hillsboro, Ore., writes: I want a new debate to arise. With Mr. "Quizz" Rodgers hurt in the civil war and of course dennis dixon knocked out 2 years ago. which player really made a difference in the loss for the team? Rodgers or Dixon? I have heard arguments for both. This topic is hot in the state of Oregon. But i want your take...

Ted Miller: Tyler, Tyler, Tyler. I know what you're up to, or did you believe I wouldn't notice the whole "mallardman" thing?

I don't think Oregon State fans will get too bent on this one, though.

Obviously, Dixon probably would have made a bigger difference in the 2007 Civil War than Rodgers in the 2008 Civil War because the former game was decided in double-overtime while the latter, er, was not.

And, as I have stated before, I believe Oregon would have won the national title had Dixon not blown out his knee. The Ducks offense at its peek in 2007 was a thing of beauty.

Drew from San Francisco writes: I'm very disappointed in the best/worst case scenario with Oregon and Cal. I understand it's just a prediction and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, in the best case an Oregon loss to USC and a Cal blow out over USC? Really? I do think a win over USC is in Cal's grasp this year, although I'm not sure the structure (and port a potties) at Memorial Stadium could handle the aftermath. Oregon already has the SI curse to deal with, but not you too Ted, not you too!

Ted Miller: Got a handful of these from Ducks fans.

First, to answer you seriously: I tried to be consistent. My power rankings have USC No. 1, Cal No. 2 and Oregon No. 3. So I tried to make the best and worst cases fit accordingly.

Now, less seriously: You Duck fans! You're griping about losing to USC but I had you going 12-1, winning a BCS bowl game and finishing ranked No. 2 in the nation!

Talk about hard to please.

Moreover, I knew you guys were going to be on me about this. That's why I inserted this sequence.

But this is not the Ducks day. The Trojans have the offense to match and their defense is fast enough to keep up with the Ducks. USC wins 38-28.

"We should have won this game," Kelly said. "Why didn't we win this game?"

[Must ignore him... how does he do that? We knew he was a control freak but this is a little much.]

The idea was that Kelly was speaking, inside my head, for Oregon fans.

Yeah, when I finished I thought it was a little loopy, too.

Cliff from Hayward, Calif., writes: How much leverage would a commissioner have getting bowls to change their match-ups? Do the bowls determine this, or can a good commish help them find good deals with other conferences?

Ted Miller: What is leverage? Money.

A commissioner has leverage if he brings money to the table or, more accurately, the promise of money. A conference brings that to the table if a bowl believes that conference will sell tickets and boost TV ratings

That's the issue for new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott as he tries to upgrade the conference's bowl arrangements. To upgrade -- and get better payouts -- he's got to show other bowls the money.

The Pac-10, despite all of its wonderfulness, doesn't travel well as a whole -- at least that's the reputation. Cal and Washington State played in the first two Alamo Bowls -- winning both -- but those games produced the lowest attendance totals in the bowl's 16-year history.

The ideal situation for Scott would have been to leverage the Holiday Bowl into a higher payout for the No. 2 Pac-10 team and get the Alamo Bowl to settle for Pac-10 No. 3 and the Sun Bowl would end up with No. 4.

But in this economy ideal scenarios are hard to come by.

Jerry from Houston writes: There is a lot of talk about Washington being a team to keep an eye on this year and that we should expect a considerable improvement over last year.If LSU goes into Seattle and handles the Huskies, should we expect to hear that Washington still has a long way to go, or that LSU is better than expected?Your thoughts?

Ted Miller: First off, Washington shouldn't be much of a measuring stick for LSU.

The Tigers were ranked ninth in the preseason coaches poll, obviously getting the benefit of the doubt despite losing five games a year ago.

The Huskies went 0-12. They lost to Oklahoma by 41 with Jake Locker. They lost to USC 56-zip. They lost to a 4-8 UCLA team by 20.

So if LSU wins by 20, I'm not sure if it will reveal whether the Tigers are back to national title contention.

That said: What you are picking up on is a reasonable explanation for the Huskies horrible season: They were an injury-ravage group, playing one of the nation's toughest schedules for a coach who'd lost his team.

If the Huskies had played Appalachian State and North Texas to start the 2008 season, things might have turned out differently. Instead, they played Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma.

With Locker and a bunch of guys back and a new energetic coaching staff, the Huskies might not feel like a team that went 0-12 to LSU, but there's still a significant talent gap between the programs -- just consider the recruiting rankings.

Washington is still a year or two away from contending for a bowl game.

Caster from Santa Barbara, Calif., writes: Do you feel that the media has any influence on the success of a
program? That is, do you think (constructive) criticism helps or hinders a program? Recently, I began writing a blog on the shortcomings of my beloved Oregon State program (shameless plug: http://angrybeavers.wordpress.com ) as I feel the Oregon media is blindly optimistic and nobody wants to discuss--hopefully to improve upon--the glaring weaknesses.

Ted Miller: Yes. Everyone knows that the Pac-10 blog has magical powers to both bless and curse programs at its whim. Whaaaaa haaaa haaa haa (supposed to be an evil laugh).

I think the media can have an influence, though probably not a huge one. Talent, staying healthy and good coaching, for example, would be bigger influences.

Yet there are two mental components the media touches: 1. Confidence; 2. Focus.

The media can influence a team's confidence, both positively (You're good) and negatively (You stink).

Of course, if a team becomes fascinated with its own media reflection, it can lose focus. Moreover, certain team problems -- off-field issues, etc. -- can be aggravated by their presentation in the media.

For example, the Seattle Times published a controversial series that was highly critical of the Washington football program just before national signing day in 2008. It's hard to believe the timing of the story didn't hurt the program, and many Huskies fans don't believe the timing was coincidental.

Carlos from Burbank, Calif., writes: Which non-conference game do you think is the most important for the Pac-10 in terms of the perception of the conference's depth? I'm not really counting the USC-Ohio State matchup because USC (unfairly) seems to be the only Pac-10 team that's respected outside of the West Coast.

Ted Miller: It's not about one game. It's about the Pac-10 doing well in many of the nonconference games.

The chief thing the Pac-10 needs to do is to establish a foil for USC, so if Oregon or California swept their nonconference schedules, it would look good.

If I had to tap one, it would be a major upset vs. the SEC: Let's say Arizona State at Georgia or LSU at Washington.

A victory in either would certainly produce a positive statement about conference depth.

John from Los Angeles writes: PLEASE get your facts straight! 105,000 screaming at Prince when UCLA invades UT?!? WRONG! The official website for UT states: "The latest addition to the facility is the East Side Club level seating completed in 2006, bringing capacity to 102,037." Not only that, I know of at least 3 UCLA fans who will be there for the game (yours truly included), so HA!

Ted Miller: John, stadium capacity is just a suggestion in the SEC.

The 10 biggest crowds in Neyland Stadium history range between 109,061 and 107,709.

So my tally included visiting UCLA fans.

Mike from San Francisco writes: Your Berry vs. Mays debate with Chris Low was a classic example of SEC homerism vs. Pac-10 enlightenment. Not once does Low even mention Mays's name, whereas, demonstrating the class of the Pac-10, you concede points and talk about the qualities of Berry in your defense of Mays. Please tell me you at least said something to Low about this poor form.

Ted Miller: Mike I appreciate you patting me on the back but I disagree.

I think Chris completely covered his bases in the intro he wrote. Recall: Maui vs. Cancun.

(Lots of you said Maui. I give you hello paradise!)

We had an assignment: As the SEC guy, he had Berry. As the Pac-10 guy, I had Mays. You never know: Low might love Mays and I might love Berry. We were doing our jobs.

Moreover, Low did me the courtesy of setting the format up and doing his answers first, so he didn't have the benefit of responding like I did.

As a Pac-10 fan, you might not like the SEC, but Chris is a pro. I wouldn't want him to sub for me for a week because you guys might not want me back.