Opening the mailbag: Bowl projections

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

During the season, the mailbag will be a weekly feature on a regular schedule. But, at present, I can't resist its allure...

Chris from Concord, Calif., writes: I was curious if you were going to do a bowl projection/prediction for the PAC-10's allotted bowl slots for the 2008 season. I'd love to hear your thoughts about who you think will be going where.

Ted Miller: Well, Chris, there are two bits of intrigue projecting bowls: 1) Will USC play in the BCS title game and potentially open up an unprecedented eighth bowl slot for the Pac-10? 2) If the Trojans "only" earn a Rose Bowl berth, will the conference produce six other bowl-eligible teams necessary to fill out the bowl arrangements?

Per question one: If USC played, say, Georgia for the national title (fun, fun, fun), then the issue would be whether another Pac-10 team would be BCS bowl-worthy -- say a one- or two-loss Oregon or Arizona State squad. If so, then you would have USC in the title game, the conference runner-up in the Rose Bowl (or another BCS bowl, depending how the selections go) and six other available slots (Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl).

Eighty percent of Pac-10 teams in bowl games would be fairly impressive -- and probably just south of impossible.

My guess is the Trojans won't play for the national title.

So, sticking to my original vote in the Media Day poll (it's not fair to change that until we get past the first weekend of games):

  • Rose Bowl: USC

  • Holiday Bowl: Oregon

  • Sun Bowl: Arizona State

  • Las Vegas Bowl: California

  • Emerald Bowl: Arizona

Now things get sticky: I think Oregon State and Washington are solid teams, but I also think they may have scheduled themselves out of bowl games. The Huskies first three games are brutal: at Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma, and their third non-conference game is Notre Dame. It's hard to project six wins. Same with Oregon State, a typically slow-starting team that starts its season like this: at Stanford, at Penn State, Hawaii, USC, at Utah. And both UW and OSU play at Arizona, the team both figure to be competing with in the bowl pecking order.

Still, the Beavers will get it done. Somehow.

  • Hawaii Bowl (or Poinsettia Bowl to avoid an OSU-Hawaii rematch): Oregon State

Brittany in Eugene, Ore., writes: UO has a slew of QBs on the roster. Who do you predict to start on the August 30th opener against Washington?

Ted Miller: Got a number of questions like this that probably emerged from my entry last week suggesting that coach Mike Bellotti wasn't ready yet to hand the keys over to sophomore Nate Costa just yet (though Brittany's question arrived a day before). Well, just like most everyone else, I think Costa will be the starter against Washington. He's a very good athlete -- more quick that fast -- with good ball skills and a good arm. And offensive coordinator Chip Kelly loves him. Have I seen him play in a game? No. But the scuttlebutt in his favor is very strong. I have a hunch he's going to be a pretty good player right out of the gate. Obviously, I don't think the offense is going to struggle too badly -- I've picked the Ducks second in the conference.

Jeremiah in Redding, Calif., writes: I wanted to get your opinion on my estimation that its a good possibility that Stanford could reach a bowl game this year.

Ted Miller: Jeremiah included a link to his blog where he provides his insights on Stanford's bowl hopes, much of his reasoning hinging on his excitement about coach Jim Harbaugh. Here's my response: I'm feeling you, Jeremiah. You're not alone. Even though just about everyone has buried Stanford at the bottom of the Pac-10, I've talked to more than a few guys who said, "I wouldn't be surprised if Stanford broke into the top half of the conference." The Cardinal welcomes back a solid group of 16 starters from a team that was mostly competitive last year. Sort of worried about the O-line and the skill positions, but center Alex Fletcher talked me out of it at Pac-10 media day, at least the O-line part. Also, I continue to have a hunch that Harbaugh might turn out to be an outstanding coach. If the Cardinal stays healthy, this certainly could become a dark-horse bowl team. And, if said breakthrough doesn't happen this season, wait until February when Harbaugh signs a top 25 recruiting class.

DMeyer in Tempe, Ariz., writes: ASU vs. Georgia....how big do you think this game will mean to both teams come Sept. 20th? If ASU were to upset Georgia which should be the top ranked team or close to it...will this give the devils the confidence to dethrone USC?

Ted Miller: 1) It's a big game for both teams, but far bigger for Georgia, which is trying to prove it's a national title contender (and not afraid of playing tough non-conference games on the road); 2) I don't think Arizona State is going to upset Georgia -- the Bulldogs front seven will be too much for the Sun Devils unproven offensive line; 3) If the Sun Devils do pull the upset, they'd immediately become a national title contender; 4) Beating Georgia and beating USC aren't the same thing. The Bulldogs have a ways to go to join teams like LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Texas on the tier behind the Trojans in the national pecking order.

I think Arizona State and Dennis Erickson have the best chance to unseat USC in the Pac-10 over the next couple of years. I just don't think it happens this season.

Keep 'em coming.