Hate: The Mailbag is burning

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

To paraphrase Madonna: You hate me. You really hate me.

Well, if you're an Oregon State fan. Or an SEC adherent.

Dan from Portland writes: Ted, I am sure you have by now received countless emails from my fellow Oregonians stating that the greatest college football rivalry of all time in any conference is the Oregon State / [expletive] ducks civil war....this is the hardest fought game of the year regardless of national rankings....it sells out every year and gives millions... okay, thousands of Oregonians something to look forward to besides nine months of rain. Even the kids in this state classify themselves as Beavers or *ucks. Please do a little more research next time.

Ray from Lake Oswego, Ore. writes: Dude, you blatently left out the Civil War on your "most bitter rivalries" list???!!!??? C'mon now, I know you spent a lot of time up in Seattle, but you really think the Apple Cup and fuskies vs. the 'ucks is a better rivalry? As a proud member of Beaver Nation, I am hear to tell you that our hatred for all things green and yellow far outweighs that of those other rivalries...heck our rivalry game with the fuskies has a better rating on the "hate-o-meter" than most of your top 5. I was really beginning to like your blog and then you had to go and do this...we expect better from you Ted.

Ted Miller: Got lots and lots of these -- and plenty of the same in the comments section. Leaving the Civil War out of the list of the Pac-10's most bitter rivalries touched a nerve.

First, all rivalries are bitter. I grew up in Atlanta and it used to drive me crazy that Georgia-Georgia Tech didn't make many "best rivalry games" lists. I remember when inimitable Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Lewis Grizzard wrote this column after his beloved Bulldogs lost to the Yellow Jackets:

"Frankly, I don't want to talk about it."

The rest was white space. One line. Brilliant. I am laughing out loud right now.

So I understand: Oregon State fans really hate Oregon.

But the reverse of that, well, after living in the Northwest for eight years, my overwhelming perception was the Ducks reserve their most toxic bile for the hated Huskies.

In fact, I remember former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos candidly admitting that to me.

Every time I write something about the Huskies, it gets trolled by Oregon and Washington State fans. When I write about the Beavers, I don't get that.

Moreover, the Oregon State fans I know well -- including my former boss at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- mostly come off as, well, sane. Educated. Thoughtful. Funny. Even the anger over this matter has been mostly expletive and "you idiot" free.

I'm not brown nosing. It's an honest impression.

It is, however, fair to say that my first-hand experience covering the Apple Cup made me biased. Of course, just about every Apple Cup I've witnessed concluded with mayhem ranging from just a little scary to out of control.

And, as for the Ducks and Huskies: Please. I've watched that Kenny Wheaton video too many times to question the emotions of that game.

Brian from Munford, Tenn., writes: The numbers do not lie. Most SEC teams do have poor non-conference scheduling. After all since the BCS started the SEC has 4 national championships and why not include Auburn in 2004 since USC was awarded a piece in 2003(50% i would say a highly significant winning %)?The problem is EVERY week in the SEC anyone can win. There is no other conference that even compares. So with that said why would any team in this conference schedule big non conference games? They do not need to!

Ted Miller: "The problem is EVERY week in the SEC anyone can win." Well, that's true of any conference. Just like on any given week Alabama could lose to Louisiana-Monroe or Mississippi could lose to Wyoming or Mississippi State could lose to Tulane or Auburn could lose to South Florida (did Oregon play South Florida last year?) or Kentucky could lose to Indiana or Arkansas can win the SEC West but lose to USC by 36 points or Tennessee could win the SEC East after losing to California by 14 points.

SEC folks love to talk about the depth of their conference, and there is depth -- at the top. But out here in reality world, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State and, yes, Alabama look just like about 50 other BCS teams lumbering around the bloated middle of college football. That group reminds me of the bottom half of the Pac-10, which is where each would finish if it came out West. Wait. Have Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi State done that over the past decade?

Moreover, sometimes the "depth" of the SEC is smoke-and-mirrors. Take Georgia in 2007. I've got nothing but love for the Dawgs, but folks outside of Athens/Atlanta/Macon/Savannah see a team that lost to a bad South Carolina squad and got bludgeoned by Tennessee. (Did Tennessee play a Pac-10 team in 2007? I can't remember.) The Bulldogs, who gave up 34 points to Troy and beat Vandy by three, were outraged they didn't get to play for the national championship, but, really, their entire resume came down to two games: wins over Florida and Auburn. Florida lost to Appalachian State by the transitive property of college football. And that South Florida team that won at Auburn went down 56-21 to Oregon in the Sun Bowl.

The SEC needs tough non-conference games to prove itself to the rest of the nation, a group that is not required to succumb to the "just trust me ... can't you see I'm yelling!" school of debate popular in the SEC.

That's why Georgia scheduled Arizona State. That's why Tennessee has long played a gutty non-conference schedule. And, heck, LSU wouldn't have won the national title last year if it hadn't beaten the pooh out of Virginia Tech.

Nick from St. Paul writes: Ted, could you go into a little more depth on the Arizona State offensive line? How much of last year was do to a new system, Carpenter holding the ball too long and past injuries hurting lineman mobility? How much will that improve with in the second year of Team Erickson?

Ted Miller: Nick, Dennis Erickson went way out of his way to repeatedly spread the blame around about the 55 sacks surrendered last year. He clearly didn't want to throw his offensive line completely under the bus. And, he's got a point. How many of you Sun Devils fans yelled at your television at some point last year "Rudy! Throw the %$#@ ball"? So, QB Rudy Carpenter deserve some blame, as do running backs who struggled to pick up blitzes. That's why the main offensive emphasis during the spring was to adopt a quick-hitting passing game, which, by the way, has always been Erickson's preference. Still, the Sun Devils only welcome back two starters on the offensive line, and both tackles will be new. In fact, it would be fair to argue that left tackle John Hargis, who converted from the defensive line during spring practices, might be the most important Sun Devil. To me, the only big question with ASU is the offensive line. If the Sun Devils cut that sack total in half (which would have still only ranked in the middle of the conference in 2007), my guess is they'll have another shot at double-digit victories.

Tate from Eugene writes: I realize that you think the ducks "have the ugliest uniforms in the history of the world" but does it really matter when we've actually pulled recruits here on our uniforms al
one? Obviously they are doing something for us. The recruits love it, the players love it, and the fans love it. So keep on hating and we'll keep on pulling in guys like LeGarrette Blount who is gonna tear the Pac-10 up this season (as a backup too).

Ted Miller: Sigh. Tate, when I wrote that, I was trying to inhabit the mind of a fan who hates Oregon. But I don't. (Just like I sure as heck wouldn't support spraying graffiti on Traveller). While I've certainly raised an eyebrow at some of the Ducks combinations, I actually like Oregon's colors and understand the method in the athletic program's madness -- the uniforms aren't about middle-aged folks, they're about what might appeal to an 18-22-year-old.

Jordan from Coeur d'Alene, ID writes: I have been wrestling with the toughest football question I've ever contemplated and I need your advice: I am a lifelong Washington fan and I don't know what to do this season. I love Ty Willingham, the man; he's a class act and full of good character. However, he is a god-awful football coach. He's recruited decently but is 11-25 (and, as I'm sure you remember, Lambright was fired for a better record) in three seasons and is without argument a terrible game day coach. I am clearly in the wanting Ty fired camp, but does that mean I have to hope for my Huskies to have a mediocre to poor season so that he will be canned? I mean, I'm desperate for a bowl game but I fear that if we make one Ty will be extended and we will remain mediocre. What's a purple and gold-clad fan to do?

Ted Miller: Jordan, this is simple: You should root for yourself to be wrong about Willingham. You should root for your team to shock everyone and make so-called pundits look stupid. You should root with every part of your Huskies-loving-soul for Washington to catch fire under Willingham and begin the second-coming of the Don James Era.

I'm not saying it's going to happen. But this is the time of year you get behind your team and practice unconditional love.

Doug from Houston writes: Ted - If you have USC only making the Rose Bowl then who do you have them losing to? Please don't tell me Ohio State!

Ted Miller: OK. I won't tell you. I believe USC will lose one Pac-10 game and one other. And I believe Ohio State will redeem itself and win the national title this season. But I won't say what I think will happen in the USC-Ohio State game because you asked nicely.