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Opening the mailbag: Is USC headed for a plunge?

It's possible the mailbag might move to Thursday afternoon during the season. Plan accordingly.

Follow me on Twitter. Last week, the USC offense did. The Trojans defense did not. And we all saw what happened there.

To the notes.

Mitch from Salem, Ore., writes: After seeing USC and their "green" secondary, and overall poor defense against Hawaii, do you still see them as a PAC-10 contender? Their offense was good, but I attribute that to a poor Hawaii defense.

Ted Miller: That's a fair point, but I can't think much about it because I'm still stuck on how terrible Oregon looked at Boise State last year. Or how the Ducks nearly lost at home to Purdue the following week. That team has no hope and Chip Kelly is clearly above his head as a head coach.

Oregon won the Pac-10 and Kelly won conference Coach of the Year in 2009? Oh.

Here's an oldie but a goodie: Florida State lost its 1988 opener 31-0 to Miami.

And then went 11-1.

My point: Openers are strange things. They sometimes reveal weaknesses that will be season-long issues. And they sometimes provide powerful teachable moments for teams trying to find themselves. And they sometimes don't mean jack, one way or the other.

And let's keep in mind the Trojans won by 13 points.

Was the Trojans defense shockingly bad? Without a doubt. But we may need to get a few games into the season before we start throwing dirt on the Trojans season.

But, yeah, USC won't be No. 2 in my power rankings next week. That tackling made me want to scratch my eyes out. I was worried that Ed Orgeron's head was going burst like a watermelon tossed from a 10-story tower.

Tim from Decatur, Ga., writes: Sometime next week can you post a link to your previously posted recommendations for where us duck fans need to visit while we're in Knoxville next weekend! obviously calhouns is a must, but since everyone will be heading there, we may need some alternatives beat the crowd.

Ted Miller: Here's what I wrote last time I fielded this question:

The place I always recommend is Ye Ole Steak House. It's an institution.

I fired an email to SEC blogger Chris Low, who lives in Knoxville. He added Calhoun's on the River and the Butcher Shop. Sure you can get some good bar recommendations at any of those places (I haven't been there in more than a decade).

Just make sure you get there soon enough to enjoy the tailgate. It's one of the best places in the country to see a game.

You also could throw a comment up on the SEC blog. Guarantee you'll get some good suggestions.

Tony from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: What do you think of the Sun Devils playing a lot of 3-4 defense this year? They will run a base 4-3 but with the recent lack of depth at DT isn't it a blessing in disguise that they are very good a linebacker...especially up the middle with Burfict and Munns. With Guy and Brooks as the ends and an aggressive blitzing strategy with the linebackers I can really see the Devils causing a ton of turnovers this year.

Ted Miller: I think it makes sense: When you are strong at linebacker and lack depth at DT, then using some 3-4 looks makes sense, even if your base is a 4-3 (and the Sun Devils hope to get healthy at tackle, where they are pretty salty when all are accounted for). And getting Munns and Burfict both on the field means one of the unit's best defenders isn't sitting on the bench.

I think the best coaches adapt to their personnel and don't get too caught up in trying to force their players into systems. Craig Bray does a great job in Tempe; he's this close to building a program that immediately pops into mind when folks think about good defenses nationally (which means some of those touted West Coast prep DTs and DEs that only looked at USC in the past might give the Sun Devils a shot).

Tony, your friends over at Arizona are doing the same thing by using more nickel and dime packages due to better depth and talent in the secondary than at LB.

Evan from Fresno, Calif., writes: Are you on USC's payroll? Are you a Trojans? Your bias on them is ridiculous. You defend a dirty program. You defend a dirty hit against Hawaii. Where's you're shame.

Ted Miller: Happy Friday to you Evan!

I don't believe I have a bias towards any team. I was born in Atlanta. I went to the University of Richmond. I own no school-specific gear -- T-shirts, hats, boxers, etc. I covered Auburn for a while (not because I chose Auburn but because that was the job I was offered). I then covered Washington for a while (not because I chose Washington but because that was the job I was offered). I am now ESPN.com's Pac-10 blogger (not because I chose the Pac-10 but because that was the job I was offered).

If I woke up tomorrow in Opposite World, and Adam Rittenberg was the Pac-10 blogger and I was the Big Ten blogger, I would cover the Big Ten with the same wide-eyed, slightly deranged zeal that I have for my coverage of the Pac-10. I would not favor Indiana over Michigan, though it would be inevitable that someone at some point would believe so.

It seems to me the starting point of folks who accuse me of having a bias toward Team A is their overwhelming hatred of Team A. Fairness to Team A -- or any positive stories about Team A -- then become "bias." Often the claim of bias is shortly followed about complaints about things I've written, the problem often being with these claims is I haven't actually written what the critic claims I have.

Many have a problem with my position that the NCAA's sanctions against USC were too severe (though that's a widely held position among national college football writers). I've written that because I believe it and the evidence supports that position. While the football program is far from blameless, it didn't deserve the worst penalties in decades. What I chiefly discovered from fans who have taken issue with my coverage of USC and the NCAA is two things: 1. Said fan hates USC; 2. Said fan doesn't know the issues, rules, what the actual record is or the content of the ultimate NCAA ruling.

As for last night's USC-Hawaii game, I made sure the record was clear with Michael Morgan's hit on QB Bryant Moniz because it was not a dirty play, didn't deserve a penalty and it's not right for there to be any momentum behind the assertion Morgan took a head-hunting cheap shot. There seemed to be some confusion on that. Here's a great picture of the hit in question. I watched the play in slow motion about 10 times before reaching my conclusion: 1. There was no helmet-to-helmet contact; 2. There appeared to be no intention to deliver a head shot; 3. Morgan hit Monis with his chest; 4. There was no forearm-to-head contact, which would have broken Morgan's arm before causing a concussion.

Now, if anyone can produce, in context, excerpts from my stories that reveal a bias, I'd be glad to see them. Actually, I'd be chagrined, but you're never too old to learn, even if the lessons are hard.

And, see, I didn't even mention it should have been "your" shame.