Opening the Mailbag: Part II of II

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

Sonny from West Seneca, New York writes: I'm sick of USC's high rankings each year. What are the chances that Notre Dame upsets them this year, and could their be any other upsets in SC's future?

Israel from El Paso, Texas writes: So, like many other college football fans I've been scouring any source of college football news and waiting eagerly for the season. Then I noticed this, Rivals.com has tabbed USC as the number one team in the country. I would love to write out a question more eloquently regarding this topic were I able to put the puzzled look on my face into words (coming from a USC fan no less). Is there any reason for Rivals doing this?

Ted Miller: Gosh. It sounds like a USC and Notre Dame fan are sharing a thought, eh? Sonny, sorry the high rankings bother you. As soon as the Trojans start stringing together losses, we in the media promise to rank them lower. As far as chances for upsets this season, the Trojans have lost six times over the past five years, each of them upsets, so there's always a chance. As for Notre Dame beating USC, er, well, Stanford beat USC a year ago. Stranger things have happened. Not many. But some. As for Rivals ranking USC No. 1, Israel, they could do worse, considering the Trojans have finished in the top-four six consecutive years and have won two national titles and played for a third and are loaded with NFL prospects (again).

Michael from Phoenix writes: I was arguing with friends the other day about another integral part of college football, the marching band. I thought it would be interesting if you did not only a ranking of overall performance and creativity in pac10 bands but if you could also rank the best fight songs in the conference. It's obvious when you ask a student in the conference they will always say their fight song is the best so i thought a ranking from a third party would be decisive in this debate.

Ted Miller: Glad you asked. Best band: Stanford (funny, funny, funny). Best fight song: USC's "Fight On!" And I'd rank both in the national top-five, too.

Chris from South Pasadena, Calif., writes: Instead of focusing just on non-conference games because the PAC 10 only plays 3 and and the Big East plays 5, why is there not more focus on the total of regular season games a team plays against BCS schools? Look at the just released Coaches Poll. Only 9 of the top 25 teams will play 10 or more games against BCS Schools (23 if you exclude BYU and Fresno St. because they can't). Only 2 (USC and WFU) play more than 10. All of USC's games are against BCS teams (counting ND as a BCS team). Meanwhile, LSU, Wisconsin, and Texas Tech only have 8 BCS teams scheduled. Furthermore, look at conferences and percentage of teams within a conference that will play 10 or more BCS teams. The PAC 10 is at 90% (only Arizona won't). No other conference is even close. Why does this not get more attention? If the PAC-10 only played 8 conference games like everyone else then half the teams would likely have another win, especially if they had schedules like the SEC.

Ted Miller: Yeah... what he said.

Alex from Las Vegas writes: A few questions about the Pac 10 non conference schedule. First do you think that a tough non conference schedule plus 9 conference games contributed to last years rash of injuries. Second, why does the Pac 10 give WAC and MWC schools a fair shake by agreeing to go on the road. Finally, why do some Pac 10 teams like OSU and WSU schedule road games without demanding a return visit? It makes the conference appear second rate. Can't they find BCS schools that would agree to play both home and away?

Ted Miller: 1) Yes, games vs. BCS foes typically last into the fourth quarter, which means starters play longer than they would against directional schools; 2) Because the WAC and MWC deserve respect and attract comparable crowds to many Pac-10 schools; 3) OSU and WSU can't get home-and-home series because they play in smaller stadiums (45,674 and 35,117, respectively) and can't offer a big-gate guarantee like, say, LSU or Auburn can. Texas Tech uses this as an excuse to avoid playing anybody worth a pooh.

Evan from Boulder, Colo., writes: Love the part about Dennis Dixon. There's no doubt in my mind Oregon would have won the national championship with him healthy. That poses a question however in my mind... With the oregon secondary having Patrick Chung, who many says is the best defensive player in the country after.. sigh.. USC's linebacker.. and you saying Nate Costa could fill Dixon's shoes, why is nobody putting out any hope for the Ducks? Last year with a healthy Dixon Oregon proved they cannot lose to anybody, by scoring 50+ points a game. Isn't it safe to say, that if you could find someone with 95% of Dixons skills, that Oregon would at LEAST be in the running for the pac-10 title??
Ted Miller: I picked Oregon second in the Pac-10, and the coaches' poll ranked them 20th in the preseason. That sounds like hope to me. If you're wondering why they weren't plugged in to unseat USC and compete for the national title, there's a couple of reasons: 1) The Ducks lost their final three regular-season games in 2007; 2) They've got a number of questions to answer. Costa is one. I'm a guy taking a leap of faith that Costa will play well out of the gate, but the idea he will match -- or be 95 percent of -- what Dixon did last year is difficult to fathom. Further, the Ducks have issues with their up-the-middle defense, particularly at tackle.

Dylan from Berkeley writes: What kind of changes in style of the offense is Frank Cignetti going to bring to Cal? Is his style similar to Tedford and will it change what types of recruits the program is looking for?

Ted Miller: My guess is you'll not be able to tell much difference. Cignetti and Jeff Tedford both like balanced offenses, so the Bears don't figure to start throwing 50 times a game. Here's a story from Bleacher Report on this very topic. It's hard to answer this in large part because the two quarterbacks in competition -- drop-back passer Nate Longshore and the mobile Kevin Riley -- are very different. At the end of the day, Cignetti's offense, which is REALLY young at receiver, will play to its strengths in terms of personnel -- duh -- but we won't really know how the Bears offense will look until a few games into the season.

Ari from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Ted as I respect your opinion which is based on facts you have gathered over the course of the last number of months, I must admit you forget how FAST USC will be compared to Ohio State. Speed is what Ohio State cannot compete with. They lost at home to a Illinois team that had one month to prepare for a USC team that demolished them with speed. Yes they had more experienced players on the SC team, but the defense of USC will overpower the slow and big guys of Ohio State. Just you watch. And by the way, it won't be as close as you think. USC by 2 touchdowns. Not to mention that the tailbacks of SC are going to tire out the Buckeye defense. We'll see who is right.

Ted Miller: Maybe. The good news is we'll find out in just over a month. I mean, how freaking great is that game going to be? When folks (read: SEC and Big 12 fans) get bent out of shape about me knocking their nonconference schedules, they forget that great
nonconference games are often better even than rivalry games in terms of generating true national anticipation. Think about the Texas-Ohio State series or Tennessee-California.