Opening the mailbag: Poor Duckies!

What the heck are we supposed to do Saturday?

Follow me on Twitter.

A couple of Oregon fans talk to an SEC defense about Auburn QB Cam Newton.

Dirk from Auburn: Do you really think the Duckies can keep up with an SEC team in the national championship game. This is big boy football and the SEC is the big boys.

Ted Miller: Poor ole Duckies. I just hope they get out of Glendale alive!

If I may humbly speak for Oregon and the Pac-10, we are just grateful that the SEC has allowed the conference to step on the field -- for one shining moment! -- with the big boys.

SEC teams are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed over here, I can tell you that. Forgive us, for this, our dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.

Dave from Florence, Ore., writes: Ted, assuming both the Rodgers brothers are back, with Ryan Katz having a bit more experience, plus a lighter non-conference schedule, how do you see Oregon State doing next year?

Ted Miller: Not that much lighter on the ole schedule: at Wisconsin and BYU are the nonconference games (with a TBA remaining that, hopefully, won't be filled with a top-five team).

Hey, Beavers, ever thought of playing San Jose State or Utah State or New Mexico State or something?

The Beavers offense should be much improved: QB Ryan Katz in his second year, both Rodgers brothers back, a good crew of receivers and (cross your fingers) better O-line play with four starters back. A good start on the line would be a healthy Michael Philipp at guard, not tackle.

The bigger issue is defense. It loses its best players: DT Stephen Paea -- that leaves a HUGE hole in the D-line -- LBs Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey, CB James Dockery and DE Gabe Miller. No returning defensive player even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors from the coaches. The Beavers thrive when they play high-pressure defense. Where's the pressure going to come from next year? Dominic Glover? Taylor Henry? A JC transfer. We'll see.

I love Katz's upside, and James Rodgers paired with Markus Wheaton is a nice combo at receiver, but the offense may have to outscore folks, particularly early on as the defense figures itself out. Still, there is no clear No. 2 behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North. If there are some "changes" at Stanford -- goodbye Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh -- then the Beavers might even end up picked No. 2.

Owen from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: Hey Ted, a chat with many contenders for awards ran today and Andrew Luck took some questions. When asked about the draft, he said, "It's not a distraction because I'm putting it off until after the bowl game to think about it." However, when asked about the new Pac-12 alignment, he said, "It's going to be fun to have the opportunity to play Utah and Colorado now and have a championship game," and "I'm excited to have the opportunity to go play Colorado and Utah." How far should we read into this, if at all?

Ted Miller: How far? Perhaps one inch.

Luck goes to Stanford. He's smart. He knows that if a reporter asks him about next season, he's not going to go, "I haven't thought about it because I'm going to be in the NFL... oops!"

And think about it: If he indeed hasn't thought about it -- come on! -- then he should talk about next year as if he were still going to be on the Farm.

If Luck enters the draft, he almost certainly would be the No. 1 overall pick. He's a franchise NFL QB in the grand sense of the word (and his character, humility and social skills -- he's a funny guy -- will take him far as the "face" of a franchise).

I'd rate his chances of returning at about three percent.

Pierce from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Given the injury to Tuinei and Huff filling in, I count at least 7 starters for the Oregon offense, 8 if you want to count a combination of Weems, York, and Asper, who have all started and played at both tackle and guard.I also count at the very least 6 returning starters: Turner, Kaddu, Harris, Gildon, Boyett, and Pleasant. The Oregon depth chart also notes that Dion Jordan and Wade Keliikipi have registered starts on the D-Line. Onto the question. Do you think that because of the pace of Oregon and the necessity of substitutions that basing predictions based on returning starters is something to be leery of?

Ted Miller: "Official" returning starters started at least five games, so Weems could be considered a returning starter. But, as I said, when I calculated returning starters, I was looking at end-of-season depth charts and not working my way through those calculations -- or factoring in injuries.

Yes, returning starters isn't a foolproof way to measure teams, particularly when a team -- such as Oregon -- plays a lot of guys. Nonetheless, we have to make distinctions.

And, for example, losing Brandon Bair and Kenny Rowe -- the Ducks two best D-linemen -- is a blow. They are proven, productive guys. Sure, their backups saw action. But let me put it this way. Can you name them right now?

Raymond from Tucson writes: Arizona loses two coaches to Colorado:From a Fans perspective which also means its an outsiders perspective. Can I blame coaches for leaving the spastic and over the top personality of Mike Stoops? How much can an adult take of child like antics?Arizona players have been quoted to say Stoops over-charged, in your face, ready to explode behavior gets them pumped-up. I wonder if the coaching staff shares the same perspective? Cool Hand Luke type coaches over the years have displayed poker face and chess like thinking behavior with great success. Tom LaundryBill WalshTony Dungy.I dont expect Coach Stoops to act like the list above because its not in his nature. But it would be nice to see some self control to possibly eliminate sideline confusion.If I see the confusion so does the opposing team.

Ted Miller: Yes, Mike Stoops is very animated on the sidelines. He seemed more animated this year than last, and more than a few times he probably wishes he had been less animated.

Does Stoops' hyperkinetic way on the sidelines bother some Arizona fans? Yes. Do I think athletic director Greg Byrne wishes Stoops would chill a bit? Yes. Does Stoops intensity bother some of his assistant coaches? Maybe, though it's not like football coaches are a bunch of shrinking violets.

If Stoops asked my opinion, I'd say he might want to ratchet it back a bit. But, to be honest, I find it entertaining. It's sorta his thing. Like I said: It bothers some folks a little. And it bothers some a lot.

But on the list of things college coaches do that are bad, I'd rate rate Stoops' sideline behavior somewhere in the mid-90s, two or three notches below below a coach talking about himself in the third person.

John from Oregon writes: Now that all the bowl games are set, say the Cam Newton is found guilty and is suspended. and if they punish not only Newton, but Auburn too and make them forfeit their wins, then who would be playing for the National Championship? Would they leave it and claim Oregon as the Champion?

Ted Miller: Don't worry. This won't happen.

The NCAA made a quick ruling that Newton is eligible. The larger investigation will take months. And months.

Tyler from Tucson writes: Why, oh why, did the Wildcats' DE Ricky Elmore not make the 1st Team All-Pac-10 Defense team?

Jake from Midland, Texas writes: What's the deal with the snub of Washington State WR Marquess Wilson for Pac-10 offensive Freshman of the Year?

Ted Miller: Two of my toughest choices, and I've had some post-decision regret over USC's Robert Woods over Marquess Wilson.

With Elmore, who would you kick off my D-line? He started fast and had a long lull before playing well vs. Arizona State. What clinched it was the coaches picking fellow Wildcats DE Brooks Reed ahead of Elmore. I'd probably rate them No. 5 and No. 6 among my D-linemen.

As for Wilson: I saw Woods a lot this year. He's really impressive. I didn't see as much of Wilson. That made a difference. While Wilson's numbers were better as a receiver, Woods was pushed over the top by his work returning kicks.

Am I certain that I wouldn't pick Wilson over Woods if I did the team again Saturday? No.

But Cougars fans should want Wilson to be angry about the slight. That should motivate him during the offseason.

Andrew from Portland writes: I'm traveling to the Natty with a bunch of friends and fellow Duck alum. For all of us that have never been to the Glendale/Phoenix area, can you put together a little travel guide for us since you're a resident of the area? Specifically, can you tell me (1) what area to book a hotel (I've heard that Scottsdale is the way to go, even though it's somewhat far from the stadium), (2) what bars/nightlife to go to, and (3) restaurants to eat at?

Ted Miller: I live in North-North Scottsdale, near Cave Creek and Carefree. That's a ways from Glendale. And the wife and I don't get out much because The Lord of Miller Manor just turned two, and he yells a lot -- he makes Stoops look like he's asleep.

The good news about our location: We are a short drive from the best restaurant in the state of Arizona: Binkley's. It's a special event sort of place -- if you run into Phil Knight and he says, "Hey, can I buy you dinner?" This is where you go.

Even closer to Miller Manor: Spotted Donkey. Really enjoy that place. Down south in civilization, we've had good luck with these guys. I haven't been here yet, but it's high on the to-go list. This is good nuts and bolts Mexican, and you might run into a bunch of sportswriters -- this guy and this guy always go there. These guys offer good steaks and their Ocean Club -- part of the chain -- is good for seafood and a cool scene. This place is old school Phoenix.

If I were coming to town, I would stay near downtown Scottsdale -- it's where all the cool stuff happens. Good restaurants and bars. Good scene.

Here's a entry from the preseason -- a fan survey of best restaurants and bars around the Pac-10 -- though a couple of Arizona State fans were later critical of it.

Hope this gets you started. By the way, it's 71 degrees today.


Grant from Claremont, Calif., writes: Great article on Chip Kelly!

Daniel from Eugene, Ore., writes: I was wondering why you didn't include this story in your lunchtime links? It's a brief little article about DJ Davis' tribute to Declan Sullivan from the Civil War. Considering the bad pub that a lot of our players got after the Rose Bowl last years (and rightfully so), it's nice to see stories about the good things our players do as well.

Mudpuppy from Eugene writes: You should check out the myth of Auburn's size advantage posted by our friends at Addicted to Quack.

Ted Miller: All three worth noting.