Anyone miss me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
I appreciate the notes of support in the mailbag. Blog Baby 2 and Blog Mother 1 are doing well. Blog 3-Year-Old and Blog Baby 2 have already engaged in a heated "Pac-12!" versus "SEC!" debate, with one of them punctuating his point with a "Roll Tide!" I blame his Alabama-born mother for that.
But enough about me. What about the mail?
Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter here, where I figure to be far more active next week.
To the notes!
Tyler from Minnesota writes: What elite defenses did Luck ever play against? I'm probably the only non believer when it comes the Luck hype. The % of QB's the NFL misses on is staggering. Why believe the talking heads?
Ted Miller: Luck played against -- and mostly lit up -- nine top-50 defenses over the past two seasons. He's played against many very good defenses and a lots of NFL draft choices -- past, present and future. Further, the reason many of the defenses he's played against don't rate as "elite" with some folks is because those defenses faced a horribly unfair burden.
They played against Luck and other Pac-12 offenses.
Why the hype for Luck? Well, he's got a good arm. He's extremely athletic at 6-foot-4, 237 pounds. He's accurate. He's bright. He's a humble team guy but is also highly competitive. He's a good leader. He's had no off-field issues. And no QB since Peyton Manning has entered the NFL draft with as high a football IQ.
In fact, if you wanted to make a good comparison, I'd call Luck pretty much Peyton Manning, only with much better mobility.
Of course, there are no guarantees with QBs. For one, being the No. 1 overall draft pick typically means you're going to be immediately starting for a terrible team.
But if I were a betting man, I'd set the over-under on his Pro Bowl selections at 10.
Dan from Irvine, Calif., writes: Do you think Rich Rod can actually deliver what has eluded my Wildcats ever since they entered the Pac back in 1978; a Pac-12 championship? Also, will my kitties make it to a bowl game with Mr. Matt Scott at the helm next year? My heart tells me "yes" for both but my head says probably not.
Ted Miller: Rich Rodriguez has been successful everywhere he has coached. He was a dynamic offensive innovator at Glenville State, Tulane and Clemson. He led West Virginia to a 60-26 record in seven years, including a pair of BCS bowls.
Michigan? Well, if you read the book, "Three and Out," by John Bacon -- and I'd recommend it -- you learn that Rodriguez was pretty much doomed from the start. He was left with a lousy team, a dysfunctional athletic department and a bitter former coach in Lloyd Carr, who was anything but supportive of Rodriguez, despite playing a key role in his getting the job instead of LSU's Les Miles. Further, Bacon's book does a convincing job of deconstructing Rodriguez's treatment by the Detroit media and mostly discredits the news story that provoked the NCAA investigation into practice time rules violations.
And Rodriguez's players looked pretty good this past season, going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl.
So, yes, based on his pedigree, I think Rodriguez can deliver a first Rose Bowl to Arizona.
As for this year, the pieces seem to be in place for a fairly strong turnaround, though one of Rodriguez's refrains in "Three and Out" is how it takes a few years of teaching and recruiting for his systems to take hold. If Scott gets hurt, the Wildcats complete void behind him at QB will be a huge issue, so that fact likely will limit how much Scott will be asked to run the football in Rodriguez's spread-option.
So, sticking with a theme of over-under, I'd rate Arizona's at six wins in 2012.
Greg from Philo, Calif., writes: Lane Kiffin's picks for db, lb and wr coaches were totally out of the box. Genius or incompetence?
Ted Miller: I don't call coaches geniuses. Beethoven was a genius. Einstein was a genius. Louis C.K. is a genius. But I like these hires.
Marvin Sanders, who will coach the secondary, has a strong reputation, though his sudden departure from Nebraska a year ago was a bit strange -- the official explanation was "for personal and family reasons."
By the way, this came in the mailbag from Pete from Omaha:
As a Nebraska fan, USC fans should be absolutely thrilled about the Marvin Sanders hire. He coached arguably the best secondary in the nation two years in a row in 2009 and 2010 and in that time frame produced four NFL draft picks, including first rounder Prince Amukamara. Not to mention, he is also the guy who brought Alfonso Dennard to Nebraska and coached him up, another future first or second rounder. His secondaries embarrassed QB's like Colt McCoy, Jake Locker, and Blaine Gabbert (ALL were NFL starters this year). Gice credit to Bo and Carl for those defenses too, but Marvin is arguably the best secondary coach in college football. USC fans should be ecstatic. Nobody will be able to throw on USC once Marvin gets it going.
The one you might consider "outside the box" is Scottie Hazelton, who was hired a LBs coach after building a defensive power at North Dakota State, which won the FCS national championship this year. To that I say: "Chip Kelly." And then there should be silence (Kelly was New Hampshire's offensive coordinator before taking over the Oregon offense in 2007). This, in fact, feels like an inspired hire by Kiffin, one in which he clearly did a bit of homework.
Consider this from the FCS title game story on the Bison whipping top-seeded Sam Houston, 17-6:
Sam Houston (14-1) had its lowest-scoring game of the season, 33 points below its FCS-best average, and was denied an undefeated season and its first Football Championship Subdivision title. The Bearkats had only 210 total yards.
That should raise your eyebrows.
As for Martin, he talked to Kelly about a job at Oregon in 2009. Kelly and I actually chatted about Martin because I used to cover him back when he was the quarterback of Williamson High School in Mobile, Ala. He led Tennessee to the 1998 national championship the year after Peyton Manning left for the NFL. My sense is he's an up-and-coming coach with good recruiting skills, one who knows that coaching or playing under the warm and salubrious glow of the Pac-12 blog is a feeling like no other.
Dan from San Francisco writes: I'll risk a [Willie] Lyles question given that it's a downtime in the football calendar. In my understanding, the Lyles scandal has the potential to hurt Oregon the most in recruiting, both in terms of lost scholarships and in scaring players away. But given that USC has managed to do great in recruiting and on the field despite looming and already in effect sanctions, to what extent can Oregon coaches use USC as a blueprint to follow and as an example to show recruits should Oregon be hit by sanctions? In other words, to what extent could Chip Kelly tell recruits that sanctions aren't such a big deal, because "look at USC, they got hit and they're doing fine"? I realize that USC has much more going for it in recruiting than Oregon does, but I'm guessing that might be offset somewhat by more lenient sanctions for Oregon.
Ted Miller: I continue to believe that Oregon won't face severe sanctions for Le Affair de Willie Lyles. Oregon ranked 18th in the nation in recruiting this year, so it doesn't seem like recruits are terribly worried, either.
It's never good to lose scholarships as it reduces a program's margin for error in recruiting. Based on simple math, it's easier to be good with 85 scholarship players than with 75 scholarship players. But the Ducks aren't likely to lose 30 scholarships -- 10 out of three recruiting classes -- like USC.
Whatever the endgame is with Oregon and the NCAA on this, I don't anticipate the Ducks getting smacked in a way that substantially hurts their standing in the Pac-12 pecking order.
But the USC comparison doesn't work here for me. For one, this was USC's first of three recruiting classes under scholarship limitations, so the impact of those won't really hit until a year or two from now. We don't know how the Trojans will weather the restrictions, even if it does seem that Lane Kiffin has a vision of how to do it with minimal damage.
Further, as you note Dan, Oregon doesn't work from the same recruiting point A, both in terms of geography and tradition. So if Oregon did get hit hard -- even if it were just half as hard as what USC is presently dealing with -- the damage likely would be worse. A star player in recruiting-rich Southern California might go to USC just so his parents can see him play, and that would outweigh, say, a bowl ban. There are very few A-list recruits around Eugene, and said star from Southern California is less likely to head North to Oregon -- the rain! the chill! -- if the Ducks have NCAA issues.
Even though he'd still experience the warm and salubrious glow of the Pac-12 blog.