Mailbag: A worried Oregon fan? Really?

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To the notes!

Shad from Eugene, Ore., writes: Oregon starts the season with cupcakes, which hopefully won't tell us a lot about the team (only possible info would be bad). When will we know whether the Ducks are worthy of the preseason hype? After Arizona? After the Huskies? Not until the USC game? If we win early, it is going to be uncomfortable listening to the hype without knowing how good we might be. Of course if we lose, that would be worse. ...Implied above is that Arkansas State is not particularly feared, is that a mistake with their new coaching staff? I've spent enough time complaining about teams that don't play anyone out of conference, it'll be hard to sit through the early part of the season. ...I know there were scheduling difficulties, but I still wish we had a marquee ooc game, those are a ton of fun to watch.

Ted Miller: Hmm. Does Shad sound like a typical Oregon fan to any of you? He sounds very Cal-ish to me. All that hand-wringing!

Shad, the nature of my job is to not root for teams, but I do know the consensus method on how to root for the Ducks, having spent plenty of time doing sociological research in Eugene watering holes as well as reading my mailbag every week. So here's what you should have written: "As the three-time defending conference champions and being perhaps the most awesomely awesome manifestation of awesomeness in the universe, would you say that the 2012 Ducks will be Shakespeare-good or Jimi Hendrix-good? I can't decide. By the way, how the heck did you leave John Boyett off your list of the Pac-12's top-25 players? You should be fired for that!"

Shad, at this point, it ain't hype. Oregon is one of those programs. You do a preseason top 25 and before you get to 10, you write down, "Oregon." When will I know if the Ducks are good? I already know that. I will be surprised if they head to USC on Nov. 3 with a loss.

Now if you're asking me if they are a legit national title contender, I'd say, "We'll know on Nov 3."

And, yes, it is kind of a drag that the Ducks have a weak nonconference schedule. But it isn't the Ducks' fault Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Surrendercats made like mewling kittens and ran away from a 2011-12 home-and-home series.

Colby from Pleasant Grove, Utah writes: I believe Utah has the top D in PAC-12, what do you think? If not, who is better and why? Can any line stop Star?

Ted Miller: The Utes' defense should be very good. Best in Pac-12? Maybe, though Oregon, Stanford, USC and California also are candidates for that title.

Can any offensive line stop DT Star Lotulelei? Not with one guy. And probably not consistently even with two.

But there also needs to be a degree of perspective here. The Utes' defense benefited last year from not playing the two best offenses in the Pac-12: Oregon and Stanford. That remains a major boon heading into 2012. Further, it gave up 65 combined points in losses to Washington and California. The Huskies rushed for 185 yards -- in Rice-Eccles, no less. And in the Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech piled up 311 yards rushing and 448 total yards.

On paper, the 2012 Utes defense looks like it can be better than the 2011 defense, which was quite good. The defensive line certainly is in the "best in the conference" discussion. But I'm not ready to crown the Utes defense just yet.

John from Dublin, Calif., writes: Your Sack leader poll omits the player who will win that title: Devon Kennard. He'll just take over from Nick Perry.

Ted Miller: Maybe. Kennard has plenty of talent. But he only had two sacks last year, so he wasn't included.

Brenden from Portland writes: I've been having some serious concerns with Oregon State recruiting. I haven't been an avid recruit watcher in the past, so am hoping everything will be alright. Exactly how worried should I be that we have 0 commitments thus far? It seems commitments don't mean much these days with all of the last second flip-flopping, but I don't foresee a lot of great recruits choosing to switch to The Old Black and Orange.

Ted Miller: Is it a good thing that the Beavers are the only AQ conference team without a commitment? No. And, yes, it's not unreasonable to be concerned about that.

Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Corvallis Gazette-Times wrote about Beavers recruiting this week. He noted:

Rivals believe the slow start is due to the change in coaching staff getting adjusted and the recent losing. Another thing to point out is that the players are so young, no one wants to be stuck low on the depth chart.

It's still very early. And if the Beavers win some games and make recruits believe the program will be stable under coach Mike Riley going forward, then commitments will start to pop up.

Kyle from Clackamas, Ore., writes: Any rumors on the Oregon NCAA investigation? Hate to bring it up but the suspense is killing me.

Ted Miller: Nope.

I hear you, though. I think we're all ready to put that in our rear-view mirror, whatever the verdict. Perhaps it's a rule that the NCAA dawdles over every Pac-12 inquiry.

My guess is the NCAA will present its findings before the regular season begins, but that's just a hunch.

Dan from Los Angeles writes: "The Coliseum is the biggest and most famous Pac 12 stadium..." Uh, the Rose Bowl is much more famous than the Coliseum is. Yes, I know the Coliseum has hosted two Olympics. Ask a random 1,000 people in China if they have heard of the LA Coliseum -- then ask them if they have heard of the Rose Bowl ... it will probably be the Rose Bowl by a landslide because during the Rose Parade -- which is watched world-wide by hundreds of millions of people every year -- they constantly refer to the Rose Bowl game following the parade and show pictures of the stadium. The Coliseum has only been mentioned world-wide twice in the last 80 years- not EVERY year like the Rose Bowl is.

Ted Miller: I understand what you are saying, but it's more of a matter of the Coliseum being a more famous home for USC than the Rose Bowl for UCLA.

The Rose Bowl's fame is from the Rose Bowl game -- UCLA only started playing home games there in 1982 after playing in the Coliseum since the late-1920s. The Coliseum's fame is about the team it houses and its place in college football history.

But, yes, if UCLA starts winning again and selling out the Rose Bowl, I'd rate it a better home stadium than the Coliseum, at least based on the current state of the Coliseum, though playing off-campus is a bit off a drag.

Let's put it this way: A UCLA home game the past 10 years hasn't been much of a selling point for the program in recruiting. A USC home game has.

Ryan from Oregon writes: Cal #4? When did you graduate? Have you ever been to a game at that stadium? Have you ever walked the streets of Berkeley? You realize that the average student /the city itself does not CARE about football. Cal is one of the worst jobs in the P12, and that stadium is a dump. Renovation? I'll believe it when I see it.

Ted Miller: Sounds like somebody needs a hug. Or a visit to Strawberry Canyon.

OK, you can see it here. I have seen it, by the way. It looks pretty darn savory to me.