Opening the mailbag: QB curses and USC hype

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The mailbag wasn't a happy place this week.

Greg from Medford, Ore., writes: I told you about that Bad Karma suffered by the Oregon Quarterbacks. The Curse is real.

Ted Miller: I don't want the Pac-10 blog to be a place of superstition. I want it to be a place of ideas and analysis and pithy commentary -- a mixture that goes down particularly good with a cold beverage.

But I'm in. The Ducks are just cursed. How many more games would the Ducks have won in recent years if Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon and Nate Costa never got hurt? Or their backups? Oregon may have won its first national title last year if Dixon didn't get hurt.

That said, I want to pause and tip my hat to Boise State and their fans. I've never made a prediction against a team that was so wrong (QB Kellen Moore will be OVERWHELMED by Autzen Stadium) and received so few gloating, sarcastic emails.

I include that because the Ducks didn't lose that game because of QB issues. Moore completed 24 of 36 for 386 yards with three TDs and was sacked only once. The defense didn't step up.

Israel from El Paso, Tx., writes: So, the Pac-10's lackluster performances over the last couple of weeks has got me wondering, is USC at fault for the league's lack of inter-conference competitiveness? I've heard people speculating that USC's recruiting has been sapping the West Coast of talent, is there any credence to this at all?
Ted Miller: I would have written this notion completely off a few weeks ago, but it's not entirely ridiculous to say USC's recruit stockpiling has hurt the rest of the Pac-10. I think you could make a particular case for USC vs. UCLA. But I don't think this is among the main reasons the Pac-10 has been so lame thus far this season. USC can only sign a maximum of 25 players a year, and usually a handful of those guys are cherry-picked outside of Pac-10 country (11 starters or key contributors are from outside of Pac-10 states).

Would Arizona or Arizona State benefit if center Kristofer O'Dowd or DE Everson Griffen had stayed home to play? Absolutely. And watching Washington's play in the secondary in recent years, I think it's safe to say Taylor Mays could have helped.

But there are so many elite players on the West Coast that a team that works hard and evaluates well shouldn't be quashed by Pete Carroll's recruiting juggernaut.

Chris from Tucson, Ariz., writes: If the Wildcats wind up starting 5-1 should they be in the conversation of cracking the top 25? Also not that this stat means too much, but Stoops is undefeated at homecoming, and this year USC comes to Tucson. Any chance?
Ted Miller: I'd think 5-1 would get Arizona some top 25 votes -- in large part because it's tough for voters to fill out the bottom of their ballots as teams start to get multiple defeats. But your adding wins against Washington and Stanford and those won't exactly be games that will announce the Wildcats presence with authority. I'd say toss in California and at 6-1 Arizona would be a sure top 25 team.

As for USC visiting Arizona on Oct. 25, I've heard more than a few folks suggest that's a potential "trap" game for the Trojans. We've learned there's always a chance -- see Stanford at USC last year. But if you're asking me what the odds are I'd say just slightly north of Jennifer Garner showing up at my door, crying, and saying that she'd dumped Ben and that she knew I was happily married but that she'd just not be able to live with herself if she didn't stop by and tell me that Pac-10 blog is the greatest thing that's ever happened to her and it's made her see how great life can be and that she's really frustrated by how people keep dumping on the Pac-10 and that, well, that was it and she just wanted to say again how great the Pac-10 blog was.

So, you know, there's about a 20 percent chance.

Lamar from Dallas, Ga., writes: I know one damn thing if USC"S win over Virginia was good enough to allow the voters to jump them to #1, then when GA beats Alabama this week & Bama being ranked #8 and they don't jump GA back to #1 then the damn congress should get involved! Hell the next 5 games GA will play 4 ranked teams & 3 of these teams are in the top 8 of the polls & if GA beats them all THEY SHOULD BE #1 BY A HUGE MARGIN! USC want play another ranked team all year, because all of their conference teams are so pethetic, THEY ARE NOT RANKED!! Am I wrong or right? People are sick of USC getting a free ride for nothing. Damn the Rose bowl for not letting us shut their mouth for good!.
Ted Miller: I'm just going to deal with the final point about the Rose Bowl because Georgia fans seem confused about that. The Rose Bowl is pretty darn stubborn about the Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup, though I'd think folks down South would appreciate things like tradition. But the Rose Bowl wasn't the only problem as far as matching Georgia and USC last year. For the Rose Bowl to have made the dream matchup -- which might have split the national title -- the Sugar Bowl would have had to release Georgia as its replacement team for LSU, which would have made for a lame Sugar Bowl matchup without an SEC anchor team. The odds of that happening were about as high as Jennifer Garner... well, you know what I mean.

Spencer from Tucson writes: Ya, USC is the only ranked team in the Pac-10, but is it already fair to say we are as bad as everyone else says? I understand that the presumed middle of the Pac (Oregon, Cal, ASU, dare I say Arizona?) has faltered, but how much can you really but down a team after one unexpected loss? Yes, the SEC is great, but since nobody other than Georgia has the guts to play a legit team, doesn't that just give them a free excuse for labeling themselves as the best conference. I am not that impressed from any of these SEC teams thus far, and yet I know that the last two weeks has put the Pac-10 runner up out of contention of a BCS at-large, is this really fair?
Ted Miller: Spencer, you may be forgetting Alabama's dominant performance in a 34-10 neutral-field victory over then-No. 9 Clemson. That game has HUGE credibility, as does Georgia traveling across the country and demonstrating clear superiority against Arizona State. And I give credit to Florida for scheduling both Miami and Florida State, even though those two programs aren't what they used to be. And Auburn's got a trip to West Virginia on Oct. 23, and Tennessee deserves kudos for its willingness to travel to marquee nonconference opponents. The SEC, for the most part, stepped up its typically weak nonconference scheduling this year.

As for the Pac-10, I've always believed in playing fair, even when tweaking other conferences in support of the Pac-10. So the Pac-10's current 12-12 record in nonconference play -- including 0-5 vs. the Mountain West, Boise State winning at Oregon, California getting dumped at Maryland and Oregon State getting drubbed at Penn State -- is hard to defend.

If you have a way to make it look good, please advise.

Chad from Atlanta writes: Why the USC hype? I don't want to take anything away from them, but what have they done that anyone else in the top couldn't have? I admit I don't follow the PAC-10, but as best I can see, USC should go undefeated. California, Oregon, and ASU really aren't special this year. Virginia and OSU were solid wins over good programs but when USC ends up 12-0 what will make them different from Hawaii of last year? Would they go 12-0 if they had to play in the Big 12 or or obscenely tough SEC? I feel there are a lot of teams from those two conferences that will end the season with loses--maybe even multiple loses--that could compet
e with USC. I know it's too early to start complaining about they system, but what are people seeing in this team that generates the number one vote? Looking for a better understanding.
Ted Miller: Here's why USC is hyped.

The Trojans have six running backs who will play in the NFL. Their QB, Mark Sanchez, could be a first-round draft pick. USC lists 10 WRs on its depth chart. I'd bet at least six get drafted. When Kristofer O'Dowd is a senior -- if he sticks around -- he might be the No. 1 center in the nation. I have a hard time believing at least two of the Trojans' other four offensive linemen won't stick on NFL teams.

ESPN.com's Mel Kiper ranks Fili Moala the No. 2 senior DT. He ranks Rey Maualuga the No. 1 ILB. He ranks Brian Cushing the No. 1 OLB. He ranks Taylor Mays the No. 1 junior safety.

And I'd bet you $1 that SS Kevin Ellison and CB Shareece Wright become first-day draft picks.

And sophomore end Everson Griffen and those three freshmen on the DL depth chart? Holy cow.

That's my guess why people are voting USC No. 1: They look at USC and they see the nation's best team, however the schedule ahead will play out.