Mailbag: Expansion & Sun Devils worries

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Tyler from Phoenix, Ariz., writes: I know you and Kevin are pretty high on ASU for 2013. But honestly, that schedule packs a wallop! Far too often there have been ASU teams that stumble in the beginning of the season, lose confidence, and proceed to lose winnable games late in the season. Am I crazy to think that they make take a step forward as a team, but take a step back in the win-loss column?

Ted Miller: You are crazy as a loon.

Yet you also are correct about the schedule. After FCS Sacramento State, the Sun Devils' next four games are tough: Wisconsin, at Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium, which will feel like a road game.

I expect Arizona State to go 2-2 in that stretch. I like its chances at home against a Wisconsin team breaking in a new coach and against the Trojans. I think the chances are dim at Stanford. Notre Dame will be favored, perhaps by more than a touchdown, but I also think the Sun Devils, if they play well, have a good shot to upset the Irish.

So 3-1 is far from inconceivable. Neither is 1-3, by the way.

Obviously, the Pac-12 games are most important, and beating USC would make a statement in the South Division. As for losing confidence early, that will be the measure of Year 2 under coach Todd Graham. Recall that the Sun Devils bounced back well this year after losing four in a row to win their final three games, including a comeback win at rival Arizona.

We've heard a lot of about a culture change in the program, and we've seen a lot of evidence that has taken place. What the Sun Devils did last year was mostly win the games they were supposed to (Missouri being the exception) and lose against ranked teams. The next step is to beat quality opponents.

The tough start simply means we'll get a good early measure of the Sun Devils: Are they a top-25 team with a chance to win the South? Or are they a middle-of-the-pack team?

My feeling right now is the former. But we shall see.

Josh from College Station, Texas, writes: Greetings from SEC country. I have an expansion related question. Big surprise, right? It seems that, of the five major conferences (SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, B1G, and ACC...heck I'll even throw the MWC in there) the Pac-12 has the fewest options available for expansion, if the need were ever to arise. If college football makes a move for larger conferences, where does the Pac-12 turn to increase its size? Before the Grant of Rights occurred, the Big 12 was ripe for the picking, but now I'm not so sure. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Ted Miller: I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that College Station, Texas, is now "SEC country." But if Josh can do it, I should too.

You are correct. If we are to assume the Big 12 is again solid -- and it's probably not safe to assume anything, though the Big 12 seems stable at present -- then there are aren't any appealing, regional options for the Pac-12.

Now, this is when everyone goes, "What about School X?"

The answer is "No. It is not appealing." I don't want to get involved in typing why a list of schools on the West Coast are not appealing because that seems an unnecessary way to insult a variety of fine institutions.

As a catch-all: Outside of the Big 12, there aren't any schools out there that would bring strong, new markets to the conference, and that is what expansion is all about: eyeballs. Eyeballs mean more TV revenue. TV revenue makes expansion go round-and-round.

In September 2011, before the SEC and Big Ten made bold, expansionist moves, the Pac-12 could have added Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. It would have become the Pac-16 and the nation's most powerful athletic conference, but commissioner Larry Scott, acting on behalf of the Pac-12 presidents, turned down the opportunity.

I believed that was a mistake then and I do so even more now, and I think Scott agrees with me, though he can't publicly admit it.

Most longtime college football observers who have paid attention to the nuances of the expansionist trends believe there will be further contraction in the future as we move forward with a playoff format. The have-programs and have-conferences will continue to consolidate their forces. Consider the weakened states of the Big East and ACC, AQ conferences in the BCS system, as the Big Ten and SEC have flexed their muscles.

I do think there is reason for the Pac-12 to be nervous.

That said, Scott has long seemed to have a pretty good grip on the national landscape. He's a creative thinker. If trends continue in their present fashion, I suspect he's got a Plan B.

Derrick from Omaha, Neb., writes: Do you have any info on John Boyett? Could he get a medical redshirt? Is he turning pro? If so what is his draft stock?

Ted Miller: The Oregon safety is not seeking a medical redshirt year. He's entering the NFL draft this spring.

He pretty much moved back to Napa, Calif., his hometown, after his knee injury, handling his own surgery (both both patellar tendons), rehab and affairs.

As for his draft prospects, it's hard to say. He's not big -- 5-foot-10, 205 pounds -- and doesn't have great speed. He does, however, have great football instincts and a lot of "want-to." His numbers as a starter since his true freshman season were sensational.

I think he'll have a pro career, if healthy, at least as a special-teams ace.

The biggest thing he needs to do is run a good 40-yard dash for NFL scouts and prove his knees are back to 100 percent. If he shows he's healthy, my guess is he'll get picked in the late rounds of the draft.

Derek from Salt Lake City writes: All-Knowing Ted, In your article about UCLA landing two elite safeties, you mentioned that strong recruiting classes may help UCLA "challenge USC for PAC-12 supremacy." How is this supposed to occur if USC is nowhere near the top? Even if USC surprises us with a much stronger season next year (very iffy with a new QB), they would be, at most, the third-best team in the conference.

Ted Miller: A great way to get your note published is to call me "All-Knowing Ted."

As to your question, Derek, I was referring to recruiting rankingsInsider. USC, ranked eighth in the nation, is tops in the Pac-12 at present but UCLA, at 12th and up nine spots after a big week, seems to be closing strong as the Trojans struggle a bit with decommitments.

To me, it would be a pretty big deal if UCLA's recruiting class eclipses USC's, even with the Trojans class limited by sanctions, particularly after how well the Trojans' recruiting season started.

Dave from Cocoa Beach, Fla., writes: I'm a slacker! I missed your review of Utah, do have a link to it so I can catch up? Need all I can get here is gatorville (they even get more local coverage than FSU!).

Ted Miller: Dave, I'm sure everyone feels sorry for you living in Cocoa Beach. Poor, poor Dave. Sitting on the beach with his laptop, checking his IBM stock, listening to the ocean lap against the white sands -- "Now where is the cabana girl with my pina colada? How can I be expected to endure WITHOUT MY PINA COLADA AND MY UTAH SEASON REVIEW!"

Dave, here's the Utah season review. And here's a link for everyone who might wish to peruse all the Pac-12 season reviews.