Blogger debate: Building the Top 25

There's a saying that there are two things that you never want to see being made: laws and sausage. I think you can add the Pac-12 Blog Postseason Top 25 to that list.

The debate between Ted and I was vigorous -- and mostly civil. One time Ted mocked my alma mater for not having a football team. I called Ted the kind of guy who likes his comments and says "natty." I quickly apologized, knowing I'd gone too far. See, mostly civil.

For those who want to see a sneak peek into how the sausage is made, enjoy this email exchange between your bloggers.

Kevin Gemmell: I think it's important to note that while there are elements of the Top 25 that you and I might disagree with, it's a list that we both signed off on. And I stand by it.

With that said, reading over the comments, it seems like I'm responsible for the most hated pick -- Reggie Dunn at No. 25 -- and you are responsible for the two most hated placements -- Matt Barkley at No. 14 and Matt Scott at No. 4.

It took some prodding from me, but you came around on the Dunn pick. Most folks hate it. And that's fine. We knew it wasn't going to be popular. But it's the right call. I don't care if you're playing in the lingerie league or Pop Warner -- returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown is hard to do. It's even harder to do it twice in a game, four times in a season and five times for your career. That's why it's NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE! (I'm using all caps because I'm yelling). There's a reason he's an All-American. And All-Americans don't get left off the list.

In my original Top 25, Barkley was not on it and Scott was in the teens. I believe your exact words were "I'm not moving Matt Scott. I'll fight for him to be in the Top 5." After some give-and-take, I conceded. But I wish I would have pushed harder on Barkley. I see your argument, but he also was the quarterback of one of the worst downfalls in football history. I think he's of great character and enjoyed every conversation I've ever had with him. He's a quality guy and we should be so lucky to have more players like him in the league. I wish him nothing but success at the next level. But his team's dramatic descent was matched only by his team's dramatic preseason hype.

I regret, most of all, not having Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the list.

Ted Miller: As we said at the beginning, it's incredibly difficult to make a top-25 list of players most seasons. I think this year was the most difficult yet.

Who got left off? So many guys: Seferian-Jenkins, Desmond Trufant, Ben Gardner, Datone Jones, De'Anthony Thomas, Kevin Hogan, Austin Hill, Eric Kendricks, Bishop Sankey, Morgan Breslin, Carl Bradford, Marion Grice, Kiko Alonso, Travis Long, Terrance Mitchell, Brandin Cooks, Keenan Allen, Hroniss Grasu, Khaled Holmes, Brian Schwenke, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Brandon Magee, Taylor Hart, Joseph Fauria, Robert Woods, etc.

Just to name another 25.

It's difficult to be entirely consistent. Does playing for a winner matter? Yes. Do we disqualify players who played for bad or disappointing teams? No, but it figures into the calculations. Do NFL prospects matter? To me, yes. It's a measure of pure "good." What about stats? Absolutely. Career achievement? Part of it. Position matters, too. Quarterback is by far the most important position. It's not even close. A good tight end isn't as valuable, to me, as a good defensive tackle or cornerback.

The process is fluid. There's a lot of "feel" to it. It's certainly not objective.

With all due humility, I will throw out to our critics a couple of things: 1. We watch a lot of Pac-12 football; 2. We talk to a lot of people who know how to evaluate the quality of a player. We come at this differently from you guys. You spend your Saturdays rooting for your team and hating on your rival. This is our job. We're not terribly emotional about it.

One of my final measures is a personal Pac-12 draft. Where would guys fall if everyone who played in 2012 was coming back in 2013 and all 12 coaches were drafting players, knowing what happened in 2012?

Matt Scott at No. 4: I am 100 percent certain he'd be a top-five pick. In fact, I'd guess all top-five picks would be quarterbacks. I'm also certain that Matt Barkley wouldn't last outside the top-10.

If you are the second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback, which Scott was, you are elite almost every year. It's practically automatic to land in the top-10. Then when you produce 50 yards per game more than ANYONE ELSE IN THE CONFERENCE and take a middling team with no defense to eight wins, you land at No. 4.

I knew we'd get hit for ranking Dunn. I think Kevin's case for him -- NEVER DONE BEFORE; All-American -- is sound. He would not be among my top-25 picks, though.

As I sit here today, I'd rank Trufant 25th.

So, Kevin: Who's your No. 26?

Kevin Gemmell: Before I answer that, I'd like to add a little something about my thought process -- I didn't take "career" into consideration -- which is why I wasn't as high on Barkley as you were. I tried to evaluate players on their merit from their performance in 2012. And that goes for the "draft" concept as well -- which I didn't put much stock into. Of course DAT would be a Top 10 pick if we were holding a draft. But he didn't have the numbers to merit being placed on this list. Scott deserves Top 10 -- but top five seemed high to me.

As you said, a lot of it is "feel." My first criteria as All-America status. Then all-conference. Then I number-crunched. Then I go with my gut to sort out the rest. I won't spend this entire email defending the Dunn pick. Minds are already made up and I'm not going to change any. Those who hate it will continue to rage. Those brave few (namely, Utah fans) will go down with me in the ship. I'll just say he met my personal criteria -- All-American, all-conference, numbers (for the position he was chosen for) and gut. His fifth 100-yard touchdown which I referenced above was more of a footnote -- not a nod to a career achievement.

My No. 26 would probably be Barkley. As noted above, he wasn't on my original Top 25 that I sent you (along with a note, by the way, that said "We're going to crushed by the readers.") I would probably have had ASJ around 17-20, bumped a few folks up and had Barkley right at the cut-off. I'm pretty sure I had Anthony Barr in around seven or eight also, but he got bumped back.

We both agree quarterback is the most important position -- by far -- which is why you and I were in lock-step with all the other QBs on the list -- Taylor Kelly, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota. But I think I put more stock into team success than you do -- which is why I was comfortable with Kelly at No. 24. He helped his team either meet or surpass expectations. Barkley, however, did not.

The offensive line was wildly under-represented. I'm OK with that this year. There were plenty good offensive linemen -- and the one we put on the list -- David Yankey -- is outstanding. But there wasn't the depth like we had in 2011 with Matt Kalil, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.

Any position groups you felt were not properly represented?

Ted Miller: Good point about the offensive line. There just wasn't that "elite" feel to the O-linemen this year. We had USC center Khaled Holmes on the preseason list at No. 18, but he didn't have a great season, even though he made first-team All-Pac-12.

It's difficult to evaluate offensive linemen unless you watch game film. You know the winner of the Morris Trophy -- Stanford's David Yankey this season -- is going to be on the list, but after that it's difficult if you aren't hearing NFL scouts swooning. Cal's Brian Schwenke, who is zooming up NFL draft boards, might have been the second-best lineman in the conference, but the Bears' went 3-9 and got poor line play this fall.

That's so much a part of this: The intangibles. I don't buy the anti-Barkley arguments as anything but intangibles. Did his performance justify a No. 14 ranking? Unquestionably. If any other QB in the conference threw four more TD passes than anyone else -- in 11 games, no less -- then it would have been controversial that he was so low. Those not wanting him on the list want to punish him individually as a symbol for an entire team underachieving. And we did demote him: He dropped from No. 1 to 14. That's pretty considerable.

And, again, his "career achievement" is a special case. Career achievement didn't help, say, Cal's Keenan Allen or USC's T.J. McDonald. But Barkley ended his career with 17 more TD passes THAN ANY PREVIOUS CONFERENCE QB.

(Deep breath) I'm OK.

I hear the ASJ talk. To me, tight end is a difficult position to measure. For one, you don't need one like you, say, need a kicker or left tackle. Just because you're the third best tight end in the nation doesn't mean you're among the top-25 Pac-12 players.

Then again: He's likely going to be a first-round NFL draft pick in 2014. Let's just say if I saw a top-25 list of Pac-12 players with ASJ on it, I wouldn't flinch.

Kevin, the good news -- ha! -- is my review of this list and projecting forward to 2013 only includes about 35 to 40 potential players for our preseason top-25. We will get another opportunity to lose "all credibility" and again prove our idiocy in August!


Kevin Gemmell: Intangibles do count, at least in my mind. If Jeff Tuel had thrown that many touchdowns and Washington State was still 3-9 would he be on this list? My guess is no. Well, 3-9 for Washington State is the same as 7-6 for USC in my mind.

Perhaps if Barkley wasn't the Heisman front-runner at the start of the season; perhaps if his team wasn't a preseason No. 1; perhaps if he hadn't more than doubled his interceptions from last year -- in 11 games, no less (see what I did there to make my point) -- then maybe the majority wouldn't be as hard on him.

But he was, they were and he did.

And it might be incredibly unfair, but he gets graded on a tougher curve than other quarterbacks.

We could go round and round about this (oh wait, we have). If anything, this whole experience was an exercise in partnership. And it was fun. Hopefully the readers enjoyed it too. Look forward to when we can start hammering out the preseason list. Until then, let's really buckle down and work hard to regain our lost credibility.