Opening the mailbag: Ball State, BYU and Bush

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Let's just dive in...

David from Seattle writes: Ted, I'm going to quibble just a bit in your assessment that Autzen is the toughest place to play in the Pac-10. Look, I get that Autzen is a tough place to play, but the Ducks just haven't been THAT tough to beat at home over the past several years. It's loud, but the Ducks have been beatable there. They've lost 12 times at Autzen since 2002, while the Beavers (for example), have lost just 10 times at Reser (note: I used 2002 because that's the last year shown on ESPN's schedule pages, and I'm too lazy to go elsewhere to look it up). USC obviously has also lost fewer games at home as well, but that has less to do with the Coliseum than with their team.

Ted Miller: Of course, the team playing inside a stadium matters. Remember how fearsome Husky Stadium used to be? Anybody afraid of a trip to Seattle these days?

But Autzen is the loudest stadium in the Pac-10, and the stadium configuration puts the fans right on top of the field and, therefore, the opposing players.

And Ducks fans seem to take a lot of pride in being nasty.

Mike from Portland writes: What's going on with the Reggie Bush investigation while he was at USC? Is the NCAA done with it's evaluation?

Ted Miller: Bush is still locked in a seemingly endless court case with former sports marketing investor Lloyd Lake. The NCAA is monitoring the case while it tries to determine if Bush or his family accepted improper benefits while Bush was at USC, but it won't likely make a ruling until the court case is over, which could take months.

Or maybe not. But that story anticipating potential closure is now over two months old.

Jake from Palo Alto writes: If Stanford beats Arizona do you think they can make it to a bowl game? Where would you rank Toby Gerhart among other Pac 10 running backs?

Ted Miller: 1. If Stanford beats Arizona, thereby improving to 4-3, I'd say its chances are pretty good of finding two more wins on its schedule to get to the six wins required for bowl eligibility (a visit to UCLA and a home game against Washington State offering the most likely wins over the next two game weekends). 2. Gerhart will get some All-Pac-10 consideration if he stays healthy. If I could have one back to start my team with, I'd go with USC's Stafon Johnson, but Gerhart is right there in a gaggle of good but not great (at least not yet) backs.

Greg from Lake Arrowhead, Calif. writes: What do you think usc's chances are of playing in the bcs championship?

Ted Miller: Decent. The Trojans need some help from SEC and Big 12 teams and, obviously, they need to take care of their own business. But everyone who cares about putting together the best national title game matching the best teams will know that an 11-1 USC team will be hard to ignore if all other BCS conference teams also have at least one loss.

Folks can rail on the message boards all they want but no fan would bet a week's paycheck against the Trojans in a BCS title game against any other team. And USC fans would be all over that action.

Alex from parts unknown writes: Ted: With all of the ink devoted to the Ty Willingham death watch, lost in the shuffle is the need to sack whomever is in charge of the WU schedule. I like competition as well as the next guy but a re-building team will undoubtedly have depth issues and you absolutely positively need to schedule lightly until the team is re-built. Granted, schedules are made in advance but the recent scheduling of LSU for next year has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard of.

Ted Miller: Former ADs Barbara Hedges and Todd Turner are already gone and the absurd invitation to LSU was cooked up by school president Mark Emmert, who used to be the chancellor at LSU.

I understand your frustration. Washington needs to follow the A, B and C strategy of scheduling: (A) one marquee opponent, (B) one solid, second-tier team and (C) one patsy.

That said: I am beginning to think the Pac-10 should scale back its scheduling as a whole, particularly its willingness to go on the road. The conference doesn't get enough credit for its track record of seeking challenging games. Other BCS programs avoid playing any nonconference teams with a pulse -- particularly on the road -- but go unpenalized in the rankings (hello, Texas Tech).

Steven from Berkeley writes: Anyway, yesterday I noticed that Cal was ranked #25 in the USA Today poll (but remained unranked in the ESPN poll). What does this mean? .. rather, what does it mean to be ranked in the USA Today poll (but not the ESPN poll)? Whenever a ranking is listed next to a team's name (on the website, on TV), it's always for the ESPN ranking, right? Also, do you think Cal should be ranked on both polls -- and if we play well against Arizona in two weeks, what then?

Ted Miller: The USA Today poll is the coaches poll, which counts in the BCS standings. The ESPN poll is our power rankings, which is comprised of votes from the college football folks at ESPN. I voted California 15th in my latest vote for the power rankings.

Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: Seriously Mr. Miller, what does Arizona have to do to move up in the poll? Lose? Play a close game? I understand we haven't really played anyone, but the sign of a good team is what you do to those inferior opponents, & we've been blowing them out. Maybe if we lose to a couple of ranked teams we'll be able to move up?

Ted Miller: Arizona needs to get a do-over for its loss at New Mexico, and it needs to beat an opponent with a winning record. The Wildcats four wins came against foes who are presently a combined 4-17 -- and New Mexico is only 3-3. And where did you get this: "the sign of a good team is what you do to those inferior opponents"?

A sign of a good team is beating other good teams.

Bret from Washington, D.C., writes: Ted, What gives? Ball State? I know the Pac-10 hasn't been amazing to date, but would any serious College Football fan even think twice in a matchup between Cal and Ball State?

Ted Miller: My guess is that Cal would beat Ball State by two touchdowns, but that comes from a guy who hasn't seen the Ball State Ballers, er, Cardinals play this season.

So I checked in with the undeniably brilliant Graham Watson, who covers Notre Dame and the non-BCS teams for ESPN.com. She wrote, "Ball State has a better scoring offense and scoring defense than Cal. And a better QB. Stats don't lie."

You may disagree, but don't mess with Graham. You have been warned.

Jeff from Newport Beach, Calif. writes: I'm wondering why everyone is making such a big deal about Vandy being ranked so high as an elite academic institution and playing football well. When Cal, UCLA, or USC are ranked high it's not a big deal. Check academic/athletic rankings. The Pac-10 epitomizes elite athletics and academics. Face the facts.

Ted Miller: Well, Vandy's deal is it plays in the SEC. And I'm going to leave it at that.

Adam from Berkeley writes: Hey Ted, What exactly has BYU done to deserve a top ten spot? I'm looking at the teams that they've beaten and their opponents schedules thus far and there is nothing truly impressive other than that they have won games by a huge margin. It se
ems like the only reason that they're in the top ten is because of their preseason ranking along with their victory over UCLA (right after they beat Tennessee). Seeing how that is no longer a noteworthy win, why don't they drop in the polls?

Ted Miller: Know why BYU is ranked really high?

Because folks who do the rankings think the Cougars are really, really good.

Why do they think BYU is really, really good?

Because BYU has really, really good players. And a really, really good head coach.

If you're looking for accomplishments, well, there are plenty of teams that haven't done much -- Texas Tech, Texas, Penn State, Florida, Oklahoma -- that haven't done a whole lot.

Why are those teams ranked highly?

Because folks think they are really, really good.