Opening the mailbag: How do we divide the Pac-12?

Happy Friday.

To the notes.

Donald from Eugene writes: If the PAC10 actually does expand to 12 teams, the conventional wisdom is they would create North and South divisions. However, that would leave NW schools with the distinct possibility of not traveling to Southern California for two straight seasons thus killing recruiting (see Big12 North.) Wouldn't it make more sense to try the "AFC/NFC" split and put for instance UW, UO, Stan, UCLA, UA and CU in one division and the other six in the other? The teams would still play their traditional rival, it just would be out of division. That way every team will be assured of traveling to the Bay Area and SoCal on a regular basis.

Ted Miller: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

I've been a bit surprised by how so many people have pooh-poohed the idea of Pac-10 expansion -- read: Colorado and Utah -- simply because of the supposedly calamitous results of a North-South split.

How will the Northwest schools survive without an annual visit to recruiting hotbeds in California [insert sob]!

As Donald notes: Fine, then forget the whole North-South thing and let's go with much more felicitously named "Ted" and "Donald" divisions.

My division is USC, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon State.

Donald's division is UCLA, California, Washington, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon.

(Please, that was random. Don't read anything into which teams I selected).

Each Pac-12 team plays five divisional games as well as its traditional rival in the other division annually (we announce the first annual hate-fest between Utah vs. Colorado!). Each team then rotates two games among the other five teams in the other division.

Note how the Oregon-Washington rivalry gets preserved! And how we kept Jim Harbaugh and Lane Kiffin in the same division, which I am certain will be great fun.

That's eight conference games, which means teams then can load up on patsies for their four-game nonconference schedule -- if they wish -- which would mean more bowl-eligible teams and more seasons with two BCS bowl teams.

Sure, some conference hits and misses will provide an advantage. But that's how it is in every conference that doesn't play a round-robin schedule.

In a few years, media pundits would go, "Sheesh! The Pac-12 has 10 bowl-eligible teams! What a conference!"

What about losing the convenience -- and cost-effectiveness -- of regional travel provided by North-South divisions? Well, travel would remain mostly like it is now. So big deal.

By the way, though Donald and I are clearly brilliant, this has been done before. There's an obscure constellation in the college football universe know as the "Atlantic Coast Conference," which is broken up into the the "Heather" and "Dinich" divisions. Or they might be the "Atlantic" and "Coastal" divisions, I forget.

And, by the way, as a son of the South, I can tell you that there ain't no coast near Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke or Virginia.

Kevin from Phoenix writes: I have to take issue with the Spring Rankings. Arizona replaces 12 starters? I'd be curious to know what math you used to get 12 out of nine.

Ted Miller: OK.

Arizona's departing 2009 starters, per its depth chart.

Offense (5): WR Terrell Turner, OT Mike Diaz, OG Herman Hall, OT Adam Grant, HB Chris Gronkowski.

Defense (7): DT Earl Mitchell, NT Donald Horton, LB Sterling Lewis, LB Vuna Tuihalamaka, LB Xavier Kelly, FS Cam Nelson, CB Devin Ross.

The list doesn't including TE Rob Gronkowski because he sat out the entire season.

Kenny from Florence, Ariz., writes: I don't understand your logic in your spring power rankings. Putting USC, Oregon State, Cal, UW, & Stanford all above Arizona. Is it because of the Holiday Bowl performance? Ok well let's remember what happened during the Pac-10 conference season: Arizona beat USC in LA, Oregon St. in Corvallis, Stanford in Tucson.

Ted Miller: The Holiday Bowl performance was fairly yucky. But that's not why I rated Arizona seventh.

As you will note from above, the Wildcats lose three starting offensive linemen, three linebackers, both defensive tackles and two very good defensive backs.

And most of those guys weren't just starters -- they were mainstays (five second-team All-Pac-10 guys, including four on defense).

That's a lot to replace, particularly with two new coordinators. And keep in mind that the Wildcats will be using two pair of co-coordinators in 2010 after using just one guy in each role last year.

There may be a period of adjustment there.

It's perfectly reasonable to believe the Wildcats will plug-and-play and away they will go. But I will put them at No. 7 -- in a very deep Pac-10 -- until I see what those plugs might look like.

And I will be in Tucson during spring practices, so perhaps I will be impressed. I typically am when I watch a Mike Stoops team practice.

Kai from Castro Valley, Calif., writes: If someone were to go back in time and tell the 2000 Ted Miller how much teams have changed (i.e. number of bowl appearances in 2000-2009 compared to 1990-1999), which team do you think you wouldn't believe changed this much? In other words which team had the most phenomenal change good or bad from the start to the end of the decade? (Personally it's WSU for me).

Ted Miller: If the 2000 me met the 2010 me he tell me to get to the gym and lay off the beef and bourbon.

There are so many surprises in the decade.

The biggest surprise would be Washington, the 11-1, 2000 Pac-10 champion, winning 12 games from 2004-2008.

The second biggest surprise would have the rise of USC under Pete Carroll -- "USC hired Pete Carroll?" the 2000 me would ask. "That surely was a colossal failure!"

The third biggest surprise would have been the rise of Washington State: 30 wins, three consecutive top-10 rankings from 2001-2003. And Mike Price leaving the Cougars for Alabama. And how that turned out.

The fourth biggest surprise would be Oregon State's sustained success. I mostly thought that 2000 was a brilliant flash of football serendipity. It wasn't.

Gordie from Pasadena, Calif., writes: Let's say the Pac-10 picks up Utah and Colorado, and the Big Ten picks up Missouri. So does that mean the Big 12 becomes the Big 10 and the Big Ten becomes the Big Twelve (since it already has eleven teams)?

Ted Miller: Ha! Nice.

Gary from Portland writes: Recruiting revealed, the layers peeled back like an onion.

Ted Miller: Hit that link: You will be amused.

Ethan from San Francisco writes: You win... I have no idea where your Thursday quote [above the "Pac-10 lunch links"] came from.

Ted Miller: Glad you asked because it comes from one of my all-time favorite novels: Don DeLillo's "Underworld."

It's a dense, 800-plus-page read, so it won't be everyone's favorite brew, but the first 60 pages are set around Bobby Thomson's home run -- "The shot heard round the world" -- to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers and win the New York Giants the 1951 National League Pennant.

Go to a bookstore and read those 60 pages. It's some of the best writing you will ever read.