Mailbag: Best Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups

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To the notes.

Dave from Birmingham writes: Not sure I get you. Why would you not want the four best teams to play in a playoff? That's what a playoff is about. I know there's a subjective part to this but that's inevitable. Is everyone that afraid of a consensus favoring the SEC because the SEC is the best conference?

Ted Miller: In a word, yes. And no matter how you frame it, that so-called consensus remains subjective. And I know this from experience.

In 1996, I worked at the Mobile Register and I was arguing with Mike Griffith, who then covered Alabama for the Register and voted in the AP poll. Now, everybody argues with Mike, but I thought he was being particularly obtuse this particular afternoon because he was touting Arizona State. I was blathering that Arizona State would have four losses if it played in the SEC.

Yes, I once was one of them. Why? Because that was the way I was raised. Football in the south, as writer Rick Bragg once ostentatiously pandered, is like a "knife fight in a ditch"! That's a bunch of silliness, but such sentiments nonetheless are inculcated into fans and they seep into the media coverage -- in the Southeast as well as other parts of the country where fetishizing the peculiarity of the South is embraced. So I understand the roots of the "just because" reaction of so many SEC fans. And I experienced its power as a sportswriter.

When I moved out to Seattle to cover Washington, I still had a "just because" feeling about West Coast vs. Southeast football. When Miami came to Husky Stadium in 2000, I thought the Hurricanes would blast the Huskies. Ergo, my initial transformative moment was watching Washington physically manhandle the Hurricanes. Don't be fooled by the final score: The Huskies owned Miami that day.

My point: Regional biases are strong and they cloud thinking, even when they feel rational. That's why there needs to be a safeguard in our new four-team playoff system for some degree of objectivity, which prioritizing conference champions provides.

I know any questions about SEC super-awesomeness make SEC folks angry. I know: Six crystal footballs. No one is doubting the SEC's ability to dominate the BCS system. And I have no doubt that dominance of a subjective system -- a beauty contest, really -- has helped push the SEC closer to something that can be judged as a more objective superiority (read: self-fulfilling prophecy).

But if we're going to have a national college football playoff, we need to create a selection process that doesn't leave open the possibility of a tag always going to a runner from a certain conference, just because.

Edward from Atlanta writes: Do you think USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff are better at recruiting than Pete Carroll and his staff? I look at the fact that Lane Kiffin is only working with 15 scholarships and he is still bringing in top recruits after everything that has taking placed. Just imagine if he did had all his scholarships he would probably have a top 3 or top 5 recruiting class every year.

Ted Miller: No.

Kiffin and his staff are recruiting very well, but they can't do much better than Pete Carroll and his staff did from 2002-2009. You say top-three to -five each year? Carroll landed the No. 1 class multiple times. Any rare rating outside the top five was deemed an off-year. Carroll's recruiting run rates among the best run a program has produced -- think Bobby Bowden in the glory years at Florida State.

It's also worth noting that Carroll and Kiffin share two ace recruiters: Kiffin and Ed Orgeron.

Jeff from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Who do you think is going to be the starting quarterback for ASU to begin the season?

Ted Miller: That's a tough one. When I watched practice, I thought Mike Bercovici was so much better as a passer that he should be the guy. But then you have to realize that new coach Todd Graham wants to run some spread option, and that requires the quarterback to be a running threat. Bercovici is no running threat, while 6-foot-5, 242-pound Michael Eubank is. And Eubank has potential as a passer, though at present he's raw.

The easy answer is start Bercovici but use some packages with Eubank. But that's sort of a fan answer. Most coaches don't like playing two quarterbacks. They'll tell you if you play two, it means you don't have any. And QBs are not big fans of sharing the job.

I used to be a Bercovici lean, but now I'm leaning toward Eubank. Here's why: This team is much better at running back than at receiver. Even with Bercovici's live arm, this probably is going to be a run-first offense, and it makes things much more difficult for a defense if it must account for the QB as a runner. Eubank can become at least an adequate passer. Bercovici is unlikely to do the same as a runner.

Mark from Garden Grove, Calif., writes: If you could play matchmaker, which Big Ten/Pac-12 schools would you pair for the 2017 season -- and why?

Ted Miller: OK, I'll bite, basing things on where the college football world is today.

  • Oregon-Ohio State: Urban Meyer vs. Chip Kelly. 'Nuff said.

  • Arizona-Michigan: The Rich Rodriguez Bowl.

  • Stanford-Wisconsin: Two really good schools that play smashmouth football.

  • Oregon State-Michigan State: All that green would have the Beavers feeling like they're play Oregon.

  • USC-Penn State: Two old-school powers whose uniforms are among the most recognizable.

  • Nebraska-Arizona State: Any Sun Devils recall 1996?

  • Northwestern-California: Two elite academic universities.

  • Washington-Iowa: A rematch of the 1982, 1991 Rose Bowls, both won by the Huskies.

  • Colorado-Purdue: Two great mascots. (Colorado would have been a good one for Nebraska, too.)

  • Utah-Illinois: Utes vs. Fighting Illini.

  • Washington State-Minnesota: The Cold Bowl.

  • UCLA-Indiana: Two old-school basketball powers playing football.

Rapsai from Eugene, Ore., writes: Ted, with Oregon's lack of depth at RB, do you see Josh Huff maybe sliding into the backfield to play some RB for the Ducks next season?

Ted Miller: A perfectly reasonable solution if there are injury issues in the backfield.

Does it make me a bad person that I don't think the Ducks are going to hurting at running back? I just think with Chip Kelly's emphasis on speed in recruiting that the Ducks will pretty much have an answer at RB, no matter how many guys get hurt. Recall that Kenjon Barner started out as a defensive back.

John from Los Angeles writes: I guess this falls into my "you know your old when you have a story for everything" file. In reading the post about Jonathan Ogden going into the HOF, I noticed your comment on his massive size. My buddies and I take a football road trip every year. We used to include the Baltimore Ravens in the trip because Will Demps (former Ravens safety) played at the high school where my buddy is the AD and he would get us tickets. Anyway, after a game against the Bengals at Cincinnati we are standing next to the Ravens team bus talking to Demps, Ogden and his people come up next to us - and he literally blocks out the sun!! You truly cannot appreciate how BIG the guy is until you stand right next to him. My buddy is wearing his USC cap (he is a big fan), so to amuse myself I keep whispering "Jack, show Ogden your hat." My friend kept his back to Ogden the entire time.

Ted Miller: I remember covering the 1996 Citrus Bowl between Ohio State and Tennessee -- which was cool because both were ranked No. 4 entering the game -- and walking up to the Ohio State bus. I saw No. 75 horsing around around this itty-bitty guy with a bald head who was No. 27.

The itty bitty guy was 6-foot-3, 240-pound, Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George, and No. 75 was 6-foot-7, 325-pound Orlando Pace, who at that moment was the biggest dude I'd ever seen.

And Ogden -- at 6-foot-9, 345 -- darn near dwarfs Pace.

Only guy who ever impressed me as more spectacularly large was Shaquille O'Neal.