Mailbag: Socialism and Oregon-Washington happiness measures

Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the questions!

Ken from Vancouver, Washington, writes: When I saw that a Clemson defensive lineman [Scott Pagano] was transferring to Oregon, I knew you wanted to give everyone your hot take. So hot take it, if you please.

Ted Miller: In short, a huge pickup.

Can one guy transform a defense? No. But the combination of positive additions to the Ducks defensive effort this offseason is substantial.

The biggest one was the hiring of Jim Leavitt, who transformed Colorado's defense from horrible to good in two seasons. The second biggest one is the Ducks going back to a 3-4 instead of Brady Hoke's 4-3, which was a massive mismatch of personnel to scheme. That in itself bolsters the Ducks' D-line by concentrating the talent up front and reducing the depth demands.

Third, and I'd bet this was a large part of Pagano picking Oregon over Oklahoma, is Joe Salave'a, one of the best D-line coaches in the country.

While the Ducks' D-line has been injury riddled this spring, most of the depth chart from 2016 returns. While the general awfulness of the Ducks defense in 2016 makes that of questionable value, experience typically matters in college football. All those sophomores and freshmen who played last year should be bigger, stronger and smarter.

Finally, Pagano is a legit player. Clemson has become a D-line factory, and Pagano has been a part-time starter for two seasons on teams that played great defense while earning berths in the national title game.

Oregon's defense is going to be better next year, but the starting point for that prediction is that it can't be much worse. Adding a player like Pagano and surrounding him with great coaching suggest potentially larger steps toward respectability.

And Oregon with just a mediocre defense is a dangerous team in the Pac-12.

Durbs writes: It looks like the NCAA is going to make new rules about coaching staff sizes with new regulations, a Robin Hood approach that aims to socialize college football as the universities that invest in their teams will be penalized in order to help the ones who do not. This thinking fits with the lefty West Coast of entitlements and regulations and affirmative action but my question to you is why should winners who just work harder to win be penalized so the losers that make bad choices can keep up? Let's face it, this is about Alabama and Nick Saban dominating and all you jealous people trying to bring the Tide back to the pack. People who do well in the USA do so because they work harder and have better ideas. That is Alabama football. So why should we retreat or be over-regulated? It doesn't work with social policy and it's flat wrong. Same with football.

Ted Miller: Gosh, that is quite the polemical stack of political boilerplate.

Yup, I'm pro-regulation. It makes sense to me that the NCAA, as overseers (for better or worse) of the multi-billion dollar business of college football, should attempt to create staffing standards for college football teams. The motivation behind that belief is college football should be about football, not which school is most aggressively seeking a competitive advantage by throwing around money.

College football will be better in the long- and short-term if the NCAA ruled that an FBS team can only have 10 assistant coaches (just voted up from nine) and a non-coaching support staff of, say, no more than 30.

Is that socialism? No. You could pay that staff as much as you want. Only every team would operate with the same number of staff members.

And don't be self-righteous about the sanctity of "The Way Things Have Been." Nick Saban and Bret Bielema not too long ago tried to change the rules of football just because they didn't like no-huddle offenses.

Part of my position here is a belief that college football is better when it includes a larger number of competitive programs. Standards would protect many programs where the "university" is primary and football team is secondary, while also helping programs where football comes first to not go off the deep end as directed by a cabal of rich boosters.

Elliott writes: Say I've invented a happy meter for fans. Between Oregon and Washington, whose fans are going to be happier at the end of the season?

Ted Miller: That depends what sort of fan you are.

From the perspective of today, I'm picking Washington to beat Oregon when it visits Husky Stadium on Nov. 4.

So, if you're the sort of Ducks fans who views the annual battle with the Huskies as the singular measure of a successful season, well, sorry about that. You won't be happy at season's end.

That said, preseason expectations will be significantly different for both programs. Washington is riding high. The Huskies will be ranked in the preseason top-10 and picked to win the Pac-12's North Division. So the potential for disappointment will be much larger.

Imagine: Washington fans grousing because the Huskies went 9-3 and are playing in the Alamo Bowl.

Meanwhile, Oregon looks to many like a declining program, one that cratered to a 4-8 finish two years removed from playing in the national title game.

When Oregon beats Nebraska in Week 2 and begins to regain its swagger, it will surprise many who thought the Ducks' moment was over.

Imagine: Oregon fans feeling energized because the Ducks went 9-3 and are playing in the Alamo Bowl.

So, bracketing off their head-to-head matchup, I think there is a greater likelihood that now-greedy Washington fans are going to be less happy with the 2017 season than Ducks fans, who are going to see their program regain some mojo in Year 1 under Willie Taggart.