Mailbag: Doubting Luck and coverage of USC

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To the notes.

Henry from Berkeley writes: I don't see why you like Andrew Luck so much. The only reason he was able to preform is because of the backfield. When a team loads the box on every play because they need that and more to stop Toby Gerhart, even Joe Ayoob could be a potential first round draft pick. The only stanfurd game I saw was in the big game, where when he had to preform late in the game, he threw an interception. The next week against notre dame, harbaugh didn't make the same mistake of putting the ball in the hands of the inexperienced quarterback. Same goes for stanfurd as a team, without gerhart, they are nothing.

Ted Miller: Er, first of all, who played tailback for California in 2005 and 2006 with Joe Ayoob? Couple of stooges named Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Those guys were lousy! Ayoob was completely on his own. What was that receiver's name anyway? DeSean Jackson or something.

Why do I like Luck so much? Same reasons NFL scouts and Jim Harbaugh like him: He's really, really talented.

Luck is: 1. Big (6-foot-4, 235 pounds); 2. Fast (he rushed for 400 yards last year); 3. Smart (a high school valedictorian who got into Stanford! Oh, sorry, know you Cal folks don't like that); 4. He doesn't make mistakes (just four interceptions); 5. He was the Pac-10's top-rated quarterback as a redshirt freshman (he's only getting started).

And then there's that whole NFL first-round draft pick as a redshirt sophomore thing.

Of course, you do have a point: Life without Gerhart will be more challenging because the offense will now belong to Luck entirely. Consider this quoteInsider from Arizona cornerback Trevin Wade: "The toughest thing about Luck was Toby Gerhart because he could fake the handoff and all your help was gone. But he's such a good decision-maker. Playing in the Pac-10, I've seen him and [Washington's Jake] Locker -- Locker may have the arm strength, but you don't see Luck make bad throws very often."

Just FYI: Luck completed 21 of 35 passes for 423 yards with three touchdowns versus Wade and Arizona. I saw that game. I also witnessed Luck's uncanny downfield accuracy when he passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Oregon. And I witnessed his near-flawless performance vs. USC (another two touchdown passes).

In fact, Luck's only bad game in 2009 was the Big Game. So maybe that explains your feelings.

"Nothing" without Gerhart? Oh, Henry, Henry. You might anger the football gods with that one.

Ida from Nashville writes: Yes, I am an SEC fan. No, I do not take any pleasure in NCAA sanctions against USC because it means that 30 kids won't get an NCAA scholarship. How can ANYONE be happy about that? But as for your statement condemning Reggie Bush, it is hollow, disingenuous and hypocritical. Look, you guys know that Bush is very vain and wants to protect his image and reputation. Had you guys in the media - who have long known that the charges against Bush were true - done your jobs and talked about what a liar and thief Bush was, it might have forced Bush to act. Instead, you guys didn't even produce a single blog talking about what an outrage Bush's false extortion charges that he filed with the FBI against Lake and Michaels were! Bush never came clean? Well you guys in the media never did either. Why? Because you guys knew that if Bush came clean, USC would get punished as a result, and you didn't want USC to get punished. That's why you and your buddies wrote far more columns demanding that the NCAA admit that they had no case and drop the investigation than you did acknowledging Bush's lack of character and demanding that he tell the truth. Bottom line: it isn't all Bush's fault. You guys in the media played a role in this too by acting to protect Bush's precious reputation.

Ted Miller: I found this note interesting because Ida clearly has strong feelings about this, but I have no idea how those feelings developed.

Ida writes: "Bush never came clean? Well you guys in the media never did either. Why? Because you guys knew that if Bush came clean, USC would get punished as a result, and you didn't want USC to get punished. That's why you and your buddies wrote far more columns demanding that the NCAA admit that they had no case and drop the investigation than you did acknowledging Bush's lack of character and demanding that he tell the truth."

I can't recall ever reading a single column or story "demanding that the NCAA admit that they had no case and drop the investigation." Period. I know that thought never crossed my mind. I also can't remember any writers who spent any time trying to "protect Bush's precious reputation."

Ida, from the moment Yahoo! broke the story in 2006, Bush was nailed. From the first, it was clear that Bush -- and his family -- had been receiving extra benefits. There wasn't any media constituency on his side.

The questions have always been: How much did USC officials know? And what is the program's culpability if it didn't know but should have? That was the issue with the NCAA.

You may want to start get your information from other sources because whatever steered you toward this take didn't reflect reality.

Cody from Pasco, Wash., writes: Pardon me for asking this, but i know you're pushing parity as part of the agenda for the pac-10 - that it's a quality league and fields a lot of depth - but it certainly seems like "parity" and "Pac-1 and 9 dwarfs" treads a very fine line. particularly with the media, who, from what i've read, hasn't a clue what the conference exactly is (you'll guess parity, so I'll bet the house there'll be a dominant team (cough, cough, like Oregon winning the league by 2 games)). isn't this the ultimate form of ambivalence regarding how the media can cover west coast football?

Ted Miller: Oregon would have been widely viewed as a dominant team and a national title contender with Jeremiah Masoli. My guess is the Ducks would have been ranked in the top-five (I'd have ranked them fourth behind Ohio State, Texas and Alabama).

But Masoli, as some of you might have heard, is gone.

What has been left behind is nine teams (Washington State at this point is a clear No. 10) with obvious strengths and obvious questions. There might end up being a dominant team -- who can't know in the preseason how everyone will gel or avoid injuries -- but there isn't a team that seems like a sure-thing. Or a sure-failure, for that matter. Naturally, there's a consensus pecking order: Just about everyone has Oregon, Oregon State and USC in their top-three and UCLA and Arizona State at eighth and ninth.

What's parity? It's the fact that I wouldn't be shocked if the Bruins or Sun Devils beat any of the top three teams in 2010.

What's not parity? Take 2008. The only loss among the top-four teams -- USC, Oregon, Oregon State and California -- to a bottom-half team was Oregon State's loss at Stanford in the season-opener, and it would have been shocking if any of the bottom three teams (UCLA, Washington State and Washington) beat any of the top teams.

If Oregon, my new No. 1 team, lost to Arizona State this year, it wouldn't shock me. In fact, I call it a good bet that my bottom three teams -- UCLA, Arizona State and Washington State -- are going to score at least one major upset.

When I look at the Pac-10, I see nine teams that could rank in the top-25 at some point this season. But I don't see a team that will push into the upper-reaches of the top-10. At least not yet.

"Inert1" from Bothell, Wash., writes: I'm curious about Arizona this year. I was really impressed with Foles running their offense last year. But, it seemed as though the playcalling was critical to the offense's success. While Foles throws a nice short ball, they seemed to make sure that he got rid of the ball quickly, and he looked pretty immobile. How do you think the change in coordinators will affect the Wildcats?

Ted Miller: As much as folks have wondered about Arizona's co-coordinators approach on both sides of the ball, perhaps the most helpful thing for Foles is that he has his own coach who isn't a coordinator: Frank Scelfo. Last year, coordinator Sonny Dykes was Foles' position coach, but he obviously had to focus on the big picture instead of refining Foles mechanics. Word out of Tucson is Scelfo has made Foles far more sound fundamentally.

Foles did check down a lot -- much of the Wildcats offense was dink-and-dunk, in large part because Foles was a sophomore, first-year starter learning as he went along. With a year of experience, a good stable of receivers and good offensive line, it seems likely that Foles will throw downfield much more this year.

Further, Foles isn't immobile. He's no Jake Locker, but he's a capable athlete who can move in the pocket.

Carl from Britt, Iowa writes: Please explain your #12 ranking of BSU. Are you a voting proxy of Craig James? Logic and reason would dictate nothing less than a top 6 ranking. That is, unless you're considering superficial criteria. We're waiting with baited breath.

Ted Miller: I used our preseason Power Rankings not as a pure "this is how good I think every team is" but as my prediction of how things will end up. I think Boise State will slip to 12th because I think it's going to lose to Virginia Tech. If I'm wrong, then Boise will get a bounce into the top-five.

Derrick from Portland writes: How come you have Oregon ranked No. 1 in your Pac-10 power rankings but USC is ranked ninth and Oregon 11th in your national rankings?

Ted Miller: The decision to elevate Oregon was a recent development. Like five minutes before I typed "No. 1", I said... I'm switching to Oregon.

My vote for the national poll was sent in to the Mothership in Bristol, Conn., weeks ago.

Ken from Toyko writes: GOSH, TED MILLER!You CONVENIENTLY left Bryan Anger off of the Ray Guy Awards list. Yes, I'm putting this all on you. It's YOUR fault that Anger was not put on the watch list for the Ray Guy Award Trophy. You, as ESPN's designated Pac-10 blogger, should have made sure he made it on this watch list. We ALL know that ESPN's designed Pac-10 blogger has top say when it comes to selecting punters for the Ray Guy Award. Therefore, this is all YOUR FAULT!!I mean, seriously?!? Please, next time, how about you put Bryan Anger for the Ray Guy Award list, assuming Anger doesn't leave to be a top 5 pick in next year's NFL draft.- Angry Japanese punter/Bear fan.

Ted Miller: I love Cal fans.