Stanford mailbag

Cal, Oregon, conference realignment and Andrew Luck are the hot topics this week, plus a question about my Heisman ballot.

Eric in Washington D.C. writes: You are wrapping up a very comprehensive grading of the entire team. A Stanford fan can boil this entire season down to two questions: (1) Does Stanford beat Oregon, and (2) Does Stanford beat Cal. Setting the all-important second question aside: Looking at your grade book, if Stanford played Oregon right now, who do you give the nod to?

Kevin Gemmell: Well, we're cutting right to the chase, aren't we? There are two answers to the Oregon question. First, would they beat them if they were playing today? I would probably give the nod to Oregon. Prior to the Shayne Skov injury, I would have said it's a dead heat or maybe even a slight edge to Stanford. But I think Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley will need a few games under their belts as regular starters to get up to speed with the rest of the linebackers. They are fine players, but they'll be seeing a lot more reps, and that will take some adjustment.

Now, fast forward to Nov. 12. Those guys would have played in six games, ample time to get up to speed. Plus, Stanford gets Oregon at home, which certainly makes a big difference. If the rest of the team stays healthy, then by the middle of November I could see Stanford winning that game.

Do they beat Cal? Logic says yes. The Cardinal have the superior team. But sometimes funny things happen during rivalry games -- especially Cal-Stanford games. My gut says yes, but realize if there are national championship implications for Stanford going into that game, nothing would make Cal happier than to crush those hopes.

Ben in San Diego writes: Any chance of Luck coming back next year for his last year of eligibility?

Kevin Gemmell: About as good a chance as me winning a Brad Pitt look-alike contest. But hey, never hurts to dream.

Daryl in Salt Lake City, Utah, writes: They need to get rid of conference affiliations and only invite teams ranked 1-10. If three SEC teams are ranked Top 10 they all get in. If the Big East doesn't have a Top 10 team they get no invite. If each BCS game was a Top 10 matchup I would stop asking for a playoff. The BCS was created to "pit the best teams against the best teams." But when the ACC or Big East don't have good enough teams, give their invite to a team that does deserve it. No more bad teams in the BCS. UConn unranked yet still gets into the BCS while a Top 10 ranked teams gets left out? (What the heck)?

Kevin Gemmell: Daryl, if conference realignment keeps heading toward the four-conference, Super-16 model that we all feel is on the horizon, then a playoff becomes more and more likely. I'd welcome that.

I see both sides of the issue. I too would like to see the best possible matchups and know definitively that we have a national champion. But I think there is something to be said for winning your conference. There should be a reward for that. Which is why personally don't buy into the 1-10 idea. You might have three SEC teams, but only one is a conference champion. Then you run into the chance of teams possibly playing each other three times in a season (regular season, conference championship, postseason). Don't like that idea.

Now, if you're talking about the non-AQ conferences, I think there have only been a couple of teams that could legitimately make the claim that they could have survived a season in an AQ conference and still won -- that's TCU last season and Utah in 2008. But I don't see those teams maintaining that level season after season, which is why they have at-large exemptions on a per-year basis. The system is flawed, but I don't think it's as horrific as some make it out to be.

Chuck in San Diego writes: I saw you took Ronnie Hillman off your Heisman ballot. Is he done?

Kevin Gemmell: I'm afraid so, Chuck. The NFL scouts I talked to over the summer know what kind of player he is. But it's such an uphill battle for mid-major guy like Hillman to get the national recognition. Marcus Lattimore can recover from a two-fumble game and still make a case for the Heisman. Hillman can't. And since this is a Stanford blog, let me say that I expect Luck to have a supurb game this week against an injury-depleted UCLA secondary. His numbers are solid, but there's a good chance they could be bolstered tomorrow.