Opening the mailbag: Where's the hype?

College football is back this weekend! Whee!

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Chris from Honolulu writes: Does LaMichael James stay or leave? Never heard him address it before.

Ted Miller: James has not committed one way or another. I suspect the redshirt sophomore is going to seriously consider his options.

As we noted this week, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper rates James as the No. 3 "junior" running back. James likely would be a late first-round, early second-round pick in the 2011 draft because his speed and big-play ability is enticing. Some general managers likely would dock him for his size and not being a terribly good receiver (at least, not yet).

He can't change his size but he might be able to improve his stock by showing better as a receiver in 2011. He also might want to win a national championship (a repeat?) and the Heisman Trophy. Still, a running back only has so many carries in him. While Ducks fans would love to have him back, James is surely tempted to make the leap into the NFL.

Sam from Portland writes: I have an obscure stat question for you.The Huskies won three games on make or break plays, where the success or failure dictated the win for either team. At USC they kicked a game winning field with no time left. Oregon State failed to convert a would be game winning 2 point conversion in double overtime. At Cal, they ran for a touchdown, down by three with no time left. All three of these plays would have won it for the other team had they gone the other way.When was the last time a team won three games in a season on these sort of decisive plays? What is the record for games won on decisive final plays?

Ted Miller: None come to mind. That is remarkable. And the Huskies needed all three wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.

You might remember that the 2000 Huskies under Rick Neuheisel trailed in eight of their 11 wins and pulled off five consecutive fourth-quarter comebacks in a row. But I can't recall a team winning three games on the final play.

Any of you got a better memory than me?

Andrew from Klaipeda, Lithuania writes: I noticed as soon as Costa went down, Chip Kelly got more conservative with running Thomas on the zone reads. Particularly against Cal, there were a few drives where a quarterback keeper looked far more effective then the -1 yds that James got going up the middle. Against the Beavs they got back to some more option but mostly following through on the pitch rather than the keeper. I get that Thomas isn't as durable as a Newton or a Pryor and the backup is a red-shirt so protecting Thomas is a priority. However, do you think that Kelly will go less conservative in the National Championship game and open up the playbook a bit more for Thomas. I felt like the Ducks played best when Thomas had a few long runs and defenses had to wait longer to commit to plays.

Ted Miller: Man, I love that song "I left my heart in Klaidpeda, Lithuania!"

I noticed that about Darron Thomas, too. While coach Chip Kelly -- as he is wont to do -- pooh poohs all such suggestions, insisting the Thomas is merely reacting to what the defense gives him, I think there was some caution there.

Still, in the game immediately after Nate Costa went down against Washington -- at California -- Thomas had 16 carries, his season-high. It was only after that, in the final two games, that his rushing attempts went down dramatically. He only carried the ball seven total times and just once in the Civil War.

It's likely that Thomas, who will get more than a month to rest a beaten-up body before the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, won't be held back in the final game. As you may know, something of value is on the line.

Hoya Duck from Vienna, Va., writes: Maybe I am missing something, but is the NC being underhyped this year? If you replace Oregon's uniforms with USC and Auburn's with Alabama I think pundits would call this the championship of the century. Consider the factors: both schools put together dominating regulars seasons, only undefeated BCS schools, led the country in offense, features possibly the most dominate Heisman winner ever and nation's leading rusher. You almost could not write a better script. Yet there is a certain ho-hum to the coverage. Is it because nothing has changes since October? Or that the schools are not as well known nationally as their conference brethren?

Ted Miller: It's a little early to judge a lack of hype.

Put it this way: On New Year's Day, the national title game will still be nine days away. This is the latest date on which the game has been played. Last year it was played on Jan. 7.

So be patient. A surfeit of hype awaits!

Geoff from Santiago, Chile writes: Last night I was at my favorite watering hole enjoying a post futbol cold one (we play the other football every Monday down here), when in walks a group of about 25 Auburn masters program students. I had never met an Auburn fan before, so I took the chance to get to know the fans of Oregon's next opponent; this is what I learned:1.They are 100% convinced that Cam didn't take any money and that he chose Auburn over Miss St. like a recruit would choose Oregon over Fresno St.2.Cam isn't the problem; Dyer, Fannin, McCalebb, Adams and Zachery are what get you in trouble. Oh and Cam's pretty good too.3.The Tigers like to run you side-to-side early, to tire you out and then run it straight down the gut.4.Auburn makes the best 2nd half adjustments of any team in the nation.5.Malzahn is one of the most creative O-Coordinators in the nation and they're very happy he stayed on .6.They love their Tigers. 7.Auburn girls are pretty. Very pretty. So as you can see on points 2 - 7, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams. I'm looking forward to a great game and hopefully I can visit Auburn in the near future (see #7). Saludos,Geoff PS. Feel free to add Flannery's Irish Pub to your Pac-10 traveling blog, great place to grab a bear for those South American away games!

Ted Miller: We are very international today.

I covered Auburn for two years. Your observations are accurate.

George from Los Angeles writes: Ted,Saw your post about Bama fans becoming big Duck fans: You may want to run with this link. Found it entertaining.

Ted Miller: I've seen that video about 50 times. And laughed every time.