Opening the mailbag: Will Best enter the draft or come back?

Happy Friday!

To your notes.

Marshall from College Station, Texas, writes: I'm confused by the thought process that a possible two, three, or four loss season is suddenly the end of USC's dynasty. The Trojans start a freshman QB, are suffering numerous injuries as you pointed out, and have replaced most of their defense this year. Florida in '07 comes to mind as this season just being an uncharacteristic bump in the road for SC. Their success/failure this year would be readily welcome in here in College Station.

Ted Miller: I knew I'd get some completely reasonable "What the heck are you talking about?" mail in reaction to this story. I had hoped that the final sentence might suggest that I didn't believe one so-called "down" season spelled the end of USC's relevancy.

I was sort of working an angle, you know?

The general gist isn't invalid, though. A third loss would end USC's run of: 1. Pac-10 championships (or co-championships); 2. Its run of BCS bowl berths; 3. And its run of top-four final rankings.

Heck, the Trojans hadn't lost more than two games in a season since 2001. So this would be a major bump in the road for a program with such high standards.

That said, USC probably starts the 2010 season ranked in the preseason top 10. The Trojans aren't going anywhere. And maybe a humbling season will actually re-energize the program.

Erik Duncan, Orlando, Fla., writes: I'm a huge Ducks fan, but I'm getting nervous as all get-out as we come down the stretch. That game in Palo Alto showed our future opponents how they can beat us -- pound the run, and throw in a couple misdirection plays, Oregon-style.My question: Come Dec. 6 a likely scenario is a three-way tie atop the Pac-10, with each team (UO, USC, OSU) all having beat each other (like the 2008 Big-12). If that's the case, who gets the trip to Pasadena?

Ted Miller: I may need a ruling on this. Did you just write in a Ducks loss in the Civil War?

Some of your constituents might get their feathers ruffled.

The Rose Bowl tiebreaker is described here.

There are still variables in your scenario, such as who finishes fourth and what that team did against Oregon, USC and Oregon State. Record against the next-highest team is the next step in the tiebreaking procedure among those tied for first.

In your scenario, if it's Arizona in fourth, Oregon would go to the Rose Bowl. Oregon State would be eliminated because it lost to Arizona and, in your scenario, USC and Oregon would have beaten the Wildcats. Then, back to head-to-head, Oregon eclipses USC.

But if its Stanford in fourth, USC would go. Oregon would get eliminated because it lost to Stanford. Then Oregon State would go down because it lost to USC.

You know, it's a great pick-up line in bars -- approach someone with a fascinating Pac-10 tiebreaker scenario.

Graham from Scotland writes: Last week most people refused to rank Oregon above Boise State because of the head-to-head outcome at the beginning of the season. This week there didn't seem to be such scruples, as USC is still ranked above Oregon, despite a devastating loss to Oregon. In the debate between Boise State and Oregon there was plenty of argument for strength of schedule, but the schedules for Oregon and USC are very similar (I would argue). What do you think?

Ted Miller: I hear you. Got a bunch of notes like yours.

The cases are not exactly parallel because a second loss is part of the picture with USC and Oregon, but still, it was odd that Oregon could be ranked lower than a team that two weeks before it beat by 27 points. Not to mention that Oregon's overall body of work is also pretty strong.

The way I try to get people to understand rankings is to encourage them to do a Top-25 poll themselves, week to week. It can be an infuriating process. (The hardest part is not the top, by the way, but ranking 20-25. I wrote myself a note before I flew to LA -- "Don't forget Rutgers!" That's my high-tech way of remembering an under-appreciated team that fell off my radar).

You try to rank teams based on what they've done this season. But you always run into the: Yeah, but if they played tomorrow, I'd pick No. 20 over team No. 8 any day, any season."

And then there's the "what have you done lately?" which, I guess, is what happened to Oregon -- weak, I know.

As I've said before, it's a beauty contest. And we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But if the Ducks and Trojans win out, I'd be shocked if this isn't corrected in the polls.

Nick from the Bay Area writes: Do you think Jahvid's injury helps or hurts his chances of declaring for the NFL draft?reasons why:- see Sam Bradford reasons why not:- have a monster year and move into top 10.

Ted Miller: The best case for Jahvid Best is he returns for his senior year, plays 13 games, including a bowl game, and piles up huge numbers and never misses a down. If he did that, he's get picked in the first round in 2011.

That's his best-case because NFL folks are most concerned about his durability. Can he be an every-down back? Or is he just another fragile speed guy?

That being his best-case is also a reason for him not to come back. The shelf life of an NFL running back isn't long. Few play more than five years and only a handful are effective past age 30. (I still rue a column I wrote a few years back saying that the Seahawks should re-sign Shaun Alexander because he was special. Dumb, dumb, dumb).

Best's speed and big-play ability are so tantalizing, he would be an early-round pick this spring. And Best might want to start getting paid as soon as possible.

After the season, Best should get an NFL evaluation. He should talk to people he trusts. If an agent or a person who works for an agent gives him advice, he should know that person is self-interested and probably disingenuous.

In the end, he should do one thing: Best should do what is best for him.

Shawn from San Jose, Calif., writes: I am really impressed with the way Mike Stoops has his Arizona Wildcats playing on both sides of the football. I think everyone is looking forward to the game against Oregon on the 21st in Tucson. What are your thoughts on this game and will you be there?

Ted Miller: The Wildcats best not look past California this weekend. I talked to a really smart football person who told me he thought the Bears might play spoiler.

Stoops is on a short list of Pac-10 coach of the year candidates. He'll win if the Wildcats earn their first Rose Bowl berth.

It took me a while to come around to Stoops. When he started, I made fun of him. Lots of sportswriters did.

But then I found out something interesting: Within the coaching profession, he's highly respected. He's a much better coach than he was when he started. He's mellowed out. He's learned some of the nuances of the job. He's hired a good staff (hello, Sonny Dykes, here's my offense!). He's built a program that looks like it has some staying power.

My thoughts on the Oregon-Arizona matchup? You'll have to tune in next week. The Pac-10 blog only writes about one game at a time, even when it's giving 110 percent.

As for me, if Oregon and Arizona hold serve this weekend, I'll be there.

Kris from Murfreesboro, Tenn. writes: I know that college football thrives on rivalries, including rivalries between conferences, but I actually find the latter to be rather irritating which is why your comment about the SEC struggling against the Pac-10 motivated me. I certainly can't say that you're wrong. Since 2001, the Pac-10 is 9-7 against the SEC. However, I can dispute what that record actually means. Of those 16 games, 8 involved either LSU or USC, and they have not played each other. That leaves us with a grand total of 8 games over a span of 8 years with the Pac-10 being ahead 5-3. Surely, you do not think that this small sample size provides any truly meaningful data. We're not comparing two teams that play every year. We're comparing conferences that have a combined 22 teams, some never even considering playing each other. You never explicitly stated that the Pac-10 is superior to the SEC, but the implication is there. I understand doing so since you are writing primarily for Pac-10 fans. However, such writing makes one sound more like a political pundit than a sports writer. I'm not writing this to argue that the SEC is superior to the Pac-10. I actually enjoy watching Pac-10 football and have long dealt with criticism from others in SEC country for saying that USC would have obliterated Auburn in 04 as they did Oklahoma. No, it is as I said before. I find these conference rivalries to be irritating, and, just once, I would like to see a writer not fan the flames. Of course, if you really feel the need to do so, you can always remind people that the SEC is 7-14 against the lowly Big East since 2001.

Ted Miller: Kris thanks for the note. I, too, get tired of the conference rivalry debate. I just wish we could respect and love one another.

7-14 vs. the Big East! That can't possibly be true.

Matt from Portland writes: Every week, you have to pick a winner & loser for each game. With 12 games a per season, per team, that's a lot of "losers" to pick. The majority of your readers would consider themselves diehard fans, meaning you likely upset the majority of readers at some point in the season by picking against their team. Since many readers aren't shy about questioning your intelligence, motives, sexual orientation, species, etc... How do you stay objective and not let the criticism get to you. Do you ever want to just snap and say "Dude, its a game, and your team sucks. Deal with it?" Do you drink heavily? I'm just curious how you deal with stress.

Ted Miller: Wait ... some readers question my species? Well, cut off my legs and call me shorty.

Stress? I write haikus about flowers. Bikram yoga, too.

And martinis.