Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions!
Costi writes: So after seeing some football after the first 3 weeks of Non-conference play (with one actual conference game), how would you change your preseason pac-12 predictions for where teams will finish?
Ted Miller: Fair question. Here's how I stacked things up in the preseason.
4. Washington State
6. Oregon State
5. Arizona State
In the North, at this moment and knowing what we know now -- including injuries -- I'd move Washington into second over Oregon in the North. The Huskies and Stanford can settle things between them on Sept. 30. And then the Ducks get their shot to hush the Huskies hype the following weekend. I'd move California past Washington State into the No. 4 spot.
In the South, I'd switch Arizona and Arizona State and USC and UCLA. Still like Utah, even though I picked the Trojans to notch the upset tonight. I still envision a South Division slog where everyone has three losses and we decide things with a tiebreaker.
I, in fact, picked an L.A. underdog sweep this weekend. Why? Because I will not be contained by logic and reason and metrics and trends. Like a swooping, spotted hawk, I too am not a bit tamed -- I too am untranslatable; I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
[Cough]. Sorry about that. I'm OK now.
We shall take note of the Bruins below.
Jason writes: 1. Is there any chance the conference reconsiders the unbalanced schedule so the northwest schools can play the SoCal schools more often? 2. Let's assume the Big XII misses the playoff. If the Pac 12 winner has 1 loss, is the winner in the playoff?
Ted Miller: To your first question, sure, there's a chance. But I sense no push among the California schools -- or among the Northwest schools -- to change the present configuration. Too many fans and administrators of the California schools want the North-South guarantee, and folks at the Northwest schools know that, over the long-term, that probably boosts them competitively by making their schedules easier.
Not sure I buy the idea that it hurts the recruiting of the Northwest schools.
As to No. 2, I think a 12-1 Pac-12 champion is a near lock for the College Football Playoff, particularly in your scenario where you kick the Big 12 to the curb.
It could get interesting, though, if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 at 10-2 and Louisville wins the ACC at 12-1, losing only to Houston. Then Houston, if unbeaten, could claim wins over two Power 5 conference champions and an unblemished record. That's a heck of a resume.
Further, if Washington is the 12-1 Pac-12 champion, the Huskies' weak nonconference record could be an issue. Make that "should be" an issue, because if we're going to tool on the Baylors of the world, then Washington deserves the same treatment.
Yet even then -- despite potential controversy -- I'd bet on the Pac-12 earning a slot.
Chris from Oakland, California, writes: Does the winner of the Cal ASU find itself ranked next week? And, even though it is early does this game make or break either's season?
Ted Miller: It might require a few teams towards the bottom of this week's top-25 losing, but I rate the odds as pretty good the winner of Cal-ASU earning a top-25 slot.
If the Sun Devils win, they'd have wins over Texas Tech and Cal, a team that beat then No. 11 Texas. If Cal wins, it would have that Texas win and a win over an unbeaten Pac-12 foe. Pretty good stuff four games into the season.
As for making or breaking a season, no. As neither team is expected to win the conference, I don't anticipate the loser spiraling into the muck. My early perception of the conference is that, one through 12, there are no easy outs and no guaranteed losses. So mentally tough teams that can handle a bad weekend here or there figure to be smiling come mid-December.
Jim from Santa Barbara, California, writes: As a diehard bruin fan Ive been hoping to finally beat Stanford this year, but conventional wisdom seems to be the UCLA is about to be handed yet another loss. As the lone dissenter in the pac-12 picks, what made you pick UCLA? Give us bruins some hope!
Mark from Mountain View, California, writes: Stanford's taxidermy bill is getting out of control. Every time they stuff a Bruin, it's another $1,500 to the taxidermist. They now have eight of these hairy beasts stacked up in a supply room. Frankly, they are starting to smell bad. Is this the year that UCLA wins or is Stanford going to need a bigger supply room?
Ted Miller: Jim, meet Mark. Mark's thinking -- while amusing -- is one of the reasons I went with a hunch on the Bruins against their Stanford nemesis.
Gloating! Overconfidence! Potential complacency?
UCLA has not put together a complete performance this year, most particularly QB Josh Rosen. At the same time, they've flashed lots of potential on both sides of the ball. The Bruins seem due for a four-quarter performance, particularly in a rivalry that has gone Stanford's way for eight consecutive years.
I think UCLA matches up fairly well on the line of scrimmage with Stanford, and it will be up to Rosen to pick on the Stanford linebackers underneath and then hit his shots downfield when things open up.
UCLA and Rosen just seem due.
Sean from Atlanta writes: I am by no means an Oregon fan, but how in the world can the AP rank a 1-2 Oklahoma team that looked awful at home against Ohio State and drop an Oregon team that, short of stupid PAT decisions, would have beaten Nebraska on the road? This has got to be one of the worst examples of Pac-12 disrespect I've seen. What do you think?
Ted Miller: I like that Oklahoma got the benefit of the doubt.
The Sooners, who started the season ranked No. 3, signed up to play two elite nonconference foes: Houston and Ohio State. I respect that and I'm guessing AP pollsters do, too. The Sooners could have scheduled their way to 3-0, but they scheduled aggressively, which is good for the fans and the sport. No one doubts that Houston and Ohio State are very good teams, too.
As for Oregon, it took a No. 22 ranking to Nebraska and lost to a good but unranked team. The Ducks have not looked particularly impressive in either of their other two lackluster wins -- Virginia, by the way, is the only winless Power 5 conference team.
Guessing we can find plenty of better examples of Pac-12/10 disrespect -- 2008 USC comes to mind.