Opening the mailbag: Doubting Thomases

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To the notes.

Derek from Pullman writes: I was just offered a fellowship at the U of Utah for graduate school. I also wanted to buy into the Coug Athletic Fund after I graduate from WSU. The problem is that I feel like I'm stealing from one girlfriend to help out my other girlfriend. Even worse, they live on the same block and see each other several times a year at various sporting events. What is the proper etiquette in this situation?

Ted Miller: I'm viewing this question as one about potentially divided loyalties: What are the rules for having an undergraduate degree from one Pac-12 school and a graduate degree from another?

My position goes like this: 1. Your No. 1 school is the one you grew up rooting for; 2. But if you grew up, say, a UCLA fan yet then got your undergraduate degree at USC, you have a one-time right to declare a change; 3. If you try to change more than once -- say rooting for the team that is doing better at the moment -- you are committing a breach of etiquette; 4. The same goes for undergrad and graduate schools, though most would say the undergrad should hold precedent. You have a one-time right to change your allegiances.

The undergrad-graduate dilemma doesn't have to be horrifying, though. It does, in the mind of the Pac-12 blog, give you a justification for something that makes many uncomfortable: You have a right to claim a second favorite team, though sports philosophers and theologians have been debating sports polygamy for millennia. Socrates believed a person could root for two teams, as did Kierkegaard. Descartes -- best known for stating, "I read the Pac-12 blog, therefore I am" -- said otherwise, as did Nietzsche, who scholars only recently discovered was an obsessive troll on many sports message boards.

In other words, Derek, you can go to Utah games and even cheer, though preferably without much gusto. There, rightly, should be a bit of an existential crisis over wearing the colors. And when the Utes and Cougs play, you don the Crimson & Gray "In Leach We Trust!" shirt and proudly walk into Rice-Eccles Stadium. Though you might want to steer clear of the MUSS on such occasions.

Or you can decided to dump your Cougs in favor of the Utes, a divorce that can happen but once in your lifetime.

JJ from Tumalo, Ore., writes: Ted, does Les Miles have nasty pictures of you? Les is a magnificent recruiter with a major recruiting pool to draw from. But as a game planner and manager he is suspect at best. Did LSU win at Bama last season or did the Tide lose the game? The BCSCG result seems to confirm that Bama choked at home.Why do you think LSU's passing game will be much better next season? if [QB Zach Mettenberger] was all that he'd still be at UGA, no? Is there a coach on the LSU staff who can coach a top drawer pass offense? The was much disharmony coming from the LSU team during and after the BCSCG. This was a poorly as coached a team as I have seen since TOSU was blown out by Florida. What do you think a guy like Riley could do with Les' talent?

Ted Miller: Les Miles is 75-18 at LSU. Before he arrived in Baton Rouge, he rebuilt Oklahoma State into a winner from nothing. He's won a national title. This past season, LSU put together the most impressive regular season that I can remember -- perhaps of the modern era. And, by the way, he did that with mediocre-to-poor QB play, which is astounding.

Yes, the Tigers laid an egg in the national title game. Yes, Miles has produced some lunkheaded in-game moments. But college football coaching is the total package: Recruiting, building chemistry, Xs and Os, leadership, etc. Where Miles might fall short in one area, he excels in others. The proof is the win-loss record. He's clearly on the short list of the nation's best coaches.

I dare you to try and not like him after reading this story.

And, as of today, LSU will be atop my preseason top-25.

Geoff from Coos Bay, Ore., writes: How can you possibly rank Darron Thomas 12th? 12th is reasonable for De'Anthony Thomas. I think he should be higher but he was a freshman. But Darron Thomas was the QB of a Rose Bowl winning team.

Paul from Eugene, Ore., writes: You think 12 is about right for De'Anthony Thomas? I would have been disappointed if he wasn't in the top 5.

Brett from Claremont, Calif., writes: I know there was a bit of a snafu with the D. Thomases' rankings, so Darron Thomas' true location on your list would be a bit fuzzy, but how much do you think he really regressed this season vs. not improving beyond 2010 in the way some expected? You're not the only one I've read who he made similar assessments, and I'm not asking about his ranking but in the qualitative assessment of his performance. He threw roughly the same number of yards (80 less seems like statistical noise to me), while missing almost two games, ahd threw three extra touchdowns and two fewer interceptions, all without his two leading receivers from the previous year. I definitely didn't feel like he was playing as well in 2010, but I'm not sure that isn't based on my own inflated expectations for him.If Oregon had pulled out a win in the USC game and somehow ended up back in the national championship game, do you think people would still be saying he didn't play as well as in 2010?

Ted Miller: Obviously, if I hadn't screwed up and forgotten one of the Thomases -- Oregon QB Darron Thomas or Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas -- in the original list, one of them would have been ranked something other than 12th. When I recognized I'd blown it, it seemed to make sense to pair the two Ducks together.

I certainly think you can make a compelling argument for either in the top-10, but I'm also not having major second thoughts about ranking both 12th.

It was interesting that the mailbag was mostly split on who got screwed more. With De'Anthony, I think some of you are projecting ahead. With Darron, I think there was a bit of him being the QB of record during the best back-to-back seasons in Oregon history.

De'Anthony -- Mr. Versatility -- produced 1,200 total yards from scrimmage and 18 TDs. Very good numbers but not mind-blowing. He ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring. The No. 2 guy, Arizona State runnning back Cameron Marshall, didn't make the list. De'Anthony had a handful of quiet games. And there were a couple of fumbles you might recall.

By the way, De'Anthony is certain to be top-five in our preseason list, which projects ahead.

Darron was hurt by this: He was a productive and accomplished college QB leading perhaps the most productive and accomplished offensive system in college football. But how elite of a QB is he? Some of his poor-to-middling NFL evaluations did trickle into this. As perhaps did the not-too-quiet carping of a loud minority of Ducks fans who seemed to believe the offense would be better with backup Bryan Bennett, a position I didn't share.

And, by the way, this top-25 list is just the opinion of the Pac-12 blog. If you gathered 100 sportswriters in a room, everyone's top-25 list would be different. And you'd have a very smelly room.

Robert from Amarillo, Texas, writes: i have a feeling UCLA will be the surprise of the PAC-12 i like the attitude of jim mora. could it happen?

Ted Miller: Yes.

UCLA has 16 returning starters from a team that won six games. The Bruins could improve that number in 2012.

Do I think UCLA -- or any other South Division team -- is going to eclipse USC?


My list of teams that might surprise folks in 2012? UCLA, Oregon State, California and Arizona. That list, of course, is fluid. Heck, we haven't even had spring practices yet.

John from Spokane writes: Check out this video on former Coug great Steve Gleason. One of the best players that I have ever seen and truly an inspiration.

Ted Miller: Definitely worth a look. Gleason was a heck of a guy well before he got sick, but he's an inspiration now, no doubt.