Mailbag: What's next with realignment

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To the notes.

Scott from Honolulu writes: My question is with rumors of Florida St. talking with the Big 12 and the new college football playoffs being put into place in the near future, do you foresee another round of conference realignment? And if so, what are possible schools could we see in this new Pac 12, 14, 16 or whatever numerically correct conference?

Ted Miller: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has long held that further contraction in college football is inevitable. As you know, he's the all-knowing Dr. Strange of college football. And I agree with Scott. I used to think we'd reduce the FBS field to about 60 teams, and that crew would break away from the NCAA and form its own governing body. Now I think it might end up being an even smaller number.

First, so far there's been a lot of smoke (chatter) with little fire (an actual move) as it pertains to ACC teams with wandering eyes. Further, emotionally, I don't know how I feel about the notion of college football reducing itself to four super-conferences. Part of me winces, but I'm not sure if that's just my age showing. More than a few of you think my affection for the Rose Bowl is dated. When I hear such talk, I always see the baffled reaction of another sportswriter when I say, "But I'd really rather not eat at Applebee's."

On a Machiavellian level, I think the Pac-12 presidents made a mistake when they blew off Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech last September. While Scott won't say this on the record, my feeling from talking to him these past three or so years is he agrees. The Pac-12 had an opportunity to become the Pac-16, the first superconference, and thereby guarantee itself the most powerful seat at the table when the new look of college football is hashed out this summer.

Said Scott at the time, while defending the decision to remain at 12: "An opportunity was turned down that could have generated more money for the schools but potentially could have torn apart the fabric of the culture of the conference."

Culture, you might have noticed, is losing its traction during college football's money grab.

That move, of course, would have torn the Big 12 asunder. By the Pac-12 not doing so, the Big 12 was allowed to regroup and now it is threatening to do that very thing to the ACC. Yeah, all is fair in love, war and conference realignment.

And where does the Pac-12 turn if the SEC and Big 12 were to split up the prime teams of the ACC? Hard to say. Texas has always been the big prize in that it offered a huge market, a stellar sports program and strong academics. But that bull has walked, so to speak, and there are few teams within, oh, 1,500 miles of Pac-12 country that make much sense for expansion. Or that aren't spoken for.

The number that makes the most sense is 16. That's why few believe the SEC will stay at 14. But which four programs could add value to the Pac-12? The pickings are slim, unless Scott tries to raid the Big 12, which at present is surging and unified, or he gets really creative, outmaneuvers the Big Ten, grabs Notre Dame and uses that coup to go national and lures three more teams from outside the West region.

As it stands, I don't see an ideal 16-team scenario for the Pac-12, though I don't have one of those all-knowing Dr. Strange brains like Scott and Chip Kelly do.

Michael from Seattle writes: Do you buy into the hype of Desmond Trufant? I've seen him in a "top 100 players headed into 2012" list and I was fairly shocked. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see him having a monster senior year. Thoughts?

Ted Miller: Trufant is an NFL prospect. He's going to be a four-year starter for Washington. He's got good measurables -- 6-0, 185, good speed -- and good bloodlines being the younger brother of NFL cornerback Marcus Trufant. He was honorable mention All-Pac-12 last year, so at least two Pac-12 coaches think he can play.

But, yes, there have been a few times when he's been notably beaten. I'm aware that some Huskies fans are doubters. I also think NFL draft projections before a player's final year are fluid and often uniformed. Guys who appear in the first round of mock drafts in the summer often disappear by the following spring. And other players on nobodies' mock draft radar soar into the early rounds.

My feeling is Trufant has plenty to prove. I also think it's hard to measure him because the Huskies have been so awful on defense. It's difficult to be a good cornerback behind a weak pass rush. Or when you're consistently left on an island because the defensive coordinator is consistently rushing six or seven because of that weak pass rush.

I think the Huskies defense will be much better under new coordinator Justin Wilcox. And that will make Trufant look more like an NFL corner.

Kym from Los Angeles writes: Which redshirt freshman will have the biggest impact this season?

Ted Miller: If he wins the starting QB job, Michael Eubank at Arizona State would be a good guess. Same with QB Brett Hundley at UCLA.

California really needs Maurice Harris to step up at receiver. Utah has a redshirt freshman No. 1 at right offensive tackle after spring practices: Daniel Nielson. USC has several redshirt freshmen on its D-line -- Antwaun Woods, Cody Temple, Christian Heyward and Greg Townsend -- who could really help if they stepped up.

This will be a better question -- or at least one that's easier to answer -- when we get a solid idea of depth charts in mid-to-late August.

Tim from Salt Lake City writes: Why is it that, though I've seen them mentioned as a possible pre-season top 25 more than once, Utah hasn't warranted so much as an honorable mention in any of the offseason lists? As you are fond of asking us, who would you exclude in their favor?

Ted Miller: Barring any major, presently unforeseen issues, Utah will be in my preseason top-25 vote for the ESPN.com.

Here's Mark Schlabach's most recent top-25. I think you could clip the team that the Utes beat in the Sun Bowl and thereby find a spot.

Michael from Stockton, Calif., writes: Will oregon really be that big of threat to the explosive and very talented USC?

Ted Miller: Yes.

Steve from Fort Myers, Fla., writes: A while back you made a list of places to eat in the Pac 12 cities, this summer I will be traveling to Seattle, Corvallis, and Eugene. I was hoping you could either email me the list, or tell me where to find it, so I can check them out?

Ted Miller: If you click here, it will magically appear.

And if you read some of the comments below, you undoubtedly will find more options.