Mailbag: Measuring-stick games

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Costi from Phoenix writes: Ted, I'm pretty sure you're the only sports writer I've heard talk about the fact that Arizona could be sneaky good because of their weak non-conference. However since the first three games will probably be wins for the Wildcats, which subsequent game is likely to be the "measuring-stick" for how good Arizona really is? My initial thought is Washington because they might be most comparable; but then isn't USC the Pac-12's measuring stick most season? Or should I dash any hopes of the cats competing with those teams and use Utah as a measuring stick for whether or not we're any good?Also on a related note I eagerly await your best case/worst case series. When should I start looking for that?

Ted Miller: Paging Chip Kelly! Costi, don't you know "Every game is a Super Bowl?"

But I know what you are saying: At what point will Arizona be revealed as what it is?

I'd say Washington. A road win in renovated Husky Stadium would give the Wildcats a 4-0 start and tons of confidence as they head into a bye before visiting USC, a game that could announce them as South Division contenders.

On the other hand, you could go more general: If Arizona splits its road games with Washington and USC, it will position itself for a successful season.

Of course, no season is made by one win. Many teams have recorded a seeming "measuring-stick" win, only to crash and burn with an upset defeat the following week. And then the whole season might go to hell.

I do like your thinking here, though. So what about the other 11 Pac-12 teams? What's their measuring-stick game? (Note: Not most important game).

  • Arizona State: USC on Sept. 28. Amid the Sun Devils' brutal start, this game is critical for South Division positioning.

  • California: Northwestern on Aug. 31. Nothing beats a good first impression, Sonny Dykes.

  • Colorado: Colorado State on Aug. 31. That first impression might matter even more for Mike MacIntyre, considering the Rams bested the Buffs last year.

  • Oregon: Tennessee on Sept. 14. Whipping an SEC team would look good. Style points matter in this one.

  • Oregon State: Stanford on Oct. 26. The Cardinal comes to Corvallis: Are the Beavers going to challenge for the North title?

  • Stanford: Arizona State on Sept. 21. First quality foe. Can make a national statement with impressive showing.

  • UCLA: At Nebraska on Sept. 14. Could the Bruins sweep the home-and-home? If so, could be 5-0 heading to Stanford on Oct. 19.

  • USC: At Arizona State on Sept. 28. A 5-0 start and marquee division win would silence the Lane Kiffin critics.

  • Utah: Oregon State on Sept. 14. Take down the nationally-ranked Beavers at home and earn Pac-12 respect.

  • Washington: Boise State on Aug. 31. Need to open renovated Husky Stadium with an A-list win.

  • Washington State: At California Oct. 5. This is the game where the Cougars could push themselves out of the North basement.

Dan from Denver writes: Hey Ted, You list Stanford under "we'll see" in your preview of PAC-12 tight ends. TE has been a key position of strength for the Cardinal during their recent run of success. Supposing they suffer a significant drop in TE production, can they hope to have another BCS Bowl season? Would other positions pick up the slack?

Ted Miller: Yes to your first question. I think Stanford is a legitimate national title contender.

To your second, I think a maturing Kevin Hogan and an improved corps of receivers will create a more balanced passing game that will support what, I suspect, will be another strong rushing attack, even with the departure of Stepfan Taylor.

That potentially dominant offensive line will help either way.

Further, Stanford's tight end play probably will be at least solid. Luke Kaumatule and Davis Dudchock are not chopped liver, even if they've not yet contributed. And, for obvious reasons, Stanford has recruited the position well.

Sundevil2112 from Chicago writes: The ASU page still has Garrett Marino listed as a verbal commit for 2013 and rivals doesn't even have him listed as a part of the recruiting class. Is he still coming to the program or has something happened (ineligibility, change of heart, etc.)?Thanks!

Ted Miller: The general plan seems to be that Marino, a defensive end from Mission Viejo, Calif., will grayshirt -- report after the 2013 season -- but the details haven't been completely ironed out, according to an athletic department spokesperson.

Nick from Woods Cross, Utah writes: Ted,As a recent graduate from The University of Utah (Thanks to the PAC-12 for letting me say I graduated from a prestigious PAC-12 school), I find myself constantly updating ESPN and the PAC-12 blog during work. Even now as I write this, I am currently finding any article or update I can about PAC-12 teams. Am I suffering from some sort of school withdrawal? Is the real world hitting and I am resisting? Would it be wrong for me to dress up as Luigi in The MUSS for football games? Thanks for the help and guidance!

Ted Miller: Nick, you are not only acting like a responsible adult, you are clearing a path for greatness and riches.

The most dedicated Pac-12 blog readers know what I'm talking about. Here are some testimonials.

  • "Hey, I didn't know I had a rich uncle in Topeka who just left me $3.2 million! Thanks Pac-12 blog!"

  • "Blackjack? Again? This is toooo easy! Thanks Pac-12 blog!"

  • "You're from Pappy Van Winkle? Lifetime supply? Sure. That will make the tailgate even better! Thanks Pac-12 blog!"

  • "And so, in conclusion, this pill that I invented in my basement while watching a replay of last year's Stanford-Oregon game allows you to eat as much as you want and never get fat. [Aside: Thanks Pac-12 blog!]"

And Luigi sounds like a perfectly reasonable costume for games this fall.