Opening the mailbag: Case for Kevin Hogan

Kevin Hogan transformed Stanford's 2012 season when he took over for the last five games. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Howdy. Next week, we'll have games. That is a good thing.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. That way no one will look at you when the term "benighted souls" is used in your presence.

To the notes.

Stanford CardinalAndrew from Agoura Hills, Calif., writes: In general, I think you guys do an awesome job with the player rankings before and after each season. It's one of the most entertaining pieces you do every year. So far, the only glaring issue I have with the list is ranking Kevin Hogan at No. 17. It very specifically states that the rankings are a reflection of where a player starts the season, not where you think they are going to be ranked by the end of the season. And I simply think you are giving Hogan too much credit for his brief amount of playing time. He would have been a better choice at No. 25, or simply someone who merited strong consideration but didn't make the cut. Do you really think he's better than Ben Gardner (or Henry Anderson) or any of the other guys ranked after him? In short, I think you broke your own rules. But otherwise, love the work you guys do.

Ted Miller: Now this is how you write a note of complaint or disagreement.

Most notably, Andrew doesn't use the dimwit phrase "lose all credibility!" to make his point. He disagrees with something. He states his case.

That said, Kevin and I had a very specific discussion about Kevin Hogan and whether his fairly high ranking would appear to be a projection. It is not.

Now, obviously, Hogan's ranking isn't based on his pedestrian 2012 stats. At least, not the ones you most frequently see. Hogan's case, first of all, is based on how he transformed Stanford's season, from mostly treading water to Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion.

And we can quantify this because ESPN Stats & Information has quantified it, in fact, seeking out the Pac-12 blog to point out its findings.

Under the heading, "How much better was Stanford after QB change?" our sabermetric friends provided three bullet points.

  • Josh Nunes started Stanford's first eight games. His opponent adjusted quarterback rating was 56.4. His completion percentage on third down was 46 percent. He had nine turnovers.

  • Hogan started the final five games. His opponent adjusted QBR was 77.8. He completed 65 percent of his passes on third down. He had three turnovers.

  • The Cardinals' offensive efficiency rating with Nunes was +3. With Hogan, it was +25.

Now I hear your counter: We are comparing Hogan to Nunes. What about other Pac-12 quarterbacks?

Hogan's QBR of 77.8 would have ranked third in the Pac-12, behind only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Arizona's Matt Scott and ahead of USC's Matt Barkley, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Arizona State's Taylor Kelly.

And, of course, he compiled that QBR against four ranked teams and Wisconsin.

Jeff from Paulina, Ore., writes: Your ranking of De'Anthony Thomas at number 14 in the Pac-12 preseason player rankings is absolutely absurd. I would like to use more adjectives to describe it including a few vulgar ones but I think you get the message. Not only does that ranking call into the question your being qualified to be the Pac-12 blog writer, it harms the national credibility of one a one of the most dynamic and realistic Heisman contenders the conference has had in a long time. Typical east coast college football fan: "De'Anthony Thomas for Heisman? There are like 10 players in his conference better than him (or 13 as you say). Look, the ESPN Pac-12 writer even has him at 14th." Sorry to be so harsh Ted. I know you don't like that De'Anthony doesn't fit into the traditional single position role, but unless you think he will have less touches because of that (Helfrich says he wants to get DAT more touches this year including around 20 carries a game), I don't understand how that matters.

Ted Miller: Sigh.

Kevin had a go at this same question last week.

Again, Jeff is not looking at what De'Anthony actually did last year, he's thinking of a the idea of DAT and projecting forward. This list doesn't project forward.

Let me quantify this a little more. Consider this previously published chart.

Thomas and Arizona State's Grice are basically a push, though Thomas also returned a punt and kickoff -- in the Fiesta Bowl, no less -- for TDs. Grice ranked 24th on our list, Thomas 14th. And, by the way, Grice obviously had to share the ball with D.J. Foster, just as Thomas shared touches with Kenjon Barner.

Let me take this outrage on in a general way, for we have as many angry notes about ranking Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins too low at No. 13.

The common denominator for just about all the "you lose all credibility!" notes is fan bias for players from their team. So Seferian-Jenkins, for Washington fans, is a only a "Finalist for the Mackey Award you idiot!" and not the No. 8 receiver in the Pac-12, a tight end who was not an elite blocker in 2012.

Thomas is one of the nation's most dynamic players. Seferian-Jenkins is a future first-round NFL draft pick. But we are evaluating what they actually did last year, not imagining them as fully realized football players.

As for Thomas' Heisman Trophy hopes, he will lose exactly zero votes because the Pac-12 blog ranked him 14th in the conference in the preseason, but thank you for imbuing us with so much power.

Evan from Novato, Calif., writes: Got a toughie for you. What game are you least looking forward to this season??!! And Why?

Ted Miller: From a preseason perspective, I'm most looking forward to Oregon's visit to Stanford on Nov. 7 for what might be the biggest Thursday night ESPN game in the history of Thursday night ESPN games.

Of course, we thought USC-Oregon was going to be epic last year, and things didn't exactly work out.

Arizona State has a fantastic four-game run against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame that could announce the Sun Devils as a budding national power -- or crush all optimism in Todd Graham's second year.

I'm wondering if Oregon's visit to renovated Husky Stadium on Oct. 12 might get heated. And I love the idea of USC-UCLA again being nationally relevant.

The list is long.

Oh... wait. You said "least" looking forward to.

I am least looking forward to Oregon-Nicholls State.

Kentucky WildcatsBert from Miles City, Mont., writes: Just saw your column about 6 worst FBS jobs and I have to write you to correct some fairly lazy research on your part. You mention Kentucky's poor attendance last year as one of your arguments for the job being bad, the problem is that last year's attendance was not the norm for Kentucky. Last years attendance was about a fanbase fed up with a terrible head coach, and an AD that basically told the fanbase to "make his day" when it came to a coaching change. So the fanbase made his day, and stayed away in droves to FORCE a coaching change the AD did not want to make. You see if you had done any research than to look up just last year's attendance, like simply put ncaa college football attendance into google, you would have seen official NCAA attendance stats that showed Kentucky to have a damn good football fanbase. Here is where UK ranks 2011 - 2005 in attendance: 2011-27th in nation-60,007; 2010-25th-66,070; 2009-22nd-69,594; 2008-23rd-69, 434; 2007-23rd-68,824; 2006-31st-57,330; 2005-27th-62,450. So I am not going to argue if UK is one of the 6 worst jobs, that is to subjective. You say we are, I would argue that opinion, but I will not allow lazy arguments to go unchallenged. UK for a football school of little success has a great fanbase, that shows up in droves when the coaching staff gives it a reason. One thing I think is that when you do this column again, and again put UK in your 6 worst fbs jobs you will not be able to use attendance as a reason as we will once again have top 30 or better attendance in 2013.

Ted Miller: Point taken. Kentucky fans, in the past, showed up to watch their team play.

But my research wasn't lazy. In fact, I originally was going to note your very point in the article, including, of course, that the downturn took place over the past two seasons. I'll explain why I didn't in two paragraphs.

First, the important number is not the attendance figure but percent of capacity (Commonwealth Stadium seats 67,500). As noted about 2012, "the Wildcats played in front of an average of 49,691 fans last year, which was only 73.5 percent of capacity at Commonwealth Stadium, by far the worst percentage in the SEC and seventh worst among FBS teams."

In 2011, that percentage was 88.8, better only that Vanderbilt in the SEC.

But, Bert, know why I didn't belabor that point, taking time to note it was based on fan frustration with coach Joker Phillips? Because it makes the Kentucky job look even worse. I originally was going to point that out but felt like I was being too harsh -- and that the Kentucky blurb would be too long compared to the others.

Let's avoid fairly lazy thinking here: Your counter is that Kentucky fans used to show up to watch the Wildcats until they bailed out on their team because they didn't like the team's third-year coach.

And that makes Kentucky a better job?

Forget all the numbers I used to quantify why Kentucky ranked among the six worst jobs, such as not having a winning record in conference play since 1977. Consider, instead, that Kentucky fans began turning away from the program in a coach's second year, and that they apparently didn't feel a responsibility to support the young men attending their beloved school and wearing their beloved colors.

Again: And that makes Kentucky a better job?