Tuesday morning mailbag

Thoughts, musings and rants from Week 1.

To the notes!

Jon in Nashville, Tenn. writes: Already looking forward to the UCLA-USC game, which made me wonder, who was the stronger opponent, Hawaii or Nevada?

Kevin Gemmell: That one is a long ways off, but I certainly think Nevada is the stronger team. We’ll know for sure, I suppose, when Hawaii travels to Nevada on Sept. 21 for their Mountain West opener. But after watching both games, I’d pick Nevada.

As you may know, we on the Pac-12 blog are big believers in good quarterback play. Cody Fajardo was the stronger quarterback of those two teams. The Bruins were only able to sack him twice -- and neither of those came from Anthony Barr (though he did have two tackles for a loss).

Both of those games served a good purpose for the Pac-12. I thought USC’s defense looked solid. And it provided the proper audition for the quarterbacks. Granted, I don’t think either passed the audition, but it was the kind of game that allowed the Trojans to try out both guys.

In the case of UCLA, as I wrote on Sunday, I think it was invaluable for the Bruins to face a talented, mobile quarterback like Fajardo because their schedule is laced with dual-threat guys. Considering where both teams are at, it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison. If the scenarios were swapped, I think USC would have had a tighter game against Nevada and UCLA would have had a wider margin of victory over Hawaii. But I don’t think either UCLA or USC would have gotten the same benefits had the roles been reversed.

Sam in Portland writes: During the nightcap some of the TV commentators were mocking (Mike) Leach's comment that the bottom of the Pac-12 is better than the bottom of the SEC, stating that WSU's loss to Auburn is definitive proof that he's wrong. Would you consider WSU completely outplaying the Tigers in Auburn and only losing by 1 TD because they shot themselves in the foot proof that he's wrong or evidence that Leach is in fact right?

Kevin Gemmell: I didn't see or hear those remarks, so I'll take your word for it. "Definitive" seems pretty strong.

I think as far as tinkle contests go, this might be the dumbest of them all. The whole “your worst is worse than our worst” is ridiculous. With that said, Washington State couldn’t have “completely” outplayed Auburn. If they did, the Cougs would have won.

But since you brought it up, let’s compare the bottom of the leagues as of right now: Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State all lost for the SEC. Cal, Oregon State and Washington State all lost for the Pac-12.

Georgia lost to No. 8 Clemson by three, no real disgrace there. Kentucky lost to Western Kentucky, an FBS team from the Sun Belt. We’ll call that a bad loss. Vanderbilt lost to a conference opponent in Ole Miss, so that’s a push. Mississippi State lost to No. 13 Oklahoma State by 17. It’s not a horrible loss, but it was pretty convincing.

No. 25 Oregon State lost to FCS Eastern Washington. A good FCS team, mind you, but an FCS team nevertheless. Cal lost to No. 22 Northwestern by 14. It was a very respectable effort from the Bears. And then we have Washington State’s loss, another gutty effort that the Cougs probably could have pulled out.

So each conference had a bad loss (though I’d say OSU’s was worse, considering the Beavers were ranked and lost to an FCS team). Both conferences also had “respectable” losses.

Now, ask yourself what would happen if Oregon State played (for the sake of argument, we’ll say at a neutral site) Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky or Georgia? I think they probably go 3-1. WSU probably goes 2-2 and Cal probably goes 2-2.

Of course, Georgia isn’t going to stay at the bottom of the SEC. Just as Colorado probably isn’t going to stay at the top of the Pac-12.

So what’s the morale of this story? Who cares whose worst is worse. They are all 0-1. That’s all that matters.

Clint in Honolulu writes: Kevin, what did you think of the Northwestern players faking injuries to slow the Cal offense? Do you think any of their coaches should be suspended?

Kevin Gemmell: As others have already pointed out, Cal fans should be cautious about calling the kettle black. A simple Google search reveals some awfully amusing and indicting video of a similar incident a few years back.

That said, if that was the case, it was pretty weak. I was at the UCLA game and was streaming the Cal game on my laptop, checking in every couple of minutes, so I didn't see any specific instances. But I’ve read reports of defensive linemen looking to the sideline and then collapsing. I don’t know how you could prove a guy wasn't injured -- outside of a full admission from the coach or player -- but if it happened, it’s pretty weak sauce.

Just as the act itself is hard to prove, making suspensions stick for something like that would be just as difficult. As it stands, public humiliation and shaming will have to suffice. The internet has a way of taking care of that.

Alex in Portland writes: Biggest surprise of Week 1? (don't say Oregon State, don't say Oregon State).

Kevin Gemmell: I think when you look at the combined quarterback completion rate in the USC-Hawaii game you first have to evaluate the … OF COURSE IT’S OREGON STATE! Come on Alex. If you’re going to serve them up for me, at least try to do it with a little dignity. This one feels like bait to rip into the Beavers. And it would be pretty easy to do, considering how that defense played.

I picked Oregon State to win that game straight up. As did Ted Miller and just about everyone else in America outside of Cheney, Wash. However, let's hop in the way-back machine to June 25 and Oregon State's nonconference primer post. You can click the link, if you’d like. Or I can simply cut-and-paste what I wrote back then:

The skinny: This is not a team to be taken lightly. It pushed Washington State last season and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs, finishing ranked fourth nationally among all FCS schools. [Vernon] Adams is a playmaker and, as a team, the Eagles set a school mark for passing yards in 2012 with 4,469. It's still an FCS school, but the Eagles are certainly an upgrade over Nicholls State.

You were sufficiently warned.

However, at the Pac-12 blog, we try to look for positives. And if you want to find some silver linings, look to the play of quarterback Sean Mannion, who along with Brandin Cooks, kept the Beavers in the game. Mannion was 37 of 43 for 422 yards and three touchdowns with a QBR of 93.3. Cooks caught 13 of those balls for 196 yards and two scores.

And this is what you want to hear out of your quarterback, who very easily could have used his pulpit to point the finger at his defense. Lord knows he's had plenty of fingers pointed at him over the last couple of years:

No one played a perfect game, the offense especially. We have our defense’s back a hundred times out of a hundred and they would do the same for us. I am not going to sit here and say that the offense played well because that isn’t true. Our defense fought hard. I think that our offense left some plays on the field, but all that we can do as a team is continue to grow and overcome this by working hard next week.

And he’s right. The Beavers offense did have three, three-and outs. But you can hardly saddle this one on the offense. By the way, when you’re playing an FCS team, you never want to see this.

But perhaps the most frustrating part of that game was the Beavers ruined my perfect week of predictions. 10-0 would have looked a heck of a lot better than 9-1. Or in Ted’s case, 8-2.