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Bruce writes: If you were building a PAC-12 conference team that had to take full position units (not individual players) from different schools (can't repeat any schools) what would you team look like?
Ted Miller: OK. I'll bite.
The key here is Bruce insisted on no repeats.
QB: California (Jared Goff)
My first pick was the USC offensive line, which made it easy to go with Goff as Cody Kessler was then off the table. Oregon might be better at receiver than Arizona -- if everything works out with injuries and suspensions -- but the Ducks' one-two punch at running back was impossible to resist. No one approaches Stanford at tight end, though using the Cardinal there meant I couldn't consider their linebackers.
Defense was interesting. UCLA is strong on the defensive line, and Utah is pretty darn good at linebacker. Arizona State has a nice crew at cornerback. Yet this lineup feels strongest, particularly getting Budda Baker into the lineup.
David writes: In a recent message board discussion the topic of division strength came up. It's pretty obvious that right now the south is stronger. I feel like the north was stronger after the expansion. Going back to the Pac 10, the schools that would become the north were stronger. Go back to the mid part of the 2000's during the USC run and the schools that would become the south were stronger. Go back to the early 2000 and you have the north schools on top again.
My argument is the power is cyclical. That at some point multiple schools from the north will be ranked while only 1 or 2 from the south will be. The argument made to me was that USC is back and here to stay and we shouldn't expect UCLA, Arizona or Arizona State to go away any time soon.
Your opinion the subject would be greatly appreciated.
Ted Miller: College football in general tends to work in cycles, in large part based on coaching changes. The right coach at Alabama or Ohio State or USC or Texas is going to win and win big. The problem for those superpowers is getting the right coach installed and him getting enough time to work his magic.
In the Pac-12/10, the Age of Oregon/Stanford (North) was preceded by the Age of USC (South). Before that, we had the Age of Chaos -- seven different champions over seven seasons, four North, three South.
USC at full strength and well-coached is going to be a consistent top-10 team. Period. The Trojans going forward should end up in the College Football Playoff at least once every, oh, three or four years. Why? Because USC.
For the rest of the Pac-12, it's a matter of continuity. As we are now, I don't see Arizona, Arizona State or UCLA slipping much as long as they retain their present head coaches. I think Utah might want to think twice before taking Kyle Whittingham for granted.
In the North, four teams have played in at least one Rose Bowl since 2000. California should have in 2004 (sorry about mentioning that, Cal, but you do have that trip to Texas on Sept. 19 ...), and Oregon State was part of a three-way tie atop the Pac-10 in 2000. There is no reason Washington can't again be a national and Pac-12 contender. When folks kick sand at Washington State, I always counter, 'well, the Cougs have played in two Rose Bowls since 1997 and finished ranked in the top-10 three consecutive seasons not too long ago.'
Oregon State has won nine or more games five times since 2000. Heck, Colorado played in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2001 season, and not too long ago it was a Big 8/12 power.
In other words, there are no Kentuckys, Vanderbilts, Indianas or Iowa States in the Pac-12. Every program has shown it can win, can be a top-25 team. In fact, every Pac-12 team has been ranked in the top-10 at some point since the turn of the century.
So the Pac-12 will continue to go through cycles -- dominant teams, dominant divisions, etc. -- even if a healthy USC pushes back to "First Among Equals" status.
Drew from Portland writes: I know this season might be brutal for the beavers, as optimistic as things are looking for the future. How many years until we see the beavers return to the top 25 and a bowl game?
Ted Miller: It's tough to rebuild in the Pac-12. A team might improve dramatically -- see Colorado in 2014 -- but take a step backwards in terms of record because everyone else keeps getting better, too.
Gary Andersen is a proven head coach and he's hired a good staff. Yet, typically, a significant rebuilding job, which Oregon State appears to be, takes three or four years because coaches want to install their guys throughout the lineup, and Andersen is changing schemes significantly on both sides of the ball.
Though it might seem like immediate bad news that he appears poised to start a freshman at quarterback, that could end up being good news -- see Jared Goff at Cal in 2013. If Seth Collins hangs tough, improves and Andersen recruits well, you could see a significant move by 2017.
I'd advise patience.
Lawrence writes: In screenwriting, we like to talk about how the beginning scenes hint at the end (thanks UCLA Film School MFA!). In that, my prediction is this: After a 1-11 start in 2013, my Golden Bears will flip that script this year and go 11-1. Yes, it will be an extraordinary turn of events, but I can see Kaufman getting the ppg down to around 32, while Franklin turning on the jets to 44 ppg. That means there will still be shootouts, but Cal will win those shoot outs, including against UCLA, USC, and Stanford. Tell me that I'm crazy...
Ted Miller: Well, 11-1 is a bit crazy.
There are Pac-12 teams that will be as high-powered on offense as Cal but also will have better defenses, such as USC. In fact, I'd rate it less than less than 50-50 that any conference team goes 11-1.
I wouldn't be shocked, however, if the Bears go 8-4, though I'd rate 6-6 and a bowl game as a successful campaign based on a rugged schedule.
Oscar writes: After reading numerous stories on the Steve Patterson situation at Texas, it hard not to believe that his tenure their might not last. Why didn’t we hear anything like that when he was AD at ASU? Do you find this situation a little strange?
Ted Miller: I am not surprised in the least. We didn't hear about people struggling under Patterson because folks did a good job of not going public with their feelings, as a few quietly did after he left for Austin.
Patterson wasn't beloved at Arizona State. He wasn't beloved when he was running the Portland Trailblazers. Though Patterson obviously has skills that keep getting him hired, he is not known as a people person.
I get a strong feeling folks at Arizona State are pretty darn happy with current AD Ray Anderson, particularly in terms of his day-to-day management of employees.
Nick from Los Angeles writes: During my undergrad experience, I spent the better half of a decade in Eugene (Harrington to Clemens for reference). Most of that was filled with cheap Chinese food from Maple Garden or Tom’s Tea House, but on RARE occasions, I had the opportunity to spend all of my hard-earned money at Beppe and Gianni’s (an ESPN staffer favorite from what I’ve read).
Now, every year for my annual pilgrimage north to Eugene, my friends and I make it a point to stop in and indulge in some of the best Italian food I’ve had outside of LA (here’s looking at you, Bestia). Almost every time, we see members of either Oregon or their opponents coaching staff cozied up and digging into some fresh, homemade pasta.
But inquiring minds want to know ... What does Ted Miller order???
Ted Miller: Love the atmosphere at Beppe & Gianni's on a Friday night before a big game. As for my menu choices, it depends on whether I am, er, behaving or not. My experiences have been pretty good with the ole fish of the day prep -- hey, I'm a land-locked Arizona guy visiting the Northwest -- but I've hit several bases, including the steak and pork loin, that have hit the spot.
And, not unlike you, if I'm just going to go for it. ... pasta carbonara is one of my all-time favorite dishes.