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Mailbag: Oregon panic, USC overrated, Colorado hope

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Virking Overtime: Empires falling in college football (2:03)

The college football season is only four weeks old, but already Oregon has been knocked off its perch and the Ducks might be joined in that regard by Alabama on Saturday night. (2:03)

Happy Friday. Welcome to the Mailbag.

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To the notes!


Braden writes: Given Oregon's struggles this year, it's got me wondering, are we beginning to see the results of Mark Helfrich-era recruiting? Or are we just seeing bad scheming by the coaches? Or something else completely? It's baffling to me to think that a QB hasn't been groomed knowing that someday Mariota would be gone. It's obvious the VA/Lockie experiment isn't producing the fruits we've become used to seeing. Who's next?

Ted Miller: Who's next?

I see a lake of burning sulfur and demons rising from its depths as the great seal is broken. I see four horsemen -- a Husky, a Trojan, a Ute and a Beaver. I see death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth. I see a horrific massacre of Ducks. I see Duck confit, roast duck. I see Peking duck and duck a l'orange. I see a grinding of duck bills and much gnashing of teeth. Oh, the horror.

But lo, there is a light! There's a very distinguished looking man... he looks familiar. He is beloved by all! He turns his head -- not unlike dramatic chipmunk! -- and says, "Thou shall chill out. Please."

Oregon is 2-2 having lost to a pair of very good, unbeaten teams. The Ducks are out of the national polls in September/October when national polls are OH SO DARN IMPORTANT, WHICH IS WHY THIS IS IN ALL CAPS! They got their rear ends pummeled by Utah, worst home defeat since falling 54-0 to Washington in 1977.

Cry me a river. (I suspect that a significant percentage of young Oregon fans who read the above paragraph and went, "Wait. We've lost to Washington before? That's weird.")

Let's start with this: Did Oregon fans believe that their Ducks would win at least 10 games every season in perpetuity? Would it really be a disaster if Oregon finished 8-4 this year? Would it spell the end of an era? And/or should that put Mark Helfrich on the hot seat?

Braden, you are "baffled" that a QB hasn't been groomed to replace Mariota, a QB, by the way, who attended Oregon only because he was discovered by Helfrich. Go ask an Alabama or Texas fan about QB bafflement. You should be more baffled that the Ducks have been so consistently good at the position this century.

Know what I think? I think Oregon, at the very least, would be 3-1 and highly ranked if Vernon Adams didn't break his finger. And I also think that overreacting to a grain of sand finding its way into one of college football's well-oiled machines -- while entirely predictable based on the irrational greed of an entitled fan base -- is, well, sort of funny.

Last year, Helfrich and his staff turned in one of the great coaching jobs you will witness. Yes, it helped to have an all-time great behind center, but the Ducks -- a nontraditional power playing in a a 54,000-seat stadium -- played for a national title in the inaugural College Football Playoff despite near-catastrophic injuries throughout the season.

Oregon is 0-1 in conference play. This is not yet a Duck-ocalypse.

Oregon fans, be grateful, be hopeful. And stop whining.


Rob writes: I keep reading from people like Todd Graham how talented the USC Trojans are. In years past when the Trojans were wildly talented, they would not infrequently have double-digits of players drafted by the NFL after the season. Right now, I count four Trojans who are sure to be drafted after the season (Su'a Cravens, Max Tuerk, Cody Kessler and Tre Madden) and a couple others who might be. Is Trojan talent, especially along the offensive and defensive lines, oversold at the moment?

Ted Miller: So... three of four senior offensive starters will be drafted. That's a pretty good start.

But to your point, I do think USC's talent on the defensive front seven -- at least the juniors and seniors -- doesn't measure up to past vintages. Linebacker Su'a Cravens, who will be a safety at the next level, is a special talent, and I suspect that 320-pound nose tackle Antwaun Woods will get drafted, but there's a lack of all-conference type guys, much less first-round NFL draft picks.

I also am surprised the offensive line hasn't been more dominant. There's plenty of physical ability up front, so things might jell as the season goes on.

Still, when coaches say USC is the most talented team in the Pac-12, it starts with recruiting, where USC leads the conference on just about an annual basis. The Trojans pass the eye test. In terms of pure measurables, they are bigger and faster than most teams. True sophomore cornerback/receiver Adoree' Jackson and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster are game-changing playmakers that every coach looks at with envy. The Trojans depth at tailback is ridiculous.

The challenge at USC has never been recruiting talent. It's been about creating the right culture and blending that talent into a cohesive whole.


Matthew writes: The Buffs' next three opponents, Oregon, ASU and Arizona, all showed signs of mortality this past weekend. Any chance the Buffs pull off an upset in the next three weeks, or is a visit to Corvallis vs. Oregon State their next possible chance at a win? The Buffs schedule hasn't prepped them for the Pac-12 gauntlet ahead, so their 3-1 record is misleading, just being honest. I think this Buffs team is the best one that's been on the field since 2007, but I'm leery to drink the Kool-Aid after many years of spiked punch (to the gut).

Ted Miller: There's a decent chance, though I'm not taking that to Vegas.

I too think Colorado is much improved, though the opening loss at Hawaii was dispiriting and could cost bowl hopes. I suspect that the Buffaloes will win at least a couple of Pac-12 games this year and perhaps will record a major upset. They were very close last year, so a breakthrough this year feels possible.

You'd think the Buffaloes best chance would be at home (Oregon on Saturday and Arizona on Oct. 17). But home field hasn't been much of an advantage in Pac-12 play of late.

If I were betting on a game Colorado were to win this month, I'd go with the visit to Oregon State on Oct. 24. But if Arizona is dealing with significant injury issues, if QB Anu Solomon isn't available when the Wildcats come to Boulder, they will be vulnerable.


Ryan writes: I am a huge Utah fan and have been reading the Pac-12 blog a lot this week (good stuff by the way), but my wife has told me that I need have opinions on things that fall outside the Pac-12 blog. I’m not even sure what to think about this. What should I do?

Ted Miller: I suspect your wife's words are functioning on multiple levels, as most words from wives do.

First, it's a test. She knows that all things good have their beginnings with the Pac-12 blog. She is testing your loyalty. If you falter, she will wonder if you can be so easily swayed in the future by a few honeyed phrases and a big red apple of temptation.

Second, she also wants you to be well-rounded. So, for every 10 Pac-12 blog articles you intently study, you should read at least one or two from The New York Times and Salon.com.

I also suggest you read "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff. Such a comforting read for husbands everywhere.