Happy Friday -- will they be happy in Seattle tonight? Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions! And, boy, are a lot of you guys grumpy already.
Jeff from Boulder, Colorado, writes: Any reason the Buffs can't win the Pac-12 South? It's not like there is one dominant team. All of the South has shown issues, including the Buffs. I don't think they should be scared of a single Pac-12 South team left on their schedule. While unlikely they run the table, it would be a great story. Plus the rest of the Pac-12 would get to realize how insufferable and awful we CU fans can be once we're winning. Feel free to poll our former Big 12 brethren on which fans were the worst.
Ted Miller: Dude, if it means more trips to Boulder for me, you guys can launch an obnoxiousness initiative right now.
We start with a positive question that will get a negative answer: Yes, there is a reason Colorado won't win the Pac-12 South: The other five teams in the Pac-12 South.
It's not that Colorado isn't now good enough to beat any one of them on any given Saturday. It's that they aren't yet good enough to end up with the best record in conference play versus that fivesome.
Look at the schedule ahead after this weekend: at USC, Arizona State, at Stanford, UCLA, at Arizona, Washington State and Utah. At the very least, the Buffs would need to go 4-3 against that slate, and the wins would need to be strategic. As in Arizona State, UCLA and Utah probably would need to be three of the four wins in order to provide a head-to-head buffer.
Now, I'm not going to stomp on your hopes and dreams, Jeff. In the very process of typing this answer, I felt my certainty soften and then entertain the ... hmm, maybe. Stranger things have happened ... Who saw Washington State coming in 1997?
Still, it's a decided long shot.
After some fits and starts, Colorado is on a strong uptick under Mike MacIntyre. Odds are good the Buffs will improve to 4-1 and 2-0 in Pac-12 play this weekend against Oregon State. The Buffs appear likely to go to a bowl game for the first time since 2007, which should be grounds enough for a celebration among the long-suffering fan base that is eager to dust off its trash talk and employ it once again.
Rob writes: How much pressure is Jim Mora under next year if UCLA doesn't salvage this season with at least a Pac-12 South title? Sure there is a lot of 2016 left, but part of what sank Les Miles was the added pressure of winning in the "Fournette window." Mora is obviously a very good coach, but while Tom Bradley had the defense playing extremely well, the Bruins' offense is pretty flaccid.
Ted Miller: Really? "... salvage this season with at least a Pac-12 South title"? That's your "at least"? What was your mid-level expectation?
Yes, this is our college football world now. I live in it. I get it. If your team isn't unbeaten and winning stylishly, then it's time to ask if your coach should be fired. Perhaps the loser in Seattle Friday night between Chris Petersen and David Shaw should suffer under this speculative yoke?
Two seasons ago, Mora led the Bruins to only their ninth 10-win season in school history, which capped the first time in program history that it had three consecutive seasons with at least nine wins. His 29 wins his first three seasons were the most ever by a UCLA coach, and his 37 wins after four years ranked behind only Terry Donahue.
So, sure, let's talk about firing the program's best coach since Terry Donahue.
While it's fair to say that things haven't been perfect so far this season -- it's not even October yet! -- the bottom line is the Bruins lost tight games to two teams presently ranked in the top 10. Most would still project the Bruins, to borrow your description, as at least co-favorites in the South Division with Utah.
Ergo, I'm not ready to start imagining a collapse this year in order to speculate on pressure in 2017.
Further, a fan base with premature and aggressively expressed frustrations doesn't operate in a vacuum. It can feed on itself -- as folks on message boards try to outdo each other's exacting standards -- and create a negative vibe around a program that then creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a recruit who reads, hears about and senses an unhappy fan base is probably going to pause on making a commitment.
It seems to me both LA schools might be experiencing some of this.
Rance writes: Interesting stuff this week about Chip Kelly being interested in the SC job last year. I'm not completely ready to throw in the proverbial towel on the Helton era yet, but I do think the Trojans are going to need to show rapid progress before the natives become restless. To me, it would be interesting to see what a coach like Mike Riley would say about the USC job. If any of the prior reports are true, he basically turned them down twice (2000, 2006). Chris Peterson seemed to have at least some interest in the job before he landed at UW. Is USC still a premier job? Obviously the consensus is the right personality is needed in LA, and Pete was a rock star at USC, but who would be the ideal candidate to get the Trojans rolling again?
Ted Miller: First off, Chip Kelly wants to coach in the NFL. I doubt he'll look seriously at a college job until he no longer can get an NFL job.
Mike Riley, at 63, isn't going to leave Nebraska for USC, nor is Chris Petersen going to leave Washington for USC. That's not about USC not being a premier job. It's about timing, fit and personal preferences.
USC is a premier job, without question. The idea that notion is bouncing around, in some ways because some USC administrators allowed it to, is an absurdity sprouting from a lazy lack of vision and creativity.
I, too, think it is premature to wave a white flag over Clay Helton, who is not even halfway through HIS FIRST FULL SEASON. (YES, I'M SHOUTING). When former AD Pat Haden opted to hire a first-time head coach, he created the possibility that the program would suffer through some first-time head coach issues. While USC isn't the sort of place where you're supposed to learn on the fly, Helton is doing just that. And it's perfectly logical that he would.
But, if panic takes over and new AD Lynn Swann decides to make a change, USC needs to put on its big-boy pants and realize that the Point A to being a premier program is acting like one.
That means paying the next head coach and his staff about $12 million a year. That's what it's going to take to attract a sure thing.
Erich from La Grande, Oregon, writes: When is it time for Oregon to seek a different tactical philosophy? The no-huddle quack attack worked very well when Kiko Alonso and Co. were terrorizing on the defensive side and again when we had Mariota play-making all day. It seems either recruiting has died, the culture has died, or something is amiss -- neither the offense or defense are watchable to me. Perhaps it's not too soon to seek outside help at the Head Coach position as well?
Ted Miller: Erich, you can read some of my feelings on this from the spring, as well as what I said above about Jim Mora and UCLA.
While some frustration among Oregon fans is justified -- losing at home to Colorado is not something anyone saw coming in the preseason -- there also has to be some perspective. Did Ducks fans assume that the program would always win 11 or so games and be in the national title hunt at least every other year? When did a nine-win season become an "down" year?
Even Sir Genius Chip Kelly and his huge football brain would have suffered through some downs to his magical ups.
Oregon is averaging just under 42 points per game, which ranks 26th in the nation. The offense isn't a problem. The defense, obviously, still is struggling. It's also fair to say that the recruiting on that side of the ball has slipped. Not seeing a lot of All-Pac-12 performances on defense.
Still, one of the distinguishing features during the Ducks' rise to national power has been coaching continuity and not overreacting to struggles.
Wonder where the program might be today if Mike Bellotti had been fired in 2006 when the Ducks went 7-6, losing their final four games and suffering a blowout loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl?
Austin writes: With what is looking to be an actual throw game, I wanted to ask for your opinion on how far Utah can go this year.
Ted Miller: Austin, get with the program -- don't you want to fire someone?
I picked Utah to win the South, and I'm standing by that. If the Utes win the South they have a puncher's chance to win the Pac-12.
I'd set the Utes' over-under on regular-season wins at 9.5.