Mailbag: Prospects for new-look USC?

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To the notes!

Brad from Los Angeles writes: That was an exciting first game for Ed Orgeron! As a stalwart USC football fan and Pete Carroll enthusiast, I loved seeing the energy that Coach O brought to the sideline. It reminded me of the good times. What do you think USC's prospects are for the rest of the season? Think we can make a run at the Pac-12 South? By the way, congratulate Kevin for me on his prediction for the USC-Arizona game. Well played, sir.

Ted Miller: I think the over-under for USC now is eight wins, but perhaps we should ask Kevin, since he nailed the final score Thursday night?

I think that game was interesting for both teams. You saw a much better and more inspired USC offense. I'm sure everyone thought the same thing: Better play-calling. But let's reserve judgment on that until we see a larger sample size.

We also saw what could be an issue for the Trojans: Depth. Arizona's tempo clearly wore down the Trojans defense in the second half. Of course, the USC offensive line stepped up on that final possession to preserve the victory, allowing the offense to burn the final four minutes with running plays.

I also saw enough from the Wildcats' passing offense to provide hope that QB B.J. Denker & Co. can provide a solid complement to Ka'Deem Carey. The Wildcats have lost two tough Pac-12 games on the road, but there's reason for hope going forward.

Jeff from Eugene, Ore., writes: I've been an Oregon fan since I was a little kid. And, to be honest, the Ducks just aren't as fun to watch now. I feel like I'm watching preseason NFL games most weekends. Don't get me wrong; I think it's awesome that the Ducks are now a national power, are in the running for national championships every year and giving beat-downs to the Beavers and Huskies, but most of the games are just not very exciting. I mean it's enjoyable to watch for the first quarter or two, but going in and knowing the result kind of takes away from the excitement. I miss going to games like the Oklahoma game, controversy and all. I know the playoff is supposed to improve out-of-conference games overall, but is it actually going to improve for the Ducks? Could it ever happen that we get rid of playing FCS schools altogether? Did you actually enjoy watching the Ducks play Nicholls State, Virginia, Tennessee, Cal or Colorado after the first quarter? Are the playoffs going to force top-tier programs to play each other OOC or are they all just going to try and schedule middle and lower-tier FBS schools? I would say that that would be an improvement, but was there really a difference between watching the Ducks play Nicholls State or Tennessee?

Ted Miller: This is not a fake note. Not sure if Jeff is trying to earn a spot next to the word "facetious" in the dictionary or not.

I have good news, Jeff. The Ducks will play a game that is competitive into the fourth quarter this season, just as they have done every year during their rise to national prominence. But national title contenders tend to, by definition, dominate teams that are outside the top 25, whether that is an FCS team or a bottom-rung team in the ACC or SEC.

In general, though, I do think the new College Football Playoff will inspire teams to schedule more aggressively. For one, I think the future is everyone playing a nine-game conference schedule. Second, you will see the major conference teams play at least one A-list opponent, at least if the selection committee operates as promised.

I think teams that don't schedule aggressively should be aggressively punished by the selection committee. No strong nonconference games? Well, you're not a candidate for the four-team field.

Keith from Phoenix writes: Just FYI, and it's a very minor head's up. But Stanford didn't dominate ASU for three quarters. It was more like two quarters. The third quarter was very even. I don't think anyone likes it when the media over-sensationalizes things, no matter how minor. Not that you meant to; you probably just forgot that the third quarter was close.

Ted Miller: Hmm. It was 39-7 after three quarters, so I think the term dominance was still in play and not an example of "the media over-sensationalizes things."

You are, however, correct that as an individual quarter, Stanford did not put a bootprint on the Sun Devils' collective forehead as it had done in the first and second quarters. Stanford only outscored the Sun Devils 10-7 in the third.

Darin from Monterey, Calif., writes: I usually write Kevin, but I like what you have to say about the Beavers' passing game. I really think that we will see more of a rushing game on Saturday against the Cougs. Now that [Storm] Woods is back and our O-line is finally healthy, I think Riley has spent this last bye week coming up with some good run plays against the Cougs. Remember when No. 1 USC came to Corvallis and the Beavs kept running Quizz right up the middle and no one could stop him? I could see that happening on Saturday. You think so?

Ted Miller: A lot of things line up well for the Beavers on Saturday, from their newfound health to their recent track record in the series against Washington State.

If the Beavers develop an at least mediocre run game, they will be tough to stop because the passing game has been thriving. It also appears the defense has improved from awful to respectable.

Still, there's a reason Kevin picked the Cougars, and I went back and forth. Washington State's defense might be the Pac-12's most improved unit, and it seemed like QB Connor Halliday found a nice rhythm at California last weekend.

This is pretty much a toss-up game -- Vegas has the Cougs as a 1 1/2-point favorite -- that will allow the winner to stick its flag at least into the middle of the Pac-12's North Division, with a chance to continue to move up.

Derek from Salt Lake City writes: Ted, [Marqise] Lee had 27 yards against WSU. What makes [Brandin] Cooks better than Lee?

Ted Miller: His quarterback, Sean Mannion, the No. 1 passer in the country.