Mailbag: Oregon post-Kelly?

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
5:00
PM ET
Happy Friday.

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To the notes.

Stephan from Shanghai, China, writes: A lot is being made about the possibility of Chip Kelly heading for the NFL next year. This past off season, he was in talks with Tampa. Who are possible candidates for his replacement should he leave Oregon? Would anyone on his staff be able to replicate the kind of offense we have come to know Oregon for?

Ted Miller: First off, I am not ready for Chip Kelly to leave. I'm obsessed with the idea of tricking him into entertaining a hypothetical question before that happens.

It seems, as former Ducks coach Mike Bellotti has said, "inevitable" that Kelly takes a shot at the NFL, probably sooner rather than later. His stock couldn't be higher. It's almost certain that he will be pursued by multiple NFL teams after the season. So if Kelly decides he likes an opportunity, he'll probably bite. Not a sure thing -- my impression is he hardly seems eager to bolt Eugene -- but a lot of folks around the program feel resigned to the eventuality.

Who would be next? Well, this has been speculated about already because of how close it appeared Kelly was to leaving for Tampa Bay last year. There are two obvious names: Boise State's Chris Petersen and Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

Oregon has long been seen as the one job that might lure Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen knows the program, having been an assistant under Bellotti from 1995-2000, and it seems to be a good fit. Oregon is one of the few big-time programs where Petersen could remain in the region and not be dumped into a big city media market, which he reportedly doesn't want. Further, he'd have a chance to win a national title and get paid a lot more money.

Helfrich would ensure system continuity, and it's no secret a lot of folks inside the athletic department and potential decision-making process are high on him.

After that, you could line up a list of the usual suspects. Oregon has become an A-list job, one that will pay well. Of course, some might shy away as Kelly would be a tough act to follow.


Beavfann from Denver writes: Ted it is deja vu all over again. I think I am correct that you are 2-6 picking the Beaver games this year is that right? It is just like 2009 and 2010 your total lack of faith continues to inspire the Beavs. If the Beavers do pull it out this weekend will you make sure to pick against them the rest of the year? It should not matter after this week since Kevin will have the picking crown about wrapped up.

Ted Miller: I'm 4-4 picking Oregon State this year. I am 4-1 picking them to win (Utah, Arizona, UCLA and Washington State being correct as wins, Washington being the wrong win pick). And 0-3 picking the Beavers to lose (Arizona State, BYU and Wisconsin).

Don't recall too many folks picking the Beavers over Wisconsin, but I did write this. I picked BYU to beat the Beavers because that was Cody Vaz's first start for an injured Sean Mannion and I thought the road venue against a good defense would prove too much. I was wrong.

I thought the QB turmoil might hurt the Beavers last week against Arizona State, particularly coming off a loss at Washington. I was wrong.

It's very possible I will be wrong picking Stanford over the Beavers. I tried to explain the tough call here.

And if Mike Riley is successfully using my predictions to motivate his team, well, that would make me very happy. The Pac-12 blog loves to be a resource to its coaches.


Sam from Los Angeles writes: Your article on UCLA ascending to the top of the LA food chain makes it so glaringly obvious that you have not watched a single UCLA game this year. It must be hard considering you are the biggest USC homer of them all.1) UCLA didn't get "whooped" by Oregon last year. In fact, they did much better than essentially any person, bruins fans included, would have expected.2) "And the Bruins have been good on special teams too" - was that leftover from an article you wrote last year about UCLA? We have about 4 fumbles on muffed punts and a freshman kicker who has missed multiple PATs and it has become glaringly obvious can only hit field goals <35 yards. Yes we have a great punter, but that doesn't make up for the atrociousness that our special teams has been this year.3) Sheldon Price is having a breakout year? - Our cornerbacks have been absolutely terrible this year. They are by far our weakest and most vulnerable unit, and most likely going to be a huge reason why we lose to USC (if we lose). Our cornerbacks are big and athletic, and it makes me laugh everytime an announcer/"reporter" talks about how great they are based purely on their athleticism when the announcer has obviously not seen them play at all this year. Its nice to finally get some recognition that the Bruins deserve, but its just insulting when it comes from a guy who has been drinking the USC kool-aid since... forever... and its obvious that he has no clue whats going on at UCLA.

Ted Miller: All righty...
You write: "UCLA didn't get "whooped" by Oregon last year. In fact, they did much better than essentially any person, bruins fans included, would have expected."

UCLA lost to Oregon 49-31. The Bruins trailed 49-24 entering the fourth quarter. Oregon outgained the Bruins 571 yards to 337.
You write: "And the Bruins have been good on special teams too" - was that leftover from an article you wrote last year about UCLA? We have about 4 fumbles on muffed punts and a freshman kicker who has missed multiple PATs and it has become glaringly obvious can only hit field goals <35 yards. Yes we have a great punter, but that doesn't make up for the atrociousness that our special teams has been this year."

As you note, UCLA has one of the best punters in the nation in Jeff Locke. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage, No. 3 in kickoff returns and No. 5 in punt returns. They are 11 for 16 on field goals. That .688 percentage ranks seventh in the Pac-12, but 11 made field goals is tied for third most in the conference. Yes, Ka'imi Fairbairn has missed three of 41 PATs and has limited range, but refresh my memory about what he did against Arizona State.
You write: 3) Sheldon Price is having a breakout year? - Our cornerbacks have been absolutely terrible this year. They are by far our weakest and most vulnerable unit, and most likely going to be a huge reason why we lose to USC (if we lose).

I listed six guys, but you criticism is valid -- a bit overstated but valid -- with my positive assessment of Price. I overvalued Price's three interceptions, which all came against Houston. And Price played poorly against Oregon State, California and Arizona State.

I am sorry you believe I insulted your team by writing that article. I am sure your letter will be hung up in the UCLA coaches' offices and used in recruiting.

Rob from Sutherlin, Ore., writes: With all the talk about strength of schedule for the top 4 national title contenders, has anyone noticed that Fresno State and Arkansas State are now both 7-3 (5-1) in their respective conferences? Further that two of Fresno State's losses come to ranked opponents that they played tough (Oregon and BSU). Is there anyone on a national and computer level that evaluates those forgotten early victories (that were considered easy victories at the time but may seem more formidable now)?

Ted Miller: The computers analyze all the data without emotion, so, yes, the success of Fresno State and Arkansas State this season will perk up the Ducks' computer score.

Again, Oregon is going to be fine if it wins out. The Ducks are unlikely to fall out of second place in either the coaches' or the Harris polls, which make up two-thirds of the BCS standings. Oregon's computer ranking has been improving as the Ducks' schedule perked up and should continue to do so, while Kansas State should take a couple of clicks back.

When the smoke clears, and if Oregon is 13-0 and Kansas State is 12-0, the difference in the Ducks' and Wildcats' computer rankings won't figure to be enough in the Wildcats' favor for it to overcome Oregon if it is still ranked No. 2 in both human polls.


Gekko from Memphis writes: One of your favorite adjectives ... "salty" ... has now been picked up on by Kevin. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, I do not think this word means what you thinks it means. That is, unless, you find Utah's defensive line to be somewhat racy or piquant. Cheers!

Ted Miller: I do find Utah's defensive line to be piquant.

You might have better luck if you Google "salty dog."

You want to know how I picked up that term? I got it from former Auburn offensive line coach Rick Trickett back in the late-1990s (“Salty Dog” is nautical slang for an experienced sailor who has spent much of his life aboard a ship at sea." (Trickett is now at Florida State). When he liked a player, he often called him "salty."

In fact, I remember one exchange. I asked him about LSU defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland. He said he was pretty "salty." I replied that he was a "salty Booger." And I recall being very pleased that he found my 8-year-old humor amusing.


John from Dallas writes: Kevin and Ted,I love college football and read all of ESPN's college football blogs. I have to say, you two are the worst. Kevin consistently ranks Oregon as the #1 team, even though Alabama is the defending national champ. Ted this season has bashed Kansas State and Bill Synder, even though Synder is universally thought to be one of the greatest coaches in football. While every other league's blogger gives a team its due when expectations fall drastically short, you two have said nothing about USC's sad performance this season. The Pac-12 blog and Lane Kiffin talked a lot of trash for the Trojans preseason, but neither has admitted how overrated USC was and continues to be year in and year out. You'll probably be too embarrassed to publish this, but I wanted to send it anyway- to remind you both that your jobs are to report on the Pac-12, not be its cheerleaders to the nation.

Ted Miller: Hmm. Thanks for the memo. Kevin and I will try to do better.

Just one clarification. See if you can guess which ESPN.com blogger typed this on Oct. 26:
Bill Snyder is one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. He's certainly among the top five in the business today. What he built in the college football nether region of Manhattan, Kan., and then -- perhaps just as impressive -- rebuilt is amazing. I remember talking to former Wildcats defensive coordinator Phil Bennett about him before the 1999 Holiday Bowl, and he lavished praise on Snyder, not just as a coach obsessed with details but as a person who genuinely cared about his staff and players.

And, John, our goal is to by the end of the season advance in your estimation to the second-worst bloggers on ESPN.com.

Ted Miller | email

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