USC quarterback Matt Barkley gestures during a game against Minnesota… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: After Utah's less-than-stellar showing against Montana State, I thought we were doomed against USC. But USC didn't exactly light the world on fire either. With 10 days to prepare, do you think Utah gives USC all it can handle, or will it be a blowout? Somewhere in between?
Answer: Yes. Utah will give USC all it can handle, or it will be a blowout, or it will be somewhere in between. Actually, the game is interesting on a lot of fronts. Utah's entry into the Pacific 12 Conference is a true litmus test. The argument for years has been a team from a non-power conference would struggle if it had to compete week-to-week against the big boys.
This is a convenient way for major conferences to downplay embarrassing defeats to schools from "lesser" leagues. Utah capped a perfect year in 2008 with an emphatic win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"Nice win," the Southeastern Conference said, "but you'd go 8-4 if you had to play us every week."
It happened again last week when Boise State dismantled Georgia in Atlanta.
"Nice win," the SEC said, "but you'd go 8-4 if you had to play us every week."
It also might be true. Well, now we get to find out. Utah is 7-3 against the Pac-12 since 2003, but those games were spread out over time. It will be interesting to see how the Utes fare, although they certainly picked the right year to join.
Based on last week, Sacramento State might finish second in the Pac-12 North.
Also, Utah misses Oregon and Stanford this year and plays Arizona State in Salt Lake City.
For Utah, facing USC at the Coliseum is the culmination of years of hard work.
It's like that joke about the guy in New York asking directions, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"
Answer: "Practice, practice, practice."
Q: Your new book, "Too Big to Screw Up Completely"?
A: That was last week's title. I'm not so sure now after watching this week's Big-12 carnival show. I actually think, maybe, college football can be screwed up completely.
Some book titles I'm fiddling with now:
"The SEC: Soooie! ... or Sue Me?"
"Baylor vs. Goliath: How a small Baptist school in Waco bravely staved off Big-12 extinction for another couple of hours."
"I Can't Believe What I Just Said! Ohio State President Gordon Gee bloviates about bow ties, the Buckeyes and, besides him, what's wrong with college football."
"The Rise of Mark Emmert: Former leader of scandal-tinged Washington and Louisiana State leads reform efforts as NCAA president."
"The Pac 40-Love … Game, Set and Match: How former women's tennis commissioner Larry Scott transformed a sleepy league into 40 teams and moved it to Centre Court."
"Diners, Drive-ins and Dive plays: The author puts sunglasses on back of head and explores best road-trip fare on Texas Christian's drive to the Big East Conference."
Q: If Texas and Oklahoma come to the Pac-12, can we rename the conference "Tex-Mex?"
A: No, and frankly, that question was two tacos short of a combination plate.
Q: I don't understand what Texas Tech brings to the table for the Pac-12 besides West Texas sagebrush. But … seems to me the Pac-12 will stop at Pac-14 and add Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
A: Texas Tech to the Pac-12 is last hour's story. The story might be changing as you're reading this.
Tech's ticket west was attached to Texas, and I think it's more likely Texas won't come to the Pac-12 right now because it means giving up the Longhorn Network.
I love your notion that the Pac-12 could just add the Oklahoma schools, because that's what I think they're thinking. If Pac-12 Commissioner Scott is convinced that the future is 16-team conferences, and he is, he might as well tie up Oklahoma now.
If the two Oklahoma schools bolt, the Big 12 is on life support. Texas might be able to stitch it together for a year or two, but ultimately we're moving toward massive reconfiguration.
A Big 12 person I know was hopeful the league could be saved -- but for how long?
Q: Why would the Pac-12 want Boise State?
Thomas F.X. Sullivan
A: It doesn't. There were Internet rumors flying Thursday that Scott was in Boise talking to the school about membership.
I know it was bogus because I called the league office in Walnut Creek, Calif., and demanded to know, "Where is your commissioner right now?"
Answer: "Sitting in his office."
It turns out that a private plane Scott has used in the past was seen parked in Boise, and that's how these things get started.
Q: When did higher education enter the (conference refiguration) picture? I thought it was just about the money…
Mark Darren Walker
A: Higher education is in the picture -- it's just really, really small. In the context of that picture of dogs playing poker, higher education is a flea on the jack of diamonds.
Q: How about a God Conference where independents Brigham Young, Notre Dame and others like Holy Cross, Oral Roberts and Liberty for starters, form a conference?