Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: I completely understand that you are the biggest USC honk in the land, but . . . the whole rest of the country is jumping on the ND bandwagon and you are being dragged behind in the dust. When are you going to give the Irish their props and at least admit they are real?
Answer: You should see my bumper-sticker collection: "I don't brake for Leprechauns." "Honk if you hate the NCAA (but love personal foul penalties)." "Baby and vacated BCS title on board!" "My Trojan made honor roll and Pac-12 player of the week."
"My other car is a yacht."
Despite my obvious leanings toward USC, despite having no remote connection to the school or the program, I do begrudgingly give Notre Dame its "props" for not yet having defeated USC this season.
Q: You might want to check out Greg Bishop's piece "This Much Is Clear: Two Undefeated Teams Could Miss Out" in [the Wednesday] New York Times, as I believe this is what you were trying to get across in your adolescent, sophomoric article in [Wednesday's] L.A. Times.
How old are you?
A: You need to understand some subtle differences between the two reporting philosophies. The New York Times' motto is "All the news that's fit to print."
I have always championed the more sophomoric, adolescent motto, "If it's news, it's news to me but bigger news to you."
You think the New York Times would run a mailbag with the kind of letters I receive every week?
Q: See you in the Rose Bowl!!!! Sucker !!!! ND 30, Sooners 13.
A: I'm not sure the rules would allow Notre Dame to carry this year's potential 12-0 record over to next year, when the Rose Bowl actually hosts the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The BCS title game this year will be in South Florida, hosted by the Orange Bowl. The only way Notre Dame makes it to the Rose Bowl this year is if the Irish don't make the national title game.
So I don't think you want to see me at the Rose Bowl.
Q: Oregon State is just as overrated as MSU (Mississippi State). Fact.
A: You are a brilliant observer of the collegiate game. Fiction.
What's wrong with you mailbag contributors? Oregon State opened its season with a home win against Wisconsin, the defending Big Ten Conference champion. Oregon State has also scored road wins over UCLA and Brigham Young.
Mississippi State's best win is a choice between Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those schools are now a combined 0-17 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi State's nonconference schedule tackled a murderers' row of Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee.
Mississippi State's worst defeat is easy . . . that was last week's wipeout at Alabama.
Q: This is a statement game for Oregon and they will be out to prove they are the best in the country. What are the most points ever scored against USC? That record is about to be broken.
A: Wow, that's a tough one. The most points USC has ever allowed an opponent? Well, I called the research department, scoured the archives, made phone calls and found out you have to go all the way back to . . . last year.
Stanford scored 56 points in that triple-overtime win over USC at the Coliseum.
If you want to count only regulation-length games, well, then you have to go all the way back 2009, when Stanford scored 55 in points in a win over USC at the Coliseum.
"What's your deal?" Pete Carroll snipped at Jim Harbaugh.
"What's your deal?" Harbaugh retorted.
Things were so much simpler way back then.
Q: When was the last time Matt Barkley engineered a game-winning, last-minute drive? I only remember the Ohio State game his freshman year.
A: You make an interesting point. That comeback at Ohio State in 2009 figured to be the first of many for the freshman Barkley. But he hasn't had that kind of moment since. Barkley has had a remarkably strange career. He set the Pac-12 record for career touchdown passes, but has never made first-team all-conference.
Barkley had no shot his first year, when he threw 15 touchdown passes and had 14 passes intercepted. Then he got aced out the last two years by Stanford's Andrew Luck. No shame there.
Barkley seemed a first-team lock as a senior, but another loss might even take him out of this year's running. Here's an interesting stat: Against Hawaii, Syracuse and Colorado, Barkley has 16 touchdown passes and one interception. In all other games, Barkley has nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has 11 career losses as USC's quarterback and, thanks in part to NCAA probation, has only played in the Emerald Bowl.
Barkley's legacy is at a tipping point — this last month can define him. He can still make first-team All-Pac-12 if he finishes strong against Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame. He can still lead the comeback wins his career has been lacking.
If he loses once more, or twice, then we'll have to reassess his place in league history and wonder whether coming back for his senior year was the right move.