7:50 PM EDT, September 6, 2013
Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: I can understand why you don't read your own lousy newspaper, but USC is ranked No. 25 [by the Associated Press]. Don't worry, we will never accuse you of being a homer.
I realize it is old news, but your sports section should be entitled the "Little Daily Bruin."
And, when is the "Rankman" going to get funny?
Answer: Thanks for easing us into this year's mailbag with a banana cream pie in my face. All I ask of you readers is to give 110% on every question and bring your best heat from Day One.
Here's my position on USC: The Trojans were my preseason No. 1 last year and they ended up losing the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech.
Lane Kiffin reshuffled his staff and I reshuffled my thinking and thought it best to place the Trojans where the Sun Bowl doesn't shine — not in my rankings.
Think of this in hockey terms: USC embarrassed Rankman and had to go to the penalty box for a major misconduct infraction — high shtick-ing.
USC now has to crawl back on its hands and kneepads, one game at a time, and let's just say the Hawaii effort wasn't worthy of a call up from triple-A Pawtucket.
I'm going to let the Trojans stew a bit in the twilight red zone. In my mind, they are a No. 26 to 30 team but have the time, and the schedule strength, to quickly move into the top 10.
Ah, but do they have the talent?
Please keep subscribing to the "Little Daily Bruin." We're also known, by UCLA fans, as "The Trojan Times."
It is interesting that our "negative" coverage of either team seems directly related to its win-loss record. Meaning, if the UCLA Bruins are doing well there tends to be more positive stories than if they were 0-12. And if USC is doing so poorly the coverage tends not to be as rosy.
When is Rankman going to get funny?
I've only been in the rankings business since 1995 — give me some time.
Q: What's up for the L.A. college football supremacy this year? Who's going to be groovy?
A: Great question Hip, or do you prefer I call you Freak? I sense the same cosmopolitan momentum shift I felt in the early 2000s when Pete Carroll arrived at USC in the midst of UCLA's dominance of the series.
Jim Mora is not Pete Carroll yet, by a longshot, but he has a chance to seize on the slow-bleed NCAA sanctions that are making USC vulnerable.
Q: OMG, are you actually picking Stanford as No. 1???
A: Yes, Peter. I'm not sure why it's such a big deal. If you took the name "Stanford" out of the equation and just looked at the numbers and accomplishments no one would bat an eye. Stanford and Alabama have the identical record the last three years: 35-5.
I am standing 100% behind Stanford. At least until the Cardinal actually plays a game.
Q: Isn't being a West Coast college football writer a lot like being a snow-skiing writer stationed in the Sahara?
A: I detect a Southeastern Conference bias in your use of big words like "snow" and "the," but you came to the right guy. I cover both college football and skiing for the paper, and come February will be stationed somewhere near Siberia for the 2014 Olympics.
Q: So how do we get rid of these meaningless preseason polls?
Alex Van Fleet
A: I'm not sure we need to get rid of something that is meaningless. Polls are fine because they create weekly interest in the sport. There is a lot of guesswork involved in the first poll, but it is up to voters to adjust accordingly once games are played. I had no issue with an AP pollster voting Washington No. 8 after a 32-point win over Boise State. It was the most impressive win of the first weekend and now it will be up to U-Dub not to flub.
If the Huskies keep winning, the ranking is legit. If they lose, you simply hit the ranking eject button.
Q: Can't deny his talent, but can Johnny Manziel win a second Heisman or will he be "punished' by voters?
Eric van der Burght
A: It seemed impossible anyone could have had made a worse opening Heisman statement than South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. He had been promoted as an unstoppable force but was caught by television cameras sucking wind and taking plays off against North Carolina.
But Manziel came to Clowney's rescue with his clownish antics against Rice. Manziel's behavior probably cost him any chance of becoming the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin.
There are probably scenarios in which Manziel becomes the only viable candidate, but my thought is voters will be looking to almost anyone else.
Q: In an article you state the following: "They started calling him 'Johnny Football' as a kid because, when things didn't go his way on the playground, he took his ball and went home."
What is your source on this? It seems made up … even gossipy?
Where did you hear that ridiculous story?
A: My sources are his third-grade milk monitor and two kids hanging out by the Jungle Gym.
It was a joke.
Q: Love that this kid (Manziel) is laying bare the NCAA's duplicity and getting the talking heads hyperventilating all at the same time. Just imagine if he wins the Alabama game.
A: What I imagine is, if he beats Alabama again, how many more autographs he'll have to sign.
Q: I hear that a certain SEC team is only the third- or fourth-best football team in its own state. Or am I smoking bluegrass?
A: You would think so, given that Louisville is a top-10 team based in Kentucky and Western Kentucky just defeated Kentucky last weekend. Yet, I'm looking at Jeff Sagarin's USA Today rankings and he still has Kentucky at No. 83 ahead of WKU at No. 98.
Sagarin's rankings are used in the Bowl Championship Series formula, so this is another good reason we're going to a selection committee next year.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops took a lot of grief when he said last spring the SEC was somewhat overrated because it was so top-heavy. He was not wrong. There is a great conference we should call the SEC 6 and another league with eight other schools. The six top teams in the SEC last year went 30-0 against the bottom eight.
That's more top-heavy than the Oklahoma State Cowboy mascot.
Q: Have you ever seen a sportswriter on "Jeopardy!"?
A: Yes. Our late, great columnist Allan Malamud played a rocket scientist on "Jeopardy!" in Ron Shelton's movie "White Men Can't Jump."
Also, for what it's worth, I won about 20 grand on the intellectually stimulating "Joker's Wild," hosted by Bill Cullen, in 1986.
I'm not going to brag and say the show was more difficult than "Jeopardy!," but the answer I missed that knocked me off was "Starsky & Hutch."
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times