Rankman's weekly mailbag: Does UCLA have another back-up plan to upset USC? Pumphrey for Heisman? Patterson to Oregon?


Got a box full of letters,
Think you might like to read
Some things that you might like to see,
But they’re all addressed to me

Wish I had a lotta answers,
‘Cause that’s the way it should be
For all these questions,
Being directed at me

I just can’t find the time
To write my mind
The way I want to read

Box Full of Letters

- Wilco (1995)

Rankman: UCLA’s chances?

Norman Dow, John Barnes, Patrick Cowan. Any chance Mike Fafual adds his name to the list of Bruin backup quarterbacks to knock off the Trojans in the only game that matters?

Kurt Kemper

Professor, my answer is the same as it was before the 2006 game: No chance gutty little UCLA, a 4-6 team with all sorts of issues, is going to stop this juggernaut USC team as it races up the charts and into the hearts and minds of excited Fox and ESPN broadcast executives eager to reestablish a ratings foothold at the University of Only School Out West We Care About.

Of course, UCLA won that game, 13-9. I will never forget because I was at the Rose Bowl and my typing fingers still can’t believe it.

I only vaguely remember Norman Dow’s feet feat in the 1966 game because I was in Canada trying to get out of fighting in Vietnam. Wait, that’s not right, I was only 7. Maybe I was trying to get out of doing dishes. Anyway, I know the story. Dow replaced injured Gary Beban and led UCLA to a huge upset. “It’s a good thing that turned out to be the last game,” Dow joked, years later, to the L.A. Times’ Chris Foster, “or people might have found out that I wasn’t as good as they thought.”

John Barnes in 1992, now, that was amazing. It was like “Rudy” except way more authentic. A year before the game, Barnes literally watched the USC-UCLA game as a fan, in the stands. He was a nobody who was told by Western Oregon he wasn’t a quarterback. So Barnes transferred to UC Santa Barbara, which was about 10 minutes from dropping football. So Barnes put on a suit-and-tie and interviewed with UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, who probably thought Barnes wanted to be the ball boy. Yet, due to a series of injuries, Barnes ended up leading UCLA to a 38-37 win over USC. Wow.

The 2006 game, though, may have been the most improbable of them all. UCLA was no more than a flea-bite nuisance in advance of No. 2 USC, which needed that win to clinch a berth in the BCS title game.

Cowan was a tough SOB at quarterback, who led with his heart and his head.

I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl press box after 13-9 wondering, now what? The upset allowed Florida to sneak past Michigan for the No.2 spot in the BCS standings, a dance of decimal points that led to Urban Meyer's first national title.

UCLA defense end Bruce Davis’ reaction after knocking USC out was “Ha. Ha.”

I wrote for Sunday’s paper: “If you thought Dewey vs. Truman was a race, stay tuned to today’s final BCS standings release.”

The stakes were huge. A USC win would have sent the Trojans to Arizona for the title game. The Rose Bowl was going to replace USC with LSU. The bowl had already pre-sold 42,000 tickets for the Tigers’ impending arrival. But UCLA ruined everything. Ha. Ha.

The next day, Florida beat Michigan out for No. 2 in the BCS by a margin of 0.9445 to 0.9344, whatever that meant. Florida went on to defeat Ohio State to win the national title. USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. UCLA lost the Emerald Bowl to Florida State.

So, to repeat: No way UCLA upsets USC at the Rose Bowl this year. Unless you believe in gremlins…or Norman Dows.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

CFP has lost all credibility by keeping Michigan in the top 4 after losing to an unranked team.


Wait, the CFP has credibility? I thought the committee lost it all after ranking Texas A&M at No. 4 in the first release.

In the Michigan case, though, the selection folks were in a pickle. What were you supposed to do with three undefeated teams that lost Saturday? How far could the committee drop No.2 Clemson, No.3 Michigan and No.4 Washington when all the teams below No. 6 had two losses? The situation created a “glass basement” that kept all three teams in the playoff chase.

It reminded me a little of 2003, when top-ranked Oklahoma stayed at No. 1 in the final BCS standings despite losing the Big 12 championship, 35-12, to Kansas State.

It was Oklahoma’s first loss, and every team below No. 3 had two losses. The Sooners only fell to No. 3 in the AP and USA Today coaches’ poll. That allowed Oklahoma stay at No.1 in the BCS formula (the Sooners were still No.1 in the computer component) and knock USC out of the title game despite being No.1 in the AP and coaches’ poll.

I remember that causing some sort of a national commotion.

Donnel Pumphrey should win the Heisman.

Aloha Trojan

Ah, you saw Louisville’s loss to Houston on Thursday night? And think that defeat should disqualify Lamar Jackson from the race despite a body of work that made him the overwhelming favorite to win this year’s trophy? Never underestimate, though, the power of ESPN, which locked on to Louisville and promoted these guys like a box of soap. ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer had maintained up to kickoff, and beyond, that No. 5 Louisville was one of the top four teams in the nation and belonged in the playoff. And the Cardinals were going to prove it by waxing Houston in a national showcase on, ta da, ESPN.

Well, Louisville came up a little short, 10-36. I swear Palmer thought Louisville was going to come back up until the point Houston scored a final safety when Jackson was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.

Why do these ESPN guys have to go out on such limbs? Is it just for ratings? Did Jesse Palmer really think Louisville was that good? Was he told to “sell out” on Louisville to help spike ratings and Heisman promotion for Jackson?

Why would you think a team that almost lost at Virginia this year was a threat to Alabama? I don’t get it.

That said, I still think Jackson is the Heisman front-runner despite Thursday’s loss. Poor Lamar was sacked 11 times! His offensive line looked Grenada trying to hold back U.S. forces. Those sacks cost Jackson minus-83 rushing yards, so I’ll give him eight ice packs and a Mulligan.

How about Donnel Pumphrey…? Is having a phenomenal season and the Aztecs are having a big year!


You are correct on both fronts. And I understand wanting to pump Pumphrey with this window-crack Heisman opening. Trust me, Rankman has focused his good eye on Pumphrey in the Heisman chase. His problem is the problem Marshall Faulk had in not winning the Heisman. He also played for San Diego State. What other reason did Faulk lose to Miami’s Geno Torretta in 1992?

I have Heisman friends who won’t vote for a guy if he plays for a school that plays against lesser competition. A prime example was Randy Moss at Marshall. I used to get in parking lot arguments with voters who would not consider Moss because of where he played. It made no sense if you could clearly see Moss was the best football player in the country.

Pumphrey faces the same problem. Jackson is having a great year for Louisville and is getting all the broadcast publicity.

Pumphrey is “only” leading the nation in rushing for San Diego State. I think the loss at South Alabama is hurting the Aztecs and likely has kept the school from a top 15 national ranking. That would have helped Pumphrey who, by the way, had 151 rushing yards in that 42-24 loss at USA.

The analytics don’t help him either. San Diego State has no marquee wins and owns the No. 126 schedule strength in the latest Sagarin Ratings. How would you compare what Pumphrey had done versus Texas back D’Onta Foreman, the nation’s second-leading behind Pumphrey? Foreman has done it against the No. 17 schedule. These are all factors Rankman must consider before casting his Heisman vote.

Chris, do you think Hef is gone in Oregon? Who would replace do you think?


Oregon has never been a knee-jerk program. It has only had four head coaches since 1976. It doesn’t even like firing assistants. Last year, after a horrible defensive year under coordinator Don Pellum, the school only demoted him back to linebackers’ coach.

Oregon is so nice. It is against every granola-bar fiber in their body to get rid of good-guy Mark Helfrich. But the boat seems to be sinking fast. Top recruits are bolting for other schools and some players have seemed to quit under Helfrich.

Watch Saturday very closely. Oregon is primed for another hammering at Utah. The Utes, remember, put 62 points on the Ducks last year in Eugene. If Oregon loses ugly again, and then to Oregon State in the Civil War, I think the school will have no choice but to make a move.

But they will do it in a polite, environmentally responsible, Oregon-ish way. Maybe even offer Helfrich a chance to stay. Just to switch things up, though, I think Oregon should go outside the family this time for a coach.

Agree they need to go outside the family I had a feeling they’ll go after Scott Frost and & keep most of the assistants.

Kenny Brophy

That certainly is an option, although I don’t know if Frost can bolt Central Florida after just one year. Wait—of course he can!

Oregon may want to consider a clean break, though, maybe take a look-see at someone like P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan.

This is new ground for Oregon, though, so I don’t know what the Ducks are thinking.

Lol-you think GP is in play?


I do NOT believe Oregon will hire Gary Player. While he is a champion motivator and very inspirational, he is also an 80-year old golfer from South Africa.

If, by chance, you were thinking Gary Patterson, well, that’s different. I don’t know why Patterson would want to leave Texas Christian but I would certainly put a call in to him. Who knew Mike Riley was ready to leave Oregon State for Nebraska? You just never know.

Patterson does have west coast ties and, interestingly, the bio I just checked says he coached something called the Oregon Lightning Bolts in 1992. Maybe that was a roller derby team. [/membership]