CHRIS DUFRESNE / COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

USC's Ed Orgeron has done well so far, but can he keep it up?

National college football writer Chris Dufresne takes time off each Friday during the season to respond to letters about college football. You can write to him at chris.dufresne@latimes.com.

Ed Orgeron

A win for Coach Ed Orgeron and the Trojans against UCLA on Saturday could further complicate USC Athletic Director Pat Haden's decision on a new coach. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images / November 16, 2013)

Halfway through your story today I got a sick feeling and tossed the sports section into the couch. What exactly would a "big name" coach do for SC that Ed Orgeron can't do, recruit?

Paul Hovsepian

Hope you're feeling better and thanks, really, for making it halfway through one of my stories. Some readers can't make it past the byline.

I've also had stories tossed into waste baskets, toilets and landfills. I even had one tossed into a salad, but never into a couch.

My Thursday piece touched some nerves. All I did was suggest USC tank the UCLA game so that it wouldn't necessarily have to hire Ed Orgeron as the full-time coach.

Athletic Director Pat Haden only has one shot to get this right.

Myopically speaking, Orgeron has done a superb job, but it's hard to know whether he can sustain this over the long haul.

Remember, Orgeron went 10-25 as the head coach at Mississippi.

USC is in an interesting fix. If the Trojans win out and Haden doesn't hire Orgeron, he might leave for another head-coaching job. Then you lose Orgeron as a recruiter and defensive line coach.

Choosing Orgeron means Haden risks making a hire based on a small, if not impressive, body of work.

There might be a compromise plan. Orgeron desperately wants to be USC's coach but hasn't proved over time that he's head coach material. Haden could offer Orgeron a one-, or two-year contract and then make a long-term decision.

How strong can the Pac-12 South be if a solid but not top-tier Notre Dame can beat the two best teams in that division? Additionally, while I have a lot of respect for the Sagarin ratings, I have to wonder about placing the Pac-12 South above the SEC West.

Gerry Swider

I don't know how Jeff Sagarin's ratings work. He's an MIT grad and I simply don't have the mental tool kit it requires to comprehend his methodology. He is the Founding Father of Bowl Championship Series computer indexes. His ratings run weekly in USA Today.

You can go nuts trying to figure Sagarin out because he uses different sets of rankings based, apparently, on the weather. His "regular" rankings this week have Northern Illinois at No. 37, yet the same Huskies are No. 3 in the rankings he uses for the BCS formula.

What?!

Sagarin explains, in his "PURE ELO" rankings, that "only winning and losing matters, the score margin is of no consequence."

Those are the rankings he uses for the BCS, which years ago ordered operators to remove margin of victory from the standings as a condition of remaining part of the BCS formula.

Don't ask me to explain this. Florida State and Alabama, for example, are Nos.1 and 2 in his regular rankings and "PURE ELO."

This is "PURE JIBBERISH" to me. However, if Sagarin says the Pac-12 is now the nation's best conference, why argue?

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