Stanford wary of speeding Ducks


Stanford wary of speeding Ducks

Steve Berman

Stanford students have a lot of reasons to feel great going into this weekend. First of all, they go to Stanford, where the autumns are temperate and everyone seems too busy changing the world to let a little thing like a football game with National Championship implications dominate their thoughts.

"This campus does a great job of keeping your perspective," Cardinal head coach David Shaw said.

"I talked to a doctor on campus who's working toward steps to curing cancer. Stanford vs. Oregon is not high on his list. He's going to be at the game, but he's got a lot of stuff to do between now and then."

Shaw was laughing as he said it, and he also knows that interest in what happens within the confines of Stanford Stadium has never been higher. For instance, Chris Fowler, ringmaster of the ESPN Gameday circus set to descend upon The Farm, was chatting with Shaw after practice yesterday in a t-shirt and shorts.
RATTO: Taylor a key for the Cardinal

Fowler had just completed a workout at one of the facilities on campus. Because when you're at Stanford, that's what you do.

Even though the Bay Area is decidedly more interested in its professional teams, and despite Stanford's smallish undergrad population compared to the rest of the Pac-12 (less than 7,000), there should be enough rowdy, tree-cheering students to keep Lee Corso company even though the festivities start at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

But even though they wouldn't admit it, those fans who populate No. 3 Stanford's rowdy student section -- and the doctors on campus who work on curing cancer during the week -- are just a little bit concerned. In order to experience the rarity of a perfect season, they need to exact revenge on the No. 6-ranked Oregon Ducks.

And whenever anyone around Palo Alto brings up the Ducks, one word's always close behind.


TOMPKINS: Oregon-Stanford promises a shootout

Last year in Eugene, the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter and looked like one of the most advanced college offenses ever. Then Oregon outscored Stanford 49-10 over the last three quarters. Outran was more like it.

So you can't blame Stanford fans for having nightmares starring LaMichael James and Darron Thomas rushing for hundreds of yards and countless touchdowns, perpetually just out of the reach of Cardinal defenders. After all, that's pretty much what happened last year.

That's not to say Stanford fans aren't confident. They're riding the nation's longest winning streak and have a distinct style that seems built for the long haul: brute force mixed with creativity, both of which the Cardinal feature in abundance.

They also have the nation's preeminent quarterback. That's where pressure really comes into the mix. Forget the national television sideshow, the inequities of the BCS process and everything else. Andrew Luck won't be playing quarterback for Stanford much longer, and Saturday provides the chance for Luck to do even more than simply keep the nation's longest active winning streak alive. It's also a chance to nail down the school's first Heisman Trophy since Jim Plunkett won the award over 40 years ago.

KILLION: Shaw succeeding in the shadows

Even though Stanford is by nature a running team, it's tough for many to shake the feeling that for the Cardinal to beat the Ducks they'll need an enshrine-him-in-Canton-immediately performance from Luck. Or that the game will be a 53-52 shootout, with Luck trading scoring blows with Oregon's band of track stars without WR Chris Owusu or TE Zach Ertz.

Many of the questions earlier this week directed at Shaw and Stanford's players were in regards to the surface of play. Will Stanford have an advantage on natural grass? Not at all says Stanford's head coach.

"They're fast everywhere. They can be playing on sand," Shaw said of Oregon. "We're all playing on the same surface. LaMichael James is fast. Kenjon Barner is fast. Darron Thomas is fast."

RELATED: Pac-12 game of the year

However, the prevailing wisdom in these parts is that while Stanford can put points on the board against anyone the Pac-12 -- or even the SEC -- has to offer, the road to victory requires a speed limit.

Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino


Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.


A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.