College football roundup: Harbaugh wins again; Stanford crushed


College football roundup: Harbaugh wins again; Stanford crushed

The man can coach.

Jim Harbaugh, who turned around a moribund Stanford program and led the 49ers to within five yards of a Super Bowl title, is working his magic again in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh took over a Michigan franchise that had gone 35-40 the previous six years and is 15-3 to date, resurrecting the vise-like Michigan defense that was AWOL under predecessors Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.

Saturday, the No. 4 ranked Wolverines beat No. 8 Wisconsin 14-7 in a typical smash mouth Big Ten game that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate (Michigan missed three makeable field goals and Wisconsin’s only score was set up by a long interception return). All signs point to the Nov. 26 Michigan-Ohio State game as a faceoff for the playoffs.

There were two other matchups over the weekend between top 10 teams. One was a blowout, the other a nail-biter.

Washington 44 – Stanford 6: No one saw this coming. What was heralded as “the biggest game of the year in the Pac-12” turned out to be no contest. The 10th-ranked Huskies dominated in the trenches, held Christian McCaffrey to 79 yards from scrimmage and gave No. 7 Stanford its worst shellacking since the IPhone 4.

I’m not sure what was more surprising—the ease with which Washington scored, or Stanford’s inability to move the ball. Much has been made of the fact that Stanford’s two starting cornerbacks missed the game with injuries, but the most critical loss may have been fullback Daniel Marx. Marx is McCaffrey’s lead blocker and also fills a crucial role on pass protection. He was sorely missed.

Clemson 42, Louisville 36: In a thoroughly exciting and entertaining game, Deshaun Watson threw five touchdown passes to lead No. 5 Clemson. No. 3 Louisville scored 26 straight points to get back in the game and came up a yard short of first-down yardage inside the Clemson five in the closing seconds. Both teams remain in the playoff hunt.

Elsewhere: Oregon lost its third straight (51-33 to WSU) and must find a defense very quickly with Washington up next. Colorado (4-1) continued its resurgence under former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre with a convincing win over Oregon State. USC coach Clay Helton may have averted an early morning meeting with Athletic Director Lynn Swann on the LAX tarmac by winning at Arizona State. And No. 22 Nebraska improved to 5-0 with a win over Illinois. The Huskers’ coaches trace their turnaround to an impressive victory over UCLA in last year’s Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.

Cal’s Defense Shines: The much-maligned Cal defense came up big with a last-minute goal-line stand against unbeaten and No. 18 ranked Utah to preserve a 28-23 win. Cal quarterback Davis Webb, the national leader in touchdown passes, added four more and now has 22 in five games. Not surprisingly, a host of 49ers’ scouts were watching Webb from the Memorial Stadium press box.

Where’s Mack? ESPN2 analyst Mack Brown, the former Texas coach, bailed out of Friday night’s BYU-Toledo game with almost 11 minutes remaining and Toledo up 45-42. Apparently, Brown left to catch an early flight so he could make the ESPN studio show Saturday morning in Bristol. Brown missed an amazing finish, as BYU won 55-53 on a last second field goal. He probably wouldn’t have left if it was Oklahoma-Texas.

Heisman watch: It’s still early, but right now the Heisman race is all about quarterbacks.

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: You’ll recall that Barrett started most of 2014 as a redshirt freshman after returning Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp. All Barrett did was pass for 35 touchdowns, rush for 11 more, and lead the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record before breaking his ankle against Michigan. Last year, he split time with Cardale Jones, who’d led the Buckeyes to the national championship after Barrett went down. This season, with the job all to himself, Barrett has been phenomenal, piloting the No. 2 ranked Buckeyes (4-0) to 57 points per game.

Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Saturday’s loss won’t diminish Jackson’s Heisman chances at all. He brought his team back and was in position to win the game when his receiver was stopped a yard short. Jackson is responsible for 28 TDs in five games—14 passing and 14 running—more than just a handful of teams. Heisman voters have preferred a fresh face in recent years (Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Derrick Henry, etc.), which works in his favor.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson: Watson finished third last year behind winner Henry and Stanford’s McCaffrey. After a great performance in the national championship game vs. Alabama, he went into the season as one of the favorites, along with McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Watson started slowly this year, but his five-touchdown performance vs. Louisville has vaulted him back near the top of the heap.

Rising (with a bullet): Washington’s Jake Browning could get into the mix if the Huskies continue to win and he continues to impress.

Losing ground: The pre-season headliners at running back have all lost ground. McCaffrey must compete with his own incredible numbers from last year, when he broke Barry Sanders’ single season all-purpose yardage record and should have won the Heisman. He’ll need some big performances in the coming weeks. Fournette has missed two games because of injury and his coach was fired after four games. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook is also being hurt by his under-achieving team (3-2).

New AP Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Clemson, 4. Michigan, 5. Washington,    6. Houston, 7. Louisville, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Tennessee, 10. Miami, 11. Wisconsin, 12. Nebraska, 13. Baylor, 14. Ole Miss, 15. Stanford, 16. Arkansas, 17. North Carolina, 18. Florida, 19. Boise State, 20. Oklahoma, 21. Colorado, 22. West Virginia, 23. Florida State, 24. Utah, 25. Virginia Tech. Cal received three votes.

Gary Cavalli is a 40-year veteran of the Bay Area sports scene and was Executive Director of the Foster Farms Bowl and Sports Information Director/Associate Athletic Director at Stanford

Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis


Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis

Former Cal Bears fullback Eric Stevens now is a Los Angeles City firefighter. He knows what it's like to put others' lives ahead of his own. 

Now, his family hopes those will return the favor.

Stevens was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29, soon after getting married to the woman of his dreams.

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Let’s help Eric #axeALS!!!! #TeamStevensNation

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"The diagnosis and subsequent education they received about the horrific disease was the worst news one could ever imagine," a Facebook post dedicated to "Team Stevens Nation," described.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a debilitating and incurable disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. With a life expectancy between two and five years, paralysis comes much quicker. And there is much unknown about it. 

While there are many treatments going through clinical trials that are showing promise, there is still a 50 percent chance those could receive a placebo over the actual treatment.

"There is NO reason why a person with a terminal diagnosis should receive placebo over the actual treatment," the Facebook page explains. "Another downside to these clinical trials is they are a year-long process, and time is the one thing ALS patients don't have. Every single day without treatment is a day lost."

Those can donate to and share the family's GoFundMe page here

Stevens, now 30, totaled 14 carries for 53 yards, and 13 catches for 82 yards and one touchdown in his career at Cal that spanned from 2008-2012. But despite playing sparingly, he was voted team captain.

He was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but never played a snap in the NFL.

[RELATED: A's Piscotty accepts prestigious Hutch Award]

"Given his strong determination and success in anything he puts his mind to, Eric has chosen to fight and advocate for getting drugs and treatments available to patients NOW," the Facebook group wrote. "Eric's goal with the help of his family and friends is to raise awareness for ALS and act now toward getting treatments available."

Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'


Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'

Monday was a monumental day in college athletics.

California Governor Gavin Newsom went on HBO and Uninterrupted's "The Shop" to formally sign California's "Fair Pay to Play" act alongside Lakers star LeBron James.

The law will allow college athletes in the state of California to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness, and will make it illegal for universities to revoke a student's scholarship for accepting money. The bill will not pay athletes to play, but it will allow them to sign agents and seek out business deals.

"[Signing the bill] is going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation," Newsom said on "The Shop" prior to signing the bill. "And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interests, finally, of the athletes, on par with the interests of the institutions. Now we’re rebalancing that power arrangement."

The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Warriors forward Draymond Green has been a vocal proponent of the bill, and he gave Newsom props after the signing.

Newsom's bill has faced blowback from both California schools and the NCAA, as it would make it impossible for those schools to follow the NCAA's amateurism rules. The NCAA has called the bill unconstitutional and will challenge it in court.

The NCAA responded with a statement.

The Pac-12 also issued a statement. 

[RELATED: Draymond supports California bill for NCAA athletes]

The signing of the bill is expected to cause an avalanche of states to pass similar legislation and fundamentally change how amateurism and college athletics are viewed.

Well done, Gov. Newsom.