Arizona picked to win Pac-12, narrowly edging UCLA


Arizona picked to win Pac-12, narrowly edging UCLA

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Predictions are not something most coaches care about this time of year. They're focused on players and practices, not what pundits and pollsters presume.

Except for Oregon State's Craig Robinson.

During the Pac-12 men's basketball media day at the conference's new network studios in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, Robinson admitted he has been paying attention to polls for months - just not the league's annual media poll, which picked Arizona over UCLA by a mere point.

Robinson, the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama, has been following a much bigger campaign. He has spent his days practicing and his nights stumping for President Barack Obama ahead of Tuesday's election against Republican nominee Mitt Romney in a race Robinson predicts is ``probably going to be pretty close.''

Not that the First Brother-in-Law will take a break before flying to Chicago - ``classified information,'' he joked - on election night. No chance his players will get a day of rest, either.

``Are you kidding?'' Robinson said. ``We have got a game on Nov. 9. There will be practice.''

No matter what else is on anybody's agenda, coaches and players around the league are getting in all the last-minute work now. After all, the Pac-12 is expected to be an even tighter and tougher conference this season.

No. 12 Arizona received 403 points and 15 first-place votes to top the preseason poll by media who cover the league. That narrowly edged 13th-ranked UCLA, which received 402 points and 16 first-place votes.

California (325) was third, Stanford (296) fourth and defending regular-season champion Washington (278) fifth. Of course, fall forecasting might not always mean much.

``They picked us 11th last year. They picked us sixth this year,'' said Colorado coach Tad Boyle, whose Buffaloes surprised everybody by winning the league tournament title last season. ``Nothing is more irrelevant in my mind.''

Oregon (217) was picked seventh followed by Oregon State (166), Southern California (163), Washington State (111), Arizona State (107) and Utah (78) last.

``To put any kind of pressure on ourselves automatically places it maybe at a position where we're not,'' Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. ``I'm concerned that I'm not at practice today.''

The media has correctly picked the conference winner 12 of 20 times. Arizona has correctly been selected in seven of the 11 times the Wildcats have been picked to capture the league title.

``I can remember a long time ago when I played, I would always cheer against the teams in our conference because I didn't want them to do as well as us,'' Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ``And those days have ended a long time ago. This year in particular every time that a Pac-12 team plays a non-conference opponent, we want them to win. The most success that we can have as a conference only helps each other.''

Change is all around the conference.

Master-recruiter Miller pulled together one of the best classes in the country in the desert. Ben Howland did the same at UCLA, which is moving back into historic Pauley Pavilion after a $132 million renovation. Lorenzo Romar is just fine with his Huskies playing the underdog role, too, especially after flaming out as the top seed in the quarterfinals of last season's league tournament.

Kevin O'Neill is trying to turn around USC from a school-record 26 losses last season. Stanford is looking to make the NCAA tournament for the first time under fifth-year coach Johnny Dawkins, who led the Cardinal to the NIT title last season. Across San Francisco Bay, crafty Cal coach Mike Montgomery's teams are never pushovers, either, and he's more focused than ever after bladder cancer and surgery that left him cancer-free before last season. Well, sort of more focused.

``Unfortunately, it hasn't changed me that much. I'm still the nut case I always was,'' Montgomery joked. ``But it was certainly a wake-up call for me. But I'm fine.''

The only real guarantee this season is exposure will be at an all-time high.

The league's landmark 12-year television contract with Fox and ESPN worth about $3 billion, which created the Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12 Digital Network, started this fall. The swanky studios will help increase viewership after more than 90 games - including 23 conference matchups - weren't televised last season, said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

After 10 years at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the conference tournament also is moving to a new home at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Even bigger moves could also be on the horizon, with UCLA becoming the first program to travel to China over the summer as part of the league's new initiative to gain exposure in the lucrative Asia market each preseason.

Not everything is different.

This is the first time since the 2001-02 season that there have not been any coaching changes, Scott said. And a year after Colorado and Utah joined the league, no more expansion is expected for the foreseeable future.

Teams across the league already noted some of the tangible benefits from the growth.

Colorado is 200 seats away from selling out its home opener against Wofford on Nov. 9. Utah finished in the top three in attendance. Even Washington State, which returns Pac-12 leading scorer Brock Motum, is getting more revenue to Pullman than ever before - but still has bigger goals on the court.

``Looking to accomplish a lot more wins than last season,'' said Motum, whose Cougars went 19-18 last season and finished tied with Oregon State for eighth.

All Robinson wants from his Beavers in Corvallis - besides perfecting the Princeton offense, of course - is for them to register to vote. The Oregon State coach isn't predicting how the Pac-12 will shake out and isn't telling players who to take on the ballot - though he has a suspicion his famous family member might've already.

``If I took you to the White House,'' Robinson said, ``you'd like him, too.''


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Redskins vs. Jets Preseason Week 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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Redskins vs. Jets Preseason Week 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

After a fight-filled start to joint practices between the Redskins and Jets, the Skins' 2018 NFL preseason schedule continues Thursday night at Fed Ex Field against New York. 

Week 2 of the NFL preseason still doesn't provide a lot of answers to questions about team performance, but it begins to reveal the depth the Redskins could have this season.

One storyline that won't be taking place, is the return of former Redskin Terrelle Pryor, who told reporters after Monday's practice he won't be playing in the game.

The Redskins have bigger things to worry about though, like who will replace rookie Derrius Guice, who's now out for the year with a torn ACL.

The Redskins also have one less name in the fight for receiver depth as well, after Robert Davis suffered a season-ending leg injury as well. 

Ahead of Thursday's preseason matchup, here's everything you need to know to watch.


Who: Washington Redskins vs. New York Jets

What: Game 2 of the 2018 NFL Preseason

When: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: Fed Ex Field, Landover, MD

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Point Spread: Washington, -3

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 90 degrees, partly cloudy


5:00 PM: Redskins 100
5:30 PM: Redskins Nation
6:00 PM: Best of the Sports Junkies
7:00 PM: Redskins Kickoff Live


Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. New England Patriots, 7:30 p.m. (L, 26-17)

Week 2: Thurs., 8/16, vs. New York Jets, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Week 3: Fri., 8/24, vs. Denver Broncos, 7:30 p.m. 

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 7:30 p.m. 



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Need to Know: How many Redskins starters will take the field against the Jets?

Need to Know: How many Redskins starters will take the field against the Jets?

Here is what you need to know on Thursday, August 16, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to play everybody’s favorite game, "Who the Heck is Going to Play in Tonight’s Preseason Game?

Jay Gruden has been able to play the game well, at least from his point of view. His goal is to tell the media as little as possible about his playing time plans. 

"I think defensively we will probably go that route,” Gruden said when asked if the starters will play against the Jets. “We’ll see offensively. We will wait and see who’s available to us due to injury and we’ll make that decision soon."

Let’s look at what this means for the defense first. We are likely to see first-round pick Daron Payne get his first game action in a Redskins uniform. He was still recovering from an ankle injury when the Redskins played the Patriots a week ago, although only a handful of starters participated so he may not have played anyway. Jonathan Allen sat last week as well, and he should get some snaps tonight. 

On the other hand, Matt Ioannidis suffered knee and ankle injuries against the Patriots and probably will sit this one out. 

All four starting linebackers are healthy and could play. Ryan Kerrigan (14 snaps) and Preston Smith (18) played a few series in the second preseason game against the Packers last year. Zach Brown and Mason Foster both stuck around for 20 snaps. 

In the secondary, Josh Norman has been healthy and may play. D.J. Swearinger said earlier this week that he would like to play, but he has been sitting out some practices with a minor ailment, so he may be out. I would look for significant snaps to be played by Quinton Dunbar and, especially, new top nickel cornerback Fabian Moreau. 

On offense, the rehab schedule probably says that Jordan Reed, Trent Williams, and Morgan Moses are out. If the two starting tackles are out, you have to wonder if Gruden will put Alex Smith out there. I think that it’s likely that Smith will make his debut in a Redskins uniform, especially after he sat out last week, but it’s no sure thing. 

We should see the starting interior line of Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, and Brandon Scherff as well as running back Rob Kelley. Paul Richardson is a good bet to line up at wide receiver, but Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson may sit due to minor injuries

So, out of the currently anticipated 22 Week 1 starters, 15 should see action if Smith plays. That may not make the game worth the price of regular-season admission but we could have a quarter or so of reasonably good football. 

Bureau of statistics

Last year, 19 of the players who started in Week 1 against the Eagles started the second preseason game. 

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The agenda

Today: Redskins vs. Jets 8 p.m. ESPN

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 8 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 16 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 24 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler