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Big Game comes early this year for Stanford, Cal

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Big Game comes early this year for Stanford, Cal

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) The sun is shining, the days are warm and No. 22 Stanford and California still have half a season left to play entering the 115th edition of the Big Game rivalry.

If the timing seems strange, that's because it is.

In the first of what is expected to be at least one Pac-12 rivalry moved from its normal date some years because of the expanded league's squeezed schedule, the Bay Area schools will meet at remodeled Memorial Stadium on Saturday under an odd October sky. The teams traditionally play the final conference game against each other - if not the last game altogether.

Stanford coach David Shaw and Cal's Jeff Tedford both said preparing for each other so soon seems a little awkward. Each program's athletic director denounced the date when it was announced. And almost every player, particularly the upperclassmen, admitted the schedule seems out of sorts.

``I don't like it,'' Shaw said. ``I think it's weird. I think it's different.''

As much as the schools and conference tried, the atypical timing of this season's Big Game couldn't be avoided.

The Pac-12 championship, which began last season when the league added Colorado and Utah, takes up the first weekend of December - a date often used for rivalry games. The conference's landmark TV deal, worth about $3 billion, added more Thursday night games. And per league policy, teams must have a bye week the Saturday before Thursday night games.

The result left Stanford (4-2, 2-1) and Cal (3-4, 2-2) with three options: play on Thanksgiving weekend, which both rejected, citing concerns about midweek festivities during the holiday. The second was to play the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which member athletic directors shot down, saying that would strain other parts of the league schedule. And the third was to play Oct. 20, which athletic directors who make the schedule formed a majority to force the schools to accept.

``We're going to prepare and we're going to play. There's nothing I can do about it,'' Tedford said. ``But it's a little bit awkward, because you normally play your traditional rival at the end of the year.''

And while only the Big Game is impacted this season, more in the Pac-12 will be soon.

In years like 2012, when the calendar has only 14 Saturdays during football season, at least one game has to be shifted to create flexibility. That won't be a problem the next two years, but come 2015, there will be four straight 14-week seasons.

That means rivalry games such as Oregon-Oregon State, Southern California-UCLA, Washington-Washington State and Arizona-Arizona State will likely have to be shuffled. The conference plans to rotate rivalry games so the same programs aren't playing earlier than they want to every year.

``The Pac-12 Conference values the importance of our historic rivalry games and the importance of scheduling them in traditional end-of-season dates,'' Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said when the schedule was released. ``However, with the addition of our championship football game the last week of the season, and new television agreements commencing in 2012, there will be additional priorities that need to be balanced when making the schedule that will mean occasional date adjustments to rivalry games.''

The Stanford-Cal rivalry, like so many others across the country, has typically been a way for one - or both - programs to often make their season on the final day - or wreck the other's.

Sometimes the result will affect bowl eligibility. Other times even save a coach's or quarterback's job. Mostly, though, it's about bragging rights all winter. This year?

``Right now, it's kind of weird,'' Stanford senior linebacker Chase Thomas said. ``It's October, it's still warm outside.''

The Cardinal have won the last two matchups and three of the last five. But Stanford no longer has Andrew Luck and has yet to score an offensive touchdown in two road games - both losses - this season under inconsistent quarterback Josh Nunes and a group of young wide receivers who dropped four balls in a 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame last weekend.

The Golden Bears, meanwhile, have won two straight for the first time all season and are a looking for an upset to launch them into the season's second half.

``I remember when we beat them last. That was really fun and kind of one of the highlights of my season as a freshman,'' Cal center Brian Schwenke said. ``To be in the middle of the season right now playing them, it's a little different.''

Adding to the oddness of the October matchup, the game will also be the first at Memorial Stadium since Cal's long-time home underwent a $321 million seismic retrofit and renovation.

In a series that dates back to 1892, the schools have played on both campuses and in San Francisco. They've never played in October - until Saturday.

``It doesn't matter when it is or where it is,'' Shaw said. ``We'll be up for it.''

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

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USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.

 

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