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Ducks and Beavers are in the top 10. Wait, what?

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Ducks and Beavers are in the top 10. Wait, what?

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Oregon may be that rainy outpost of the Pacific Northwest far removed from SEC country, but the state has two teams ranked in the top 10.

The No. 2 Ducks and the No. 7 Beavers are the highest-ranked duo from a single state in the current AP Top 25.

``It's really cool,'' Oregon State fan Kurt Peters said after last weekend's game. ``Of course, I still hate the Ducks.''

OK, so the statewide pride only goes so far.

Before this season, the last time the two teams were both ranked in the top 10 was in 2001, when Oregon State was No. 10 and Oregon was No. 7 after the opening week of the season.

The only other time the Beavers and Ducks have both been ranked in the top seven was the final poll of the 2000 season. Oregon State finished fourth and Oregon was seventh.

As it stands now, Oregon State and Oregon are the only undefeated teams in the Pac-12.

The Beavers (6-0, 4-0) are one of the nation's biggest surprises of the season.

Oregon State went just 3-9 last season, its worst finish since 1997, and the team missed out on the postseason for the second straight year. It was completely understandable when they were selected to finish last in the Pac-12's northern division.

The Beavers missed their opener against Nicholls State because of concerns about Hurricane Isaac's impact on the Louisiana school's players, so they started the season a week late against No. 13 Wisconsin, a team that blanked them 35-0 last season.

The Beavers beat the Badgers 10-7 and ever since they've been on a roll. Now Oregon State plays Washington on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) have lost three straight after a 17-13 upset of then-No. 8 Stanford.

Oregon State is also the feel-good story of the season under easygoing head coach Mike Riley, who had critics calling for his dismissal last season. This season he's grabbed attention for treating his team to In-N-Out double-double hamburgers after road wins.

Part of the credit for Oregon State's success goes to quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, who have kept the Beavers steady during their season-opening streak.

Mannion, a sophomore who took a lot of knocks last season but emerged as one of the league's best drop-back passers, will return as starter against the Huskies this weekend after missing two games with a left knee injury. Vaz, a junior, capably filled in while Mannion was hurt and helped the Beavers to victories against BYU and Utah.

Ducks fan Jim Cooper of Beaverton has grudging respect for the Beavers.

``The Ducks are stronger, we have the experience. As well as the Beavers are doing this year, and I'm happy for them, they really tanked it last year. They absorbed a lot of losses,'' Cooper said. ``But Mike Riley, in playing those kids through some real hard times got them some experience in the trenches and it's paying off for them this season.''

While the Beavers are delivering the unexpected, the Ducks are staying the course. With its speedy spread offense, Oregon is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-12.

The Ducks have won 10 straight dating back to last season, second in the nation only to Alabama with 11. Oregon has scored at least 42 points in each of those 10 wins.

The Ducks are favored by more than six touchdowns this Saturday when they host Colorado (1-6, 1-3). Many fans are looking past the Buffs toward Oregon's game the next weekend against No. 10 USC at the Coliseum. Last season the Trojans came to Autzen Stadium and upset the No. 4 Ducks 38-35. Matt Barkley threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.

Should both Oregon and Oregon State keep winning, it will set up an epic clash in the Civil War rivalry game on Nov. 24, which would decide the team that represents the north in the Pac-12 championship on Nov. 30.

The winner of the title game gets to represent the league in the Rose Bowl - unless the team is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings, which will send the winner to the BCS championship.

So, theoretically, if the Ducks win the Pac-12 title game but go to the national championship, the Beavers could be the league's representative in their first Rose Bowl since 1965.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. It all depends on how the next month shakes out. The Ducks play three of their last four on the road. In addition to the Trojans, the Ducks host No. 19 Stanford on Nov. 17.

The Beavers, who don't have USC on their schedule this season, face a challenge when they visit the Cardinal on Nov. 10.

Riley hasn't really had time to think about the rival Ducks.

``We haven't done well in the last couple of years, so I don't have any secrets about what to do with Oregon,'' Riley said. ``And I haven't thought about them too much to this point.''

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Associated Press staffer Paul Montella contributed to this report.

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D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

Almost a month after his release, former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger voiced some highly critical comments of Washington head coach Jay Gruden on his Instagram page. 

"That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline," Swearinger wrote in a comment on his page. 

The backstory here needs telling.

While Swearinger was playing at a high level for Washington in 2018, he was clashing with the coaching staff.

Swearinger was released before the Redskins final game of the 2018 season after the safety made damning comments about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger alleged that he watched more film than the defensive coaches and questioned the team's scheme in a critical moment of the Week 16 loss against the Titans. 

This was not the first time Swearinger had gone public with complaints about coaching. It happened multiple times in 2018 and also in 2017. 

After an ugly December loss against the Giants that caused Swearinger to criticize the team, Gruden publicly admonished his safety. Privately, the coach made clear that the behavior would not again be tolerated. Then, the Titans game happened, Swearinger blasted Mansuky. The safety was released a few days later.

Below are Swearinger's full comments from his Instagram page that came in a reply to a Redskins fan saying he missed him on the team:

Y’all will never win big bro. I’ve seen championship swagger from a coach BA he a OG. That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline..it ain in him to chew somebody out in practice cause they lacking..when u say I’m a cancer for wanting to practice harder or wanting to get coached harder just to win then winning prolly not for you or you don’t understand that hard work pays off. Mediocre work get you beat! Remember This winners are born but champions are made. A strong leader of men make others around him better. Spread Peace Love And Elevation In everything you do lil brudda! Be Easy!!

Nobody would question Swearinger's effort in practice or workouts. He's a hard worker.

For the season, he logged four interceptions and three forced fumbles to go with a sack and 53 tackles in 15 games. Pro Football Focus ranked Swearinger the 13th best safety in the NFL and he had been named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Obviously, Swearinger was not released because of his play. The coaching staff just felt they could no longer tolerate his public criticism, and some on the staff had felt that way for a long time. 

It should be noted too that for a talented player, Swearinger has bounced around a lot.

The Texans released him two years after drafting him in 2013, despite having two more years on his rookie contract. Tampa signed him, and released him after seven games. Things worked out in Swearinger's next stop with the Cardinals, where he played for part of 2015 and the full 2016 season before signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 2017.

The Redskins cut Swearinger despite having another year on his contract for a modest $4.5 million price tag. Arizona claimed him on waivers. 

One bizarre note in all this: The actual photo Swearinger posted to go along with this comment had nothing to do with the Redskins. It was a picture of Swearinger with Larry Fitzgerald, with the safety congratulating the receiver for his recent announcement that he would return for the 2019 season. 

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Alex Ovechkin in the lineup shows just how important Wednesday vs. Toronto really is

Alex Ovechkin in the lineup shows just how important Wednesday vs. Toronto really is

The Capitals have one last piece of business to tend to before the All-Star break. They head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) in an absolute must-win for Washington.

Here’s what you need to watch.

Alex Ovechkin is in

Because Ovechkin decided not to participate in the All-Star Game, he has to serve a one-game suspension. The team had the option of Ovechkin missing the last game before the All-Star break or the first game back. Ovechkin was asked after the game Tuesday if he would be playing against the Leafs and he said yes. Head coach Todd Reirden confirmed that he would indeed be playing Wednesday. So, coming off a hat trick performance, Ovechkin will be back in the lineup Wednesday in Toronto.

The decision comes as no surprise. The Caps desperately need a win Wednesday or they will head into the All-Star break on a seven-game losing streak which will fester until the team finally returns to the ice after the bye week.

Ironically enough, the last time Ovechkin played in Toronto was on Nov. 25, 2017, the famous Alex Luey game in which Ovechkin also tallied a hat trick.

By playing Wednesday, Ovechkin will have to sit out the team’s first game back from the break on Feb. 1 against the Calgary Flames.

Who will play in net?

With the high stakes of this game, could we see Braden Holtby back between the pipes despite playing Tuesday? It’s possible.

Reirden said after Tuesday’s game that he had not yet reached a decision on which goalie would play in Toronto. On the one hand, this is a game the team really needs to win so it would make sense to play your top netminder especially before the prolonged All-Star break. On the other, Holtby has really struggled in his past two outings giving up four goals to Chicago on just 11 shots and seven goals to San Jose on 43 shots. Holtby’s break will also be shorter given that he will be participating in the All-Star festivities.

Pheonix Copley has been a dependable backup this season, but he certainly seems to be showing some cracks the last few games. He has given up 14 goals in his last three appearances, one of which was only half a game in Chicago.

It’s been a long time since Washington has lost seven straight

The last time the Caps lost seven straight games was in January 2014.

From Jan. 12 to Jan. 24, the Caps went 0-5-2 in Adam Oates’ second and last season behind the bench. That streak was particularly messy as Washington had three goalies on the roster -- Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth -- and all three played during that stretch.

What should concern Caps fans the most is that not only was that the last time Washington lost seven straight, it was also the last time it missed the playoffs.

Toronto could really use this game too

For any optimists out there thinking maybe the Leafs will be looking ahead to the break and may just mentally take this game off, that’s not going to happen. Toronto needs this game about as much as the Caps do.

The Maple Leafs have lost four of their last five and seven of their last 10. Given what hockey means in Toronto, you can guess what the mood is like in that city. To say people are panicking would be grossly underselling it.

When the puck drops on Wednesday, two desperate hockey teams will be facing off.

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