NCAA

No. 14 Stanford looks to challenge No. 1 Ducks

No. 14 Stanford looks to challenge No. 1 Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) For the past two seasons it has been the same thing for Stanford: Great expectations dashed by Oregon.

So certainly the No. 14 Cardinal would like nothing better than to derail the top-ranked Ducks in their bid for another shot at the national title. Right?

``I wouldn't call it revenge. Revenge is a strong word,'' said defensive tackle Terrence Stephens. ``I think in the game of football, you can't really be revengeful, because those emotions will take you over. You've got be focused, and you've got to focus on the task at hand.''

Last season, Stanford was ranked No. 3 and looking toward its own national championship bid with quarterback Andrew Luck when then-No. 6 Oregon visited Palo Alto and emerged with a 52-31 victory. Running back LaMichael James, who would join Luck's NFL draft class in the spring, ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

The year before, Oregon defeated the Cardinal and Luck 52-31 in an early October hurdle in route to an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the BCS title game against Auburn.

The Ducks are the only conference team Stanford has been unable to beat in the past two seasons.

This season, Oregon (10-0, 7-0) is riding a 13-game winning streak, longest in the nation, into Saturday night's game at Autzen Stadium. With a victory over Stanford, the Ducks would clinch the Pac-12 North and a spot in the conference title game. Oregon has won the last three league titles.

If Stanford (8-2, 6-1) can beat Oregon and take care of UCLA in the season finale, the Cardinal would win the league's northern division because of the head-to-head matchup with the Ducks. The winner of the Pac-12 championship game goes to the Rose Bowl - unless the team plays in the national championship.

``This is pretty much our Pac-12 championship game,'' Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas said. ``We still have UCLA to play, but that's after the fact. This is the best team in the conference that we're going against.''

The Cardinal have recent inspiration to draw on: former No. 1 Alabama's loss to Texas A&M last weekend, and USC's upset of the then-No. 4 Ducks last season at Autzen Stadium.

But while Stanford is getting pumped, Oregon is not looking at the game differently than any other - in keeping with coach Chip Kelly's philosophy. The Ducks are favored by nearly three touchdowns.

``It's just another game. We're focused on dialing it up, paying attention to film and not making too big a deal out of it.'' Ducks offensive lineman Nick Cody said.

It will likely come down to Oregon's quick-strike offense against Stanford's stout defense.

The Ducks have the third-best offense in the nation, averaging nearly 563 yards per game, and the third-best rushing offense with an average of 325 yards a game. And they're scoring an average of 54.8 points a game, tops among FBS teams.

Senior Kenjon Barner, who has capably taken over for James as Oregon's star running back, is averaging 136 yards rushing per game, putting him into the Heisman conversation.

The Ducks have scored 42 or more points in 13 straight games, and they've won all of those games for the longest current winning streak in the nation. Additionally, Oregon has scored 30 or more points in 23 straight games, an NCAA record.

On the other side, Stanford's defense is allowing opponents just under 321 yards a game. But the Cardinal are best at stopping the run: They are allowing just 58.6 yards rushing on average, tops in the nation.

On offense, Stanford will again go with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who will be making his first start on the road. He started last week in the Cardinal's 27-23 victory over Oregon State, throwing for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

Oregon also has a redshirt freshman quarterback, Marcus Mariota, who has surpassed expectations this season with 28 touchdown passes, a Pac-12 record for a freshman. Last weekend in a 59-17 victory over California, Mariota threw for 377 yards and six scores.

But the victory over Cal was costly for Oregon's defense. Free safety Avery Patterson seriously injured his left knee in the second quarter and is believed to be out for the rest of the season. Patterson had taken over as starter for senior John Boyett, whose career at Oregon ended earlier this season when he needed surgery on both knees.

Senior defensive linemen Dion Jordan (right shoulder) Isaac Remington (foot) and Ricky Heimuli (right knee) were dressed on the sidelines in Berkeley but did not play. As a result, the Ducks relied at times on three true freshmen - Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci - on the defensive line.

Starting nose guard Wade Keliikipi never made the trip to Strawberry Canyon because of an undisclosed injury and was seen using crutches on Monday. Defensive end Taylor Hart also was hurt against Cal and wore a boot. Additionally, sophomore backup cornerbacks Dior Mathis and Troy Hill were absent against Cal for unclear reasons.

Because the Ducks do not disclose injuries, it is unclear who may be available to play against the Cardinal. But the situation had become so serious that earlier in the week there was speculation that the Ducks might use wide receiver Keanon Lowe or even multi-purpose back De'Anthony Thomas on defense.

``We're getting thinner, but we'll find a way to make it work,'' Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.

Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Pittsburgh Panthers are gelling as a football team, winning three straight games heading into this weekend. Pitt is now 5-1 in the ACC this season, and they currently sit atop the standings in the Coastal Division.

They'll be looking to make it four in a row by beating the Demon Deacons, who are 2-4 in  conference play and 5-5 overall. Wake Forest won their first two games of the year, and have gone 3-5 since, though they are coming off a strong 27-23 victory at 14th-ranked NC State last week.

Still, Pitt is favored by 6.5 points. A win today would help the Panthers maintain control of their own destiny within the ACC Coastal.

Here's how to watch.

PITT PANTHERS vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS: HOW TO WATCH

What: Unviersity of Pittsburgh Cavaliers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Where: BB&T Field, located in Winston Salem, NC.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 12 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

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Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

To call it a hit is generous. To call it a huge play is accurate. 

Capitals forward Tom Wilson backed into a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. He waited for a hit sure to come from behind. 

Colin Wilson, the Avalanche center, moved in to dislodge the puck. Instead he got dislodged from gravity. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tom Wilson, barely moving and braced for contact, used his own leverage to launch Colin Wilson into the air, arms and legs akimbo. 

By the time Colin Wilson crashed to the ice, Tom Wilson had chipped a blind backhand pass to center ice, where Alex Ovechkin stopped it with his skate, dropped it to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who gave it back as they entered the offensive zone. Ovechkin crossed from left to right and ripped a shot past former teammate Philipp Grubauer in goal for Colorado. 

It was a wonderful pass from Backstrom, who put the Avalanche on their heels. Ovechkin’s shot was a bullet that left little chance for Grubauer. But make no mistake – it all started with Wilson, who was prepared to take a hit to make a play. It is those little things that the Capitals missed during Wilson’s 16-game suspension by the NHL. It was the little things that helped them to a 3-2 overtime victory.  

“[Wilson] brings so much energy to this group,” Backstrom said. “He’s everywhere out there. That’s what we need. He’s playing PK, he’s playing power plays, he’s doing everything. He’s a valuable guy in this group so we’re happy to have him back.”

The game-winning goal in overtime by Backstrom was a perfect example. Wilson took a drop pass from defenseman John Carlson 12 seconds into overtime with Washington on a 4-on-3 power play. That’s when he went to work. 

For six seconds Wilson and Avalanche center Carl Soderberg did battle along the right boards high in the offensive zone. Just as Wilson was knocked to the ice, he slipped a pass back to Backstrom alone at the point. 

With Soderberg on top of him and both out of the play, Wilson watched Backstrom take advantage of the extra space in what effectively became a 3-on-2. He passed to Carlson in the right faceoff circle and then got the puck back in the high slot and beat Grubauer blocker side for the win. That doesn’t happen without Wilson. 

“When you’re playing with good players, you just try and keep it simple, win your battles and they’ll do the rest,” Wilson said. “And that’s exactly what happened on both those plays. At the end there, I thought about throwing it across the ice a couple times, but I’m not that comfortable out there yet so just kind of ragged on the wall and waited. Nicky got open for me and made it easy, I just threw it over to him and it was in the back of the net.”  

The Ovechkin goal put Washington ahead 2-1 at 18:29 of the second period. The Backstrom winner came 22 seconds into overtime. Wilson, in his third game back after his original 20-game suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator, played a career-high 24 minutes, 24 seconds. He moved to the power play for 4:19 with T.J. Oshie out with an upper-body injury and contributed 1:35 on the penalty kill – a little less than usual. 

Wilson played on the PK for 5:23 in his first game back Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in that game, too, by driving the net hard and has been a jolt of energy for a team that was scuffling coming into a difficult four-game road trip. The Capitals are 2-1-0 with one game left Monday at the Montreal Canadiens. 
 
“Tom is one of those guys that was vocal in our room, vocal on the bench that we’re fully in control of that game still even though we gave up the late goal,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “But that’s a tough start [after the suspension], three in four, and then add in the altitude and the minutes that we’re counting on him playing because they aren’t easy minutes. And then obviously having to chase around that top line tonight from Colorado is no easy task. Just really happy with the fact that we got him back a little earlier than was originally set up for us. It’s been a good bounce for our team.” 

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