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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 53-30 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.

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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