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Stanford, UCLA Pac-12 title rematch a 'mind game'

Stanford, UCLA Pac-12 title rematch a 'mind game'

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) This week has been unlike any other in the 20 years Mike Gleeson has been Stanford football's video director.

Even though there's a tight turnaround between the Cardinal's 35-17 victory last Saturday at UCLA and the Pac-12 championship game rematch Friday night, Gleeson's typical task is simplified. All he has to do is add video from the first game and recalculate statistics to the preparation done last week.

After that, things get complicated.

``The staff, in a way, they have to shuffle the deck as if it didn't happen. Or did it?'' Gleeson said. ``How do you want to look at it? Do you want to change things? Do you want to keep things? Now we've got the mind games with UCLA. What did they show? What do we think they showed compared to what they'll do this week?

``Well, we have 11 other games. So we kind of know what they're about, just like they know what we're about. But did they show everything that they could against us? Maybe. Maybe not. That's the mind game.''

Call last week a dress rehearsal, although even that may be in question. Stanford will wear its black uniforms, helmets and shoes for only the fourth time. UCLA is expected to swap out those dark blue ``L.A. Night'' jerseys for its traditional white tops, gold pants and gold helmets on the road.

With the league title at stake, what else the eighth-ranked Cardinal (10-2, 8-1) and the No. 17 Bruins (9-3, 6-3) bring out of the closet for what could be a rain-soaked sequel at Stanford Stadium might not be so obvious. They will be the first opponents in major college football matched against each other for a regular-season finale and conference title game in consecutive weeks.

After the opener at the Rose Bowl, booking a return trip to Pasadena for ``The Granddaddy of Them All'' on Jan. 1 could be tricky. Both staffs lost a day of game planning and practice, and the preparation has everybody involved contemplating how to approach Part II.

``I cannot recall ever being in this situation before,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ``I don't know that it benefits either team, or is hard on any team. It just comes down to going out on Friday night and executing. Any familiarity we have with them, they'll have with us.''

Stanford's video staff usually compiles highlights of about four games from when its opponent faced a team that mirrored what the Cardinal does, including last season's meeting if the opponent has the same coaching staff or style. In this case, last week's game stands for last season's game. Then producers send the videos and analytical reports to coaches and players through an application on their iPad playbooks.

``Our challenge is to make sure that we don't outsmart ourselves,'' said Stanford coach David Shaw, who won his second straight Pac-12 Coach of the Year award this week. ``But at the same time, that we are as diverse as we can be, to make sure that the things that we did positively, we've got to know that UCLA is going to come back and have answers for it. The things that they did positively, we've got to make sure that we fix those things that hurt us.''

The Cardinal controlled the first matchup in familiar, physical fashion.

Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and is 35 yards shy of Darrin Nelson's school rushing record of 4,169 yards (note: Stanford had previously said Nelson finished with 4,033 yards, however, in recent years the school started including bowl game statistics and did not originally add Nelson's postseason totals to its record books).

Kevin Hogan beat his third ranked opponent in his third straight start since replacing Josh Nunes at quarterback, passing for 160 yards and another score to help Stanford run away with its fourth victory in a row over the Bruins.

UCLA's Brett Hundley completed 20 of 38 passes for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while getting sacked seven times. Stanford, which leads the nation in rushing defense (71.3 yards), sacks (4.4) and tackles for loss (9.2) per game, held Johnathan Franklin - the Bruins' career rushing leader - to 73 yards on the ground.

``Both teams sort of see what the other teams are capable of doing and their tendencies, stuff like that.'' Hundley said. ``Both teams have that advantage.''

Things will not get any easier as the Bruins go for their first conference championship since 1998.

Stanford has won eight straight and 19 of its past 20 home games, with the lone loss coming to Oregon last season, then avenging that defeat with defensive domination in a 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks (11-1, 8-1) two weeks ago to secure the North Division tiebreaker. The Cardinal are riding a six-game winning streak and looking to win the league title for the first time since 1999 while advancing to their third different BCS bowl in as many seasons.

Rain started falling Thursday evening when the Bruins arrived on the quant Silicon Valley campus. A tarp covered the field at Stanford Stadium, and Mora and Shaw shook hands before posing for a ceremonial photo with the silver league title trophy inside the Cardinal athletic offices.

``I think the rain favors the team that executes the best,'' Mora said.

UCLA's repeat trip to the second annual Pac-12 championship game does come with at least one other noticeable difference. Last year, UCLA lost 49-31 at Oregon in lame duck coach Rick Neuheisel's weird finale - the Bruins had a 6-6 record and only advanced out of the South Division because crosstown rival Southern California was finishing a two-year postseason ban for NCAA violations.

This time, Mora had to face questions after the regular-season finale about whether he limited his game plan knowing the possibility of facing Stanford loomed. Both he and Shaw, who took Taylor out during the fourth quarter with the score lopsided against UCLA, said neither side seemed to withhold anything.

Of course, all agree each game is different.

``They've probably got some tricks up their sleeve that we didn't see,'' Cardinal outside linebacker Trent Murphy said. ``Everybody always says, `It's really tough to beat a team twice.' But as far as the positives go, every week you look on the tape, you see the mistakes you made and the things you wish you could've done better. The kind of moves that you see that were there after watching the film. You get an opportunity to correct those mistakes the next weekend.''

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

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

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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