Capitals

Stanford, UCLA a surprising Pac-12 title matchup

201211241956718153234-p2.jpeg

Stanford, UCLA a surprising Pac-12 title matchup

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) As part of senior day celebrations held earlier this month for Stanford's final home game of the regular season, outgoing players wore T-shirts that read: ``Last Walk.''

Time to bring those mementos out of the closet.

``We're going to have to change the date of our last walk T-shirt,'' fifth-year linebacker Chase Thomas said Sunday. ``Put some tape over it or something.''

The Pac-12 Conference championship game is coming to The Farm a year later than everybody expected - and for a matchup nobody could've predicted.

While Andrew Luck is gone, the eighth-ranked Cardinal (10-2, 8-1) are surprisingly where they've wanted to be all along: hosting the league title game Friday night in a quick rematch against No. 17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3), which overtook preseason No. 1 Southern California to capture the South Division crown.

So much for that Oregon-USC showdown so many had forecast this fall.

``I remember when nobody was giving us a look down at the Pac-12 media day,'' Thomas said. ``I told them, `It was the same thing when Toby (Gerhart) left. It was the same thing when (Jim) Harbaugh left. It was the same thing when Andrew left.' I guess people out there just don't get it.

``They don't understand what type of guys we have on this team. The kind of coaches we have. We're not going away. We're not a one-person team. We never have been. So people can think what they want. We know this team is going to be around for a while.''

A week after Stanford stunned Oregon in overtime, the Cardinal crushed the Bruins 35-17 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday to seal the North Division title and set up a strange sequel. Rarely do teams ever play twice in the same season in college football, and even rarer does that happen in back-to-back weeks.

That's the kind of season it has been in the Pac-12 Conference.

Stanford's only league loss came at Washington in the fourth game of the season, losing 17-13 on a Thursday night when the offense failed to score a touchdown. Cardinal coach David Shaw replaced quarterback Josh Nunes after eight games with redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan, who has beaten three ranked teams - Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA - in his first three career starts to give the nation's top rushing defense some support.

The Bruins lost to Oregon State and at California before winning five straight - the program's longest winning streak in seven years - a run capped with a thrilling 38-28 victory against the crosstown rival Trojans.

Stanford had to win its finale in Pasadena just to get another shot at UCLA because No. 6 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) beat Oregon State 48-24 in the Civil War rivalry that finished about 10 minutes before the Cardinal and Bruins began their game in front of a sellout crowd at the Rose Bowl.

Turns out, that was just a dress rehearsal.

``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. It just kind of negates each other.''

Shaw and Mora will rely on their NFL coaching experience to guide them this week. While pro teams often play divisional opponents twice in three games, consecutive matchups are almost unheard of at any level.

The Cardinal controlled the first go-around and left no secrets about what they plan to do.

Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, Hogan passed for 160 yards and another score and Stanford ran away with its fourth victory in a row over the Bruins. Brett Hundley, UCLA's redshirt freshman quarterback, was 20 of 38 for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while getting sacked seven times.

``Every week is going to be different. Not every week is going be perfect,'' Hundley said. ``We've just got to come out, and we're blessed with another opportunity to play another game for the Pac-12 championship, and we've just got to have fun and play our game.''

UCLA's hopes to play in the program's first Rose Bowl game since 1999 will not be any easier this week.

Stanford has won eight straight and 19 of its past 20 home games, with the lone loss coming to Oregon last season. The Cardinal, riding a six-game winning streak, are looking to seal a spot in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000.

The Cardinal already secured three straight 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. The senior class, which figured their playing days at Stanford Stadium might've ended when they rallied to beat Oregon State 27-23 on Nov. 10, has a chance to go out with three consecutive 11-win seasons - all ending in different BCS bowls.

``We kind of did the senior day last time we were in the stadium, not knowing when those guys were going to be back, really thinking the next time they would be back in there would be graduation,'' Shaw said. ``Now getting one more game is special for those guys. They're real excited about it. I think you get an idea of what our team is like because our younger guys are excited for our seniors. It's not just that they're excited to be in the game. They're excited that the seniors get to come in the stadium one more time. I think that shows how tight of a team we are.''

---

AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

Quick Links

10 changes that would make the NHL better

usatsi_10788321.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

10 changes that would make the NHL better

Hockey is one of the most incredible, compelling sports in the world. As fun as it is to watch on TV, it is even more compelling in person and fans in North America are treated to the best hockey in the world as played in the NHL.

But the NHL's not perfect.

SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

Just like every sports league, the NHL is always adjusting and making changes to the game in order to improve it through things like rule changes, expansion, playoff formats, etc.

No sport is perfect and hockey is not without its flaws, but there are a number of clear changes that could be made that would improve both the game and the league.

 SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

ryan_anderson_ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 23, three days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview—defense 

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the defense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. I looked at the topics on offense yesterday

Lining up the line

Will Phil Taylor, who seems to be a long shot to make the team after they drafted two nose tackles, get some run with the first and second teams? Also, this is a young group and Jim Tomsula will have a lot of opportunities to teach. Watching him interacting with his line and going over the details of line play is fun to watch.

Spaight vs. Vigil

The two starting inside linebacker starters are safe and the team is intrigued enough by the potential of both Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaun Dion Hamilton to make them likely bets to make the 53-man roster. That leaves Zach Vigil and Martrell Spaight competing for the last ILB roster spot. 

Spaight is a known quantity who has been a mainstay on special teams since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. They kept him over Vigil in the cut to 53 a year ago. But last year when injuries hit, Vigil started over Spaight. In a way, this is Round 3 between the two. 

Ryan Anderson

We know what outside linebacker starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith can do. Pernell McPhee will be good for four or five sacks and perhaps a forced fumble or two. Anderson, who was team’s second-round pick last year, is a big question mark. He played 193 snaps in 14 games, but he barely dented the stat sheet with no sacks and just 11 tackles. Anderson is a hard worker and they need his 

The pieces of the cornerback puzzle

This is discussed in some detail hereby JP Finlay and I’ll look at it later this week. To pick out one detail, I want to see what the rotation in the slot is. Right now the guess is that Orlando Scandrick is the starter but who will be behind him? That’s important because Scandrick has missed 25 games in the last three seasons due to injuries. 

Apke’s progress

Fourth-round safety Troy Apke displayed impressive makeup speed during offseason practices and that let him make some plays on the ball. But he needed that speed too often as he had issues in coverage. You need to be more than just fast to play in the NFL. If Apke is going to be an alternative if injury problems strike Montae Nicholson again he needs to start making some progress while he is in Richmond. 

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

Tandler on Instagram

Post on RealRedskins.com #Redskins

A post shared by Rich Tandler (@richtandler) on

Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 3
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 17
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 40

The Redskins last played a game 204 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 48 days. 

In case you missed it