Ray's Top 25: Texas St. No. 16

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Ray's Top 25: Texas St. No. 16

Every week, our Senior Decider votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, which of course makes all other opinions both superfluous and valueless (hey, dont say you never get your moneys worth here).So here, after a mostly desultory Week One, is the world of college football, whether you like it or not. And if you dont, theres a new one next week you might like better.Oh, and just so you know, we dont project what a team will do in the future. Everyone has played only the one game, and we go on what weve seen, not what we think well see later, or what would happen if the teams played each other. Thats why Michigan and Boise State arent here. You can project all you want, though. Just dont complain because we dont.Its Week 1. Calm the hell down.AP POLL: Rankings as of 942012
This matters because a few constituencies who care about non-binding polls after so little actual information get violently angry when their team isnt ranked . . . well, 0th, the only spot better than first. Which is fine. Fans do that, which is why you never buy them a drink.But three items leap out: West Virginians are cranky I voted the Mountaineers 24th, even though they are considered a top 10 team in both polls. Well, maybe I undervalue a five-touchdown win over Marshall, but I didnt hear a peep from them when I ranked them 23rd the week before, and beating Marshall just doesnt make me leap to my roof and scream.Added screwup: I had a brain spasm when responding to a few Eer loyalists on Twitter, saying they beat Elon. This was indeed a spasm, and my fault. I knew they beat Marshall, but didnt check when I blearily lashed out. Thatll teach me to interact with others.Result: Ill own the second one. The first one, Im fine with. West Virginia will have 11 other chances to change my mind. Michigan and Boise State dropped completely out of the poll after losing. Well, the AP overlords tell us not to factor in previous seasons or reputations, and its simply difficult for me to philosophically out a team with zero wins ahead of a team with one. Michigan is not going to get beaten by four touchdown by any team except Alabama, so theyll be back, and Boise is Boise, so theyll be back too.Result: Give it time. These things settle themselves. Texas State 16th after beating Houston at Houston. Simple first FBS game ever, on the road, against a team that has been successful for several years now, and quite possibly the biggest upset of the week. Are the Bobcats the 16th best team in the country? No. Will they be 16th after they play Texas Tech? Only if they win. Is this an outrage? Only to people who only want the same teams in every week. To me, Week 1 is the most volatile poll of the year, and some things in Week 1 look ridiculous in Week 4. They should, if youre paying attention at all.Result: Dont steal their moment. It doesnt hurt you any.1AlabamaThe biggest opponent, and therefore the biggest beatdown. Bama not only hammered Michigan, they injured them (though not, as near as anyone can tell, on purpose). Anyone who doesnt vote for them as the best team in the country after one game is an idiot.2Southern CaliforniaLane Kiffin ran up the score on Hawaii, or tried to, anyway; the Trojans didnt cover, if thats what he was after. But they showed more than enough to be Alabamas most likely challenger.3Florida StateObliterated Murray State. Big deal. Thats supposed to happen in Week One.4OregonMade their point against Arkansas State so quickly that they had more than enough time to take their feet off the pedal and let the Red Wolves come within four touchdowns. I cant decide if thats weakness of focus, or common sense.5Michigan StateBoise State is a big win, anywhere, any time. I dont have to explain this to you. If I do, you arent reading this anyway.6GeorgiaThe Dawgs are overvalued here, but a lot of teams are overvalued and undervalued this early because there is so little else to go on. Buffalo has improved, but not so much that this becomes a jaw-dropping win.7Louisiana StateNorth Texas is an FBS school. Not a good one, necessarily, even with Sean Paytons voice ringing in their ears. A solid performance gets a bump.8OklahomaThe Sooners always have one fine stinker in them, and this is one of them. UTEP has never been better in Mike Prices time there, but a brutal schedule will crush the Miners. They should have been crushed here.9TexasWyoming was a fair test for the Longhorns in Week One, and the Horns handled it with relative ease. Not a lot of ease, but enough.10NebraskaSmall sample sizes are a bitch, but beating Southern Mississippi by gaining 630 yards is never a bad days work.11Oklahoma StateThey covered a 67-point spread. Im sure they piled on Savannah State, and God only knows what the value was in scheduling them, since it cost them almost 400K. But they covered an 67 point-spread.12Ohio StateUrban Meyer had months to prepare for Miami of Ohio, which is a representative MAC team. The result was expected. But at least it beats what happened to some of their archrivals.13South CarolinaStruggling to beat Vanderbilt is not a great advertisement for an early poll, but it is a legitimate test that we will think more highly of later in the year.14ClemsonAuburn doesnt stink. The game was at Auburn, Clemson won, 26-19. The Swinneys still lose three games, but this wasnt one of them. That matters.15Notre DameNavy is typically a tough out, and the Irish made them an easy one. Of course, they dont play in Ireland that often, so theyll lose that home field advantage for the rest of the year.16Texas StateNobody else will do this. Nobody else will think to do this. But beating Houston in your first FBS game ever is a big deal, getting Houstons offensive coordinator fired as a result bigger still, and anyone who doesnt see that . . . well, drive them out of your neighborhood. Theyre probably running a meth lab.17ArkansasI want to think that John L. Smiths team did something big here, but it is Jacksonville State, and protecting the football was an issue.18WisconsinNorthern Iowa is not a bad team by any standard, but Wisconsin didnt do much with 39 minutes of possession time.19FloridaSame for beating Bowling Green. Nobody in either state ends up happy about that one, but the Kentuckians can handle it better.20Virginia TechAn overtime win over Georgia Tech because of an absurd interception thrown by Tevin Washington doesnt exactly fill one with confidence. An overtime loss to Georgia Tech despite an absurd interception thrown by Tevin Washington would have been way worse. Given the way Va. Tech usually starts, this was a national championship.21Texas ChristianDidnt play. Therefore, the Toads move down only one as part of the Texas State wave.22StanfordWhen the story of your game is how the other teams coach became a national hot commodity, you didnt do well. Mike McIntyre is a star. Case closed.23LouisvilleKentucky has typically (meaning more often than not) been the SEC program everyone else wants to schedule if Vanderbilt isnt available. Still, Louisville is ranked, and a bad showing would have betrayed them as just part of the great 110-team underbelly. Theyre not there yet.24West VirginiaThey beat Marshall by five touchdowns. Good for them.25Kansas StateThey beat Missouri State by six touchdown. Almost as good for them.

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

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AP

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

It’s only February, but this week marks the beginning of the 2017 football season in the Bay Area. Spring practice has arrived.

Most schools now begin “spring” practice in the winter. In the Pac-12, for example, Oregon State began on February 17, Arizona on Feb. 18 and Colorado on Feb. 22. Stanford’s drills start this Tuesday, while Cal’s kick off on March 15.

Schools are limited to a total of 15 sessions, and safety concerns have led the NCAA to strongly recommend that only eight involve full-contact drills. Indeed, if you ask most head coaches what they hope to gain from spring ball, the first thing most of them say is, “I hope no one gets hurt.”

There’s more to it than that, of course. Typically, spring is the time teams look to fill spots lost to graduation, resolve competition for starting spots, move players to new positions, and evaluate redshirts and early-admit freshmen. It also can be a time to find a quarterback and install a new system, which is the case at Cal this spring.

In certain parts of the country, spring practice is a much bigger deal than it is here in the Bay Area. As longtime Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “we only have two major sports at Texas—football and spring football.”

In the SEC and Big Ten, huge crowds are commonplace for the spring intra-squad game. Last year for example, Ohio State drew 100,129 fans to its spring game. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State and Nebraska routinely draw 75,000 to 90,000. Cal and Stanford are thrilled if 3,000 fans show up.

Perhaps the most significant spring practice in the history of Bay Area football took place in 1968 at Stanford. Head coach John Ralston had been recruited from Utah State in 1963 to turn around a moribund program that had won 14 games in five years, low-lighted by an 0-10 record in 1960.

But Ralston’s run-oriented attack wasn’t producing the kind of results Athletic Director Chuck Taylor had hoped for when he hired him. Taylor, a member of Stanford’s 1941 Rose Bowl championship team that introduced the T-formation to college football, and coach of Stanford’s ‘52 Rose Bowl team that lived and died by the forward pass, made a not-so-gentle suggestion to Ralston after three middling seasons: throw the football.

So Ralston recruited a couple of local quarterbacks who could sling it—Jim Plunkett from San Jose’s James Lick High School and Don Bunce from Woodside—and announced that he would switch to a pro-style passing game for the ’68 season. Spring practice would serve as the test kitchen for Ralston’s new offense.

Back in those days I was a wet-behind-the-ears sports editor of the Stanford Daily. My timing was good, as I was fortunate enough to cover the ’68 spring practice and football season. In the spring game, Plunkett completed 22 of 39 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns to solidify his hold on the starting job.

That fall, Stanford opened with San Jose State and Plunkett made his debut by throwing for four touchdowns—including three bombs to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Gene Washington—in a 68-20 rout. No one who was in the stadium that day will ever forget it…it was the beginning of a new era in Stanford football and, in many ways, a new era in college football.

Two years later, Plunkett led Stanford to the conference title and an upset win over Ohio State’s team of the decade in the Rose Bowl. He also won the Heisman Trophy over Notre Dame’s Joe (don’t call me THEES-man) Theisman.

Bunce, the forgotten quarterback, backed up Plunkett for two years before red-shirting his senior year (1970) so he’d have the job to himself in 1971. All he did was win another Pac-8 championship and Rose Bowl.

This spring has the potential to be another important milestone for Stanford and Cal with a new coaching staff at one school and major holes to fill at both.

Cal: New coach Justin Wilcox and his team open spring ball on Wednesday, March 15. The Bears will have three open practices—Friday March 24 at 3:30, Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m., and the spring game on Saturday, April 22, also at 11. The Pac-12 network will televise the spring game and admission is free. Cal’s March 24 practice will be preceded by “Pro Day” (also open to the public) at 10 a.m., when selected graduating players will work out before NFL scouts and coaches.

In addition to installing a new system and introducing a new coaching staff, Wilcox must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Davis Webb (a key attraction on Pro Day). Wide receiver Chad Hansen, last season’s breakthrough star, returns to make the new QB’s job easier.

Stanford: The Cardinal divides spring practice into two sessions—February 28-March 12 and April 3-15, separated by a three-week break for dead week, finals and spring break. Four practices will be open to the public—Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 12 at 11:45, Saturday, April 8 (time tbd), and the spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m., which also will be televised on Pac-12 network.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday, March 23 is open to the public at 11:15. The main attractions will be running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, both of whom are turning pro after their junior seasons. Unlike McCaffrey, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays.

Coach David Shaw has a quality replacement for McCaffrey in junior Bryce Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry during the season and broke two long plays in the bowl game. But he will have to replace Thomas, record-setting kicker Conrad Ukropina, and possibly quarterback Keller Chryst, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.

We’ll be back with a roundup after the conclusion of spring ball. In the meantime, let's hope both Cal and Stanford unearth a few nuggets and that no one gets injured.

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

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USATSI

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

BOX SCORE

MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.

Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.

Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.

The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.

Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.

Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.

Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.

The Gaels led nearly the entire way.

Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.

Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.