Stanford wary of speeding Ducks


Stanford wary of speeding Ducks

Steve Berman

Stanford students have a lot of reasons to feel great going into this weekend. First of all, they go to Stanford, where the autumns are temperate and everyone seems too busy changing the world to let a little thing like a football game with National Championship implications dominate their thoughts.

"This campus does a great job of keeping your perspective," Cardinal head coach David Shaw said.

"I talked to a doctor on campus who's working toward steps to curing cancer. Stanford vs. Oregon is not high on his list. He's going to be at the game, but he's got a lot of stuff to do between now and then."

Shaw was laughing as he said it, and he also knows that interest in what happens within the confines of Stanford Stadium has never been higher. For instance, Chris Fowler, ringmaster of the ESPN Gameday circus set to descend upon The Farm, was chatting with Shaw after practice yesterday in a t-shirt and shorts.
RATTO: Taylor a key for the Cardinal

Fowler had just completed a workout at one of the facilities on campus. Because when you're at Stanford, that's what you do.

Even though the Bay Area is decidedly more interested in its professional teams, and despite Stanford's smallish undergrad population compared to the rest of the Pac-12 (less than 7,000), there should be enough rowdy, tree-cheering students to keep Lee Corso company even though the festivities start at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

But even though they wouldn't admit it, those fans who populate No. 3 Stanford's rowdy student section -- and the doctors on campus who work on curing cancer during the week -- are just a little bit concerned. In order to experience the rarity of a perfect season, they need to exact revenge on the No. 6-ranked Oregon Ducks.

And whenever anyone around Palo Alto brings up the Ducks, one word's always close behind.


TOMPKINS: Oregon-Stanford promises a shootout

Last year in Eugene, the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter and looked like one of the most advanced college offenses ever. Then Oregon outscored Stanford 49-10 over the last three quarters. Outran was more like it.

So you can't blame Stanford fans for having nightmares starring LaMichael James and Darron Thomas rushing for hundreds of yards and countless touchdowns, perpetually just out of the reach of Cardinal defenders. After all, that's pretty much what happened last year.

That's not to say Stanford fans aren't confident. They're riding the nation's longest winning streak and have a distinct style that seems built for the long haul: brute force mixed with creativity, both of which the Cardinal feature in abundance.

They also have the nation's preeminent quarterback. That's where pressure really comes into the mix. Forget the national television sideshow, the inequities of the BCS process and everything else. Andrew Luck won't be playing quarterback for Stanford much longer, and Saturday provides the chance for Luck to do even more than simply keep the nation's longest active winning streak alive. It's also a chance to nail down the school's first Heisman Trophy since Jim Plunkett won the award over 40 years ago.

KILLION: Shaw succeeding in the shadows

Even though Stanford is by nature a running team, it's tough for many to shake the feeling that for the Cardinal to beat the Ducks they'll need an enshrine-him-in-Canton-immediately performance from Luck. Or that the game will be a 53-52 shootout, with Luck trading scoring blows with Oregon's band of track stars without WR Chris Owusu or TE Zach Ertz.

Many of the questions earlier this week directed at Shaw and Stanford's players were in regards to the surface of play. Will Stanford have an advantage on natural grass? Not at all says Stanford's head coach.

"They're fast everywhere. They can be playing on sand," Shaw said of Oregon. "We're all playing on the same surface. LaMichael James is fast. Kenjon Barner is fast. Darron Thomas is fast."

RELATED: Pac-12 game of the year

However, the prevailing wisdom in these parts is that while Stanford can put points on the board against anyone the Pac-12 -- or even the SEC -- has to offer, the road to victory requires a speed limit.

Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe


Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

Men's basketball teams from Oregon State, Clemson and Arizona were staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, near where a van drove into pedestrians on Thursday, but team officials said everyone was safe.

Spanish police have confirmed they are investigating the bloodshed in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district as a terror attack. The area is a popular summer tourist spot.

Tulane also was playing in Barcelona, but it was unclear if they were staying in the same hotel as the other teams.

Oregon State assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb posted to Facebook: "We are all luckily ok. Our hotel/restaurant is located right on Las Ramblas. This tragedy happened right in front of us as our team just sat down for pregame meal. Thoughts and prayers for all those that are were hurt."

The Beavers' game Thursday night was canceled. It was supposed to be the first of a five-game tour.

Clemson was scheduled to play Thursday night against a Spanish All-Star team.

"We've been in contact with our men's basketball program currently in Barcelona and the entire travel party is safe and secure. Their exhibition game for tonight has been cancelled and the team will return to Clemson as previously scheduled tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," the South Carolina school said in a statement.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that the three teams were staying in the same hotel.

"We are fine. Thankful to be safe and together," Brownell wrote.

Tulane athletic director Troy Tannen confirmed via social media that the Green Wave players and staff were safe.

Replying to a Twitter inquiry from a Portland television about whether the team was OK, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle responded: "Yes we are, happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant, so senseless and sad! All accounted4."

Oregon State said it has not yet determined the remaining schedule for the team, which was supposed to be on the exhibition tour until Aug. 25.

A spokesman for Arizona said the Wildcats have canceled their third and final exhibition of their tour and "are currently working on travel plans to return home."

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof


The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.