Crunch Time: Bay Area excitement on the rise
by Peter Burke
Aug 26, 2010 | 5827 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We’re in the dog days of August, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is the weather heating up, but high school, college and professional football games are about to capture my interest until long after Christmas.

For all the football fans out there, here are a couple of random things I’ve pondered in the recent weeks in relation to the West Coast football teams:

College football

Many national experts are picking Oregon to win the Pac 10 outright and play in the Rose Bowl. Can the Ducks, coming off the loss of star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to a felony burglary charge, actually run the table in the Pac 10?

An even bigger elephant in the room: What happens to USC now that Pete Carroll has moved on?

USC, a national powerhouse for the past decade, might be a rudderless ship. Or, angry about the two-year postseason ban inflicted by the NCAA after the Reggie Bush recruiting scandal, the team could top the Pac 10 and hand the bowl berth to another conference.

Whatever happens is sure to be totally unexpected and crazy. Until Oregon actually steps onto the field for the Rose Bowl, I will be skeptical of the strength of the Pac 10 in 2010.

High school football

The Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League is totally up for grabs, once again. For San Lorenzo Valley High, two-year-starting quarterback Trevor Romele graduated, as did record-setting running back Kyle Todd. Still, the Cougars under Doug Morris are always a hard-nosed bunch. It will be exciting to see which players step up as offensive stars for the Cougars in 2010.

At Scotts Valley High, two-year starting quarterback Blake Jurich graduated and will play at San Jose State this fall. The Falcons’ offense has been explosive for years, and led by coach Louie Walters, there’s no reason to expect anything different. What will be different are the players who lead this successful program in 2010.

Professional football

There’s a sense of optimism in the Bay Area not felt since the days of Rice and Young. The San Francisco 49ers have one of the top defenses in the NFL and seem to have one of the more talented offenses. The team drafted two very beefy offensive linemen, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, to protect quarterback Alex Smith, who is in a make-or-break season. Smith is healthy and surrounded by an all-pro tight end and running back and several young, talented receivers. This is the year when Smith makes the playoffs or is sent to the bench.

Don’t be surprised if this is Frank Gore’s final season as an elite running back. Also, don’t be surprised if coach Mike Singletary’s play-calling or in-game decision-making costs the 49ers during the regular season or in the playoffs. Singletary is an excellent motivator, but he has yet to master clock management. Expectations might be too high for this year’s squad.

In Raiderland, a huge burden was lifted after the release of JaMarcus Russell, one of the biggest busts in the history of the NFL. The team signed Jason Campbell, a steady leader, to replace Russell at quarterback, and the controversy that surrounded coach Tom Cable last year is gone. A slew of high draft picks over the past decade may finally pay off with a season over .500.

So, with all this football on the horizon, how can we stay focused on the important stuff, like the San Francisco Giants’ fight for the wild card?

It’s easy. Paint your face, put on a squeaky red nose and learn to juggle.

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