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Spander: Challenges await Bay Area schools

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At Cal, the picture is going to shrink. At Stanford, the bar is going to be kept in place. And at San Jose State, well, when the new coach’s first game is at Alabama, what can anyone do other than muddle through?

College football 2010 stuck a very tentative toe in the water Monday, with the three Bay Area schools offering up coaches and a few players at San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko to a media gathering asking most of the usual questions and receiving many of the usual answers.

Not that a season in which Stanford must replace Toby Gerhart, the Golden Bears must replace Jahvid Best and SJSU is desperate to replace its image as ne’er-do-wells could be looked upon as usual.

Mike MacIntyre is the latest to accept the impossible task of running a run-down San Jose State program. And as if the football gods were winking at each other and chortling, “You poor soul,” the first game of the first season turns out to be the defending national champs, ’Bama.

“It creates excitement,” MacIntyre said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

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For what, a 50-0 defeat?

Asked what he thought of the situation, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, whose season opener is (ahem) Sacramento State, said, “I’ll let you know when we open against a national champ. The last three years we did open with a [Pac-10] conference opponent.”
Cal’s Jeff Tedford gave it a spin.

“When you open seasons with big games,” he said, “it gets the kids cranked up. All spring and summer you get prepared to play the best team in the country.”

What Cal is prepared to do is — and where have we heard this before — play them one at a time.

“We’re not going to focus on the big picture,” said Tedford, whose Bears begin with UC Davis, another anti-Bama institution. “We were 8-3 last year. We could have had a 10-win season. We lost to USC and Oregon, and it took a lot of air out of the balloon. We got caught up in thinking about the big picture. We’re not going to talk about that any more.”

What Tedford will talk about is tenure. This is his ninth season at Cal. He’s got a new defensive coordinator. Oregon beat the Bears 42-3, while USC gave Cal a 30-3 thumping. Out went Bob Gregory, in with Clancy Pendergast.

“Coaching eight, nine years takes a toll on you,” said Tedford. “People don’t really understand the challenge of the Pac-10. I have to re-evaluate who I am. Why am I doing this and what are my goals? How do you handle all the things that come along with expectations?”

The way Harbaugh will handle the loss to the pros of Gerhart, who averaged 143 yards a game in 2009, is through whatever method and athletes available.

Jeremy Stewart is the would-be starter, but Harbaugh tossed in the name of Stepfan Taylor and said an attack that was 60 percent rushing would be more balanced, relying as much on the arm of soph QB Andrew Luck as the legs of others.

“They can aim for the bar Toby Gerhart set,” Harbaugh said.

At San Jose State, coming off a 2-10 record and starting at Alabama, the only aim is survival.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.


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