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Oregon coach could leave for NFL if he wins national championship

Oreghead coach Chip Kelly looks during first half BCS National Championship NCAA college football game against Auburn  Monday Jan.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly looks on during the first half of the BCS National Championship NCAA college football game against Auburn Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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THE LOCALS

NORTHWESTERN
AT MICHIGAN STATE

Time: 11 a.m., ESPN2, 720-AM

The records: Northwestern 7-3, 3-3 Big Ten; Michigan State 5-5, 2-4

The story line: After an overtime loss to Michigan dropped the Wildcats two games behind the Wolverines and Nebraska in the Legends Division, Kain Colter and company hope to rebound against a disappointing Spartans team that needs a victory to become bowl eligible.

The line: Michigan State by 7

Sun-Times pick: NU 28-24

Purdue at Illinois

Time: 2:30 p.m., BTN, 560-AM.

The records: Purdue 4-6, 1-5 Big Ten; Illinois 2-8, 0-6

The story line: Illini, only Big Ten team without a conference win, take another shot at getting off the schneid vs. Purdue, which finally won last week.

The line: Purdue by 7

Herb Gould’s pick: Purdue, 24-10

Wake Forest
at No. 3 Notre Dame

Time: 7 p.m., Ch. 7, 890-AM

Records: Wake Forest (5-5) Notre Dame 10-0

Storyline: The Irish have come out sluggish at home all season, but Senior Day festivities should eliminate that problem as they go for their first perfect mark at home since 1998.

Mark Lazerus’ pick: Notre Dame 27-9

big ten
leading rushers

Bell, MSU 283 1249 4.4 124.9

Ball, Wis 245 1226 5.0 122.6

Robinson, Mich 131 946 7.2 118.3

Mark, NU 189 1181 6.2 118.1

Miller, OSU 184 1166 6.3 116.6

Abdullah, Neb 182 942 5.2 94.2

Hyde, OSU 144 737 5.1 92.1

Zwinak, PSU 138 686 5.0 85.8

Kirkwood, Minn 182 819 4.5 81.9

Martinez, Neb 132 770 5.8 77.0

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Updated: December 19, 2012 12:23PM



SPOTLIGHT GAME

NO. 14 STANFORD AT NO. 1 OREGON
7 p.m. Sat., Ch. 7. The records: Stanford 8-2, 6-1 Pac-12; Oregon 10-0, 7-0.
The line: Oregon by 201/2. Gould’s pick: Oregon, 52-27.

There’s no magic formula.

We like to think we can spot the Next Great Coach coming down the pike. This guy’s from the fertile Ohio delta or a dusty Texas hotbed. That guy worked for a legend. This guy proved himself as a head coach at a small school. That guy was a genius coordinator.

The vagaries of finding the right coach will be on display Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., when No. 14 Stanford takes on the top-ranked Ducks.

Cardinal coach David Shaw never had been a head coach before. But the longtime NFL assistant hasn’t missed a beat since taking over last year for Jim Harbaugh, who made Stanford a major Pac-12 player before moving on to the San Francisco 49ers.

After going 11-2 and finishing in the Fiesta Bowl last season, Shaw has weathered the loss of all-world quarterback Andrew Luck and kept Stanford in the hunt for another BCS bowl. Even Harbaugh, who seems so obvious now, started at Division I-AA San Diego, hardly a cradle of coaches.

Perhaps no one has followed a more unlikely path, though, than Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who brought a New England accent and new meaning to the phrase ‘‘hurry-up offense’’ to the West Coast.

A native of New Hampshire, Kelly moved from offensive coordinator at UNH to the same job at Oregon in 2007. Two years later, when Ducks coach Mike Bellotti moved up to athletic director and Kelly became head coach, the meteoric rise was complete.

Kelly had free rein, and the reign of terror on Pac-12 defenses cranked into high gear.

Even Stanford, which is 12th in the nation in scoring defense (17.2 per game) and 17th in yards allowed (320.7), is a three-touchdown underdog against the Ducks. Oregon has beaten really good Cardinal teams 53-30 and 52-31 in the last two meetings. Those were Stanford’s only regular-season losses in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

This year, Oregon leads the nation in scoring (54.8 points) and is third in total offense (325.1 yards). During their 13-game winning streak, the Ducks haven’t scored fewer than 42 points in a game.

Kelly, who’s 44-6 in nearly four seasons as head coach, has the Ducks tracking for their fourth consecutive Pac-12 title, not to mention the BCS title after Alabama’s loss last week.

Speculation is mounting that Kelly, 48, will follow Harbaugh to the NFL soon. He reportedly came very close to taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ job in January, and NFL teams will dangle multimillion-dollar contracts again this winter.

It also might be easier for Kelly to leave if the Ducks, who lost the national-championship game to Auburn two seasons ago, win it this time.

But that’s for down the road. For now, Kelly, who gives straight-forward, no-nonsense answers to the media and takes the same approach with his team, is all about making the most of this season.

Unlike many coaches, Kelly told his players before they played California on Saturday that Alabama had lost.

‘‘I think our kids were like, ‘Well, are we not supposed to talk about it?’ ’’ Kelly said. ‘‘ ‘Is coach Kelly’s head going to explode off his shoulders if we say [Alabama lost]?’ Regardless of what happened in a game 2,000 miles away, that still doesn’t affect what’s going on in our game.’’

Shaw didn’t need a ranking to tell him how good the Ducks are.

‘‘Those guys are special,’’ he said. ‘‘I agree with what most people outside the computers say: Those guys are the best team in the country. It’s going to take our best game, and not their best game, to pull this thing off.’’



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