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Basketball: Vacation time!

I’m starting three weeks’ vacation and wanted to sign off. Upon my return, we’ll explore how Cal fared on the summer recruiting circuit, whether Mike Montgomery has been able to add a big man or two of perhaps a point guard to the two wings — Allen Crabbe and Alex Rossi — he already has.

So long for now.

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Football: Pac-10 ballot: No. 4

No. 4 Oregon: The Ducks are some experts’ trendy pick to challenge USC for the Pac-10 title. I just don’t see it. Yes, Oregon always seems to be there in contention in the end. But this looks like a transition year to me. There’s no question the Ducks have some intriguing pieces back from last season, most notably quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Bruising running back LeGarrette Blount should really shine now with Jeremiah Johnson departed, and the Ducks have some playmakers in the secondary with cornerback Walter Thurmond III and safety T.J. Ward. But Oregon is going to run into a couple of teams that will be able to slow down the spread option, one that doesn’t figure to be too productive through the air. The Ducks’ defense was fast and underrated last season but doesn’t figure to match its effectiveness this year. And you never know how a team will react under a new coach, and even though Chip Kelly was on Mike Bellotti’s staff, it’s always a new culture with a new person sitting in the biggest chair.

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Football: Items of interest

–Cal sixth-year senior left tackle Mike Tepper has started a blog about the upcoming season. I spoke with Tepper briefly a couple days ago and he seems excited about chronicling the season.

–ESPN.com’s Tom Luginbill provides this report on the first day of the Elite 11 camp, which includes Cal commit Austin Hinder.

–According to Cal’s athletic department, less than 4,000 tickets are left for the Oct. 3 showdown against USC.

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Football: Pac-10 ballot — No. 5

No. 5: Stanford. Jim Harbaugh has brought the Cardinal back to respectability much faster than most expected, and with a good nucleus of returners, Stanford appears poised to crack the upper half of the conference. The Cardinal went 5-7 last season, notching good wins over Oregon State and Arizona and suffering narrow road losses to Notre Dame, UCLA and Oregon. Toby Gerhart was a revelation at running back and the Cardinal hopes the passing game improves with the introduction of redshirt freshman Andrew Luck at quarterback. Granted, Luck has no college experience, but it is believed he has all the physical tools to excel. Stanford, much like Cal, still needs to find some playmaking receivers. The defense should once again be solid, with Clinton Snyder anchoring the linebacking corps and defensive ends Tom Keiser and Erik Lorig providing a pretty good pass rush tandem. Safety Bo McNally is underrated. The Cardinal also brought in a nationally acclaimed recruiting class, and a few true freshmen could make an impact immediately.

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Football: Pac-10 ballot — No. 6

No. 6 UCLA: There are some who believe that the Bruins will be one of the most improved teams in the conference this year. We’re having trouble figuring out how they will be much different than last year. UCLA has a ton of questions on offense, with quarterback and the offensive line being the most uncertain. Kevin Prince hasn’t taken a live snap since the first game of his senior season of high school. And with a suspect offensive line, it’s hard to imagine much success in the passing game. Wide receiver Terrence Austin is a home run threat, but there’s not much else offensively that will alter a defensive coordinator’s game plan. UCLA once again has some pieces in place on defense, with outstanding defensive tackle Brian Price and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Korey Bosworth and Reggie Carter anchor a respectable linebacking corps. The Bruins finished in eighth place last season, so this projection has them improving incrementally. If they can find some instant contributors from a highly rated recruiting class, it could make an impact.

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Football: Cleaning up

You may have noticed that some comments have been deleted in recent days. We’ve been pretty open about comments in the past, but for now on we are going to be a little more discerning. All comments that are personal attacks, use profanity, or are otherwise inappropriate won’t be tolerated anymore. Criticism is still fine, but keep it to football. Thanks, everyone.