San Francisco 49ers
49ers quarterback Alex Smith was drafted in 2005, and played in nine games that year, starting seven. He never really had a mentor to teach him, and he's had four different offensive coordinators in four years. This is almost a fresh start for him. He's the highest paid backup, but will finally get a season where he's not injured to sit on the bench and learn some things. JT O'Sullivan will get to start the season, and hopefully its just a do over for Smith's "trial by fire" rookie season. Their defense is going to be superb this year, and with a mediocre to adequate offense, this team could definitely regain that playoff sleeper status.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford announced that Kevin Riley will start the first game against Michigan State. Although this move was expected, there is still a lot of hubbub about the comment that Nate Longshore will also see time. This is not the kind of QB partnership that is expected to hold a Chris Leak/Tim Tebow kind of feel, but it could have advantages. Look at 2003, when Cal beat USC in triple overtime. Aaron Rodgers started that game, going 18-25 for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. But, in the third quarter, Tedford pulled him for senior Reggie Robertson, who responded by going 9-12 with 109 yards and a touchdown. Maybe that will work for Longshore and Riley. Hopefully it does, and Riley's work with the new batch of receivers will create some chemistry.
San Francisco Giants
Barry Zito seems to have put the horrendous start he had to this season behind him. His last two starts have been over 7 innings and been quality starts. He's looking sharp, not walking that many and more importantly, not beating himself. He has never gone deep into games in a Giants uniform and it looks like the guys on KNBR found out why: Bengie Molina. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, and how many times you throw together, a pitcher and catcher just won't have that chemistry needed. After all this time, it looks like that may be the case with Zito and Molina. Zito's last two HIGHLY successful starts have been with the kid Pablo Sandoval behind the plate. It brings to mind the pitchers that had their own catcher, like Tim Wakefield and Doug Mirabelli, or Greg Maddux and Javy Lopez. Maybe that's just what Zito needs.
P.S. Giants have won four in a row! and finally! another look at teams who have worse records: San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, Washington, Atlanta, Seattle, Kansas City.