1. The 49ers have all but given up on quarterback Colin Kaepernick running out of the read option, but don’t think it’s because NFL defenses have caught up with the run scheme -- the Raiders across the way are managing just fine with it. Truth is, the 49ers have been too scared to let Kaepernick run wild like he did throughout last year’s Super Bowl run. The reason: there is no safety net named Alex Smith on the bench, there to save the day if/when Kaepernick loses an ACL on the run. With no credible Plan B in place -- they’ve burned through three No. 3 arms in the past two weeks -- it’s no wonder the 49ers have stopped calling designed run plays for the rolling ball of chaos. They need him alive.
2. Fresno State’s biggest obstacle to a top-12 ranking and Fiesta Bowl berth may not even be on the schedule. No. 23 Northern Illinois is one spot behind the Bulldogs in the all-important coaches’ poll, setting the two non-BCS schools up for a footrace to the finish. In other words, if Fresno State doesn’t blow out the inferior competition all year, and Northern Illinois does, the Huskies -- already with wins at Iowa and Purdue -- are going to leapfrog them before the season is through. And sorry, but two wins over Boise State won’t mean as much if the Broncos aren’t ranked in the end. Don’t be so sure attrition alone will get the Bulldogs into the top-12; they cracked the top 25 in Week 4, and have moved up just three spots in three weeks since. Voters aren’t sold yet. Time to give every team the Idaho treatment.
3. The worst thing a rebuilding team can do -- and the Raiders have been rebuilding the past 11 years -- is go 6-10. That’s lousy enough to be lousy, but too good to enjoy top-five position in the following draft, where cornerstone quarterbacks are found. Next year’s draft, though, is setting up differently. The Raiders can pick 8th or 12th, and still land a quarterback of the future in the first two rounds; the draft is that top-heavy with golden arms. Keep in mind, for all of Terrell Pryor’s improvement, he isn’t that proven yet. If Pryor really is the quarterback of the future, it must show in games like today’s trip to unbeaten Kansas City.