Bulls

Poll watch: Notre Dame earns No. 1 spot in BCS

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Poll watch: Notre Dame earns No. 1 spot in BCS

Brian Kelly was alone in voting Notre Dame No. 1 a week ago. He has plenty of company this week.

For the first time since 1993, Notre Dame occupies the top spot in the AP and coaches polls released Sunday morning, with the 11-0 Irish needing a win over USC -- which fell out of the top 25 in both polls -- to advance to the BCS Championship. Notre Dame received 56 of 59 first-place votes in the coaches poll, with Alabama garnering two and Georgia one. The AP poll saw Notre Dame garner all 60 first-place votes.

More importantly, Notre Dame sits atop the BCS standings released Sunday night, the first time the Irish have been No. 1 in the BCS' 15-year history. If Notre Dame beats USC, they'll face an SEC team in the BCS Championship, as Alabama and Georgia are Nos. 2 and 3 in the poll. Those two teams will meet in the SEC title game Dec. 1 in Atlanta to decide who moves on to Miami.

At No. 1, if the Irish beat USC they won't be jumped by a one-loss SEC team. That would've been more a concern had either, not both, Oregon or Kansas State lost on Saturday. But with the nation's Nos. 1 and 2 teams falling on the same day for the first time since 2007, Notre Dame's shot at the BCS title is as secure as it gets -- so long as the Irish beat USC.

This may not be the best time to talk contingency plans, but Stanford's win over Oregon did push Notre Dame back into the Fiesta Bowl discussion if they can't beat USC on Saturday. Barring something unforseen, if Notre Dame loses to USC the BCS Championship will be an all-SEC final, with No. 4 Florida -- ugly offense and all -- facing the winner of AlabamaGeorgia. Given Palm's projected BCS standings, Oregon won't jump Florida -- although the Ducks do sit at No. 4, two spots ahead of Florida, in the coaches poll.

That scenario, though, plays out if everybody but Notre Dame (and the loser of the SEC championship) win out. But Florida plays at Florida State on Nov. 24, and if the Gators lose Oregon would jump back in to the BCS Championship picture, even if they beat Oregon State and don't go to the Pac 12 championship.

What that means for Notre Dame is the Rose Bowl is still an option, albeit one that needs a more than a few things to happen. If Oregon doesn't go to the championship, the Irish would probably wind up in the Fiesta Bowl, where Kansas State will land if the Wildcats rebound with a win over Texas on Saturday. But if K-State loses and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State and TCU to win the Big 12, the Fiesta Bowl may balk at a Notre Dame-OU rematch.

From there, the Sugar Bowl would be the most likely option given it won't have an SEC team to fill a spot. If chaos reigns and Florida State squeaks in to the BCS Championship picture -- not a totally far-fetched idea -- the Orange Bowl could open up as an option, too.

But that's all a contingency plan, and one Notre Dame fans, players, etc. don't want to think about. If Notre Dame beats USC, the destination is clear.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do Bulls or Blackhawks have a better chance at making playoffs?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do Bulls or Blackhawks have a better chance at making playoffs?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan was joined by Ben Finfer, David Haugh and Mark Lazerus to discuss the Bulls not tanking well and the Blackhawks tanking too well.

Plus, Alshon Jeffery is heading to the Super Bowl while the Bears stay home. And is the hot stove league about to heat up with Yu Darvish?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here

Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes

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AP

Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes

Chris Gimenez, come on down.

The 35-year-old catcher isn't exactly a household name, but he's been signed by the Cubs to add backstop depth, according to Chris Cotillo and Ken Rosenthal:

The Cubs didn't have much depth in the catching department beyond Willson Contreras and inexperienced rookie Victor Caratini and while Gimenez doesn't light up the stat column, he's a link to Yu Darvish that could give the Cubs a unique advantage in that domain:

Darvish and Gimenez played together with the Texas Rangers in 2014-15 (though Darvish was hurt in 2015) and Gimenez has been shedding some light on what the free-agent pitcher may be thinking this winter. Is this Part II of a David Ross-Jon Lester personal catcher situation?

That may be reading a bit too much into things, as the Cubs were always going to sign a veteran catcher to provide depth beyond the unproven Caratini. They saw how important that was in 2017 when Alex Avila spent roughly a month as the starter when Contreras was hurt.

The link between Gimenez and Darvish is real, but the frontline starter has also made 48 starts over the last two seasons while throwing to a catcher not named Gimenez. And the free agent catching market is pretty thin beyond Avila and Jonathan Lucroy, both of whom should earn starter's money or close to it.

Gimenez has played 361 games in the big leagues over the last nine seasons as a journeyman, with stops in Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Texas, Cleveland (again), Texas (again), Cleveland (again) and then Minnesota last year. He played for Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey while in Tampa Bay.

Gimenez turned in a career season in 2017 with the Twins, notching new highs in games played (74), at-bats (186), runs (28), hits (41), homers (7), RBI (16) and walks (33).

He has a career .218 batting average with a .309 on-base percentage, .345 slugging and .654 OPS. 

But Gimenez isn't just a catcher. He's made nine appearances as a pitcher over the last few years, including six in 2017, where he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings.

Gimenez will probably compete with Caratini for the backup catcher role in Chicago and can lend a veteran presence. He's also the best bet to take for first position player to pitch in a game in 2018.