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Alabama set to grab pole position in BCS race

Alabama set to grab pole position in BCS race

The first BCS standings of the season come out Sunday. Is this important?

Well, sort of.

Since the BCS was implemented in 1998, only twice has neither of the teams ranked first or second in the initial standings reached the national title game.

Seven out of 13 teams that started No. 1 in the standings played for the national championship. Six times the second-place team in the first standings played for the BCS title.

Four times a team has started third and finished in the top two, and four times a team has started fourth and played in the big game.

Six teams have come from fifth place or farther back to reach the championship game. LSU started the farthest back in 2003 at No. 12.

Conclusion: Just like in auto racing, it helps to start in the front row, but expect some passing and maybe a wreck or two.

The coaches' poll and the Harris poll are the driving forces behind the BCS standings. A compilation of six computer rankings also count for a third of a BCS rating, but essentially the computers break ties when two teams are very close in the polls.

Alabama, an overwhelming No. 1 in the polls, is just about a lock to be first when the standings are released Sunday, barring a major upset of the Crimson Tide at Missouri on Saturday.

The Tigers are still looking for their first Southeastern Conference victory, coming off a loss to Vanderbilt, and they will be without injured starting quarterback James Franklin (knee). So good luck beating `Bama.

Oregon is off this week and stands a good chance to be right behind Alabama in the BCS standings, just as it is in the polls. The Ducks are a solid No. 2 in both.

The computer ratings going into this weekend treat Notre Dame a bit better than the pollsters. The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh in the polls, but first in two of the five computer ratings that have already been released. A sixth doesn't start coming out until Sunday.

And with the Irish facing another strong opponent Saturday, at home against Stanford, don't be surprised to see Notre Dame ahead in the BCS standings of some teams that it trails in the polls if it beats the Cardinal.

The most important thing to remember is this: Don't get too worked up. There are plenty of games to be played.

Wait about a month or so, and then get worked up.

The picks:

SATURDAY

No. 1 Alabama (minus 21 1/2) at Missouri

You know who is enjoying the Tigers' first season in the SEC? Kansas fans ... ALABAMA 38-13.

No. 3 South Carolina (plus 2 1/2) at No. 9 LSU

Death Valley won't be so intimidating if Tigers can't fix their offense ... SOUTH CAROLINA 17-13

No. 4 Florida (minus 7 1/2) at Vanderbilt

Gators have won 21 straight against Commodores ... FLORIDA 17-9.

No. 5 West Virginia (minus 4 1/2) at Texas Tech

Can Mountaineers stay focused in between trip to Texas and home game against K-State? ... TEXAS TECH 38-35.

No. 6 Kansas State (minus 6 1/2) at Iowa State

Wildcats have won four straight in series, all by eight or less ... KANSAS STATE 28-24.

No. 17 Stanford (plus 8 1/2) at No. 7 Notre Dame

Cardinal have won three straight against Irish ... NOTRE DAME 23-13.

No. 8 Ohio State (minus 17) at Indiana

Braxton Miller Heisman hype picking up steam ... OHIO STATE 40-17.

No. 10 Oregon State (plus 6) at BYU

QB injuries have both teams scrambling ... BYU 12-10.

No. 11 Southern California (minus 12) at Washington

Trojans are second-most penalized team in the nation at 10 per game ... USC 28-17.

Boston College (plus 28) at No. 12 Florida State

Seminoles return home in a bad mood ... FLORIDA STATE 45-14.

No. 13 Oklahoma (minus 3) vs. No. 15 Texas at Dallas

Big 12 elimination game; one group of fans is going to be really ticked off ... OKLAHOMA 28-27.

No. 18 Louisville (minus 3) at Pittsburgh

Panthers have been a hard team to decipher ... LOUISVILLE 28-24.

UPSET SPECIAL

Tennessee (plus 3) at No. 19 Mississippi State

Huge game for Vols with Alabama, South Carolina up next ... TENNESSEE 35-31.

Syracuse (plus 7) at No. 20 Rutgers

Orange DE Brandon Sharpe had four sacks vs. Pitt last week ... RUTGERS 21-13.

Fordham (no line) at No. 21 Cincinnati

Been a long time since the Seven Blocks of Granite were playing for Fordham ... CINCINNATI 58-10.

BEST BET

No. 22 Texas A&M (minus 8) vs. No. 23 Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La.

Biggest hurdle between Bulldogs and BCS bid ... TEXAS A&M 52-24.

Fresno State (plus 7) at No. 24 Boise State

Conference rivals again, Broncos have won six straight in series ... BOISE STATE 31-21.

Illinois (plus 23 1/2) at No. 25 Michigan

Denard Robinson coming off 235-yard rushing performance against Purdue ... MICHIGAN 39-14.

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Last week's record: 15-5 (straight); 11-7 (vs. points)

Season record: 101-20 (straight); 58-46 (vs. points)

Best bets: 2-4.

Upset specials: 3-3.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdursso

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 19, seven days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

We know what to expect out of many members of the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan will register between 10 and 13 sacks. Zach Brown will be among the league leaders in tackles. Jamison Crowder will compile about 800 yards receiving. But we really don’t know what to expect out of a lot of the players expected to play key roles. Here are five of them.

S Montae Nicholson—Although most of the uncertainty surrounding Nicholson is about his health, we really don’t know what he can do over a full season. Sure, he looked good in the six games he played last year but opposing offenses did not have much of a chance to probe his weaknesses. If he stays healthy, his ability to adjust to what the offenses are doing against him will be the next phase of his development. 

CB Fabian Moreau—As a rookie, he was impressive as a punt team gunner, but he got very limited playing time on defense (59 snaps, only seven after Week 5). The Redskins will be counting on him stepping into a bigger role after the departures of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. He has the tools but we won’t know how well he can handle the job until he gets extended playing time. 

WR Maurice Harris—Last year he went from spectacular to invisible in a hurry. He made a sensational catch for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings the first time he was targeted. In five games after that, he had just three receptions for 26 yards. Should he have had more playing time (76 snaps)? Or did he just not earn more targets? The real Maurice Harris should come to the forefront in 2018.

NT Phil Taylor—You know the story here. He was looking great in training camp until a quad injury sidelined him for the season. Taylor is healthy enough for the Redskins to give him another chance but this is a player who has not taken the field since November of 2014. We simply don’t know what to expect out of him even if he does make into Week 1 in good health. 

RB Samaje Perine—His play improved as the year went on but he wasn’t good enough to keep both Jay Gruden and Doug Williams from saying that running back is a draft need. Ideally, he shares carries with the probable draft pick with a few going to Chris Thompson and they combine to rush for 1,800 yards. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 33
—Training camp starts (7/26) 98
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 143

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