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The BCS is an election, so why not campaign?

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The BCS is an election, so why not campaign?

Imagine having an election where candidates were criticized for campaigning.

Strange, right? Unless it's the Bowl Championship Series.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who was an aspiring politician before settling into a very successful coaching career, is currently in the unenviable position of being the third-wheel in the race to the BCS title game.

Kansas State leads the BCS standings. Oregon is second. Notre Dame is third. If the Ducks and Wildcats win out, they will likely play for the BCS title on Jan. 7 in Miami, even if the Fighting Irish also finish unbeaten.

``Nobody is jumping anybody at this point, barring voter epiphany or election fraud,'' said Jerry Palm, who analyzes the BCS standings and basketball RPI for CBSSports.com and runs CollegeBCS.com.

You see, for all the talk about computer ratings, the BCS standings formula is really all about the polls. Two-thirds of a team's grade comes from two polls - the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris poll. The voters in the Harris poll range from former players and college athletic administrators to current members of the media.

The system is set up for the polls to essentially set the national championship game and for the computers only to come into play when the polls are so close there is no clear consensus on Nos. 1 and 2.

The voters decide, but for some reason the candidates (i.e. coaches) who get dragged into this mess are looked down upon for publicly making a case for their teams.

Some coaches - such as Urban Meyer when he was at Florida and Mack Brown at Texas - have been more aggressive about advocating.

Others, such as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, have been more subtle and tried to steer clear. Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy took that tack last year when his Cowboys were jockeying with Alabama for a spot in the title game.

Not until all the games had been played did Gundy make a strong pitch.

``I think that each coach has to make a decision based on what gives his team the best opportunity to play in the championship game,'' Gundy said Monday. ``I don't know that there's a perfect time.''

While the coach can only do so much, a school's sports information staff plays a big role.

Kenny Mossman, the former sports information director at Oklahoma now working as an associate athletic director for the school, has been part of a couple of close BCS races. In 2008, Oklahoma beat out Texas in a close vote that determined which team played for the Big 12 title, with a spot in the national championship game on the line.

``I always felt like we had a very fine line to walk there between overtly campaigning and providing the type of information that allowed us to be viewed fairly,'' he said.

Mossman and his staff would send email blasts to members of the college football media with stats and facts accentuating the strengths of Oklahoma's resume.

Most of the people on the receiving end of those emails didn't have a vote in either of the BCS polls, but they had platforms that could alter the public debate and maybe sway a voter or two.

``What you're trying to do is get to the influencers,'' Mossman said. ``Some may be voters and some may be not.''

Mossman said he would always consult with Stoops about the message.

``Ultimately, he's the face of the program and you don't want to make him feel uncomfortable,'' he said.

Kelly, after saying he would stay away from lobbying a week earlier, decided to tout the Irish on Sunday. And why not?

He pointed out the Irish have the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, and they are the only contender that hasn't played an FCS team.

``If you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played: 10 FBS teams,'' Kelly said. ``We'll just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us.''

The odd thing about Notre Dame's BCS position is that it belies the perception among many college football fans that the Irish are media darlings and consistently overrated.

The Notre Dame brand isn't going to help the Fighting Irish in this race, and neither will the voters, no matter how much Kelly campaigns.

``Notre Dame is not going to jump (Oregon and Kansas State) without their help,'' Palm said. ``They're way too far behind in the polls. The voters are not on board with Notre Dame.''

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HEISMAN WATCH

Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2004, the best result ever by a freshman.

Before that, Georgia's Herschel Walker had the best showing for a freshman in the Heisman voting, with a third-place finish in 1980.

Johnny Manziel isn't a true freshman like those two great running backs, he's a redshirt freshman. But his scintillating performance in Texas A&M's 29-24 upset of Alabama on Saturday has given him a legitimate chance to make Heisman history.

Manziel has been putting up Heisman-worthy numbers all season. He's second in the nation in total offense at 379 yards per game and has accounted for 33 touchdowns.

But he was less-than-spectacular in losses to Florida and LSU, A&M's two best opponents before Saturday.

Now that he has a big win on his resume, Manziel has a clear path to be a Heisman finalist and earn a trip to New York for the presentation in December.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is still the Heisman front-runner, but Johnny Football is closing fast.

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QUICK HITS

- No. 1 Oregon could be starting its third-string free safety against No. 14 Stanford after Avery Patterson, who replaced John Boyett, went down with what looked like a serious knee injury on Saturday. The Ducks also played much of their game against Cal without their five best defensive lineman because of injuries.

- Now that the Big East has gained a path to automatic entry to the new postseason system, which goes into effect in 2014, the next task for the conference will be convincing BYU to join.

- The winner of the ACC Coastal Division could finish the regular season 6-6 overall.

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LAST WORD

``We talked very frankly about it. He told me he had not made a decision, if we go 6-6, despite what all the reports are. Either the sources are wrong or Dave wasn't being forthright with me, and I have no reason to think Dave's not being forthright with me. He's an honest man. He's always been honest with me. I've appreciated how he's handled everything about this.'' - Tennessee coach Derek Dooley saying Monday that his future with the Volunteers has not been determined by athletic director Dave Hart.

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

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Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown

Sony Michel

Running back
Georgia

Sony Michel is a solid north-south runner who also can bounce outside and pick up yardage. He shared playing time with Nick Chubb last year and still ran for 1,277 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and scored 16 touchdowns against SEC competition. Michel also showed his bona fides in the passing game, catching 64 career passes and showing that he can handle pass protection. 

Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40-yard dash:4.54

Projected draft round:2

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to draft an upgrade at running back. They would prefer one who can catch passes out of the backfield and gain yardage between the tackles. Sony Michel can do both as well as pop for yardage on the outside. There is a good chance that he will be on the board when the Redskins draft in the second round. Since they don’t have a third-round pick, this may be the last chance to get an upgrade in this draft. 

Film review: vs. Notre Dame, vs. Alabama

—The first thing to say here is that the Bulldogs had a quality run-blocking offensive line. Michel frequently had big holes to run through. For his part, Michel maximized his gains when he had a big opening, hitting it quickly and working north-south. 

—He also can pick up yards through just a small crease, again by hitting it with urgency and gaining momentum to drive for the final few yards. 

—Michel didn’t do a whole lot of pass protection in the plays I watched, but he was solid when he did. On one play against Notre Dame, he put a blitzing defensive back on the ground. Against Alabama, he got in the way of likely first-round pick Da’Ron Payne long enough to allow the quarterback to get off a deep pass. To be sure, he didn’t blow Payne away but his block was effective.

—Besides the O-line, Michel also got quality blocking from his receivers. Again, he took advantage, reading the blocks and maximizing the gain. 

—He also can get it done without much help. On third and 20 against the vaunted Alabama defense, he headed up the middle and quickly went outside when he saw no running room. He headed to the sideline with four Alabama defenders and no blockers in sight. Michel found another gear and accelerated down the sideline to convert the third and long.  

—He later converted a third and 10 on a draw play, quickly getting up to speed and zipping through traffic to move the sticks. 

Potential issues: Although he has decent speed, he’s not the home run threat you might want in a back taken in the second round. And Michel isn’t really a power back either, although he can fight for extra yards. 

Despite his limitations, there is chatter that Michel might be drafted early in the second round or perhaps even late in the first. It’s hard to separate the smoke and speculation from reality as we sit a week before the draft starts. But he’s a talented back and if Derrius Guice goes off the board earlier than most expect, a run on runners could include Michel. 

Bottom line: Saquon Barkley is the obvious top running back and he surely will be gone when the Redskins pick in the first round. After that, the Redskins have plenty of options. They like Guice but 13 may be too high for him and he is likely to be gone when their pick in the second is on the clock. Michel is one of a few possibilities there, a group that also would include Michel’s former teammate Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones of USC and others. Without a peek at the draft board in Ashburn, we will just have to wait and see. 

Redskins draft countdown

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

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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