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Nebraska 1 win from berth in Big Ten title game

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Nebraska 1 win from berth in Big Ten title game

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) It's been 13 years and one seismic league change since Nebraska won a conference championship.

One more win against downtrodden Iowa will move the Huskers a step closer to their first Big Ten title.

The surging Huskers (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten), winners of their last five games, play at Iowa (4-7, 2-5) on Friday for the first time since 1999. A berth in the league title game against Wisconsin on the line for the Huskers.

``We have a lot of maturity on the team and I think we know we have to beat Iowa for us to go to the Big Ten Championship,'' Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Nebraska can still reach the title game with a loss if Michigan falls to Ohio State on Saturday. But few expect it to come to that. The Huskers are considered heavy favorites to beat the Hawkeyes, losers of their last five, and book its trip to Indianapolis.

The annual Nebraska-Iowa game on the day after Thanksgiving was supposed to be one of the marquee matchups of the new-look Big Ten.

But the Huskers are playing as well as anyone in the league outside of Ohio State - and hardly anyone has been worse than Iowa over the past month.

Nebraska has regrouped after a humbling 63-38 loss to Ohio State. The Huskers had a comeback win over Northwestern and thumped Michigan 23-9 to earn what's turned out to be a crucial tiebreaker in their division.

Nebraska survived close games with Michigan State and Penn State before trouncing Minnesota 38-14 last weekend.

The Huskers have seemingly put their poor defensive efforts in losses to UCLA and the Buckeyes behind them. But coach Bo Pelini also believes that coordinator Tim Beck's offense has been just as important to Nebraska's success as its defense.

``I can't say enough (about) what coach Beck and the offensive staff have done offensively. I think he has done a phenomenal job. They make adjustments every week, they practice and have gotten better every single week and I think they are playing at a very high level,'' Pelini said. ``I think offensively we have played at a high level all year, and I think right now we are kind of hitting stride and playing pretty good in all phases of the game and that's got to continue.''

Iowa won't be bowl eligible for the first time in 12 years.

What began as a shaky start for the Hawkeyes has disintegrated into a complete collapse.

Though Iowa has played in six games decided by three points or less - more than anyone else in the country - Michigan left little doubt about how far the Hawkeyes have fallen in a 42-17 blowout last week.

The Wolverines scored touchdowns on their first six possessions, leaving exasperated coach Kirk Ferentz to search for answers during an offseason that'll be much longer than anyone in Iowa City thought possible.

``We're 4-7 right now. That's what we are. So be it talent, coaching, performance, whatever, there are a lot of things that go into results,'' Ferentz said. ``Typically, it's not quite as bad or quite as good as you think. Again, that's for another day.''

Nebraska won the first installment of this new rivalry 20-7 in Lincoln a year ago. The Huskers didn't exactly light up the scoreboard, but their defense shut down what had been a decent Iowa offense.

This year the Hawkeyes are worse on both sides of the ball, and Nebraska looks like a team primed for two more wins and the league's coveted Rose Bowl spot.

It's gotten so bad in Iowa City that one of the main fears among Hawkeyes fans was that Kinnick Stadium will be flooded with Nebraska supporters who snapped up tickets from frustrated Iowa fans.

If the game goes the way most expect, there will be a ton of Nebraska red in Indianapolis next week as well.

``I think we know what we have to do,'' Martinez said.

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

On Monday, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, the Washington Capitals addressed a need for blue line depth by acquiring Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

But before you begin to analyze how the move impacts the Capitals' outlook heading forward, lets take some time to get to know the newest member of the Caps.

Who is Michal Kempny?

Michal Kempny is a 27-year-old defenseman from the Czech Republic. He was born on Sept. 8, 1990 in Hodonin, a small town in southwestern Czech Republic near the border of Austria and Slovakia. Kempny began his hockey career playing for SHK Hodonin. Kempny knew very little english upon arriving to the NHL, but credited his girlfriend Showtime shows to helping him become more comfortable speaking the language. 

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What International Experience Does Michal Kempny Have?

Michal Kempny played professionally for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga and Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kempny was a standout player on the international stage, playing for the Czech Republic U18, U20 and Men's National teams.

MORE ON THE TRADE: WHERE DOES KEMPNY FIT IN THE CAPS ROSTER

When Did Michal Kempny Make His NHL Debut?

Michal Kempny was signed to a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in May, 2016 and made his NHL debut in October, 2016. Kempny scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Kempny appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, recording two goals and six assists. The Blackhawks re-signed Kempny to a one-year extension during the offseason. Kempny played in 31 games this season before being traded to the Capitals.

What Type of Hockey Player is Michal Kempny?

Kempny is a 6-0, 194-pound defenseman with a strong left-handed shot. Known for his play on the offensive end, Kempny was never able to gain the trust of Joel Quenneville on the defensive end. But Kempny has a good bit of offensive upside, thanks to his passing skills and strong shot, which is why the Blackhawks took a flier on him in the first place and why he was an ideal trade candidate for the Capitals. But again, Kempny's size is less than ideal for a top-tier blue-liner and while he doesn't shy away from contact, he is rarely much of a physical presence. 

What Does Michal Kempny's Contract Look Like?

Michael Kempny is set to become an unrestricted free agent the the end of the 2017-18 season and has a cap hit of just $900,000.

RELATED: TROTZ REACTS TO RACIAL COMMENTS MADE BY CHICAGO FANS

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE