Notre Dame is 1 and waiting for SEC to play out


Notre Dame is 1 and waiting for SEC to play out

Breaking down the AP college football poll after Week 13 of the regular season.



Notre Dame is No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 with nothing left to do but wait to find out its opponent for the national championship game.

Toward the bottom of the rankings, there was plenty of movement. Ten Top 25 teams lost this weekend, the most since Oct. 11, 2003, but for the most part the national championship race was unchanged.

No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, both easy winners in rivalry games Saturday, held their spots in the rankings and in the BCS standings. They will play for the SEC title in Atlanta next weekend.

The winner is a lock to move on to Miami for the BCS championship game on Jan. 7, trying to extend the Southeastern Conference's string of six straight titles.

But will the right SEC team be getting a shot? Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn't think so.

``We should be playing for the national championship,'' he said after the Gators beat Florida State 37-26 in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday.

He's got a point.

The Gators (11-1) checked in at No. 4 in the AP poll this week, up one spot, and fourth in the BCS standings.

Their lone loss was to Georgia and it was enough to settle the SEC East in the Bulldogs' favor.

But playing in the same division doesn't mean playing the same competition. Not even close in these days of expanding conferences.

The Gators have clearly played a tougher schedule than the Bulldogs. The Sagarin computer ratings have Florida's strength of schedule at 13th in the nation. Georgia's is 42nd. Alabama's is 39th, by the way, but let's keep the focus on Florida and Georgia because they played each other.

Florida also played No. 9 LSU and No. 10 Texas A&M as its two SEC West opponents, combined record 20-4. Georgia played Auburn and Mississippi from the west, combined record 9-15.

On Saturday, both Florida and Georgia played their toughest nonconference games. The Gators beat Florida State (10-2). The Bulldogs routed Georgia Tech (6-6).

Both teams played No. 11 South Carolina, the East's other beast. Florida beat the Gamecocks 44-11. South Carolina beat Georgia 35-7.

Remember it was Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier who suggested in the preseason that only division records determine division winners after South Carolina was in similar position to Florida last year.

Of course, the Bulldogs can point to the scoreboard, the one that read Georgia 17, Florida 9 in Jacksonville, Fla., back on Oct. 27.

As conferences get bigger, the SEC is up to 14 now, conference standings and championship games lose meaning. Georgia's road to the SEC championship was easier than Florida's. That road gets tougher next week. If Georgia can beat Alabama, it will further validate its place ahead of Florida.

But it's a strange situation and one that will repeat itself around the country as conferences grow and college football implements a four-team playoff in a couple of years.

Georgia and Florida had a race. The Bulldogs won, but the Gators had to cover more ground.



The MAC made a big move.

No. 18 Kent State (11-1) and No. 19 Northern Illinois (11-1) each moved up five spots in the Top 25 after completing perfect Mid-American Conference seasons and setting up a must-see conference championship game for Friday night.

The last time the MAC had two teams ranked in the AP's top 20 was Nov. 5, 1973, when Miami, Ohio, was 17th and Kent State was 19th.

The Golden Flashes and Huskies benefited from a rash of losses by ranked teams. Ten went down, all ranked between No. 10 (Florida State) and No. 25 (Mississippi State, which was tied for 25th last week).

All the losses could put the MAC in position to send a team to the BCS for the first time. Kent State was 17th in the BCS standings released Sunday night and NIU was 21st. As with most things in the Bowl Championship Series, it's not quite as easy as win and you're in.

No. 25 Boise State, which is 20th in the BCS standings, is also in the mix for that BCS buster bid - again.



No. 13 Florida State and No. 15 Clemson both dropped three spots, capping an awful day for the Atlantic Coast Conference against the SEC.

The Seminoles' loss to Florida stung badly because FSU still had slim hopes of working into the national championship picture. Instead it's off to the ACC title game to play Georgia Tech with only Orange Bowl hopes.

The Yellow Jackets, Coastal Division champions by default because Miami gave itself a postseason ban, lost 42-10 to Georgia. Georgia Tech is now in BCS or bust mode. If the Jackets lose to Florida State, they will be 6-7.

Clemson's 27-17 loss to South Carolina was maybe even more devastating for the ACC. The Tigers looked like a lock to receive an at-large BCS bid, probably to the Sugar Bowl, had they finished 11-1. At 10-2, with no marquee wins, that's probably not happening.

To top it off Vanderbilt beat Wake Forest 55-21. The final total: SEC 161, ACC 74.



The Big East's de facto championship game will be between two unranked teams.

Rutgers and Louisville both lost Saturday to tumble from the rankings ahead of their Thursday night game in New Jersey, which will decide the conference championship.

Rutgers was stomped 27-6 at Pittsburgh and Louisville lost 23-20 at home to Connecticut in double-overtime.

The winner of Louisville-Rutgers still gets a BCS bid - even though neither was in the latest BCS top 25 - but the Big East's troubles could be a boon to potential BCS busters.

If a conference champion from a non-automatic qualifying league, such as the Mountain West or MAC, finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and is ahead of a champ from an AQ league, that champion receives an automatic bid to the marquee bowl games.

It's all but a lock that the Big East champ will finish behind the MAC champion and possibly Boise State, but even though those teams are close to the BCS top 16, it's no guarantee they get there.

Kent State stands the best chance at 17 with 16th-place UCLA playing Stanford on Friday night.

Also moving into the AP rankings this week was No. 22 Northwestern.



Southern California, sitting at 7-5 and heading toward a far-from-the-spotlight bowl, is positioned to become the first team since Mississippi in 1964 to start the season No. 1 and finish it unranked.

Though when Ole Miss did it, the AP was only ranking 10 teams. The last team to start No. 1 and finish out of the poll when at least 20 teams were being ranked was Iowa in 1961.



Boise State plays at Nevada on Saturday, looking to win a share of the Mountain West title. Fresno State and San Diego State also have one league loss and their seasons are over. ... No. 7 Kansas State plays Texas on Saturday, trying to lock up the Big 12's BCS bid and a likely trip to the Fiesta Bowl. ... No. 14 Nebraska plays Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. ... No. 8 Stanford hosts UCLA with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.

The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.

More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.


Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).

It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:

2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million

The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.

The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.

The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.


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


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."