Voter's guide to BCS title contenders


Voter's guide to BCS title contenders

The participants in the BCS championship game are essentially determined by voters - poll voters specifically.

So in the spirit of election day, here is a voter's guide to the four candidates vying to play for the national championship in January.


No. 1 ALABAMA (first in the BCS)

Platform: The defending national champions stand for rugged, no-frills football and the philosophy that there is no problem a five-star recruit can't fix.

Star power: QB AJ McCarron. A poised leader (see the game-winning drive at LSU), unafraid to let his emotions show (see crying after game-winning drive at LSU).

Ground game: All-American C Barrett Jones anchors an offensive line that might be the most talented in the country, and paves the way for a punishing running game with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Department of defense: The Tide ranks in the top 10 in the nation in every major defensive category, including first in points allowed at 9.1 per game.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 17th nationally, according to Sagarin computer ratings. Average margin of victory: 29 points per game.

Commander-in-chief: Nick Saban. His ``process'' has produced three national championships.

Campaign slogan: Roll Tide.

No. 2 OREGON (third in the BCS)

Platform: The Ducks are running on change - such as a new uniform every week, and promise to get things done quickly.

Star power: RB Kenjon Barner. After three years as a backup, his patience and persistence have turned him into a Heisman contender.

Ground game: The Ducks are second in the nation in rushing at 341 yards per game - though their running game is anything but a grind.

Department of defense: Much like their offense, the Ducks' defense is a big-play machine. They are tied for third in the nation with 26 takeaways and 18th in sacks with 24.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 47th. Average margin of victory: 31 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Chip Kelly, a man who believes any question can be answered in 10 words or less.

Campaign slogan: Win the day.

No. 3 KANSAS STATE (second in the BCS)

Platform: The Wildcats blend old-school Midwestern sensibilities of mistake-free, power football, with 21st century ideas - such as scoring 44 points per game.

Star power: QB Collin Klein. The happily married Heisman front-runner has a trendy nickname - Optimus Klein - and a throwback game.

Ground game: Klein provides the power and RB John Hubert adds speed to a clock-killing running game that averages 226 yards and has scored 33 touchdowns.

Department of defense: LB Arthur Brown leads a defense that is tough to run against, ninth in the nation at 100 yards allowed per game, and manages to hold its own against those potent Big 12 passing attacks.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 33rd. Average margin of victory: 25 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Bill Snyder. The congenial 73-year-old has already performed a miracle in Manhattan.

Campaign slogan. We are family.

No. 4 NOTRE DAME (fourth in the BCS)

Platform: The Fighting Irish promise a return to glory - and have been doing so for about 20 years.

Star power: LB Manti Te'o. Has played inspired football while dealing with personal tragedy.

Ground game: The Irish have run for more than 200 yards each of the last three games as they try to take the pressure off developing QB Everett Golson.

Department of defense. Te'o gets the press but the line led by DE Stephon Tuitt and NG Louis Nix III is a big reason the Irish have allowed only two rushing touchdowns, fewest in the nation.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 16th. Average margin of victory: 15 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Brian Kelly. Former aspiring politician from Massachusetts has been known to flip-flop when it comes to quarterbacks.

Campaign slogan: Play like a champion.


This could work itself out if two of the candidates were to lose in the next four weeks. However, if all four remain undefeated, it will be up to the voters in the Harris and coaches' polls to find the imperfections in those perfect records.

If that scenario plays out, Alabama is a lock to play for its third national title in four seasons. The Crimson Tide has the most talented roster in the country, the best coach and would be the champions of the Southeastern Conference, which has produced the last six champions.

The question then is: Which team plays Alabama?

Make no mistake, all would be deserving, and there is no definitive correct answer.

By the time the season is over, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all will likely have played somewhat comparable schedules. The Ducks just started their toughest stretch.

Notre Dame gets eliminated because the Irish have played so many close games, some against middling opposition such as Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh.

So it comes down to Oregon or Kansas State, an almost impossible choice. The BCS metrics favor the Wildcats right now, but suggest the Ducks will make up the ground they need down the stretch.

Taking into account that the events of the next four weeks could sway this opinion, Oregon would be the choice to face Alabama on Jan. 7 in Miami in the BCS title game if all four candidates remain unbeaten.

Any chance we can move up the start date of that four-team playoff?



Marqise Lee has replaced Matt Barkley as Southern California's top Heisman Trophy contender.

While Barkley, the preseason favorite to win the Heisman, has had an excellent senior season, Lee has been sensational. The sophomore receiver leads the nation in all-purpose yards (223 per game), and is second in both catches (9.8 per game) and yards receiving (143 per game).

The Trojans (6-3) have fallen short of expectations, but that shouldn't take away from Lee's chances to at least get an invite to the Heisman presentation in New York.



- Expect to hear Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken mentioned when head coaching vacancies begin to open up in the coming months. The Cowboys rank second in the nation in total offense at 575 yards per game while playing three quarterbacks - including a freshman and a redshirt freshman.

- The first of what could be several job openings in the SEC came Sunday when Kentucky fired Joker Phillips. Among those who have been mentioned as candidates to replace him are Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator and former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter.

- Three realignment reunions that we'd like to see in bowl games: Texas vs. Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl; West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl; Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.



``We won every statistical category, but the score. That's unfortunate. I told the team I wish I would have done a couple of things better.'' LSU coach Les Miles on Monday, summing up the Tigers' 21-17 loss to Alabama,


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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."