Bears

'Bama football becomes an official dynasty...

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'Bama football becomes an official dynasty...

From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- The coach no longer wears houndstooth. The result is the same. Another Alabama dynasty.Quieting the Irish by the first play of the second quarter, Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron and the No. 2 Crimson Tide rolled top-ranked Notre Dame 42-14 for the BCS championship Monday night, locking up a second straight national title and third in four years with another laugher of a title game.The Bear would've been especially proud of this one -- Nick Saban and the Tide romping to the second-biggest rout of the BCS era that began in 1999."We're going for it next year again," said Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, only a sophomore but already the owner of two rings. "And again. And again. And again. I love to win. That's why I came here."Lacy, the game's offensive MVP, ran for one touchdown and caught a pass for another in the final minute of the opening half. He spun away from the vaunted Notre Dame defense not once, but twice, to cap a 28-0 blitz before the bands even got on the field."They just did what Alabama does," moaned Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist.Lacy finished with 140 yards on 20 carries, coming up with two of his best performances in the two biggest games of the year. He rushed for a career-high 181 yards in a thrilling victory over Georgia in the SEC title game, and was nearly as dominant against the Irish. McCarron wasn't too shabby, either, completing 20 of 28 passes for four touchdowns and 264 yards, adding another dazzling effort on top of his MVP in last year's title game.You could almost hear television sets around the country flipping to other channels, a hugely anticipated matchup between two of the nation's most storied programs reduced to nothing more than the second straight BCS blowout for the Crimson Tide."We've had a lot of really great football players who've worked really hard," Saban said. "Because we've had a great team, we've been able to have a significant amount of success."Alabama (13-1) scored 69 straight points against its title game opponents, going back to getting the final 13 against Texas in 2010, followed by a stifling 21-0 victory over LSU for last year's crown, then scoring the first 35 points on Notre Dame. Saban's team made the Irish (12-1) look like a squad that would be hard-pressed to finish in the middle of the pack in the mighty Southeastern Conference, which has now won seven straight national championships.The Crimson Tide wrapped up its ninth Associated Press national title, breaking a tie with Notre Dame for the most by any school and gaining a measure of redemption for a bitter loss to the Irish almost four decades ago: the epic Sugar Bowl in which Ara Parseghian's team edged Bear Bryant's powerhouse 24-23.Bryant won five AP titles during his brilliant career. The way things are going, Saban might just chase him down.The diminutive man with the perpetual scowl has guided Alabama to the top spot in the rankings three times since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007, and if he's serious about finishing his career with the job he has, there seems no reason he can't win a few more before he's done with "The Process."Already, Saban is the first coach in the BCS era to win national titles at different schools, capturing his first at LSU during the 2003 season. Now, he's the first coach with back-to-back BCS titles, and given the youthfulness of his team, Alabama figures to go into next season as a heavy favorite.In an interesting twist, Saban's fourth college title came in the stadium where he had the only stumble of his coaching career, a two-year tenure with the NFL's Miami Dolphins that ended ugly, with the coach insisting he wasn't planning to leave -- then bolting for Alabama just two weeks later. His tactics may have been underhanded, but it's hard to argue with the call he made.Before a record Sun Life Stadium crowd of 80,120 that definitely included more green than crimson, Lacy ran right through Te'o and the Irish on a 20-yard touchdown run before the game was 3 minutes old, capping an 82-yard drive that was longest of the season given up by the Fighting Irish.It would only get worse. Alabama marched right down the field on its second possession, this one a 10-play, 61-yard pounding that finished with McCarron completely faking out the defense and lofting a 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Williams, standing all alone in the back of the end zone.On the first play of the second quarter, T.J. Yeldon powered over from the 1 to make it 21-0, the finish to another impressive drive -- this one covering 80 yards -- that included two long completions by McCarron. First, he went to Kevin Norwood on a 25-yard gain. Then, he hooked up with freshman Amari Cooper for a 27-yard gain to the Notre Dame 6.By that point, it was clear to everyone that Notre Dame's hopes of winning its first national championship since 1988 were all done. But Alabama just poured it on."We've got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there," said Brian Kelly, the Irish's third-year coach. "Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now -- a championship football team. That's back-to-back national champions. That's what it looks like. That's what you measure yourself against there. It's pretty clear across the board what we have to do."Lacy's 11-yard touchdown reception with 31 seconds left in the half left the Irish fans shaking the heads in disbelief, while the Alabama faithful broke out that familiar "SEC! SEC! SEC!"Alabama made it 35-0 on McCarron's second TD pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Cooper without a Notre Dame defender in sight.The Irish finally scored late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by Everett Golson that served no other purpose except to end Alabama's remarkable scoreless streak in the BCS title games, which stretched to 108 minute and 7 seconds -- the equivalent of nearly two full games -- before the Notre Dame quarterback fought his way into the end zone.The only BCS title game that was more of a blowout was USC's 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.About the only time Alabama stumbled was when McCarron had a miscommunication with his All-American center, Barrett Jones, in the closing seconds. The fiery McCarron shouted at Jones, who just shoved him away. But as the seconds ticked off, they were right on the same page, hugging Saban and celebrating another title.Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season. But that long-awaited championship will have to wait at least one more years. Golson completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But he got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards -- 170 below their season average.Kelly had vowed this was only beginning, insisting the bar has been raised in South Bend no matter what the outcome."We made incredible strides to get to this point," he said. "Now it's pretty clear what we've got to do to get over the top."

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.

(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020

(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling

(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?

(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.