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Comparing the schedules: Notre Dame vs. Alabama

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Comparing the schedules: Notre Dame vs. Alabama

Alabama and Notre Dame have plenty of similarities, chief among them the teams' staunch defenses. A deeper dig, though, reveals the two programs navigated their paths to the BCS Championship through similarly difficult schedules.

Jeff Sagarin's strength of schedule rankings have Notre Dame at No. 31 and Alabama at No. 34. But those two numbers don't tell the whole story. Going a bit further:

Alabama played more cupcakes than Notre Dame, but there's no separation in difficult opponents. If we're calling cupcakes teams ranked No. 80 or worse by Sagarin, the Tide beat Western Kentucky (No. 80), Florida Atlantic (No. 131), Western Carolina (No. 199) and -- Alabama fans will love this -- Auburn (No. 83). Alabama played four top-20 opponents in Texas A&M (No. 6, and a loss), Georgia (No. 7), at LSU (No. 11) and Michigan (No. 20).

Comparatively, Notre Dame played only two easy opponents in Wake Forest (No. 117) and Boston College (Sagarin No. 122). The Irish played four top-20 opponents: Stanford (No. 8), at Oklahoma (No. 9), at USC (No. 16) and Michigan (No. 20).

Inside the Irish: The perfect coaching staff for the perfect season

So by this measure, Notre Dame had the more difficult slate, but not by much. A look into each team's mid-level opponents (for example, BYU and Mississippi) doesn't reveal much of a difference, either.

But Alabama's non-conference cupcakes have a reasoning behind them. If you're Alabama, why would you bother playing a rigorous out-of-conference slate?

Michigan on a neutral field was about as tough as it got, and Alabama won that game 41-14. But playing in the SEC qualifies Alabama's schedule as difficult -- mainly a stretch of play that had the Tide play Mississippi State (No. 39), at LSU (No. 11) and Texas A&M (No. 6).

With a schedule that already grades as difficult, there's little incentive for an SEC school to make things tougher with more than one difficult non-conference opponent. Consider this: Mizzou, in its first year in the SEC, scheduled Arizona State (No. 22) and Syracuse (No. 53) in non-conference play. Combined with games against top-10 teams in Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia and South Carolina, the Tigers played the nation's second-toughest schedule.

More: Practice not just about BCS Championship for Notre Dame

Houston Nutt, who coached in at Arkansas and Ole Miss, brought up the constant grind of the conference as being the most imposing challenge of the SEC. Perhaps that wore on Alabama when they reached their game against A&M, which saw a good team with a great quarterback win in Tuscaloosa.

"The thing that's really different -- it's the constant grind and you're hoping no one gets hurt, your injuries stay very few and you hang in there and that ball bounces your way," Nutt explained.

That's not to say Notre Dame's schedule wasn't a grind. After the team's most difficult three-game stretch (No. 8 Stanford, No. 34 BYU, at No. 9 Oklahoma) the Irish took their foot off the gas against Pittsburgh (ranked No. 59) and nearly lost.

But back to the question posed in the headline. Both Notre Dame and Alabama's schedules have their positives and negatives, but ultimately Notre Dame's was probably slightly stronger.

Not by much, though. As with plenty of aspects (but hardly all of them) to Notre Dame-Alabama, there's not much separation here.

Blackhawks fan proposes at game against Jets with help from Brendan Perlini

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NHL.COM

Blackhawks fan proposes at game against Jets with help from Brendan Perlini

Proposals and professional sporting events have gone hand-in-hand in Chicago this weekend.

Following the Bears' win over the Packers Sunday — which clinched the NFC North title for Chicago — left tackle Charles Leno Jr. proposed to his girlfriend Jennifer at Soldier Field. But just two days before, Blackhawks fan Andrew Dalbis proposed to his girlfriend, Chloe Sommer, at the United Center ahead of Chicago's game against the Jets.

"I always had the idea that I wanted to do it at a Blackhawks game," Dalbis said to NHL.com. "She had no clue this was going to happen."

Dalbis wanted to propose to Sommer at a Blackhawks game; the plan was put into action after he secured seats for Friday's game. While Dalbis said Sommer had no idea what was going to happen, Sommer had her suspicions that something was happening.

"I always had the idea that I wanted to do it at a Blackhawks game," Dalbis said. "She had no clue this was going to happen."

"He wanted to be there for warmups," Sommer said. "We never get there for warmups."

Once at the game, Dalbis created a sign that said "If I get a puck, I'll propose." He lied and told Sommer that he did not have a ring, however.

Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward tried, but ultimately failed to flip a puck over the glass to the couple. Ward later told Dalbis that he failed on purpose as a joke, for what it's worth.

Fortunately for Dalbis, recently-acquired Blackhawks forward Brendan Perlini successfully flipped the puck over the glass, "allowing" Dalbis to execute his plan and propose to Sommer. She said yes, and the rest is history.

The real question, though, is if Perlini will be invited to the ceremony or not.

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Jordan Howard called the Bears' NFC North title back in February

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USA Today

Jordan Howard called the Bears' NFC North title back in February

Not sure if you knew, but the Bears won the NFC North earlier today. 

That, of course, means it's time for Bears players to flex all over everyone. 

OL Charles Leno started it off with a midfield proposal, so now it's Jordan Howard's turn. 

Right after the game, Howard retweeted his own account -- which is a pretty strong flex on its own -- from back in February:

Why yes, that *is* Jordan Howard guaranteeing a NFC North title back in February. Usually digging up old tweets is a surefire disaster, but this one actually turned out pretty well. 

2018 NFC North Champs. Jordan Howard's been sayin' it all year.