White Sox

It's a trap? Irish looking to avoid letdown vs. BYU

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It's a trap? Irish looking to avoid letdown vs. BYU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- "Trap" games are all too real a phenomenon in college football. West Virginia fell into one last week, with its powerful offense being stymied by an underrated Texas Tech defense. That's just one example, though. There are sure to be plenty more in the next month and a half.
Notre Dame doesn't want to be one of them.
But with a showdown in Oklahoma that carries serious BCS implications looming next weekend, if the Irish start looking ahead that could be the case.
"Why does that happen? Well, you forget how you got here," coach Brian Kelly said. They are trap games if you forget how to go to work ask do those things. We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way."
BYU has the profile of a classic "trap" team, one that's only 4-3 but has had plenty of defensive success this year. That changed last week, as Oregon State hung 42 in Provo. But by Football Outsiders' defensive S&P rankings (explained here), BYU still has a top-10 defense fueled by a run defense that's only allowing 67.9 yards on the ground per game.
Given that Notre Dame's rushing attack has been the strong suit of its offense this year, that could play right into BYU's hands. If Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III are neutralized, it'll put the pressure on whoever's starting at quarterback, be it Tommy Rees, Everett Golson or even Andrew Hendrix. Kelly will announce the starter before Saturday's game, but whoever it is may need to power Notre Dame's offense.
The mantra this week in South Bend was all about BYU, and how the players will focus on Oklahoma next week. Senior captain Manti Te'o is leading that charge, and feels the experience Notre Dame possesses will keep the team's focus on this weekend.
"I think it's only a trap game if you're dealing with a young team, a team that is not focused on one singular goal, and that's to take that day by day, week by week," Te'o said. "So our team has done a great job of just focusing on the next opponent. We don't have Oklahoma this week. We don't have Stanford, we already played Stanford. Right now it's BYU, and that's all we're focused on.
"Until Sunday comes, you know, we'll stop focusing on BYU. Until then, it's all BYU."
A win over BYU would likely secure a BCS berth for Notre Dame, unless an unexpected slip-up happens against the likes of Pittsburgh, Boston College or Wake Forest -- three teams the Irish should easily beat. Even if Notre Dame loses at Oklahoma and USC, they'd have 10 wins. And it's unlikely a BCS bowl would pass at the opportunity to take Notre Dame, an option those committees haven't had in six years.
That's a big picture view, and it's one the team isn't taking.
"We don't have a list of goals that says, hey, we want to go to the Sugar Bowl, we want to go to the Fiesta Bowl, we want to win the National Championship. We don't have any of those goals," Kelly explained. "They are not written down. You won't see them anywhere. They are not in our locker room.
"All you'll really hear us talk about are the goals as it relates to playing the game, and if you hit these goals, you've got a great chance to win and then how do you get there and so that's how we deal with it on a daytoday basis."

White Sox free-agent focus: Bryce Harper

White Sox free-agent focus: Bryce Harper

This week, we’re profiling 10 of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

A week and a half ago, you probably would’ve laughed out loud at the very concept of Bryce Harper in a White Sox uniform, but last week’s GM Meetings kicked off with a report that the South Siders are interested in the services of the free-agent market’s biggest fish.

Harper’s expected to command one of the biggest contracts ever if not the biggest contract ever, and while other deep-pocketed clubs will surely be in the running, the White Sox have practically no long-term financial commitments, giving them the flexibility to be in on big-ticket items. And it sure seems like they have a willingness to do so.

While 2019 doesn’t figure to be a season in which the rebuilding White Sox are ready to contend for a championship, there’s no doubt that adding Harper would match up with their long-term plans. Harper figures to be under contract for several very expensive years, enough time to get the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal to the big leagues and start making the planned annual runs at a World Series title.

The key word there, however, is “planned,” and the White Sox biggest hurdle in their pitch to Harper figures to be that their success is merely on paper right now and a large amount of their young talent is still developing in the minor leagues. The future is bright, but it’s hardly guaranteed. Meanwhile, teams like the Cubs, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Philadelphia Phillies can pitch win-now rosters to go along with a monster contract.

Obviously Harper would be an upgrade to a team that lost 100 games last season and he’d slide into the middle of the lineup and most likely into right field, where only Avisail Garcia and his one year left of team control is planned at the moment. The White Sox have a lot of outfield depth in the minor leagues, but if you can sign Harper, you don’t worry about him blocking Micker Adolfo or Blake Rutherford. Suddenly, then, the outfield becomes a reservoir of minor league talent that could be dealt from in order to add other pieces to the big league team.

Is Harper a fit for the White Sox? Yeah, duh. He’s a fit for the White Sox and 29 other teams. He’s one of the best players in baseball. But being willing to offer a huge contract and convincing Harper to sign on the dotted line are two different things.

MORE BRYCE HARPER NEWS

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.

Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

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USA Today Sports Images

Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy: It’s possible Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy Monday said it’s possible beleaguered placekicker Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week after missing two PATs and two field goal attempts in Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions.

Nagy and Parkey both said after Sunday’s game practicing at Soldier Field wasn’t a plan and/or wouldn’t be beneficial. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor indicated the same thought in his weekly press conference last Thursday, too. 

But with a night to sleep on it, Nagy admitted “there’s a possibility” Parkey could do what former Bears kickers like Robbie Gould and Kevin Butler did and practice kicking during the week at Soldier Field. There aren’t any logistical concerns with shuttling Parkey and the field goal battery back and forth from Halas Hall to Soldier Field in traffic, if that decision is made. 

“If that's something that we decide to do then we'll get it done,” Nagy said. 

Nagy re-iterated the Bears will not look at kickers to potentially replace Parkey, which he said on Sunday was not a consideration. 

Nagy on Sunday said Parkey’s woes affected his playcalling for the offense, but said his trust in the kicker with the third-highest guaranteed money figure ($9 million) in the NFL was “not shot.” But while seeing Parkey make kicks during practice or in pregame warmups is good, Nagy will need his kicker to make sure his brutal day against the Detroit Lions doesn’t happen again. 

Perhaps kicking during the week at Soldier Field will be a part of those efforts. 

“As we get going on into the season here, the end of the regular season, these are huge now,” Nagy said. “You've gotta make them. It's just too important. They're too crucial. 

“You go back to a few weeks ago when Mason Crosby missed a few for Green Bay (in a loss to Detroit) and then the next week he ended up kicking the game-winner (against San Francisco). It's just a crazy cycle and it's just a matter of your patience that you have with it and fortunately for us yesterday we did have the lead, but I think in these situations, as long as you're authentic, you're real with each other. But now, he also needs to take the next step of trying to figure out how he can get better and we'll go ahead and do that.”