NCAA Talk

Daniels cleared to help Notre Dame in BCS Championship

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Daniels cleared to help Notre Dame in BCS Championship

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- DaVaris Daniels is fully recovered from a broken collarbone suffered Nov. 10, and has re-joined the Notre Dame offense in time for the team's rigorous preparation for the BCS Championship against Alabama Jan. 7.

"He's good," coach Brian Kelly said. "We would not put him out there unless he was free from injury."

Daniels' return is welcome news for the Irish offense, adding another weapon to Everett Golson's arsenal against a fearsome Alabama defense. Golson successfully looked Daniels' way at a higher rate in the few weeks leading up to his injury, and Daniels hasn't noticed a dropoff in that chemistry despite being out of commission for about a month.

"We kind of just gelled back together," Daniels said. "Once I got back in there, there were no setbacks or anything."

Daniels was cleared for Notre Dame's physical, full-contact practices this week and said he took a "pretty good blow" Friday. That came after weeks of wearing a red jersey, usually reserved for quarterbacks won't get hit during practice.

"I never have been the type of guy to shy away from contact -- when you have to, it's kind of a different situation," Daniels said, adding, "I don't know, it was kind of fun not being able to be touched."

Before putting the red jersey on to participate in some timing drills, Daniels had to sit on the sidelines and watch as his teammates prepared for and played against Wake Forest and USC, with a trip to the BCS Championship on the line.

That wasn't easy, especially for someone who played a significant role in Notre Dame's narrow win over Pittsburgh -- the closest the Irish came to a defeat all season.

"It was hard," Daniels said. "Even watching practice, it was the worst feeling I've ever felt."

Daniels isn't guaranteed to fit back in to his usual role for the BCS Championship, though. While he hopes to be in that spot and will have plenty of practice reps with Notre Dame's first-team offense over the next week, it won't be handed back to him. But either way, Notre Dame plans on utilizing his skill set against Alabama.

"I think we'll be fine with him," Kelly said. "He's a really good player that understands that his reps are going to be based upon how he practices and how he performs. I'm certain that he'll play a role in the game."

Loyola, Valpo showdown in a big game early in the MVC schedule

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USA TODAY

Loyola, Valpo showdown in a big game early in the MVC schedule

Loyola battles Valparaiso in a Missouri Valley Conference clash that airs on NBC Sports Chicago Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

The Ramblers (10-7, 3-1) are fighting for the top spot in the Valley with the Crusaders (11-6, 4-0) as the top two teams in the conference play an important early league game.

Coming off of an important home win over Illinois State on Saturday, the Ramblers are hoping to make another move by taking a crack at the Valley's only unbeaten team. Veterans Marques Townes, Clayton Custer and Cameron Krutwig are all having strong seasons for Loyola as the Ramblers attempt to position themselves for another potential NCAA tournament bid.

Valparaiso has put together a strong five-game winning streak, including a good road win at Southern Illinois over the weekend. The Crusaders have a balanced group of scorers, led by forward Ryan Fazekas, and center Derrik Smits -- the son of former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits.

These two teams will also play on Feb. 10 as the Ramblers will make a trip to Valpo for the rematch. For now, this matchup could provide an indication of the team to beat in the Valley.

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

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USA TODAY

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

It was a tale of two halves for Northwestern in Monday's Holiday Bowl.

After entering halftime trailing Utah 20-3, Northwestern mounted a huge second half comeback to knock off the Utes 31-20. Northwestern, which outscored Utah 28-0 in the third quarter, finishes the 2018 season 9-5 record.

Northwestern was just 3-of-14 on third down, though they forced six Utah turnovers (two interceptions) highlighted by an 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety/linebacker Jared McGee.

Six turnovers forced is the most by Northwestern since Oct. 3, 2009 against Purdue, when the Wildcats also forced six turnovers.

Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson — who tore his right ACL on Dec. 29, 2017 in the Music City Bowl — finished 21-of-30 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. However, Thorson exited the game late in the fourth quarter after going down awkwardly near Utah's sideline.

Thorson is one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The win improves Northwestern's all-time bowl game record to 5-10. However, they have now three-straight bowl games; from the 1948-2012 seasons, they won two bowl games — the 1949 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Gator Bowl.

One of the biggest questions facing Northwestern is the future of head coach Pat Fitzgerald. According to a report, the Green Bay Packers are expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald for their head coaching vacancy.

Unlike Thorson, Fitzgerald leaving for the NFL is no guarantee. If he does leave, however, Fitzgerald would leave with the most all-time regular season wins (95) and bowl wins (4) in Northwestern history.

Fitzgerald's .576 winning percentage would also be best all-time by a Northwestern head coach, minimum five seasons. 

Fans likely will anxiously wait for news regarding Fitzgerald's future. Overall, though, fans should be appreciative of the job he has done into turning Northwestern into one of the better football programs in the Big Ten.

UPDATE: Here's what Fitzgerald said about his future after the game.