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No. 1 Notre Dame awaits heavily-favored SEC champ

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No. 1 Notre Dame awaits heavily-favored SEC champ

LOS ANGELES -- An SEC team has dispatched its opponent in the BCS Championship in each of the last six years, building a string of unprecedented dominance atop college football. While plenty may cry the conference is overrated or overexposed, it's tough to argue with the six titles won by Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn.
Notre Dame -- which opened Sunday as the unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll and received 56 of 59 first-place votes in the coaches poll -- has a chance to dethrone the SEC on Jan. 7 in Miami. The Irish will face the winner of Saturday's SEC championship game, played in Atlanta between No. 2 Alabama, which received two first-place votes in the coaches poll, and No. 3 Georgia, which received one.
No matter who the Irish play, they'll be underdogs.
Alabama has been pegged as a double-digit favorite over Notre Dame in recent weeks, while Georgia would likely be somewhere in the range of a five-point favorite.
But for all the SEC chest-beating, the national championship comes down to one game. And Houston Nutt, who coached at Ole Miss and Arkansas, doesn't see why an underdog Irish squad couldn't beat an SEC powerhouse.
"You got 30 days to get ready, I think you don't know. You just don't know," Nutt told CSNChicago earlier in November. "Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. You look at Boise State several years ago, one of the funnest games I've ever seen. Boise State got ready for Oklahoma and they beat them. Absolutely, it could happen."
Notre Dame still has plenty of things to work on despite an unblemished record, with the biggest area for improvement lying in the offense's ability to finish drives. Kyle Brindza attempted six field goals in Notre Dame's 22-13 win over USC, hitting five. But for Notre Dame's offense to hit its peak, those three points need to turn into seven more often.
"We definitely have to improve. We're not there yet, we don't feel like it," running back Theo Riddick said Saturday. "We're going to go back next week, look at the tape, figure out what we can get better at and do that during that week. We have time. Coach Kelly is going to set up some things to actually let us score touchdowns, because we have to. We have to get better at that being in the red zone. We're going to do that, and we're going to be okay."
Plenty of prognosticators have penciled Alabama in to face Notre Dame after beating a Georgia, a team that's best victory came in a sloppy game against Florida. But few expected Texas A&M to go into Bryant-Denny Stadium and win earlier this month, and with one of the SEC's best quarterbacks in Aaron Murray, Georgia shouldn't be counted out.
Alabama, though, looks like the favorite. And if they move on, Nick Saban will have a chance to win his third championship in four years, establishing a string of dominance not seen since Nebraska in the mid-90's.
"When Notre Dame watches the film and watches Alabama, they're going to see how physical, how fast and how very consistent they are," Nutt said. "They don't beat themselves. They win the turnover margin. They're a well-coached team. Alabama is used to winning, they expect to win. I'd be a heck of a battle."
A theme for Notre Dame this year has been to control what they can control. That meant trying not to concern themselves with how Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon played. Now, that means not worrying about who they'll face in the BCS Championship.
"We'll focus on us," coach Brian Kelly said. "It won't be, alright, it's this team or that team. We gotta figure out over the next six weeks how we get better as a football team. It'll be about us."

Bears lose Ed Donatell as defensive coaching staff makeover continues

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USA TODAY

Bears lose Ed Donatell as defensive coaching staff makeover continues

Ed Donatell indeed will follow Vic Fangio to Denver, with the now-former Bears defensive backs coach signing on to be the Broncos’ defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

 

 

Donatell was Fangio’s defensive backs coach from 2011-2018 with the San Francisco 49ers and Bears, and in Chicago was credited with the All-Pro development of cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. His contract with the Bears expired after the 2018 season, so the Bears were unable to block him from interviewing for the Broncos’ defensive coordinator gig.

 

As things stand on Tuesday, only one defensive assistant from 2018 will remain with the team: Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. Outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley took the same position under Fangio in Denver, while inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires and assistant defensive backs coach/safeties coach Roy Anderson will not return, too:

 

 

These departures aren’t surprising given Fangio said last week he hoped to bring some of his assistants from Chicago to Denver, while newly-hired defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likely will want to bring in some of his own coaches in the coming weeks.

 

The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported the Bears may consider Rob Ryan, the son of Buddy Ryan and longtime defensive coach, to replace Staley as outside linebackers coach. Ryan and Pagano worked together when Ryan was the Oakland Raiders’ defensive coordinator in the mid-2000s, and he would come with at least one player endorsement:

 

 

Meanwhile, rumors have swirled since Pagano’s hiring last Friday that he could bring Ed Reed — the sure-fire Hall of Fame safety with whom Pagano worked at the University of Miami and with the Baltimore Ravens — in as an assistant. Reed and Pagano are coaching together in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this week in Los Angeles, with Pagano a head coach and Reed a defensive coordinator in the college showcase All-Star game.

 

Celebrating Blackhawks hat tricks on National Hat Day

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USA TODAY

Celebrating Blackhawks hat tricks on National Hat Day

It’s National Hat Day – no better time to celebrate hat tricks in Chicago Blackhawks history.

There have been a combined total of 283 of them (263 in regular season, 20 in playoffs) since the franchise started up in the 1926-27 season.

95 different players have had at least one – including Gary Suter whose only hat trick with the Blackhawks came April 24, 1994 – in a playoff game.

The first hat trick in Blackhawks history was by George Hay on Feb. 19, 1927 – the 32nd game in franchise history. It was his only hat trick with the Blackhawks.

The Golden Jet, Bobby Hull had the most with 30 (28 in regular season, two in playoffs). He also holds the franchise record with four hat tricks in a single season, which he pulled off twice – 1959-60 as well as 1965-66. Stan Mikita is next with 16 career hat tricks (all in regular season).

On January 31, 1963, both Bobby Hull AND Stan Mikita (the first of Stan’s career) recorded a Hat Trick… one of seven times (six regular season, one in playoffs) that multiple Blackhawks tallied a hat trick in the same game. A pair of Blackhawks brothers – Max and Doug Bentley – each had a hat trick on Feb. 26, 1947. The last time a pair of Blackhawks scored three goals each was March 9, 2003 – Steve Sullivan and Eric Daze.

Of the 276 games in Blackhawks history in which a Blackhawks player had a hat trick, the Blackhawks have won 233, lost 30 and tied 13, including 7-0 when multiple Blackhawks accomplish the feat.

The youngest player in Blackhawks history to record a hat trick is Jeremy Roenick (19 years, 340 days) on Dec. 23, 1989. The oldest player in Blackhawks history to record a hat trick was Kenny Wharram (35 years, 267 days) on March 26, 1969.

Patrick Sharp is the only Blackhawks player to collect a hat trick on his birthday (Dec. 27, 2013).

Two Blackhawks have had a hat trick in a season opener

Bobby Hull          Oct. 23, 1965

Brandon Saad    Oct. 5, 2017

Three times a Blackhawks player had a hat trick in consecutive games (including once in the playoffs)

Doug Bentley     March 28-30, 1944 (playoffs)

Stan Mikita         Dec. 4-5, 1965

Brian Noonan    Dec. 27-29, 1991 (he scored four in the second game)

Two Blackhawks had a hat trick in the Stanley Cup Final

Pit Martin            May 10, 1973 vs. Canadiens

Dirk Graham       June 1, 1992 vs. Penguins

Improbably, the Blackhawks lost both of these games.

Denis Savard has a franchise record three playoff hat tricks.

Bill Kendall’s hat trick on Dec. 17, 1933, were the first three goals of his NHL career.

Many Blackhawks have recorded a Hat Trick plus one (a four-goal game) but only one has had five. Grant Mulvey on Feb. 3, 1982.

How many hats have been thrown on the ice as a result of Blackhawks hat tricks? That we’ll never know, but hats off to all of the Blackhawks who, by scoring three or more goals in a game, have made this hat trick celebration necessary.

 

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