Fire

What Alabama's loss means for Notre Dame

937821.png

What Alabama's loss means for Notre Dame

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- In the span of three and a half hours Saturday afternoon, it's a pretty safe assumption that "Gig 'em" entered the lexicon of Notre Dame nation.

The legend of Johnny Football grew Saturday in Tuscaloosa, with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel leading a stunning 29-24 Aggie win over the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide. The win sent shockwaves from coast to coast, as the group of unbeaten teams in college football shrunk to three.

While Alabama's loss was Notre Dame's gain, it wasn't a topic of discussion in the Irish locker room.

"Oh no. No no no. Absolutely not," coach Brian Kelly said, shaking his head. " We didn't even talk about it. We talked about what we have to do to win next week against Wake Forest."

That's the mentality Notre Dame has taken -- no player on the team will admit to caring about the results of Alabama, Kansas State or Oregon, even if they have a direct impact on their shot at a title. For Notre Dame, it's about controlling what they can control, which wasn't Manziel's terrific performance at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"I was watching the game before. I didn't hear they lost, I knew they were down, but I was watching the game before," quarterback Everett Golson explained. "I turned it off a little bit and tried to get ready for this game right here, because that's all I could really control."

Notre Dame should move up to No. 3 in the newest BCS standings released Sunday, behind presumptive No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon. K-State topped TCU 23-10 in Fort Worth, while Oregon's offense was in its usual explosive state against Cal.

KSU faces Baylor in Waco and Texas in Manhattan to close out the year, while Oregon draws Stanford at home, Oregon State on the road and then probably USC at home in the Pac 12 championship game.

Notre Dame won't jump ahead of K-State or Oregon if all three teams finish undefeated, no matter how impressive or unimpressive the trio look in their final games. All Notre Dame can do is win out, although the Irish aren't co-opting the survive-and-advance mentality that permeates the NCAA basketball tournament.

"When you stop playing to win and start playing not to lose, that's when you start getting in trouble," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We just gotta play Notre Dame football and come out every single week and start firing on all cylinders."

And no, a one-loss Alabama team won't leapfrog an undefeated Notre Dame side -- College Football Talk's John Taylor spoke to someone who knows the BCS formula, and that person didn't see an avenue for a one-loss team to be ranked ahead of an undefeated team at the end of the season.

Notre Dame's national championship hopes haven't completely crystallized yet. Even with Alabama out of the equation, there's still one more loss needed for the Irish to break through into the BCS Championship picture.

But they're one step closer to a top-two ranking and trip to Miami. First, though, they have to take care of their own business -- which, as the Irish have experienced this season, won't be easy.

"It's only as real as Wake Forest," Te'o said of Notre Dame's championship aspirations. "We have to deal with Wake Forest and play one game at a time. That's proof that it's college football. Any team can lose at any time. We just don't want to be that team."

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.