Preps Talk

What we learned: Underdog status already motivates Irish

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What we learned: Underdog status already motivates Irish

Out of Saturday's heart-stopping SEC Championship emerged Alabama, and Notre Dame's opponent in next month's BCS Championship is set.

The betting lines, which had pegged Alabama as a 10-point favorite over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship, are soon to follow with the Irish remaining heavy underdogs. That may rankle some, but fact is, the SEC has earned the right to be favored every time they have a participating team in the BCS Championship. Winning six in a row has earned that trust.

Notre Dame players, though, aren't interested in poking holes in the SEC's dominance. While most took to twitter to tweet things like "Bama it is" or "time to get to work," Robby Toma got a head start on drawing motivation from those who think the Tide will roll on Jan. 7:

Just keep doubting us...we love it

Robby Toma (@RobJob293) December 2, 2012
Notre Dame has played a team as physical as Alabama this year, that being Stanford. They haven't played anyone who combines that physicality with the kind of across-the-board speed Alabama possesses, not to mention a coach with the tactical intelligence of Nick Saban.

Alabama had considerable success on the ground against Georgia, with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both rushing for more than 150 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. But that was against a rushing defense that entered the game ranked 69th in among FBS teams. Notre Dame ranks fifth.

A.J. McCarron threw the game-winning touchdown to Amari Cooper, a freshman who caught eight passes for 127 yards. But Alabama's passing game was pretty much Cooper and no one else, with McCarron completing only five passes to other receivers. If you're looking ahead to matchups, Bennett Jackson's ability to mute Cooper's production could be key in silencing Alabama's passing game.

Defensively, Alabama had a tough time stopping Georgia running back Todd Gurley -- although the way he ran Saturday, few defenses could've had success. Aaron Murray completed 18 of 33 passes for 267 yards and exposed Alabama's secondary on a few occasions, but was hardly spectacular.

It's hard to draw too many conclusions from one game, though, given there's more than five full weeks until kickoff in Florida. That's plenty of time for tweaks, adjustments and additions to a game plan.

That's also plenty of time for Notre Dame-Alabama to be dissected in every way possible, and plenty of time for those analyses to conclude that the Irish don't have a chance. But once the first second ticks off the clock on Jan. 7, none of that will matter.

"Were all going to strap up our pads the same way, were all going to strap our chinstraps the same way," Manti Te'o said this week. "We understand how dominant the SEC has been in the past. But its definitely and opportunity that were looking forward to, and were going to prepare the same way that weve been preparing all week and all year."

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. — just after Chicago White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. This week we spotlight some Indiana vs. Illinois border wars:

Gary (West Side) at Woodstock, 7 p.m.

Hammond (HS) at Reavis, 7 p.m.

Hammond (Gavit) at St. Ignatius, 7:30 p.m.  

Poll opens Monday at 12 p.m. and closes Thursday at 4 p.m. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

Power Rankings: #4 - Batavia

Power Rankings: #4 - Batavia

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Batavia

Head coach: Dennis Piron

Assistant coaches: Matt Holm, Billy Colamatteo, Sean Anderson, PJ White, Dan Cadena, Adam Lester, Steve Bailey, Alvin Cole, Shane Holl and Gary Urwiler

How they fared in 2017: 13-1 (5-1 Upstate Eight River Conference). Batavia made the 7A state playoff field and defeated Glenbard North, Wheaton North, Lincoln-Way West and Benet Academy. They went on to defeat Lake Zurich in the state title game to capture the 7A state championship.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Lemont

Aug. 31 vs Naperville North

Sept. 7 vs Lake Park

Sept. 14 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 21 vs Wheaton Warrenville South

Sept. 28 vs Geneva

Oct. 5 @ St. Charles East

Oct. 12 vs St. Charles North

Oct. 19 @ Wheaton North

[MORE: 89 Days to Kickoff - St. Charles East]

Biggest storyline: Can the Bulldogs, winners of state titles in 2013 and 2017, get back to state and claim another 7A title?

Names to watch this season: LB Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) and LB Michael Jansey Jr. (Northwestern)

Biggest holes to fill: The Bulldogs will need to replace nine graduated starters from last seasons's state championship squad. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Bulldogs are turning the page from their championship season, which was capped off with a 21-14 OT victory over Lake Zurich in the title game. While the offense will be inexperienced to start the season, the program has never been in better shape under head coach Dennis Piron. The Bulldogs' defense feature two D-1 senior team leaders in Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) and Michael Jansey Jr. (Northwestern). The offense will look to run the football behind two starters back on the offensive line in senior Evan Holden and senior Anthony Glisson. Batavia will also see a ramped-up schedule, thanks to the new DuKane Conference. It will challenge the Bulldogs week in and week out. Bulldogs fans also have an added treat: this season marks the 100th rendition of the Batavia-Geneva rivalry game. If Batavia can get their play-action passing game sorted out they have the tools to make another deep run in 2018.