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Alabama set to grab pole position in BCS race

Alabama set to grab pole position in BCS race

The first BCS standings of the season come out Sunday. Is this important?

Well, sort of.

Since the BCS was implemented in 1998, only twice has neither of the teams ranked first or second in the initial standings reached the national title game.

Seven out of 13 teams that started No. 1 in the standings played for the national championship. Six times the second-place team in the first standings played for the BCS title.

Four times a team has started third and finished in the top two, and four times a team has started fourth and played in the big game.

Six teams have come from fifth place or farther back to reach the championship game. LSU started the farthest back in 2003 at No. 12.

Conclusion: Just like in auto racing, it helps to start in the front row, but expect some passing and maybe a wreck or two.

The coaches' poll and the Harris poll are the driving forces behind the BCS standings. A compilation of six computer rankings also count for a third of a BCS rating, but essentially the computers break ties when two teams are very close in the polls.

Alabama, an overwhelming No. 1 in the polls, is just about a lock to be first when the standings are released Sunday, barring a major upset of the Crimson Tide at Missouri on Saturday.

The Tigers are still looking for their first Southeastern Conference victory, coming off a loss to Vanderbilt, and they will be without injured starting quarterback James Franklin (knee). So good luck beating `Bama.

Oregon is off this week and stands a good chance to be right behind Alabama in the BCS standings, just as it is in the polls. The Ducks are a solid No. 2 in both.

The computer ratings going into this weekend treat Notre Dame a bit better than the pollsters. The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh in the polls, but first in two of the five computer ratings that have already been released. A sixth doesn't start coming out until Sunday.

And with the Irish facing another strong opponent Saturday, at home against Stanford, don't be surprised to see Notre Dame ahead in the BCS standings of some teams that it trails in the polls if it beats the Cardinal.

The most important thing to remember is this: Don't get too worked up. There are plenty of games to be played.

Wait about a month or so, and then get worked up.

The picks:

SATURDAY

No. 1 Alabama (minus 21 1/2) at Missouri

You know who is enjoying the Tigers' first season in the SEC? Kansas fans ... ALABAMA 38-13.

No. 3 South Carolina (plus 2 1/2) at No. 9 LSU

Death Valley won't be so intimidating if Tigers can't fix their offense ... SOUTH CAROLINA 17-13

No. 4 Florida (minus 7 1/2) at Vanderbilt

Gators have won 21 straight against Commodores ... FLORIDA 17-9.

No. 5 West Virginia (minus 4 1/2) at Texas Tech

Can Mountaineers stay focused in between trip to Texas and home game against K-State? ... TEXAS TECH 38-35.

No. 6 Kansas State (minus 6 1/2) at Iowa State

Wildcats have won four straight in series, all by eight or less ... KANSAS STATE 28-24.

No. 17 Stanford (plus 8 1/2) at No. 7 Notre Dame

Cardinal have won three straight against Irish ... NOTRE DAME 23-13.

No. 8 Ohio State (minus 17) at Indiana

Braxton Miller Heisman hype picking up steam ... OHIO STATE 40-17.

No. 10 Oregon State (plus 6) at BYU

QB injuries have both teams scrambling ... BYU 12-10.

No. 11 Southern California (minus 12) at Washington

Trojans are second-most penalized team in the nation at 10 per game ... USC 28-17.

Boston College (plus 28) at No. 12 Florida State

Seminoles return home in a bad mood ... FLORIDA STATE 45-14.

No. 13 Oklahoma (minus 3) vs. No. 15 Texas at Dallas

Big 12 elimination game; one group of fans is going to be really ticked off ... OKLAHOMA 28-27.

No. 18 Louisville (minus 3) at Pittsburgh

Panthers have been a hard team to decipher ... LOUISVILLE 28-24.

UPSET SPECIAL

Tennessee (plus 3) at No. 19 Mississippi State

Huge game for Vols with Alabama, South Carolina up next ... TENNESSEE 35-31.

Syracuse (plus 7) at No. 20 Rutgers

Orange DE Brandon Sharpe had four sacks vs. Pitt last week ... RUTGERS 21-13.

Fordham (no line) at No. 21 Cincinnati

Been a long time since the Seven Blocks of Granite were playing for Fordham ... CINCINNATI 58-10.

BEST BET

No. 22 Texas A&M (minus 8) vs. No. 23 Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La.

Biggest hurdle between Bulldogs and BCS bid ... TEXAS A&M 52-24.

Fresno State (plus 7) at No. 24 Boise State

Conference rivals again, Broncos have won six straight in series ... BOISE STATE 31-21.

Illinois (plus 23 1/2) at No. 25 Michigan

Denard Robinson coming off 235-yard rushing performance against Purdue ... MICHIGAN 39-14.

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Last week's record: 15-5 (straight); 11-7 (vs. points)

Season record: 101-20 (straight); 58-46 (vs. points)

Best bets: 2-4.

Upset specials: 3-3.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdursso

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Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

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USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 115-104 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Step back: The Wizards just can't crack the code of consistency or the pesky Brooklyn Nets.

After winning three straight and looking like they had made some corrections, the Wizards stumbled out of the locker room at halftime and couldn't match Brooklyn's energy. The Nets pulled away to lead by as many as 19 and handed the Wizards yet another blowout loss in a season of which are quickly piling up.

The Nets have the formula to give the Wizards fits. They are scrappy and play defense. They are cohesive and well-coached. The Wizards are susceptible against try-hards who play with a chip on their shoulder. They too often let others set the tone and that's just what the Nets did in this one. 

The Wizards are now 5-10 on the season. That matches their 15-game start from two years ago, when they rallied to win 49 games, but that only means so much, of course.

Threes were off: While their attempts are up, the Wizards have been shooting uncharacteristically bad from three this season. They entered the game 27th in the NBA, shooting just 32.8 percent.

In this game, they didn't just struggle to make threes, they had trouble shooting them at all. Brooklyn sold out to take away the perimeter and was successful doing it. 

The Wizards went 3-for-17 from three and shot just 17.6 percent. They were 2-for-13 entering the fourth quarter.

Surely, head coach Scott Brooks won't be happy about that. Three-point shooting continues to be a major point of emphasis for him.

Howard was dominant early: Perhaps we should have expected this from Dwight Howard. After all, it was the Nets, the team Howard was bought out by over the summer, right before he signed with the Wizards. 

Was three days with a franchise enough for a revenge game? Sure, we'll go with it.

Or, perhaps he's just a bad matchup for Brooklyn because they were the team he smacked around for 32 points and 30 rebounds against last season.

He didn't quite go 30-30, but Howard was unstoppable in the first half. He ate Jarrett Allen, who is a very talented young player, for lunch. Allen and the rest of the Nets' frontline were no match for Howard's strength.

Howard popped off for six of the Wizards' first eight points. By halftime, he had 17 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block.

This game was a reminder of the fact he can do things his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, cannot. Howard, really, can produce in a way no Wizards' fourth option has been able to in years.

Markieff Morris has often served as the fourth scoring option behind John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. But Morris doesn't often go off for nearly a double-double in a half. 

But, the second half:  What was strange about Howard, though, is that he barely played in the second half until the game was out of hand. Howard picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, but that didn't explain it all.

Howard played only five minutes from the start of the second half until there were less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. During that stretch, Allen found success against the Wizards' small-ball lineups and helped the Nets pull away.

By the time Howard returned, the Wizards were down 19 points. Brooks had something that was working really well and, in part because of the fouls, he went away from it a little too long. It proved costly.

Morris struggled: As good as Howard was, Morris had one of his worst games of the season. The Wizards power forward had one of those nights we see far too often where he wasn't active enough on defense or on the boards. He couldn't get anything going offensively, either.

Morris, who ended the game with four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, had zero points and zero rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. 

While the Nets' big men were overmatched by Howard's strength, Morris couldn't keep up with their quickness. He was a step behind and had trouble matching their bounce around the rim.

Morris predictably didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. That's the way it goes with Brooks now.

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Despite coming off of the bench, Bruno Fernando delivered a perfect performance against Hofstra

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite coming off of the bench, Bruno Fernando delivered a perfect performance against Hofstra

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --- Bruno Fernando came off the bench to deliver 17 points and seven rebounds as part of a balanced offense as Maryland defeated Hofstra 80-69 on Friday.

Fernando made all eight of his field goal attempts for the Terrapins (4-0). It was the 12th time in school history a player was perfect from the floor with at least eight attempts and the first since Sean Mosley was 8 of 8 against Longwood in 2010.

When asked why Fernando did not start in the game, head coach Mark Turgeon made it sound like it was more than just a simple line-up change.

"I'm about teaching life lessons and I'm just going to leave it at that. That's more important than winning to me," Turgeon said.

Freshman Eric Ayala scored a career-high 14 points, while Aaron Wiggins added 13. Darryl Morsell had 12 points, and both Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith had 11. It was the first time since Jan. 7, 2017, against Iowa that Maryland had six players score in double figures.

Justin Wright-Foreman, who entered the game tied for 10th in the country with 25.3 points per game, scored 27 points for the Pride (2-2). Hofstra built a 37-31 lead the break, the first time Maryland trailed at halftime this season.

Hofstra extended its edge to 43-35, but Maryland responded with a 16-3 run to claim the lead for good. The Terps never led by less than three points in the final 14 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride is an efficient scoring team and showed in the first half why they are expected to contend in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. Maryland is Hofstra's lone power conference opponent, and the Pride is unlikely to see a frontcourt as athletic as Fernando and Smith the rest of the season.

Maryland: The Terps continue their build up toward a difficult stretch that starts Nov. 23 and includes games against Marshall, Virginia, Penn State, Purdue and Loyola Chicago in a 16-day stretch. Maryland is off to a 4-0 start for the fifth consecutive season.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to face Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.

Maryland looks to improve to 9-0 all-time against Mount St. Mary's when the Mountaineers visit on Sunday.

NBC Sports Washington's Tyler Byrum contributed to this report. 

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