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Auburn makes rapid tumble from Newton's title team

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Auburn makes rapid tumble from Newton's title team

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Two years ago, Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers were unstoppable.

Newton and fellow star Nick Fairley have long since headed to the NFL after spearheading the 2010 national title run - and the Tigers' fall has been as dramatic as that sudden rise.

Now, after one of the program's worst starts in six decades, even a bowl game seems out of reach and Gene Chizik's job security has become a hot topic around the state.

Even former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who has been a big Chizik supporter, said on a syndicated radio show that he doesn't think the Tigers will win a Southeastern Conference game. Dye said the offensive problems, starting at quarterback, are unsolvable.

The Tigers play at favored Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Chizik said he wasn't aware of those comments and insists he's tuning out the criticism and urging his players to do the same, just like he wanted them to ignore the praise during that title run.

``My day when I walk through the door consists of my coaches and my players and the direction that we're headed,'' Chizik said Monday. ``What makes college football great is that, you know what, there's going to be people on the radio, there's going to be people on the TV, there's going to be people outside now that can say and do whatever they want and it can be public as it can be. And hey that's great. That's great.

``But if I concerned myself with all of that, then that would suck the energy and the life out of me trying to do a job that I know I've got to stay concentrating on one thing, trying to keep my coaches and my players on the path of improvement.''

The Tigers (1-5, 0-4 SEC) are off to their worst start since 1998 when coach Terry Bowden leapt off a sinking ship in midseason after starting with the same record. They haven't opened 1-6 since Ralph ``Shug'' Jordan's second team won only twice in 1952.

No team has fallen so far so fast from a national title since the BCS era began in 1998. The most comparable - and they're really not unless Auburn manages a huge turnaround - were both from SEC teams: Tennessee followed up the 1998 title with 9-3 and 8-4 seasons; LSU endured 8-5 and 9-4 seasons before returning to form after the 2007 championship.

Both remained respectable, though.

It doesn't appear there's a quick fix at Auburn, especially on offense.

A quarterback change from Kiehl Frazier to Clint Moseley didn't really jumpstart the Tigers, who rank 116th nationally in total offense and only one spot better in scoring.

The Tigers' fall to 8-5 last season came after losing most of the starters from the team that went 14-0, including the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Newton and fellow first-rounder Fairley.

This season was projected to be a similar rebuilding year despite three straight top 10 recruiting classes. Auburn, with new coordinators, implemented new offensive and defensive schemes. The Tigers also had lost star tailback Mike Dyer after he was released from his scholarship following an indefinite suspension for violating team rules. Onetime starting quarterback Barrett Trotter decided not to return for his fifth season.

Still, there weren't clear indications things would get this bad, though.

Auburn opened the season losing just 26-19 to No. 14 Clemson - and a few weeks later dropped a 12-10 game to No. 6 LSU.

Then came a 17-point loss to an Arkansas team that seemed in a similar boat, and a three-touchdown defeat at Mississippi. Now, the Tigers are touchdown underdogs at Vandy. Chizik said climbing out of this hole will require ``an unbending mentality,'' starting with him.

``Our focus every day is to improve and win,'' he said. ``We've got challenges on our team in every phase. I think that's obvious if you watch us play.''

Freshman wide receiver Sammie Coates took the veterans to task a week ago for a lack of leadership.

Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said the Tigers haven't given up, but Ole Miss and Arkansas have outscored them 31-0 in the fourth quarter the last two games.

He also defended Chizik, who was defensive coordinator on unbeaten teams at Auburn and Texas.

"it's just part of the job,'' Lutzenkirchen said. ``He's still a great coach. He's been a part of three undefeated seasons in the past decade, so there's no doubt about it that he's a good coach. We're in a hole and I think what he does from here on is going to continue to define him as a coach. He's going to continue to fight and lead this team. ``

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler