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Bama-UGA gearing up for latest huge SEC title game

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Bama-UGA gearing up for latest huge SEC title game

Alabama coach Nick Saban finds plenty to like about competing in a league where the champion has a near-automatic reservation to the BCS national title game.

That's the case again for Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game between the second-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 3 Georgia. The winner advances to meet No. 1 Notre Dame with a chance to keep the national championship in the SEC for a seventh straight year.

And the loser? Well, that team might be shut out of the BCS picture because No. 5 Florida is in line to grab that spot. Saban is less thrilled about that prospect - another side effect of playing in the SEC.

``For either one of these teams, it's not really a great scenario,'' Saban said on a conference call Sunday. ``You play your way into the championship game, which means you're the best team in your division. They're the best team in their division. They played their way into the game by a total body of work for the whole season. It doesn't seem quite right, but it is what it is.

``I don't really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it, but I don't feel good about it for our football team or their football team.''

Then again, he wasn't complaining when the Tide (11-1, 7-1) landed in the BCS title game against LSU last season without winning the West.

The Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1) rebounded from a 35-7 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 6 to win the East for the second straight season.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he doesn't want his team getting caught up in the stakes and magnitude of the game.

``All you can do is get your staff and your team as prepared as possible to go play a game,'' Richt said. ``That's what we're going to do. If you think about what the game means, this that and the other, it doesn't really help you win the game. The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle. That's what you've got to do.

``Physically, mentally, be ready to handle your business when the ball kicks off. That's my only focus. I don't worry about all that stuff.''

Coincidentally, Georgia beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for its only AP title to end the 1980 season.

Richt isn't drawing too much from that history.

``That's the first time anybody's brought that up to me,'' he said. ``I can't worry about all that stuff. We're just working like mad trying to get a game plan ready to go this week. That's all I can say.''

Georgia earned the trip down the road to Atlanta with a win over Florida to claim the tiebreaker. The Gators were ranked third at the time, but Richt can still draw from that win when asked how his team will handle a big game even if his memory is a touch off.

``We've already played the No. 2 team in the country once this year and had a good day against Florida,'' he said.

The game will feature the nation's two most efficient passers, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Alabama's AJ McCarron. Alabama comes in leading the nation in scoring and total defense.

Both teams are coming off blowout wins over in-state rivals.

The Tide produced its fourth shutout of the season with a 49-0 win over Auburn. Georgia dispatched Georgia Tech 42-10.

This is Alabama's eighth time in an SEC championship game but the first time the team has played someone other than the Gators.

The Tide is aiming for its second straight national title and third in four years. Saban still talks like a guy gunning for his first.

``Regardless of what you've accomplished in the past, this is the most important game we're going to play this entire year for our team,'' he said.

``I'm always looking forward to the next challenge. When I can't do that, I probably shouldn't do this anymore. ``

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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