Redskins

BCS busters NIU face Florida St in Orange Bowl

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BCS busters NIU face Florida St in Orange Bowl

MIAMI (AP) Florida State's biggest weakness heading into their Orange Bowl game against Northern Illinois might be Midwestern geography.

The Seminoles concede they'd be hard-pressed to locate their opponent in an atlas.

``I could probably find Illinois,'' receiver Rashad Greene said. ``I don't really know where the town is. Actually I don't even know the town.''

It's DeKalb.

``DeKalb?'' Seminoles kicker Dustin Hopkins said. ``Hey, next time I'll know.''

``I thought it was in Chicago,'' quarterback EJ Manuel said.

Cue the cliche: A victory Tuesday night would put Northern Illinois on the map. The No. 16-ranked Huskies have been widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, which makes them eager for validation when they face No. 13 Florida State.

``We're playing a team that is going to be willing to bloody their noses and get after you,'' Seminoles offensive coordinator James Coley warned.

Northern Illinois (12-1) is the first Mid-American Conference team to play in the Bowl Championship Series. The Huskies made it when they cracked the top 16 in the final standings by 0.0404 points, setting off a celebration in DeKalb and a backlash everywhere else.

The BCS busters arrived in south Florida without apology.

``There are a lot of angry people out there,'' NIU offensive coordinator Bob Cole said. ``But there are probably 120 of us in the hotel that are really happy about the whole deal. We don't really care what everybody else thinks.''

The bowl berth meant 17 Huskies would see the ocean for the first time. One story about the team used the phrase ``bowl bumpkins.''

``We laugh at it, whatever that's supposed to mean,'' linebacker Tyrone Clark said. ``We take this as an amazing opportunity for the MAC, the school and the players.''

Actually, success is nothing new to the Huskies, who are playing in a bowl for the fifth consecutive season. Since October 2011 they have the best record in the country at 21-1.

They've won 12 games in a row, matching Ohio State and Notre Dame for the longest active winning streak. Quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in rushing and total offense, and he finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

But the Huskies barely beat Army, Toledo and Kansas. They lost to Iowa, which won only three other games. They've never beaten an opponent ranked higher than 15th.

At a news conference Monday for the head coaches, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher agreed to pose with the Orange Bowl trophy. Northern Illinois' Rod Carey declined, but not because his team is a two-touchdown underdog.

``Underdog? What is that?'' Carey said. ``Our kids play with a chip on their shoulder all the time. I mean, if we were favored by 21 points I'd be more nervous.''

Until kickoff, it's impossible to know how seriously Florida State (11-2) will take a supposedly unimposing opponent. The matchup's a letdown for the Seminoles, who wanted to wait another week to play in Miami - in the BCS title game.

But in the days leading up to the game, the Seminoles said all the right things about Northern Illinois.

``We're not going to underestimate anybody,'' receiver Rodney Smith said. ``Everybody is trying to say NIU doesn't deserve to be here, but as a team we're saying they're here for a reason. We're going to treat them like they're the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.''

They're No. 1 in DeKalb, anyway, especially in the wake of their Orange Bowl berth.

``They've got signs all over the place in the street back home - `Go Huskies' and `Good Luck in the Orange Bowl,''' Cole said. ``For what it has done for our community, our players, our school, it has been unbelievable.''

DeKalb is located an hour west of Chicago, on the banks of the Kishwaukee River, in Rand McNally grid C-10. A good crowd at Huskies Stadium is 18,000, and the town's population of 45,000 would barely fill half of the Orange Bowl's seats.

``In DeKalb you've got your local cornfields,'' linebacker Clark said. ``We've got a lot of space there. And you've got your daily wind. It's just a small town with a nice-size university - and a select number of people.''

Added teammate Sean Progar: ``There's not too much to do but play football.''

That's what the small-town Huskies will do Tuesday on their biggest stage ever.

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 17, nine days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass catchers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass catchers are up. They are roughly ranked 2017 receiving yards, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teams and quarterbacks

Julio Jones, Falcons—Somehow the perception is that he had an off year in 2017 even though he still had 1,444 yards receiving. His touchdowns were down; his total of three TDs was a career worst for a full season. Still, he’s a beast to try to cover and even if you have him perfectly covered he can still make the catch on you. 

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Despite working with some shaky quarterbacks, Hopkins has managed to gain over 1,100 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. He is a highlight show regular and his 13 touchdowns led the league in 2017. 

Michael Thomas, Saints—The third-year player doesn’t have high name recognition outside of New Orleans and maybe fans of the other NFC South teams. Defensive coordinators certainly don’t sleep on him. Thomas is as consistent as they come, posting nine games with 80 or more receiving yards last season. 

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals—I keep wondering when he will show signs of his age (he’ll be 35 before the season starts). He didn’t last year, posting 109 receptions despite the fact that his quarterbacks were an aging Carson Palmer plus journeymen Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. 

Mike Evans, Buccaneers—At 6-5, he is able to physically beat most cornerbacks. Evans will turn 25 just before the season starts and he got a five-year, $82.5 million contract extension. He is worth every bit of it. If Jameis Winston gets a big contract (something that is up in the air right now), he owes a good chunk of it to Evans. 

Best of the rest: T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Davante Adams, Packers; Alvin Kamara (RB), Saints; Zach Ertz (TE), Eagles

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

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 9
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 23
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 46

The Redskins last played a game 198 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 54 days. 

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Bryce Harper's 2018 Home Run Derby win by the numbers

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper's 2018 Home Run Derby win by the numbers

Bryce Harper is the 2018 Home Run Derby champion.

In his home ballpark, Harper put on a show Washington won't soon forget.

He ran through a division foe in the first round in Freddie Freeman, took out a strong, hefty lefty in the semifinals in Max Muncy and then hit nine home runs in 47 seconds in the final minute of the final round when it seemed like he had no chance. On the second swing of his 30 seconds of extra time, Harper launched a bomb to deep center field to win.

And while winning the Home Run Derby in his own ballpark is an impressive feat on its own, the numbers behind his victory make it all the more impressive.


3.

He is just the third hometown winner of the Home Run Derby in the history of the event. Todd Frazier did it most recently in 2016 in Cincinnati, and Ryne Sandberg won at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1990.

13.

Harper won each of the first two rounds with 13 homers. He didn't need his full time in either of the first two rounds.

446 & 441.

Harper's first two home runs of his first-round matchup against Freeman traveled farther than any of the Braves' superstar's dingers.


10.

In the semifinals, Harper only hit three homers in the first minute, but then blasted 10 in his next 11 swings. That's called efficiency.


5.

In the first round, Harper hit five of the 10 longest home runs of anybody in the field.


45.

Harper hit 45 bombs en route to claiming the title. Here's a visual representation of all of them.

That's also how many dollars cheaper Nats tickets will be... oops!


2.

That's John Wall's number and this is him celebrating his fellow D.C. sports superstar's victory.


19,058.

Bryce Harper hit an absurd 19,058 feet of home runs during the 2018 Home Run Derby. That's more than the 5k you ran last year.

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