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BCS Championship: Tale of the tape

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BCS Championship: Tale of the tape

Everything about the BCS championship between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama seems larger than life.

Not only do these schools stand among the best ever in college football, they also lead the pack in celebrating that success and in investing for the future.

If ever college football presented a heavyweight event it's the Fighting Irish against the Crimson Tide.

So here, then, is a tale of the tape for Monday's marquee matchup in Miami.

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- FOOTBALL BUILDING

ALABAMA: The Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, named for the current athletic director, has a 20,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center - which is soon to be replaced - plus aquatic rehabilitation pools. The building also houses athletic administrators and the football offices.

NOTRE DAME: The Guglielmino Athletics Complex, named after the booster who funded it, has a 25,000-square-foot health and fitness center, meeting rooms and the football offices. Plus, the Morse Recruiting lounge with championship banners for Notre Dame's ``11 consensus national championships.''

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- TROPHIES

ALABAMA: The ``Hall of Champions'' overlooks the lobby on the second floor of the athletic facility. It has trophy cases for the Crimson Tide's 14 national champions - including a spot where `Bama is hoping 2012 can be added - and a large case for the 23 Southeastern Conference title teams. Prominently perched on a marble pedestal is Mark Ingram's 2009 Heisman Trophy, the program's first.

NOTRE DAME: The lobby of the Gug, as the athletics complex is called, is basically one of college football's largest trophy cases. The first thing visitors see is Notre Dame's last national championship trophy, the coaches' trophy the Irish received after the 1988 season. To the left, across the wall are seven Heisman Trophies. No other school has won more.

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- WEIGHT ROOM

ALABAMA: A new weight room is nearly completed. Trustees approved the $9.1 million, 34,495-square-foot, two-story strength and conditioning facility in August that will connect the athletic building and the indoor practice facility. It's expected to be ready in early February.

NOTRE DAME: The football players work out at the Haggar Fitness Center in the Gug. It features more than 250 pieces of weight training equipment, six flat-screen TVs and a sound system, and it's available to all Notre Dame athletes.

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- STATUES

ALABAMA: Coach Nick Saban's towering likeness stands next to Bryant-Denny Stadium, offering a good spot for fan pictures on game day. The 9-foot statue is one of five honoring Tide football coaches who have won national titles, joining Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul W. ``Bear'' Bryant and Gene Stallings in the Walk of Champions plaza. It was unveiled in the spring of 2011, 15 months after `Bama won the 2009 championship.

NOTRE DAME: Walk around Notre Dame Stadium and at each entrance you'll find a statue of one of its championship-winning coaches. Knute Rockne's guards the north tunnel, facing Touchdown Jesus. Dan Devine is at Gate A. Ara Parseghian is at Gate B. Frank Leahy is at Gate C. Lou Holtz is at Gate D.

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- MASCOTS

ALABAMA: Tradition holds that the Tide's elephant mascot dates to 1930 when Atlanta Journal sports writer Everett Strupper wrote that a fan called out: ``Hold your horses, the elephants are coming.'' The ``Red Elephant'' nickname for the linemen stuck. The Big Al mascot made his official debut in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, when Alabama claimed its second straight national title with a win over Penn State. A game-saving goal line stand stole some of Big Al's thunder.

NOTRE DAME: The Leprechaun became the official mascot of the Fighting Irish in 1965, though four years earlier a student first donned the costume and roamed the sidelines. Leprechaun tryouts consist of a five-minute mock pep rally, an interview with a local media personality, responding to game situations, answering Notre Dame trivia, dancing an Irish jig, and doing 50 push-ups.

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- KEEPING IN STEP

ALABAMA: The Crimsonettes, a group of energetic dancers, entertain crowds at various sporting events. They're chosen based on dancing skills, physical fitness and the ability to learn the group routine, according to the school's Web site.

NOTRE DAME: The Irish Guard. Formed in 1949 as a part of the University of Notre Dame Marching Band, the guards wear a uniform of traditional Scottish kilt and Notre Dame tartan. To the top of the shako, a guard stands 7-feet tall, and the game-day inspection of the Guard usually draws a crowd - though not for the same reasons the Crimsonettes do.

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- SLOGANS

ALABAMA: Roll Tide, Roll Tide. ``Yea Alabama'' was written by the editor of the student newspaper, The Rammer-Jammer, in a contest that followed a win over Washington in the 1926 Rose Bowl. The lyrics include: ``You're Dixie's football pride, Crimson Tide! Yea, Alabama! Drown `em Tide!'' The ending call ``Roll Tide, Roll Tide'' was added later.

NOTRE DAME: Wake Up the Echoes. The ``Victory March'' was first performed at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday on 1909. Not until 10 years later did it start being played at athletic events. The second verse starts: ``Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, Wake up the echoes cheering her name.''

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- INTEGRATION

ALABAMA: John Mitchell became the first African-American to play for the Crimson Tide in 1971 after he transferred from junior college for his final two seasons. He was an All-American defensive end as a senior in 1972. Mitchell is now assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he's coached the linemen since 1994. He started his career as Bear Bryant's defensive line coach in 1973 and became the Southeastern Conference's first black defensive coordinator at LSU in 1990. Bryant assistant Jerry Claiborne later said that a 1970 game with Southern California and star Sam Cunningham caught Bryant's attention and ``did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.''

NOTRE DAME: Defensive lineman Wayne Edmonds, from rural Pennsylvania, became the first African-American to earn a monogram on the football team in 1953. He and Richard Washington were the first black student-athletes to play in a game. The 1953 team went undefeated, a season when Georgia Tech refused to play Notre Dame at home because of the black players on the Fighting Irish and the game was moved to South Bend.

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- CAMPUS SHRINE

ALABAMA: If there's not necessarily a ``Touchdown Jesus'' equivalent, there is Denny Chimes, where the football team captains get to leave their indelible marks. The base of the tower displays hand and foot impressions of each captain from Tide teams since the 1940s.

NOTRE DAME: The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is one-seventh the size of the French shrine where the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858. Visitors pass by peacefully, light candles and say prayers - probably a few for a Fighting Irish victory.

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- FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

ALABAMA: `Bama headed West in 1925 to capture the program's first national championship with a 20-19 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. - the same place Saban won his first with the Tide. The 1925 squad went 10-0 and outscored opponents 297-26, and seven organizations declared Alabama the nation's best team.

NOTRE DAME: In 1924, it was Notre Dame that capped an undefeated season in the Rose Bowl by beating Pop Warner's Stanford team for the national championship. The first of three for Knute Rockne, and 11 that Notre Dame claims. The Fighting Irish haven't played in the Rose Bowl since.

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- BEST WALK-ON

ALABAMA: Carson Tinker received a scholarship before this season but was already one of college football's most well-known walk-ons and long snappers, though for a tragic reason. His girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was killed by a tornado when she and Tinker were thrown about 50 yards from the closet where they had huddled. Tinker has persevered and become a fan favorite with nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter.

NOTRE DAME: Rudy Ruettiger, the ultimate underdog story. He overcame a learning disability to get accepted to Notre Dame, then at 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds he made the Fighting Irish scout team. He got on the field for three plays, and had a sack on the final play of his final game. Hollywood got hold of the story, added a little melodrama, and turned it into a sports movie classic.

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- BEST QUARTERBACK

ALABAMA: Joe Namath came to Tuscaloosa from Beaver Falls, Pa., and was a 1964 All-American for the Tide team that was named national champion by some organizations. Then, of course, he became an unforgettable pro football star who guaranteed his New York Jets would upset Baltimore in the 1969 Super Bowl - before making good on it. Bart Starr, another Hall of Famer, and Kenny Stabler also went on to terrific pro careers.

NOTRE DAME: Joe Montana, another western Pennsylvania kid who grew up to become an all-time great quarterback, came to Notre Dame in 1974. In his sophomore season, he gained a reputation as the comeback kid, coming off the bench to lead the Fighting Irish from behind to beat North Carolina and Air Force. He capped his career with another remarkable comeback victory against Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl, then went on to win four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.

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Hard Knocks L.A. Episode 1 Recap: Anthony Lynn tested positive, Justin Herbert shines

Hard Knocks L.A. Episode 1 Recap: Anthony Lynn tested positive, Justin Herbert shines

Football is back on TV as the new season of HBO's Hard Knocks premiered Tuesday evening. It’s the first time in the documentary's 15 seasons that the show will follow two teams, the Los Angles Chargers and Los Angles Rams. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from episode one. 

Anthony Lynn tested positive

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn revealed in the opening scene that he had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year. Lynn is the third known NFL head coach to have contracted the virus, joining New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Peyton and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

Justin Herbert shines

The Chargers first-round draft pick was the star player of episode one showing off his arm skills. He nailed almost every one of his targets during accuracy drills. The episode didn’t show too much of any player, but the former University of Oregon signal-caller stole the show in small amount of camera time he had

Rams head coach Sean McVay

Sean McVay’s introduction to the show had fans jealous of the panoramic views from his home in Los Angeles. McVay’s jokes were also a highlight of the episode. 

COVID-19 precautions and safety

Training camp is off-limits to fans in order to decrease potential exposure of the virus for players and staff. With that in mind, Hard Knocks is fans and media members first look at what an NFL training camp in 2020 looks like. From the frequent testing to the outdoor facilities that both the Rams and Chargers have invested in, it's a different type of training camp. It’s also a different type of Hard Knocks, but because of our desire for anything football-related, it has the potential to be one of the best seasons yet.
 
It will be tough to top the excitement of episode one but with two teams in action, there's no shortage of storylines. Episode two airs on HBO next Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. 

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Wizards' NBA Bubble Awards: Thomas Bryant was the clear MVP

Wizards' NBA Bubble Awards: Thomas Bryant was the clear MVP

The Wizards closed out their 2019-20 regular season on Thursday with a much-needed win, as they finished the year 25-47 and their time in the NBA's restart bubble 1-7. 

Those final eight games, though, were about much more than wins and losses. The team was evaluating their young players as they look ahead to next season when the expectations will be raised significantly.

Just looking at those eight games, here are some awards and superlatives for what we saw...

Most valuable: Thomas Bryant

This is a very easy call, it was a unanimous vote. Though Bryant wasn't the only young player who looked good in Orlando, he was by far their best player overall.

Bryant leaves the bubble with eight-game averages of 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. Those are big-time numbers, even if they were compiled on a team that went 1-7. Bryant took on a larger role in the offense and increased his volume while remaining efficient. He shot 53.2 percent overall and 40.5 percent from three.

Bryant took a big step forward. He was healthy after dealing with a foot problem earlier this season, and delivered. The Wizards have a legitimate starting center they can pencil in for next season, hopefully with the green light to take more threes.

RELATED: WIZARDS FINALLY WIN IN BUBBLE

Most improved: Jerome Robinson

This was one of the more unexpected, yet pleasantly surprising developments for the Wizards in the bubble. Robinson, who had spent his entire career to this point backing up really good players, finally got a chance to spread his wings. And, boy, did he.

Robinson found a newfound level of consistency, averaging 14.8 points while shooting a solid 36.7 percent from three. He reached double figures in scoring in seven of the eight games after only doing that four times in his previous 88 NBA appearances. 

Given the small sample size, and the stakes, it probably isn't enough to truly guarantee him a role going into next season. But he has absolutely earned a chance to compete for the back-up role behind Bradley Beal.

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Most intriguing: Troy Brown Jr.

Brown had a tremendous start in the bubble, but slowed down late as he was thrown into the fire as the starting point guard. Though he struggled in that role, it was an invaluable experience that he can take a lot of lessons from.

Overall, though, Brown made clear improvements in his game. He thrived with a greater share of the play-making duties and was able to showcase his skills as a passer and ball-handler.

It was enough to warrant some focus by the Wizards' coaching staff next season. Though they will have John Wall and Beal coming back, they have to find a way to incorporate Brown's strengths. That may come in a bench role as the primary ball-handler in the second unit.

Needs most improvement: Admiral Schofield

Not all of the Wizards' young players displayed growth in the bubble games and included in that group is Schofield, the team's 2019 second round pick. Unfortunately for him, it was all juxtaposed with the breakout performance of Bol Bol, whom the Wizards passed on to select Schofield out of the University of Tennessee.

Schofield averaged only 2.7 points in 12.6 minutes while shooting 29.4 percent from the field. He looked uncertain on the floor and continues to sort of float between roles with no defined path towards stability in the rotation.

Keep in mind, though, Schofield is just starting out his NBA career. He was a second round pick and those guys take time. He has the physical tools, the work ethic and the smarts to make it in this league. But there is no question this will be an important offseason for the guy.

Best moment: Moe Wagner vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The most memorable image from the Wizards' time in Orlando was definitely the ejection of the league's reigning MVP in their penultimate game. Antetokounmpo has since been suspended by the league for it.

He lost his cool and headbutted Wagner, who now has another notch on his belt in his neverending quest to get under the skin of his opponents. He is a pest and an effective one at that.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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