Wizards

Florida completes huge turnaround with romp at FSU

Florida completes huge turnaround with romp at FSU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) A year after calling his team soft following an embarrassing home loss to Florida State, Florida coach Will Muschamp watched many of those same players rip the Seminoles 37-26 on Saturday.

They clinched one of the best regular seasons in school history with a win more convincing than the final 11-point victory margin.

``Our guys just continued to press forward,'' Muschamp said. ``We don't do excuses. We did enough of that last year.''

And there was no talk of being soft.

``We're a physical football team,'' Muschamp said. ``That's what we pride ourselves on.''

The Gators impressed Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who was one of the few Seminoles to give Florida trouble.

``The way they were double-teaming - I've never seen it before,'' said Werner, who had 3 1/2 sacks in the game. ``Give credit to them.''

Florida (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) moved up a notch to No. 5 in The Associated Press poll with its win in Tallahassee and now awaits its bowl invitation a bit wistfully. The Gators know that only a 17-9 loss to Georgia a month ago prevents them from playing Alabama in this Saturday's SEC title game, where the winner will likely be Notre Dame's opponent in the BCS national championship game Jan. 7.

Muschamp and the Gators could be headed to New Orleans for a Sugar Bowl date.

Meanwhile, No. 13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) must get ready to play Georgia Tech in the ACC title game Saturday with the winner advancing to a New Year's game at the Orange Bowl against the Big East champion.

``We have to put this (Florida loss) behind us,'' said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who lost to a Florida school for the first time as a head coach.

Fisher is 3-0 against Miami, 1-0 against South Florida and now 2-1 in the Florida rivalry.

``They controlled the line of scrimmage. ... They made more plays than us,'' Fisher said. ``We have to move on and get better.''

And whereas it had been Florida State with much of the preseason attention after wins over Florida and Notre Dame to finish the 2011 season, Florida stealthily climbed the polls with road wins at Texas A&M, Tennessee and Vanderbilt along with home victories over LSU and South Carolina.

While the Gators were pulling out close victories against a difficult schedule, Florida State was putting up big numbers on both sides of the ball against the likes of Savannah State, Murray State and a group of mediocre ACC opponents. The Seminoles went into Saturday's game with just one victory over a ranked team, Clemson, and only two over schools with winning records.

And Florida made them pay.

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Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 win over the L.A. Clippers, their best comeback of the season so far

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USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 win over the L.A. Clippers, their best comeback of the season so far

The Washington Wizards beat the L.A. Clippers 125-118 on Tuesday night.

Here are five observations from the game...

What a comeback

Against the Clippers on Tuesday, they appeared headed towards another epic beatdown. They allowed 40 points in the first quarter, 73 by halftime and trailed by as many as 24.

But they rallied and somehow stole a victory away from the scorching-hot Clippers to stop a two-game skid and momentarily end all the jokes and proclamations that the John Wall era is over.

It was only one game, but head coach Scott Brooks has to be happy with how his team responded to a tough few days.

Lineup changes

After two-plus seasons of rolling out chalk lineups, Brooks made some adjustments for Tuesday's game that went further than anything he's done since taking the job in Washington.

With Dwight Howard out due to injury, he promoted Thomas Bryant and not Ian Mahinmi to the starting lineup. Brooks also moved Kelly Oubre Jr. in to replace Morris. The idea was to add some youthful bounce to the starting lineup, and it sort of worked.

Bryant gave them a boost early. He threw down an alley-oop for Wizards' first basket. Soon after that, he blocked Marcin Gortat and finished with a layup on the other end.

Bryant was solid with seven points, three rebounds and a block. Morris didn't necessarily respond to getting demoted, as he shot 3-for-11, but he made some nice plays at the end.

Oubre got into early foul trouble and was held to three points in 12 minutes.

Brooks' changes can't be judged by one game, but the fact he made them speaks volumes about where this team is at right now.

Satoransky making some noise

Brooks fluctuating his lineups is going to create opportunities for others to take advantage. So far, in recent games, Tomas Satoransky has stepped up to fill the void.

He helped key the near comeback on Sunday against the Blazers and he was on the floor for the Wizards' best stretches against the Clippers. 

Satoransky is usually good for several things that the Wizards need right now. They need effort on defense, which he provides. And they need guys to pass and move without the ball on offense, which he does.

Satoransky ended up with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The numbers may not pop in the box score, but his impact was clearly felt in this one. The guy deserves more playing time at this point.

Green was also good

The Wizards wouldn't have made this a game without Jeff Green, who continues to outperform his role and his contract.

The veteran forward got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the frame. He hit back-to-back threes in the fourth that put the Wizards within striking distance.

The Wizards' front office has made some missteps with their bench free agent signings. But when it comes to backup power forwards, they are batting 1.000 the past two years. They found Mike Scott last season and Green for this season, both on bargain, one-year deals. Scott, ironically, now plays for the Clippers.

Howard out again

As mentioned above, Howard missed this game. He had a setback with his piriformis injury and it's not clear when he will return. Brooks said he is considered day-to-day, but that's what the Wizards said for weeks, all through training camp and into the regular season.

Surely, there could have been some intentional misdirection along the way. But the injury seems entirely unpredictable. It would not be a surprise of Howard missed more games. And the longer he's shut down, the longer it will take to get him back up to speed to return.

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The Yankees have so much money, they are thinking about paying Bryce Harper to not play outfield

The Yankees have so much money, they are thinking about paying Bryce Harper to not play outfield

It won’t surprise anyone to hear that the Yankees might have interest in Bryce Harper this offseason. The Harper-to-the-Yankees narrative has been ongoing for years, going back to Harper’s high school years. It’s also driven by a long and storied history of New York flexing their financial might over the rest of the baseball world.

What is surprising, however, is hearing that the Yankees might have interest in Harper as a first baseman.

Would a potential $300 million contract be worth it just to have Bryce Harper play first base? New York seems to think so. 

Harper mostly played catcher in high school, though his prodigious bat made a position switch a long-term inevitability. Outfield was the natural landing spot, as it’s considered to be the easiest position to learn and would allow Harper to focus on realizing his vast potential at the plate.

In his seven seasons in the big leagues, Harper has played more innings in right field than every other position combined, and the overwhelming majority of his other defensive innings have been in left and center. He is credited with one career game at first base, coming in 2018, though the inning count there is zero.

If he is going to head to the Bronx, however, another position switch might be a necessity. The Yankees are one of the few teams in baseball who already have two power-hitting behemoths in the outfield, in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. 

Either Judge, Stanton or Harper would be miscast in center field, especially considering Harper’s extreme defensive struggles in right last season.

Plus, it would take away at-bats for 2018 breakout Aaron Hicks and potential 2019 breakout Clint Frazier. Additionally, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are still hanging around.

There’s always the option of using one of three as the designated hitter, but the Yankees already have too many power hitters to find at-bats for, and not everyone responds well to not playing in the field.

The one position where the Yankees don’t seem to have a clear answer is first base, hence the recent speculation. Most fans haven’t quite bought in on Luke Voit’s out-of-nowhere 2018 season, and Greg Bird has never been able to put together a full, healthy season.

First base is generally considered to be even easier than the outfield. At the very least, it requires less range, which could be beneficial to Harper as he enters his prime and starts to slow down. It would fill a hole for the Yankees, both in the field and in the lineup, as the bulk of their power comes from right-handed hitters.

Obviously, this speculation is very preliminary, though the prospect of Harper taking aim at the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium is enough to excite any New York fan and haunt the nightmares of fans of the other 29 teams.

At the end of the day, the Yankees may end up interested in Harper playing first base, and in fact, they definitely should be interested in it. But it will come down to what Harper is interested in. If he really wants to wear the pinstripes, he may not have a choice. 

Much like 2018’s other mega free agent, Manny Machado, Harper will have to weigh the idea of playing in New York versus moving off his favored position. If the Yankees can pull it off, then Major League Baseball will have a new superteam to deal with.

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