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How Texas A&M can score a victory for the Big 12

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How Texas A&M can score a victory for the Big 12

No. 20 Texas A&M has become a fascinating team.

The Aggies are thrilled to be in the Southeastern Conference, but their approach is still very much Big 12.

When Texas A&M hosts No. 6 LSU and the Tigers' nasty defense Saturday, the Aggies will get a chance to prove what so many Big 12 fans have thought all along: Those big, bad SEC defenses wouldn't look quite so tough if they had to face high-powered Big 12 offenses every week.

SEC fans scoff at this, insist defense wins championships, and point to the six straight national titles the conference has won as proof.

As with many arguments, there is truth on both sides. But the debate seems to be more heated than ever because there is such a clear style difference between the top teams in the SEC (Alabama, LSU, Florida and South Carolina) and those in the Big 12 (especially West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech).

Texas A&M can score a victory of sorts for the conference it left behind over the next few weeks.

The Aggies lead the SEC and are tied for sixth in the nation in total offense at 543 yards per game, behind fabulous redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football). They average 47 points, run a fast-paced spread offense and are everything that makes fans (and coaches) of a more traditional approach to football cringe.

The Aggies lost 20-17 to open the season against No. 3 Florida, coached by former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Chalk one up for old-school football. Since then they've scored 88 points combined in victories against Arkansas and Mississippi, two teams that prove not everybody in the SEC plays big-time defense.

After LSU, A&M plays three straight road games against Auburn, No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 1 Alabama.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban made news a few weeks back when he responded to a question about up-tempo offenses by suggesting there were safety issues to consider when teams run so many plays, especially for defenses that can't substitute as often.

``I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, `Is this what we want football to be?''' he said.

Aggies first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, who served as an assistant for seven seasons in the Big 12 before becoming the head coach at Houston, was asked about the fairness of the no-huddle. His dismissive response was, basically, his team plays by the rules.

Saban is not the only defensive-minded coach feeling a bit, well, defensive these days.

You can be certain that those on that side of the ball will push for some rules changes in the next few years to slow things down a bit. And you can be just as sure that the guys on the offense side will push back.

Whether it goes anywhere, who knows?

Grant Teaff, the former Baylor coach who now heads the American Football Coaches Association, said his group annually surveys coaches for ideas about tweaking rules.

``It's a legitimate concern our defensive coaches have about being able to substitute,'' Teaff said. ``But that's part of the challenge. The game changes; offenses catch up to defenses.

``That's what football is. It's in a constant cycle of change.''

Though defensive coaches are correct to contend it's been cycling in favor of offense for years.

``The thing I hear from my defensive friends is all defensive coordinators are either on the way in or on the way out (of a job),'' Teaff said. ``Defensive coordinator is a tough job in some leagues right now.''

The picks:

THURSDAY

No. 2 Oregon (minus 9 1/2) at Arizona State

Time to find out if Sun Devils are legit; Ducks have something to prove on road, too ... OREGON 31-20.

SATURDAY

No. 1 Alabama (minus 20 1/2) at Tennessee

Tide has won five straight against Vols ... ALABAMA 42-17.

No. 9 South Carolina (plus 3) at No. 3 Florida

Third straight top-10 opponent for Gamecocks ... SOUTH CAROLINA 20-17.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 4 Kansas State (plus 2 1/2) at No. 17 West Virginia

The Big 12 race could be a mess - a fun mess, though ... WEST VIRGINIA 45-35.

BYU (plus 13 1/2) at No. 5 Notre Dame

First of six scheduled meetings between Cougars and Irish ... NOTRE DAME 24-13.

No. 6 LSU (minus 3 1/2) at No. 20 Texas A&M

Manziel for Heisman gets serious if Aggies beat Tigers ... LSU 38-24.

Purdue (plus 19) at No. 7 Ohio State

Boilermakers have been outscored 82-27 last two weeks by Wisconsin, Michigan. ... OHIO STATE 45-21.

Utah (plus 10 1/2) at No. 8 Oregon State

VAZ-tacular start for new Beavers QB Cody Vaz against BYU ... OREGON STATE 30-21.

Kansas (plus 35) at No. 10 Oklahoma

Sooners have won seven straight against Jayhawks, all by at least 14 ... OKLAHOMA 52-14.

Colorado (plus 40 1/2) at No. 11 Southern California

A Matt Barkley stat-padder ... USC 48-10.

No. 12 Florida State (minus 20) at Miami

ACC still waiting for this rivalry to be great again ... FLORIDA STATE 38-17.

No. 13 Georgia (plus 27 1/2) at Kentucky

Wildcats might want to end this one early, too ... GEORGIA 45-14.

Virginia Tech (plus 8 1/2) at No. 14 Clemson

ACC schedule makers did Hokies no favors with interdivisional games against Tigers and Florida State ... CLEMSON 35-31.

Middle Tennessee (plus 19 1/2) at No. 15 Mississippi State

Blue Raiders have already knocked off Georgia Tech ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 38-17.

USF (plus 6 1/2) at No. 16 Louisville

Bulls have been Big East's most disappointing team ... LOUISVILLE 28-17.

No. 18 Texas Tech (minus 2 1/2) at TCU

New Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin threw four TD passes last week ... TCU 35-28.

No. 19 Rutgers (minus 5 1/2) at Temple

Surprising Owls have won first two games in return to Big East ... RUTGERS 17-13.

No. 21 Cincinnati (minus 7) at Toledo

Rockets' only loss was in OT to Arizona ... TOLEDO 33-28

No. 22 Stanford (minus 2 1/2) at California

The Big Game comes early for Cardinal and Bears ... STANFORD 28-20.

BEST BET

Michigan State (plus 10) at No. 23 Michigan

Spartans have won four straight in rivalry ... MICHIGAN 27-14.

UNLV (plus 28) at No. 24 Boise State

Broncos quietly rolling to another big season ... BOISE STATE 35-14.

Last week's record: 15-3 (straight); 11-6 (vs. points)

Season record: 116-23 (straight); 69-52 (vs. points)

Best bets: 2-5.

Upset specials: 3-4.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdurssoAP

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

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  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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