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Minnesota to face Texas Tech in Houston

Minnesota to face Texas Tech in Houston

Minnesota will get another crack at Texas Tech in a bowl game, six years after the Gophers suffered an epic meltdown against the Red Raiders.

The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston announced Sunday night that Minnesota will face Texas Tech on Dec. 28.

It's the first bowl appearance since 2009 for the Gophers (6-6), who reached the postseason despite winning just two Big Ten games.

``It's a tremendous honor to go to Houston,'' Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. ``This is a big boost for us.''

Texas Tech (7-5) returns to the postseason after a one-year absence. The Red Raiders dropped their final regular-season game to Baylor in overtime, 52-45, but they beat the likes of West Virginia and TCU and doubled their Big 12 win total from last season.

``The opportunity to play another game in Texas is huge for our team, our fans and for recruiting. Minnesota is a talented football team and we will have our hands full the next couple of weeks in our preparations,'' Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Minnesota and Texas Tech played each other in the 2006 Insight Bowl - when the Gophers blew a 31-point lead and lost 44-41 in OT - but both programs have new coaches.

The Gophers fired coach Glen Mason two days later. Texas Tech hired Tuberville before the 2011 season

Though Minnesota lost three of its last four games and finished tied for last in the Legends Division with Iowa, reaching a bowl will give the rebuilding Gophers 15 extra practices to work in their younger players.

The Gophers will be seeking their first bowl win since they beat Alabama 20-16 in the 2004 Music City Bowl.

``The bowl is important for us (because) No. 1, we recruit the state of Texas. No. 2, it's a high-profile bowl,'' said Kill, who added that he is doing ``great'' after suffering a seizure at halftime of a loss to Michigan State on Nov. 24. ``The exposure the media gives you helps your program.''

The Red Raiders will be making their 35th bowl appearance, third-best among current Big 12 schools. They'll also be playing their fourth straight bowl game in Texas after reaching the Cotton, Alamo and Ticket City bowls before missing out on a bid in 2011.

Texas Tech has played in the Houston-based bowl twice. In 2003, it blasted Navy 38-14.

The Red Raiders are again among the leaders in passing offense, ranking second nationally with 361.9 yards per game. But the Gophers are tough in the secondary, allowing less than half of what the Red Raiders typically rack up through the air.

``I've never seen a conference like the Big 12. You've got to score 50 points to win a game,'' Tuberville said. `It's a conference that's very high-powered. We tried to keep up.''

Big Ten teams are 1-1 in this bowl. Illinois pounded Baylor 38-14 in 2010, and Northwestern fell to Texas A&M last year.

For Minnesota, a victory would be its seventh on the season - one more than it was able to rack up in 2010 and 2011 combined.

``We've been through some hard times,'' said Minnesota senior defensive back Troy Stoudermire, a native of nearby Dallas. ``Coach Kill did a great job getting us back bowl eligible.''

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AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

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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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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