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No. 22 Bulldogs set for Mettenberger, No. 9 LSU

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No. 22 Bulldogs set for Mettenberger, No. 9 LSU

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Stopping No. 9 LSU becomes much more complicated now that the Tigers have shown they can throw the football.

Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) hopes to have it figured out when the Bulldogs play at LSU (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday.

LSU lost a 21-17 heartbreaker against No. 1 Alabama last weekend, but the Tigers revealed a much more balanced offense in the process.

Junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown in the best performance of his career. The Tigers rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and nearly shocked the defending national champions.

At times, Alabama's defense looked stunned that LSU could suddenly throw. Even Tiger fans in Death Valley seemed surprised.

Mettenberger - who has taken plenty of heat this season for LSU's mediocre passing offense - was one of the few who always believed.

``It's just taken awhile for us to get to that level, I guess,'' Mettenberger said. ``When it came down to it, we just came out there and executed the best we have all year. All 11 guys more times than not were doing the right thing every time. That's something that we should have had all year.''

Mettenberger's improvement makes LSU's offense much more unpredictable.

While the Tigers have been among the nation's elite for the past several seasons, the book on how to stop their offense wasn't complicated. If LSU couldn't run, it couldn't score.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said that's not the case anymore.

``I didn't see them change a whole lot. I just saw them execute a lot better,'' Mullen said. Mettenberger ``got hot, he was accurate and they were making a lot of plays and that led to the night he had.''

Mississippi State's secondary - which is led by seniors Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield and Darius Slay - has been one of the best in the SEC over the past couple seasons. But they've been exposed the past few weeks, giving up big gains in losses to both Alabama and Texas A&M.

LSU is the third straight top 15 team the Bulldogs have faced in three weeks.

Mississippi State linebacker Cameron Lawrence said the defense must respect Mettenberger's ability to throw - especially after the Alabama performance - but he doesn't expect LSU to get away from its power running game that's proven so successful over the past few seasons.

The Tigers average more than 200 yards on the ground and five backs have at least 250 rushing yards this season.

``LSU is going to put a lot of guys in the box,'' Lawrence said. ``They've got a big, bruiser fullback. Me personally, I like that kind of game. Smash mouth and downhill running.''

But there's little question that LSU's ability to throw makes them an entirely different team.

The Tigers have several gifted receivers like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., but haven't always been able to use them. Landry leads the Tigers with 31 receptions while Beckham, Jr. is the big play threat. He's averaging 16.4 yards per catch.

``From here on out we want to put our foot down and make a statement against the rest of these teams and show that we can move the ball on the ground and through the air,'' Landry said.

Mettenberger said there's no reason that can't happen. Throwing for nearly 300 yards against the nation's top-ranked team means the Tigers should be able to do it against anyone.

``It's amazing when everybody does the right job,'' Mettenberger said. ``You really get a rhythm going, and it's contagious. Everybody on the offense starts feeling it. And when things start clicking and rolling, it's tough to stop any offense.''

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this story.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much 37-year-old’s play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed the 37-year-old’s $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land or a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to re-sign Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear—even with the salary cap ceiling going up to $79.5 million—but it sure helps the Caps’ cause.

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley as their backup next season. And if Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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