Capitals

No. 4 Florida, No. 22 Louisville in Sugar Bowl

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No. 4 Florida, No. 22 Louisville in Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Now that Charlie Strong has his Louisville Cardinals in a BCS bowl, of course fate would have it that his team's opponent is Florida, a program with which he won a pair of national titles.

Sugar Bowl officials announced on Sunday night that this season's game will pit the Cardinals of the Big East against the Gators of the Southeastern Conference on Jan. 2.

``It's a program of excellence and I really enjoyed my time there,'' said Strong, who was the Gators' defensive coordinator from 2003-2009. ``I watch that program every week.

``I'm just happy for this program to get to a BCS bowl game. I don't know if it really matters who we play,'' Strong added. ``I'm just so happy for our players.''

Despite finishing behind Georgia in the Southeastern Conference East Division, No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC) got the Sugar Bowl bid because the winner of Saturday's SEC title game, Alabama, is headed to the BCS championship, while Georgia, which beat Florida and won the SEC East, was left with two losses after falling to the Crimson Tide and had a lower BCS ranking than the one-loss Gators.

While critics of the bowl system argued Georgia deserved a bowl on par with that of a Florida team they beat, Gators coach Will Muschamp hardly sounded sympathetic to that point of view.

``We started the season understanding the rules of engagement,'' he said. ``These are the rules we started the year with and so be it.''

Muschamp added that the Gators were ``jacked-up'' to be in the Sugar Bowl, despite the disappointment still felt from their lone loss to Georgia in their annual meeting in Jacksonville, a result which snuffed out their hopes of contenting for a BCS title.

``We had our opportunity in Jacksonville and didn't quite get it done to get into the national championship game, but we're going to play in the Sugar Bowl to represent our conference,'' Muschamp said. ``We have great motivation for this game regardless of the circumstances.''

No. 22 Louisville (10-2, 5-2 Big East) finished in a tie for Big East championship but earned its invitation to a BCS bowl thanks to having the highest BCS ranking of any team in the league. The Cardinals opened the season 9-0 before falling to Syracuse and Connecticut, but then beat Rutgers to lock up their league's BCS bid.

This will be Florida's ninth appearance in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators have won three of their previous eight appearances, including a 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the 2010 game. The Gators won a national title in the Sugar Bowl with a 52-20 victory over Florida State following the 1996 season.

Louisville will be playing in its first Sugar Bowl, making the Cardinals the fourth first-time participant in the game in the past six years.

Louisville and Florida have met twice before, with the Gators winning both in 1980 and 1992.

Florida won this year primarily with a rushing attack which averaged nearly 195 yards per game and was led by Mike Gillislee, and a highly rated defense that allowed only 12.9 points per game, the third-lowest average in the country.

Louisville rode a passing offense led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, which averaged nearly 296 yards per game. Bridgewater was beat up by the end of the season, but tough enough to play a crucial part-time role against Rutgers with a broken wrist and sore ankle. Strong now hopes that with a few weeks rest, Bridgewater will be in much better condition by the time his team lines up against the Gators.

``Our medical staff did an unbelievable job to get him ready for the Rutgers game, so now they have enough time,'' Strong said. ``We've got to be smart on how we handle it.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 27, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Here is my sunrise view from this morning:

Looking at next year’s free agents

This post was originally published on March 18. 

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens. 

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard). 

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility. 

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon. 

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup. 

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight. 

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019. 

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