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Notre Dame, Alabama arrive for BCS title game

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Notre Dame, Alabama arrive for BCS title game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Brian Kelly walked off the tarmac, hopped aboard one of Notre Dame's team buses that bore his image on the side and grinned broadly as he sat in the driver's seat.

Soon, the Notre Dame coach will know if his team - or Alabama - will finish college football's season in that proverbial spot.

The top-ranked Fighting Irish landed in South Florida on Wednesday, not long before the arrival of the second-ranked Crimson Tide. The teams meet Monday night to decide the BCS championship, a matchup that was set more than a month ago, the hype growing with each day.

``Going to play the national championship game in Miami, it's not like any trip that they've had before,'' Kelly said. ``It's not like any trip that I've had before. And so there was an anticipation that when we got on the buses to the airport that they were really excited about this trip. It's something that you dream about when you play this game and when you coach this game.''

For Notre Dame - at least for this current batch of Fighting Irish - this is all new, as one of the game's most storied programs has not won the national title since the 1988 season. For Alabama, the hubbub that goes with the BCS title game is familiar, as the Tide is trying to win its second straight crown and third in four years.

And for Alabama coach Nick Saban, it was a return to his former home. Saban coached the Miami Dolphins before going to the Crimson Tide, famously saying toward the end of his tenure in South Florida that he wasn't ``going to be the Alabama coach.''

He was hired by the Tide not long afterward.

Yet on Wednesday, Saban - first off the Alabama plane - was greeted like a visiting dignitary, with about a dozen TV cameras and twice that many reporters on hand to record the event.

``It's great to be back in South Florida,'' he said. ``It's the first time we've been to the Orange Bowl. I'm sure these people here are going to do a great job of providing tremendous hospitality for our players and our entire family.''

Grand welcomes were executed for both teams, including water cannon sprays over their planes and greetings from local officials and members of the Orange Bowl Committee. Notre Dame landed in Fort Lauderdale, Alabama in Miami, the teams about equidistant from Sun Life Stadium - the site of Monday's showdown for the title.

Police escorts awaited the bus caravans, and all players were getting a gift bag that some started digging through immediately, even before leaving the airport.

``It's `Rudy' vs. `Forrest Gump,''' Notre Dame wide receiver Robby Toma said, referring to the still-popular films that featured the Irish and the Tide. ``Both very storied programs, a bunch of national championships and we're excited to compete with the best because that's how you become the best.''

And work is left in both Notre Dame's and Alabama's quest to finish at No. 1. Both teams are set to return to the practice field on Thursday, with workouts scheduled throughout the remainder of the week.

``We've got to do a little work this week,'' Kelly said. ``But we feel good about our preparation.''

Dozens of players, coaches and guests on the Notre Dame flight took photos of the mass of reporters, Broward Sheriff's officers and fans when they deplaned, a few carrying video cameras and a couple even tossed oranges - a nod to the Orange Bowl Committee - from one hand to another.

Kelly said Notre Dame will find ways to mix fun and relaxation with the element of it being a business trip as well.

``All the people that were looking out the window were pretty much amazed to see the kind of draw that this game has,'' Kelly said.

On the Alabama side, All-American center Barrett Jones wore a walking boot to protect the left foot he sprained during the SEC championship but said he was ready to go. Reserve offensive lineman Arie Koundjio had to be treated for dehydration when the plane landed, and tight end Harrison Jones did not travel with the team for what Saban called medical reasons. He's expected to arrive Thursday.

The other Tide players seemed focused.

``We want to reach this point,'' said defensive lineman Damion Square, who was recruited by Notre Dame. ``To be here is great, but we have to finish the job.''

---

AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

Why the trade for Radko Gudas could signal the end of Brooks Orpik’s tenure with the Caps

The Carolina Hurricanes ended the Capitals’ season in the first round of the playoffs and quite possibly Brooks Orpik’s career with it. The 38-year-old defenseman said at the team’s breakdown day that the decision for what comes next, whether retirement or playing another season in the NHL, would have to wait.

“I'm in no rush in terms of deciding on my future in terms of hockey,” Orpik said. “That'll be a more health-related decision down the road."

Whether Orpik wants to come back for one more year in the NHL will be up to him, but the decision on whether to re-sign with the Caps may have just been decided for him.

On Friday, the Caps traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas. Most people hear the name Gudas and think of him as a dirty player who can’t play the position, but he is actually a decent defenseman. The media in Philadelphia selected Gudas as the most outstanding defenseman for the Flyers in 2018-19. Plus, his penalty minutes have decreased in each of the past four seasons from 116 all the way down to 63 last season. For reference, Tom Wilson had 128 and Michal Kempny had 60. It’s still high, but it signals a player making a conscious effort to stay out of the penalty box.

Gudas has been suspended four times in his career and he certainly will be watched very closely by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One big hit could mean a lengthy suspension. That is a definite concern, but in terms of just his play, there is value there as a third-pair defenseman.

With Gudas in, that will almost certainly push Orpik out.

The move gives Washington six defenseman under contract for next season. Teams will usually keep seven for the regular season, enough for three pairs and one extra. Christian Djoos is a restricted free agent and will presumably be back as well, giving Washington seven blue liners.

Djoos had a down year last season, but he did play a third-pair role on the team’s Cup run and he is only 24. It does not make sense to give up on Djoos after one bad year just for one more year with Orpik who will be 39 at the start of next season.

Given Washington’s salary cap situation, the Caps do not have room for an eighth defenseman. If Orpik were to return, it would mean pushing someone else out. The only of those seven defensemen that would make sense to even consider moving for Orpik would be Gudas.

Gudas would not be the first player in the world to be traded and then flipped or bought out soon after. Ironically, the same thing happened to Orpik last season when he was traded to and then quickly bought out by the Colorado Avalanche.

A buyout here, however, would make no sense. According to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, a buyout would only give Washington $1,166,667 of cap relief and most of that would go to a new Orpik deal making it pointless. Yes, you still have the $3.405 million of cap space the team would have opened up in the trade, but if the plan all along was to re-sign Orpik and ship out Niskanen, then why not just trade Niskanen for draft picks? Then you get his full cap off the books instead of having to go through the trouble of buying out Gudas and having him count against the cap for the next two seasons. That would make no sense.

As for flipping him and trading him to another team, what would the team get for him that would make it worthwhile? You cannot bring on salary or it defeats the purpose so the Caps’ options for a return would likely be limited to players of the same caliber and cap hit. What would be the point of that?

Prior to this deal, Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler were the most likely candidates to play on the third pair next season. Both are left shots. Gudas is a right-shot defenseman which now gives Washington three with John Carlson and Nick Jensen. Gudas also plays with a physical edge. Sometimes he goes too far with it, but so long as he can control himself, he would add the physical presence to the blue line that the team stands to lose with Orpik gone.

There is no reason to trade for Gudas unless the team intended for Gudas to play a role next season. General manager Brian MacLellan chose to trade for a player who is a right-shot, physical, third-pair defenseman which is pretty much exactly the hole they needed to fill on their blue line and essentially the spot Orpik will be vacating. That did not just happen by accident.

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Nationals calling up Adrian Sanchez, corresponding roster move pending

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Nationals calling up Adrian Sanchez, corresponding roster move pending

WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Martinez wasn’t sure postgame Saturday what’s wrong with reliever Kyle Barraclough.

The right-hander’s velocity is down, his slider flat and too true, his results poor. Barraclough left the mound Saturday at dusk with a 6.39 ERA. He’s allowed seven home runs in 25 ⅓ innings this season. Little he has tried has worked. And his time on the team may be short.

Utility infielder Adrian Sanchez will join the team Sunday, according to a source. Sanchez’s likely departure from Double-A Harrisburg was reported Saturday night by Mick Reinhard, who covers the Senators, and noted Sanchez’s early removal from the game.

The question is who will be leaving to make room for him

Barraclough seems the logical choice. He has options remaining, so the Nationals could send him to Triple-A Fresno to try and work things out. They could also place him on the 10-day injured list, then send him on an extended rehabilitation in the minor leagues, as they did with Trevor Rosenthal. At a minimum, Washington will go from an eight-man bullpen to a five-man bench, finally delivering Martinez more versatility at the plate and in the field.

Barraclough and left-hander Tony Sipp were rarely used in the last three weeks. A week passed between appearances for Barraclough from the end of May to the start of June. Sipp pitched Sunday for just the fifth time since May 24.

If the Nationals do remove Barraclough from the roster -- in whatever fashion -- it will be another layer of indictment for their offseason bullpen plan. They acquired Barraclough via trade with Miami for international slot money. He was supposed to pitch the seventh inning on a regular basis, Rosenthal the eighth and Sean Doolittle the ninth. That lineup has been disastrous outside of Doolittle, compromising the entire season.

Rosenthal’s travails are well-documented. He pitched again Saturday, walked the first batter on four pitches, walked the second batter, then allowing a single to load the bases with no outs. He eventually allowed just a run. His ERA is 19.50 following the outing. It’s the first time this season Rosenthal’s ERA is under 20.00.

While trying to fix Rosenthal, and trying to hang on with Barraclough, the Nationals have turned to Wander Suero and Tanner Rainey to handle the seventh and eighth innings ahead of Doolittle. Few would have predicted that combination before the season began. Despite the relative concern, no one would have predicted the Nationals’ bullpen to be among the worst in the league for much of the season, but has turned out to be just that.

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