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Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl? Maybe

Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl? Maybe

College football's most storied program, playing on its grandest stage.

Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. It could happen.

While most fans are focused on the four-team race to the BCS championship game, another intriguing Bowl Championship Series sidebar is developing. Will the Rose Bowl, if given the opportunity, invite Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish have only played in the Granddaddy of Bowls once before - in 1925.

``There is still so much that can happen, and of course the biggest story out there is whether we would take Notre Dame, but there is a lot to play out before it starts to become a serious conversation within our group,'' Rose Bowl spokeswoman Gina Chappin said Wednesday.

Here's how those conversations becomes serious.

If Oregon wins the Pac-12 and finishes first or second in the BCS standings, the Ducks will pay in the BCS national championship game.

Depending on where the Ducks finish, that would give the Rose Bowl either the first or second pick among the four BCS games to replace one of its contractually bound champions with an eligible at-large team.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are longtime and lucrative partners with the Rose Bowl, and game organizers would prefer to keep their partners happy and dip back into those conferences for replacement teams.

``Whenever we can protect our relationship with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, that is very important to us,'' Chappin said.

To be eligible for an at-large spot, a team must be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings and have nine victories. No. 13 Oregon State (7-1) is in 11th-place heading into Saturday's game at No. 16 Stanford. The Beavers also play California, Oregon and Nicholls State on Dec. 1 (provided they aren't in the Pac-12 title game).

If Oregon State finishes 10-2, assuming a loss to the Ducks, the Beavers should have no problem being BCS eligible, very possibly in the top 10. And because Oregon State last played in the Rose Bowl in 1965, the Beavers would check a second important box for the selection committee.

``Have they played in our game recently?'' Chappin said.

Bowl organizers love inviting teams who haven't been to their game in a long time, because fired-up fans gobble up tickets.

It would get interesting if Oregon State loses twice between now and the end of the season.

At 9-3, the Beavers could still slip into the BCS top 14. But at that point, they might not look so appealing to the Rose Bowl. Especially, compared to Notre Dame.

There are other factors that could influence the Rose Bowl's decision. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, the Rose Bowl would probably like to avoid a rematch of a regular-season game between the Badgers and Beavers.

Or, if not Notre Dame, how about this possibility: A Rose Bowl reunion of old conference rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma.

``There are so many variables that go into the conversation of the matchup. It's not a conversation we have a lot,'' Chappin said. ``We're at a position right now where it's too early to focus on the what-ifs.''

True, but they are interesting.

The picks:

THURSDAY

No. 8 Florida State (minus 14) at Virginia Tech

Hokies need to win two of final three to become bowl eligible ... FLORIDA STATE 28-17.

SATURDAY

No. 15 Texas A&M (plus 14) at No. 1 Alabama

Aggies QB Johnny Manziel has been contained by LSU and Florida's top defenses ... ALABAMA 35-17.

California (plus 28) at No. 2 Oregon

Ducks RB Kenjon Barner making late Heisman push ... OREGON 55-21.

No. 3 Kansas State (off) at TCU

With or without Collin Klein ... KANSAS STATE 38-31.

No. 4 Notre Dame (minus 19) at Boston College

For first time in about a month, Irish get easy win ... NOTRE DAME 35-10.

BEST BET

No. 5 Georgia (minus 15) at Auburn

Tigers haven't shown much fight ... GEORGIA 42-14.

Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 26 1/2) at No. 7 Florida

Sun Belt teams have been tougher outs for SEC squads this season ... FLORIDA 42-14.

No. 23 Mississippi State (plus 14 1/2) at No. 9 LSU

Bulldogs have lost 10 straight trips to Death Valley, 12 straight overall to Tigers ... LSU 24-13.

Maryland (plus 31) at No. 10 Clemson

Tigers QB Tajh Boyd is another late-blooming Heisman contender ... CLEMSON 50-14.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 11 Louisville (minus 2 1/2) at Syracuse

Unbeaten Cardinals face tricky trip to improving Orange ... SYRACUSE 28-24.

Arkansas (plus 14) at No. 12 South Carolina

Razorbacks need two wins against tough schedule to become bowl eligible ... SOUTH CAROLINA 38-21.

No. 13 Oregon State (plus 4 1/2) at No. 16 Stanford

Cardinal making QB switch from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan ... OREGON STATE 28-24.

Baylor (plus 21 1/2) at No. 14 Oklahoma

Bears snapped 20-game losing streak to Sooners last season ... OKLAHOMA 55-24.

No. 17 UCLA (minus 14 1/2) at Washington State

First season at Washington State has been a mess for Mike Leach ... UCLA 44-14.

Penn State (plus 7) at No. 18 Nebraska

Cornhuskers control their road to Big Ten title game ... NEBRASKA 28-14.

No. 19 Louisiana Tech (minus 20) at Texas State, 7 p.m.

La Tech has scored at least 50 in seven of nine games ... LOUISIANA TECH 54-31.

Iowa State (plus 10) at No. 19 Texas

Cyclones won in Austin two seasons ago ... TEXAS 31-17.

Arizona State (plus 9) at No. 21 Southern California

Sun Devils have lost three straight ... USC 48-21.

Army (plus 17) at No. 24 Rutgers

Scarlet Knights have won eight straight in series ... RUTGERS 38-17.

Kansas (plus 25 1/2) at No. 25 Texas Tech

Jayhawks averaging 12 points in conference ... TEXAS TECH 42-12.

Last week's record: 17-2 (straight); 11-8 (vs. points)

Season record: 163-35 (straight); 94-86 (vs. points)

Best bets: 4-6.

Upset specials: 6-4.

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

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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