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Oregon, K-State to meet in Fiesta Bowl

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Oregon, K-State to meet in Fiesta Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Oregon and Kansas State were atop the BCS standings just two weeks ago, each needing two wins for a likely trip to the BCS championship.

Those plans were derailed quickly with a loss on the same day, but they ended up with a nice consolation prize: A trip to the desert to face each other in the Fiesta Bowl.

And it should be a doozy.

Nos. 4 and 5 in the BCS standings, two of the nation's best offenses, a pair of Heisman Trophy contenders - yep, the Fiesta Bowl has done it again, pulling off a marquee matchup for the second straight year.

``(It's) not just the rankings, but type of teams, the kinds of exciting plays and players that they put on the field,'' Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton said Sunday night. ``We're thrilled.''

The fans should be too, again.

The 2012 Fiesta Bowl was certainly a memorable one: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford, Nos. 3 and 4 in the BCS, dynamic teams with two of the nation's best quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and the Cardinal's Andrew Luck.

The game matched the hype, with the Cowboys outlasting Stanford 41-38 in overtime, giving the Fiesta Bowl a much-needed boost after nearly losing its BCS status due to financial improprieties and a dud of a game in 2011.

This year's game has the potential to one-up 2012.

Oregon (11-1) and its swarm-of-bees offense has been one of the nation's best teams under coach Chip Kelly, reaching the BCS title game in 2011 and winning the Rose Bowl for the first time in 95 years last season.

This year, the Ducks are loaded with fleet-footed players, rolling up yards in big chunks, scoring in bunches.

They have one of the most dynamic players in the country in running back Kenjon Barner, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, and quarterback Marcus Mariota had no trouble handling the pressure of running Oregon's potent attack as a freshman.

Oregon, No. 5 in the AP Top 25, finished the season second nationally with 50.8 points per game, fourth in total offense at 550 yards and will be making its fourth straight BCS bowl appearance. The Ducks also played at University of Phoenix Stadium when they lost to Auburn in the 2011 BCS title game.

``It's an amazing challenge,'' Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``They're extremely talented and well-coached collectively. Offensively, they go faster than the speed of light, so to speak.''

Snyder hasn't done too bad for himself in the Little Apple.

Orchestrator of what may be the biggest turnaround in college football history his first go-round in Manhattan, Snyder came out of retirement to re-energize K-State again in 2009 - in the stadium named after him, no less.

He led the Wildcats to the Pinstripe Bowl in 2010 and followed, after a 7-0 start, with a 10-win season and a trip to the 2011 Cotton Bowl.

This season, No. 7 Kansas State (11-1) opened some eyes by trouncing Miami in its second game and started to draw national attention by knocking off Oklahoma in Norman on Sept. 22. Behind the do-everything quarterback Collin Klein, another of the Heisman favorites, and a tough defense, the Wildcats kept piling up wins to become No. 1 in the BCS standings on Nov. 11 for the first time in school history.

The Wildcats averaged 40.7 points per game, 10th nationally, and have an opportunistic defense that led the nation in turnover margin at plus-21.

Kansas State is playing in its second BCS bowl, with the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

``Obviously, the job that Bill Snyder has done in Kansas State, his first tour, now his second tour, he'll go down in history as one of the greatest college football coaches this game has ever seen,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ``He is a model for how to run your program does an outstanding job.''

Originally scheduled to play each other this season before the game fell through, Kansas State and Oregon were atop the BCS rankings after defending national champion Alabama lost to Texas A&M on Nov. 10.

All the Wildcats and Ducks had to do was win their final two games and they would almost assuredly play in the BCS title game.

They ended up losing on the same day, turning the BCS on end.

Kansas State fell flat under the pressure, run over 52-24 by unranked Baylor. The Ducks couldn't get their high-flying offense going against Stanford and lost 17-14 in overtime.

That moved Notre Dame up to No. 1 and put the SEC back in the BCS championship picture.

With its win over No. 3 Georgia this weekend, the Crimson Tide earned a spot in Miami on Jan. 7 to face the Fighting Irish for the national title.

Kansas State bounced back to beat Texas 42-24 on Saturday night, sending Wildcat fans rushing onto the field after the school earned its third conference championship in 117 years.

Oregon closed out its regular season a week earlier, rolling over No. 16 Oregon State 48-24 in the Civil War to keep its BCS bowl hopes alive.

The losses prevented the Wildcats and Ducks from playing for a national championship, but they sure gave the Fiesta Bowl a boost with another matchup that could be the 1A to the title game.

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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