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Rose, Sugar will host 1st semifinals in playoff

Rose, Sugar will host 1st semifinals in playoff

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) The first semifinal games in the new college football playoff system will be played in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.

The BCS conference commissioners announced the dates and rotation for all 12 years of the upcoming postseason format after a meeting in Key Biscayne on Monday, the day after the BCS championship game in Miami.

``It was not a one-year decision, it had to be a 12-year decision,'' BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. ``Calendar issues, days of rest. Sugar and Rose were paired together because of the days of rest since they are playing the same day.''

Whether they are hosting a semifinal or just a marquee bowl game, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will always be played on Jan. 1, or Jan. 2 in years in which New Year's Day falls on a Sunday. In the eight years in which the Rose and Sugar do not host the semifinals, the four playoff teams will kick off on New Year's Eve or Saturday, Dec. 30.

Either way there will be a triple-header of major college football games, two semifinals and four other marquee bowl games, on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day starting from the 2014 season to the 2025 season.

``Those days will belong to college football,'' Hancock said.

The Rose Bowl will also be the site of the last BCS championship game on Jan. 1, 2014.

The site of the first championship game in the new system is still to be picked, though Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, seems to be the front-runner. The title games will always be played on Mondays, at least seven days after the semifinals. The first one will be played Jan. 12, 2015.

The earliest the championship game will be played is Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. The latest the championship game will be played is Jan. 13, and that will happen twice, in 2020 and 2025.

In the second year of the playoff, the Orange Bowl will host a semifinal on Dec. 31, 2015, along with one of three other sites still to be determined.

The preference is to have three more sites in three times zones, and they are expected to be Atlanta (Chick-fil-A Bowl), Arlington, Texas (Cotton Bowl) and Glendale, Ariz. (Fiesta).

Hancock said the commissioners are on track to have those sites locked in by the end of their late April meetings in Pasadena. The site for the first championship game is expected to be chosen sooner.

``This was really a basic meeting,'' Hancock said. ``The balls that are still in the air are the (selection) committee, protocol and structure, what we're going to call it.''

It was a year ago in New Orleans that the commissioners had what was the first meeting that led to the end of the BCS as we know it and the implementation of the four-team playoff.

``When we met this date last year in New Orleans we all knew that we were going to embark on a very significant review and potential restructuring,'' Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said.

With the calendar set, the sites coming into focus, the next big issue left is the selection committee.

``I think April will be the action month in a lot of respects,'' Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

The concept the commissioners are working with is about 18 people, mostly current college sports administrators, such as conference commissioners and athletic directors. Every conference and independent in major college football would be represented.

Delany said he hopes that by requiring the committee to emphasize strength of schedule it will force programs to rethink some of those cupcake games that inflate records. And that a couple of losses against good teams won't necessarily eliminate a team from playing in the four-team playoff

``It certainly has evolved in men's basketball,'' he said. ``Everybody who is 20-10 doesn't get to the tournament. I think the new committee is sort of important to reinforce that. What they do in the first two, three, four years is going to really determine the messages that are being sent. The basketball committee has consistently sent the message that who you play and who you beat is more important than the record.''

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Capitals vs. Predators: Alex Ovechkin returns from suspension

Capitals vs. Predators: Alex Ovechkin returns from suspension

The Capitals (34-11-5) are back home for the first time since Jan. 16 to take on the Nashville Predators (22-19-7). Pregame coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Catch the game at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN then tune back to NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Wednesday’s game.

Ovechkin is back

Alex Ovechkin returns to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for skipping the All-Star Game. With him back, the lines returned to normal from what we saw before the break:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Ovechkin currently sits tied for ninth on the all-time scoring list at 692, just eight goals shy of 700.

Holtby starts

Braden Holtby will get the start after a strong performance on Monday against the Montreal Canadiens. He made 31 saves on 33 shots for a .939 save percentage. It was the first time in his past eight starts that Holtby was able to register a save percentage over .900.

9 games and counting

Ovechkin may have eight goals in his last three games, but Jakub Vrana is the hottest Cap with a nine-game point streak. He has eight goals and three assists during that stretch.

When last we met

Wednesday’s game is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. They last met early in the season on Oct. 10 in a 6-5 win for the Predators in Nashville. Washington actually held a 4-2 lead heading into the third period, but gave up four goals in the final frame to take the regulation loss. Those types of games have been typical for Caps-Predators as this seems to be a matchup the Caps just can’t quite figure out.

Washington has lost seven straight against Nashville and almost all of them have been high-scoring affairs. In those seven losses, the Caps gave up at least five goals five times, at least six goals four times and held the Predators to fewer than four goals only once. You have to go all the way back to March 18, 2016 for the last time Washington has beaten the Predators.

A chance to get right on the power play

Washington’s power play has been abysmal of late, but showed some promising signs in Monday’s game against Montreal as Tom Wilson was able to score in a game in which Ovechkin was suspended. Now Ovechkin is back and the power play will have a chance to build on its momentum against a bad Nashville penalty kill. The Predators rank 29th in the NHL on the PK with only 74.0-percent.

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Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

When the Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization hoped their investment in the passer would result in Washington finding its franchise quarterback of the future.

Whether Haskins becomes that franchise quarterback is still up for debate, as the signal-caller had an up-and-down rookie season. But the Ohio State product seemed to improve by the week and ended the season playing his best football, giving fans hope for the future.

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl-champion quarterback who had to wait several years before getting his first NFL shot, believes Haskins can eventually develop into that franchise QB for the Burgundy and Gold.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Tuesday, and spoke highly of the 22-year-old's ability.

"The skillset, without question, is there," Warner said. "We saw that in college, we saw that in moments last year."

Warner explained that one of the things he looks for in young passers is their week-to-week improvement. That's something Haskins did very well towards the end of the 2019 season.

"To me, that's what greatness is all about," Warner said. "It's not about coming into the league and being a finished product. It's about working and getting better all the time."

In his final two games, Haskins threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 72 percent completion rate. He was on his way to the best game of his brief career in Week 16 against the Giants before an ankle injury ended his afternoon in the third quarter.

"What I saw with Dwayne this year, he did improve game by game," Warner said. "As he got more comfortable with the NFL, as he got more comfortable with the system, he played better and better and made them more competitive each and every time out."

The 2020 offseason is crucial for Haskins. It's his first full offseason in the NFL, and seems poised to make a jump in Year 2. 

Haskins dealt with a lot in 2019, rookie or not. Five weeks into the season, his head coach was fired. He wasn't named the starter until Week 9, only due to injury to Case Keenum. Entering his second season, Haskins has a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new position coach.

There's little carryover from a season ago. Very few organizations that constantly change in the NFL are successful. 

"For young quarterbacks or players in general, you want to be able to find something you’re comfortable with and grow in," Warner said. "Hopefully this is the only move they make during Dwayne's career and he can get comfortable in that offense and hopefully one day be playing in the Super Bowl as well."

Warner knows plenty about waiting to get his opportunity; he didn't get his first shot in the NFL until he was 28. But he was put into an offense nicknamed 'The Greatest Show on Turf" that featured plenty of weapons -- Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt -- which allowed the inexperienced Warner to thrive.

In his first season as the Rams starter, Warner threw for a league-high 41 touchdown passes on an 8.2 percent touchdown rate, with just 13 interceptions. His 109.2 quarterback rating was the NFL's best that season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating Tennessee.

"I think the other component is finding the right situation, the right system for you," Warner said. When I got back into the NFL with the Rams, I was 28 years old when I got my first start. I was able to have a lot of success early because I found myself in the right system. The offense did what I did well. It played to my strengths."

Washington doesn't have the weapons that Warner's Rams did, but the Redskins have several young assets -- Terry McLaurin, Derrius Guice and Steven Sims -- that have shown promise. Getting Haskins in the right system, one that caters to his strengths, will be crucial in the development of the young passer.

"I believe that is key for players, especially at the quarterback position. You've got to find a system," Warner said. "In this case in Washington, they need to build a system around what Dwayne Haskins does well. That's how you thrive. That's how you get to and win Super Bowls."

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