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SECond to none, with no end in sight

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SECond to none, with no end in sight

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) There is no end in sight, not for Alabama or the Southeastern Conference.

The Crimson Tide made it two straight national championships and three in four years on Monday night. It can be argued that it's the greatest run in college football history, but as with so many things in college football, that's difficult to quantify. Suffice to say, if you're putting together a short list, what the Tide has done under coach Nick Saban has a spot on it.

With its 42-14 dismantling of Notre Dame at Sun Life Stadium, the Crimson Tide also put another notch in the Southeastern Conference's belt. The conference of college football has won seven straight titles now, almost half of them by Alabama.

``The fact that a conference can win seven national championships in football in a row, and with four different teams, is extraordinary,'' Commissioner Mike Slive said Monday. ``It's something you could never predict or anticipate no matter what you were thinking about.''

In the final Associated Press Top 25, released in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, five of the first 10 teams were from the SEC. That had never happened before, so yet another first for the league that seems to be playing a different game - at least at the very top of the league - than everybody else.

Notre Dame, a fine team that was clearly a year ahead of schedule and the beneficiary of some good fortune this season, looked so outclassed by the Tide it was hard not to wonder: ``What's the point?'' Just hand out the crystal football after the SEC title game in Atlanta.

Maybe Oregon would have given the Tide a better run. Throughout this era of SEC domination, the Ducks came closest to breaking the streak, losing to Auburn on a last-play field goal after the 2010 season. If a poll was taken of people who follow college football closely this season, not those starry-eyed over the big name brands, Ducks-Tide was probably the matchup most wanted to see in the title game.

But Oregon didn't get a second chance after a bad week against Stanford the way Alabama did after playing the Aggies, and Notre Dame, even with all of its great escapes, was deserving of the spot.

The fact is though, when Alabama got to Miami, it had already seen better teams than - or at the very least teams as good as - the Fighting Irish.

Georgia was 5 yards away from beating the Tide in the SEC championship game. LSU had the Tide down late and couldn't close Alabama out in Death Valley.

A week after beating the Tigers in Baton Rouge, La.,Texas A&M, the SEC's newest heavyweight, rolled into Tuscaloosa, Ala., and beat the Tide by five points behind Johnny Manziel, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.

``I don't think there's any question about it,'' Saban said Monday morning, when asked about whether playing in the SEC gives the team that arrives at the national championship game an edge.

``So if you're playing those teams ... those kinds of games, that kind of competition, playing against sort of the best, obviously helps you play another good team when you play in a game like this.

``And I don't even think it's just those teams, I think it's the fact that there's a lot of teams in our division that we had very difficult games with. So it's almost every game that you play in the SEC is a game that you could lose, and you have to be very well prepared for and you have to sort of play with a consistency. You can't play up and down, or you're going to have problems. And I think all those things really help the consistency and the players to understand and appreciate what it takes to be successful.''

The second half of Saban's answer is more SEC spin than reality, and it's the reason there is such a thing as SEC fatigue. Auburn was terrible and Arkansas wasn't much better. Kentucky was bad. Tennessee and Missouri, below average. Mississippi State was over-ranked most of the season and Mississippi was improved, but did give up 70 to Texas at home.

The SEC grind gets overrated. With expansion, the top teams are less likely to play each other. Alabama did not play Florida or South Carolina from the East Division. And by playing eight conference games instead of nine, the way the Big 12 and Pac-12 do, they can pad their schedules with enough soft spots and breaks to give their teams a break from the week-to-week pounding.

The SEC hasn't cornered the market on selective scheduling, but its programs are good at it.

Alabama probably had more true walkovers than Notre Dame, but the closest the Irish came to playing anyone like Georgia, LSU or Texas A&M was its game at Oklahoma, and the Sooners lost the Cotton Bowl 41-13 to Johnny Football and the Aggies.

The Irish were exposed by a level of athleticism, skill and depth that only a handful or so teams in the country can come close to, and most of those teams play in the SEC.

Maybe Urban Meyer can build a team at Ohio State that can match the SEC's best. Florida State is showing signs of being able to be a team like that. Maybe, Clemson? Southern California has the resources, but who knows what direction the Trojans are headed? Oklahoma and Texas have fallen off, but always have the potential to do big things. Brian Kelly wants us to believe this year Notre Dame took a huge step toward being a team that can compete on that level.

But right now they are all chasing and the gap doesn't seem to be narrowing.

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

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Bradley Beal won't require surgery for shoulder, Wizards GM says

Bradley Beal won't require surgery for shoulder, Wizards GM says

Bradley Beal's right rotator cuff injury is enough to keep him out of the NBA's restart in Orlando, but not enough to require surgery, according to Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard.

Sheppard said he doesn't "think surgery is an option at all" and repeated that claim, indicating it is not even on the table at this point. The team is confident Beal can manage the injury because he already has for roughly eight months.

Beal, Sheppard says, first hurt his shoulder on Nov. 27 against the Phoenix Suns. The rotator cuff was aggravated several times throughout the course of the season when he got bumped during games, often times when coming off screens.

Beal, of course, played very well despite the discomfort. He left off in March averaging 30.5 points per game, second in the NBA behind only James Harden.

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM BEAL SITTING OUT

Sheppard says keeping him out now is more about preventing it from getting worse during a stretch of games that aren't as important as the team's big picture future.

"I think if we had another month of ramp-up time, Bradley would probably be ready to play. These are eight games vs. 82 next season and all the seasons beyond that. I think it's worth mitigating the risk right now for what's ahead," Sheppard said.

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Sheppard also noted the truncated NBA offseason due to the months-long postponement of games this season. With next season expected to begin in December, the turnaround will be quicker. A serious injury at this point could affect his status for the start of next season.

The Wizards want to avoid that because they are anticipating the return of John Wall from his Achilles injury and want to have both of their All-Star guards in the fold. Beal sitting out helps preserve that.

The question now is whether Beal can work around his right rotator cuff injury without surgery. He has proven he can manage it, but it has already lingered for eight months. Will it still be an issue, minor or major, five months from now?

For the meantime, Beal will have to watch from afar as the Wizards go to Orlando to close out their season. He is set to stay back in Washington and continue working with coaches at the Wizards' practice facility.

Beal ends the year with some pristine numbers: 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. The points-per-game are the second-most in franchise history only to Walt Bellamy's 31.6 in 1961-62.

Not bad for a guy who was playing hurt.

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Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson apologizes for anti-Semitic post

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson apologizes for anti-Semitic post

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has apologized after backlash for sharing anti-Semitic posts on social media over the weekend.

"My post was definitely not intended for anybody of any race to feel any type of way, especially the Jewish community," Jackson said in a video he posted on Instagram on Tuesday. "I post things on my story all the time, and just probably never should have posted anything Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person, and I know that."

The team issued the following statement: "We have spoken with DeSean Jackson about his social media posts. Regardless of his intentions, the messages he shared were offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling. They have no place in our society, and are not condoned or supported in any way by the organization. We are disappointed and we reiterated to DeSean the importance of not only apologizing but also using his platform to take action to promote unity, equality, and respect. We are continuing to evaluate the circumstances and are committed to continuing to have productive and meaningful conversations with DeSean, as well as all of our players and staff, in order to educate, learn, and grow."

The NFL also issued a statement, saying: "DeSean's comments were highly inappropriate, offensive and divisive and stand in stark contrast to the NFL's values of respect, equality and inclusion. We have been in contact with the team which is addressing the matter with DeSean."

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, is in his second stint in Philadelphia, returning last season to the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Former Eagles president Joe Banner criticized Jackson on Twitter. Banner wrote: "If a white player said anything about (African-Americans) as outrageous as what Desean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss. Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible."

Banner, who also worked for Cleveland and Atlanta, later shared an anti-Palestinian tweet with the hashtag "Palestinianprivilege getting away with murder."

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