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Sooners will face all 3 Heisman finalists

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Sooners will face all 3 Heisman finalists

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) So which of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy really has been college football's best player this season? Check back with the Oklahoma Sooners after the Cotton Bowl and they could offer an educated opinion.

No. 12 Oklahoma (10-2) will complete a Heisman trifecta of sorts when the Sooners face No. 10 Texas A&M (10-2) in the Jan. 4 bowl game in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies are led by quarterback Johnny Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman this month and on Tuesday was named as the AP Player of the Year.

Oklahoma already has faced the other two players who finished in the top three in this season's Heisman balloting: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

``Yeah, I've thought about that, believe me,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday, addressing reporters for the first time since the Sooners closed the regular season with a 24-17 win over TCU. ``They're excellent players, all of them. They're always a challenge.''

Oklahoma will become the first team to face the top three finishers in the Heisman balloting since 1993, when Florida played Florida State and Heisman winner Charlie Ward, Tennessee and runner-up Heath Shuler and Alabama and third-place finisher David Palmer.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, a four-year starter for the Sooners, entered the season on most Heisman watch lists, but fell off with a couple of subpar early season performances. He never moved back into serious Heisman contention despite passing for 3,989 yards and 29 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

Jones, who has a 39-10 career record as a starter, said he is curious about seeing the player dubbed ``Johnny Football,'' but doesn't think he needs to measure himself against Manziel, who passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns with eight interceptions and rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns.

``You play against so many good players throughout the year,'' Jones said. ``I don't know if it's necessarily a chip on your shoulder. It's just more of a way where you want to go out and you want to compete the way you know you can compete. If he has a great game, he has a great game. I don't really have anything to do with his playing and what he'll do on Jan. 4.''

Defensive tackle David King might, however, and said Manziel poses a different challenge to Oklahoma's defense than other quarterbacks, comparing him to last year's Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

``We can't allow him to just run on us all day,'' King said. ``Obviously, that's what he's been doing and he's been very successful. That's a lot of how he won the Heisman. He's a playmaker. If it's not there, he's going to just run and teams have had a hard time stopping him. We just have to have our best game of the season by far in containing him and not letting him do what he wants to do all night.''

Stoops agreed.

``He has a great knack, even on his blind side, for feeling people getting close,'' he said. ``He'll spin a couple times and work his way out. It's something you have to work really hard at to contain him and keep him in (the pocket). Also, you don't want to be tentative and not rush. There's a fine line we'll work hard at trying to get pressure and keep him in there.''

Texas A&M was in the Big 12 Conference with Oklahoma until this season, when the Aggies made the move to the Southeastern Conference under coach Kevin Sumlin, a former Stoops assistant at Oklahoma. The Aggies, using a spread offense similar to those popular in the Big 12, rank third in the Bowl Subdivision in both total offense and scoring offense.

That success should put to rest the notion that Big 12 offenses couldn't hold their own against SEC defenses, Stoops said.

``It's interesting to me . they seem to have done pretty well in that league offensively,'' Stoops said. ``I think they lead that league in every single category and it hasn't hurt their winning. They won a bunch of games, too. They're doing pretty good against all those defenses.''

Oklahoma's only two losses this season - both at home - came against teams with Heisman finalists. Te'o had a key interception and 11 tackles as Notre Dame beat the Sooners 30-13, while Klein passed for 149 yards and rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown to lead Kansas State to a 24-19 win. Getting a third chance to beat a Heisman finalist - indeed, the guy who won the trophy - is ``extra motivation,'' King said.

``We have to sit around here for a month and watch ESPN and all they talk about is Johnny Football or Johnny Heisman or whatever they call him now,'' King said. ``We sit around and we get tired of watching it. The whole national media is scrutinizing our defense and that we can't stop the run. We're underdogs in this game. We have a lot to prove and, on Jan. 4, we'll be ready to play.''

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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