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Stoops reinstates DT McGee for Notre Dame game

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Stoops reinstates DT McGee for Notre Dame game

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma's first marquee game of the season on Owen Field ended up being a flop.

One month later, there's an opportunity for the eighth-ranked Sooners (5-1) to climb onto the fringes of the national championship debate if they can find a way to beat No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The Sooners' results in big-time games have been mixed of late. They've been dominant in the Red River Rivalry against Texas but lost to Missouri two years ago when they were the No. 1 team in the BCS standings and dropped Top 25 showdowns against Baylor and Oklahoma State last season.

After winning their past three games against Big 12 competition by a combined margin of 156-48, the expectations are high once again - maybe even more so than over the past two seasons, when various rankings had them pegged as the No. 1 team in the country.

``I think maybe as a unit we're playing better. I think we have more confidence right now going into games for sure than I think there's ever been around this place, just knowing what we can do and what we're capable of,'' quarterback Landry Jones said Monday.

The starting defense has allowed only one touchdown over the past three games, and not a single point over the past two weeks. The offense has seemingly found a new gear after struggling through a three-turnover outing in the 24-19 loss to Kansas State.

``That's our goal every week is keep getting better,'' center Gabe Ikard said. ``We've been improving in practice every week since that K-State loss and just been building in a really positive way. ... We're not peaking but we're definitely on an upslope.

``We just can't be satisfied with the way we've played and we're facing the biggest challenge of the year so far, when it comes to their defense.''

Led by standout linebacker Manti Te'o, the Fighting Irish (7-0) have been stingier than anyone in the country except defending champion Alabama this season. That has the attention of Jones and the rest of the Oklahoma offense.

Jones said he believes his improvement in recent weeks is due to trusting his new set of receivers more, allowing him to go through his normal progressions instead of trying to make plays that aren't there.

``I've been playing a lot better. Just obviously after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you're going to have higher confidence,'' Jones said. ``And I think everybody on this team is going to have higher confidence just the way that we've been playing.''

The Sooners will get a boost, too, from the return of suspended defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who started three games last season.

McGee had been held out for the first six games of this season, but coach Bob Stoops said Monday he's allowed to play against Notre Dame. Stoops said McGee has been practicing with the scout team during his suspension and there's no reason he wouldn't be ready to play Saturday night.

``He's been going against a better offensive line than if ... he's going against the scout team every day,'' Stoops said.

Stoops said his confidence in his team was never shaken after the loss to Kansas State, because he understood how good the Wildcats - now up to No. 4 - could be and that his team could have won if not for the critical turnovers.

``What people failed to realize is we played a heck of a game against them the entire time and we just had two major mistakes that you can't overcome when you're playing another really good football team. ... As far as being physical and tough and those kind of things, we were toe-to-toe with them the entire day,'' Stoops said.

Coming up short on the big stage the first time has driven the Sooners to keep getting better and avoid another loss, which would wipe away their remaining championship hopes.

``It still kind of hurts. You don't want to ever let a game slip away from you,'' Jones said. ``You don't want to ever lose a game that early in the season. Yes, Kansas State is a good team for sure. No doubt about that. But it still hurts.

``You think about it and you can go `What if?' all you want but that game is behind us now. Yes, it still does hurt but we're going to move on from it and we're playing ball now.''

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Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Things aren't going great for the Washington Capitals of late.

After leading for 59:59 of Tuesday night's game against the San Jose Sharks and with one second left in regulation, Evander Kane scored to force overtime and Tomas Hertl eventually scored the game winner. The late collapse extended the Caps' losing streak to six for the first time in five years, and now they must travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs for one final game before the All-Star break. 

Wednesday's matchup will also be the final game for the Leafs before the All-Star break. Just like the Caps, they too are in need of a week off. Since the NHL's holiday break, Toronto has won only three of 10, scoring 24 times in that 10-game stretch. 

At home, the Leafs have a 13-11-1 record this season but have lost four straight and six of their last seven. 

Here's everything you need to know before the Caps hit the ice for the last time until Feb. 1. 

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs, 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, Canada
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: You can live stream Capitals at Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:30 PM: Capitals vs. Leafs on NBCSN
10:90 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
11:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
Maple Leafs: D Jake Gardiner (day-to-day with back spasms) 

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G, Capitals (17 wins, 11 losses, 3 OT losses, 97 GA): The Caps were a second away from snapping their five-game losing streak until Evander Kane got one past Holtby and Tomas Hertl scored the winner. In their six-game losing streak, the Caps have given up 30 goals and 52 in their last 10. A solid performance from Holtby and a W heading into the All-Star break could help the Caps get out of their funk. 

John Tavares, C, Maple Leafs (30 goals, 23 assist, 53 points): Tavares currently leads the Maple Leafs with 30 goals, with his last one coming Jan. 20 against the Arizona Coyotes. The centre is already making an impact for the Leafs after parting ways with the New York Islanders after nine seasons. 

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 151
All-Time Series Record: Caps lead 77-64-10
Last Meeting: Leafs win 4-2 (10/13/18)
Last 10: Caps lead 6-4 (including playoffs) 

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Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

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USA TODAY Sports

Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

The Wizards have shown no indication recently they are willing to bow down to anyone and accept their fate as a team depleted by injuries with the odds stacked against them. So, even as they get set to face the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, they can't be counted out, even if it seems a near impossible task for them to upset the two-time reigning champs.

In order to pull off the win, they will need many guys to step up, but perhaps none more than Otto Porter Jr., regardless of whether he's currently a bench player or not. For whatever reason, Porter has had some of the best games of his career against Golden State. 

Porter has scored 29 points or more in five career games and two of them came last season against the Warriors. He had nearly identical games of 29 points and 10 rebounds and shot a combined 10-for-18 (55.6%) from three. 

In five games against the Warriors going back to Feb. of 2017, Porter is averaging 19.4 points while shooting 56.8 percent from long range. He has nine steals compared to just two turnovers during that stretch.

The Wizards won just one of those games, as they have one win against the Warriors since 2014 and only two since 2010. But the Warriors have had no answer for Porter while his teammate Bradley Beal has been a much different story.

In their last meeting on Oct. 24, Beal had 23 points in 19 minutes but bruised his sternum and was limited in a 22-point defeat. In their final match-up last year, Beal was held to only eight points in 37 minutes on 3-for-15 from the field with five turnovers. It was one of the worst offensive nights Beal has had in years.

The other game between the teams last season featured Beal getting ejected for a fight with Draymond Green. He left with only four points.

Beal may find better luck this time around, now that he's reached another level as a scorer. He's averaging a career-best 24.7 points on the year and 29.6 points in his last eight games.

But it could very well come down to Porter leading the way. He has been on fire lately, shooting 47.7 percent from three while averaging 16.8 points during the Wizards' recent stretch of seven wins in 10 games. He also leads the team in defensive rating (99.1) since this run began on Dec. 29, while the Wizards' bench has posted the best +/- in the NBA.

In order to beat the heavily-favorited Warriors, the Wizards will need a collective effort and probably a big game from Beal. But if history is any indication, Porter will hold up his end of the bargain.

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