Capitals

Tested Michigan to play South Carolina in Outback

Tested Michigan to play South Carolina in Outback

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Michigan will face a lot of talent - especially when it tries to block South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney - in the Outback Bowl.

The 19th-ranked Wolverines, though, have just about seen it all.

They're the only team since at least 1996 to go into the postseason after facing the top three teams in The Associated Press poll. They lost each game to No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State.

``I think it's always a benefit when you play good football teams whether you win or lose,'' Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday. ``You learn how you have to play. We have to do a better job of taking care of the football, have to run the ball better.''

Michigan (8-4) also lost to No. 23 Nebraska, leading Hoke to vote for his team No. 15 in the coaches' poll, which ranked the Wolverines 22nd on Sunday. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who was replaced by Hoke, and Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly were the only other ones to vote for Michigan as high as Hoke did in the coaches' poll.

``I think we're a good team,'' Hoke said, explaining why he voted his team as high as he did. ``You look at the opponents that we played compared to other schedules that are out there. It would be easy to play a lesser schedule. But I think this has helped us grow as a program and a team.''

Michigan's banged-up quarterbacks should be helped by the long break between losing Nov. 24 to the rival Buckeyes and playing the Gamecocks on New Year's Day in Tampa, Fla.

Denard Robinson missed two-plus games with nerve damage in his right elbow and then was limited by the injury - that prevented him from throwing in a game - for the last two games of the regular season.

``I feel pretty good, to be honest with you,'' Robinson said. ``When we start practicing, I can have more say. I'm not throwing how I want to throw, but I'll get there.''

Devin Gardner replaced Robinson under center late in the season and had an ankle injury against Ohio State that was serious enough to place him in a walking boot.

Hoke insisted Gardner would be ready to practice with his teammates Friday and Saturday and said the time off the field will help every player on the roster.

``They go through that grind, it's good for all of them to heal up a little bit,'' Hoke said. ``To get them away from the pounding helps them all.''

When the Wolverines work on their inconsistent running game, they'll be without one player whose role was to help pave the way.

Junior fullback Stephen Hopkins has left the team and Hoke wouldn't - or couldn't - provide reasons for the decision.

``You'd have to ask him,'' Hoke said.

Hopkins certainly didn't lash out in a message posted to his Twitter account Monday afternoon: ``I love the University of Michigan and everything it means to be a Michigan Man. I look forward to getting my degree.''

Hopkins started in four of eight games this year and didn't get the ball once.

Rodriguez recruited Hopkins from Double Oak, Texas, to Michigan in 2010 and he had 151 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 37 carries as a freshman. Hopkins was handed the ball 11 times for 43 yards last season, in Hoke's first year, and caught one pass for 28 yards.

Robinson acknowledged being ``a little bit'' surprised that Hopkins is leaving the team.

``We support him,'' Robinson said. ``That's still a brother to me. I would never say anything bad about him.''

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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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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