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Voter's guide to BCS title contenders

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Voter's guide to BCS title contenders

The participants in the BCS championship game are essentially determined by voters - poll voters specifically.

So in the spirit of election day, here is a voter's guide to the four candidates vying to play for the national championship in January.

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No. 1 ALABAMA (first in the BCS)

Platform: The defending national champions stand for rugged, no-frills football and the philosophy that there is no problem a five-star recruit can't fix.

Star power: QB AJ McCarron. A poised leader (see the game-winning drive at LSU), unafraid to let his emotions show (see crying after game-winning drive at LSU).

Ground game: All-American C Barrett Jones anchors an offensive line that might be the most talented in the country, and paves the way for a punishing running game with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

Department of defense: The Tide ranks in the top 10 in the nation in every major defensive category, including first in points allowed at 9.1 per game.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 17th nationally, according to Sagarin computer ratings. Average margin of victory: 29 points per game.

Commander-in-chief: Nick Saban. His ``process'' has produced three national championships.

Campaign slogan: Roll Tide.

No. 2 OREGON (third in the BCS)

Platform: The Ducks are running on change - such as a new uniform every week, and promise to get things done quickly.

Star power: RB Kenjon Barner. After three years as a backup, his patience and persistence have turned him into a Heisman contender.

Ground game: The Ducks are second in the nation in rushing at 341 yards per game - though their running game is anything but a grind.

Department of defense: Much like their offense, the Ducks' defense is a big-play machine. They are tied for third in the nation with 26 takeaways and 18th in sacks with 24.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 47th. Average margin of victory: 31 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Chip Kelly, a man who believes any question can be answered in 10 words or less.

Campaign slogan: Win the day.

No. 3 KANSAS STATE (second in the BCS)

Platform: The Wildcats blend old-school Midwestern sensibilities of mistake-free, power football, with 21st century ideas - such as scoring 44 points per game.

Star power: QB Collin Klein. The happily married Heisman front-runner has a trendy nickname - Optimus Klein - and a throwback game.

Ground game: Klein provides the power and RB John Hubert adds speed to a clock-killing running game that averages 226 yards and has scored 33 touchdowns.

Department of defense: LB Arthur Brown leads a defense that is tough to run against, ninth in the nation at 100 yards allowed per game, and manages to hold its own against those potent Big 12 passing attacks.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 33rd. Average margin of victory: 25 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Bill Snyder. The congenial 73-year-old has already performed a miracle in Manhattan.

Campaign slogan. We are family.

No. 4 NOTRE DAME (fourth in the BCS)

Platform: The Fighting Irish promise a return to glory - and have been doing so for about 20 years.

Star power: LB Manti Te'o. Has played inspired football while dealing with personal tragedy.

Ground game: The Irish have run for more than 200 yards each of the last three games as they try to take the pressure off developing QB Everett Golson.

Department of defense. Te'o gets the press but the line led by DE Stephon Tuitt and NG Louis Nix III is a big reason the Irish have allowed only two rushing touchdowns, fewest in the nation.

Accomplishments: Strength of schedule: 16th. Average margin of victory: 15 ppg.

Commander-in-chief: Brian Kelly. Former aspiring politician from Massachusetts has been known to flip-flop when it comes to quarterbacks.

Campaign slogan: Play like a champion.

ENDORSEMENT

This could work itself out if two of the candidates were to lose in the next four weeks. However, if all four remain undefeated, it will be up to the voters in the Harris and coaches' polls to find the imperfections in those perfect records.

If that scenario plays out, Alabama is a lock to play for its third national title in four seasons. The Crimson Tide has the most talented roster in the country, the best coach and would be the champions of the Southeastern Conference, which has produced the last six champions.

The question then is: Which team plays Alabama?

Make no mistake, all would be deserving, and there is no definitive correct answer.

By the time the season is over, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all will likely have played somewhat comparable schedules. The Ducks just started their toughest stretch.

Notre Dame gets eliminated because the Irish have played so many close games, some against middling opposition such as Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh.

So it comes down to Oregon or Kansas State, an almost impossible choice. The BCS metrics favor the Wildcats right now, but suggest the Ducks will make up the ground they need down the stretch.

Taking into account that the events of the next four weeks could sway this opinion, Oregon would be the choice to face Alabama on Jan. 7 in Miami in the BCS title game if all four candidates remain unbeaten.

Any chance we can move up the start date of that four-team playoff?

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HEISMAN WATCH

Marqise Lee has replaced Matt Barkley as Southern California's top Heisman Trophy contender.

While Barkley, the preseason favorite to win the Heisman, has had an excellent senior season, Lee has been sensational. The sophomore receiver leads the nation in all-purpose yards (223 per game), and is second in both catches (9.8 per game) and yards receiving (143 per game).

The Trojans (6-3) have fallen short of expectations, but that shouldn't take away from Lee's chances to at least get an invite to the Heisman presentation in New York.

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QUICK HITS

- Expect to hear Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken mentioned when head coaching vacancies begin to open up in the coming months. The Cowboys rank second in the nation in total offense at 575 yards per game while playing three quarterbacks - including a freshman and a redshirt freshman.

- The first of what could be several job openings in the SEC came Sunday when Kentucky fired Joker Phillips. Among those who have been mentioned as candidates to replace him are Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator and former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter.

- Three realignment reunions that we'd like to see in bowl games: Texas vs. Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl; West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl; Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.

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LAST WORD

``We won every statistical category, but the score. That's unfortunate. I told the team I wish I would have done a couple of things better.'' LSU coach Les Miles on Monday, summing up the Tigers' 21-17 loss to Alabama,

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

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

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See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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