Alabama-LSU sequel for all the marbles

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Alabama-LSU sequel for all the marbles

From Comcast SportsNet
By Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press

If you like sequels, the BCS has a championship game for you: Alabama-LSU II.

The Crimson Tide edged Oklahoma State in the final round of voting Sunday and will play the top-ranked Tigers in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

Undefeated LSU is the only team to beat Alabama this season, and the head BCS official sees a rematch as a perfectly good title game.

Absolutely, if theyre 1 and 2, and they are in all the polls released today, executive director Bill Hancock said.

Still, its not exactly a game the public was clamoring forat least outside of Southeastern Conference territory. And it will do nothing to quiet critics of the Bowl Championship Series or calls for a college football playoff.

Like it or not, the system has ensured that the SEChome to both schools will run its streak of BCS championships to six in a row.

Alabama has one of those and will be making its second BCS title game appearance in the last three seasons. The Crimson Tide claims 13 national championships overall and is one of the most decorated programs in the land. Its won seven AP titles since the wire service started its poll in 1936.

LSU will be seeking its third BCS championship since 2003 at the Superdome the site of its first two.

Tide coach Nick Saban won that title for LSU in 03. Current Tigers coach Les Miles matched his predecessor in 2007, winning a championship with a team that lost two games.

These talented Tigers, led by dynamic defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, have rarely even trailed against a schedule that included Oregon and West Virginia.

This team loves the big stage, Miles said.

Alabama, with its top-rated defense and Heisman Trophy contender Trent Richardson, was the only team to stay within 13 points of the Tigers this season.

The Cowboys made a late surge by beating Oklahoma 44-10 on Saturday night, and closed the gap on Alabama in the polls. But it was not enough to avoid the first title game rematch in the 14-year history of the BCS.

The Tigers (13-0) beat the Tide 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.

This could be a totally different type of game, Saban said. Theres so many good players on both sides of the ball for both teams.

Theres so much opportunity for this game to play out completely different and have a completely different flavor than the first game.

Alabama (11-1) finished second in both the Harris and coaches polls by a wide enough margin to overcome Oklahoma States lead in the computer ratings.

The Cowboys (11-1), champions of the Big 12, will play in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford from the Pac-12.

We cant control it, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden said. But I know we had a heck of a year and we beat really good football teams in this conference and were conference champions, so we did everything that we could.

The other BCS matchups are:

Michigan vs. Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl;

Clemson vs. West Virginia in the Orange Bowl;

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

For the first time since the 2005 season, none of the big-money games will feature a BCS buster such as Boise State, TCU or Houston, which had a chance but lost Saturday in the Conference USA championship to Southern Mississippi. The Cougars will play Penn State, which dropped to the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that has overshadowed the Nittany Lions season.

As the power-brokers in college football begin to plot how top-tier bowls will be set up in the future, flaws in the current system were once again being exposed this season.

Oklahoma State and Alabama, two teams with perfectly good arguments to play for a national championship, wound up fighting over one spot, with subjective voters and mysterious computer ratingsthe formulas of which are not even publicly knowndoing the choosing.

Alabama won out and Oklahoma State, with one of the most potent offenses in the country, got its first BCS appearance as a consolation prize.

We wanted the opportunity to settle the debate that has gone all year about the offense in the Big 12 and the defense in the SEC, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on ESPN.

The Tide and Tigers played a hard-hitting defensive slog billed as the Game of the Century. And it was exciting in the way Notre Dame and Armys scoreless tie was exciting in the 1946 version of the Game of the Century.

The game was barely over when talk of rematch started, pro and con.

Oklahoma State was in position to keep it from happening. The Cowboys were undefeated and second in the BCS standings heading into a Friday night game at Iowa State, a day after Oklahoma State womens basketball coach Kurt Budke and an assistant coach were killed in a plane crash.

The Cowboys lost 37-31 in double OT to the so-so Cyclones (6-6), missing a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation by inches.

With no other undefeated teams left from the major conferences, Alabama returned to No. 2 and the debate grew more heated.

Ultimately, Oklahoma State couldnt overcome that one loss.

Now Saban and Miles, who have been tussling for supremacy in the SEC West on the field and the recruiting trail, will square off for the ultimate prize.

And dont dare suggest to either of them that its for anything less.

I think whoever wins the game should be viewed as the national champion, Saban said, echoing Miles sentiment. Rather than rehash the system we should do research on what would make the system better in the future.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN selected Notre Dame's road game at North Carolina State for a six-day option, meaning we won't know what time that contest will kick off until after Oct. 1's games. 

The other two ACC games selected as part of the six-day option are Virginia Tech at North Carolina and Florida State at Miami. Both FSU (No. 12) and Miami (No. 14) are ranked in the latest AP top 25, while Virginia Tech and North Carolina both received votes in the poll. Notre Dame and NC State did not receive any votes in this week's AP poll. 

Notre Dame's game against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium this Saturday will be broadcast by ESPN, the ACC also announced, and will kick off at noon E.T.