Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame


Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin was looking for something, anything, on tape to lend some hope that his stable of talented running backs could make a game-changing play against Alabama's vaunted run defense.

He didn't find much.

"You try to gain some confidence if you look at the big run tape and the big pass tape, (and with) the big run tape Im like did we do all 12 games?" Martin said, half-joking. "Theres only four on here, and one was in the fourth quarter against a team that was like 86-0 so I didnt even count that one because there were no numbers on the field for Alabama that I recognized."

The stats aren't as bad as Martin made them out to be, but they're still not encouraging. Alabama's defense allowed seven runs of 20 or more yards in its 13 games, and only one of those went for 30 or more. Alabama is the only FBS defense against which opponents averaged under 80 yards rushing per game, and only three teams rushed for over 100 yards against the Tide this season.

Two of those teams -- LSU and Texas A&M -- needed 49 and 46 rushing plays to eclipse the century mark. Georgia, behind a physical, fast back in Todd Gurley, ran 29 times for 113 yards in the SEC title game, good for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. That's the highest Alabama allowed in its 13 games.

"They dont give up squat running, and we know that," Martin quipped.

But Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood proved to be more than capable as a running back duo over Notre Dame's regular season. It was Riddick who pounded USC's defense to help push the Irish into the BCS Championship, and Wood's 62-yard touchdown dash against Oklahoma helped set the tone for the arguably Notre Dame's biggest win of the season.

Just because Alabama doesn't give up much on the ground, though, doesn't mean the Irish will eschew the run. There's still a balance to be fostered, while Riddick and Wood are good enough for the Irish to succeed against even the best of the run-stoppers.

Regardless, Martin and Notre Dame are preparing for Everett Golson to have to make the game-changing plays that have often fallen on the shoulders of Riddick and Wood. Golson's no stranger to those, either -- his 50-yard completion to Chris Brown against Oklahoma certainly falls into that category -- and he's played on plenty of big stages already.

"Im not the type that really succumbs to pressure, I guess. I dont think any moments bigger than what it is," Golson said. "For me, its about that game thats played between (the lines). Its not necessarily about everything thats going on around it. At the end of the day, its about playing Jan. 7 at Alabama."

And make no mistake, Golson's still in the midst of a massive learning process. But as has been the case in plenty of Notre Dame's games, he may not have to do everything right -- just enough to secure a win.

"If we win this game 3-2, were good," Martin said. "And thats been the way weve been all year."

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

The White Sox could be open for business when the Winter Meetings begin on Sunday in Maryland, with ace left-hander Chris Sale likely to draw the most interest at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. 

The price for the five-time All-Star, of course, will be steep. ESPN’s Jayson Stark offered this as to just how steep it’ll be: To acquire Sale, a team will have to part with its No. 1 prospect plus at least two more players. 

The starting point for the White Sox, according to Stark, will be last offseason’s Shelby Miller trade in which the Arizona Diamondbacks sent former No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson to the Atlanta Braves to acquire the 26-year-old right-hander. 

Miller was coming off a strong season in 2015, in which he crossed the 200-inning threshold for the first time and posted a career best 3.02 ERA. But Miller hadn’t come close to establishing the success Sale has at the time of the trade, spending just three seasons in the starting rotations of the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals without eye-popping peripherals (he had a 4.54 FIP in 2014, for example). And the Braves still managed to swipe Swanson away from a Diamondbacks team that went all in for the 2016 season (and crashed to a 69-93 record with Miller having a 6.15 ERA). 

Only three pitchers — Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and David Price — have racked up more WAR than Sale (26.2) since the start of the 2012 season, and Sale is one of seven starters to have 1,000 or more strikeouts over the last five seasons, too. Durability hasn’t been an issue for Sale, either, as he’s tied for second in baseball with 14 complete games since 2012 (only behind Kershaw) and has thrown the 12th-most innings of any pitcher in the last five years, too. 

That’s the Cliff’s Notes version of why Sale will command such a high price. So that’s why, on MLB Network on Friday, Jon Heyman threw out the following names that could be discussed: Washington Nationals infielder/outfielder Trea Turner, Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman, Boston Red Sox outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Red Sox infielder Yoan Moncada. 

Not only are those guys top prospects, but every one them outside of Moncada has had more than a cup of coffee in the major leagues. Whether or not the White Sox could pry one of those players, or someone of their caliber, away from a team in a Sale trade remains to be seen. 

The price may come down, as Stark reported, but the starting point in the Sale sweepstakes certainly appears to be high. 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.