Irish D not fazed by Alabama's stout offensive line

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Irish D not fazed by Alabama's stout offensive line

Listen to the hyperbole, and one would think Alabamas offensive line is more like a steel-plated door that leads into a vault containing some of the world's most valuable diamonds. In other words, breaking through it would require some sort of Oceans 11 heist.

After Alabama lost to Texas A&M, plenty of many irate callers into the Paul Finebaum show lamented why the Tide decided to pass when facing a game-deciding series inside the Aggies red zone. You got the best offensive line in the history of college football, one caller shouted, so run the damn football!

Make no mistake, Alabamas offensive line is among the best in the country, if not sitting at the top of the heap. Barrett Jones is the nations best center and stands at 6-foot-5 and weighing over 300 lbs. -- so all Manti Teo could do was marvel at the senior when the pair were in Houston for the Lombardi Award ceremony last week.

Thats a big dude, Teo exclaimed.

But Notre Dames front seven wont look like a group of punters and kickers running into a group of five behemoths on Jan. 7. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are both products of SEC country, with the latter garnering plenty of support as an All-American defensive end alongside the often-unblockable Jadeveon Clowney. And Nix is a guy to whom some observers will throw a bit of credit for Teos outstanding season -- in fact, on Notre Dames third-and-inches stop of Stepfan Taylor on Oct. 13, Teo said Nix did most of the work, and all he had to do was give Taylor a little shove to keep him out of the end zone.

What I see is a big, physical Alabama offensive line, Nix said. Traditional, hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth, and thats what we expected, thats what we wanted because win or lose, itll better the team, itll be better me, itll better Tuitt, itll better everyone because a hard, physical game is what we need.

Kapron Lewis-Moore, Prince Shembo, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Danny Spond -- these arent guys who are going to be easily stonewalled, either. Shembo in particular has shown an explosive ability to get to the quarterback at times, and its worth noting Alabamas offensive line has allowed 23 sacks -- a mediocre national total.

Going back to that point about Teos success in relation to his defensive tackle, Nixs matchup with Jones could be key in South Florida. Its one for which he began preparing while watching the SEC Championship at the beginning of the month.

Hes just a smart center. He knows how to play the game, obviously, because he played three positions on the O-line, Nix noted. It takes a real good guy to know how to play all three positions, so hes a real smart guy, real athletic, very strong at the point of attack. I just have to be ready for him.

Saying the BCS Championship will be won in the trenches isnt exactly exclusive, expert analysis. If Notre Dame can win the battle on the line of scrimmage, both while on offense and defense, theyll be in excellent shape on Jan. 7.

To be the best, you have to beat the best -- and thats the defending champs, who hail from a conference thats won the last six BCS titles. That team also happens to have an offensive line thatll present a major challenge to Notre Dame, but one the team is looking forward to.

Theyre considered the best O-line in the country, Nix said, so thats who we want to play.

On the other side...

Alabama got some good news Friday morning, as the SEC announced defensive tackle Quinton Dial will not be suspended for this hit on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray during the SEC Championship Dec. 1. The conference admitted a flag shouldve been thrown on the play, but commissioner Mike Slive decided against suspending Dial for the BCS Championship.

Dial, a 6-foot-6, 304-pound senior, totaled 20 tackles with 4 12 for a loss, 1 12 sacks and four QB hurries in 11 games this season.

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Monday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

It may have been just a distant similarity to players on an MLB cellar-dweller earning a Cy Young or MVP award (which happens in Chicago, a lot – Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks twice), but to the Bears it matters. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his dominating performance in the Bears win last Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and he is not alone among Bears getting recognition after one of their few victories.

Never mind that the victory moved the Bears to 3-9 and came over a team losing its 11th straight game. What Hicks accomplished – two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble – was being a force in the Bears’ domination of the 49ers and has been part of the emotional core of a team that has lost but not folded.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re not getting the results we want,’ but guys have invested,” Hicks said. “I’ve told guys, ‘just think about the hours you’ve invested, to get your body and mind ready for a 16-game season. Why would you put all that work in and then, when you don’t get the results you want, just quit?’"

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Jordan Howard is one of the nominees for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL player of the week. Howard, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year, could be a double-winner: He also is among the nominees for Pepsi NFL rookie of the week, as is teammate Leonard Floyd (two sacks, safety, four tackles).

Voting on the latter two awards is still open.

Hicks’ play vs. San Francisco boosted him to a career-best six sacks, and he credited Bears coaches afterwards with giving him opportunities to rush the passer, not simply be utilized as a run-stopper. He has been everything and perhaps a little more than the Bears anticipated when they signed him this offseason to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with $5 million guaranteed.

“I think he's done well,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It's a credit to him, a credit to Jay [Rodgers, defensive line coach]. Akiem has kept improving throughout the season, and he's been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us, and he's been a steady bell cow for us in there.”