Notre Dame moves one win away from shot at title

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Notre Dame moves one win away from shot at title

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There was no letdown, no signs of a trap, no heart-pounding finish, as there were in Waco and Eugene. Notre Dame's 38-0 win over Wake Forest was the first blowout the Irish built in South Bend, and it teed up next week's crucial matchup against USC in Los Angeles with an berth in the BCS Championship on the line.

With Kansas State's 52-24 loss to Baylor and Oregon's 17-14 loss to Stanford, it'll be with a BCS Championship berth on the line for the Irish, which will sit at No. 1 when the BCS standings are released Sunday. After Notre Dame's 38-0 win over Wake Forest, most players said they'd either have a passing interest or no interest at all in what Kansas State and Oregon were to do Saturday night.

"I'm not going to worry about it," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "I could literally just go eat, go to sleep, and wake up tomorrow and figure out what happened. I'm not too concerned."

Bet that stance has changed. Saturday was the first time since 2007 both Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS have lost on the same weekend.

When Notre Dame sits at No. 1 in the poll Sunday, it'll be the first time the Irish have occupied the top spot in the AP poll since 1993. Notre Dame has never been No. 1 in a BCS poll.

That No. 1 ranking means all the Irish will have to do to reach the BCS Championship is beat USC, which lost 38-28 to crosstown rival UCLA Saturday. Adding misery to an already-disappointing season in Los Angeles was an injury to quarterback Matt Barkley, who reportedly suffered a separated shoulder against UCLA.

It was Notre Dame that was supposed to have the disappointing season, the one that put its coach on the hot seat. Not USC. But the script has played out with the roles reversed, with plenty calling for Kiffin's head in California while others effusively praising Kelly in Indiana. Notre Dame-USC will have championship implications, but not for the team most would've expected in August.

Despite an 11-0 record, Notre Dame has sat on the outside looking in of the BCS Championship picture for the entire season. First and foremost, Notre Dame needed to win out, but just as crucial to the team's title hopes was for the teams ahead of them to lose.

Texas A&M took care of half that equation last weekend, beating then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. On Saturday, it was Baylor downing K-State in Waco and Stanford winning in overtime on the road against Oregon.

"Coach has been telling us it's all going to work itself out, we just need to take care of what we can take care of," Notre Dame wide receiver John Goodman said. "That's what we did tonight, last week and the weeks before. So we're 11-0, that's all that really matters right now, we're going to go into USC 11-0 and hopefully leave 12-0."

A lack of style points -- or, more accurately, a few nail-biting home wins against lesser competition -- has been part of the reason why Notre Dame hasn't been among the top two teams in the BCS standings this year. At 11-0, though, Notre Dame players were far more concerned with their unblemished record than margin of victory.

"Where the hell did style points come from?" defensive tackle Louis Nix asked rhetorically. "I hate that. I don't believe in style points. I believe in winning, and that's what you do playing football. You don't need to do style points."

Notre Dame put up style points Saturday, with Everett Golson leading the way. The redshirt freshman completed 20 of 30 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in his best collegiate game, and Cierre Wood added 150 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Still, Irish wide receiver T.J. Jones -- who caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown -- insisted "style points, to me, are irrelevant."

With K-State and Oregon's losses, those style points became exactly what Jones said they are -- irrelevant.

As Notre Dame climbed the BCS standings, coach Brian Kelly preached taking things one game at a time and not looking ahead to a larger goal. That cliche took on real meaning after Notre Dame nearly lost to Pittsburgh a week after beating Oklahoma by 17 in Norman, and it's one that'll persist among Irish coaches and players heading into Los Angeles.

"Our guys know what's at stake now," Kelly said after Notre Dame's win and before the two monumental losses ahead of them Saturday night. "This is about an undefeated season. They cannot do anything else but beat USC. The rest is up to other people to decide."

But Notre Dame has only beaten USC once in the last decade. Despite all the trials and tribulations at USC this year, they remain a talented team, one that certainly could spoil Notre Dame's title hopes on Nov. 24.

"We've got to take care of USC before we can be talking about what to do," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We've got one more game to go. If we don't beat USC, there is no need to say whether you deserve it or not. You have to beat USC first."

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

It may not be very pretty, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of Todd Frazier’s stolen base technique.

Despite employing a walking-lead style that his manager loves to harp on, Frazier swiped two more bags in Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Indians. Frazier’s 14 stolen bases this season not only leads the team, it’s also the most by a White Sox third baseman since Luis Salazar also stole 14 bases in 1985.

“He’s got that sneaky little stolen base thing where he sneaks off there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He looks like a fan ran on the field. It works. I don’t know how to explain it, but it works.”

Frazier has learned how to make it work.

Successful only 58.5 percent of the time in his first three minor league seasons, Frazier adapted his style after he and Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan discussed his leads. Frazier, who was successful in only 24 of 41 tries between Cincinnati’s Rookie League team and Double-A, said the talk resulted in an alteration and drastically improved results. Frazier’s success rate increased to 81.8 percent at Triple-A as he was successful in 36 of 44 tries.

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Frazier has converted 57 of 85 tries in the majors (67 percent), including 14 of 19 this season.

“Basically every time I stole a base my first move would be coming up in the standstill,” Frazier said. “(Morgan) taught me the walking lead, basically because the more you get your momentum going toward the base I have one or two steps ahead of somebody. We went over that a little bit, I started working on it in Triple-A and I’d get about 15 stolen bags a year. I’m not the fastest guy, but if I can a step ahead and get two or three or four when the guy throws it they’re not going to be be able to throw it. Sometimes I’ll get picked off and you’ll be like, ‘What is he doing?’ But I’ll take five or six of those a year to get to second base and get two big runs there for us.”

Frazier’s steals on Sunday led to two of three runs scored by the White Sox. Even more important (for the purposes of bragging rights), the stolen bases gave Frazier the team lead over Adam Eaton, who has 12 steals.

“I told Eaton I was going to get him, no problem,” Frazier said. “I told him ‘I’m coming for you,’ and I got two today so I took the lead, which is pretty cool.”

Ventura still isn’t quite sure how Frazier does it. But he’s impressed nonetheless.

“He’s not a normal looking base stealer, but he’s able to create some havoc when he’s out there” Ventura said.

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 6 Coverage

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Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 6 Coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm, just after White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, we spotlight the Metro Suburban Blue conference:

Riverside-Brookfield at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.

St. Edward at Fenton, 7:15 p.m.

Wheaton Academy at Glenbard South, 7:15 p.m.

Polls open Monday at 12:00pm and close Thursday at 4:00pm. Fans are encouraged to vote more than once! Vote now right here!

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the week,” along with other football news, scores and highlights this season.

Rules: official votes are tabulated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook via the link above. “Re-Tweets” and “Likes” do not count. Also, the original wording of the Twitter/Facebook voting prompt (including hashtags) cannot be manipulated in any fashion. However, feel free to add emojis, numbers, etc. at the end of an official vote’s text, provided there is a space after the final hashtag. Automatically timed-interval (“bot”) votes will also not count.