Notre Dame ready for BCS Championship picture to come into focus

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Notre Dame ready for BCS Championship picture to come into focus

Notre Dame players won't admit to cheering for either side in Saturday's SEC Championship, as well they shouldn't. There won't be any remarks about "old man football" or Alabama's loss to Texas A&M. That's the product of a team knowing it won't do itself any favors by lending its BCS Championship opponent any added motivation, so let the platitudes fly.

"No, not really," linebacker Manti Te'o said when asked if he had any rooting interest in Saturday's game. "Good luck to both teams and just excited to see who we play."

The best bet for Notre Dame's Jan. 7 opponent is Alabama, which will face Georgia as an eight-point favorite. Despite its one loss, there are plenty around the country who consider Alabama college football's best team and expect Nick Saban & Co. to roll Georgia and then Notre Dame in the BCS Championship.

Online betting site Bovada.com pegged Alabama as a 9 12-point favorite over Notre Dame if the two teams meet in the BCS Championship. If it's Georgia, Notre Dame would be three-point underdogs. Make no mistake: A perfect record isn't enough for the odds to not be stacked against the Irish.

"Were all going to strap up our pads the same way, were all going to strap our chinstraps the same way," Te'o said, dismissing Notre Dame's already-anointed underdog status. "We understand how dominant the SEC has been in the past. But its definitely and opportunity that were looking forward to, and were going to prepare the same way that weve been preparing all week and all year."

Heading into the BCS Championship as underdogs is sure to rankle those who are quick to point out the SEC's shortcomings. But the SEC has earned the right to be favored over whoever they play in the BCS Championship by virtue of winning the last six.

Alabama has won two of the last three titles, and if they reach this year's game 17 of their players would experience their third BCS Championship in four years. While Notre Dame players talked about learning what it takes to be undefeated, Alabama players know what it takes to win a championship.

Georgia doesn't have that same track record of success in the last four years, nor do they look as strong as Alabama on paper. While the Tide went into Death Valley and beat LSU, Georgia's only big win came in a sloppy neutral field win over Florida. That's not to totally discount Georgia's win -- it was Florida's only loss of the season -- but they were pasted by South Carolina in Columbia and feasted on blowouts against the dregs of the SEC and a weak non-conference slate.

Statistically, Georgia is allowing 163 rushing yards per game, good for 69th among FBS teams. They're great against the pass (No. 9 nationally) but that's not Notre Dame's strength on offense.

Even Georgia's passing advantage against Notre Dame's secondary can be mitigated by the combined seven throwing touchdowns allowed by the Irish defense -- and that's with facing a handful of top-40 passing offenses.

Alabama, on the other hand, has the same footprint of Notre Dame. Their air attack isn't great (both are No. 77 in passing yards per game) but doesn't turn the ball over, allowing a solid running game to carry the offensive load. And those running backs generally help score enough points to net victories built on defensive success.

What'll be interesting to watch Saturday is Alabama's ability to slow Aaron Murray and Georgia's passing game. Johnny Manziel's success in Tuscaloosa led to Texas A&M's mid-November upset, although the Tide did successfully shut down Tennessee's potent air attack in Knoxville to balance that out. Perhaps we'll figure out if Alabama's secondary can be exploited by quarterbacks who don't play like they've set their video game difficulty level to rookie on Saturday.

Notre Dame players and coaches are in an enviable position Saturday evening, able to kick back and do some casual scouting while taking in a game that'll decide who they play in a little over a month. The Irish have already earned their trip to Miami, and tomorrow we'll find out of Alabama or Georgia will be joining them.

"Ill enjoy it as a fan and as a future opponent," Te'o said. "Just watching them, how they work and trying to get tendencies in that game. My main thing is finding out who were going to play and then getting a sneak peek of what to look forward to."

Jonathan Bullard Chicago Bears NFL Draft Profile

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Jonathan Bullard Chicago Bears NFL Draft Profile

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 150 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Jonathan Bullard (DL), Florida

6’3” | 285 lbs.

2015 stats:

63 tackles, 18 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 2 PD

Selection:

3rd Round, 72nd overall to Chicago Bears

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Bullard tested like a great athlete, which was a bit surprising. I love his ability to win as a defensive end against the run and impact passing downs when lining up inside. Bullard can win with power immediately or can win with length to shed and make the tackle." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

Video analysis provided by NBC Sports and Rotoworld NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.

Costly mistakes, Nolan Reimold's HR send White Sox to 6-3 loss vs. O's

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Costly mistakes, Nolan Reimold's HR send White Sox to 6-3 loss vs. O's

BALTIMORE — The White Sox haven’t given away many games this season, but Friday’s effort qualifies for sure.

Two innings after the defense made several costly errors, Carlos Rodon yielded a three-run homer to Nolan Reimold and the Baltimore Orioles sent the White Sox to a 6-3 loss in front of 19,912 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Reimold’s seventh-inning, opposite-field homer off Rodon broke a 3-all tie and led to a second straight White Sox loss.

Following a defensive breakdown in the fifth that led to three runs, Rodon looked like he had things under control. He cruised through the heart of the Orioles order in the sixth inning and needed only eight pitches to retire the side.

But Baltimore’s bats heated up in a hurry in the seventh. Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy both singled and Reimold jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Rodon and drove it out to right field to put the Orioles ahead 6-3.

Rodon allowed six runs (four earned) and eight hits in seven innings while striking out seven and walking one.

The left-hander had been on cruise control for the game’s first four innings, using a strong slider to efficiently keep the Orioles under wraps. Rodon used only 55 pitches and had only allowed an opposite-field single as the White Sox led 1-0.

But Rodon issued a leadoff walk to Adam Jones in the fifth and Brett Lawrie’s error on Wieters’ potential double play ball put runners on the corners. Still, Rodon induced a grounder to third from Hardy and Jones was caught too far off third base, which led to a rundown and the first out of the inning. An infield single by Reimold then loaded the bases and Jonathan Schoop’s two-run single gave the Orioles a 2-1 advantage. Rodon induced another grounder off Joey Rickard’s bat but Jimmy Rollins’ relay throw wiped out another double play and reached the stands, allowing a third run to score. The Orioles’ rally would have continued had it not been for a perfect throw home by Adam Eaton to nail Rickard on Manny Machado’s two-out single.

The White Sox fought back from the two-run deficit but missed out on a big opportunity in the sixth. Jose Abreu’s one-out RBI single got the White Sox within a run and Todd Frazier walked to load the bases. But Jones raced in to catch Melky Cabrera’s liner and fired a perfect throw home to nail Rollins and keep the Orioles ahead 3-2.

Lawrie wiped out the lead in the seventh, however, with a solo homer off reliever Brad Brach. But the White Sox, who went ahead in the second on Avisail Garcia’s RBI triple, got no further against Brach, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton.

Bears shore up offensive line, select Kansas State's Cody Whitehair

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Bears shore up offensive line, select Kansas State's Cody Whitehair

Happy Birthday, Jay Cutler.

On the day that the Bears’ quarterback turned 33, the Bears used a second-round pick on a QB protector, trading down twice before selecting Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair with the 56th pick of the draft.

Whitehair, 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, was a four-year starter who has played both right and left tackle, starting all 13 games in 2014 at left tackle and performing well enough to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior.

The Bears have sounded pleased with Charles Leno at left tackle, backed up by Nick Becton, and signed Bobby Massie in free agency to settle at right tackle, backed up by 2015 sixth-round pick Tayo Fabuluje.

With Whitehair, Massie and signings of guard/centers Ted Lawson and Manny Ramirez, the Bears have set up the potential for nothing short of furious competition for two of the three interior-line positions on offense. Kyle Long has appeared set at right guard but center Hroniss Grasu and left guard Matt Slauson face major position battles, barring a shift of Long or Whitehair to tackle and inflaming the competition there.