Notre Dame vs. Miami: 'Catholics vs. Convicts' no more

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Notre Dame vs. Miami: 'Catholics vs. Convicts' no more

It's been nearly 25 years since Notre Dame's rivalry with Miami peaked, and while no Notre Dame players were old enough (or alive) to remember it, some do know a little about the history between the two teams.

"Honestly, the only thing I know -- in 1988, I think didn't we beat them when they were ranked No. 1? I think that's the only thing I know," senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. "I don't know too much other than that. I just know it used to get a little heated back in the day."

Lewis-Moore was right about that -- Notre Dame beat then-No. 1 Miami 31-30 in 1988, complete with a pregame fight in the tunnel. The game was voted the best game in Notre Dame football history in 2005 and led to "Catholics vs. Convicts" entering the national lexicon.

But the vitriol between the two teams has cooled, and Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix -- who knows as much about the rivalry as any of his teammates -- doesn't think the old nickname needs to be re-hashed.

"Everybody tells us about the big rivalry and Catholics vs. Convicts but to be honest, I think thats over with. That was years ago, and nobody even thinks about it," Nix said. "In the hearts of Notre Dame fans, it might be a big game. Me, my team, I think we just see it as another game we gotta play hard at."

Of course, Nix admitted talk about the rivalry is unavoidable with a school and fanbase so steeped in tradition and history.

"We hear everybody and every Notre Dame fan, everybody around here talks about it. Youll get enough of the history off that," he said. "I think I know pretty much a lot about it. I dont think its that much hyped up, because both programs have been on like a slump for a while, and Miami has really turned the program around from being called convicts. I think theyre a great program now, and you cant even put them in the same category as back then."

For more on Notre Dame-Miami, Inside the Irish's Keith Arnold has some good insight in his pregame six pack.

The key for Notre Dame? Stay grounded

Notre Dame opened the 2012 season with a 50-10 win over Navy, powered by 293 rushing yards mostly from Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.

But since, Notre Dame's rushing attack has combined to rush for 268 yards, and that's with the return of Cierre Wood, last year's leading rusher, to the running back rotation. Everett Golson and Tommy Rees have successfully steered Notre Dame's offense to a 4-0 start, but the Irish may need just more than clean quarterback play to top Miami on Saturday.

"Whether we're playing Miami or our next opponent, we, as an offense, have to score more points," coach Brian Kelly said earlier this week. "I'm more concerned about what we do and how we play the game more so. Saying, hey, we're playing Miami. They would probably say against Kansas State their offense didn't play very well. So I stay out of that arena, and I focus more on what we need to do as an offense and defense and special teams."

On Tuesday, Kelly said Golson was "still cooking" in terms of his development. And with Golson still progressing, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin haven't opened the playbook up much.

They haven't had to, thanks to the efforts of the Irish defense. But if Notre Dame's run game can't get going and Notre Dame falls behind, perhaps that'll lead Golson and his offense into dangerous waters.

"We ran it fast last year -- you saw what happened -- we got a lot of speeding tickets," Kelly said, referring to Notre Dame's turnover woes in 2011. "But clearly we want to be more of an offense that can have big play capabilities. We need to score more points, no question about that. We're not scoring enough points.

"But as you can see, and it's been the theme. We're going to be careful with the football. We're not going to be careless with it. Until we're ready to amp it up, so to speak, we'll be careful with the football."

The good news for Notre Dame is Miami's defense is solidly in the bottom tier of college football -- especially its run defense. Riddick and Wood both are playmakers who run tough, but neither have broke free in the last three weeks.

If that changes on Saturday, Notre Dame could be in good shape.

Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

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Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

The White Sox newfound brand of crisp, clean baseball is suiting Jose Quintana awfully well. 

The 27-year-old left-hander pitched another gem Tuesday night, firing eight innings of one-run ball to propel the White Sox to a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of 15,025 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Anchored by improved offensive and defensive support, Quintana lowered his season ERA to 1.40. But more jarring — in a positive way — is that in earning the win on Tuesday, Quintana for the first time in his career won three consecutive starts. 

“It’s way better this year,” Quintana said. “The offense is, for me and for everybody, everybody tries to do his job. We’re off to a really good start and we believe this year is a good year for us, and we’ll try to do everything to stay in first place.”

Quintana’s posted consistently solid results since the White Sox plucked him from Double-A Birmingham to start in a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians four years ago. His decidedly-not-flashy-but-effective pitching style didn’t make headlines like his prolific teammate Chris Sale, but a 3.46 ERA and an unfairly poor win-loss record landed him on plenty of lists and social media takes focused on the most underrated or overlooked players in baseball. 

That’s changed this year. Before his stellar start Tuesday, Quintana was given 8/1 odds by the sports betting website Bovada to win the American League Cy Young, the third-best of anyone (Sale led the way at 6/5). It’s still early, of course, but these six starts to begin the 2016 season stand is one of the best stretches he’s had in his career. 

Manager Robin Ventura attributed Quintana’s ace-like success in part to pitching with a little less pressure than in the past. 

“There is something to be said for going out there thinking if you give up one you’re going to lose,” Ventura said. “It’s been a few years for him. Right now (with) the feeling going on in there, he knows if he just pitches his game those guys are going to scratch out some runs for him.”

The White Sox continue to show signs of ending a head-scratching inability to support Quintana. 

Jose Abreu’s first-inning RBI triple got the White Sox scoring started and his double in the eighth added two insurance runs (a Todd Frazier groundout in the third inning plated the White Sox other run). For the fifth time in six starts this season, Quintana was supported by four or more runs, and Adam Eaton and Austin Jackson made sparkling defensive plays to keep hard-hit balls from inflicting any damage. 

Having the offense score four or more runs in 83 percent of Quintana’s starts seems unlikely — if he makes 32 starts this year, that’d mean he’d get that support in about 27 of those — but it is an improvement off the last few seasons. The White Sox scored three or fewer runs in 54 percent of Quintana’s starts from 2013-15, a span in which it’s worth noting the club also was rated as having the third-worst defense in baseball by DRS and UZR. 

“There’s more of a confidence level of him knowing he doesn’t have to do an extraordinary thing — and he might do it, like tonight,” Ventura said. “But he doesn’t feel like he has to do it on his own.”

Quintana isn’t throwing harder this year and hasn’t added a new pitch or anything like that. But Ventura’s theory on why the Colombia native is pitching better makes sense — perhaps the next step in Quintana’s career was getting a good, reliable team playing behind him.

“He’s probably one of the best right now in the league,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. 

That’s not hyperbole. Quintana has a top-10 ERA that’s backed up by a 2.12 FIP, which is a good indicator that his early-season success isn’t necessarily a small sample size-generated mirage. 

Quintana is a shining example of how so much has gone right for the White Sox this season — even on the day in which the team announced it would eat over $11 million to cut ties with veteran left-hander John Danks. Not only is he pitching better, but everyone around him is playing better. And the combination of that, so far, has taken Quintana and the White Sox to another level. 

“Everything changed,” Quintana said. “Everything is going in a good direction this year. We believe in that.”

Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

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Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

The Cubs look to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11 a.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.83) vs. Juan Nicasio (3-2, 3.33)

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

Erik Johnson gets the first chance at the No. 5 spot in the White Sox rotation, but the situation is hardly finalized.

The White Sox announced Tuesday that they would promote Johnson from Triple-A Charlotte in time to make Thursday’s start in place of John Danks, whom they will officially designated for assignment later this week. But just because Johnson gets the first start doesn’t mean he’s here for good, general manager Rick Hahn said.

Hahn and the White Sox have made it clear they want better production from the fifth spot, whether it's from an internal or an external option.

“It’s going to be a bit of a fluid situation,” Hahn said.

Hahn is comfortable with the team’s internal options at Charlotte beyond Johnson.

Miguel Gonzalez, who started last Monday in Toronto, has a solid major league track record. Then there’s Jacob Turner, who has 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA in five starts.

But Hahn also said the White Sox wouldn’t shy away from looking outside the farm system, either. Hahn declined to answer whether or not the White Sox would watch Tim Lincecum’s tryout Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz. before he noted the club has “scouts everywhere.”

The White Sox could also try and use their internal options to get by for several months before adding another pitcher ahead of the trade deadline.

No matter whom they turn to, the expectation is better results than the White Sox received from Danks, who was 0-4 with a 7.25 ER in four starts.

“Obviously, Erik starts on Thursday,” Hahn said. “After that, we may well make another move next week as we try to accomplish two things with that spot -- first and foremost, get greater production than we’ve been receiving thus far this year.”

“We do have a few internal options.

“If it does get to the point where we’re better off going outside the organization, obviously we’ve never been shy about doing that.”