Te'o, Irish not taking Boston College lightly

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Te'o, Irish not taking Boston College lightly

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After Saturday's skin-of-their-teeth win over Pittsburgh, Notre Dame players said they had learned their lesson. Despite what coach Brian Kelly described as a good week of preparation, Notre Dame wasn't ready for what Pitt threw at them on Saturday, which materialized into a 20-6 Panthers lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The lesson, then, became that Notre Dame feels they'll get their opponent's best every week from here on out. A few Notre Dame players said they were expecting Pitt's best leading up to last week's game, but this week, perhaps that talk will be put into action.

"They're a physical group," center Braxston Cave said of Boston College, which is 2-7. "They like to get after it, they're going to make you earn everything you get."

Tino Sunseri and Ray Graham looked excellent for Pittsburgh in the first 45 minutes of last Saturday's game -- in fact, Graham probably looked better than any offensive player has against Notre Dame all year. Boston College's strength isn't on the ground -- the Eagles rank 122nd out of 124 FBS teams in average rushing yards per game -- but the quarterback-receiver tandem of Chase Rettig and Alex Amidon has the potential to rack up yards if Notre Dame isn't careful.

"They just play Boston College football," linebacker Manti Te'o explained. "They spread it out, they run it when they have to, they have guys who do their jobs well. The quarterback slings the ball around pretty good, the receivers run nice routes and catch the ball."

But one thing Notre Dame has going for it heading into Boston is that the game isn't in South Bend. For whatever reason, Notre Dame has blown out opponents away from northern Indiana, but hasn't won a home game by more than one possession in five tries.

"It's understanding where we're at, understanding the terrain, knowing we're not at home and it's just a heightened sense of just knowing all we have is each other," Te'o said. "We've experienced a lot of success on the road so far, and we have to put in the work necessary to continue to be successful."

Road Ahead: Tough tests for Cubs with Pirates, Nationals looming

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Road Ahead: Tough tests for Cubs with Pirates, Nationals looming

CSN's Kip Lewis and Tony Andracki talk about the big tests the Cubs have this week against the Pirates in Pittsburgh and then against the Washington Nationals back at Wrigley Field in this week's edition of the Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

The Cubs head to PNC Park for the first time since Jake Arrieta shut down the Pirates in the one-game wild card playoff last October. Only this time, the Cubs will have to get to Gerrit Cole and Co. without Kyle Schwarber, who drove in three runs in that game.

The Pirates are one of the hottest teams in baseball entering the series having won six of seven (with Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds breaking up the winning streak). 

After Cole in the series opener on Comcast SportsNet on Monday night, the Bucs trot out Jonathan Niese on Tuesday and Juan Nicasio on Wednesday (also on CSN).

The Cubs counter with Jason Hammel, Arrieta and Jon Lester in the three-game series. That trio has combined to allow just 13 earned runs in 94 1/3 innings this season, good for a ridiculous 1.24 ERA.

The Cubs then welcome the Nationals to town Thursday night for the start of a four-game series with Bryce Harper and Co.

Draft hellos and Sunday farewells on CSN's 'Draft Central'

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Draft hellos and Sunday farewells on CSN's 'Draft Central'

What was handwriting on the wall became official pink slips Sunday for two veterans regarded as leaders during the bumpy first-year regime of Ryan Pace and John Fox. The general manager and head coach, though, are all business when it comes to what’s turned into a high-speed turnover of their roster.

Safety Antrell Rolle and guard Matt Slauson were released early Sunday evening. Both had already hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark, but neither was sabotaging the team’s salary cap situation. Rolle, in fact, had used up all his guaranteed money following a disappointing first year of a three-year deal. He was limited to just seven games in his debut Bears season, but even when he was on the field, his struggles appeared to offset what leadership he might have brought to the defense. Slauson, on the other hand, was a savior on a taped-together offensive line that first moved Kyle Long to right tackle the week before the regular season, lost left tackle Jermon Bushrod to a back injury, lost center Will Montgomery to a broken lower leg in Week 4 and got substandard play at right guard from Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh. After his own injury-shortened 2014, Slauson was the glue in 2015. But whispers about his lack of athleticism at this stage of his career followed the signings of veterans Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen in free agency, and Friday’s second-round selection of Cody Whitehair turned up the volume in that rumor mill.

There’s been no indication from Pace, Alshon Jeffery, Long or the agents of those players that these moves coincide with long-term contract extensions for both, which can be front-loaded with guaranteed money given the Bears’ comfortable salary cap situation right now. It would certainly provide a better clue but won’t necessarily wind up being the answer. Conspiracy theorists will say the team will try to extend Long at guard money before switching him to the more lucrative right tackle position. But all of Long’s public comments since the signing of free agent right tackle Bobby Massie point toward a desire to stay put. Pace’s reluctance to clarify that over the weekend provides the sense yet another move for Long could be coming — like it or not, kid.

This is the crossroads draft for Pace’s long-term vision. The much-debated selection of Leonard Floyd outside of Halas Hall is met with a swagger inside that the coaching staff will make him well worth the No. 9 overall pick and that he won’t be the next Shea McClellin. It’s a confident group inside the Hall’s walls right now. Now the hard part: putting their belief into results on the field. Or maybe they think the hard part already took place the past two months in acquiring the pieces they have and that the next part will just happen.

We’ll have much more on the Sunday moves, as well as those from Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. tonight on Comcast SportsNet's hour-long edition of "SportsNet Central: Draft Central." Jim Miller, Dave Wannstedt and Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush join me in studio to further discuss the draft picks and the moves that followed.

Bears signing Brian Hoyer a statement bigger than just a backup QB

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Bears signing Brian Hoyer a statement bigger than just a backup QB

The signing of Brian Hoyer was just another margin note to another NFL Draft weekend. But of all the moves made by the Bears this weekend, none might have made any clearer mission statement than the addition of this 30-year-old (31 in October) backup quarterback who is on his fifth team in the last six years and had winning records as a starter with his last two but might be remembered as the only quarterback to lose his job to Johnny Manziel.

For one thing, the last time the Bears signed a backup quarterback from Michigan State was in the late 1990s when they became the fifth team for Jim Miller, who sat behind Shane Matthews and Cade McNown before rescuing the 2001 season and taking the Bears to the playoffs.

And that in fact appears to be the plan with Hoyer, that if something befalls Jay Cutler, the Bears will not spiral down the way they did in 2011, when Caleb Hanie let a 7-3 start turn into an 8-8 playoff miss after a Cutler injury.

Because, whether skeptics agree or not, the Bears do in fact see the 2016 playoffs as very much within reach.

Privately the internal expectations for 2015 were exponentially higher than the way the season played out, vindicated in some measure by five losses by four or fewer points and one on an overtime touchdown with a roster that lost two of its three wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal) for seven games each, their projected No. 1 draft pick (Kevin White) for all 16, virtually all of their projected top defensive linemen and being physically without their No. 1 tight end (Martellus Bennett) for five games.

A team resigned to any sort of rebuilding mode typically does not take developmental time away from a quarterback prospect and put a veteran No. 2 in place ahead of him, not unless there are lofty expectations in the short term. And Hoyer was signed for one year while the Bears ignored the quarterback position in the draft.

This is in the vein of the Bears’ securing Brian Griese in 2006 to back up Rex Grossman despite the distinguished rookie season turned in by Kyle Orton that ended in the playoffs. It was there in acquiring Todd Collins as a veteran behind Cutler in 2010 despite some seeming promise in Hanie; in Josh McCown for the 2013 season; even in Fox and the organization choosing to re-sign Jimmy Clausen last offseason, a quarterback familiar to Fox and a former No. 2 draft choice. Those teams didn’t accomplish their goals, but the plan was there.

The 2012 Denver Broncos under Fox did bring in Hanie to back up Peyton Manning (who hadn’t missed a game in 13 years before his 2011 neck issues). But they also invested a No. 2 pick in Brock Osweiler, who was Manning’s backup through this season. The Bears don’t draft quarterbacks high, none higher than the fourth round since 2003, which does explain some things, but that’s a topic for another time.

Veteran journeymen don’t necessarily come even close to working out. But the intention is clear: Development is always good, but not at the expense of what is considered a promising present, particularly with a starting quarterback at his best at age 33, and not at the risk of precipitous backsliding if that backup is needed.

Hoyer does not pose a job challenge to Cutler; he wasn’t signed to push Cutler. And no member of the 2016 draft class was going to, either. Early last offseason, Fox and Ryan Pace pointedly withheld any “he’s our quarterback” sentiments. This offseason, both have been so clearly pleased with Cutler’s performance and personal makeup, it was amply apparent that Connor Cook, Kevin Hogan, Paxton Lynch or any other member of this draft class was a challenger. If the Bears weren’t pleased with their starting quarterback, they could have traded well back in Round 1 and taken Lynch long before the Broncos did.

Fox and Pace subscribe to under-predicting and over-producing. But their actions have the feel of a very strong expectation.