Where does Notre Dame's turnround rank in BCS era?

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Where does Notre Dame's turnround rank in BCS era?

A year ago, Notre Dame was only a few days away from taking on Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl -- a far cry from where the Irish are today, breaking for Christmas as they prepare for the BCS Championship Jan. 7. Notre Dame finished 2011 with eight wins, unranked in all postseason polls.

If Notre Dame beats Alabama to win the BCS Championship, they'll have won five more games than they did last year. That's a major improvement, but not the biggest jump of previous BCS champions:

2002 Ohio State: 7 wins

While Ohio State didn't have the bump of a conference championship, Jim Tressel's Buckeyes took advantage of the NCAA allowing teams to schedule 12 regular season games in addition to playing in the now-defunct Pigskin Classic, meaning Ohio State had 13 regular season games on its schedule. Maurice Clarett's emergence helped push Ohio State from seven to 14 wins, including an upset over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to claim a national title in Tressel's second year at the helm.

2000 Oklahoma: 6 wins

Oklahoma hadn't finished in the AP top 25 since 1993, but Bob Stoops led the Sooners to a championship in just his second year in Norman. Whereas most of Stoops' teams after 2000 were successful behind a powerful offense, this team won thanks to a stingy defense that only allowed an average of 278.9 yards per game. It's fitting, then, that OU beat Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl to claim its first championship since 1985.

2010 Auburn: 6 wins

A common thread: The three largest win increases of BCS champions came in each coach's second year. Following an 8-5 start to his Auburn career, Gene Chizik -- and, more importantly, Cam Newton -- led the Tigers to a perfect 14-0 record, complete with nail-biting wins over Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Oregon in the BCS Championship. But unlike Ohio State, Auburn didn't survive after the departure of its transcendent championship talent, as Chizik was fired after a 3-9 2012 season.

2003 LSU: 5 wins

Here's the team Notre Dame would equal in the BCS era. Nick Saban's Tigers split a national championship with USC (the AP No. 1; LSU was the BCS No. 1). 2003 was Saban's fourth year in Baton Rouge, and was keyed by freshman running back Justin Vincent and quarterback Matt Mauck stepping in to a full-time starting role. And, of course, defensively this LSU team was outstanding, allowing only 252 yards per game.

2012 Notre Dame: 5 wins?

Most of these other teams had a breakout performer or two on the national stage, helping push a quick turnaround. Most of Notre Dame's returning players were known entities, and while Everett Golson was good enough, his first year isn't in the same vicinity as Clarett or Newton. But Notre Dame's pulled off this improvement on the backs of its defense, with an offense that generally won't put the Irish in a position to lose. To this point, that formula has been good enough for a 12-0 record. A 13-0 record would represent a massive turnaround, even if it's not the biggest in the BCS era.

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

On his tenth and final year on the ballot, Tim Raines finally earned enough votes to earn the title of being a baseball immortal. 

"Rock" Raines will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer after 86 percent of voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America cast ballots for the former White Sox outfielder. Raines played for the White Sox from 1991-1995, but was best known for being a star outfielder for the Montreal Expos from 1979-1990.

Raines received the second-highest vote percentage among the three players who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent) and former Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) will join Raines in the class of 2017. 

Over his 23-year career, Raines put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume in spite of being overshadowed by fellow leadoff hitter and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Over 10,359 plate appearances (63rd all-time), Raines stole 808 bases (5th), drew 1,330 walks (38th), scored 1,571 runs (54th), hit 113 triples (118th) and had an on-base percentage of .385 (135th). His 69.1 WAR ranks 73rd in major league history and is squarely in the realm of plenty of current Hall of Famers, including Barry Larkin (70.2), Carlton Fisk (68.2), and Ryne Sandberg (67.5), among others.

Raines made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1981-1987 and won the 1987 All-Star Game MVP. He led the National League in runs scored twice, led the National League with 38 doubles in 1984, hit a league-best .334 in 1986 and stole 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons (including 90 in 1983).

[WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST: Going deep with 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins]

In 1993, Raines was an integral part to the White Sox American League West crown, with the then-33-year-old hitting .306 with an .880 OPS, both of which were his best marks of his post-Expos career. 

"We got a guy at the top who could steal bases," former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura, who played with Raines from 1991-1995, recalled last summer. "He got on base and did a lot of things. A switch-hitter that could get on base and steal some bases. He was a definite impact, similar to what Rickey did with the A's and some other teams. He just immediately gave credibility at the top of the lineup.

"… When you break down his numbers with some other people, I think he ranks right up there with anybody."

Still, Raines' Hall of Fame election has hardly been a sure thing since he debuted on the 2008 ballot. His year-by-year vote percentages reveal gradual progress, then a surge in 2016:

2008: 24.3 percent
2009: 22.6 percent
2010: 30.4 percent
2011: 37.5 percent
2012: 48.7 percent
2013: 52.2 percent
2014: 46.1 percent
2015: 55.0 percent
2016: 69.8 percent

"This is probably the first year out of the nine years that I've been on the ballot that I really, really feel like I have a chance," Raines said last May. 

What began as a sort of fringy, sabermetric-oriented campaign to get Raines elected eventually received a groundswell of support from a broad voting audience. And because of it, on July 30 this summer, Raines will head to Cooperstown to take his place among the greatest players to ever play the game. 

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

Here are the girls prep basketball polls with rank, team, first-place votes, record, total points and previous rank.

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Montini (12) 21-0 120 1
2. Rock Island 22-1 96 2
3. Edwardsville 20-0 94 4
4. Homewood-Flossmoor 13-2 82 3
5. Benet 18-2 67 5
6. Rockford Boylan 19-1 48 6
7. Springfield 17-2 41 7
8. Hersey 18-2 33 8
9. Geneva 14-3 22 9
10. Oswego East 19-3 21 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Bradley-Bourbonnais 12, Evanston Township 11

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Chicago Marshall (7) 18-0 132 2
2. Morton (4) 19-2 123 1
3. Mattoon (1) 21-0 92 4
4. Highland (2) 16-3 87 3
5. Bethalto Civic Memorial 17-3 85 5
6. Richwoods 18-3 73 6
7. Rochester 14-3 56 8
8. Effingham 18-2 34 7
9. Normal University 16-3 32 NR
10. North Lawndale 14-3 13 10

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Litchfield 13, Peoria Central 8

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Byron (11) 19-2 127 1
2. Eureka (1) 19-2 105 2
3. Teutopolis 20-2 96 3
4. Sherrard 20-2 92 4
5. Camp Point Central 19-2 72 5
6. Kewanee 21-3 50 9
7. Hall 18-5 47 6
8. Sesser-Valier (1) 19-1 41 8
9. Hillsboro 18-4 35 7
10. Gilman Iroquois West 18-2 11 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Auburn 11, Arthur-Lovington-Hammond-Atwood 9, St. Edward 8

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lebanon (12) 19-0 135 1
2. Winchester (2) 20-0 123 3
3. Ashton-Franklin Center 18-2 97 2
4. Colfax Ridgeview 19-2 87 5
5 Mount Olive 19-2 81 6
6. Okawville 16-4 58 7
7. Danville Schlarmann 13-5 40 8
8. Calhoun 13-4 34 4
9. Princeville 21-2 29 9
10. Heyworth 20-1 26 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Annawan 21, Galena 15