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

941435.png

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.

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

stl_hayes_talkback_05-26_640x360_693810243786.jpg

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

hoyer_and_mooney_1_on_1_05-26_640x360_693801027961.jpg

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.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 (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

boden_mullin_hit_2nd_05-25_640x360_693136963862.jpg

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”