O'Donnell believes Torres can change for the better

741272.png

O'Donnell believes Torres can change for the better

GLENDALE, Ariz. Sean ODonnell has been hit by Raffi Torres a few times. All cleanly. The Blackhawks defenseman said the Phoenix forward is one of the hardest hitters in the game; and if he just channeled that the right way, he could have a nice, long career in this league.

ODonnell said Torres could pull a Matt Cooke transformation of his own if he wanted to, and could be known for just being a solid NHL player instead of the reputation hes currently got for himself.

Hopefully he takes a page from Matt Cooke, ODonnell said. He could be an effective player, can still be a physical player. Youve got to have more respect for some of the other guys.

Cooke is, indeed, a changed player. The Pittsburgh forward was a poster child for bad behavior in the league, racking up suspensions for a variety of incidents. Then in March of 2011, Cooke landed an elbow to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The NHL dropped the hammer on Cooke, suspending him the final 10 regular-season games and the first round of the NHL playoffs. Cooke told the Pittsburgh media that, I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change.

It took a little time for Cooke to adjust, to get out of the bad habits. But it worked and Cooke had a monster year for other reasons in 2011-12. Cooke has stayed out of trouble, set a new career high in goals (19) and recorded his highest point total (38) since the 2002-03 season (42 with the Vancouver Canucks).

Torres has shown he can be that player. He had two 20-goal seasons with the Edmonton Oilers early in his career. He was one of the Coyotes best players in the first two games of this series. And ODonnell said he could be that guy all the time.

I think Raffi is a very good player in this league, its just some of his hits, ODonnell said. He can hit really hard, even when hes clean. So when he does something like that (the hit on Marian Hossa), hes going to hurt someone. So hopefully he takes a look at some of his actions and plays a long time in his career and has a good career.

Maybe thats part of the message the NHL was trying to send to Torres. Cooke got it last season. Torres still has a chance to get it himself.

Its a stiff sentence, ODonnell said. Hopefully he looks in the mirror, has a good career but just plays more between the lines.

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

kirk-ferentz-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

Iowa is going back to the Outback Bowl.

Yes, for the fifth time in the last 13 seasons, the Hawkeyes will wrap their campaign with a trip to Tampa and an appearance in the Outback Bowl. And for the third time, their opponent there will be the Florida Gators. That game kicks at noon on Jan. 2.

Iowa and Florida met in the Outback Bowl to conclude the 2003 and 2005 seasons, splitting those two matchups.

This time around, the Hawkeyes are coming off an 8-4 regular season, a disappointing follow up to their 12-2 campaign a season ago that started off a perfect 12-0 before postseason losses in the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl.

Kirk Ferentz has led his team to a bowl appearance in 14 of his 18 seasons, though Iowa has lost the last four of those games, without a bowl win since taking down Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl.

Iowa is 2-2 in its four previous Outback Bowl appearances, beating Florida, losing to Florida, beating South Carolina and losing to LSU.

As for the Gators, they own an 8-4 record, as well, after falling to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Florida is known for its sluggish offense, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country.

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

pat-fitzgerald-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

Start spreadin' the news.

Northwestern is heading to New York for its bowl game this season, specifically the Bronx, where it will battle Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Though it isn't your typically warm bowl destination, the baseball-stadium setting should be pretty fantastic. The game will be played at 1 p.m. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats reached bowl eligibility with their sixth win in the regular-season finale against Illinois. Northwestern is heading to back-to-back bowl games after missing out on the postseason in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014.

This is just the 13th-ever bowl trip for the Cats, though it's their seventh in 11 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern has a 1-5 record under Fitzgerald in the previous six bowl games, though that win is one of just two all-time bowl victories by the program.

This season started slowly for the Cats, who lost upsetting home games to Illinois State and Western Michigan and started 1-3. But Northwestern turned things around with back-to-back road wins over Iowa and Michigan State and finished 6-6. The Cats' offense has been particularly effective this season compared to seasons past. Wide receiver Austin Carr took home Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the conference in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Running back Justin Jackson was the league's leading rusher until getting surpassed by just a couple yards by both Wisconsin's Corey Clement and Penn State's Saquon Barkley, who both competed in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game, adding to their respective rushing totals.

Pitt has had a pretty noteworthy season. Despite having four losses, it beat two teams that finished ranked in the top five of the College Football Playoff rankings: No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State. The Panthers are coached by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.