Irish excited to test themselves against the best

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Irish excited to test themselves against the best

Notre Dame may be 12-0 and ranked No. 1, but make no mistake: they're major underdogs to Alabama in next month's BCS Championship.

While some players are drawing motivation from that status -- an "us vs. the world" mentality continues to resonate -- others see the BCS Championship as a chance to see where they stand against a team regarded as the best in the country.

"A team from the SEC, a team like Alabama, coached by Nick Saban, those guys will make you better all around," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "Im just happy we get a chance to play these guys in the National Championship."

His defensive coordinator agreed.

"The fact of the matter is Alabama is king of the hill," Bob Diaco said. "Have you ever played King of the Hill? Did you walk up the hill and knock the guy off? Thats what weve gotta do. Theyre King of the Hill. They set the precedent for defensive football in the country."

Notre Dame's front seven might have the toughest challenge on Jan. 7, going up against an Alabama offensive line loaded with pro prospects. Nix may have the most important matchup, squaring off against All-American center Barrett Jones.

"That gives me an opportunity to better myself and see where I fit at in the country with other nose tackles that went up against him," Nix said.

While Notre Dame's focus is just on this one game, there's plenty the Irish can learn -- win or lose -- from Alabama, in terms of consistency within a program. The Tide will play in their third title game in four years next month, a fact which isn't lost on coach Brian Kelly.

"Alabama has been the benchmark for college football," Kelly explained. "... Were aware of the challenge in front of us. We welcome it. It's one that were putting ourselves in a position to go find out where we need to go from here."

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

Buckle up, Bulls fans. The trade deadline is four days away and the potential for a blockbuster trade involving the Bulls appears to be on the table.

That's according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, who said on his Woj Report on Saturday night that the league's biggest trade deadline story will be Butler, the Bulls and the Celtics.

"There's no question," he told The Vertical's Chris Mannix, "this trade deadline, the potential of a Boston-Chicago deal for Jimmy Butler, I think it will loom over the entire week.

"These teams have engaged on the potential of this trade. They have not gotten far down the road on it. There still needs to be some alignment within the Bulls organization - from ownership to managament - that they want to make a deicison to enter a full rebuild.

"But the potential of this deal really illustrates, certainly the State Farm Right Combo, because these are two teams who have exactly what the other wants."

The Bulls, of course, have arguably a top-10 player in the NBA and someone who could put the Celtics in position to dethrone LeBron James in the East; James' Heat and Cavaliers have won the East the last six seasons. Butler's having yet another career year, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 36.6 minutes. Adding him to a backcourt with Isaiah Thomas would certainly shake up the Eastern Conference and make the Celtics a legitimate threat.

The Celtics "have been hoarding young assets" ever since they dealt Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. Boston has the right to swap picks with the league-worst Nets in the 2017 draft, and they have Brooklyn's first-round pick outright in 2018.

They also have young talent in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jae Crowder, who all could be used in any combination as part of the deal.

But as Wojnarowski points out, that Nets pick is the key to the deal, especially in a 2017 class that touts a host of potential franchise point guards.

"I don't think Chicago could get both (2017 and 2018 draft picks), but that is the beginning point of a deal with the Bulls for Jimmy Butler because they can, in this superstar-laden 2017 Draft, potentially get a star point guard to replace Derrick Rose," he said. "And get other assets to start them down the road on a rebuild."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after he suffered a stress reaction in his right foot.

Tilson suffered the injury while running in a workout on Friday and had an MRI performed on Saturday. A team official said Tilson’s injury isn’t as severe as a fracture but he’d be sidelined for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated. Acquired last July, the White Sox rookie was already rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But Tilson suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson had made good progress in his rehab and was a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.