Notre Dame ready for BCS Championship picture to come into focus

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Notre Dame ready for BCS Championship picture to come into focus

Notre Dame players won't admit to cheering for either side in Saturday's SEC Championship, as well they shouldn't. There won't be any remarks about "old man football" or Alabama's loss to Texas A&M. That's the product of a team knowing it won't do itself any favors by lending its BCS Championship opponent any added motivation, so let the platitudes fly.

"No, not really," linebacker Manti Te'o said when asked if he had any rooting interest in Saturday's game. "Good luck to both teams and just excited to see who we play."

The best bet for Notre Dame's Jan. 7 opponent is Alabama, which will face Georgia as an eight-point favorite. Despite its one loss, there are plenty around the country who consider Alabama college football's best team and expect Nick Saban & Co. to roll Georgia and then Notre Dame in the BCS Championship.

Online betting site Bovada.com pegged Alabama as a 9 12-point favorite over Notre Dame if the two teams meet in the BCS Championship. If it's Georgia, Notre Dame would be three-point underdogs. Make no mistake: A perfect record isn't enough for the odds to not be stacked against the Irish.

"Were all going to strap up our pads the same way, were all going to strap our chinstraps the same way," Te'o said, dismissing Notre Dame's already-anointed underdog status. "We understand how dominant the SEC has been in the past. But its definitely and opportunity that were looking forward to, and were going to prepare the same way that weve been preparing all week and all year."

Heading into the BCS Championship as underdogs is sure to rankle those who are quick to point out the SEC's shortcomings. But the SEC has earned the right to be favored over whoever they play in the BCS Championship by virtue of winning the last six.

Alabama has won two of the last three titles, and if they reach this year's game 17 of their players would experience their third BCS Championship in four years. While Notre Dame players talked about learning what it takes to be undefeated, Alabama players know what it takes to win a championship.

Georgia doesn't have that same track record of success in the last four years, nor do they look as strong as Alabama on paper. While the Tide went into Death Valley and beat LSU, Georgia's only big win came in a sloppy neutral field win over Florida. That's not to totally discount Georgia's win -- it was Florida's only loss of the season -- but they were pasted by South Carolina in Columbia and feasted on blowouts against the dregs of the SEC and a weak non-conference slate.

Statistically, Georgia is allowing 163 rushing yards per game, good for 69th among FBS teams. They're great against the pass (No. 9 nationally) but that's not Notre Dame's strength on offense.

Even Georgia's passing advantage against Notre Dame's secondary can be mitigated by the combined seven throwing touchdowns allowed by the Irish defense -- and that's with facing a handful of top-40 passing offenses.

Alabama, on the other hand, has the same footprint of Notre Dame. Their air attack isn't great (both are No. 77 in passing yards per game) but doesn't turn the ball over, allowing a solid running game to carry the offensive load. And those running backs generally help score enough points to net victories built on defensive success.

What'll be interesting to watch Saturday is Alabama's ability to slow Aaron Murray and Georgia's passing game. Johnny Manziel's success in Tuscaloosa led to Texas A&M's mid-November upset, although the Tide did successfully shut down Tennessee's potent air attack in Knoxville to balance that out. Perhaps we'll figure out if Alabama's secondary can be exploited by quarterbacks who don't play like they've set their video game difficulty level to rookie on Saturday.

Notre Dame players and coaches are in an enviable position Saturday evening, able to kick back and do some casual scouting while taking in a game that'll decide who they play in a little over a month. The Irish have already earned their trip to Miami, and tomorrow we'll find out of Alabama or Georgia will be joining them.

"Ill enjoy it as a fan and as a future opponent," Te'o said. "Just watching them, how they work and trying to get tendencies in that game. My main thing is finding out who were going to play and then getting a sneak peek of what to look forward to."

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana was pleased with his final warmup before Opening Day.

The White Sox Opening Day starter threw 48 pitches (30 strikes) against a Milwaukee Brewers minor league team at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. Quintana allowed two hits, two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out three in three-plus innings. He next pitches at home on Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

"I finished my preparation on a high note," Quintana said. "I'm heading to the season with good energy and satisfied with all the worked and effort that I put in my preparation.

"I'm absolutely ready for the season to start."

A tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale on Tuesday suggested Quintana will start the season as a member of the White Sox despite myriad rumors. Nightengale noted that the Houston Astros refuse budge on what they're willing to pay for the 2016 All-Star. The White Sox have also held firm on their asking price and haven't been motivated by any of the offers they've received to move Quintana.

The team reduced the number of players still in camp to 34 on Tuesday with the trade of Peter Bourjos and by cutting nonroster invitees Cory Luebke and Matt Purke. Luebke, who has been sidelined for six days after he tweaked his hamstring, finished the spring with a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. He can opt out of his minor-league deal in May. Purke struck out eight in eight innings and finished with a 2.25 ERA. 

Both had been in the mix for one of two open bullpen spots.

Fellow reliever Jake Petricka looked much calmer on Tuesday than he did after taking a comebacker off his hand Monday. X-rays were negative and Petricka played catch. He hopes to pitch as scheduled this weekend in Milwaukee. 

"This is just one of those you do everything you can do to stay healthy, and its part of the game you can't control," Petricka said. "You never want that to happen, especially this late in camp. "But we dodged a bullet and we're good to go."

The White Sox also had a close call with second baseman Tyler Saladino, who was hit by a pitch in the left wrist in minor league action on Monday. Saladino received treatment and could return to action on Wednesday.

"He's doing good, we're just holding him back today for my well being," Renteria said.

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Renteria said reliever Juan Minaya is improving but still likely to start the season on the DL. Minaya suffered an abdominal tear in mid-March. 

"He has been improving solidly and responding to the treatments," Renteria said.

Yolmer Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Surprise, Ariz. 

Michael Ynoa allowed an unearned run and a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Zack Burdi struck out three in a scoreless inning.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

Today on the Sports Talk Live podcast, David Kaplan, Seth Gruen, Teddy Greenstein, and Mark Grote discussed Addison Russell’s injury, if Szczur or La Stella should get the Cubs final roster spot, if the Bulls would be better off facing the Celtics or Cavs in the first round of the playoffs, and Jay Cutler’s butt all over the internet.