What we learned: Underdog status already motivates Irish

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What we learned: Underdog status already motivates Irish

Out of Saturday's heart-stopping SEC Championship emerged Alabama, and Notre Dame's opponent in next month's BCS Championship is set.

The betting lines, which had pegged Alabama as a 10-point favorite over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship, are soon to follow with the Irish remaining heavy underdogs. That may rankle some, but fact is, the SEC has earned the right to be favored every time they have a participating team in the BCS Championship. Winning six in a row has earned that trust.

Notre Dame players, though, aren't interested in poking holes in the SEC's dominance. While most took to twitter to tweet things like "Bama it is" or "time to get to work," Robby Toma got a head start on drawing motivation from those who think the Tide will roll on Jan. 7:

Just keep doubting us...we love it

Robby Toma (@RobJob293) December 2, 2012
Notre Dame has played a team as physical as Alabama this year, that being Stanford. They haven't played anyone who combines that physicality with the kind of across-the-board speed Alabama possesses, not to mention a coach with the tactical intelligence of Nick Saban.

Alabama had considerable success on the ground against Georgia, with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both rushing for more than 150 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. But that was against a rushing defense that entered the game ranked 69th in among FBS teams. Notre Dame ranks fifth.

A.J. McCarron threw the game-winning touchdown to Amari Cooper, a freshman who caught eight passes for 127 yards. But Alabama's passing game was pretty much Cooper and no one else, with McCarron completing only five passes to other receivers. If you're looking ahead to matchups, Bennett Jackson's ability to mute Cooper's production could be key in silencing Alabama's passing game.

Defensively, Alabama had a tough time stopping Georgia running back Todd Gurley -- although the way he ran Saturday, few defenses could've had success. Aaron Murray completed 18 of 33 passes for 267 yards and exposed Alabama's secondary on a few occasions, but was hardly spectacular.

It's hard to draw too many conclusions from one game, though, given there's more than five full weeks until kickoff in Florida. That's plenty of time for tweaks, adjustments and additions to a game plan.

That's also plenty of time for Notre Dame-Alabama to be dissected in every way possible, and plenty of time for those analyses to conclude that the Irish don't have a chance. But once the first second ticks off the clock on Jan. 7, none of that will matter.

"Were all going to strap up our pads the same way, were all going to strap our chinstraps the same way," Manti Te'o said this week. "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."

Report: Bulls agree to trade All-Star Jimmy Butler to Timberwolves

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls agree to trade All-Star Jimmy Butler to Timberwolves

After countless rumors and endless speculation, the Bulls finally decided to trade Jimmy Butler.

Butler is headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, according to Vincent Goodwill. The Bulls will also send the No. 16 pick back to Minnesota.

ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the deal.

The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski also reported the deal.

Stick with CSN Chicago for more details on the trade.