From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- On one side, a blossoming dynasty from the college football capital of the Deep South. On the other, the sport's most famous team, trying to reclaim its place among the elite.Notre Dame and Alabama bring star power and power football to the BCS championship.The matchup became official Sunday night when the final standings were released and, to no one's surprise, the Fighting Irish were first and the Crimson Tide was second.The one bit of drama on college football's selection Sunday was whether Northern Illinois could be this year's BCS buster. The Huskies got in, getting a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, taking a bid away from Oklahoma and sparking heated debate about a system that never fails to tick off fans in some way.The other BCS matchups:-- Oregon and Kansas State will play in the Fiesta Bowl.-- Wisconsin and Stanford will meet in the Rose Bowl.-- Florida and Louisville are set for the Sugar Bowl.As for the main event in the penultimate Bowl Championship Series, there was little controversy about No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama in Miami."The tradition of Alabama and Notre Dame brings special attention to it, but we're just trying to the best team on Monday, Jan. 7," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday night. "All of that tradition, what's happened in the past, is not going to help us Jan. 7, but we do respect the traditions."The Irish clinched their spot a week ago in Los Angeles by completing a perfect season against rival Southern California.Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling Southeastern Conference title game.The program that coach Paul Bryant turned into an SEC behemoth in the 1960s and 70s, winning five national championships and sharing another during his tenure, is again dominating college football with a modern-day version of the Bear leading the way in Tuscaloosa, Ala.Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are on the verge of one of the great runs in history. Alabama would become the first team to repeat as champs since the BCS was implemented in 1998, and it would be the 11th time a team has won consecutive AP titles since the poll started in 1936. Alabama is already one of seven programs to repeat. The Tide has done it twice. Notre Dame is another.Alabama also won the 2009 BCS championship under Saban. The last team to win three major national titles in four seasons was Nebraska, which went back-to-back in 1994 and 95 and finished No. 1 in the final coaches' poll in 1997.In a world full of spread-the-field, hurry-up offenses, Alabama is a bastion of traditional football.The Tide put its no-frills muscle on display Saturday, mashing Georgia with 350 yards rushing.Eddie Lacy, listed at a conservative 220 pounds, went for 181 against the Bulldogs to up his season total to 1,182 with 17 touchdowns. Freshman T.J. Yeldon has run for 1,000 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.But this is no 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Both backs average over 6 yards per carry, behind an offensive line anchored by All-American center Barrett Jones, who is nursing a foot injury.And quarterback AJ McCarron has thrown for 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions.The Tide has been more potent offensively this season than last to make up for a defense that has slipped, but only a bit. Alabama leads the nation in total defense (246 yards per game) and is second in points allowed (10.7 per game). Linebackers Adrian Hubbard, Nico Johnson, CJ Mosley and Trey Depriest average 242 pounds.When Brian Kelly was hired at Notre Dame three years ago, he looked at Alabama and the SEC, which has won six straight BCS titles, and decided the Irish needed to play like that.Kelly built his reputation and winning teams at previous stops on fast-paced spread offenses. In South Bend, Ind., he has put the fight back in the Irish, who have won eight AP national titles -- only Alabama has as many -- but none since 1988.Notre Dame has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country (10) and is sixth overall in total defense (286 yards per game)."It's clear that the formation of any great program is going to be on its defense," Kelly said. "If you play great defense you've got a chance. For us to move Notre Dame back into national prominence we had to develop a defense."The face of the Irish isn't a strong-armed quarterback or speedy ball carrier. It's middle linebacker Manti Te'o, a 255-pound offense wrecker with a nose for the ball. The senior has seven interceptions and is a likely Heisman finalist.Te'o, along with 300-pound linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, have formed a red-zone wall for the Irish. Late goal-line stands highlighted victories against Stanford and USC."There's some pretty physical guys that have some great toughness and some great licks," Saban said in assessing Notre Dame.While nurturing redshirt freshman Everett Golson, Kelly has leaned on Notre Dame's running game, which averages 202 yards."This is just a good all-around football team with tremendous balance on offense and a very physical defense," Saban said.If Notre Dame, making its first appearance in a BCS championship, is going to break the SEC's strangle hold on the crystal ball trophy, the Irish will try to beat Bama at its own game.And Kelly will try to uphold a Notre Dame tradition, by winning a national title in his third season as coach. Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all won it all in Year 3 playing in the shadow of the Golden Dome.Notre Dame will try to become the first team since BYU in 1984 to start the season unranked and win a national title.Expect plenty of fans to be watching. With the popularity of both programs, the second-to-last BCS title game is expected to be the highest rated ever. Though it might be hard for many fans to choose. While there are plenty of fans tired of watching the SEC win championships, Notre Dame has always been the program people love to hate."I don't know if we picked up any more fans along the way," Kelly said.In two years, college football switches to a four-team playoff to determine its champion. No doubt fans of Florida (11-1), Oregon (11-1), Stanford (11-2) and Kansas State (11-1) wish they could push the start date up on that, but for the most part there isn't much griping about this championship matchup.Notre Dame is the only undefeated team that is eligible -- thanks to Ohio State's NCAA sanctions -- and Alabama is the champion of the league that has produced the last half-dozen national champs.Roll Tide or return to glory? To be determined in South Florida.
SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part.
Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman.
Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted.
“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”
The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar.
The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card.
“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”
Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter.
“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said.
The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way.
“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”
The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day.
“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”
When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname?
For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.
“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”
ALAMEDA – Eddie Vanderdoes knows his UCLA game tape is inconsistent. The powerful defensive tackle admits he wasn’t always at his best, especially after tearing his ACL in 2015. Before that, he was difficult to stop. Afterward, he wasn’t the same player. He doesn’t blame the knee.
He struggled with ankle injuries and weight issues in 2016, a lackluster campaign by his own standard. Since that season ended, Vanderdoes has returned to 100 percent. His ankles are fine. His knee is great. And he lost 40 pounds heading into the NFL scouting combine, preparing for a return to his old self.
The Raiders see great potential in the former Bruin and made him their third-round pick on Friday evening. The Auburn native was excited by the prospect, and believes the Raiders will get his absolute best. His voice was passionate, his determination clear even on a conference call with local press.
“I am going to be the player I was earlier in my career,” Vanderdoes said. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line. I’m going to bring that energy and I’m really happy to be an Oakland Raider.”
The Raiders will be thrilled if that’s true. They liked what he showed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, where he showed traits that should translate to NFL production.
“I am definitely back 100 percent, very confident with the combine, the Senior Bowl,” Vanderdoes said. “I got my explosiveness back. I got my speed back, my athleticism back. I am definitely at the top of shape right now, so I’m ready to get back to work and show them the player that they saw on the film and the player that they wanted to draft and I’m also looking to turn even more heads and do things that some people might expect that I couldn’t do.”
That includes rushing the passer, being a consistent three-down tackle in the Raiders scheme. He might be a rotational player first, filling the void created when Stacy McGee left in free agency.
“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He had an ACL (injury) a couple of years ago. His weight has been up and down. We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with (head strength and conditioning coach) Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll. He needs to come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”
Vanderdoes believes he can do more than that if he does things right. If his weight stays down, strength stays up and he learns the system well, he wants to compete for a significant role as a rookie.
“I’m coming in expecting to contribute and play right away,” Vanderdoes said. “That’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I’ve came with that mindset that I need to be the guy to step in and do what I do and dominate. I definitely think people slept on me a little bit this past offseason.
“I love the fact that (the NFL) slept on me, I think that’s what motivated me every morning waking up, knowing that I get to prove people wrong. I think I’ve done a good job so far of that, and I’m going to keep doing as well being an Oakland Raider because I know I’m at the bottom again. I have to work my way back up.”