National championship should excite, but this year’s BCS lineup is a snoozer

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As far as the BCS championship is concerned, viewers are going to get the game they want: Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

You couldn’t pack more hate or intrigue into a single game. In one corner, you have the Tide appearing in its third title game in four years. A win would instantly bring about the term “dynasty” and there simply is no other team that represents the face of SEC dominance in college football like Alabama right now. And the insufferable “S-E-C!” chants? You better believe they’ll be loud and clear if Alabama hoists another crystal football.

In the other corner, you have the Irish. What bass-ackwards, Twilight Zone do we live in where Notre Dame — you know, the irrelevant yet extremely relevant program with its own TV deal and privileged bowl agreement — can be the team to give the SEC its comeuppance?

You can understand why any college football site *ahem* would be giddy about such a match-up for the next four weeks (hint: page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and…).

Or, Jan. 7 will roll around and the game could be a total bust. Nobody in the right mind hopes that it is, but with the rest of the BCS slate looking rather ehhhhhh, the national title can have season-defining qualities.

Oh sure, there are other intriguing storylines. The Fiesta Bowl pits Kansas State and Oregon, two teams that could have met in a nonconference game that wasn’t and at one time last month looked to be on a collision course for the national title. But some other BCS games? Not as much.

Take the Rose Bowl for example. Wisconsin blew the doors off Nebraska in the Big Ten championship and made us all wonder where in the hell that was all season, but the Badgers are still a five-loss team. Even UConn didn’t have five losses when it went to the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago and got stomped by Oklahoma.

#EvenUConn

Speaking of the Sooners, they have to be all kinds of mad that they got bumped from the Sugar Bowl because Northern Illinois made it into the BCS top 16 (No. 15 in fact). Now, Florida will face Louisville in New Orleans and the Huskies will try to upset Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Compelling? Not overly unless you enjoy the possibility of major upsets. For some reason, that’s lost more on college football than it is in, say, college basketball. There were people who hated Boise State once the Broncos started winning consistently on the national stage.

But don’t be mad at NIU for altering the BCS lineup and start spouting off about how the Huskies don’t “deserve” to be in an upper-echelon game. Deserving went flying out the window and smashed into your car on the street years ago. Did Georgia Tech deserve a shot at the Orange Bowl this year after backing into the ACC title game? Did Michigan or Virginia Tech deserve bids to the Sugar Bowl this past year? Did Oklahoma deserve the right to get manhandled by USC while fellow undefeated Auburn sat back and watched following the 2004 season?

The answer is sort of; what ties those cases together is that each team took advantage of what the system provided them. Northern Illinois played it just like everybody else this year. When Vanderbilt coach James Franklin casts a coaches’ poll ballot — those are used in determining the BCS standings — where he ranks undefeated Notre Dame fourth and his own 8-4 Commodores 16th, there shouldn’t be a problem with NIU getting a little love.

The BCS is tragically comical, like a circus clown trying to jump through a hoop of fire on a tricycle with one busted wheel. You know that clown’s not going to make it, and it’s going to be awful when he doesn’t, but the thought of a flaming clown running around with dudes trying to extinguish him is too tempting.

In that spirit, we’ll all still watch the BCS games this year. I’ll watch because my job requires me to keep track of all kinds of football no matter how fugly it is. Remember the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” when Malcolm McDowell‘s character has his eyes pried open for the Ludovico technique? Yeah, like that was last year’s Orange Bowl for me. And you’ll watch because no matter how busted the system is, we’re all hoping that the BCS affords us some good games.

Even if it doesn’t look so good now.

Iowa linebacker announces transfer

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been known to have a program that could play some solid defense more often than not, but the depth at linebacker just got a bit more shallow this Memorial Day weekend. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Garbutt has announced he is leaving the program.

“After prayer, consulting with my family and Coach Ferentz, I have made the decision to leave the University of Iowa,” Garbutt announced in a statement on Twitter. “I am thankful for my years as a Hawkeye and will continue to support the franchise.”

Garbutt went on to announce he will make a decision after going through a recruiting process. No timeline for his decision was announced.

Garbutt still has three more years of eligibility remaining, although he has already burned one redshirt year after joining the Class of 2015 at Iowa. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the upcoming 2017 season and lose a year of eligibility in the process. He would be available to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a lower division football program.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.