Wakeup Call: The path is clear for Notre Dame

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Wakeup Call: The path is clear for Notre Dame

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, November 19:

AUTO RACING
Ladies and gentlemen, your Sprint Cup champion for 2012: Brad Keselowski. (AP)

Dodge sure left NASCAR in style. (AP)

This week, the only fight between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer was for first place. (AP)

BASEBALL
Zack Greinke may be staying in Los Angeles. Only it's the real version, not the ersatz "of Anaheim" kind. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Hiroki Kuroda has apparently narrowed his choices to the Yankees or Japan. (Hardball Talk)

And Juan Pierre has narrowed his to the Marlins, of all teams. (AP)

I guess times are tough: No one wanted to bid 258,600 for Pete Rose's copy of the 1990 agreement in which he accepted a lifetime ban from baseball. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Whoa. Maybe it is a new era at UConn, after all. And not in a good way. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
After a weekend of upsets, the only thing standing between Notre Dame and a berth in the BCS championship game is Saturday's trip to USC. (AP)

And Brian Kelly likes what he's hearing -- or not hearing -- out of his troops. (CSN Chicago)

When the Trojans take the field Saturday, they'll have the hopes of Oregon, Kansas State and countless other BCS wannabes with them. (Like Georgia.) But they won't have starting quarterback Matt Barkley, who'll miss the game because of a strained right shoulder. (AP)

No surprise here: Tennessee fires coach Derek Dooley. (AP)

GOLF
Rory McIlroy says he wants to lighten the load in 2013. (AP)

HOCKEY
So much for the two weeks off: Labor talks resume today. (AP)

But Sportsnet's John Shannon doesn't expect anything except more "rhetoric and posturing" since, as he puts it, "There is nothing to indicate that either side has had an epiphany." (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The AHL owners are probably saying, "What's the rush? Stay out longer!" (Pro Hockey Talk)

Whenever they do return, it'll probably be without Senators defenseman Jared Cowen; he underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his hip Saturday and will be sidelined six to eight months. Of course, if the lockout wipes out the season, he might not miss anything. (AP)

The danger of playing in Europe during the lockout is that you might get hurt there . . . like the Capitals' Brooks Laich. (CSN Washington)

PRO BASKETBALL
Coach 'Sheed?? Just when you think you've heard it all . . . (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Hard to believe Kevin Durant never had a triple-double before last night. (AP)

They're old hat to Kobe Bryant, though. (AP)

It's tough enough staying healthy on the basketball courts of America. But Andrew Bynum couldn't survive its bowling alleys. (CSN Philly)

This is seven knee surgeries, and counting, for Brandon Roy. (Pro Basketball Talk)

PRO FOOTBALL
To quote Peter Gammons, Byron Leftwich me no Byron Leftwich: It was a win in Pittsburgh, and the Ravens will take it. (AP)

The Steelers hope -- or pray, if last night's any indication -- Ben Roethlisberger will be back when they have their rematch with Baltimore in two weeks. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

And hapless Cleveland Browns me no hapless Cleveland Browns: It was a win, period, and the Cowboys will take it. (AP)

If you can't beat 'em one way, beat 'em another. Right, Texans? (CSN Houston)

It helps if your quarterback throws for 527 yards . . . especially when he's never come close to anything like that in the past. (CSN Houston)

Bart Scott's media mutiny didn't last long, as calmer -- i.e., saner -- heads prevailed. (Pro Football Talk)

Matty Ice's five picks couldn't stop the Falcons from beating Arizona. (AP)

TENNIS
The Czech Republic wins its first Davis Cup -- as an independent nation, that is -- with a 3-2 victory over Spain. (AP)

Sexual abuse charges have cost Bob Hewitt his spot in the Tennis Hall of Fame. (AP)

What do retired tennis stars do with themselves when their playing days are over? If they're Chris Evert, Lindsay Davenport and Justin Gimelstob, they make guest appearances on 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'. (AP)

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.