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Notre Dame looking to end the SEC national championship streak

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o left celebrates with wide receiver Robby Tomclosing secondan NCAA college football game against Southern CaliforniSaturday

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, left, celebrates with wide receiver Robby Toma in the closing seconda of an NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. Notre Dame won 22-13. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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SUN-TIMES BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS

Badgers, Huskers play for Rose Bowl on Saturday. Spartans, Boilers sneak in, give B1G seven bowl teams.

LW

1. Ohio State (12-0) 1

2. Nebraska (10-2) 2

3. Michigan (8-4) 3

4. Penn State (8-4) 6

5. Northwestern (9-3) 4

6. Wisconsin (7-5) 5

7. Michigan State (6-6) 7

8. Minnesota (6-6) 8

9. Purdue (6-6) 9

10. Indiana (4-8) 10

11. Iowa (4-8) 11

12. Illinois (2-10) 12

BOWL PROJECTIONS

BCS

Title: Notre Dame vs. Alabama

Rose: Nebraska vs. Stanford

Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Oregon

Sugar: Florida vs. Oklahoma

Orange: Fla. State vs. Louisville

BIG TEN

Capital One: Michigan vs. Georgia

Outback: Northwestern* vs. South Carolina

Gator: Wisconsin vs. Miss. State

Buffalo Wild Wings: Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State

Meineke Car Care: Minnesota vs. Baylor

Heart of Dallas: Purdue vs. Iowa State

*—If Wisconsin beats Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, NU is projected to the Gator and Nebraska to the Outback.

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Updated: December 27, 2012 6:25AM



The SEC has won the last six national championships. Notre Dame has won a scary number of games this fall by the skin of its teeth. It had its hands full — again — with an underachieving USC team led by a quarterback making his first college start before beating the Trojans 22-13 on Saturday.

That all points to the Irish, who have clinched their title berth, being the underdog when they face Alabama or Georgia in the national championship game.

What it overlooks is that winning close is habit-forming. ND’s stout defensive front is championship caliber, and its offense was athletic and clever enough to get it to 12-0.

If it beats Georgia on Saturday, Alabama will be given a good chance to win its third national championship in four years. If Georgia prevails, it will be perceived as worthy of extending the SEC’s title streak.

Notre Dame will give either a good game, though. The Irish have proven that all fall.

Buckeyes closed

It had to be strange. At the end of the first quarter Saturday, 100,000 fans in the Horseshoe roared approval for “disgraced’’ coach Jim Tressel, who was carried around by the 2002 Ohio State national champions he coached.

Meanwhile, this year’s Buckeyes were in the midst of playing their final game, a 26-21 victory over Michigan. Despite a 12-0 record, Ohio State’s season is over, courtesy of a bowl ban that stems from the scandal that cost Tressel his job.

Some Buckeyes supporters blame athletic director Gene Smith for having the confidence/arrogance not to self-impose a bowl ban last year.

“At the time we made the decision, we felt confident we would not receive the bowl ban,’’ Smith said last week. “Obviously, when we received it, we were shocked and devastated.’’

That left Ohio State with no alternative but to cheer for the coach responsible for the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal.

This is, after all, the conference of Legends and Leaders.

A rose is a rose

A few weeks ago, we told you the Wisconsin-Indiana game on Nov. 10 would decide the Leaders Division because those two might not win another game.

That’s how it came down. Despite dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Penn State, who are sidelined by NCAA sanctions, the Badgers, who walloped Indiana 62-14, will make their third consecutive trip to Pasadena if they beat Nebraska in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Wisconsin would be the third Big Ten school to play in three consecutive Rose Bowls. Ohio State went to four in a row from 1972 to ’75, and Michigan followed with three trips from 1976 to ’78.

The 7-5 Badgers also would be the league’s first five-loss Rose Bowl representative. No one else has gone to the Granddady of Them All with more than three losses.

And for all of Wisconsin’s troubles, a Badgers victory over Nebraska would not qualify as a major upset.

Hope out at Purdue

A second consecutive minor bowl trip wasn’t enough to save Danny Hope, who was fired Sunday. Hope, who was 22-27 in four injury-riddled seasons, seemed to be on the right track with a 3-1 start, but the Boilers lost their next five and had to scramble to salvage a 6-6 finish.

Also let go on Sunday were Auburn coach Gene Chizik, fired two years after winning the national championship with Cam Newton. The Tigers were 3-9 this fall, including a 49-0 loss to Alabama on Saturday.

North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien and Boston College coach Frank Spaziani also were dismissed.



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