Notre Dame Football: Irish Favored by 12 At Syracuse

Notre Dame will face another test Saturday, going onto the road for the first time this season in an quasi-ACC matchup against Syracuse. The Fighting Irish, 3-0 on the season, are 12 point favorites. Facing a huge October 12th matchup against #1 Florida St., Notre Dame must win impressively; a one-loss Notre Dame team still has a shot at advancing to the four-team playoff if they take care of business in their other 11 games. Coach Brian Kelly talks about this week’s game at his press conference:

COACH KELLY: Obviously we very much appreciate the opportunity to be part of this ACC conference. The challenges that we’ll have each and every week playing in such a great conference, Syracuse is going to be another challenge for us, coming off a great offensive performance led by Terrel Hunt. Coach Shafer has done a great job of bringing this program along in a short period of time. For us it’s going to be a battle.
Playing at MetLife Stadium on national television will get everybody’s attention, and looking forward to a great college football game.
We know what’s in front of us as we play in an ACC conference. From top to bottom, you’re going to have to be ready to play each and every week. Excited about it. Excited about our relationship with the ACC. Really ready to get going.

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges that you believe you’ll have with Syracuse from what you’ve seen on film?
COACH KELLY: I think any team that runs the ball effectively and as efficiently as they have, you have time of possession, field position, those things obviously play a huge role in the outcome of football games. It certainly didn’t this past week. But it’s really an anomaly for somebody to really control statistically the game and not win it. I think that’s the first challenge.
Then defensively Coach Shafer does a great job, along with Coach Bullough of bringing pressure and taking the football away. Their scheme obviously, Hunt, the quarterback, then defensively the pressures they bring you, you have to stay out of third down or you’re going to have your hands full. I think those two things pose a great challenge.

Q. As far as Terrel Hunt, what can you say about his talent and how your defense needs to prepare for him?
COACH KELLY: Anytime you’re facing a quarterback, it’s difficult because of the scheme. When the quarterback runs the football, you have to commit an extra player in there and that creates great opportunities for play?action pass and one?on?one throws. That’s the bind you put our defense in, when you have a dual?threat quarterback. Terrel gives you that concern when he steps onto the field. Not only do you have to defend him as a runner, his size makes it a big concern. He’s obviously going to get some great one?on?one opportunities, as well.

Q. Is this team better than you thought it was going to be in any certain area, your own team?
COACH KELLY: We knew that this was a year where we had some young, athletic players going in. I think what we’ve been able to do, I don’t know if ‘surprised’ would be the word, but one where we’re pleased, is that we have taken care of the football. Our turnover/take away is outstanding. That is a huge predictor in success.
With a young, athletic football team, which we knew we had, we knew we had to play mistake?free to be successful. We’ve done that very well. We have taken care of the football. We’ve taken away the football.
If there’s one area with a young, athletic football team that you hope and you would be pleased early on in your first three games, it would be that turnover/take away that stands out to me.

Q. Is there one area that you’re still kind of seeking a little more consistency on three games in?
COACH KELLY: I think from a defensive standpoint, very thin in the back end of our defense, the safety play is one where we’re still evolving there. I think from an offensive line standpoint, there’s still room for growth. We think we’ve got some good players there, but development and growth on the offensive line and at safety.

Q. Coach, two years ago you found plenty of success against some of the current ACC teams with Everett under center. How has he grown as a player and how are you a different team when he’s playing well?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think knowledge of the offense. We really kept it very simple for him and played to the strength of our defense two years ago. We really tried to find ways not to put him in difficult situations offensively. We controlled the game by running the football, play?action shots down the field, punting the football. That was probably the extent of our offense. Playing to the strength of a very good defense.
This year we’ve got to score points. So Everett now has to be a play?maker for us. We didn’t ask him to be a play?maker really two years ago.
So maturity, understanding of the offense, and really putting him in that role of being the play?maker is the difference from two years ago.

Q. Talk about playing a game around the NewYork City area.
COACH KELLY: We love being back in New York. It’s such a great area. We have so many subway alums. Our brand is very strong in the New York area. We were there for the Pinstripe Bowl, well received. First time a college game had been played in the New York Yankee Stadium when we played Army there. It’s always been a great area for us. We have a great following there.
Certainly it’s a home game for Syracuse. We respect that they’ll have a great crowd there. But we think we’ll have a lot of Notre Dame fans there.
We relish the opportunity to be back on the East Coast and in New York, to play in MetLife Stadium, it’s a great atmosphere for these kids to play in. To play in a nationally televised game, it just adds to the excitement.

Q. You’ve been off for a week. What have you been working on?
COACH KELLY: The first thing is when you look at a bye week this early in the season, sometimes you don’t want to lose momentum in your season. For us, we needed to get some guys healthy, number one.
Number two, we needed to look internally at some things we were doing with our offensive line.
Finally, we really early on, it was an opportunity for us here at Notre Dame to really make sure we’re on top of things academically.
Those are the three things we try to focus on. We practiced for a couple days, gave our kids an opportunity to really focus on their schoolwork, too. We try to hit all those three things over the bye week.

Q. The fact that Notre Dame is affiliated with the ACC, not a member, I wonder if it impacts your recruiting at all? Do you change at all to take advantage of the relationship with the ACC?
COACH KELLY: We think so. I think from my perspective, one of the things when Jack Swarbrick was looking for the right fit for the athletic department, our football program, the ACC gave us a footprint from a recruiting standpoint which was extremely appealing to us.
Now, we still have a strong recruiting alliance on the West Coast, certainly the Midwest is one that we’ll always recruit. We really were excited about opening up a foothold or at least an opportunity to recruit in the Carolinas and recruit that East Coast seaboard from areas where we’ve been before, but adding Virginia, the Carolinas, all the way down to Florida, which for us, we thought it was a great opportunity.
We think that the recruiting footprint for the ACC was the best situation for us.

SBR Takes a Look at Nitrogen.eu

Nitrogen Sportsbook continues to make some noise in the bitcoin sportsbook market. Sportsbook Review recently looked into Nitrogen and gave its stamp of approval. Key points from the SBR’s story:

1) Nitrogen opened in late 2012 as a typical sportsbook. They added a bitcoin deposit option in March 2013, then moved exclusively to bitcoins after launching Nitrogen.eu in November 2013.

2) Nitrogen’s headquarters are located in San Pedro, Costa Rica, with their marketing offices located in Canada. Their software was designed in-house.

3) There are no future plans to add fiat currencies as deposit/withdrawal options. Other digital currencies are being looked at, however.

4) Withdrawals are near-immediate, taking on average 30 seconds to process. In most cases, the withdrawals are automated. There are no limits to a payout request; Nitrogen says they routinely process transactions worth $25,000.

5) Nitrogen does not require user names, allowing anonymity to its customers. Hand in hand with this anonymity is a lack of deposit bonuses; bonus whores have no need to open multiple accounts using multiple names because bonuses are non-existent.

6) Nitrogen offers a wide range of sports betting: over 50 international soccer markets, tennis, cricket, rugby, combat sports, volleyball, and all American sports markets including props.

7) SBR has Nitrogen rated as a B, a relatively high grade for a book under two years old. “Nitrogen’s entire model rests on its ability to move bitcoins. If it can hold player confidence with immediate transactions its business is likely to grow. A slow-pay within this model will have an instant impact and all SBR and fellow players the ability to draw conclusions rather quickly.”

Bitcoins are the future when it comes to internet gambling. While fly by night companies may see bitcoins as a great way to get untraceable funds, sportsbooks like Nitrogen are using the quick payouts as a tool to build their reputation. A sportsbook is only as good as their last payout, and 30 second payouts, unheard of prior to bitcoins, put Nitrogen in the elite circle of bitcoin sportsbooks.

Louisville Favored Big Over Wake Forest: Coach Bobby Petrino’s Press Conference

Despite not knowing who is going to play quarterback on Saturday, Bobby Petrino and his Louisville football team are 21.5 favorites at home against Wake Forest. Louisville got their first road win of the year thanks to a 34-3 win at FIU on Saturday. Now Petrino turns his focus to Wake Forest for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU.

Petrino’s Weekly Press Conference:

COACH PETRINO: We’re excited to be back home after two games on the road, looking forward to playing a Wake Forest team that we respect a lot. I think our guys are just going to be excited to be back at home. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd come out.

Q. Bobby, wonder what the excitement is like for you going into your first ACC game here, going against a coach who is experiencing the exact same thing?
COACH PETRINO: We’re excited about it. Like I said, it’s good to be back home. We have a little bit of history with Wake Forest, the fact we played them in the Orange Bowl. It’s fun to go against those guys again, some players we’re really familiar with.

Q. I know you just released your statement late last night about Will. What is kind of the challenge that you face when you’re not quite certain about whether or not a guy is going to play the week of a game?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, I think just like with every other position, when you have situations like that come up, you have to prepare the next guy, get him ready, then his backup ready. If Will is able to come back and play, that would certainly be a bonus for us.
He did not practice yesterday. He did receive treatment, has improved a little bit. So it’s just a situation where we’ll wait and see how it goes here later on today.

Q. Obviously we all asked you a lot of questions about Reggie throughout the course of camp and into September. How has he looked since he came back? Does he seem like he’s kind of back fully focused in on you guys or is he still struggling with his dad?
COACH PETRINO: I mean, he seems great. He’s very motivated. He’s excited. I think he had a very, very difficult week dealing with the tragedy of his father, all that goes with that. We were in constant contact with him that entire week. He hated not being able to go to the game last week because his teammates are a big part of his life.
He was excited Sunday when he came back to meetings, practice. He’s done a very, very good job.

Q. Coach, a little bit deeper into Wake Forest, what you really believe those main challenges are going to be from what you’ve seen on film.
COACH PETRINO: I think the challenge for us is going to be to work hard at moving the ball on a consistent basis, being successful on first down, getting to third?and?short, third?and?medium. They’ve done a very good job with their dime defense, stopping people on third downs. That’s a huge challenge for us.
Then I think for our defense, we just need to play fast and aggressive, really control the line of scrimmage. If we control the line of scrimmage, we’ll have a chance.

Q. As far as if you don’t have Gardner ready to go, how confident are you in his backups, what they can bring to the table?
COACH PETRINO: I think we’re excited about having Reggie back. He was in a good contest throughout the fall with Will. He’s played in the games. He’s run a couple touchdowns in, threw the ball for a touchdown. We’re excited that he’s been back with the team after the death of his father.

Q. If you have to turn to Reggie this week at quarterback, how much does that change the look of the offense, given this is an offense that’s a work in progress?
COACH PETRINO: One of the things we’ve always done a good job of, in order to get our quarterbacks to play well, getting the other 10 guys around them to perform well and play at a high level. We’re working at it. We’re not where we need to be yet. But certainly our players have done a nice job in practice in concentrating and focusing, putting in a lot of effort. We still have a ways to go.
Reggie knows our offense. He understands the things we’re trying to do with it. He’s been in the games and experienced it. So hopefully if he’s the guy, he’ll come out and do a good job for us.

Q. Bobby, talk about this game coming up against Wake Forest, what you see on film that might be a challenge on Saturday.
COACH PETRINO: Again, like I said, they’re a very good defensive ball club. They have a defensive front that’s very active. They can rush the passer. Their linebackers run to the ball and tackle well. They have two really good corners that I think are there all?time leading consecutive game players. So they have a tremendous amount of experience and play really well on defense.
Offensively they have a young quarterback who showed his competitive spirit in the great comeback last week for them. Really we have to go in, try to stop their offense, get the ball back, try to get some consistency with our offense.

Q. How is the development of your sophomore quarterback Will, his maturity, all that stuff?
COACH PETRINO: I mean, he’s been good. He’s a great worker. He really studies the game. He understands it. He’s had some really good moments. He’s had some moments where we struggled with some decision making and accuracy.
But basically it’s been the entire offense, all 11 guys doing their job together, hasn’t allowed us to be consistent yet.

Clemson Football: Dabo Swinney’s Weekly Press Conference

Clemson, fresh off a hard-fought 23-17 overtime loss to #1 Florida St., will host North Carolina this Saturday. The Tigers are 14 point favorites, but Coach Dabo Swinney isn’t taking the Tar Heels lightly. Below is a transcript from this week’s press conference.

COACH SWINNEY: First of all, really excited about getting back in the valley. We have three weeks in a row here we’re going to be at home, really excited about that, getting to spend a little time with our home crowd.
Also obviously coming off a disappointing loss, but really proud of the resiliency of our team, how they bounced back, their attitude and focus on what they still control, not necessarily what is behind us.
It’s been a good few days for us, and looking forward to, again, a tough challenge this week. North Carolina presents a lot of challenges. Got a couple quarterbacks. This is the fastest team we’ve seen as far as their operation, tempo, snap the ball. Three really good backs. Big wideouts. 6’3″, 6’4″. They present some problems from an exotic coverage that you really need to be tuned into.
Moving forward into this ACC schedule, it doesn’t get any easier. Again, we look forward to getting back on the field this weekend and see if we can play a little bit better.

Q. We’ve heard how special Deshaun Watson is over the last couple months. Comparisons are Manziel and Winston. What has allowed Deshaun to have the kind of success he’s had 10 months out of high school?
COACH SWINNEY: His DNA, first of all, just who he is. His maturity. He’s way mature beyond his years. The other thing is where he came from. Coach Miller up there at Gainesville, that’s a great program in Gainesville, Georgia. They did a tremendous job in developing Deshaun, that’s for sure. He came in here with a very strong foundation, especially in what we do. That’s why it was such a good fit for us.
Deshaun committed to us his sophomore year in high school. He was very in tune to what we do before he ever got here. He’s been coming up here forever, it seems like, coming to our camps.
Then what he did in high school, he was a starter at 14 years old in the ninth grade. A four?year starter, all the experience that he got, the training he got, especially in the mechanics of what we do offensively, that helped him.
Obviously coming in in January, being able to get the spring under his belt, it was big for him.
The biggest part of it is just his DNA, how he’s been raised by his mom. He’s a special guy.

Q. On the other side of the ball, are you feeling more comfortable with McKenzie and Gary out there at corner, and then Martin playing nickel when he’s healthy?
COACH SWINNEY: I feel real good about our secondary. I said that before the season. I felt that was going to be the most improved part of our team, and it certainly is. It’s not just those guys. We have some really good depth, other good young guys that haven’t had as much opportunity yet, like an Adrian Baker, Marcus Edmond, and Ryan Carter, that we’re excited about, as well.
We got good depth there. Cordrea Tankersley is another guy we’re high on. Martin Jenkins looks like he’s going to be out with a mid foot sprain. We have a ton of confidence in him. Gary is playing well. McKenzie just keeps getting better and is going to continue to get better.
Just good depth overall. They’ve played very well. We got to keep that up.

Q. Looking at your running game, your quarterbacks have gotten involved in this last game that you had against Florida State, what have you seen from their rushing attack? Are you getting what you want out of them or is there more to be had?
COACH SWINNEY: There’s plenty more to be had. These first three games we’ve been figuring some things out. I think whether it’s getting the right combination up front in our offensive line, who does what the best, those are all things that we’re kind of getting some guys experience, Adam Choice, Wayne Gallman, guys that haven’t played at this level. All those things after three games I think are coming together for us. We’ve done some really, really good things.
Some of the running game we have, it goes down as passes. Y’all see it in the stats as passes, but it’s part of our running game. We look at it differently than y’all do. Some of our shovel things, some of our speed motion, some of the screens that are built into our run game, things like that, that’s all part of our running game. So it’s all based on taking what the defense gives you.
But as far as just specifically our backs and our quarterbacks, our offensive line, there’s a lot more to be had. I think we’ll continue to improve there.

Q. You talked about the team bouncing back from the loss against Florida State in overtime. What did you see in the resolve of the team that you were able to hold the No.1 team in the country, without their starting quarterback, what positives did you take away from that loss?
COACH SWINNEY: I mean, just about every indicator that we try to measure as far as winning we hit. But we lost. You give Florida State credit for that because they took advantage of some opportunities and they hung in there.
The way our offensive line played, the way our defensive line played, controlled the line of scrimmage, to hold the No.1 team in the country to minus 12 yards rushing in four quarters…
This is a great football team with an entire senior offensive line, a bunch of great backs, and a great All?American tight end. For those guys to not be able to run the football against us, that was a huge positive. It was a big positive.
Then the way our guys competed on the back end. Obviously we were disappointed with the big play we gave up there. But they competed much better, played with a lot more confidence on the back end. So there were so many positives.
We made some big catches in the game, our receivers made some huge catches. The play of Deshaun Watson. There were so many positives in the game that we can take away.
Obviously we wanted to win it, but at the end of the day you have to give Florida State credit, they won 19 in a row, and they found a way to win. That’s what great teams do, that’s what we have to do. We have to start finding ways to win those games instead of losing them.

Q. With Watson now as your quarterback, how do you think it will affect the offense, change the look of the offense going forward?
COACH SWINNEY: I mean, we do kind of what we do. I mean, certainly each player has different strengths. But as far as the structure of our offense, that won’t change a whole lot. We might prioritize a few things a little differently depending on who’s in the game. But structurally not much change.

Q. In terms of deciding this is the time of the season to make this call, pull this trigger, was it something that became apparent to you, was there a certain moment to make the switch?
COACH SWINNEY: It really had nothing to do with practice. It was simply what happens in the game. As I said many times, I mean, you’re evaluating quarterbacks at this level, especially when you have competition, you have a guy that won the job in the spring, won the job clearly in fall camp. But you could see Deshaun was greatly improving daily.
We committed to play him. But you never know until you get into games how guys are going to respond, perform. The first two games Cole played really well and so did Deshaun. We went into the game with the same mindset. They practiced well. When Deshaun came in?? we missed a touchdown opportunity with Cole, a play he’s got to make for us. When Deshaun came in, he sparked us, continued to play well. We made the decision, Hey, let’s see where this young man can take us.
E played a great game. He was the player of the game. That’s really simply what happened in the game is what has given him an opportunity. As we told him, he doesn’t have a lifetime contract either. It’s still a game of performance. You have to perform. We have to try to win each and every week.
It’s not like Cole Stoudt all of a sudden is the worst quarterback in the country, at the bottom of the list. This is a very tight situation. Deshaun is going to earn the start. He’s going to have a chance to keep the job, but he has to play well. Cole is still going to have an opportunity to play because he can give us an opportunity to win and he deserves to play.

Nascar Today: Almirola Gives His Take on The Chase for the Nascar Sprint Cup

Aric Almirola is a longshot to win this week’s race in Dover, over 100-1 according to 5Dimes. That still didn’t prevent Nascar from trotting him out for the weekly press conference. Almirola is making a late push for the Chase Cup, as the field will drop from 16 to 12 after this week’s race.

JENNIE LONG: Good morning, everyone. We’re joined today by Aric Almirola, driver of the No.43 Nathan’s Famous Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks for joining us today.
ARIC ALMIROLA: Thanks for having me.
JENNIE LONG: With your sixth place finish at New Hampshire last week, you’re now back in the hunt for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. What are your thoughts leading into this weekend at Dover knowing that the Chase field will be reduced from 16 to 12 contenders?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Well, obviously our goal is to transfer to that next round, but we can’t really worry about what everybody else is doing. All we can do is worry about ourselves. That’s kind of what’s gotten us to this point is we’ve focused the last month and a half on doing the best job we can in scoring the maximum amount of points we can each weekend, and I think we’ve had three out of the last four races we’ve had top 10s, and at Chicago we were running sixth with 30 laps to go before our engine light goes. We’ve been doing a really good job of running competitively, and so we’ve got to just continue that. We’ve got to go to Dover and do the same thing.
I think if we run in the top 10, top 5, we’re going to put a lot of pressure on those guys that are just in front of us on points, and hopefully we’ll pressure them into making mistakes.

Q. My question for you is is it pretty amazing to you that all 16 of you guys are still absolutely mathematically eligible to move on here with this third race?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah. I mean, you see a lot at the beginning of the year when the points are really close, and you’ll see a lot of jumping around in points with guys having good runs or bad runs or whatever. When that points system gets reset for the Chase and everybody is so close in points, you know that every week is going to be important. Every point is going to be important. Every spot on the racetrack, everything matters that much more.
Throughout the year, the points get spread out, and you kind of get those cushions, but when everything gets reset, it’s so close, and just one point, meaning one spot on the racetrack, is a big deal. Like we’re 10 points out of 12th right now, so basically I just have to finish 10 spots ahead of everybody that’s in front of me from 15th to 12th in points, which sounds easier than it really is.
But yeah, I’m glad for our sake that we’re still in it.

Q. Will you have somebody on your team kind of watching points as they run to help you out, or are there just too many people and variables that you’re kind of racing against for the spot to really try to worry about it?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, I think there’s just too many people, really. I think there’s too many people to focus all of our attention on that. I think it would distract us from just doing our job and doing the best that we can. So that’s kind of been my thing to my guys in our competition meeting on Monday, was, hey, let’s just do what we’ve done the last four weeks. It’s worked for us. We’ve run competitive, we’ve ran in the top 10, and if we do that, if we run top 5 at Dover, we don’t have anything to hang our heads about, and we can’t control where everybody else runs.
I think if we’re just racing one other guy, it would be easier to just race them heads up and try and constantly look at points and know what we have to do, but considering we’ve got to beat like four guys, I think that would be too chaotic for them to keep up.
I know that they’ll have it on the pit box. They’ll have a points tracker as they run constantly, but I doubt?? I hope that Trent doesn’t get too worried about that, and we just do what we need to do and make the strategy calls that we need to make to get the best finish we can.

Q. And then on another topic, how do you feel about the testing ban on all private tests? I know you guys, at least from what I understand, have kind of had a little bit more R&D and stuff in the last couple of years. Is this something you feel like will even the field, or is this something that will not even the field?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I honestly don’t know. I can’t answer that question right yet. You know, I think as we improve our simulation program and that gets better, I think it’ll be okay that we don’t get to test. A lot of the teams, they go test and they use a lot of their testing to validate their simulation program and validate what they see through their sim models, more so than they just use it to go and get the perfect setup for Nashville Speedway because it doesn’t matter what the perfect setup is for Nashville; we don’t race there. So a lot of that testing is just theory driven and then also to validate the stuff that they work on in their simulation.
So I think that will be hard on us because we’re trying to develop a new simulation software, but it is what it is. It’s the same for everybody, so that’s the good thing. I still think that some teams are going to try and find a way around it and still get testing done, but I know that NASCAR has said that you don’t want to get caught. There’s going to be a big penalty if you do get caught doing some testing.
But personally I think that some teams, not Richard Petty Motorsports, because we don’t want to pay $250,000 and lose our guys for six weeks because we can’t afford to do that, but personally I think that other teams will still try and figure out a way to go test.

Q. Following up on what you talked about, how you have to race at Dover, it seems to me that the problem is you want to continue to be aggressive but also be smart. How do you handle that? I guess you just go out and race the way you normally would, right?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, I mean, that’s all we can do. It’s not going to do me any good to try harder or anything like that. I try as hard as I possibly can every week.
Maybe take a little more risk on like restarts and stuff. I did that at Loudon when it got close to the end. I took a couple risks on some restarts and went on the outside. I think one time I was outside of four wide and made a few passes that way. There’s times when you realize, hey, I need to be aggressive if I’m going to get some spots here and get a good finish, and I think the same will hold true at Dover.
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that even if we don’t transfer to the next round, we still can race for fifth in points, and we have to keep that in mind. We can’t just go to Dover and throw a Hail Mary and it’s either win or finish 43rd because that’s not going to?? if we don’t win and we finish 43rd, then we’re pretty much going to guarantee that we’re going to finish 16th in points, and we don’t want to do that. We still have the capability of going up in points from where we’re at, all the way up to fifth in points. There’s still a bigger picture in mind even if we don’t transfer, but we do desperately want to transfer.
So we’ll take necessary risk, but we’re not going to take crazy risk just to try and transfer to the next round if the reward is not there.

Q. Regardless of what happens this weekend, whether you advance or not, obviously this is your first year with Trent and with this group, what have you guys learned? What do you want to have in terms of progression to help you be stronger beyond this season into next year? What are the lessons you guys hope you learned and how you move forward from this experience because there’s still some relative newness to this group.
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, there’s a lot of newness to our race team. Me and Trent have continually gotten better at working together throughout the year. I think when we started the Chase, we knew that it was go time, and we all?? all the guys on the team and everybody had to step up. We were working our guys more hours. We were bringing the best race cars we could to the racetrack. We spent extra time prepping our race cars to get them ready for the Chase.
I think that that’s been a big eye?opener for us in understanding what it takes to compete at this level. We know that all year long, but it’s hard to do that when you have a small race team. You wear your guys out so easy. We’re talking about a race team that Richard Petty Motorsports that has about 50 employees racing against the Penske and Hendricks and Gibbs teams that have 300 employees.
We have to be mindful of that throughout the season. We can’t just beat our guys down all year long and then expect them to perform when it comes to September.
We have to juggle that, but I feel like working with Trent and through this?? I mean, it’s a stressful time in the Chase. There’s a lot riding on the line, and everybody knows?? all the guys on the team know the implications, myself, Trent, the engineers. We all know what’s at stake, so to be able to show up to the racetrack, bring the cars that we’ve been bringing to the racetrack and performing at the level that we’ve been performing at is really encouraging for me. I think that this has been great for our race team to be able to go through this together, and regardless of what happens, I think we’re going to be a much better race team next year because of it.

Q. Because it’s your first Chase experience and we hear the drivers and teams talk about things step up, hey, we think we were running hard early in the season but then when the Chase starts, it’s another level. Have you noticed that and can you kind of explain or define what’s so different to somebody like myself or others who aren’t in the car, don’t have that experience that you do?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, I think it starts well before we even get in the race car. It starts at the shop. I mean, the hours that our shop guys have been putting in, the attention to detail that our guys have been trying to pay attention to at every level on the race car has been phenomenal. We realize that that’s what it takes week in and week out to be this competitive.
But we can’t do that all year long because we don’t have the manpower and the resources to be able to do that, but we’ve taken and been putting a lot of effort. Once we knew we won Daytona and we knew we were pretty much going to be in the Chase, a lot of attention focused back in July to get ready for September. And I think that that’s the advantage that a lot of the other race teams have, like the Hendricks and stuff like that. Jimmie Johnson knows before they ever go to Daytona that they’re pretty much going to make the Chase. Their attention is to get through the regular part of the season, but right from the beginning of the year they’re focused on September. They’re trying to do everything they can and thinking about the Chase. They save all their tests for the Chase; they work throughout the year to try and learn setups and stuff like that to be able to apply them in the Chase, and that’s something that we haven’t been able to do.
But starting in July we started doing that. After we won Daytona, we started experimenting with setups and stuff like that, and we kind of hit on a package that’s worked for us, and we went to Atlanta and Richmond and ran in the top 10, went to Chicago and was running really strong and had our issue there, and went to Loudon and ran sixth.
I feel like that attention to detail and how much everybody steps up at the shop is really the difference maker. The drivers?? I give all I can. I got 100 percent. Everybody says 110 percent and all that stuff. I’ve got 100 percent to give, and I give all 100 of it every weekend. Now, in the Chase do I take a little more risk like on restarts and stuff like that? Absolutely, because there’s a lot to be had in this Chase, and we’re going for it. We feel like we don’t have anything to lose, so we’ve just kind of been letting it all hang out.

Q. Do you think your success in making the Chase this year can help Richard Petty Motorsports find long?term sponsorship for the 9 car since you guys have locked in your deal this year already?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I think it really can. I think that what we’ve accomplished this year proves how strong of a race team that Richard Petty Motorsports is and how competitive we can be, and it’s not just the 43 car. The 9 car can do it, too. I think throughout the summer months, Marcos was on fire. He ran in the top 15 just about every weekend and went to Watkins Glen and had a really good shot to win there, which we know he always does, but still, that takes equipment to do that. I mean, you can give Marcos a bad race car at Watkins Glen, and he’s going to run 15th with it. It takes good equipment to perform the way we perform week in and week out.
I think that it’s certainly going to help going to the tables and meetings and stuff and saying, hey, we are a Chase capable race team, and this is what we’re capable of, and if you come and sponsor a race car at our race team, we’re not guaranteeing you that we can make the Chase because that’s no guarantee for anybody, but we certainly can compete at that level and have proven it.
So I think it’s certainly going to help with selling sponsorship on the 9 car.

Q. Speaking along those lines, are you going to have any input as far as a driver for 2015, or is that left up to the team?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I think it’s both. I’ve been involved on really all the discussions, and Brian Moffitt and Richard Petty and Sammy Johns, our competition director, has kept me up to speed on where we’re at with the replacement driver. I’ve been involved. I’ve been asked my opinion on all of it.
I’m excited about the opportunities ahead for us. We want to make this race team stronger. We’re sad to see Marcos leave. I’m excited that now when I take vacation in Australia, I’ll have a place to stay, and Marcos has been a phenomenal teammate, but on the other side of that, he’s chosen to go back home, and I’m happy for him and his family to be able to go back to Australia.
We’ve got a lot to focus on here at Richard Petty Motorsports, and whoever we get to replace him, we want to make sure that it just continues to make our race team stronger.

Q. Regardless if you guys advance to the next round or not, how strong do you think your team will perform over the next three races and for the rest of the post?season?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I mean, I don’t see any reason for us to not continue to perform the way we have the last four weeks, really. I don’t see us falling off the wagon. It may happen, but I don’t think so. You know, Dover is one of my favorite racetracks. I think we ran 12th there earlier this year, so if we can get a little bit better there, I think that it’s very reasonable to expect to go run in the top 10 there. Kansas is coming up. I think we ran sixth or seventh there earlier this year, ran in the top 5 a lot during the race, so that’s going to be a great racetrack for us. Charlotte we finished 11th earlier this year, ran in the top 10 a lot during the race, and going to Talladega, we won the last restrictor plate race, so I have a lot of confidence going there. We’re going to take the same car that we won Daytona with that was really fast.
Looking ahead at least at the next four weeks, I feel really good. I feel confident. We’ll see what happens. I can’t predict the future. But I feel confident, and my race team feels confident that we can go these next seven weeks and finish out the year really strong, and whatever happens happens. We can’t control everybody else and what happens to everybody else. All we can control is what happens on the 43 car and trying to make it as fast as we can during practice and then work on it during the race, and then the rest is up to me on restarts and racing.
I’m excited about the rest of the year and finishing out strong, regardless if we make the next round.

Michigan State’s Coach Mark Dantonio’s Press Conference

The Michigan St. Spartans have their hands full this weekend against Oregon. The Ducks are favored by 12.5, and Michigan St., with an eye towards winning the Big Ten and advancing to the new four game playoff this year, must put up a good game to impress the committee. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio discusses this week’s game in his weekly press conference:

MARK DANTONIO: First off, it’s an exciting week for us this week, a lot of things that you are going to experience this week whether as a coach or as a player, these are things that you anticipate when you go play college football: Big football game on national TV. I think we embrace those situations. We’ve played in big games before, so that’s not new to us.

And this has been a progression for us, I think. If you look at our football program right now from when we’ve come in 2007, it was about trying to get to these moments where you have an opportunity to play across the nation and it has a sort of prominence to it or a prestige to it at this point.

We’ll look forward to that opportunity. When you look at Oregon right now, outstanding football team, outstanding program, and great skilled players. You look at them defensively a little bit, big strong guys. I think their secondary is very skilled. Linebackers are athletic, big front, 3?4 defense. I could go into schematics and concepts, but I won’t do that at this point in time.

And you look at their offense, Mariota is an outstanding quarterback. What impresses me most about him is you can tell he has leadership because you can look at him on the film and say the guy is tough; you can see he’s emotional; you can see people follow him; he’s creative, can take a bad play, make it a good one, whether it’s with his arm, with his feet. He’s surrounded with good skill, good offensive line, breakaway running backs and big play potential all over the place.

Special teams, same type of thing. Good returners. They do some different things that will create problems for you, and it’s going to be an exciting opportunity to play. I think usually the best way to do this is to just take some questions.

Q. Is this a game of innovators? Do you get excited as a coach knowing what they’ve done with their offense and what you’ve done defensively and how many teams have copied both of you?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think there is something to that. You look at Oregon, certainly you see what they’ve done offensively, and they are different from other spread teams. I think they’ve had so much success, a lot of people are taking some of the things and imitating them or not copying but using their concepts and trying to adapt it into their offenses.

And then when you look at our defense, I think, again, it’s cutting edge. There’s not a lot of people who have played our defense in the past. I think people are moving towards it and doing some of the things that we’ve done, and we’ve had tremendous success with our defense in the last three, four?? really the last four years. That trend need to continues for us to be successful. It’s my belief you win championships are great defenses.

But this is a football game, it’s not just against our offense, defense, it’s against how our offense is going to play and how we’re going to handle special teams. It’s all the components of a football game, and I think that’s what makes it such a great game.

Q. The team that’s had the most success against them is Stanford, who you’re very familiar with, and there’s some similarities in terms of style and philosophy. How much have you looked at those games, and how much is it true that you can kind of hit them in the mouth?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, we’ve looked at all their games. We’ve obviously done a study, a spring study, summer study on them, so we’ve looked across the board at all their games. They lost last year to Stanford, so I think Stanford’s offense is more our?? a little bit more like us maybe than some of the other football teams, so you can certainly see some of the things that they did there.

But we’ll look at all the different games and try and draw something from every single football team that have played them in the hopes that we have the answers.

Q. I was talking to a defensive coordinator who’s coached against Oregon, and he said the secret with them is that it isn’t necessarily they do 900 million different things, but they force you to make mistakes. Is this one of those weeks where you know the cliché do your job, but it may be more important than ever?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I mean, football on the defensive side of the ball?? offensively, as well, and special teams, but I think specifically on the defensive side of the ball because the ramifications are so high if you don’t do your job is such a?? it’s a technique game, but it’s an accountability game. You have to do your job. You have to fit that puzzle, and the way I sort of explain it is every play is a puzzle, every defense is a puzzle, you’d better have your piece fitted right or things don’t usually work out. That’s what you see, you see a fit here, a fit there not happening, and the next thing you know they’re in the end zone because they have good speed.

Big play ability is what you see with Oregon. They can be stopped for four or five plays and then all of a sudden hit a 70?yarder. You have to able to take that away from them. We’ve been good at that lately with not giving up a lot of explosive plays, particularly last season. This year remains to be seen because there are so many games left, but that’s something we have to hang our hat on. When they don’t have explosive plays, people don’t lose too often.

Q. Obviously it’s a big game Saturday, but do you feel like your program is at the stage that no game is too big, that you don’t worry about your team going into that environment?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I don’t really worry about that. We’ve played in big games, we’ve won away from home in every stadium in this conference. We’ve won our last three bowl games, played against good competition. We’ve been on a big stage at the Rose Bowl. We’ve been on a big stage with the championship games or at Penn State or wherever. I don’t really worry about that. I’m more concerned about getting the job done. I don’t think we’re going to go in there intimidated if that’s the question. But I worry about the accountability as we’ve just talked about and how we fit things defensively and not making mistakes that are going to?? really unforced errors or turnovers that are going to affect you on the offensive side of the ball.

Q. I wonder if you could address the challenges of preparing for a quarterback like Marcus Mariota, and does Damion Terry and his skill set help at all, having him available?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, he’s very much like Damion in a lot of ways. I think he’s a dual?type guy. You’ll see him probably run the ball more in big games, which this certainly is a big game. That’s been the trend with most quarterbacks like this.

But when you look at Braxton Miller, he’s a guy that can pull the ball down and take off with it. Same type of situation, he’s built to throw the football, so he’s got a great arm, he’s got good receivers down the field. They’ve got good receivers coming out of the backfield, as well, good ball carriers to hand the ball to. So they’ve got good tight ends, good offensive line. They’ve got things in order in that program. There’s no question about that. You see that based on the success that they’ve had in the past. It’s a good football team, it’s a very well?coached football team, and they play hard and they play tough. So you have a lot of respect when you turn on the film and you watch how they play and how rapid they are in terms of their offensive production in terms of how they’re running their plays and everything. You have to respect their toughness, not just physically but mentally, as well.

Q. With a forecast in the 90s on Saturday, does that change the way you’re approaching this week or the game at all?
MARK DANTONIO: I think in any game like this you’ve got to play a lot of players. That’s been our trend because it’s a no?huddle type system, so you’ve got to be able to substitute, get your guys on and off, and you’ve got to play a lot of players. We’ll be ready to play; we’ll be conditioned for it. There’s certainly things that obviously everyone has to do between hydration and things of that nature. But we’ll try and be cutting edge and see how it goes.

Q. In a game like this, how valuable are Rush and Calhoun, just keeping him contained and knowing that you can count on them the whole time?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, they’re two very, very?? our best defensive players, so contain obviously is a big aspect of any football game when you’re trying to pen in a quarterback. They’re big, but just as much the guys who come in after them are in place for them at times have to equally be impressive because they’re going to be challenged. That’s just the nature of it. There’s a lot of things that they do schematically that puts pressure on them and puts people in conflict. You know, a run?pass conflicts or a gap conflict as to how to play a particular gap or not, those things become issues that can create big plays. And you’ve got to play fast.

Q. Also, James and Kings and Langford are all listed on the depth chart. Does that mean they’re going to go?
MARK DANTONIO: I wasn’t going to list?? you guys know how I am about injuries. We’ll list them when we get to the game. If they’re not going to play in Saturday’s game, I’ll let you know, but right now we anticipate them practicing and playing.

Q. Last week Jacksonville State, a lot of nines in the box, a lot of gearing to stop the run. Do you anticipate at some point if Connor Cook and the passing game looked like that, defenses are finally going to change the way they approach your offense?
MARK DANTONIO: I think Connor Cook picked up where he left off last year. He’s got great?? I’ve said it all through spring and all through fall camp, I think our wide receiver group is talented and deep, and I think you saw that. I think we have an identity at tight end now. We’ve got guys out of the backfield, as well, and I think cook has got a great release, very strong arm. He’s big, he’s mobile, and there’s a lot of things that he can do that are untapped yet, and I really feel like some of that involved his running ability.
But I think he’s an excellent quarterback, and he’s resilient, and he’s very confident.

Q. Following up on Kyle’s question on Terry, would you use him some scout team this week then or do you have someone else in mind?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, we’ll use Damion a little bit on scout team and probably Tyler, as well, when the other one is getting reps, but we’re not going to have people standing around. There’s certain periods that we’ll do certain things and add people to the mix to help simulate. We’ve always done that, and we always will.

Q. You know how these inter?conference games get billed sometimes: Big Ten, Pac?12, the importance of having a high conference rating and whatnot. Do you ever get sick of hearing about the Big Ten and Wisconsin lost to LSU and that narrative reemerges, do you get sick of hearing that? Do you think it’s fair and do you think you can change it?
MARK DANTONIO: We just go out and try and play every game to the best of our ability. We can’t control everything that you guys write, obviously, something controversial up here. We can’t control everything that everybody writes, so why deal with it? I sort of shrug my shoulders and go. Last year the perception was that we’d have a good football team coming into the season. We went through the season, we had a good football team coming out of it. That’s the only thing that really matters at the end of everything.

We won against a very good football team in the Rose Bowl. I thought Georgia played for the championship in 2011, they were a very good football team, we managed to beat them, as well. You know, I guess that’s up to the fans in the SEC and all the other people that want to chant SEC or Big Ten, Big Ten, or whatever they want to chant in their stadium. We just play the game, but we’ll be ready to play.

Q. I want to go back to that embracing the big game. You mentioned a few years ago people yearn for these days. Hasn’t your program reached the swagger stage where this isn’t?? you can win games like this. You can go into enemy stadiums and win games like this; if nothing else, that’s what last year gave you, isn’t it?
MARK DANTONIO: Our program has taken steps since coming here in 2007, and I sort of feel like whatever year it was when we decided to play Oregon home and home, when they asked me do you want to play them, I felt like we needed to be at this point in 2014 to be able to play a game like that, we needed to be able to take the steps to be able to get there to play in a game like this and have a certain ability of respect that’s attached to it to go and play. I think we’ve done that from a program perspective, and now this creates another opportunity. Every game we play, every game on a big stage we play creates another opportunity for Michigan State and our football program to make a statement.

So one way or the other, and sometimes maybe we haven’t gotten there and taken a step back. Remember when we played Ohio State on game day in 2008 and we weren’t quite ready yet, and we lost convincingly. But the next week we gathered things up and we went down and played very well in Ann Arbor.

It’s not the end?of?the?world?type situation, but I think we’ve taken the right steps to try and get into a game like this so that people can say, hey, if they win this football game, it sends you farther up the ladder maybe, and that’s what you’re trying to do, I think, as a program. So when you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish long?term over the haul here, we put ourselves in a position to play this game and receive this type of notoriety to do it, and I want our players to have fun with this. I want them to be excited about this and our coaches, as well, and use this as a life experience, because that’s what this is all about. It’s really not about what you’re going to write or what some guy is going to feel off the streets. It’s about our players having a lifetime experience in this setting at this time in their lives that they’ll remember for the rest of their life, and if we do that and get excited about it and play hard, great things are possible, and that’s how we’ve always approached it.

Q. You’ve always talked about controlling emotion, but yet you want your guys emotional. In a week like this, you can’t hide the hype; it is what it is. What are some things you do to either embrace it or to try at least to control it?
MARK DANTONIO: We just ask our players to stay under control and make sure that on game day at game time that’s when your energy comes out, and you’ve got to have energy. I think if we get all crazy today and running around all over the place, you’re going to run out of it by game time, so it gets old, it gets tiring, and the most important thing is what you’re going to do at game time. So we’ll try and build towards that from a physiological standpoint, from a mental standpoint and from an emotional standpoint, I guess, mental.
That’s what we’ve always tried to do, and we have a system in place that we do that with, and it’s what we do. But I don’t think that we’ve come flat to many football games. I think that should be up to our senior leadership and to our coaches as a group and really to our seniors and to the chemistry on our football team, and I expect that to be the case again. How we play throughout the game will depend on being able to handle adversity. You know that’s going to happen. You know that’s going to happen. That’s going to be part of that football game, how we’re able to handle adversity, and it always is a big aspect of it. You have to be able to play through it.

Q. Nick Saban said the other day he thought at this point there are so many teams running spread offenses that maybe it’s almost hard for teams to prepare to face a more traditional offense. Do you think there’s anything to that? Do you think your offense at this point is almost becoming more unique and hard to play against?
MARK DANTONIO: I think there is something to that because they don’t see some of the things throughout spring practice and summer practice that they see when they get ready to play a game, so there is something to that. But I think you see?? I believe that everything goes in cycles in football, and we lined up against a T formation a couple years ago that Lou Holtz was running in South Carolina in 2001, which wasn’t that long ago.
So if there’s something good, it’ll always return, even the save the wing aspects of football have returned, and you see that in some of the spread offenses with the different type of handoffs and wide receiver things and different things that?? there’s always cutting edge thing, and I think Oregon does some amazing things cutting edge that we’re going to have to deal with. But I’m sure it works the other way, as well. They don’t have quite the personnel to simulate maybe some of the different aspects, so it probably works in both ways, but at the end of the day, the game is played on the field, and you’ve got to be prepared to do it.

Q. Watching film, what did you see out of Byron Marshall, and do you think they used him differently in their opener than they might have last year?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think they’ve had some different?? they’ve got different players, they’re asking people to do different things. Yeah, I think so, based on what you see. But they lost a lot of the wide receivers, so expanding different people’s roles based on what they’re able to do, and they’re allowing the playmakers?? they’re creating plays for their players, and at the end of the day, players make plays. Yeah, he’s a good football player.

Q. Always a lot of talk about keeping the players’ emotions in check before the game, but is there a difference for you and your staff this week? Do you sense a difference in the preparation? Is this not your everyday, normal game for you guys?
MARK DANTONIO: It’s a little bit of a fast week, I think, because we’re traveling. But other than that it’s the same preparation in terms of what we do. We got a head start on them, like I said, because we’d worked on them earlier, but now you go back and you look at different things and they all look a little bit different. Things seem to always change. We’ve got ourselves ready to go. I think it’s important that we’re fresh, as well, as coaches, that we’re thinking clearly and have our emotions intact.

Q. Obviously you’ll be arriving Thursday. Will you be practicing out there on Thursday?
MARK DANTONIO: No, we’ll practice here. We’ll practice here early, though, and do all the things physiologically that we can to prevent jet lag.

Q. I have to ask a uniform question. Can you tell us anything about what you might be wearing Saturday?
MARK DANTONIO: White.

Q. Nothing special, Nike, game?
MARK DANTONIO: It’s white.

Q. On a serious note on that, you guys have gone to that rotation, the pro combats and things like that at the Nike school. What has that meant the past few years?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, Nike has a great product, and when they choose a particular institution to do something special with such as they do with Oregon every week, you know, I think that’s a statement to young people, and I think people like to see that. They like to see change. They want to keep things fresh, and anything we can do to embrace that, we do. As we move through this cycle, you know, there are different things that we’ll be able to experience with Nike’s help, and very appreciative of it. We have great relationships with them and have gotten to know the people there personally, and I think they’re extremely innovative, outstanding people first of all, but extremely innovative and cutting edge in all their thoughts and the processes that they do to keep their product fresh. Maybe I’ll show up on a Nike commercial.