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'Bama Goes Down...it's now Utah or Oklahoma
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
College Football Quiz: Name the Group of Five school with the highest final AP ranking each of the last six seasons. [To loosen the brain cells, the overall champion...2018 - Clemson; 2017 - Alabama; 2016 - Clemson; 2015 - Alabama; 2014 - Ohio State; 2013 - Florida State.] Answer below.
College Football Review
[Comments written prior to release of AP Poll. Rankings used are CFP.]
The plot thickens. Actually, it was going to thicken regardless of whether Alabama won or lost against Auburn. But 5 'Bama did lose to 15 Auburn (9-3) in a thriller, 48-45, as the great Nick Saban was outcoached by Auburn's Gus Malzahn.
But what a crazy game. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa, threw two pick sixes, but also had four touchdown passes, three to the Crimson Tide's Jaylen Waddle; Waddle also with a 98-yard kickoff return for a score.
Which brings us to the ending, and Malzahn's brilliance.
Alabama's Joseph Bulovas missed a 30-yard field goal attempt to tie it with 2:00 to play, the kick hitting the left upright in rather dramatic fashion. But the game wasn't over. 'Bama still had two timeouts remaining and they stopped Auburn on third-and-7, setting up fourth-and-4 wtih 1:06 remaining.
But Auburn didn't punt it away. A penalty gave the Tigers a first down, and then it was victory formation.
It turns out, Auburn practices the fourth down play all season, as head coach Gus Malzahn said after. As described by Josh Vitale of the Montgomery Advertiser (via USA TODAY):
"(It) starts with Jaylen Waddle, Alabama's dynamic return man. Auburn tried to make every effort it could to keep him from making plays on special teams on Saturday - short kickoffs, pooch punts, you name it - and it still couldn't stop him from returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
"But on this particular fourth-and-4, Malzahn ran out his offense with punter Arryn Siposs lined up at wide receiver. He wasn't going to go for it, of course - the ball was on Auburn's 26, which would have already been field goal range for Alabama.
"No, the plan, he said, was to try to keep Waddle off the field and the defense on it. So, when Auburn motioned Siposs into the backfield, Alabama's regular return man would not be back there to make a play on the punt.
" 'That's what caused all the confusion,' Malzahn said, who added that Auburn had been working on that all season.
"Alabama had its punt return unit on the field, but when it saw quarterback Bo Nix and the offense out there, it was allowed time to run the defense back on. But it forgot about the punt returner standing 40 yards behind the play."
'Bama was flagged for having 12 men on the field. Those five yards moved the chains. Game over.
"I really feel it was a pretty unfair play at the end of the game," Saban said. "They substituted the punter as a wide receiver so we put the punt team in, and when the quarterback was still in there we tried to put the defense back in. I thought they should've given us a little more time to substitute and get Waddle out as a returner (but) we get called for 12 guys on the field. That was very disappointing.
"It was a very unusual circumstance to say the least."
As Nelson on the "Simpsons" would have said, "Ha Ha."
So Alabama drops to 10-2 and out of the CFP conversation. It was another disaster for the Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The rest of the Top 25 then went as follows....
No. 1 Ohio State won for the 15th time in 16 years in its rivalry against 13 Michigan (9-3), whose coach Jim Harbaugh is now 0-5 against the Buckeyes after OSU's 56-27 thrashing. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson had his team playing competitively, but he coughed up an easy snap deep in OSU territory, the score 21-13, and it was essentially all Ohio State from there.
Patterson was 14/19 for 250 yards in the first half, and just 4 of 22 after for 55, so that gives you an idea of how the Buckeyes tightened up, even with All-World lineman Chase Young a non-factor.
For Ohio State, Justin Fields threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, while J.K. Dobbins rushed for 211 yards and four scores, plus another 49 on two receptions. Pretty easy formula for them.
So Harbaugh's boys head to a second- or third-tier bowl game, while Ohio State (12-0) heads to the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin, knowing a CFP berth will be on the line.
2 LSU heads into the SEC title game 12-0 after an easy 50-7 tuneup against Texas A&M (7-5), the Aggies having a most disappointing season. Your Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow, threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, two to Ja'Marr Chase, who had seven receptions for 197 yards.
3 Clemson rolled again in its tuneup for the ACC championship game, 38-3 over South Carolina (4-8) as Trevor Lawrence completed 18 straight at one point, tying a conference record, ending up 26/36, 295, 3-0. Lawrence, following the 21-20 scare against North Carolina, has thrown 22 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, after starting out with an 8-5 split the first five games.
Over the last seven, the 12-0 Tigers have outscored their opponents 353-61.
I do have to add that while I love Dabo Swinney, his now routine post-game airing of the grievances over just being No. 3 in the CFP is wearing thin among those outside Greenville.
4 Georgia (11-1) goes into the SEC championship tilt with LSU 52-7 winners over Georgia Tech, though the Bulldogs have some major question marks. Running back D'Andre Swift, critical to the offense, left the game with a shoulder injury, though we're told he'll be fine for next week, but key freshman receiver George Pickens, who missed the first half due to a disciplinary issue, got himself ejected in the fourth quarter and will miss the first half of next week's game. And while Jake Fromm threw four touchdown passes, his accuracy issues remain a major concern as well.
6 Utah did what it had to do, defeat Colorado (5-7) handily at home, 45-15, holding the Buffaloes to just 217 yards of offense.
The 11-1 Utes will now face 14 Oregon (10-2) in the Pac-12 title game, the Ducks winning their annual civil war with the Oregon State Beavers (5-7), 24-10.
7 Oklahoma then stayed right there in the chase for the final CFP berth, defeating Oklahoma State (8-4) 34-16; Kennedy Brooks, not Jalen Hurts, the star for the Sooners in this one, rushing for 160 yards.
Oklahoma (11-1) now has a rematch for the Big-12 title against 9 Baylor (11-1), the Bears blasting Kansas (3-9) 61-6, as the Jayhawks turned the ball over six times.
8 Minnesota (10-2) saw its CFP hopes go up in flames, as 12 Wisconsin (10-2) prevailed in snowy Minneapolis, 38-17, Jonathan Taylor with three touchdowns, two rushing, one receiving, as the Badgers now face Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
10 Penn State finished up the regular season 10-2, beating Rutgers (2-10) 27-6, the Scarlet Knights at least beating the spread of 39.5. And Rutgers actually outgained PSU 383-333! They were down just 13-6 at the start of the fourth before the Nittany Lions put it away.
And then last night we learned that former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was returning to Piscataway after all! The Rutgers' Board of Governors still must approve of the hiring, with a vote likely Tuesday or Wednesday. But after fierce arm-twisting from prominent boosters, it seems that athletics director Pat Hobbs, the university president, and others relented.
In Schiano's final seven seasons, he took the Scarlet Knights to six bowl games, winning five of them, and was 56-33 during that span.
The last five seasons, Rutgers has gone 2-10, 1-11, 4-8, 2-10, 4-8.
In other games, 11 Florida (10-2) beat Florida State (6-6) 40-17. Yawn.
And 16 Notre Dame (10-2) defeated Stanford (4-8) 45-24, quarterback Ian Book with four touchdown passes for the Fighting Irish, giving Book 12 in his last three games. Will N.D. be playing on New Year's Day?
Friday, 24 Virginia Tech was at Virginia for the right to play Clemson in the ACC championship game and as well as the Hokies were playing on defense coming in, the final score, 39-30 Virginia, was kind of a shocker. The Cavaliers (9-3) had lost to Va Tech 15 consecutive seasons in their rivalry, but they not only captured the Commonwealth Cup, they earned their first trip to the conference title game.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins not only threw for 311 yards and a score, but he rushed for 164 on 19 carries and another two touchdowns. The Hokies, who fell to 8-4, were largely done in by four turnovers, three by their quarterback, Hendon Hooker.
Also Friday, in a biggie for the Group of Five, New Year's Six bowl bid, 18 Memphis (11-1) prevailed over 19 Cincinnati (10-2) 34-24.
So these two have to square off again next week in the AAC title game! Should Cincinnati win the rematch, No. 20 Boise State (11-1) did what it had to do to stay in the Group of Five hunt, winning at Colorado State (4-8) 31-24.
Boise now plays Hawaii (8-4) in the Mountain West Conference championship, importantly at Boise.
You'd expect the Broncos to roll, what with all the travel for Hawaii, but what will the committee do if Boise wins and Cincinnati beats Memphis?
One other in the Group of Five chase, No. 25 Appalachian State had its way with Troy (5-7) 48-13 to move to 11-1.
A few others....
Boston College (6-6) became bowl eligible with a 26-19 win at Pitt (7-5), AJ Dillon rushing for 178 yards and a score. Will B.C. retain coach Steve Addazio? The program has been stuck in neutral for years, doing enough to finish 7-6, seemingly every season. That isn't good enough. Like I've said, it works at Wake Forest, but the Eagles' faithful expect better, and whaddya know, Addazio was fired this afternoon. He ended up 44-44, with six bowls in seven seasons (a 3-9 season hurting his overall mark).
Speaking of the Demon Deacons, Wake fell to 8-4, losing 39-30 in overtime up in Syracuse, which finished a disappointing 5-7. The Orange have talent, they just didn't put it together this year. For their part, the Deacs were unable to overcome five turnovers.
So how did it end up 39-30 in OT? Syracuse kicked a field goal on their first possession to make it 33-30, then Sam Hartman (subbing for the injured Jamie Newman) threw a pass to Wake's Kendall Hinton around the five, as the Deacs were looking to score for the win, but Hinton had it stripped right out of his hands by Trill Williams, who sprinted 94 yards for the clincher. Of course Williams could have just taken a knee.
For now, Wake fans are praying quarterback Newman doesn't have an ACL injury that could impede our 2020 prospects. Hartman, in about three quarters of play, threw for 350 yards and ran for another 42. He's one of the better backups in the country, but Wake has been looking to redshirt him this year...this being only his third appearance. We'll see how this plays out. I'm afraid the kid is going to transfer (though he's not acting like that is in the cards).
One more on this game. Wake kicker Nick Sciba booted field goals of 43- and 45-yards to extend his NCAA record to 34 straight, but then he was wide right on a 48-yarder in the second half, only to kick a clutch 43-yard FG as time expired in regulation to tie it at 30.
Congratulations to Indiana (8-4) after a 44-41 double-overtime win over Purdue, the Hoosiers' first eight-win season since 1993.
Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr., who started the season at wide receiver, had a spectacular 22-carry, 284-yard, four-touchdown performance for Kentucky (7-5) in its 45-13 win over Louisville (7-5).
And finally, Washington (7-5) beat rival Washington State (6-6), the Huskies holding star Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon well in check, Gordon a deceiving 48 of 62, but for only 308 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
And here's the new AP Poll!
1. LSU 12-0 (40-0)...1528 points
2. Ohio State 12-0 (19)...1498
3. Clemson 12-0 (3)...1437
4. Georgia 11-1...1356
5. Utah 11-1...1275
6. Oklahoma 11-1...1257*
7. Florida 10-2...1135
8. Baylor 11-1...1074
9. Alabama 10-2
10. Wisconsin 10-2
11. Auburn 9-3
12. Penn State 10-2
13. Oregon 10-2
14. Notre Dame 10-2
15. Minnesota 10-2
16. Memphis 11-1
19. Boise State 11-1
20. Appalachian State 11-1
21. Cincinnati 10-2
22. Virginia 9-3
23. Navy 9-2
25. Air Force 10-2
*Difference in points between Utah and Oklahoma gives you an idea of how tight it will be for the CFP folks. Go Utes!!!
--Missouri fired coach Barry Odom after four seasons, the Tigers going 6-6 this year, 25-25 in his tenure. The problem is there's a new athletic director who wants his own man, the fans and donors weren't showing up, and Odom's teams, despite two bowl appearances, never really beat anyone.
--Tennessee wide receiver and special teams player Jauan Jennings, who has a checkered past at the school, stepped on a helmet-less Vanderbilt player's face after the two were forced out of bounds in the closing minutes of Tennessee's 28-10 win.
Jennings tackled Justice Shelton-Mosley on a punt return, which led to a sideline scuffle between the two and several teammates getting involved.
As Jennings stood up, the senior wideout looked the other way and stepped on the face of Shelton-Mosley, whose helmet had been knocked off.
No flags were thrown.
In 2017, Jennings was kicked off the team for a profanity-laced social media rant criticizing the team's coaching personnel, but was later reinstated after the team changed its staff.
It's crap like this that makes it hard to be a fan of the Volunteers.
Tennessee's program is also currently under investigation for the manner in which it has treated its athletics trainers and their handling of injuries, per an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report.
--And lastly, we have the case of the Ole Miss-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving, Mississippi State emerging victorious 21-20 in the 116th Egg Bowl. An otherwise unmemorable game (Mississippi State moving to 6-6, Ole Miss falling to 4-8), will long be remembered for one of the stupidest plays in recent memory.
Mississippi receiver Elijah Moore was penalized for celebrating a touchdown by crawling and pretending to urinate like a dog, a la Odell Beckham Jr., which meant kicker Luke Morgan's extra point attempt to tie it as time expired would be from 35 yards. He missed it. Ole Miss loses.
[The FCS, Div. I-AA, Football Championship is underway, with first-round play this weekend. But it really heats up when the top eight seeds, given byes, enter play next week. North Dakota State, of course, is the #1 seed.]
--Thanksgiving, we had an entertaining opener, the Bears at the Lions, Chicago improving to 6-6 with a 24-20 over Detroit, who fell to 3-8-1. Chicago's Mitch Trubisky had one of his better games, 29/38, 338, 3-1, 118.1, while for the Lions, free-agent rookie David Blough received his first NFL action and had his moments, 22/38, 280, 2-1, 87.6.
But the Bears have zero shot at making the playoffs, and Lions fans haven't seen their team win a playoff game since 1991.
--Buffalo then took on Dallas, and the Bills continued their fine play, playoff bound at 9-3 after a 26-15 win over the struggling Cowboys, who have lost three straight and are now 6-6.
For Buffalo, Josh Allen had a fine game at quarterback, 19/24, 231, 1-0, 120.7, plus another 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Dak Prescott threw for 355 yards and two scores, but he was picked off and lost a fumble.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones is beside himself, but after this one, didn't throw coach Jason Garrettt under the bus.
--New Orleans moved to 10-2 with a 26-18 win at Atlanta (3-9), as your editor was watching an Anthony Bourdain festival on CNN instead. [I am determined to replicate one or two of the meals I saw.]
--So today...goodness gracious, like all Jets fans I was looking forward to our fourth straight win against winless Cincinnati and what do the Jets do every time they begin to tease their fan base? They lay an egg...losing 22-6. What an atrocious effort by Adam Gase's crew, done in by a zillion penalties (10-106) that seemed to negate every decent offensive play we had, with New York having one possession in the red zone the entire game.
I'd ask Johnny Mac for my sword, but I do want want to see Wake's bowl game, and I'm kind of curious if Santa will bring me anything. So I'll commit hari-kari in January.
But then I need to see how my Mets do in shoring up the bullpen, and, you know, I might wait until May, after March Madness and....a tradition unlike any other...The Masters...on CBS.
Hari-kari is complicated when you're a sports fan.
--Well, I watched the entire Jets abomination, and thus caught nothing of Giants-Packers, Green Bay moving to 9-3 with a 31-13 win. But my phanatic Giants fan contact, Newt S., said there were some positive takeaways, even with Daniel Jones' three interceptions. Saquon Barkley at least ran for 83 yards in the snow and sleet at MetLife Stadium, as New York lost its eighth in a row (2-10), longest such streak since 2004.
The conditions were much to Aaron Rodgers' liking as he threw four touchdown passes.
--In the biggie, and in awful weather, Baltimore and Lamar Jackson improved to 10-2 with a 20-17 win over visiting San Francisco, also now 10-2, as Jackson did enough for the win, rushing for 101 yards, throwing for another 105, no turnovers, and the old reliable, Justin Tucker, with a 49-yard field goal as time expired for the win.
But I do have to add, who the heck is Raheem Mostert of the 49ers? He had 146 yards on the ground and a touchdown. [He's a fifth-year back out of Purdue.]
I apologize to the Mostert family. I see he had some decent games early in the season, but with the time difference and all, hey, can't follow everything.
--Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill continued his outstanding play, leading the Titans (7-5) to a 31-17 win over the Colts (6-6). Tannehill was 17/22, 182, 2-0, 131.2, while Derrick Henry rumbled for 149 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown.
--Pittsburgh had a huge win in moving to 7-5, 20-13 in their rematch with Cleveland (5-7), as Devlin "Duck" Hodges was good enough, and the Steelers' 'D' was superb, Baker Mayfield ineffective after slamming his thumb on a helmet.
The Steelers were once 1-4, fans like Jeff B. despondent, but they rediscovered their identity, as every single football commentator has been reminding us of. Hey, it's a formula that has worked rather well over the years. Five sacks today for the boys, who are now in the thick of the wild card hunt.
Which we like here at Bar Chat, because we want the potential for snowy, icy playoff games. The crappier the better. [And I have my longstanding family connections with the Steel City and the surrounding area. In fact, after multiple turkey dinners, I'm ready for veal cutlet and spaetzle.]
--Miami is now 3-9, far from tanking at this point, with a nice 37-31 win over the dismal Eagles (5-7), Ryan Fitzmagic outplaying Senor Wences. [Jerry Jones very happy with this result.]
--And in another game that America couldn't have given a s--- about, Washington is also 3-9 after defeating Carolina (5-7) 29-21. The good story here is running back Derrius Guice, who continues his comeback from injury, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns on just ten carries.
Trust me...you wouldn't want to be around Panthers owner David Tepper tonight. He's a volatile sort and liable to fire every employee down to the janitors.
--In the late games, Kansas City improved to 8-4 with a 40-9 win over Oakland, a probable death knell for the Raiders' playoff hopes. The Chiefs only had 259 yards of offense, but the Raiders turned it over three times, including a pick six, and had a score of penalties.
--The Rams (7-5) stayed in the NFC wild card hunt with a 34-7 win over the Cardinals (3-8-1); Jared Goff with his best game in weeks.
--Summit's Michael Badgley can't be blamed for the Chargers' (4-8) loss to the Broncos (4-8) in Denver, kicking a 46-yard field goal to tie it with 0:14 left.
But aided by a big pass interference call, Denver's Brandon McManus then drilled a 53-yarder for the win, 23-20.
--I'm posting before the Patriots-Texans game, but this week New England signed its fourth kicker on the season, Kai Forbath, who replaces Nick Folk.
Stephen Gostkowski, the kicker since 2006, was placed on injured reserve Oct. 2. He was replaced by Mike Nugent, who was released Oct. 29 after missing three of eight field-goal attempts and one point-after in four games.
Then Nick Folk was hired, connecting on 7-of-9 FGs and all three PATs. But then Folk had an emergency appendectomy and was released.
Enter Forbath, a veteran of four teams, 85.7% career on his field-goal attempts.
--The NFL announced Arizona Cardinals safety Josh Shaw has been suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season for betting on NFL games on multiple occasions this year. Shaw is currently on injured reserve and has been there since injuring his shoulder in the preseason opener.
The league discovered no manipulation of games Shaw played in nor any inside information was used for the games he bet on. In a press release, the league also uncovered no evidence suggesting any awareness by coaches, teammates and players of Shaw's betting.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on the suspension:
"The continued success of the NFL depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league. At the core of this responsibility is the longstanding principle that betting on NFL games, or on any element of a game, puts at risk the integrity of the game, damages public confidence in the NFL, and is forbidden under all circumstances. If you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football."
So the college hoops season was off to a slow start, save for Evansville's upset of then No.1 Kentucky, but after the AP Poll was released Monday afternoon, all hell broke loose.
Monday - Virginia Tech upset 3 Michigan State
Tuesday - Stephen F. Austin shocked No. 1 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Thursday - Iowa beat 12 Texas Tech (last year's national finalist) 72-61; and Michigan prevailed over 6 North Carolina, 73-64.
Friday - Creighton beat Texas Tech, 83-76; and Michigan, again, this time upset 8 Gonzaga, 82-64.
So Michigan beat Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga over consecutive days at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. This is a team that lost their three top scorers off a very good squad last season, as well as the all-time winningest coach at the school, John Beilein. So what a job first-time coach Juwan Howard has done. This is a guy who had never coached for an NCAA program. Next up for Howard's boys is No. 2 Louisville on Tuesday.
Yes, a big shakeup is coming in the polls, with previously unranked Michigan, where? Gotta be top ten.
Meanwhile, Marquette's Markus Howard went off for 40 in a 73-63 win over Davidson, and then the next day had 51 (9 of 17 from three), as the Golden Eagles whipped USC in the second round of the Orlando Invitational.
Howard thus became the first in Big East history with back-to-back 40-point efforts, but he also became just the fourth player in major conference history with back-to-back 40-point nights, the last being Johnny Neumann of Ole Miss in 1970-71. Before that you have Pete Maravich, who did it in two different seasons, and Bob Pettit. [ESPN Stats & Information]
With the 50-point game, Howard joined Wayman Tisdale (Oklahoma, 1982-85) and Maravich (LSU, 1967-70), with a 50-point effort in three consecutive seasons.
Howard is the only Division I player in the past 20 seasons with multiple 50-point games.
Well, Mr. Howard got his comeuppance today, as No. 5 Maryland (8-0 and destined to move up a slot or two in the next AP poll) smothered him in an 84-63 win, Howard with just six points on 1 of 12 shooting from the field. Eegads.
Finally, not for nothing but Wake Forest won its first two games in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim and is squaring off against 14 Arizona in the finale tonight.
Granted, the two wins were against Charleston and Long Beach State, but some guys are beginning to step up. We might go 4-16 in the ACC rather than 2-18. [God, I hate this new 20-game conference schedule.]
--James Harden did it again, scoring a season-high 60 points in 31 minutes Saturday night as the Rockets sent the struggling Hawks to their 10th straight loss, 158-111. 158! Geezuz, that's clownish.
Harden went to the line 23 times, hitting 20, in just three quarters of play.
--The pathetic, unwatchable 4-15 Knicks lost to the 76ers at the Garden 101-95 Friday, the case of New York blowing another big early lead, while hitting 19 of 33 free throws. It's a game like this, or a total blowout, virtually every night.
But what was most disturbing Friday was last year's first-round draft pick, Kevin Knox, never left the bench even though he's perfectly healthy. This is on coach David Fizdale. His sole task is to develop the young talent, of which Knox is supposed to be a key for the future. How can you sit him then, even if Knox has been in a funk of late?
It says a lot about the 20-year-old, though, that he handled the benching well. "I'm a positive person. I'm gonna be ready whenever my name is called. I'm gonna be fine."
But wait...there's more! The Knicks blew another second-half lead, this time against the 14-5 Celtics, 113-104, Fizdale starting Kevin Knox, who was so-so, New York nonetheless 4-16.
--Dallas moved to 13-6 with a nice win against the Lakers (17-3) this afternoon, Luka Doncic with a 27-9-10 stat line, Anthony Davis and LeBron James obviously a little tired, -23 combined in my favorite +/- category, the Mavs stopping L.A.'s 10-game winning streak in the process.
This is a hellatious time of year for the PL. Awesome for fans, awful for players, with a swarm of games to warm the cockles.
Saturday, my Tottenham Spurs won their third straight (all leagues) under new manager Jose Mourinho, 3-2 over Bournemouth; once again the Spurs giving up two late goals to make it interesting. Out of nowhere, Dele Alli, who had seemed on the verge of superstardom two years ago, but has struggled with his play and injuries since, has suddenly been playing lights out under Mourinho, Alli with two goals yesterday.
Also Saturday, Chelsea is now struggling, losing its second straight Premier League match, 1-0 at home to West Ham.
First-place Liverpool beat Brighton 2-1, and in a terrific early contest, Newcastle, with a late equaliser, pulled out a point against Manchester City, 2-2.
Today, Arsenal played at Norwich City, the Gunners having dismissed manager Unai Emery after just 18 months on the job.
Arsenal fans have been in open revolt, their team not winning a league game since early October.
It's that time of year when coaches are vulnerable, the season nearing the midway point, some clubs in danger of being relegated come May, which as you know is deadly for a franchise. Six other managers are said to be in jeopardy, including at Everton, Man U, West Ham, Southampton and Watford.
One guy sitting pretty is former Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino, with all the positions about to open up, including around Europe.
So Arsenal, under interim coach Freddie Ljungberg, managed only a 2-2 draw against 19-place Norwich.
In other games, the Wolves and Sheffield played to a 1-1 draw, while Man U could manage only a draw at home against Aston Villa, 2-2.
But Leicester City, the surprise of the season thus far (as well as Man City's relative poor play), pulled out a huge win, 2-1 over Everton on a stoppage time goal, after a resurgent Jamie Vardy had tied it for the Foxes, making it six straight contests in which he has scored.
So the Premier League standings after 14 of 38....
1. Liverpool...40 points (13-1-0...W-D-L)
2. Leicester City...32
3. Man City...29
4. Chelsea...26...Champions League line...
5. Tottenham...20 (5-5-4...amazing what two straight wins can do in the PL)
6. Wolves...20 (ties broken by goal differential)
9. Man U...18
Earlier this week, on Wednesday in Champions League play, Chelsea had to accept a 2-2 draw at Valencia on a superb late goal from the host team's Daniel Wass (who may have intended to just cross it, but it went in).
So Chelsea now has to win its final contest in group stage to advance to the knockout round, at least to be assured of advancing without help, while defending champion Liverpool, after a lackluster 1-1 draw at home against Napoli, needs a point against Red Bull Salzburg in its final game to move on as well.
Tottenham and Man City have already qualified for the next phase.
--On a different matter, for you younger folk, it would be hard for you to watch a Premier League game and understand that long ago, the fans were basically separated in cages, officials concerned about fights between the two fan bases, and other extracurricular stuff that was prevalent in the old days. But this led to one of the sporting world's worst tragedies.
And so the other day, in Britain's longest running inquest, the police commander in charge of operations at the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium crush that killed 96 Liverpool supporters was found not guilty of manslaughter. Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was in charge of the stadium in Sheffield, northern England, at an FA Cup semi-final match against Nottingham Forest. The victims died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure. Harrowing images of young fans crushed against metal fences, bodies lying on the pitch and spectators using wooden advertising boardings as makeshift stretchers horrified the nation, and the world. I know I vividly remember the news reports.
Police at first blamed the disaster on drunken fans, an explanation that was always rejected by survivors, relatives and the wider Liverpool community who spent years attempting to find out what had happened. Later inquiries absolved the fans of any responsibility.
But this latest verdict was yet another gut punch.
NCAA Men's Division I Soccer Championship
--4-seed Wake Forest advanced to the elite eight, 3-1 over Michigan this afternoon. Next up unseeded UCSB.
No. 1 seed Virginia and 3 Georgetown also are through, while 2 Clemson is playing now against Providence.
--In the women's championship, the semifinals are set...Stanford and UCLA; Washington State and North Carolina...games to be played Friday and then the championship next Sunday in San Jose, Calif.
The women held their first championship in 1982 and North Carolina has won it 21 times, but the last one was in 2012.
--Jason Day announced he had to withdraw from the Presidents Cup due to back issues, which is a blow to Ernie Els' International squad, seeing as Day would have been playing at home and is most familiar with the course, Royal Melbourne. Day said he hurt himself in practice in preparation for the Presidents Cup and the Australian Open.
Els filled Day's spot with Byeong Hun An, the South Korean playing well in the fall season, with three top tens.
The news of Day's withdrawal comes two weeks after Brooks Koepka pulled out due to a knee injury. Rickie Fowler was named to be his replacement.
--Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World 2020/2021:
1. Pine Valley
2. Cypress Point
3. St. Andrews (Old Course)
4. Shinnecock Hills
5. National Golf Links of America (Southampton, N.Y.)
6. Royal County Down
7. Royal Melbourne (West)
9. Augusta National
10. Royal Dornoch (big move up from 15)
11. Pebble Beach
13. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
14. Sand Hills (Mullen, NE)
15. Merion (East)
16. Pinehurst (No. 2)
17. Trump Turnberry (Alisa)
18. Fishers Island (Fishers Island, N.Y.)
20. Los Angeles (North)
36. Lahinch (Old)
--Mikaela Shiffrin did it again today...winning the slalom at Killington, Vt., by a staggering 2.29 seconds over her rival Petro Vlhova. It was the 62nd World Cup win of her career - tied for second on the all-time women's list. Shiffrin is even with the great Annemarie Moser-Proell, and now trails only Lindsey Vonn's 82 wins.
Shiffrin was 3rd yesterday in the giant slalom, so in the first four races of the World Cup campaign, she has two wins in the slalom, and a second and third in the GS.
Folks, it's not supposed to be this easy.
What it is is Tiger Woods in his prime; or Federer, Nadal and Djokovic when they are/were on one of their streaks.
But what Shiffrin is doing is even better because the conditions she is doing her thing in can vary immensely, race to race, far more than with golf, let alone the benign conditions in tennis.
By the way, I'm not writing about the men because after the first four races, once again, no Americans on the podium. Clearly the men's program sucks.
--Back in 2004, a bat Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium in 1923 sold for $1.265 million in 2004, by SCP Auctions.
Now, a bat Ruth used to slug his 500th career home run is up for auction to the highest bidder, and SCP is estimating it to be a "million and up, just to be conservative," SCP president David Kohler said.
Ruth gave the historic No. 500 bat to his friend and former mayor of Suffern, New York, Jim Rice, in the 1940s. Rice's son has stored the bat in a closet until today.
The auction began on Thanksgiving Day and closes on Dec. 14.
Nine of the 20 highest-priced sports memorabilia items sold are attached to Ruth. Brad K. and I are bemoaning that we didn't have any of it passed down to us.
--I was reading a piece by Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times on the lack of African Americans in baseball, and this is kind of staggering. This past season, for the first time since 1946, the season before Jackie Robinson debuted, an African American did not appear in a game for the Dodgers for an entire campaign. [Kenley Janson is from Curacao, in case you were wondering.]
Of the 882 major leaguers on opening day rosters in 2019, 68 were African American, 7.7%. The Angels had four, and their top prospect, outfielder Jo Adell, also is African American.
The percentage of African American players peaked in 1981 at 18.7% and did not dip below 16% untili 1997.
By 2017, 27.4% of major league players were Latin American.
--Finally, we note the passing of composer Irving Burgie, the man responsible for "Day-O," and other popular Caribbean songs.
His death was confirmed by Barbados' prime minister, who called for a moment of silence for the man who wrote its national anthem.
Burgie is best known for helping singer Harry Belafonte bring calypso music to the masses.
"Day-O" has gone on to be used in films, advertisements and sporting events (irritatingly so).
Now I don't have the time to check this 'factoid' out, but Burgie, according to the BBC, "wrote eight of the 11 songs on Belafonte's 1956 album 'Calypso', which was the first album in the U.S. to sell more than a million copies."
Huh! I would have thought one of Sinatra's or Bing Crosby's would have done so, Elvis first hitting the big time in '56 as well. I'll check this out further for next time.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/7/68: #1 "Love Child" (Diana Ross and The Supremes) #2 "Hey Jude" (The Beatles) #3 "For Once In My Life" (Stevie Wonder)...and...#4 "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye) #5 "Who's Making Love" (Johnnie Taylor) #6 "Magic Carpet Ride" (Steppenwolf) #7 "Abraham, Martin and John" (Dion) #8 "Wichita Lineman" (Glen Campbell...in my top ten all-time) #9 "Stormy" (Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost) #10 "Those Were The Days" (Mary Hopkin...superb week, 'A'...)
College Football Quiz Answer: Highest Group of Five school in final AP Poll.
2018 - UCF (No. 11)
2017 - UCF (No. 6...13-0)
2016 - Western Michigan (No. 15)
2015 - Houston (No. 8)
2014 - Boise State (No. 16)
2013 - UCF (No. 10)
Next Bar Chat, Thursday. The CFP rankings and the big final weekend ahead.