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Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC...as of today...
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
World Cup…USA 1 – Iran 0
November 17 I wrote: “One thing I do know. The casual sports fan in America has heard of Christian Pulisic of the U.S., at least faintly. But one big kick from him, one big goal, in these next two weeks and Pulisic becomes a household name and a huge target of Madison Ave.”
And so it was Tuesday that Pulisic came up big, the lone goal in a heart pounding 1-0 triumph over Iran that sent the U.S. into the knockout round and a Saturday morning tussle with the Netherlands, and their breakout star Cody Gakpo.
Pulisic suffered an abdominal injury on the play as he crashed into the Iranian goalkeeper whose leg hit Pulisic in the groin area, after which Pulisic heroically stayed in for the remainder of the first half, but he was then removed and sent to the hospital. Later, he posted that he’ll be on the pitch come Saturday.
But with the U.S. having to protect the lead the entire second half, it got dicey, Iran missing some great opportunities, and the Iranians go home to a very uncertain future, given that their leader and the regime have threatened the families of the team members with imprisonment and torture if the players failed to “behave,” and certainly the players face retaliation for failing to beat the enemy.
With the first two Groups decided…the survivors…
Group A: Netherlands, Senegal
Group B: England, U.S.
England will play Senegal in their knockout round on Sunday.
USMNT coach Gregg Berghalter deserves a ton of credit. While the team doesn’t want to hear it, we accomplished the big goal of getting out of the Group stage.
As an aside, the ratings Tuesday must have been huge. Consider that last Friday, the U.S.-England match drew 15.37 million, peaking at 19.64 million, with FOX saying it was the most-viewed men’s soccer match on U.S. English-language television, topping Italy-Brazil’s 14.51 million average for the 1994 World Cup final.
College Football Playoff Rankings
5. Ohio State
--The first two conference championship games on the schedule are the ones that matter, in terms of determining whether it’s even worth watching the others, save for 22 UCF vs. 18 Tulane and the Group of Five, New Year’s Six berth.
Friday night…11 Utah vs. 4 USC
Saturday noon…10 Kansas State vs. 3 TCU
On the other hand, the ESPN experts act like TCU is a lock regardless of how they do against K-State. So go tap some trees for maple syrup Saturday instead.
--Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell took the head job at Wisconsin. Fickell has been a hot commodity the last few years after guiding the Bearcats to a 57-18 record in his six seasons, 53-10 his last five, turning Cincy into a playoff team last season while helping land them a deal in the Big 12. It was thought Fickell would wait for the Ohio State job or Notre Dame. But Wisconsin? Yes, people are surprised.
--Auburn hired Hugh Freeze to be its next football coach. According to reports, Auburn will owe Liberty approximately $3 million in buyout money for hiring Freeze while he’s still under contract with the Flames. ESPN reported Freeze’s deal is for six years, approximately $6.5 million per.
Freeze had a 34-15 record in four seasons at Liberty. He replaces Bryan Harsin, who was fired Oct. 31, after he compiled a 9-12 record in less than two seasons with the Tigers.
Freeze had a 39-25 record and a 10-3 mark in five seasons at Ole Miss, though multiple wins were later vacated after Freeze was forced to resign in relation to a recruiting scandal involving escort services and the like. Cough cough.
Freeze, after a little break, reemerged at Liberty and has taken them to three straight bowl games.
No word on whether the escorts will help Freeze pick up a few key players through the transfer portal to help jumpstart an Auburn program that went 5-7 this season. “Billy Bob, Tiffany here will show you some of the benefits of being an Auburn Tiger. Now run along you two….”
--How big was Michigan-Ohio State last Saturday? Approximately 17 million watched it, making it the most-watched regular-season college football game since 2011 (some say since 2016, regardless, big time). And it was a Noon start, Eastern.
--Sunday night, Philadelphia moved to 10-1 with a 40-33 victory over Green Bay (4-8) in Philadelphia, and it was an historic performance by the Eagles’ ground game.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 157 yards, a record for an Eagles QB (while also throwing for 153 and two touchdowns), and Miles Sanders carried it 21 times for 143 yards and two scores.
Overall, the Eagles gained 363 yards on the ground, second most in franchise history to the 376 they rushed for against Washington back on Nov. 21, 1948.
Hurts became the first player since at least 1950 with 150-plus rushing and 150-plus passing with multiple touchdown passes in a game as he cemented his front-runner status for NFL MVP.
But just as in the case of the Bears’ Justin Fields, who missed the game against the Jets due to injury, you don’t want your quarterback carrying the ball 17 times (and 16 times the week before). That’s a lot of hits.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, who revealed earlier in the week that he had been playing with a broken thumb, left with an oblique injury that could keep him out the rest of the season, not that it matters for Green Bay, though it gives the coaching staff perhaps an extended time to look at backup Jordan Love, who had a nice 63-yard touchdown pass to Christian Watson.
--The 49ers won their fourth straight to get to 7-4, 13-0 over the Saints (4-8), and San Francisco’s best defense in the league has yielded just 14, 16, 10 and zero points in the four.
--It really is amazing the defending champion Rams are 3-8, but so many injuries including no Matthew Stafford, who remained in concussion protocol this weekend in a loss to the Chiefs.
--I have to note in another late game Sunday the effort of the Raiders’ (4-7) Josh Jacobs, who rushed for a franchise-record 229 yards and two scores, including the game-ending 86-yard touchdown run in overtime as Las Vegas beat Seattle (6-5) 40-34.
Jacobs became the fourth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 300 scrimmage yards (303, including six receptions for 74) and two touchdowns in a game, and the first since Adrian Peterson set the single-game record for rushing yards (296) in 2007. He’s the first player since at least 1950 with at least 225 yards rushing and 70 receiving in the same game.
--How are Denver Broncos fans going to get through the Russell Wilson years? In his first season of a five-year, $242 million contract, they are 3-8 with the worst offense in football.
Actually, at 14.3 points per game, the Broncos are on pace for the fewest scored since the 2000 Browns.
And Denver gave up five draft picks and three players to get him. I saw a writer at The Athletic note it has a chance to be the worst trade in league history, but we will certainly know by end of 2023 if it’s the worst trade in sports history.
I mean the Mets only lost a little over $80,000 in trading Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi after the 1971 season (Fregosi’s 1972 salary). In terms of how well the Mets would have done with Ryan, they made it to the 1973 World Series without him and it’s doubtful he’s the difference the rest of the decade because they were that bad. And after 1979, Ryan signed as a free agent and no doubt would have done the same with the Mets floundering as they were back then.
I’m just trying to offer a new spin on perhaps Baseball’s worst trade, in comparing it to a potential $242 million calamity.
--The Odell Beckham story is immensely boring. The guy is coming off his second ACL injury, suffered in the Super Bowl while with the Rams, hasn’t played all season with anyone as he’s a free agent, no one has seen him run routes in his rehab process, and yet we are supposed to care that Dallas might sign him…and only Dallas would make such a move.
The guy is looking for a multi-year deal which is nuts. He’s 30, coming off the two serious injuries, and he’s a disruptive personality. Be my guest.
Meanwhile, Sunday he was kicked off a flight from Miami to Los Angeles before the plane took off.
Beckham’s attorney, Daniel Davillier, issued a statement:
“Earlier today, Odell Beckham Jr. boarded a morning flight in Miami without any problems. The flight was delayed after boarding and prior to take off. Mr. Beckham fell asleep with his blanket over his head, which is his normal practice for long flights. He was awakened and told that the plane was back at the gate and that he needed to get off the plane because he did not put his seatbelt on when asked.
“He responded that he was asleep, and that he would put his seatbelt on at that time. He was informed that it was too late, and that either he would have to get off the plane or everyone would have to de-plane. The overzealous flight attendant insisted on removing everyone from the plane instead of simply allowing Mr. Beckham to fasten his seatbelt and proceed with the flight.
“At no time was Mr. Beckham disruptive or combative. He was willing to comply with the seatbelt requirement, but the flight attendant wanted to prove that he had the authority to have Mr. Beckham removed from the flight. The airline proceeded to send Mr. Beckham’s luggage to Los Angeles without him.
“The incident was unnecessary. Sleeping on a plane should not be cause for removal from a flight. If they could wake him up when the flight returned to the gate, then they could have done the same thing to ask him to put on his seatbelt.”
I’m guessing, yours truly being a proud graduate of Brayton Elementary School, that Beckham balked at putting his seatbelt on when asked long before they had to go back to the gate.
--Thanksgiving 2022 games had huge ratings. The Bills-Lions opener averaged 31.62 million viewers to make it the most-watched early game on the holiday on record (dating to 1988). It peaked at nearly 42 million viewers.
The three Thanksgiving games averaged a record 33.5 million viewers, the most ever for the holiday, per the NFL.
In 2023, the league and Amazon Prime Video plan to stream a mid-afternoon game on Black Friday.
--On the off chance you need reminding of how the NFL playoffs work these days, because I just needed to remind myself of same….
It’s seven teams in each conference…No. 1 gets a bye, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5….and then No. 1 vs. the low remaining seed.
AP Poll (records thru Sunday)
1. Houston (45) 6-0
2. Texas (8) 5-0
3. Virginia (2) 5-0
4. Arizona 6-0
5. Purdue (8) 6-0
6. Baylor 5-1
7. Creighton 6-1
8. UConn 8-0…up from 20 with wins over Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State
9. Kansas 6-1
10. Indiana 6-0
T-11. Arkansas 5-1
T-11. Alabama 6-1
13. Tennessee 5-1
14. Gonzaga 5-2
15. Auburn 7-0
16. Illinois 5-1
17. Duke 6-2
18. North Carolina 5-2
19. Kentucky 4-2
20. Michigan State 5-2
21. UCLA 5-2
22. Maryland 5-1
23. Iowa State 5-1
24. San Diego State 4-2
25. Ohio State 5-1
Incredibly, Houston is No. 1 for the first time since 1983 and Phil Slama Jama. But as Coach Kelvin Sampson said of the team that has been to a Final Four and Elite Eight the past two seasons, “It’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”
After I posted Sunday, Alabama beat then-No. 1 North Carolina in four overtimes, 103-101, the Tar Heels’ second loss of the week, while then-24 Purdue beat then-8 Duke 75-62, so the two ACC powers plummeted in the rankings.
It’s a bad start for the ACC, similar to last year, but in the end both Duke and UNC made the Final Four and that’s what matters, mused the defender of the conference. Once an ACC guy, always an ACC guy.
Marquette (6-2) then beat 6 Baylor (5-2) on Tuesday, 96-70.
3 Virginia (6-0) beat Michigan (5-2) 70-68, and Wake Forest (7-1) had a terrific win at Wisconsin (5-2) 78-75, as Tyree Appleby, our Florida transfer, went off for 32 points.
--The SEC and ACC announced the formation of a new college basketball event, the ACC/SEC Challenge that will involve both men’s and women’s basketball and feature 28 games annually. The play will begin next season as the SEC bids adieu to its longstanding Big 12/SEC Challenge and the ACC officially ends its challenge series with the Big Ten.
--Sunday after I posted, the Knicks (9-11) fell to the Grizzlies (12-8) at the Garden, 127-123, as Ja Morant had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. Another reminder that Memphis selected him at No. 2 in the first round of the 2019 draft out of Murray State, and the Knicks at No. 3 took RJ Barrett. It’s a nightmare.
One is going to be an all-time great, the other likely not…like highly unlikely.
The Knicks also have a huge problem…the inability to hit the 3-pointer, as in they are dead last in the NBA at 31.6 percent, RJ Barrett at a putrid 26.8 percent, and he takes nearly six a game. [The Lakers and Hornets are at 32.0. Boston is at 40.3*. The league average is 35.5 percent.]
Boston, coincidentally, is 17-4.
Well, the Knicks hit 16 of 35 from downtown, Tuesday, in a 140-110 blowout of the Pistons.
--Brooklyn is at 11-11 after wins over the Trail Blazers and Magic, Sunday and Monday, a climb back after the 2-6 start that cost coach Steve Nash his job, let alone the Kyrie shitshow.
Monday, Kevin Durant went off for 45 on 19 of 24 shooting in a 109-102 defeat of Orlando.
--I wrote earlier in praise of the Atlanta Hawks, who started out 7-3, and now they’re 11-10. As more than one follower of the sport has observed, John Collins is being buried and needs a change of scenery. The former Demon Deacon was one of the young stars of the game averaging 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2019-20, his third season at age 22, and it’s been downhill since, even as he continues to start. His scoring average is just 12.6 this season. But he's in the midst of a huge contract extension paying him $23 million per.
--The Wizards are 11-10 after Monday’s 142-127 win over the T’Wolves (10-11), a game I mention only because Kristaps Porzingis had a career high 41 points, 6 of 10 from three. Twenty-nine of the points were in the first half. I frankly forgot about the former Knick. He’s still just 27.
--So I saw a blurb that Zion Williamson placed himself in rather august company in playing his 100th game (finally). He has the tenth most points in NBA history in his first 100, with all those ahead of him Hall of Famers, which is interesting.
In order…Wilt Chamberlain (3,748 points), Walt Bellamy, Oscar Robertson, Kareem, George Mikan, Rick Barry, Elvin Hayes, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Zion (2,524).
So can Zion stay on the court?
--Slugger Jose Abreu signed a three-year deal with the Astros, adding to a lineup that already has Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena.
Abreu, who turns 36 in January, had a solid 2022, but his power numbers were way down, 15 homers and 75 RBIs, though he hit .304 with an .824 OPS. He replaces Yuli Gurriel who the Astros allowed to become a free agent.
Abreu has the second most RBIs in baseball since he came into the league in 2014, 863, all with the White Sox.
--The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 16 voters for the Contemporary Baseball Era committee that will meet on Sunday in San Diego to vote on a group of eight candidates for Cooperstown.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro of the Steroids Era top the list, along with Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. Voters are limited to no more than three selections, and candidates must receive 12 votes (75 percent) to be elected.
Seven Hall of Famers are on the committee that will cast their votes…Chipper Jones, Ryan Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Frank Thomas, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell. There are also six executives, including Theo Epstein, and three members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes that when Ryne Sandberg gave his Hall of Fame speech in 2005, before he said, “Thank you and go Cubs!”, he offered the following:
“Respect for the game of baseball – when we all played it, it was mandatory. It’s something I hope we will one day see again.”
Ergo, there’s probably one vote against Palmeiro, Bonds and Clemens, certainly at least Palmeiro, who literally the day after Sandberg’s induction was suspended for testing positive for a powerful anabolic steroid. Kepner points out that since 2005, Sandberg hasn’t wavered on his stance.
Frank Thomas also seems to be in the anti-steroid crowd. After all, his average season of about 40 home runs and 120 RBIs was quickly eclipsed.
“Overnight, everybody caught up,” Thomas told USA TODAY in 2014. “My (40-120) wasn’t what it once was. Guys started ramping up, 50 and 60 home runs. They were doing things that were crazy.
And in 2010, after Mark McGwire’s admission of steroid use, Jack Morris told The St. Paul Pioneer-Press that McGwire’s “numbers aren’t legit.”
So that’s at least three votes, you’d think, who are against the Steroid Three, meaning Bonds et al can only afford one other ‘No’ among the other 13.
I’ll say McGriff and Schilling get in.
The Hall of Fame does not reveal the voters’ individual ballots, and committee members are forbidden from sharing details of the meeting.
--The ACC showed up in the NCAA Men’s Soccer championship, three making it to the Elite Eight.
This Friday and Saturday we have….
Pitt vs. Portland; UNCG vs. Indiana; Syracuse vs. Vermont; Duke vs. Creighton.
--Tiger Woods is not playing in the 20-player exhibition he hosts this week, The Hero World Challenge, due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. “After consulting with my doctors and trainers, I have decided to withdraw this week and focus on my hosting duties,” Woods said in his statement on social media Monday.
Tiger said he still plans on competing in the latest installment of “The Match” with Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth on Dec. 10, along with playing with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship the following week.
Sixteen of the top 20 players in the world will attend Woods’ event in the Bahamas.
As for Tiger’s comments on LIV and Greg Norman, and Phil Mickelson’s reply, nothing more needs to be said on the topic, until the next PGA Tour player defects to LIV.
--Borje Salming, the former Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer who became the NHL’s first Swedish star died, he was 71. The Leafs said the cause was ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said in a statement that Salming “blazed a trail that many of the greatest players in NHL history followed while shattering all of the stereotypes about European players that had been prevalent in a league populated almost entirely by North Americans prior to his arrival in 1973.
Salming played in 1,089 regular-season games over 16 years for Toronto, setting a franchise record for most assists (620), while registering the most goals (148), points (768) and playoff points (49) by a defenseman in Leafs history. But his teams never reached the Stanley Cup finals.
--The New Jersey Devils continue to roll, 19-4-0, after a 5-3 win over the struggling Rangers (10-9-4) on Monday night. I can’t believe my team is playing so poorly. Rangers fans are apoplectic and on the verge of rioting.
Boston is 19-3-0.
--Alex Ovechkin had two goals Tuesday in the Capitals’ 3-1 win over the Canucks, giving him 13 on the season, 793 for his career, eight behind Gordie Howe’s 801 for second all time.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m. The final CFP Rankings.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
[Posted early Sunday p.m. before late football games]
NCAA Football Quiz / 1972 USC Trojans: This edition, 12-0, consensus national champions, was one of the great college football teams of all time. 1) Who was the prime quarterback? 2) Name the three leading rushers. 3) Name the three leading receivers. 4) Who was head coach? Answers below.
College Football Review
[Comments written prior to latest AP poll…rankings CFP]
Some things always have a way of working themselves out and such is the College Football Playoffs, as we got real clarity after this weekend.
It’s Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC…assuming TCU and USC win their conference championship contests.
The CFP will have Ohio State No. 5 and Alabama No. 6. Ohio State can back in if TCU or USC loses, and out of nowhere, Bama would too if both TCU and USC lose.
So yesterday, in the latest Game of the Decade, Century, Millennium, No. 2 Ohio State held a 20-17 halftime lead over 3 Michigan in one of the more bizarre halves of football you ever saw. The Buckeyes had a 16-4 first down advantage, but the Wolverines’ J.J. McCarthy and Cornelius Johnson hooked up on two long touchdown passes of 69 and 75 yards, just two minutes apart. Michigan was held to only 10 yards rushing after Heisman candidate Blake Corum gave it a go but had to take himself out due to his knee injury.
This set up what was going to be a fascinating second half, only it turned out to be in the way Michigan annihilated OSU, 28-3, as the Wolverines’ running game ran all over the Buckeyes to the tune of 242 second-half yards, 205 from Donovan Edwards, including fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 75 and 85 yards, Edwards 21-216-2 overall.
Final score 45-23.
J.J. McCarthy finished 12/24, 263, 3-0, and for all the questioning of his ability and all the overthrown passes, the kid has 17 touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Heisman candidate, C.J. Stroud, was very ordinary and blew his shot at the hardware (which is going to USC’s Caleb Williams), Stroud 31/49, 349, 2-2.
For the second straight year, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan (12-0) blew out Ryan Day and Ohio State (11-1) and as crazy as it may sound, Day’s job is in serious jeopardy. You just can’t fall to Michigan in consecutive seasons, especially with all that was at stake.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Georgia (12-0) got off to a slow start against Georgia Tech (5-7), ahead just 10-7 at the half before rolling 37-14, holding GT to 68 second-half yards.
But the line on this one, -36.5 (ESPN), was one of the worst lines in the history of sports. Everyone knew Georgia Tech, after a great win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill the week before, was going to cover, so the smart kids in Atlanta are partying all holiday season after convincing their parents to lay $thousands for them on their team.
Georgia is facing 5 LSU in the SEC title game…that is LSU was No. 5, prior to losing to Texas A&M (5-7) 38-23, a major choke job by Brian Kelly and his crew. So you can blow off the SEC Championship as it is totally meaningless…the Bulldogs are in the CFP regardless.
4 TCU assured its place in the Big 12 title game at 12-0 by mauling Iowa State (4-8) 62-14, the Horned Frogs returning two interceptions for touchdowns.
TCU will now face 12 Kansas State (9-3), 47-27 winners over Kansas (6-6), the Wildcats certainly with a shot at pulling off the upset next Saturday. Regardless, KSU is New Year’s Six bound.
Which brings us to the Pac-12, where 6 USC (11-1), combined with the Ohio State and LSU losses, put itself in the fourth playoff spot (of course the CFP will on Tuesday) with a 38-27 win over 15 Notre Dame (8-4), who saw its New Year’s Six hopes go out the window.
Your Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, locked it up with a stellar performance, 18/22, 232, 1-0, along with three touchdowns rushing (9-35-3), while Austin Jones ran for 154 yards on 25 carries. Since Travis Dye went out with an injury, Jones has picked up the ball and, err, run with it, the Trojans not missing a beat. As coach Lincoln Riley put it, that’s when you know you have a running game.
[Speaking of Riley, who is Coach of the Year, Riley or TCU’s Sonny Dykes?]
USC goes up against 14 Utah for the Pac-12 Championship next Friday night, the Utes (9-3) with an earlier 43-42 win over the Trojans.
Lastly, in terms of the CFP, 7 Alabama stayed relevant, now 10-2, with a solid 49-27 win over Auburn (5-7) in the Iron Bowl.
This as 8 Clemson (10-2) sealed its fate in losing to South Carolina (8-4), 31-30, as Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei was a sickening 8 of 29 passing, 99 yards, and an interception, while the Tigers had two horrendous fumbles, including a huge one with 2:00 to play on a punt return.
Good for South Carolina, which you’ll recall beat then-No. 5 Tennessee last weekend. There’s a lot of crowin’ goin’ on in Columbia, S.C. Cock-a-Doodle-Dooo!
And now, just as the SEC title game can safely be skipped, ditto the ACC championship tilt between Clemson and 17 North Carolina.
Well, they were the 17 Tar Heels, until they lost on Friday to North Carolina State (8-4) 30-27, UNC’s Drake Maye just so-so for a second consecutive week as Carolina fell to 9-3.
The one thing that the ACC Championship is for, though, is a New Year’s Six Orange Bowl bid.
In the Group of Five, New Year’s Six contest, next week it will be 19 Tulane (10-2) against 22 UCF (9-3) for the AAC title and the Group of Five berth.
Friday, Tulane defeated Cincinnati (9-3) 27-24, while yesterday, UCF was beating South Florida 1-11), 46-39, in a game that ended up being a nailbiter for the Knights after they blew a 31-7 lead, only to need a late spectacular touchdown catch for the win by Alec Holler.
In other games of note….
9 Oregon (9-3) fell to 21 Oregon State (9-3) in the Civil War, 38-34, a highly entertaining affair, with the Ducks stupidly going for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 29 with about 9:40 left and getting stopped, after which the Beavers took it in for the deciding score.
The Beaverwear in my sports drawer was all over the Duckwear last evening, getting a bit violent in the process, collars stretched and the like.
10 Tennessee (10-2) is certainly in line for a New Year’s Six bowl after blowing out Vanderbilt (5-7) 56-0. The Vols, playing without star QB Hendon Hooker, rushed for 362 yards on 31 carries and six touchdowns.
11 Penn State (10-2) kept alive its New Year’s Six hopes with a 35-16 win over Michigan State (5-7).
13 Washington moved to 10-2 after a 51-35 victory at Washington State (7-5).
Friday, 16 Florida State improved to 9-3, 45-38 over Florida (6-6).
Also Friday, 18 UCLA secured coach Chip Kelly his first nine-win season in L.A., 9-3, as the Bruins beat California (4-8) 35-28.
In the ACC, Pitt (8-4) will make for a fun bowl team after a 42-16 win at Miami (5-7), while Syracuse is 7-5 with a 32-23 win at Boston College (3-9).
Johnny Mac’s Coastal Carolina (9-2) laid an egg in losing to James Madison (8-3) 47-7, but the Chants still play in the Sun Belt Championship game against Troy.
Locally, Maryland (7-5) embarrassed Rutgers (4-8, 1-8) 37-0, the Scarlet Knights showing absolutely zero progress in Greg Schiano’s third year of his second stint in Piscataway.
In the FCS Division I-AA playoffs, New Hampshire (9-3) beat Fordham (9-3) 52-42, while Richmond (9-3) rolled over Davidson (8-4) 41-0. Delaware blasted St. Francis (PA) 56-17.
For New Hampshire, running back Dylan Laube had himself a day…29 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns, with four receptions for 127 more and a score.
[Next week…New Hampshire takes on #8 Holy Cross, while Richmond travels west to play #2 Sacramento State. Delaware will be at #1 South Dakota State.]
So you might be wondering why I waited until the end to talk about my Wake Forest Demon Deacons. It’s because I’m so pissed…once again waking up in the middle of the night going through the entire season all over again.
The “Special Season,” that turned into a bust of epic proportions, the Deacs losing another tough one, 34-31 to Duke (8-4), as Wake fell to 7-5 and is headed to a very minor bowl game.
Sam Hartman threw three touchdown passes to match Tahj Boyd at 107 for the all-time ACC lead, and as he announced he will play in the bowl game, he’ll no doubt own the mark all by himself, but what will it really mean?
Wake had everything going for it this season, virtually all the key skill players returning, a veteran offensive line, some studs on defense, a spring No. 8 ranking from Sports Illustrated and a preseason AP Top 25.
Even after losing a game it should have won at home against Clemson, 51-45 in overtime, the Deacs later found themselves 6-1, ranked 10th. And then it all fell apart.
Up 14-7 at the half in Louisville, the Deacs got literally rolled in the second half and fell 48-21 in a stunning collapse, six turnovers in the third quarter, all on Hartman, eight in all. The Deacs were shellshocked.
Then they lost at North Carolina State, 30-21, another game all on Hartman, three more interceptions.
Then they lost to North Carolina at home, 36-34, in a game they were leading heading to the fourth, Hartman again coming up small in the clutch.
After a win against Syracuse stopped the bleeding, Sam Hartman just needed to make one first down to secure the win at Duke, and Wake again choked, Duke and their talented QB, Riley Leonard, having a career day with 391 yards and four touchdowns. [Congrats to Duke’s first-year coach Mike Elko for a helluva job with the Blue Devils.]
--Thursday night, the storyline heading into the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl was that Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin would be leaving to take the Auburn job.
But after the Rebels lost to the Bulldogs 24-22, both teams finishing 8-4, 4-4, Kiffin said he would be returning and it was confirmed Saturday he has inked a new contract extension with Ole Miss. Great for the program.
In three seasons in Oxford, Kiffin is 23-12. But this year they started out 7-0 and were ranked 7th in the AP before stumbling badly down the stretch.
Meanwhile, for Mississippi State, quarterback Will Rogers, who threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns, regaled the crowd with some good old American humor and political witticisms at halftime.
--Nebraska has named Matt Rhule as its new football coach, signing him to an 8-year contract.
Rhule was recently fired by the Carolina Panthers, but previously had successful stints at Temple and Baylor
Rhule was less than three seasons into his 7-year, $62 million deal with the Panthers when he was fired after starting the season 1-4. Overall, he was 11-27 with Carolina.
At Temple, however, the Owls went 10-2 in his third season, and a year later he led the program to its first conference championship since 1967.
Then at Baylor, just years after going 1-11 in his first season, Rhule led the Bears to an 11-3 record in 2020, after which the Panthers hired him.
This seems like a good move by the Cornhuskers.
--David Shaw stepped down Saturday after 12 seasons at his alma mater, Stanford, following a 36-25 loss to BYU in the season finale.
Shaw, 50, said he had not considered resigning until earlier this week, and said he has no desire to coach another team at this point.
“I am not burnt out,” he said. “I’m healthy; I feel good. But 16 years is a long time. …16 years of running a program, 16 years of being responsible for everything and everybody catches up to you.”
Shaw steps down as the winningest coach in Stanford history with 96 career victories. But his resignation comes after back-to-back 3-9 seasons and a stretch since 2019 where the Cardinal have gone 14-28.
Stanford is 3-16 in Pac-12 play the past two seasons, including consecutive losses to rival California, who blows.
Shaw has been part of Stanford’s coaching staff since 2007, before being promoted to the head coaching job in 2011 after Jim Harbaugh departed for the NFL. During his first four seasons, he led Stanford to three Rose Bowls, including two victories, as well as three Pac-12 titles – and four Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards – during that span.
Shaw acknowledged that the transfer portal “will be very enticing” to current Stanford players upon his departure.
As in the over/under for Stanford next season should be like ‘two.’ I’m not sure I’d want this job…though everyone has a price.
--Seven Michigan State football players are being charged with crimes stemming from the assault on two Wolverines players in Michigan Stadium’s tunnel after the two teams played on Oct. 29, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday.
Defensive back Khary Crump is being charged with felonious assault after video was released showing Crump striking Michigan defensive back Gemon Green with his helmet. Defensive end Jacoby Windmon was also shown in the video and is charged with one count of assault and battery.
The other five are all being charged with aggravated assault, as video showed a mass of players surrounding Michigan defensive back Ja’Den McBurrows, hitting and kicking him while he was on the ground.
All seven had been suspended by Michigan State. An eighth player who was suspended was not charged with a crime.
The family of Gemon Green told ESPN they plan to pursue charges against those involved.
--And now…the new AP Poll!
1. Georgia (58) 12-0
2. Michigan (5) 12-0
3. TCU 12-0
4. USC 11-1
5. Ohio State 11-1
6. Alabama 10-2
7. Tennessee 10-2
8. Penn State 10-2
9. Washington 10-2
10. Clemson 10-2
11. LSU 9-3
12. Utah 9-3
13. Kansas State 9-3
14. Florida State 9-3
15. Oregon 9-3
16. Oregon State 9-3
17. UCLA 9-3
18. Tulane 9-3
19. Notre Dame 8-4
20. South Carolina 8-4
21. Texas 8-4
22. UCF 9-3
23. UTSA 10-2*
24. North Carolina 9-3
25. Mississippi State 8-4
*UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) became an FBS school in 2012. Last season they were Conference USA champs and peaked at No. 15 and are heading to a second straight C-USA title game.
Ole Miss fell out of the rankings. Like with Wake, a very disappointing ending to the season. The Rebels were No. 7 at 7-0.
In the opener, a much-improved Lions (4-8) suffered a heartbreaking 28-25 loss to the Bills (8-3), and Summit’s Michael Badgley played a big role…good and bad.
With Detroit playing inspired football but trailing 19-14 in the third quarter, announcer Jim Nantz laid a curse on Badgley as he lined up for a 29-yard field goal to cut it to 19-17, noting he hadn’t missed a kick all season, whereupon he proceeded to pull it badly to the left. It was Badgley’s first miss inside 30 of his career (26-26 prior) and consider he was also 20 of 21 from 30-39…so just his second miss inside 40.
I felt so badly for the lad, but then with 0:23 left and the Bills up 25-22, Badgley booted a 51-yarder to tie it, a huge moment.
But that proved to be too much time for Josh Allen and Buffalo as he guided them 48 yards in four plays, including a 36-yard seed to Stefon Diggs that was a thing of beauty. Tyler Bass, who had missed an extra point, then drilled a 45-yarder for the critical road win.
Oh, the life of a kicker. It ain’t easy.
The Cowboys moved to 8-3 with a 28-20 win over the Giants (7-4), New York with a late touchdown to beat the 10-point spread but with big issues in their quest for the playoffs. Saquon Barkley was held to 39 yards on 11 carries, after a 15-for-22-yard performance last Sunday against the Lions. Quarterback Daniel Jones was so-so again. If Brian Daboll and crew are to turn things around, these two must step up. What was a stunning 6-1 start is now a season on the brink, no margin for error when it comes to getting into the postseason.
For Dallas, Dak Prescott overcame two first-half interceptions and a 13-7 halftime deficit to throw a pair of TD passes in the second half, both to Dalton Schultz, as the Cowboys scored 21 unanswered. CeeDee Lamb had six receptions for 106 yards, while Ezekiel Elliott had a season-high 92 yards on the ground.
On defense, Micah Parsons had two sacks, his sixth multi-sack game already this season. [But it’s ‘two’ or none for him…12 sacks overall.]
Thursday night, the Vikings rebounded from their humiliating 40-3 loss to Dallas last Sunday with a 33-26 win over the Patriots (6-5), Kirk Cousins (30/37, 299, 3-1, 116.1) rallying the Vikes (9-2) to 10 fourth-quarter points for the win, All-World receiver Justin Jefferson with nine more receptions, 139 yards and a score.
Jefferson passed Randy Moss for most receiving yards ever in a player’s first three seasons, 4,248. With six games left this season, he has 1,232 yards already.
--About four hours after I posted my Add-on Wednesday morning, New York Jets coach Robert Saleh pulled the trigger and benched Zach Wilson.
Wilson, who had been such a jerk and brat after last Sunday’s loss to New England, seemed to have been given a talking to by his father after his dad saw Wilson’s post-game remarks and Zach apologized to his teammates after learning of the benching.
Addressing his poor choice of words and his poor play, Wilson said “I just wanted to make this thing right. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, just the way that I handled things. And it was, it is not what a leader should do, and especially the quarterback of the football team in that situation. It is not the way to handle it.”
Wilson told reporters Wednesday that he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the benching, “because I haven’t been doing my job.”
So smart move by Wilson.
In the meantime, Mike White was named starter, with Joe Flacco as backup. And he was Magic Mike today…22/28, 315, 3-0, a near-perfect 149.3, as the Jets won 31-10 over the Bears (3-9) at MetLife Stadium in the rain.
It was a terrific total team effort…the exact response Saleh and his coaching staff were looking for. Garrett Wilson had five receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns, Elijah Moore emerged out of the wilderness to catch two for 64 and a score. Rookie Zonovan Knight had his first carries of the year and responded with 69 yards on 14 attempts. The defense held Chicago to 292 yards.
And the Jets are 7-4. Yes, the Bears were without Justin Fields, who is a battered QB after all he has been called on to do this season, including 122 carries. Rather predictable…and I did so a few weeks ago.
Us Jets fans need to temper our enthusiasm, however, as we have road games at Minnesota and Buffalo the next two.
--Miami is 8-3 after cruising 30-15 over the lowly Texans (1-9-1), the Dolphins up 30-0 at the half.
--The Browns (4-7) upset the Bucs (5-6) 23-17 in overtime, Nick Chubb (26-116-1) with the TD in OT. Tom Brady and Cleveland’s Jacoby Brissett were hardly terrific, and the Bucs were awful in their clock management after Cleveland tied it in regulation with 0:32 left on a terrific David Njoku reception.
--Cincinnati is 7-4 following a 20-16 win over Tennessee, also 7-4. The Bengals’ defense held Derrick Henry to just 38 yards on 17 carries, though Henry had three receptions for 79, including a 69-yard scamper.
Cincy, defending AFC champs, started 0-2 and 4-4, but has now won three in a row.
--Washington is very much in the playoff hunt after a 19-13 win over Atlanta (5-7). The Commanders were 1-4 but have won six of seven to get to 7-5.
In a bizarre twist of the schedule, they have back-to-back games coming up against the Giants, with a bye week in between. Next Sunday is on the road in the Meadowlands, which is really beautiful this time of year. [The Giants face the Eagles in between.]
--In a contest only 42,687 people in the entire country gave a damn about, Carolina improved to 4-8 with a 23-10 win over the Broncos (3-8) in Charlotte.
Sam Darnold got the start over Baker Mayfield (and P.J. Walker) and was effective, but it was more about the Panthers’ ground game, which picked up 185 yards, led by D’Onta Foreman’s 113.
What a disaster for Russell Wilson.
I can’t believe I just wrote that much about this one.
--We’re going to see another huge shakeup in the AP Top 25 when it is released Monday. With all the Thanksgiving holiday tournaments around the country and in the Caribbean, we’ve had a plethora of top 25 matchups.
Going back to Wednesday, 14 Arizona (6-0) beat 10 Creighton (6-1) 81-79 in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, which may preclude the Bluejays moving up further after they had beaten 21 Texas Tech and 9 Arkansas in the same event, while the Wildcats will no doubt be top ten given the following.
Thursday, 18 Alabama beat 12 Michigan State 81-70, while 3 Kansas barely beat Wisconsin in overtime, 69-68.
Friday, Iowa State (5-0) then stunned No. 1 North Carolina (5-1) 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon. Caleb Grill, averaging 7.7 points going in, hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points for the Cyclones as ISU picked up its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 in the school’s history.
[Iowa State has St. Bonaventure transfers Jaren Holmes and center Osun Osunniyi, Holmes with 22 against UNC.]
But if you’ve followed the Tar Heels early on, they haven’t exactly been blowing people out, like a 6-point win over Gardner Webb and an 8-point victory over Portland in this same event.
And with Kansas having struggled on Thursday, it should have been no surprise that 22 Tennessee (5-1) upset the Jayhawks (6-1) on Friday, 64-50.
Also Friday, 24 Purdue (5-0) beat 6 Gonzaga (4-2) 84-66, 7’4” Zach Edey with 23 for the Boilermakers. And 20 UConn (7-0) beat 18 Alabama 82-67.
Saturday, 2 Houston (6-0) beat Kent State (5-2) 49-44…yes, 49-44.
And in Wake Forest’s (6-1) defeat of Hampton (1-5), the Deacs’ Cameron Hildreth had a triple-double, a rarity in the college game (and just the third in Wake history), 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. I keep thinking this second-year player from Britain isn’t going to be much more than a solid reserve, but he really is vastly improved from last season.
Wake has a huge test at Wisconsin on Tuesday and then Clemson on the road, so us fans will learn a lot about our team this week. [And then LSU and Appalachian State at home the following week.]
--The United States played to a 0-0 draw against England on Friday, setting up a must-win game against Iran in its Group B finale, which is delicious geopolitically. Iran beat Wales 2-0 earlier in the day, after the Iranians had been blitzed by England 6-2 in their opener.
So Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. ET, Iran-USA…we have to win it to advance to the knockout stage and call the tournament a success.
But I was very proud of our boys (the third-youngest team in the event) and their effort Friday and Christian Pulisic just barely missed a goal, hitting the crossbar, that would have made him famous, instead of someone who casual sports fans are ‘aware’ of. So close to that magical moment. Hopefully he has one versus Iran. [Manchester United is trying to find a way to pick up Pulisic ‘on loan’ from Chelsea in the January transfer window.]
Meanwhile, if you’re an England fan, you are very disappointed but are virtually assured of moving on.
In other scores of note since I last posted.
Wednesday, Japan pulled off a huge upset over Germany 2-1, while Belgium held on against Canada 1-0.
Thursday, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in five World Cups as Portugal held off a plucky Ghana, 3-2. Uruguay and South Korea played to a 0-0 draw. And Brazil beat Serbia 2-0, but in this one the Brazilians lost one of their big stars, Neymar, at least for the Group stage.
Friday, Ecuador stayed in the hunt to move with a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands.
Saturday, France beat Denmark 2-1; Argentina bounced back with a 2-0 win over Mexico as Lionel Messi scored and assisted on the other; and Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0.
Sunday, Costa Rica shocked Japan 1-0; and Morocco stunned Belgium 2-0. And then Spain and Germany played to a 1-1 draw. Germany’s hopes of moving on are not great, but it’s doable. They must beat Costa Rica and have Japan lose to Spain.
We’ve already had four titanic upsets. Now this week is about being in the top two in your Group to reach the knockout round.
--The Angels are for sale, but owner Arte Moreno isn’t trading Shohei Ohtani, and seems to be going for it, signing pitcher Tyler Anderson, trading for solid infielder Gio Urshela, and then acquiring slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
Now we’ll see what kind of start they get off to, and hopefully Mike Trout has an injury-free spring. Gosh darnit, it’s time the Angels, Trout and Ohtani got into the playoffs. It would be good for baseball.
--Not good for the game is Bryce Harper undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, which will keep him out it seems until the All-Star break, after which he’d be able to DH, and then maybe play the outfield again by the end of the regular season.
Harper tore his UCL in April, and it prevented him from playing in the field the rest of the season, but you saw what he did at the plate come end of the year and the postseason.
--The Winter League meetings started this afternoon. Expect movement on the likes of Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom soon.
--The Astros split their World Series winning share of $38.7 million (out of a total player pool of $107.5 million, a record) into 59 full shares, 14.14 partial shares and $940,000 in cash awards.
A full share totaled $516,347.
Imagine being a clubhouse guy and getting $50,000…or more…I have no idea.
--In Women’s FIS World Cup Alpine Skiing, Mikaela Shiffrin won two slaloms last weekend in Levi, Finland (sorry I missed this), giving her 76 titles, second only to Lindsey Vonn’s 82.
The circuit came to Killington, Vermont, this weekend and Lara Gut-Behrani took the giant slalom, while Wendy Holdener and Anna Swenn-Larsson tied for first in the slalom, Shiffrin a disappointing fifth after leading after the first run. She had won five straight times at Killington.
For Switzerland’s Holdener, it was her first win in the slalom after, get this, 30 podium finishes in the event, a record for a single discipline. Wow. Good for her. Needless to say, she was psyched after.
--New Jersey Devils fans went nuts on Wednesday night as their team lost 2-1 to the Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center.
The problem was in the third period, New Jersey had had three goals disallowed, one in each period (outside observers said the correct call was made on all three), which for someone in attendance would have been a bit too much to handle when you were trying to set a new franchise record with your 14th win a row.
Two of the disallowed goals were for goaltender interference, and the third – and most controversial – was nixed because Devils forward Erik Haula supposedly kicked the puck into the net.
So by the end, fans were throwing Bud Lights, t-shirts, hot dogs, you name it, onto the ice. “Ref you suck!” reverberated through the arena.
--With some late action tonight in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, I’ll have the Elite Eight in my Add-on, but I can tell you one result…Vermont moves on, beating UCLA. Very cool.
--We note the passing of Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Irene Cara, at the all-too-early age of 63. Her publicist said a cause of death was “currently unknown.” She died at her home in Florida, but the exact day of her death was not disclosed.
During her career, Cara had three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100; “Breakdance,” “Fame” and “Flashdance…What A Feeling,” which spent six weeks at No. 1 and was from 1983’s “Flashdance.”
Cara first came to prominence among the young actors playing performing arts high schoolers in Alan Parker’s “Fame,” with co-stars Debbie Allen, Paul McCraine and Anne Mear.
“How bright our spirits go shooting out into space, depends on how much we contributed to the earthly brilliance of this world. And I mean to be a major contributor!” she says in the movie.
Cara sang on the title song
Three years later, she and the songwriting team of “Flashdance” was accepting the Oscar for best original song for “Flashdance…What a Feeling.”
The movie starred Jennifer Beals as a steel-town girl who dances in a bar at night and hopes to attend a prestigious dance conservatory. It included the hit song “Maniac,” featuring Beals’ character leaping, spinning, stomping her feet and looking rather sexy.
--I’m a Kenny Chesney fan, though after seeing him twice I don’t need to see him again. That said, I couldn’t help but look at his 2023 concert schedule and had to smile when I saw, May 27 at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.
I’ve been there and love this place, home to one of the world’s great bars, the Flora-Bama Lounge on the border with Florida, though The Wharf is a different venue up the road.
I have a hankering to go back to Orange Beach, the Redneck Riviera.
--So I saw a blurb this morning that Louis Armstrong has a new Christmas CD that is rocketing up the charts! “Louis Wishes You a Cool Yule” comes more than 50 years after his death.
“Cool Yule” features “White Christmas,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Winter Wonderland” and “What a Wonderful World.”
Well, I just ordered a bunch for the family from Amazon so if you find there is a delay in receiving your copy, it’s because of me…I tend to buy things in bulk.
Top 3 songs for the week 11/26/66: #1 “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (The Supremes) #2 “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys) #3 “Winchester Cathedral” (The New Vaudeville Band)…and…#4 “Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly” (Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels) #5 “Poor Side Of Town” (Johnny Rivers) #6 “I’m Your Puppet” (James & Bobby Purify) #7 “Last Train To Clarksville” (The Monkees) #8 “Lady Godiva” (Peter and Gordon) #9 “Mellow Yellow” (Donovan) #10 “Born Free” (Roger Williams…A- week…)
NCAA Football Quiz Answers: 1) The prime quarterback of the 1972 USC Trojans was Mike Rae, who wasn’t that great statistically, just five touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Pat Haden played some, with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 2) Rushing: Anthony Davis was the star, rushing for 1,191 yards, a 5.8 average, 17 touchdowns. Rod McNeill rushed for 567 yards, 4.3 avg., and 7 touchdowns; and Sam Cunningham had just 349 yards, 3.4 average, but 13 touchdowns. 3) Receiving: Lynn Swann caught 27 passes for 543 yards, a 20.1 avg., 3 TDs; Tight end Charles Young was a stud, 29-470, 16.2; and J.K. McKay caught 26 for 342 yards and four scores. 4) J.K. was the son of head coach John McKay.
Anthony Davis is best known for his six-touchdown performance* against Notre Dame, Dec. 2, 1972, the Trojans then rolling over then-No. 3 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, 42-17, as USC finished 12-0 and received all 50 first-place votes in the final AP Poll.
*Including two kickoff returns over 90 yards. Davis had 368 yards (218 on returns, 99 rushing, 51 receiving). He then had 157 yards rushing in the Rose Bowl.
How good were they? The Trojans never once trailed in the fourth quarter, opting instead to demolish opponents by an average of nearly four touchdowns per game.
Davis, aka A.D., was not the Heisman Trophy winner that year…it was Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed. The CFP rankings….