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AP Top 25 Takeaways: Ohio State’s Day will face doubters now

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-michigan-ohio-f200d13c61ff20dcdcc8953d6bc8a113

Welcome to Jim Harbaugh’s previous life, Ryan Day.

This is the way things go at the top of college football’s food chain. If you can’t win the most important game on your schedule, there will be questions about whether you are the right man for the job.

For the second straight season, Harbaugh’s Michigan team pummeled Day and Ohio State.

Day is 45-5 at Ohio State as Urban Meyer’s replacement, but 1-2 against Michigan.

“We’ll figure out what’s next. I don’t know exactly what’s next right now, but that’s life at Ohio State,” Day told reporters. “When you lose, it all comes back to me as head coach. And that’s probably what hurts the most.”

What probably hurts most for Ohio State fans is The Game played out in a way that was supposed to be to the second-ranked Buckeyes’ advantage, a back-and-forth affair where the quarterbacks needed to be difference-makers.

The third-ranked Wolverines transformed themselves from ground-and-pound into a big-play machine, ripping off five touchdowns that covered a total of 349 yards.

Meanwhile, Day was punting on fourth-and-short from around midfield.

“In games like that, you have to play the field position game.” Day said. “I just feel like you’re not in those situations if you’re converting on third downs.”

Ohio State was 5 for 16 on third down.

Under Day, Ohio State has become a quarterback and wide receiver factory. C.J. Stroud will almost certainly become the third straight Buckeyes passer to be a first-round draft pick next April.

Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best receiver in the country. He is part of a room-full of blue chippers that produced two first-round picks in the last draft.

The talent doesn’t stop there. According to 247 Sports composite rankings based on recruiting stars, Ohio State has the third-most talented roster in college football behind Georgia and Alabama.

Michigan? No. 14.

So, of course, it must be the coaching? And whether it truly is the coaching is not the point. Michigan (12-0) planted its flag right in the middle of Ohio State’s block “O” at the 50-yard line after the game. Somebody in Columbus is going to be held responsible for letting that happen.

Meyer never lost to the Wolverines. Before that it was Jim Tressel who flipped the rivalry the Buckeyes’ way, going 9-1 against Michigan.

Ohio State fans have grown accustomed to the dominance over That Team Up North.

When Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from the NFL as a potential savior for his alma mater’s wayward football program, Wolverines fans hoped he could change their fortunes in The Game.

Instead, Harbaugh went 0-5. No matter that he rebuilt the program and pulled Michigan out of its greatest depths. At the top of his resume: Can’t beat Ohio State. And he was pilloried for it.

Not anymore. Michigan might not be the more talented team, but it certainly looks like the tougher team, the team that better handles adversity.

“This is a spiritual team,” Harbaugh said. “They’re happy. They’re celebrating, but they see bigger things.”

Next week, the Big Ten championship against Purdue awaits. Win that and Michigan makes its second straight College Football Playoff.

There’s still a chance the Buckeyes can back into the CFP and maybe find redemption there. The selection committee seems to be running out of good options after Clemson also lost on Saturday.

This is not what Ohio State had in mind. Last season, after the defense melted down in big spots, Day took those Buckeyes bucks and lured coordinator Jim Knowles away from Oklahoma State to fix it.

Didn’t work. At least not when it counted most.

So now Day, a coach with a mountain of accomplishments and a more than $9 million annual salary, is the one being judged for his failures and getting compared to former Buckeyes coach John Cooper.

Cooper is a Hall of Famer, but for Ohio State fans he is mostly remembered for this: 2-10-1 against Michigan.

HAND HIM THE HEISMAN

After a second straight brilliant performance on a big stage, Caleb Williams has the Heisman Trophy within his grasp.

USC’s quarterback ran for three scores, made several amazing escapes, and even dropped a Heisman pose as the Trojans beat No. 13 Notre Dame.

“My teammates told me to do it and I did it after one of the touchdowns,” Williams said of flashing that familiar stiff arm.

The victory makes USC’s path to the playoff straightforward. If the Trojans win the Pac-12 championship game, they’re in. From 4-8 to 11-1 in coach Lincoln Riley’s first season.

USC’s opponent is still to be determined after an epic meltdown by No. 10 Oregon at No. 22 Oregon kept the Ducks from clinching their spot in the title game.

It could be No. 14 Utah next week in Las Vegas. The Utes are the only team to beat USC, a one-point decision in Salt Lake City. Could still be Oregon if Washington State were to upset No. 12 Washington in the Apple Cup late Saturday night.

Either way it’s hard to see the Heisman going to anybody but Williams.

He would be the eighth USC player to win the Heisman and first since Reggie Bush in 2005.

He would also be the third Riley quarterback to win the award, joining Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray at Oklahoma.

“He was awesome tonight,” Riley said of Williams. “He can beat you in so many ways.”

Williams followed Riley to USC and together they have made Trojans football cool again.

WHO’S IN?

Going into championship weekend, the stakes don’t look very high.

Undefeated No. 1 Georgia (12-0) is headed into the Southeastern Conference championship with its playoff position seemingly secured.

No. 6 LSU (No. 5 CFP) had hopes of pulling a big upset against the Bulldogs and becoming the first two-loss team to make the playoff. Then the Tigers got thumped by Texas A&M.

The SEC champ has never missed the playoff, but if LSU does pull off the improbable against Georgia, it will be the first.

At this point, the Big Ten and Big 12 title games don’t look particularly meaningful either.

Michigan and No. 4 TCU (12-0) have probably earned the Georgia treatment, regardless of what happens next week.

The Horned Frogs will face No. 15 Kansas State, which blew an 18-point lead to TCU in the regular season.

If USC were to lose, then who?

Ohio State (11-1) didn’t really look like a team deserving of a mulligan.

Clemson’s chances went away with a loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks stepped into the playoff races and played spoiler for the second straight week.

South Carolina followed up its victory against Tennessee last week with another against Clemson (10-2), giving it back-to-back victories against top-10 teams.

“I feel like we’re in our own College Football Playoff they way we’ve played the last two weeks,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.

Hey, maybe Alabama’s not out of it after all?

Just kidding. The Crimson Tide (10-2) are out. Probably. We think.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

No. 25 UCF needed a late touchdown drive that included two of the best catches of the season to escape USF and earn a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game against No. 19 Tulane. … For the first time since 1994, Minnesota gets to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Gophers beat Wisconsin for the second straight year, but a 4-3 finish will likely be enough for Badgers brass to name interim coach Jim Leonhard to the permanent job early as Sunday. … Soon after Oregon’s collapse, news broke that Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham was on the verge being named the youngest head coach in the Power Five by Arizona State. Dillingham, 32, is a Phoenix native and Arizona State graduate. … The Iron Bowl didn’t get as much attention as usual, unless you count all the speculation about Auburn’s next coach. But let’s take a moment to appreciate Tide quarterback Bryce Young, who likely played his last home game. Maybe even his last college game altogether. Young threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn. He won’t win another Heisman and he won’t win a national title as a starter, but he has undeniably been one of the greatest players of the Nick Saban dynasty. … Texas Tech beat Oklahoma in overtime to earn victories against the Sooners and Texas in the same season for the first time in program history. At 6-6, Oklahoma had its worst regular season since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops took over as coach.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF

Source: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-michigan-ohio-f200d13c61ff20dcdcc8953d6bc8a113

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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