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CFP deja vu: TCU in third, Ohio State lurking and lobbying

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU has been in this position before, third in the College Football Playoff rankings going into its last game before the final four teams are set.

And just like in 2014, there sits Ohio State in fifth, hoping for a chance to move up.

Those rankings are the same, but the scenarios are quite different for this first Saturday of December. Undefeated TCU has a Big 12 championship game to play, and the best the Buckeyes can do is try to tout what they had already done before last week’s 45-23 home loss to Michigan that kept them from reaching the Big Ten title game.

“When you look at the body of work that Ohio State has put forward, they have been a top-ranked team the entire season,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the AP on Friday. “If they’ve played 48 quarters of football, they have 46 1/2 excellent quarters of football. They really didn’t play up to their standard for a quarter and half for the entire season.”

TCU fans certainly haven’t forgotten what happened eight years ago, when the Frogs got left out of the inaugural four-team playoff right after a seven-touchdown win in their regular-season finale against Iowa State. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship 59-0 against Wisconsin later that day, and went on to win the first championship of the CFP era — in a title game played about 20 miles from the TCU campus.

The Frogs (12-0) play No. 13 Kansas State (9-3, No. 10 CFP) for the Big 12 title Saturday. Win and they make the playoff. Lose and they still could get in, but it’s no slam dunk. TCU is the conference’s first team since Texas in 2009 to finish the regular season without a loss.

Ohio State (11-1) will be at home, with no opportunity before Sunday’s final rankings to make another playoff case on the field.

Soon after losing to “The Game” for the second year in a row, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was already talking about his team’s overall body of work. He didn’t believe they were overmatched in terms of overall play by second-ranked Michigan.

“We’ve got a lot of good pieces on this team,” Day said. “I think if we were able to get a shot in the top four, we’d be a dangerous team.”

That lopsided shutout over Wisconsin in 2014 improved the Buckeyes to 12-1, and the Big Ten champions moved up one spot in the final CFP rankings the next day. They beat Alabama in a national semifinal game at the Sugar Bowl, and then Oregon for the national title.

One-loss TCU had beaten Iowa State 55-3 at home, but that 11th victory came against a two-win Cyclones team when the Big 12 was in a six-year hiatus without a championship game.

TCU was dropped to sixth in the final CFP rankings, a spot behind Big 12 co-champion Baylor, which won a midseason 61-58 thriller in Waco that was the Frogs’ only loss. They had to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl, and beat Mississippi 42-3 in the Peach Bowl.

Sitting behind TCU in fourth in CRP rankings is Southern California (11-1), which lost 47-24 in the Pac-12 championship game against Utah on Friday night. A loss by the Trojans could bolster the Frogs’ chances of staying in the top four even if they lose.

TCU is coming off another regular season-ending rout of Iowa State. First-year TCU coach Sonny Dykes told his players after the 62-14 win at home just how hard it is to get through a season 12-0.

“Sometimes dealing with all the buildup and all this stuff can be a little exhausting, and even overwhelming,” Dykes said. “And that’s what’s so impressive for these guys, is they’ve never batted an eye, never felt like they got overwhelmed. I never felt like the stage was too big for them.”

The last time Kansas State made the Big 12 title game in 2003, the Wildcats beat undefeated, top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7. At TCU six weeks ago, K-State built an early 28-10 lead before losing 38-28.

Warren reiterated that he believes Ohio State is one of the best four teams in college football based on their entire season.

“Now it looks like they’ll need some help this weekend, which we totally understand,” he said. “But I’m hopeful, and will remain hopeful, that they have the opportunity to be able to compete in the College Football Playoff this year. I think they have clearly shown what they can do.”


AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.


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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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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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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