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CFP: Georgia vs Ohio St in Peach; Michigan vs TCU in Fiesta

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-california-ohio-07f78d058ed37a72136d15443d3d6f0b

For this college football season, the BCS probably would have been fine.

Two days after the College Football Playoff announced it is expanding to 12 teams, the field of four to determine this season’s national champion included two schools that did not even win their conferences.

Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State were selected Sunday for the playoff, giving the Big Ten multiple programs in the four-team field for the first time.

The top-ranked and reigning champion Bulldogs (13-0) and fourth-seeded Buckeyes (11-1) will meet Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Ohio State got a reprieve, moving back into the top four after losing to Big Ten rival Michigan just a week ago.

“How we got here, at this point, I guess doesn’t really matter now that we’re here,“ Ohio State Ryan Day said.

The second-seeded Wolverines (13-0) and third-ranked Horned Frogs (12-1) will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, in the first game of the New Year’s Eve doubleheader.

The Horned Frogs were third coming into the weekend, but had to sweat out their spot Saturday night after losing the Big 12 title game to Kansas State in overtime.

“I was really nervous,” TCU quarterback Max Duggan said about watching ESPN’s slow rollout of the pairings Sunday afternoon.

The Frogs had nothing to fear. They had already built enough equity to stay in the top four, and they erupted with cheers of relief at their watch party in Fort Worth, Texas, when it became official.

The playoff was born in 2014 from the constant controversy and complaining about the Bowl Championship Series and how deserving teams would often be left out of the 1 vs. 2 postseason game it created.

This year, a Georgia-Michigan game would not have generated many complaints.

Georgia, which won the Southeastern Conference championship game in a rout, is a 6 1/2-point favorite against Ohio State, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Michigan, which took the Big Ten title, is favored by 9 1/2 points over TCU.

CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said the 13-member panel went through its usual process of grouping teams in threes to compare them for the final rankings, but not for long.

“I can’t actually remember which team got pulled in for the third, but as we went into it, we wanted to make sure we got those first two set and then we moved forward,” said Corrigan, who is the athletic director at North Carolina State.

The national championship game is Jan. 9 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California, and because there will be four teams and not just two, it could be a rematch of rivals Ohio State and Michigan in what will soon be Big Ten country as the conference expands with UCLA and USC.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines have never played outside of their annual regular-season game in a bitter rivalry that dates to 1902.

The most interesting part of Sunday’s unveiling was whether the committee would pair Michigan and Ohio State in the semifinals and whether Alabama might be slip in as the first two-loss playoff team.

“I truly believe that they got it right,” first-year TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “Conference championship games, I don’t think you should be punished for playing in them. But you never know just how those conversations are going to go.”

In the end, the committee sprung no surprises. The rest of the New Year’s Six bowls were also set:

Tennessee vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

Alabama vs. Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31.

Tulane vs. USC in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.

Utah vs. Penn State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

That’s an appealing slate, but with no championship stakes the question Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban already faced Sunday was: How many of the Tide’s best players will play?

“I’m hopeful that players will see this as an opportunity to create value for themselves, even if they’re older players and have a chance to get drafted this year and come out — whether they’re seniors or juniors,” Saban said in an interview with ESPN.

Shuffle some of those bowl matchups around to fit the new 12-team format and turn them into playoff games and they would be a lot more appealing — and a lot more valuable. Expansion becomes a reality in 2024.

Ohio State was given a second life in the four-team playoff race when Southern California lost the Pac-12 championship game Friday night to Utah, and the Buckeyes were deemed the best of a flawed batch on contenders.

Alabama (10-2) was fifth in the committee rankings, missing the CFP for just the second time in its nine-year history. Tennessee (10-2) was sixth and Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson (11-2) was seventh.

An argument could be made Georgia got the tougher draw of the top two. By the recruiting rankings, Ohio State has as good a roster as anyone in the country.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart talked about how familiar the Bulldogs are with Ohio State’s players because the teams recruit from the same pool of blue-chippers.

“I know the NFL teams really enjoy watching these kids go against each other,” Smart said.

For Georgia, it is the second straight CFP appearance and third overall. This time, though, Smart’s Bulldogs enter as the No. 1 team and clear favorite after following up last season’s national title with a perfect season. Stetson Bennett and the ’Dawgs will try to become the first team to repeat as CFP champions.

Ohio State is making its fifth playoff appearance. The Buckeyes won their last national title as the four seed in 2014.

This is the fourth time two teams from the same conference reached the playoff. Alabama and Georgia have done it twice of the SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference has done it once, when Clemson and ACC guest member Notre Dame made the 2020 pandemic-season playoff.

Michigan is in as the second seed for the second straight year after losing to Georgia in the Orange Bowl semifinal last season.

Last year, Michigan was the first team reach the College Football Playoff after starting the season unranked in the AP Top 25.

TCU is now the second. The Horned Frogs also are just the 13th different school to make the field in nine years. That lack of variety is one of the main reasons the CFP is growing — even if sometimes two will do for settling who is No. 1.

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

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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://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

Source: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-california-ohio-07f78d058ed37a72136d15443d3d6f0b

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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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