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Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud led the Buckeyes to victory over Notre Dame (AP Photo/David Dermer)
It’s only Week 1 of the 2022 college football season, but the Pac-12 is unfortunately already in midseason form, quickly playing its way out of the College Football Playoff conversation.
Well, not entirely. AP No. 14 USC did put a 66-14 hurting on Rice with help from not one, not two, but three pick sixes. But No. 11 Oregon got destroyed by No. 3 Georgia, and No. 7 Utah went into the Gainesville swamp and came away with an L against an unranked Florida.
Temporarily unranked, that is.
After knocking off Utah in Billy Napier’s debut as head coach, the Gators are going to skyrocket into the AP poll, possibly all the way into the Top 10. Anthony Richardson was every bit as electric as we remembered from when he was healthy early last season, and they are at least a top 10 team now as far as Bleacher Report’s college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—are concerned.
While that upset was going down on Saturday night, AP No. 2 Ohio State gradually asserted its will for a 21-10 victory over No. 5 Notre Dame in the opening weekend’s main event.
It was touch and go there for a while with the Fighting Irish gaining 54 yards (69 if you count the 15 yard roughing the passer penalty) on the very first snap of the game, followed by the Buckeyes losing Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a leg injury (fingers crossed that it’s not anything serious) midway through the first quarter. But Ohio State just had too much talent, too much toughness and too much Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson to be denied a marquee victory.
We will update these rankings on Monday night if Clemson struggles or even loses to Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A kickoff, but while we wait for that final game of Week 1, here is what our consensus Top 25 looks like heading into Week 2:
1. Alabama (Previous Rank: 1)
2. Georgia (3)
3. Ohio State (2)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Michigan (8)
6. Texas A&M (7)
7. Florida (NR)
8. Oklahoma (15)
9. USC (11)
10. Notre Dame (5)
11. Arkansas (16)
12. Michigan State (12)
13. Miami (17)
14 (tie). Baylor (14)
14 (tie). BYU (23)
14 (tie). Wisconsin (18)
17. Oklahoma State (9)
18. Utah (6)
19. Tennessee (NR)
20. Pittsburgh (25)
21. Penn State (19t)
22. Kentucky (24)
23. Houston (19t)
24. Texas (22)
25. NC State (10)
Also Receiving Votes: Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Mississippi State
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Georgia’s Stetson Bennett (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
After breaking through and winning the 2019 national championship, LSU had 14 players taken in the NFL draft… and subsequently crashed and burned.
But if you were worried that reigning national champion Georgia might endure a similar fate after having 15 players (including five first-rounders) taken in the 2022 NFL draft, Saturday’s 49-3 annihilation of No. 11 Oregon should have quelled those irrational fears.
The passing attack was darn near flawless. Stetson Bennett did most of the work, but Carson Beck also contributed to the 439 yards and three touchdowns through the air. The Bulldogs averaged nearly 12 yards per pass attempt against what was supposed to be a very good Oregon defense under new head coach (and former UGA DC) Dan Lanning.
Simultaneously, it was Georgia’s defense that ruled the day, picking off Bo Nix twice within the game’s first 20 minutes and limiting the Ducks to just one field goal. Prior to a meaningless lengthy drive in the final 10 minutes, Oregon had a modest 221 yards of total offense.
The Dawgs didn’t get any sacks in this one, so it wasn’t quite the same “Holy cow, how is anyone going to score against this defense?!” type of statement that they made in last year’s season opener against Clemson. Still, it was a dominant performance, at least on par with what they used to do to Nix when he was the quarterback at Auburn for the past three years.
If even Oregon couldn’t remotely challenge this Georgia team, it legitimately might not face a stiff test until the projected SEC championship showdown with Alabama. The Bulldogs only have one other game on the schedule against a ranked opponent, and that game at AP No. 20 Kentucky is two-and-a-half months away.
Get used to seeing these guys at or near the top of the rankings.
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NC State’s Devin Leary (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
The good news is NC State didn’t actually lose its season opener at East Carolina.
The bad news is the No. 10 team in our preseason rankings could not have possibly inspired less confidence in its 21-20 victory over the Pirates.
With help from a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown, the Wolfpack carried a 21-7 lead into the intermission. But what we thought would be one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation this season was held without a point from that point forward.
It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. On one drive, the Wolfpack marched 74 yards down the field before fumbling at the ECU 1. And on their subsequent possession, they had 1st and Goal on the ECU 1 before Demie Sumo-Karngbaye got stuffed at the goal line on four consecutive carries.
That was the beginning of a stretch of more than 12 minutes in which the Wolfpack offense ran 10 plays for minus-4 yards with an interception and a turnover on downs.
Meanwhile, ECU got what looked like the game-tying touchdown until Owen Daffer missed the extra point. He got a chance at redemption when an NC State three-and-out left the Pirates with plenty of time to get into field-goal range. Unfortunately, Daffer pushed the would-be game-winning 42-yard attempt wide right, allowing the Wolfpack to escape by the hair on its chinny chin chin.
All due respect to ECU—which did win seven games last season and which has one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country in Holten Ahlers—but this game should not have come down to the wire. Because it did, we’re left to seriously question if NC State is actually a top candidate to dethrone Clemson in the ACC.
The Wolfpack plummet in our rankings from No. 10 to No. 25.
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Cincinnati’s Ben Bryant (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Well, the dream of No. 23 Cincinnati going to back-to-back College Football Playoffs is already dead.
Had the Bearcats won their season opener at No. 19 Arkansas, the “Undefeated Season Watch” would have been officially underway. Road games against SMU and UCF in late October won’t be easy, but they really should win each of their remaining 11 games if they’re even 85 percent as good as they have been over the past few years.
Alas, Cincinnati got out to a painfully slow start in the first half in Fayetteville and couldn’t fully recover, falling to the Hogs by a final score of 31-24.
On Cincinnati’s opening drive of the season, Ben Bryant led the Bearcats down to just outside the red zone before Arkansas DB Dwight McGlothern jumped an out route for an interception and returned 51 yards to flip the field.
Cincinnati had two other long first-half drives that resulted in missed field goals.
But despite digging themselves an early 14-0 hole on the road, they did almost claw all the way back.
On three consecutive possessions in the second half, they got the ball into Arkansas territory, needing a touchdown to tie the game. Instead, they came away with a field goal from a drive that started on the Arkansas 3, a punt on a drive that got as deep as the Arkansas 21 and a back-breaking strip-sack after an impressive Tre Tucker punt return.
Cincinnati didn’t look bad, racking up 438 total yards against an SEC defense. This may well still be the Group of Five’s representative in the New Year’s Six for a third consecutive year. It simply shot itself in the foot a few too many times on this afternoon and suffered its first loss outside of bowl season since the 2019 AAC championship against Memphis.
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Texas’ Steve Sarkisian and Bijan Robinson (Tim Warner/Getty Images)
First and foremost on the Week 2 slate is the Noon ET showdown between AP No. 1 Alabama and unranked Texas. It’s the first time in over a decade that the Crimson Tide have played a true road game against a Power Five nonconference opponent, and it comes against Nick Saban’s former assistant, Steve Sarkisian.
Should be a healthy diet of rat poison over the next seven days.
The lone matchup between teams from the preseason AP poll is the nightcap (10:15 p.m. ET) of No. 25 BYU hosting No. 10 Baylor. The Cougars have beaten at least one ranked opponent in each of the past four seasons, but they lost to the Bears in Waco in last year’s meeting. A little revenge in Provo would get BYU into the way-too-early College Football Playoff conversation.
Tennessee at No. 17 Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET) should also be a battle between ranked teams when the new AP poll comes out in a few days. The Panthers look to build on a chaotic Week 1 win over West Virginia in the reanimated Backyard Brawl while the should-be-ranked Volunteers get ready for a big test after making quick work of Ball State on Thursday.
And then there’s a trio of major conference showdowns, with No. 19 Arkansas hosting South Carolina (Noon ET), No. 20 Kentucky at Florida (7 p.m. ET) and No. 14 USC at Stanford (7:30 p.m. ET).
While there’s nothing quite on the level of Oregon-Georgia or Notre Dame-Ohio State, Week 2 should be every bit as entertaining as Week 1 has been—albeit contained almost entirely to one day rather than spaced out over a 100-hour window.
Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.
The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.
The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.
Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.
The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.
But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.
AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club
MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.
Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.
“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”
It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.
Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.
The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”
“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”
The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.
“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”
He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.
“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”
The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.
“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.
Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.
“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.
Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.
Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.
The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.
The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.
Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.
“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”
Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.
The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.
Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”
Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.