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How Notre Dame fits in a 12-team College Football Playoff



How Notre Dame fits in a 12-team College Football Playoff

Notre Dame has made two College Football Playoff appearances in the last seven years. How much would it benefit from the playoff field expanding?

The College Football Playoff committee on Thursday unveiled a proposal for a 12-team format that will be considered later this month. The four-team CFP will not change for at least the next two seasons, but some wrinkles in the planned new playoff would impact the Irish.

“We cannot qualify for a bye. It’s limited to the four highest-ranked champions,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said on the College Football Playoff teleconference. “I look forward to never hearing again about how we played one less game or don’t have a conference championship.”

BENDER: Why we love (and hate) the idea of a 12-team CFP

The second part of that quote is laced with sarcasm. Notre Dame returns to independent status in 2021, and its role in a possible 12-team playoff is polarizing as usual. 

“You needed to keep the broader interest of the game in mind, and we all understood that,” said Swarbrick, who is a member of the subcommittee that wrote the expansion proposal. “From my perspective, it was an appropriate trade-off to get a model that I thought was the right one for college football.”

But is it right for the Irish? Sporting News looks at the pros and cons of a 12-team setup for them: 

Pros: More playoff chances 

The Irish are 33-5 the last three seasons under Brian Kelly, who has the program on steady ground.

That’s the fourth-best record in the FBS behind Clemson (39-3), Alabama (38-3) and Ohio State State (33-3) since 2018. There is a gap between the Big Three and everyone else, but the Irish would be a playoff regular in a 12-team setup.

MORE: Five best bets to crash the CFP in 2021

“I do think it’s helpful to us to say, ‘Look, Alabama put its position at risk in its title game or Oklahoma put its position at risk in its conference title game. We’re doing the same thing in the first round,'” Swarbrick said. “We are on par in that regard other than enjoying a potential 1-4 seed.”

Looking back at the last seven seasons, Notre Dame would have made four CFP appearances in a 12-team model. That would suggest Notre Dame could still maintain independent status, and that large NBC contract, and still make the CFP on a regular basis without having to go through a conference championship game. 

Is that good enough?

Cons: Tougher road to a title 

Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship since 1988, one of the more pronounced droughts among blueblood FBS programs.

The disadvantage of not having a first-round bye is that it would take four wins to win a national championship. Notre Dame has gone undefeated in the regular season three times under Kelly.

The Irish were the No. 4 seed in last year’s four-team playoff. Using the 12-team proposal metric, Notre Dame would have been the No. 7 seed last season. That means the Irish would have had a first-round matchup with Georgia before a second-round matchup with Clemson.

Will Notre Dame join a conference again?

Is a 12-team College Football Playoff the nudge that puts Notre Dame in a Power 5 conference for good?

The Irish took advantage of its one-year tour of the ACC, which was made necessary because of the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 college football season. Notre Dame reached the ACC championship game and split its two games with Clemson, and that was good enough to make the CFP.

Now, look at the 2021 schedule:

  • ACC opponents: at Florida State, at Virginia Tech, vs. North Carolina, at Virginia, vs. Georgia Tech
  • Other opponents: vs. Toledo, vs. Purdue, vs. Wisconsin*, vs. Cincinnati, vs. USC, vs. Navy, at Stanford

* At Soldier Field, Chicago

The only ACC opponent ranked in SN’s Preseason Top 25 is North Carolina. The other ranked opponents are Wisconsin, Cincinnati and USC.

Would a 12-team playoff put a strain on Notre Dame’s arrangement with the ACC? Or would it prompt the university to look into joining the conference full time? That question will be answered in time, but Swarbrick insists this is the right plan for the Irish. 

“Even though we don’t play in a conference, I recognize the importance of strong conferences and providing the opportunity to the [Group of 5],” Swarbrick said. “We wanted to do that.”

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Golden years: Olympic team selection of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi reinforces 2021 as prime time for aging athletes



Golden years: Olympic team selection of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi reinforces 2021 as prime time for aging athletes

When Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi won their first Olympic gold medals, there were no iPhones, Chipotle had a few more than 300 restaurants spread across the country and Netflix still was sending DVDs of motion pictures through the mail.

Oh, my, here we go: Another story of some extraordinary “AARPthletes.”

Bird and Taurasi were named Monday by USA Basketball to the senior women’s national team that will attempt to earn a seventh consecutive gold medal when the 2021 Olympic Games begin July 23 in Tokyo. This will be fifth Olympics for Bird, who is 40, and for Taurasi, who passed her 39th birthday earlier this month.

In a year filled with them, they represent two more examples of athletes extending their excellence well past what had been considered “retirement age” in the past, joining Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (43), PGA champion Phil Mickelson (50) and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (46), as well as soccer star Carli Lloyd, aiming to make her fourth Olympic team at 39 and sprinter Allyson Felix, who qualified for her fifth Olympics by finishing second in the 400-meter dash Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., and will turn 36 in November.

“It’s just been a tremendous journey – playing for that long, and playing aside pretty much family, my friend. It means everything to us,” Taurasi said during the announcement on the Today show Monday. “I think sometimes you get caught up in the history of where this team has been, and we’re trying to take it to the next generation, the younger players. I think we’re just really focused on what we have to do to come home with gold.”

Taurasi and Bird were teammates for two seasons at Connecticut, and in 2001-02, their squad went 39-0 and capture the NCAA championship.

Given the overwhelming strength of the U.S. women’s basketball program and the value of Bird’s experience, she might have been a worthwhile inclusion just to be available in emergencies and to provide leadership through the tournament process and during practices and games.

MORE: Lochte comes up short for in bid for fifth Olympics

That’s not what this is, though. Bird remains among the best point guards in the WNBA, averaging 11.4 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 47.9 percent 3-point accuracy, as well as 6 assists per game, for the team that won the 2020 league championship and is 12-2 and in first place in the Western Conference in the 2021 season.

Taurasi, who can play both backcourt positions, averaged 18.7 points and 4.5 assists last season for the Phoenix Mercury. She has been limited to four games this season because of a chest injury but still has averaged 15.8 points and 3.8 assists.

“I think the most important thing is for the 12 players on the roster to stay healthy,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “There are a lot of players that aren’t on this list that have helped us along the way, This has been a three- to four-year process for us. But you need a great mix.

“When you have the core group of players who have played in multiple Olympic Games, you have to add a mix of youth. And the youth that we’ve added certainly has made it known they want to be a part of the Olympic team, and they put the work in behind it.

“We don’t want to be the team that ends this streak.”

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Bryson DeChambeau explains US Open meltdown: ‘I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time’



Bryson DeChambeau had to fly back to Wells Fargo Championship after thinking he missed weekend cut

For a moment, it looked like the reigning U.S. Open champion would make it a second straight title. 

Bryson DeChambeau shot a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole during the final round to put him at 5-under par and move him into the lead with 10 holes remaining. It all fell apart from there. 

Bogeys on both the 11th and 12th holes, and a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in the 13th and 17th holes, respectively, sunk DeChambeau’s chances of winning, ultimately leading to him falling to 3-over during the U.S. Open and tying for 26th overall. 

After the disappointing finish, DeChambeau said that it wasn’t a poor effort on his part, but rather a product of bad luck. 

“I didn’t get off the rails at all. It’s golf,” DeChambeau said, according to the Golf Channel. “People will say I did this or did that, and it’s just golf. I’ve had plenty of times where I hit it way worse than today and I won. It’s just one of those things where I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time.”

MORE: The best moments from Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau rivalry

On the 13th hole, he slipped on the drive to slice the ball into the right rough before later slipping again trying to save himself from too much damage on the hole. It resulted in a double-bogey seven that all but took him out of the running for the championship. 

The struggles on the 13 came right on the heels of a pair of bogeys. 

Later, on the 17th hole, his tee shot hit the ravine and his third shot sailed into a bunker. He overshot out of the bunker and sank to an 8 on the par-4 hole. 

“I hit a great second shot — well, third shot, and the ball just spun too much,” DeChambeau said, according to ESPN. “The wind died down and it landed short and came back off of that front edge into a really, really bad lie. I tried just chopping it out, and I caught the hosel just from a weird line.”

Perhaps even worse for DeChambeau was that when he was leading, rival Brooks Koepka was just a shot behind him. When it was all over, Koepka remained tied for fourth at 2-under for the tournament. 

But DeChambeau said he wasn’t worried about his lackluster performance down the stretch. 

“Right now, I don’t even care. I’ve changed a lot, attitude-wise and everything,” DeChambeau said, according to the New York Post. “It’s frustrating in the moment when it’s happening, but afterwards for me now, I don’t really care as much. I’ve already won [a U.S. Open].’’

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Ben Simmons admits he ‘wasn’t there’ offensively in 76ers’ Game 7 loss to Hawks



Ben Simmons' free throw struggles contribute to 76ers' blown chance to sweep Wizards

There is plenty of blame to go around for why the No. 1 seeded 76ers fell to the No. 5 seeded Hawks in Game 7 to miss out on the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, but Ben Simmons is stepping up to take some of it. 

Simmons, a former No. 1 overall pick and a huge part of “The Process,” had a disappointing effort in the final game of the series, scoring just five points, and drawing criticism in particular for passing up a dunk late that could have tied the game up and given his team some momentum. 

After the game, Simmons said he just wasn’t playing his best basketball during the pivotal playoff game. 

“I ain’t shoot well from the line this series,” Simmons said, according to ESPN. “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates.

“There’s a lot of things that I need to work on.”

MORE: Ex-NBA player Josh Smith rips Doc Rivers in offensive tirade

Simmons contributed beyond the point column, racking up eight rebounds and a game-high 13 assists. But he attempted only four shots and made two of them. For a player that averaged 14.3 points per game during the regular season, the expectation was certainly that he would attempt more shots than just four when his team needed him. 

With 3:36 to play and the Sixers trailing by two, Simmons was free in the paint after a spin move. But he passed to Matisse Thybulle, who drove and was fouled. Thybulle made one of two, keeping the Sixers down one. Atlanta then went on a 5-0 run to push the lead to 93-87. 

That missed dunk opportunity was not only a focal point of criticism for fans, but also one mentioned by his teammates. 

“Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored,” Embiid said. 

And Embiid, who scored 31 points with 11 rebounds, didn’t just wait until after the game to show his frustration. 

Simmons explained that he thought Danilo Gallinari was right behind him and that John Collins was coming out of the lane, which would leave open a chance for Thybulle to dunk it, according to ESPN. 

Now the biggest question in Philadelphia is whether Simmons will be a 76er by the time the next season rolls around. For Simmons, the offseason will begin for him by trying to get over this postseason. 

“The first thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right,” Simmons said in ESPN’s report. “You got to be mentally tough. You can’t take games for granted. Especially in the playoffs. Every game matters. Every possession matters.”

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