- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015


Michigan State needed a miracle. Hail hog helped Alabama get here. A swat saved Oklahoma’s season. Clemson turned away a late 2-point conversion that could have cost the Tigers their perfect record.

A season filled with fantastic finishes helped shape the College Football Playoff, even if it led to a sleepy selection Sunday.

Top-seeded Clemson will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in the first College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Eve. No. 2 Alabama will play No. 3 Michigan State at the Cotton Bowl in the nightcap of the Dec. 31 doubleheader.

No drama. No complaints. Nothing at all like the week-to-week mayhem - with one once-in-a-lifetime-play after another - that made the season memorable.

In the end, the only real debate was how to rank the top four teams.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California coach Clay Helton fired four of the Trojans’ assistant coaches Sunday night, including defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Helton made the moves six days after the interim tag was removed from his title, and one day after the Trojans (8-5) lost 41-22 to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.

Helton also fired defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, defensive line coach Chris Wilson and offensive line coach Bob Connelly. Wilcox and Heyward were among several assistants who left Washington for USC along with Steve Sarkisian after the 2013 season, while Helton had been an assistant at USC since 2010.

USC also accepted a berth in the Holiday Bowl on Sunday, agreeing to face Wisconsin on Dec. 30.NFL


LONDON (AP) - The FBI is investigating Sepp Blatter’s role in a kickbacks scandal that involved his predecessor as FIFA president, Joao Havelange, the BBC reported Sunday.

The BBC said it will air a program Monday with evidence that indicates Blatter knew about millions of dollars in bribes being paid out to senior FIFA officials in the 1990s by sports marketing company ISL in return for television and marketing rights.

Havelange had to resign as honorary FIFA president over his role in the case, but Blatter has denied knowledge of the payments.

However, the BBC says it has seen a letter apparently written by Havelange that suggests Blatter, who is currently suspended by FIFA in a separate case, was aware of the payments but took no action.


NEW YORK (AP) - Golden State’s first game against the Nets went down to the wire, and the rematch seemed headed the same way.

With one of his electrifying flurries, Stephen Curry changed things in a hurry.

Curry scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter and the Warriors ran their NBA-record start to 22-0 by beating Brooklyn 114-98 on Sunday night.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Free-agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey has finalized a $16 million, two-year contract with the Detroit Tigers, who also added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the major league minimum of $507,500.

The 31-year-old Pelfrey joins a Detroit rotation bolstered by the signing of fellow right-hander Jordan Zimmermann less than a week ago. Pelfrey spent the last three seasons with Minnesota and went 6-11 with a 4.26 ERA this year.

Detroit finished last this year after winning the AL Central the previous four seasons and also has acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin since the end of the season.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Athletics filled a key need a day before the start of baseball’s winter meetings, agreeing to a $22 million, three-year contract with free-agent reliever Ryan Madson, a person with direct knowledge of the deal said.

The person spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because a physical was still needed to finalize the deal. In Madson, the club has found another proven pitcher for a bullpen that had an American League-worst 4.63 ERA last season for a team that lost 35 one-run games - and the veteran gets to play in his home state of California.


NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - Bubba Watson wasn’t even planning to play in the Hero Challenge. He left no doubt Sunday who was going to win.

Watson quickly stretched his two-shot lead by making four birdies in seven holes. He was never seriously challenged, sailing home to a 6-under 66 for a three-shot victory over Patrick Reed at Albany Golf Club and a trophy from tournament host Tiger Woods.

Watson turned down his invitation a few months ago because he didn’t have a passport for his newly adopted daughter, Dakota. But when PGA champion Jason Day backed out to stay home with his newborn daughter, Watson’s wife was able to expedite all the right documents for the family to come over to the Bahamas.

He left with a $1 million payoff and a firm grasp on No. 4 in the world the rest of the year.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - China’s Simin Feng completed a wire-to-wire victory in the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament to regain a full exemption.

The 20-year-old Feng closed with a 3-under 69 at LPGA International for an 18-under 342 total and a seven-stroke victory. The top 20 earned full cards, and Nos. 21-45 and ties received conditional status.

Grace Na and Thailand’s Budsabakorn Sukapan tied for second. Na shot 69, and Sukapan 70. Canada’s Maude-Aimee LeBlanc and the Philippines’ Cyna Rodriguez shot 71 to tie for fourth at 10 under.

Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, had a 69 to jump for a tie for 24th to a tie for 13th at 3 under.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm let the tears flow Sunday as she thanked hundreds of fans who turned out for a parade in her native Albuquerque.

Throngs of people lined downtown streets to get a glimpse of Holm. Many of them held up signs claiming her as “Burque’s finest” or “Burque’s #1,” referring to Albuquerque by its nickname. Holm waved to well-wishers while standing on a trolley traveling along the parade route. She also signed some autographs and posed for snapshots. The procession included a high school marching band and classic cars carrying officials including Gov. Susana Martinez and Mayor Richard Berry.

The ride then culminated with a presentation at Civic Plaza.

Holm, who left the speech she had written at home, thanked her longtime coach, Mike Winkeljohn, her training team and her family. She also assured that she was going to keep looking for fights to take on.


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Diego Valeri scored at the 27-second mark for the fastest goal in MLS Cup history and the Portland Timbers won the league title for the first time, beating the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Sunday.

Rodney Wallace made it 2-0 in the seventh minute, and the Crew’s Kei Kamara scored in the 18th off a scramble in front of the goal.

But the early deficit was too much for Columbus to overcome.

Just after the opening whistle, Columbus midfielder Wil Trapp sent a back pass to goalkeeper Steve Clark, who tried to move the ball from his right foot to the left for a clearance. But Clark didn’t see Valeri closing and the midfielder poked the ball away from him and into the goal.

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