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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

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  • 11/25/12--15:49: Broncos 17, Chiefs 9
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Broncos overcome punchless Chiefs

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Peyton Manning threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns, and led the Broncos down the field in the final minutes for a field goal that sealed Denver's sixth straight win.

    Manning passed Broncos vice president John Elway with his 149th win as a starter. He trails only Brett Favre (186) for most in NFL history.

    "Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "We played pretty good as a defense most of the game, but he made a few plays, one or two more plays than we'd like him to make."

    Knowshon Moreno started for injured Denver running back Willis McGahee and gained 85 yards.

    "I've got to tip my hat to Knowshon Moreno," Manning said. "Really an impressive effort."

    The Chiefs, the league's only one-win team, were done in by penalties, missed opportunities and a conservative approach that has not resulted in a touchdown since the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Nov. 12, more than 11 quarters and 173 minutes.

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  • 11/25/12--15:56: Dolphins 24, Seahawks 21
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Poised Tannehill answers critics

    MIAMI — With the score tied and 1:32 to play, QB Ryan Tannehill moved the Dolphins 65 yards in six plays to set up a 43-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter on the final play, completing a rally.

    "You're excited. You know your team needs you to step up,'' said Tannehill, who had drawn criticism for mistakes down the stretch in close games.

    Miami scored 17 in the final 8:08. On the last drive Tannehill had completions of 19, 25 and 7 yards, as well as a 15-yard scramble.

    "In this league you need to win some games like this," coach Joe Philbin said. "It's important for any quarterback to do that."

    Tannehill pulled off his first fourth-quarter comeback win, and Miami, which ended a three-game skid, won by overcoming a seven-point deficit in the final quarter for the first time since 2005.

    The Seahawks dropped to 1-5 on the road. Coach Pete Carroll said he made poor use of a bye week.

    "I'm disappointed in all phases of the game," he said. "We didn't do the things we needed to do in the week off to get prepared. I screwed it up."

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  • 11/25/12--16:07: Colts 20, Bills 13
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Colts benefit from Pagano advice

    INDIANAPOLIS — Rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton out of Florida International returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and caught an 8-yard scoring pass from Andrew Luck in the third as the Colts strengthened their playoff position.

    Indianapolis was sluggish offensively, but Luck became the second Colts rookie to throw top 3,000 yards in a season. The other: Peyton Manning.

    Coach Chuck Pagano attended a second straight game since being diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 26, getting an ovation.

    "I talked to Coach Pagano before the game and he told me to 'stretch and cut, stretch and cut,' " Hilton said of punt returns. "I was able to stretch, and my blockers did a good job of getting in front of their dudes, made two guys miss and I went to the house."

    The Bills suffered a setback as they try to end a 12-year playoff absence. "I don't really want to project or talk about the next however many games we have left,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.

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  • 11/25/12--16:16: Bears 28, Vikings 10
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Cutler, defense both sharp in rout

    CHICAGO — After missing a game with a concussion, Jay Cutler threw for 188 yards and a touchdown and the Bears broke it open early.

    Chicago held Adrian Peterson in check early, though he finished with 108 yards rushing, and the Bears' three takeaways increased their league-leading total to 33.

    Brandon Marshall caught 12 passes for 92 yards and became the first Bear since Marty Booker in 2002 to go over 1,000 yards.

    "In the third quarter, I leaned over to Jay and said, 'That catch puts me at 1,000 yards for six seasons in a row.' And he looked at me and said, 'You're disgusting,' " Marshall said, laughing.

    The former UCF star said he knew he was closing in because followers on Twitter had mentioned it.

    Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton sacked Christian Ponder on the first play, linebacker Nick Roach set up the first touchdown by knocking the ball from Peterson, and safety Chris Conte set up a touchdown with a 35-yard interception return.

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    Times staff
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    First quarter
    Falcons 3-0 7:38 12 plays, 67 yards, 7:22
    Matt Bryant 31-yard field goal. Key plays: Jones 13 pass from Ryan to ATL 39; Rodgers 20 run to TB 41; Rodgers 9 run to TB 29; Turner 8 pass from Ryan to TB 26; Turner 8 run to TB 18; Gonzalez 7 pass from Ryan to TB 11.
    Bucs 7-3 1:12 10 plays, 81 yards, 6:26
    Doug Martin 1-yard run (Connor Barth kick). Key plays: Williams 8 pass from Freeman to TB 27; Martin 8 run to TB 40; Clark 21 pass from Freeman to ATL 39; Underwood 22 pass from Freeman to ATL 17; Martin 5 run to ATL 12; Martin 6 run to ATL 6; Martin 5 run to ATL 1.

    Second quarter
    Falcons 10-7 10:25 10 plays, 75 yards, 5:47
    Jacquizz Rodgers 5-yard run (Matt Bryant kick). Key plays: Gonzalez 20 pass from Ryan to TB 48; Jones 15 pass from Ryan to TB 33; Gonzalez 16 pass from Ryan on third and 7 to TB 14; Ryan 13 run to TB 6.
    10-10 3:37 5 plays, 27 yards, 2:10
    Connor Barth 22-yard field goal. Key plays: Barber 28-yard interception return to ATL 31; Jackson 28 pass from Williams to ATL 3; Martin minus-3 run on third and goal from ATL 1.

    Third quarter
    Bucs 13-10 8:37 13 plays, 62 yards, 6:23
    Connor Barth 42-yard field goal. Key plays: Under­wood 7 pass from Freeman on third and 5 to TB 26; Clark 13 pass from Freeman on third and 4 to TB 45; Jackson 31 pass from Freeman to ATL 24.
    Falcons 17-13 8:26 1 play, 80 yards, :11
    Julio Jones 80-yard pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick). Key play: One play after the Bucs took a three-point lead, Ryan launched a deep pass to Jones down the right sideline. Jones made an over-the-shoulder catch in stride, stepped out of a tackle by CB Leonard Johnson and scored untouched.

    Fourth quarter
    Bucs 20-17 14:56 9 plays, 82 yards, 5:16
    Doug Martin 1-yard run (Connor Barth kick). Key plays: Underwood 39 pass from Freeman to ATL 44; Jackson 15 pass from Freeman to ATL 30; Martin 10 run to ATL 1.
    Bucs 23-17 10:28 4 plays, 6 yards, :55
    Connor Barth 48-yard field goal. Key play: CB E.J. Biggers' sack and forced fumble recovered by DT Gerald McCoy at ATL 36.
    Falcons 24-23 7:55 6 plays, 64 yards, 2:33
    Michael Turner 3-yard run (Matt Bryant kick). Key plays: Rodgers 32 pass from Ryan to TB 32; holding penalty on S Ahmad Black on third and goal.

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  • 11/25/12--16:20: Jaguars 24, Titans 19
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Jaguars find home is finally friendly

    JACKSONVILLE — Starting for injured QB Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne threw two touchdown passes to spark the NFL's worst offense and the Jaguars snapped a seven-game skid. Jacksonville played well at home for the first time, having been outscored 153-44 in five losses at EverBank Field. "It's good to have something good happen, really good," coach Mike Mularkey said. "They needed that. A lot of people needed that. It was well earned."

    The Titans had the ball inside Jacksonville's 25-yard line six times and came away with one touchdown. That was the difference on a day when the Titans had seven sacks, an interception and plenty of chances to change the outcome.

    "We got down to the red zone so many times, and we weren't able to capitalize," Tennessee running back Chris Johnson said. "We were always coming out with a field goal. Any time you have to do that, that's not very good."

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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Biggest point

    This was a killer. This was the big fish that wriggled off the hook.

    If the Bucs end up missing the playoffs — and those postseason chances took a major punch to the gut Sunday — this one-point loss is one that will keep them awake all offseason.

    Follow along: The Bucs have home games left against the Eagles and Rams. Let's count those as wins. Let's assume a loss this coming Sunday at Denver.

    That leaves two other games: at Atlanta and at New Orleans. The Bucs would have to win both of those to get to 10 victories, the likely number it will take to make the postseason.

    A victory Sunday against Atlanta would've meant needing to win one of the two road games against Atlanta and New Orleans.

    Who knows where this season will take the Bucs, but it could be that one measly point wrecked it.

    Best decision

    Many are going to question coach Greg Schiano's decision to have Connor Barth attempt a 56-yard field goal with 3:37 left and the Bucs down by one, instead of punting and pinning the Falcons deep in their own end. Schiano said after the game that he considered punting and even gave thought to going for it on the fourth and 7, but he believed Barth had a shot at putting the Bucs ahead.

    I'm going with Schiano on this one. Barth has hit four field goals from 50 yards or beyond this season, including a 57-yarder. Whether you punt or Barth misses, the Bucs were going to have to stop the Falcons anyway. Might as well go for the win.

    Worst numbers

    The Bucs have played against five quarterbacks who rank somewhere between really good and elite: Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. In those games, those quarterbacks have averaged 370 yards passing. More telling, the Bucs are 0-5 in those games. Not really promising when you consider that Brees, Ryan and Peyton Manning await on the schedule.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Who was running the show for the Falcons? They insisted on running the ball over and over against a defense that can't stop the pass but is No.  1 against the run. And who was in charge of clock management, Skip Holtz?

    2. The Bucs rushed for only 50 yards on 21 carries. QB Josh Freeman was sacked twice and under pressure all day. For the first time, the Bucs noticeably missed offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks.

    3. A defensive holding call on Bucs safety Ahmad Black on a third down led to the Falcons' winning touchdown. I'm not saying the call cost the Bucs the game, but I am saying it was a ticky-tack call.

    Final thought

    Sunday's game pretty much sums up the way things are: The Bucs are improved, but the Falcons are still a smidge better.

    Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.

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  • 11/25/12--16:53: Blowback from Browns
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    CLEVELAND — Turnovers, penalties and blown chances? These weren't the Steelers of old.

    And it had little to do with their 37-year-old quarterback.

    "That was an ugly performance," coach Mike Tomlin said.

    With their playoff chances in peril, the Steelers committed eight turnovers and third-string quarterback Charlie Batch didn't do enough to overcome the miscues as Pittsburgh lost 20-14 to Cleveland on Sunday, a rare Browns win over their rivals.

    "When you turn the ball over the way we did, you're not going to beat anybody," Tomlin said. "We were highly penalized. When you do those things, you're going to lose, I don't care who is playing quarterback."

    Batch, starting because of injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, threw three interceptions, and the Steelers lost five fumbles, the last on a desperation final-play lateral as they fell to the Browns for the second time in 18 games.

    "I have to put it on my shoulders," said Batch, who was 20-of-34 for 199 yards "We had a chance to win, actually two, and I turned it over. I made some bad throws. We had all the fumbles, and yet we still had a chance to win, that's the crazy part."

    Pittsburgh is 23-5 against Cleveland since 1999, but in each of the seasons they lost one game to the Browns, the Steelers missed the playoffs.

    That could happen again. Pittsburgh is tied with Cincinnati for second in the AFC North behind Baltimore and visits the Ravens next week.

    "We aren't going to have any team meetings, not going to sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya," safety Ryan Clark said. "We are going to do what we do after we win: go back to work and figure out a way to play better."

    Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden sustained a concussion in the final minutes. Coach Pat Shurmur said he was being treated after hitting his head on a knee while throwing an incompletion.

    Browns rookie Trent Richardson rushed for 85 yards, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 15-yard run in the third.

    Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson noticed saw something unfamiliar in the faces of Pittsburgh's players afterward — he said the Steelers were deeply pained, disturbed and angry.

    "A lot of them didn't want to shake our hands," Jackson said, "and I'm okay with that. It's great to beat up on them."

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Sunday, November 25, 2012


    At the opposing quarterback's initial step backward, you can smell the smoke.

    As he cocks his arm and stares downfield, you can see the spark.

    Then he throws the ball and, just like always, an entire secondary bursts into flame. All over again. As sure as Duraflame.

    Play after play, game after game, the Bucs secondary continues to burn. By now, you wonder why other teams even try to run. Against the Bucs defensive backs, every pass seems like it will be a completion, and every quarterback looks as if he is doing a Peyton Manning impression.

    Ah, the defensive backs of the Bucs. Call them the Briquettes, because every now and then they are lit up like a Sunday barbecue.

    In the grand plan to improve the Bucs, this needs to be the next renovation. If the Bucs are going to win big games against elite quarterbacks, they have to make the forward pass a little more difficult for their opponents.

    Otherwise, they are not playing football; they are playing chase.

    And someone needs to remember the asbestos shoulder pads.

    More than any other, the reason the Bucs lost a 24-23 game to the Falcons on Sunday was they could not add more stress to Matt Ryan's afternoon. The quarterback had one of those easy afternoons when he seemed so unhurried, he might as well have been throwing darts.

    Ryan completed his first 10 passes, and nine of his final 10. For the afternoon, he hit 26 of 32 — and to be honest, he should get yelled out for some of the six incompletions — for 353 yards. That's a completion percentage of 81.3, his best of the season.

    Around the Bucs, they call that "par."

    So it goes. In 11 games, seven opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 300 yards or more, and three others have thrown for at least 250. Then there was the game against Brady Quinn of the Chiefs, whom the Bucs didn't schedule nearly often enough.

    It hardly bears repeating, but yes, the Bucs are better. The Falcons noticed that, too. But after a while, close doesn't count and better doesn't help. One more play out of the secondary, maybe two, and this game might have been won.

    Part of the struggles in defending the pass, of course, is circumstance. With Eric Wright hurt and Aqib Talib traded, the Bucs are down to E.J. Biggers (a seventh-round pick) and Leonard Johnson (an undrafted rookie) as their starters. Biggers was making his seventh start of the season and his 19th overall; Johnson his second start of his career.

    "I can't make an excuse for us giving up yards," said Johnson, a former Largo High standout. "We need to correct the small stuff, go back and get back to it."

    "I don't think of us as young anymore," Biggers said. "We just have to make more plays."

    Frankly, Roddy White and Julio Jones are supposed to toast cornerbacks that young. It's a lot to ask of a seventh-round pick and an undrafted rookie to cover them.

    Still, 353 yards?

    "Well, 80 of it is in one play," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "You don't give up the big play like that monster play. It's against a very good quarterback. You have to hang in there. But we did give it up, and therein lies the issue. That's been a little bit of our Achilles' heel. We'll get it corrected, and we'll keep getting better at it. It just didn't happen today."

    Actually, it hasn't happened on a lot of days. That's why the Bucs are last in the NFL in pass defense. Most games, the secondary looks as if it is standing on loose ground at the edge of the cliff. It seems as if the goal is to hang on until it can make a big play of its own (such as the plays against Oakland and San Diego in the late going).

    You wonder, however. The Bucs' scheme is so intent on stopping the run, could they be leaving themselves vulnerable?

    "We play our safeties back more than we play them up," Schiano said. "But when we play single high, our cornerbacks have to be able to play man coverage."

    Still, there have been so many chunk plays by opposing teams. The Falcons had four plays of 20-plus yards Sunday, running the total against the Bucs to 51 (near the bottom of the league) for the year. They have now given up 10 plays of 40 or more yards.

    Blame the injuries. Blame the personnel. Blame the scheme. Blame the pass rush. The bottom line is the secondary has to be better. The NFL is a passing league, and therefore, it is a survive-the-passer league. It's hard to imagine the Bucs making a run at the NFC wild card if they continue to give up 316 yards through the air every week.

    In other words, the secondary has to put out the flame before the season burns out of control.

    Either that, or someone should bring marshmallows.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM the Fan.

    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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  • 11/25/12--17:19: Shooting from the lip
  • By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Strongest comment

    Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a heck of a player. A heck of a jerk, too. Seems we can't go more than a few games without Suh doing something dirty. The latest incident was kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving Day — the second straight Turkey Day that Suh used his foot against an opposing player.

    Even worse, perhaps, than facing punishment by the league, Suh has lost the respect of many who played the game. That includes CBS NFL Today analyst Boomer Esiason, who laid into Suh.

    "This is supposed to be a brotherhood," Esiason said. "You're supposed to have respect for one another. Bruce Smith, I could always shake his hand. Reggie White, I could always shake his hand after a game. I would never shake this guy's hand because, once again, he has crossed over the line, and it's obvious it was on purpose."

    Best (and funniest) point

    Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi did a good job summing up how Miami is self-imposing a bowl ban.

    "Still can't believe the Miami Hurricanes, as another mediocre season comes to a close, are trying to head off the NCAA at the pass by self-imposing a bowl ban. Good grief, there should be a new NCAA rule: If you're going to a second- or third-rate bowl, you can't self-impose a post­season bad. In other words, the NCAA should make you go to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. Let's face it, some bowl games aren't a reward; they're a sentence."

    Biggest hype

    Ohio State finished the 2012 season undefeated after beating rival Michigan on Saturday. But let's hold off, please, on the talk that this team is some sort of national championship contender. There's even some suggestion voters could make the Buckeyes the Associated Press national champ.


    For starters, Ohio State isn't going to play in its conference championship and it won't have to play an Alabama or Notre Dame or whomever in a national title game, meaning it will avoid what would be its two toughest games of the year.

    In addition, Ohio State played in a mediocre conference. Other than Ohio State, only three Big Ten teams are ranked, the highest being Nebraska at No. 14. The Buckeyes' nonconference schedule was nothing special either: Miami (Ohio), UCF, Cal and Alabama-Birmingham.

    Strongest opinion

    Give some credit to Fox college football analyst Joey Harrington. While everyone, it seems, is ready to hand the Heisman Trophy to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel, Harrington isn't buying the hype.

    He might have a point.

    While Manziel was impressive in the victory at Alabama, he struggled against the other two marquee teams on the Aggies' schedule. Against Florida and LSU, Manziel threw no touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for only 87 yards combined. The Aggies lost both games.

    Best broadcast

    ABC's Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, as you would expect, did a bang-up job calling the Notre Dame-USC game on Saturday, although I did have one nit. Either the crowd noise was turned up too high or Musburger's microphone was set too low. Either way, it was hard to hear Musburger.

    The best crew Saturday, however, was Brad Nessler, top, and Todd Blackledge, who called the Florida-Florida State game. It was a treat to sit down and enjoy one of their broadcasts. Normally, they're calling a game at the same time as ABC's featured game with Musburger and Herbstreit on Saturday nights.

    Nessler did make one ill-advised comment, saying, "There are some NFL teams that would like (to have FSU's defensive line)."

    No NFL team would like to have a college line, especially one that gave up nearly 250 yards rushing. But other than that, Nessler and Blackledge were sharp. As usual.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Notre Dame being in the BCS title game is great for college football, whether you like the Irish or not. As they say, it's good for business. And I have to guess ESPN executives are praying for Alabama to beat Georgia because an Alabama-Notre Dame game would deliver huge TV ratings.

    2. The most exciting sporting event of the weekend was a vicious 12-round welterweight fight between Andre Berto and Robert Guerrero. The fight ended with both of Berto's eyes and one of Guerrero's swollen shut. HBO broadcaster Jim Lampley perfectly said, "Is it a brutal sport or the sweet science? This is both."

    3. First Ravens safety Ed Reed was suspended a game for an illegal hit to the head. Then it was reduced to a major fine of $50,000. It wasn't bad enough for a suspension, but it was for a major fine. So someone please tell me: Was it an illegal hit or not?

    Best topic

    All the NFL pregame shows spent significant time talking about the 49ers switching starting quarterbacks from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick, and all did just fine. However, I'd give the edge to Fox, which had the benefit of having Terry Bradshaw, who has been involved in quarterback controversies as a player.

    In the end, this is the type of topic that is most interesting on the pregame shows rather than the features and orchestrated controversies.

    Funniest commentary

    There is no finer broadcasting team in the NFL than NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Even in bad games, these two are a joy to listen to. Take Thanksgiving night, when the two called the Patriots' blowout of the Jets.

    The Jets stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way through an embarrassing minute in the second quarter, when the Patriots scored 21 points. And Collinsworth didn't blow his chance to be the strongest analyst in the NFL.

    "This is Keystone Cops," Collinsworth said. "Remember the old Football Follies? This is it. You're getting a chance to see it."

    He wasn't done.

    "The whole world is watching," Collinsworth said. "And they are sitting on the couch. And you got your wife and your grandmother, and they are asking, 'Do the Jets always play like this?' "


    Best feature

    Go on ESPN's website and check out Tom Rinaldi's College GameDay piece on Rutgers fan Austin Starego, who battles autism and has become an outstanding high school kicker.

    Best coaches

    Even though the Big Ten is in a down cycle, it does have, perhaps, the two leading candidates for coach of the year. Despite an easy schedule, Ohio State's Urban Meyer did a splendid job. Meantime, the fact Penn State's Bill O'Brien, left, lost 10 transfers and kept his team focused enough to win eight games was quite remarkable.

    Best feature

    Go on ESPN's website and check out Tom Rinaldi's College GameDay piece on Rutgers fan Austin Starego, who battles autism and has become an outstanding high school kicker.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik led Auburn to perhaps the greatest season in the program's history, and two years later to maybe its worst.

    The rapid fall from a national championship to 3-9 and the SEC doormat led to Chizik's firing Sunday, the day after a 49-0 loss to rival Alabama.

    The Tigers endured the worst slide within two years of winning a national championship of any team since the Associated Press poll started in 1936 and hadn't lost this many games since going 0-10 in 1950. The decision came 17 months after Auburn gave Chizik a contract worth $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout.

    Athletic director Jay Jacobs said he informed Chizik on Saturday night that he would recommend to president Jay Gogue that Chizik not be retained.

    Jacobs said he had concerns with lopsided losses in 2011 but grew "very concerned in our fundamental approach to the game" after the Arkansas game.

    Auburn is the first team in the Football Bowl Subdivision era (1978) to go from unbeaten in conference play (2010) to winless in conference play (2012) within a three-season span.

    "I had hoped our team would show some improvement this season," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately it didn't. The competition in our league is fierce. I decided we could not risk falling further behind by waiting for another year and hoping for improvement."

    "I'm extremely disappointed with the way this season turned out, and I apologize to the Auburn family and our team for what they have had to endure," Chizik, 50, a Clearwater High graduate, said in a statement. "While we experienced a tremendous low in 2012, I will always be proud of the incredible highs that we achieved, including three bowl victories, an SEC championship and a national championship.''

    He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.

    Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said players gave Chizik a standing ovation after a team meeting.

    Chizik's buyout is expected to be $7.5 million and his nine assistants will also get buyouts, with a total cost of $11.09 million.

    Jacobs said he wants a proven winner — not necessarily an experienced head coach — who follows the rules and stresses academics.

    More firings: N.C. State fired coach Tom O'Brien after six up-and-down seasons that included four bowl appearances but no ACC Championship Game appearances. He gets a $1.2 million buyout after going 40-35. … Boston College fired Frank Spaziani after four years of progressively worse records and two straight seasons without a bowl appearance. He was 22-29. … One day after former Plant High QB Robert Marve expressed strong support for Purdue coach Danny Hope and thanked him for allowing him to play with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Hope was fired. He was 22-27 in four injury-ravaged seasons. … Colorado fired Jon Embree after the worst season (1-11) in its 123 years. Embree was 4-21 in two seasons.

    FSU loses Carradine

    TALLAHASSEE — FSU defensive end Tank Carradine, the team's leading tackler, will miss the final two games with a torn knee ligament sustained in Saturday's loss to Florida.

    "He's sad. He's down," coach Jimbo Fisher said of the senior who has 80 tackles and 11 sacks.

    Fisher said starting options include freshmen Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards.

    Carradine has been projected as a likely first-round NFL pick. Fisher said the injury should not affect that projection.

    Obituary: Billy Smith, who provided security for FSU coaches Bill Peterson, Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher from 1964-2010, died Saturday in Tallahassee at age 81. Services are Tuesday.

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  • 11/25/12--18:30: Rams 31, Cardinals 17
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Jenkins returns two INTs for scores

    GLENDALE, Ariz. — Former Gator Janoris Jenkins became the first Ram and the first NFL rookie since the Browns' Bobby Franklin in 1960 to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game, and St. Louis sent the Cardinals to a seventh straight loss.

    Jenkins' returns of 36 and 39 yards ended the Rams' streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover.

    "A big relief," Jenkins said of ending the takeaway drought. "I felt the defense came out and we played together."

    Sam Bradford had 37-yard touchdown passes to Lance Kendricks and Chris Givens as St. Louis dominated the second half and snapped a five-game skid.

    Rookie Ryan Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State and the third quarterback to start for Arizona this season, was intercepted four times in his first start.

    "It was things that, it's unexplainable right now, but I made a bad play,'' Lindley said.

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    Times staff, wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Josh Freeman, Bucs QB, on leaving points on the field:

    "Every time you lose, you question whether or not you could have gotten more points on individual drives, no matter what the situation was. But the bottom line is we didn't score enough points to win."

    Greg Schiano, Bucs coach, on Freeman:

    "I thought he played well. Like everyone else, he's going to say, 'I wish I could have done this a little differently.' But he hung in there in the pocket, he took some hits and made some big-time throws. There are probably a handful he would like to have back, but overall I thought he played well."

    Leonard Johnson, Bucs CB, on giving up big plays:

    "I can't really make an excuse for us giving up yards. All I can say is that we need to correct the small stuff, go back and get back to it."

    Gerald McCoy, Bucs DT, on the game's closeness:

    "It's one of those, 'They made one or two more plays than we did' type of games, (an) evenly matched game. … Even on defense, it was as evenly matched (of a) game as you've seen all year. But when that play needed to be made, they made it, and we didn't."

    Mike Smith, Falcons coach, on running the ball early:

    "We felt like we need to try it. We felt like we could do it, too. We challenged our guys. We wanted to come down here — this was the No. 1 rushing (defense) in all of the NFL — and we wanted to see if we could do it."

    Matt Ryan, Falcons QB, on the Bucs:

    "I think they are a good football team. I think they are playing with a lot of confidence. It's always been a tough place for us to come play. They play with great effort."

    Dunta Robinson, Falcons CB, on Bucs RB Doug Martin:

    "I like him. I think he's a good, young running back. I'm just not into all of the hype. Let's just play football, make people earn everything they get. We definitely had a chip on our shoulder, and we definitely came out here and played like it."

    Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    In a game that featured a dozen massive plays, the aging Mike Peterson's second-quarter takedown of the rookie running back (Doug Martin) ranked near the top. … On third and goal from the 1, Martin ran left and had only Peterson, who's 36, to beat. Peterson grabbed him and hung on. That was the game in miniature. One side would make a play, and the other would counter. The Falcons countered last and hardest.

    Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com NFC South blogger:

    Questionable call of the day: Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano's decision to let Connor Barth attempt a 56-yard field goal with (3:37) remaining. Yes, Barth has a strong leg, but that's borderline range for just about any kicker. You attempt that kick in the final minute but not when you have that much time remaining and your defense has played well all day.

    Patrick Southern, CBSSports.com:

    For the Bucs, it was a near win in a game that showed just how far they have come under first-year coach Greg Schiano. But that won't likely be much consolation for a team that missed multiple opportunities to earn its fifth win in a row. Tampa Bay … squandered two drives that started inside the Atlanta 40-yard line, getting only field goals on both.

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    By Joe Smith and Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writers
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Connor Barth has been one of the most consistent field goal kickers in the league this season, and that includes from long distances. He entered Sunday 4-for-6 from 50 yards or more, including a 57-yarder. • So Barth was confident heading into a potential go-ahead 56-yarder with 3:37 left and the Bucs trailing 24-23. • "It's in my range," Barth said. • Said WR Mike Williams: "We had complete confidence in him. We all thought he was going to make it." • But Barth's try fell short and to the right, and Atlanta held on for a one-point victory. • "I didn't hit it good," said Barth, who made three field goals Sunday, including a 48-yarder. "That's all I can say. They've got faith in me, I just didn't make it. It's pretty simple." • Bucs coach Greg Schiano said a lot of possibilities were in his mind before Barth's attempt, from trying to pin the Falcons deep with a punt to going for it on fourth and 7 from Atlanta's 38-yard line. But Schiano also remembered Barth making a longer kick from the same spot and had seen him make 81 percent of his kicks entering the game. • "The reason we (tried the field goal) was my confidence in Connor that he was going to make it," Schiano said. "I still have confidence in him. If I had to do it another time, I believe he's going to make it. That's the kind of kicker I think we have. It's not like every day he has to hit a 56-yarder and we call it a day. That's a tall order, but we have one of the best kickers in the National Football League."

    Cornerback E.J. Biggers doesn't blitz often. But when he did Sunday, it turned into a big play — and his first career sack. It was early in the fourth quarter, and Tampa Bay had just taken a 20-17 lead over the Falcons. With the Falcons facing third and 1 on their 44, QB Matt Ryan, operating out of the shotgun, took the snap and looked to his left. But Biggers came off the blindside corner on a blitz and was untouched, hitting Ryan and forcing a fumble. DT Gerald McCoy recovered on the Falcons 36. The end result was a 48-yard field goal by Connor Barth. • "It was as great call by the coaches," Biggers said. "Everybody did their job on the play. When everybody does their job, great things happen." • Ryan took the blame for the blunder. • "Just a mistake on my part," he said. "We had the protection sliding that way and able to handle one (blitzer) off the edge, and they brought two."

    . Bucs RB Doug Martin has taken the NFL by storm in recent weeks, so much so that hardly anyone bats an eye when he puts up staggering numbers. The Falcons had taken note. They made stopping Martin their top priority Sunday, and Atlanta arguably did it better than any team. Tampa Bay's offensive rookie of the year candidate scored two touchdowns but was limited to 50 yards on 21 carries for his lowest rushing average of the season (2.4 yards per carry), which left the Bucs in difficult down-and-distance situations throughout the game. "(Martin) is an outstanding running back," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We knew (stopping him) was going to be one of our 'musts,' and I thought we did a nice job with our run defense. I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage." The Falcons pulled it off by committing to stopping the run, playing defenders near the line of scrimmage, and knowing Martin's elusiveness and propensity for big plays. "He's a tough guy to tackle," LB Sean Weatherspoon said. "He's like a big muscle." But the Falcons won the physical battle at the line of scrimmage and also used tactical measures. "They loaded the box and kind of did a lot outside of their tendencies," QB Josh Freeman said. "I think all in all, when you contain a guy who is as explosive as Doug is, that's saying a lot." Said Bucs LG Jeremy Zuttah: "They did some things pressurewise that you have to kind of see and anticipate, and we have to do a better job getting to the second level (and blocking)." Martin entered the game with 1,000 yards and was the NFL's third-leading rusher. In his previous five games, he averaged 135.4 rushing yards per game.

    . The Bucs entered the game as one of the best teams in the league in turning takeaways into touchdowns, ranking third in points off turnovers (83). But the two times Tampa Bay took the ball away from the Falcons, it had to settle for field goals, a big reason it lost by one point. After S Ronde Barber's second-quarter interception gave the Bucs the ball at the Falcons 31-yard line, their drive stalled at the goal line. They failed to capitalize on first and goal at the 3. After CB E.J. Biggers' fourth-quarter sack/forced fumble put Tampa Bay on the Atlanta 36, the Bucs failed to pick up a first down and settled for a 48-yard field goal. "They gave us two turnovers, put us in prime position, and we just couldn't get the touchdowns," QB Josh Freeman said. "Way too many field goals." Said WR Mike Williams: "We've got to finish."

    WR Mike Williams said he had never attempted a pass in a game — ever — until Sunday. • That's when he converted on a Bucs trick play in the second quarter and helped set up a Connor Barth field goal that tied the score at 10. The Bucs had taken over on the Atlanta 31 after a Ronde Barber interception, and on the first play, QB Josh Freeman threw a lateral to Williams along the left sideline. It looked like a quick screen, but Williams pulled up and threw to wide open WR Vincent Jackson for a 28-yard completion that put Tampa Bay on the 3. Jackson might have scored had Williams hit him in stride. • "It was wide open," Williams said. "I was supposed to lead (Jackson) a little bit, but I didn't want to overthrow it, he was so wide open. I tried to stick it on him." • The play had been in the playbook since Week 1 and something they've practiced, Williams said. • "When he called it in the huddle, I was shocked," Williams said. "I didn't see it coming. But it was a good play."

    Johnson comes up short

    . This time last year, Leonard Johnson (left) was preparing for his next Big 12 foe as a senior at Iowa State. On Sunday, he had a little more on his plate. With the Bucs down a man because top CB Eric Wright was out with an Achilles injury, Johnson got his second career start. Unfortunately for the undrafted rookie, Falcons WR Julio Jones played despite a sore right ankle. Jones went on to better Johnson, catching an 80-yard third-quarter TD pass that left Johnson assessing what went wrong. The Falcons spotted the one-on-one coverage, leaving it to Johnson to stay step for step with Jones. Johnson did, for a while. But Johnson's technique flaws allowed Jones to put distance between them, and QB Matt Ryan's pass down the sideline was on point. "I should have played my technique a little better," Johnson said. "That would have put me at an advantage. I played (Jones) tough all day." It was the kind of matchup and coverage the Falcons were looking for. S Ronde Barber, playing on Johnson's side of the field, was watching TE Tony Gonzalez in the middle and drifted in that direction. That left Johnson by himself.

    Ryan eludes rush

    . Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw just six incomplete passes Sunday out of 32 attempts. And nearly every one of those passes was made before a Bucs defender was within reach of him. It was a frustrating day for the Bucs' defensive line, which struggled to pressure Ryan. "With (the Falcons), the (receiver) is already determined before he takes the snap," DE Michael Bennett said. DE Da'Quan Bowers said, "Matt Ryan is a high-caliber quarterback, and he puts them in the right situation all the time. They did a great job protecting him. We couldn't even get to him." Ryan is perhaps the biggest reason the Falcons sit at 10-1. He is having a career season and Sunday showed how dominant he can be. Ryan threw for 353 yards on 26-of-32 passing for a 110.0 QB rating. The Bucs were leery about blitzing Ryan often, knowing that doing so would leave their vulnerable secondary in a difficult predicament. One particular blitz was successful, with CB E.J. Biggers causing a sack and fumble by Ryan in the fourth. But other than that, the Bucs didn't make life particularly tough for Ryan. And that's usually a losing proposition. Beyond the sack, the Bucs registered just one quarterback hit.

    Ryan on the mark

    . Falcons QB Matt Ryan posted a season-high 81.3 completion percentage (26-of-32). Ryan's average throw distance was 6.6 yards downfield, and the short throws led to high efficiency. Ryan finished 20-of-23 for 182 yards on throws of 10 yards or fewer downfield, setting season highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt on those throws. He finished 10-of-14 for 194 yards and a touchdown throwing outside the numbers, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

    Matt Ryan passing throws 10 yards or fewer this season:

    1st 10 gms Sunday

    Comp pct 72.2 87.0 *

    Yds/att 5.6 7.9*

    Att/30-yd play 91.0 23.0

    * Season high Source: ESPN Stats & Info

    Quick hits

    . Doug Martin became the first Bucs player with 1,000-plus rushing yards and nine-plus rushing TDs in a season since Errict Rhett in 1995.

    . The Bucs were trying to win five straight for the first time since 2002 (their Super Bowl season).


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    Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    LAS VEGAS — Florida's usually reliable defense faltered in the finale of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout.

    Janae Fulcher scored a career-best 26 for Arizona State, which got off to a fast start and never looked back in a 74-56 win over the Gators on Sunday afternoon.

    The Sun Devils opened 9-of-14 from the floor and finished 32-of-55 (58.2 percent), the best performance against Florida this season. The Gators (5-2) missed 10 of their first 11 shots and finished 19-of-62 (30.6 percent), including a season-worst 8-of-32 (25 percent) in the first half. Their 22 first-half points were a season low.

    "Arizona State came to play right from the get-go and established who the more dominant team was, and we fell in line with that, unfortunately," Florida coach Amanda Butler said.

    Jennifer George had 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals for Florida, and Jaterra Bonds added 11 points and a season-best six rebounds. Joy Burke and Promise Amukamara had 11 points each for Arizona State (2-3).

    Top 25

    NO. 1 STANFORD 77, LONG BEACH ST. 41: Chiney Ogwumike had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Cardinal (6-0), which extended the nation's best home winning streak to 81 games in its first game at No. 1 in nearly eight years.

    NO. 4 DUKE 82, XAVIER 59: Chelsea Gray scored a season-high 22 and freshman Alexis Jones had a career-high 14 for the visiting Blue Devils (4-0), who shot a season-high 59 percent.

    NO. 9 KENTUCKY 100, S.C. UPSTATE 34: A'dia Mathies scored 17 for the Wildcats (4-1), who forced 38 turnovers and shot 50 percent in winning their 24th consecutive home game.

    IOWA 79, NO. 12 W. VA. 70: Jaime Printy made all 17 of her free-throw tries and scored 19 points as the Hawkeyes rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to upset the Mountaineers (3-2) at the FIU Thanksgiving Classic in Miami.

    NO. 13 OKLA. 74, HAWAII 49: Morgan Hook scored 16 for the Sooners (5-1), who pulled away in the second half at the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Honolulu.

    NO. 16 OHIO ST. 82, WRIGHT ST. 52: Tayler Hill scored 17 for the Buckeyes (4-1), who scored the first nine and never trailed en route to their fourth straight win and 25th straight at home.

    NO. 18 ST. JOHN'S 66, HARTFORD 54: Shenneika Smith had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the visiting Red Storm (4-1) pulled away.

    NO. 19 UCLA 65, PRINCETON 52: Nirra Fields scored 26 and Markel Walker added 23 for the host Bruins (3-1), who overcame an 11-point first-half deficit to rebound from Friday's home loss to Notre Dame.

    NO. 20 TENN. 90, ALCORN ST. 37: Meighan Simmons scored 12 to lead six players in double figures for the host Vols (4-1). Braves coach Tonya Edwards played on Tennessee's first two national championship teams, in 1987 and 1989.

    NO. 22 KANSAS 58, CREIGHTON 48: Monica Engelman and Carolyn Davis had 12 points each for the Jayhawks (5-0), playing their first road game of the season.

    NO. 24 DAYTON 105, E. ILLinois 42: Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova shot 9-of-9 from the field and had a career-high 21 points for the host Flyers (6-0), in triple digits for the first time since a 101-80 win over Harvard on Dec. 30, 2010.

    NO. 25 UNC 101, NC ASHEVILLE 42: Waltiea Rolle scored 19 for the host Tar Heels (6-0), who held the Bulldogs to 4 of 36 shooting in the second half.

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    Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Ravens convert on fourth and 29, win

    SAN DIEGO — The Chargers seemingly had their first win against a team with a winning record secured, leading by three and defending a fourth-and-29 play from the Ravens 37.

    But Baltimore converted on a catch-and-run by running back Ray Rice, forced overtime, then won on Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 1:07 left. The Ravens have won four straight and eight of nine. On the fourth-down play, Joe Flacco threw a short pass to Rice, who weaved through the defense, found a hole in the middle of the field and got to the San Diego 33 with 1:37 left After a review, the ball was moved to the 34, still a first down and leading to a tying field goal.

    "Check down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle," Rice said of the play. "It was just total will."

    "It upsets the stomach when things like that happen, but they happen," said Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget. "You have to give a guy credit when he makes an awesome play like that.''

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    Times wires

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is getting tired of his team's generous nature and giving spirit over the holidays.

    The No. 15 Spartans (5-1) committed 20 turnovers, 14 in the second half, and barely survived a 63-60 scare from Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday.

    "I think our guys are going to be great citizens when they get done with basketball because the Christmas season is lasting all year," Izzo said. "They're giving gifts away.

    "Give (the Ragin' Cajuns) a lot of credit; I thought they played harder than we played. But I can't give anybody credit for some of those. It's undisciplined and inexcusable."

    Keith Appling scored 19 and helped his team hang on for its fifth straight win. Appling, who has scored at least 17 in every game except one this season, was 4-of-11 from the field. But he made other plays at key times, hitting 10 free throws and adding six rebounds and five assists.

    "We have to change our mind-set and know that we have to take care of the ball," Appling said. "Once the Big Ten season starts, those turnovers will lead to large deficits that we probably won't be able to overcome."

    Branden Dawson had 11 points and Brandan Kearney scored a career-high 10 off the bench for Michigan State.

    Elfrid Payton had 20 points for the Ragin' Cajuns. Shawn Long added 16, all but two in the first 10:03.

    "Most teams won't have a big man who can step out to the perimeter and guard me, so I tried to exploit that early," Long said. "I think I did a good job. Later I rushed some shots. I should have slowed down a little bit."

    NO. 1 INDIANA 101, BALL ST. 53: Will Sheehey scored 19 for the host Hoosiers (6-0), who posted their largest victory margin in a 21-game series that began in 1934.

    NO. 6 SYRACUSE 87, COLGATE 51: James Southerland scored 18, Michael Carter-Williams had a career-high 13 assists and the host Orange (4-0) beat the Raiders for the 46th straight time in the 165th meeting between the upstate New York foes.

    NO. 17 GONZAGA 81, DAVIDSON 67: Elias Harris scored 24 and Kevin Pangos 23 for the Bulldogs (6-0) in the Old Spice Classic championship game in Lake Buena Vista.

    NO. 20 OKLA. ST. 81, PORTLAND ST. 58: Markel Brown scored a season-high 23, Le'Bryan Nash added 20 and the host Cowboys (5-0) cruised in their first game as a ranked team in five years.

    NO. 21 UCONN 73, STONY BROOK 62: Niels Giffey had a career-high 15 points and added eight rebounds for the host Huskies (5-1), who made their last eight 3-pointers and 10 of 22 overall.

    NO. 23 COLORADO 89, AIR FORCE 74: Freshman Josh Scott helped break open a tight game by scoring 13 of his 20 in the second half for the host Buffaloes (5-0), off to their best start since they also opened 5-0 in 1989-90.

    BRYANT 56, B.C. 54: Dyami Starks scored 17, including a tiebreaking driving basket with 1:44 left, and the Bulldogs beat an ACC school for the first time. Bryant, which moved to Division I four years ago, had been 0-5 against the ACC.

    BRANDEIS 78, SALEM ST. 61: Junior guard Gabriel Moton, a former St. Petersburg High standout, had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead the Division III Judges to the championship of the New England Big Four Challenge in Waltham, Mass.

    NO. 8 KENTUCKY: Guard Ryan Harrow returned from a weekend absence to practice with the team. Harrow left Wednesday to tend to a family matter in Georgia.

    NO. 11 UCLA: Junior guard Tyler Lamb has decided to transfer and will leave school at the end of the fall quarter.


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  • 11/25/12--19:39: 49ers 31, Saints 21
  • Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — Ahmad Brooks, Donte Whitner and the rest of the San Francisco defense made enough plays for the 49ers to win no matter who they started at quarterback.

    Brooks and Whitner returned interceptions for touchdowns, the 49ers sacked Drew Brees five times, and San Francisco ended the Saints' three-game winning streak, 31-21 on Sunday.

    Colin Kaepernick was solid in his second career start while Alex Smith, healthy enough to suit up after recovering from a concussion, watched from the sideline. Kaepernick passed for 231 yards, including a short touchdown to Frank Gore, and ran for a 7-yard score. His first career interception was inconsequential.

    Brees finished with 267 yards and three touchdowns. After rushing for 140 yards or more in each of its previous three games, New Orleans had 59 yards Sunday.

    One of Brees' scoring passes went to Marques Colston, who set a Saints record with his 56th career touchdown with the club.

    The Niners rushed for 144 yards, led by Gore with 83. The Saints shut down tight end Vernon Davis, the player they feared perhaps the most, but the Niners' other tight end, Delanie Walker, had three catches for 81 yards, a 45-yarder setting up a touchdown.

    San Francisco's interceptions turned a 14-7 deficit into a 28-14 lead.

    Brooks snagged the first, returning it 50 yards late in the first half. The second came on Brees' first pass of the second half. The ball deflected off Colston's hands as the leaping receiver was upended and briefly shaken up. Whitner snagged the deflected pass and returned it 42 yards to make it 28-14

    Since losing to the Giants on Oct. 14, the Niners are 5-0-1 and hold a 21/2-game lead in the NFC West with five games to go.

    It seems their biggest problem at this point is picking a No. 1 quarterback. Smith, who led them to the NFC title game last season, started the first nine games this season before his injury.

    The Saints missed a chance to pull into a tie for the last NFC wild card berth and remain a game out with a challenge at Atlanta on Thursday night.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    NEW YORK — Two years before the playoffs start in college football, the SEC is staging a semi­final to determine who plays Notre Dame in the BCS title game.

    Alabama (.9236) was second and Georgia (.8911) third in the BCS standings released Sunday. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs play Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC championship.

    The winner advances to the national championship game in Miami on Jan. 7 against the Fighting Irish (.9979), who locked up their spot Saturday with a 22-13 victory against Southern California.

    "If you think about what the game means, this that and the other, it doesn't really help you win the game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle. That's what you've got to do."

    Florida (.8882) is fourth in the standings, but with no games left, the Gators are stuck behind their SEC rivals. UF likely will get an at-large BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, while the SEC runnerup is out of the big games altogether.

    "For either one of these teams, it's not really a great scenario," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

    One way or another, the SEC will get a shot at its seventh straight BCS championship.

    The Bowl Championship Series, in its second-to-last season, will be replaced by a four-team playoff in 2014.

    While the race for the BCS title game is fairly straight forward heading into championship weekend, there's intrigue to watch involving potential BCS busters.

    Kent State is 17th in the standings and Northern Illinois is 21st. They'll meet in the Mid-American Conference championship game on Friday night in Detroit.

    Because it is almost a certainty that the Big East champion — Louisville and Rutgers will determine that Thursday night in New Jersey — will be ranked behind the MAC champion in the final BCS standings, if either Kent State or NIU can get into the top 16, they would receive an automatic BCS bid. The MAC has never sent a team to a BCS bowl.

    Neither Louisville nor Rutgers is in the BCS top 25 this week.

    Boise State from the Mountain West is 20th in the standings and also in the mix for that BCS buster bid if it jumps ahead of the MAC teams and into the first 16. The Broncos play Nevada on Saturday to earn a share of the MW title.

    The team that could be hurt most if a BCS buster emerges is Oklahoma. The Sooners are 11th in the standings with a game left against TCU. With another victory, they would seem to be in good shape to get into a BCS bowl even if Kansas State clinches the Big 12 by beating Texas.

    But that at-large spot could get gobbled up by a BCS buster.

    Other BCS automatic bids will be determined this weekend in the ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten.

    Florida State and Georgia Tech play for the ACC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl. UCLA plays at Stanford in the Pac-12 title game with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin and Nebraska play for the Big Ten's Rose Bowl berth.

    Oregon is done with its regular season and in good shape for an at-large BCS bid.

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