Fire to kick off season in Montreal

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Fire to kick off season in Montreal

When MLS says Bienvenue to its 19th franchise, Le Feu will be there.

The Fire will start its season on St. Patricks Day in Montreal according to the 2012 schedule released by the league Thursday. The Impact makes the jump from NASL to MLS and the Men in Red will be their first opponent at Olympic Stadium. (No word as to whether or not Youppi will be in attendance.) The Fires home opener is one week later when the Union visits Toyota Park.

With the leagues membership now at an odd number, the clubs 34-game unbalanced schedule will feature 25 matches against Eastern Conference rivals but theyll play each Western Conference team just once. The best news with this schedule is that the Fire wont have to visit raucous Qwest Field in Seattle where theyve only earned one point from three league matches and lost the U.S. Open Cup there last year. They will instead host the Sounders April 28th. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy visit Toyota Park on Sunday, July 8th. The Brimstone Cup will be up for grabs in Bridgeview May 23rd when FC Dallas pays visit. On Oct. 3rd, the club will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its founding when former Fire midfielder Peter Nowak brings his Union side back to Chicago on Oct. 3rd.

The Fire are scheduled to appear 13 times on national television, including 5 matches on the brand, spankin new NBC Sports Network (shameless corporate plug!!!) beginning with an April 21st date at Toronto FC. The Men in Red will make their first ever appearance on NBC Saturday, Oct. 6th when they visit Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls. The Fire will have to save its best for last with the last 12 matches of the season against Eastern rivals ending with a home date against DC United Oct. 27th on NBC Sports Network. (You should watch that channel, you REALLY REALLY should!)

The entire schedule is below. Plan your travel accordingly, Section 8.

DATEOPPONENTTIMETVSat., March 17
at Montreal1:00 PM
Sat., March 24
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Sunday, April 1
at Colorado
6:00 PM
GalavisionSunday, April 15
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, April 21
at Toronto FC
2:30 PM
NBCSNSaturday, April 28
vs. Seattle
7:30 PM
Friday, May 4
at Chivas USA
10:00 PM
ESPN Deportes
Wednesday, May 9
vs. Real Salt Lake
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 12
vs. Kansas City
7:30 PM
Sunday, May 20
at Portland
6:00 PM
GalavisionWednesday, May 23
vs. FC Dallas
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 26
at Columbus
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, June 2
at New England
6:30 PM
Sunday, June 17
vs. New York
4:00 PM
NBCSN
Saturday, June 23
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, June 29
at Kansas City
7:00 PM
NBCSNTuesday, July 3
at Houston
7:30 PM
Sunday, July 8
vs. Los Angeles
2:00 PM
ESPNSaturday, July 14
vs. Vancouver
7:30 PM
Wednesday, July 18
at New York
12:00 PM
Saturday, July 21
at Toronto FC
3:00 PM
Saturday, July 28
at San Jose
9:30 PM
Saturday, Aug. 4
vs. Toronto FC
7:30 PM
Sunday, Aug. 12
at Philadelphia
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Aug. 18
vs. New England
7:30 PM
Wednesday, Aug. 22
at DC United
6:30 PM
Sunday, Sept. 2
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Sept. 15
vs. Montreal
7:30 PM
Saturday, Sept. 22
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, Sept. 28
at Kansas City
7:30 PM
NBCSNWednesday, Oct. 3
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 6
at New York
2:30 PM
NBCSaturday, Oct. 20
at New England
6:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 27
vs. DC United
6:30 PM
NBCSN

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead