Fire won't let heat, rare start time hurt vs. rival Red Bulls

819353.png

Fire won't let heat, rare start time hurt vs. rival Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls are not happy about three straight afternoon home games in the humidity of the Northeast.

Coach Hans Backe will likely compensate with major changes in the middle contest of this stretch when the Chicago Fire visit Red Bull Arena on Wednesday.

Backe and star forward Thierry Henry were vocal in their complaints before this set of games began with a 2-all draw against Seattle on Sunday. The Red Bulls (9-5-5) host Philadelphia on Saturday.

The coach said he will rotate his squad. Henry, who played 90 minutes Sunday, claims he wants to start all three games but that doesn't seem likely given the conditions. Forecasts call for temperatures to reach the mid-90s.

"It's kind of way hotter there," Henry said about Red Bull Arena. "The stadium keeps the heat, I don't know what it is but we're going to have to see how it is."

Chicago (9-6-4) has had some extra rest after a 1-0 home victory over Vancouver on Saturday. The Fire do not play another MLS match after Wednesday until July 28, but have an exhibition home game against English club Aston Villa this Saturday.

The visitors are also aware of the conditions they'll face with the afternoon start time.

"It is what it is," Chicago midfielder Logan Pause said. "I think we train out here every day in the heat, and it's going to be no different. Obviously both teams are coming off games over the weekend so that factors in."

Chicago is one point behind New York in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Fire won 3-1 at home over the Red Bulls on June 17 but have totaled four goals in five games since - still managing to go 3-1-1.

Henry and defender Rafa Marquez missed the first matchup for the Red Bulls. Marquez will not be available again after leaving in the 21st minute Sunday with a left calf injury.

The Fire will be without defender Arne Friedrich, sent off in the 69th minute against the Whitecaps. Chicago was ecstatic about holding on after Pavel Pardo's ninth-minute goal.

"You get a red card, and it's amazing how it changes the game," coach Frank Klopas said. "The guys worked very hard in the end."

Chicago, 6-1-3 in its last 10 against New York, has matched its 2011 victory total as it seeks to end a two-year postseason drought.

"We're not happy for nine wins if we don't get to our goal at the end of the season," Klopas said.

New York is one of two unbeaten teams at home with a 5-0-3 mark.

Copyright2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

The College Football Playoff field is set, and for the second time in three years, the Ohio State Buckeyes will compete for a national championship.

The selection committee revealed the four-team field for this season's Playoff, with Ohio State coming at No. 3. The Buckeyes will battle No. 2 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The other Playoff semifinal pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl.

While Ohio State has been considered one of the best teams in the country throughout the season, the Buckeyes' inclusion in the Playoff field is not without controversy, as they are the first team to play in the Playoff without winning their conference championship. But Ohio State had a sterling resume with three wins over top-10 teams: Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes' lone loss came against a top-10 Penn State team.

The 2014 national champion, Ohio State returns to the Playoff after missing out last season. Big Ten champion Michigan State represented the conference last year, getting crushed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Two years ago, the Buckeyes beat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl and then beat the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game.

Big Ten champion Penn State, which won the conference title game Saturday night with an instant-classic comeback victory over Wisconsin, ended up fifth and was left off the bracket. So too was sixth-ranked Michigan, which didn't compete for a conference championship but was ranked fifth in the final set of rankings prior to Sunday's bracket reveal. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines combined for five wins over top-10 teams this season.

There was plenty of conversation that red-hot Penn State could surge into the Playoff, just like Ohio State did two years ago. The Lions are riding a nine-game winning streak, defeated Ohio State earlier in the season and claimed the championship in what has been the hands-down best conference in college football this season. And boy did they impress Saturday night in their most recent showing, erasing a three-touchdown deficit to come back and beat Wisconsin.

Michigan, too, had a mighty compelling case to make. The Wolverines, owners of one of the best defenses in the country all season long, beat three top-10 teams during the regular season and took the No. 2 team in the country to double overtime just last weekend.

But in the end, we did not get the first Playoff field to feature two teams from the same conference. Penn State and Michigan will learn their bowl fates — likely going to New Year's Six bowl games — later Sunday.

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal the four-team Playoff field shortly, but in the AP poll, Big Ten champion Penn State did vault ahead of Michigan.

The Nittany Lions, fresh off their instant-classic comeback win in Saturday night's Big Ten title game, jumped up three spots, from No. 8 to No. 5, passing the Wolverines, who dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 with no game to play this weekend.

Who knows if that will be the thinking of the committee or if Penn State's performance Saturday was impressive enough to get it above Washington or Clemson and into the final four.

In the AP poll Sunday, Ohio State checked in at No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama. The Buckeyes didn't play Saturday either, but those top two spots figure to be how the top two spots of the Playoff field will look. Clemson and Washington stayed the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the poll, which seems to be a likely possibility in the Playoff, as well.

Wisconsin, defeated by Penn State on Saturday night, dropped just two spots from No. 6 to No. 8, jumped by Penn State and Oklahoma, which was victorious in its regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, claiming the Big 12 championship in the process.

Iowa moved up one spot from No. 22 to No. 21, while Nebraska dropped a spot from No. 23 to No. 24. Neither team played this weekend.