Johnson absent for Fire opener

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Johnson absent for Fire opener

The Montreal Impact suffered a disappointing result in their MLSdebut, but they hope to take advantage of what's expected to be afull house in their home opener.The Impact go for their first win Saturday when they take on theChicago Fire, who will be without starting goaltender Sean Johnsonin their season opener.After playing in various other leagues for nearly two decades,Montreal joined the MLS, becoming the league's 19th team. TheImpact weren't able to pick up a win in their debut, losing 2-0 toVancouver last Saturday."The disappointing part is that it happened so quickly into thegame,'' said coach Jesse Marsch, whose team gave up the first goalin the fourth minute. "We don't even give ourselves a chance forthe game to settle in, and we're already down 1-0."While nerves could be blamed for the poor start, Montreal didhave its chances, putting seven shots on goal.The Impact will try for better results in their home opener atOlympic Stadium. Montreal announced that more than 50,000 ticketshave been sold."Now that we have a game under our belt, we'll be more focusedon exactly what the game is going to require," Marsch, a member ofthe Fire from 1998-2005, told the league's official website. "Wehave enough guys who have played in front of big crowds and in biggames. It's going to be a good opportunity to show the city who weare."Chicago will be looking to quiet that full stadium in itsopener."They'll be trying as much as possible to play the crowd and tointimidate us and the officials," said forward Dominic Oduro, wholed the Fire with 12 goals last season. "I believe we have a goodteam in terms of experience in chemistry to go in and get pointsout of it."The Fire missed the playoffs for a second straight year in 2011despite finishing strong after a poor start, going 7-1-2 in theirfinal 10 games.A big reason for that success was the play of Johnson. He gaveup 12 goals during that 10-game stretch, though he'll miss thefirst three contests this season while playing for the UnitedStates in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying action.Chicago has not said whether it will start veteran Jay Nolly or23-year-old Paolo Tornaghi in his place."Jay is an experienced guy, and Paolo, his experience isdifferent," coach Frank Klopas told the Fire's official website."He's not the kid out of the draft or college, he's been in a goodenvironment. We're comfortable with either choice."Chicago returns most of last season's roster, including Oduroand Patrick Nyarko, who had a team-best nine assists.The Fire added some depth behind them in Colombian midfielderRafael Robayo and German defender Arne Friedrich, who appeared in82 games for his national team.With Montreal playing in front of what should be an emotionalcrowd, Chicago's goal is to get off to a quick start."It would be huge to go in and get an early goal to take themout of it and calm us down," Oduro said.Copyright 2012 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.