Ohio State tries to stay unbeaten
NEW YORK, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- For the first time all season, the college football picture is clear.
Miami and Ohio State, the two remaining unbeaten teams, will play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 should they win their remaining games.
Some potholes need to be avoided along the way, beginning Saturday when No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) plays its final road game of the season at defending Big Ten Conference champion Illinois.
Among those rooting for the Illini will be a cluster of one-loss teams such as No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Washington State, No. 5 Iowa and No. 6 Oklahoma. Should the Buckeyes falter, they will make their own claim at a Fiesta Bowl berth.
The latest BCS standings have Ohio State at No. 1, thanks to Oklahoma's surprising loss to unranked Texas A&M last week and the Buckeyes' 10-6 win over Purdue.
"I'm proud of what this team has accomplished so far this year," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We've won a number of tough games, and this week we have another very difficult challenge at Illinois. That is where our focus is."
Ohio State can clinch the first 12-win season in school history on Saturday. After Illinois, the focus shifts to the regular season finale against No. 10 Michigan on Nov. 23.
The strength of the Buckeyes has been on defense. Ohio State has allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points and has given up a mere 16 points in the last 14 quarters.
Led by safety Michael Doss and linebacker Matt Wilhelm, Ohio State has not allowed a second-half touchdown in the last five games.
Given up for dead after a 1-5 start, Illinois (4-6) is no longer a pushover. The Illini have won three of their last four games, including a 37-20 win at Wisconsin last week in which they rolled up more than 450 yards of total offense. John Beutjer hooked up with Greg Lewis for a pair of touchdown passes.
Top-ranked Miami (9-0) is off this week before hosting No. 22 Pittsburgh (8-2) next Thursday. Washington State (9-1), which moved up to third behind Miami in the BCS, also is idle this week and will visit Washington on Nov. 23.
Iowa (10-1) seeks a school-record 11th victory when it concludes its regular season against Minnesota. A win will enable Iowa to finish unbeaten in the Big Ten Conference for the first time in school history and keep the pressure on Ohio State.
Since Iowa (7-0 in conference play) and Ohio State do not meet, the possibility exists that two teams could finish 8-0 in the Big Ten, which also would be a first.
Texas (9-1) plays its final road game of the season when it visits Texas Tech and quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury is fifth place on the NCAA's all-time career passing list with 11,934 yards. But he has lost all three meetings against Texas.
Last season, Texas routed Texas Tech in Austin. Kingsbury completed 40 passes, a record for a Texas opponent, but averaged just 6.5 yards per completion and was held to 260 yards.
Following last week's loss at Texas A&M, Oklahoma (8-1) will try to take out its frustrations on Baylor, which has been shut out in three of its last five games.
Oklahoma still controls its own destiny in the race for the Big 12 South title. No. 18 Colorado (7-3) can clinch the North Division title and a second straight berth in the championship game with a victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
A division title also can be secured in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday. No. 7 Georgia (9-1) can capture the East division title and a trip to the league title game Dec. 7 with a win at Auburn.
No. 14 Florida (7-3) can claim the East title if it defeats South Carolina and Georgia loses.
No. 8 Southern California (7-2) seeks its fifth straight victory and tries to keep its slim Pac-10 Conference title hopes alive Saturday when it welcomes Arizona State.
A loss by USC this week will clinch the Pac-10 title for Washington State, which handed the Trojans their only conference defeat.
No. 15 Florida State (7-3) remains the only unbeaten team in Atlantic Coast Conference play (6-0) and will try to move a step closer to its 10th ACC title in 11 years when it hosts North Carolina.
No. 19 Maryland (8-2) seeks its eighth straight win when it visits Clemson and No. 20 North Carolina State (9-2) tries to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 1997 when it visits Virginia.
In other games, No. 10 Michigan (8-2) hosts Wisconsin, No. 11 Kansas State (8-2) welcomes Nebraska, No. 12 Louisiana State (7-2) hosts Alabama, No. 16 Penn State (7-3) is at Indiana, No. 17 Colorado State (8-2) goes to San Diego State, No. 22 Oregon (7-3 hosts Washington, No. 23 Boise State (9-1) welcomes Louisiana Tech and No. 25 Bowling Green (8-1) is at South Florida.
No. 9 Notre Dame (9-1), No. 13 Virginia Tech (8-2), Pittsburgh and No. 23 Texas Christian (8-1) are idle this week.
Junqueira wins provisional pole
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Bruno Junqueira of Brazil took the provisional pole Friday for CART's season-ending Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Driving a Toyota/Lola, Junqueira captured the pole with a final lap speed of 116.703 miles per hour around the revamped 2 3/4-mile facility.
Junqueira is second in the CART standings and the bonus point for winning the provisional pole moved him four ahead of Canada's Patrick Carpentier, who posted the sixth-fastest lap of the day.
Junqueira also has a guaranteed spot in the front row, regardless of what happens in Saturday's final round of qualifying.
Fellow Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi qualified second at 116.587 mph in a Toyota/Lola. Fittipaldi held the top spot until Junqueira's final run.
Dario Franchitti of Scotland was third at 116.424 mph. He also has a shot at second in the standings, which includes a $500,000 bonus. Franchitti trails Junqueira by just 11 points.
Jimmy Vasser and Brazilian Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five qualifiers.
Wright out 2-4 weeks with broken hand
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Off to a torrid start, Columbus Blue Jackets center Tyler Wright will miss two to four weeks after suffering a broken bone in his hand in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim.
Wright and fellow center Espen Knutsen were placed on injured reserve Friday.
Wright is second on the team with eight goals, just five fewer than he scored all of last season. He leads the Blue Jackets with two shorthanded tallies and has a pair of power-play goals in 15 games.
Knutsen's move is retroactive to Nov. 3. The only Norwegian in the NHL already has missed five games and is expected to be sidelined another week or two. He has just two goals and an assist in 11 games after becoming the first Blue Jacket to appear in the All-Star Game last season.
To fill the roster spots, Columbus recalled left wing Andrej Nedorost and center Blake Bellefeuille from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
Nedorost appeared in three games with the Blue Jackets earlier this season and picked up one assist. Bellefeuille picked up his first NHL point in 2001-02 and has an assist and eight penalty minutes in eight games with Syracuse this season.
Melvin new Mariners manager
SEATTLE, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Seattle Mariners Friday named Bob Melvin their new manager, giving him a two-year contract with a club option for 2005.
Melvin, 41, was bench coach for Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly the past two seasons. The team won the World Series in 2001.
He also has played and scouted at the major league level, but has never managed.
Melvin reportedly beat out Buddy Bell, Jim Riggleman, and Sam Perlozzo for the job, which became vacant when Lou Piniella decided not to fulfill the final year of his contract, and later became manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Melvin, a former catcher, played 10 years for seven big league teams, compiling a career average of .233 with 35 home runs. Since his retirement in 1994, he has been a coach and scout, and has worked in the front office.
The Chicago Cubs also were rumored to have interest in Melvin, who takes over a team that missed the playoffs in 2002 after setting an American League record with 116 wins in 2001.
Krzyzewski out of hospital
DURHAM, N.C., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski Friday was released from a hospital after injuring his hip during an exhibition game Thursday night.
Krzyzewski, 55, suffered the injury when he stood up suddenly in the first half of the Blue Devils' 102-74 rout of EA Sports. He was admitted to Duke University Hospital, where an MRI revealed an injury to his iliopsoas muscle.
Because of the pain, Krzyzewski was unable to return for the game's second half, and was admitted to the hospital overnight for observation. He is expected to recover at home over the weekend and begin therapy Monday.
"I am feeling much better today than I did last night," he said. "I look forward to being with my team next week."
Top assistant Johnny Dawkins took over for "Coach K" as Duke pulled away in its final preseason game.
"I think that helped us grow as a team, not having our leader there," said guard Chris Duhon. "The guys came together and were able to execute and play pretty good basketball. That's big for us and, hopefully, we can build from it."
Duhon sprained his wrist on a hard fall in the first half and missed most of the second.
The Blue Devils open the regular season on Nov. 23 against Army. They have only two games over the next two weeks.
Krzyzewski could return for the season opener, although Duke will be patient. He missed the final 19 games of the 1994-95 season after undergoing his first hip replacement operation.
In 27 years, Krzyzewski is 637-227, winning national championships in 1991, '92 and 2001.
Major Leaguers win again in Japan
TOKYO, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Major League Baseball All-Stars finally got a solid performance from a starting pitcher Friday as Randy Wolf tossed six scoreless innings on the way to a 4-0 victory over the Japan League All-Stars.
It was the second straight win for the major leaguers, who dropped the previous three games of the eight-game international series, allowing eight runs each time.
Wolf, the Philadelphia Phillies' lefthander who ended the year as one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, faced just one batter over the minimum, giving up only one hit and a walk.
In Sunday's 8-4 loss, Wolf allowed three runs over 3 1/3 innings, but Friday he returned to the form that led him to win four consecutive late-season starts while yielding just one run. He finished the year 11-9 with a 3.20 ERA.
"I have such respect for all these guys after watching them the last four or five days," Wolf said. "The last time I came out of the bullpen and was throwing the ball all over the place. The biggest difference tonight was that I was just throwing strikes."
San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, the National League MVP, won a pregame home run-hitting contest against Japanese counterpart Hideki Matsui, then opened the scoring in the fourth inning with an opposite-field RBI double.
"It was a slider away and I just went with it," Bonds said. "I didn't get it all but just enough to do some damage."
Bonds, who led the Giants to the World Series, is 8-for-23 with five homers and 10 RBI in the series. He beat Matsui, 8-5, in the home run contest at the Tokyo Dome.
Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Junior Spivey led off the fifth with a homer to make it 2-0. It was the 11th home run of the series for the major leaguers, and the first by someone other than Bonds, Jason Giambi or Torii Hunter.
Ichiro Suzuki, who left Japan to sign with the Seattle Mariners two years ago, added an RBI double. He had two hits in the game, giving him five in his last nine at-bats after opening the series with a 1-for-13 slump.
The Japanese stars made three infield errors behind lefthander Shugo Fujii, leading to three unearned runs.
The series concludes with games at the Tokyo Dome on Saturday and Sunday. The major leaguers need to win both to avoid losing a series to Japan for just the third time in 36 tours.
Karros deal restructured
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Eric Karros, a fixture at first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past several years, has had his contract with the team restructured.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, said Karros, guaranteed $8 million for 2003, had a club option for 2004 at $9 million that would have kicked in automatically if he reached 500 plate appearances in 2003. If he fell short of that threshold, the team would have been able to decline the option, and Karros would have received a $1 million buyout and become a free agent.
The new agreement removes the plate-appearance threshold. The Dodgers are now free to choose the $9 million option or the $1 million buyout in 2004 no matter how many plate appearances he makes in 2003.
Karros, 35, is coming off his second straight disappointing season offensively, and underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery. He already has waived his "10/5" trade veto rights as part of the terms of his current four-year, $29 million deal.
Last season, Karros batted .271 with 13 home runs and 73 RBI in 573 at-bats. For his career, the 6-4, 226-pounder has an average of .268, with 270 homers and 976 RBI in 1,601 games.
Yankees exercise option on Pettitte
NEW YORK, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees settled one of the issues regarding their 2003 rotation on Thursday, exercising the $11.5 million contract option of lefthander Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte, 30, was 13-5 with a 3.27 ERA last season and won nine of his last 11 starts. He is the only pitcher in the major leagues since 1961 to win at least 12 games in each of his first eight seasons in the major leagues.
"He's one of our guys, one of our core guys," a club official was quoted by the New York Times. "He signed with us. He came up with us. He's important to us. He's one of the winners. There are no guarantees, but we feel really strongly about him."
Pettitte released a statement through the team, saying he was pleased with the development.
"Andy is thrilled, and it's always been his desire to remain with the Yankees," the statement said.
However, he was less confident when talking to the New York Daily News.
"I couldn't imagine them not picking up my option," he said. "But maybe they don't want me back."
With Pettitte under contract for next season, the Yankees must decide if they will pursue Roger Clemens, who collected a $10.3 million payment and remains a free agent.
The candidates for the rotation already include Mike Mussina, Jeff Weaver, David Wells and Orlando Hernandez.
Pettitte has 128 career wins, tying him for 10th on the Yankees' all-time list with Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro. The lefthander ranks fourth among active pitchers with a .646 winning percentage (128-70), trailing only Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.
Pettitte signed a three-year contract with a club option on Jan. 25, 2000.
Peppers suspended by NFL
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Rookie end Julius Peppers, who quickly has become one of the most feared defensive lineman in the National Football League, Thursday was hit with a four-game suspension for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Peppers, the NFL's sack leader with 10, tested positive for either ephedrine or a derivative of the stimulant ephedra, according to a report by ESPN.com.
Carolina Coach John Fox was prohibited by league policy from either confirming or denying the incident when asked about it by reporters after practice Thursday, but several sources indicated that he will play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the suspension is being appealed.
That appeal was confirmed in a statement released by Peppers' agent, Marvin Demoff. Team officials said Peppers can continue to play as long as the suspension is under appeal.
"My understanding is he will be our starting left end Sunday," Fox said. "That's where all of my focus is, and his is, too, on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."
"While I would like to provide the fans with more information, due to the legal ramifications, I cannot comment on the situation, and I will not be able to until the appeal process is complete," Peppers said in the statement. "At that time, I will gladly accommodate any questions and discuss the situation. I apologize for the distraction that this may cause the Panthers' organization or my teammates."
A four-game suspension is automatic when a player tests positive for a banned substance or steroids.
Peppers is the second Carolina defensive lineman to be sanctioned in recent days. Defensive tackle Brenston Buckner is serving a four-game ban handed down on Nov. 4 for taking a banned stimulant.
Peppers, 22, is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. The 6-6, 283-pounder was the second overall pick in the 2002 draft out of North Carolina, and signed a seven-year contract that could be worth up to $62 million.
Edelin penalty upheld
NEW YORK, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Freshman guard Billy Edelin, called among the best first-year players in the country, Thursday saw the appeal of the suspension he was given for participating in an illegal outside competition denied by the NCAA.
The penalty was for 12 games.
Edelin enrolled as a freshman last season at Syracuse, but was suspended in October after an alleged sexual abuse complaint by a female student. He was cleared to attend school this year, but the NCAA caught wind of a winter league in which Edelin took part while he was out of school.
Syracuse argued that Edelin could not have known of the rule prohibiting him to play since he was not in school, and the rule should not have applied to him.
The NCAA upheld its decision, meaning Edelin will not be eligible until a Jan. 18 contest against Big East Conference favorite Pittsburgh.
"I don't even know what to say," said Rob Mathner, the school's Director of Compliance. "The institution prepared and brought forth a compelling case and we felt we had an opportunity to reduce (the original 12-game penalty). It just didn't happen."
The suspension is the longest for an individual by the NCAA since Michigan's Jamal Crawford was suspended for 13 games in the 1999-2000 season.
The Orangemen could have used his expertise Thursday night.
They started too slowly, tried to overcome an early 17-point deficit, but could not, and lost their season-opener, 70-63 to Memphis, in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at New York's Madison Square Garden.