One Bowl to Rule Them All

January 3, 2024

By: Carlos Alvarez

Welcome Back 

It’s a new year, and it starts with a blast of postseason football. The Sportsletter has big goals for 2024. We’re glad you’re with us.

In case you missed it, we sent out our 2023 sports rewind just before New Year’s Eve. You can Relive the Best of Sports in 2023 if you didn’t already.

 Watch: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark Caps 40-Point Night With Buzzer-Beater 3 to Beat Michigan State (76-73)

Letter Rip!


One Bowl to Rule Them All

Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

#1 Michigan & #2 Washington Win CFP Semifinals to Stay Perfect, Meet in National Championship Next Monday

A holiday break full of 42 bowl games has been completed, but one remains — the big one. There’s no more denying who the top two teams in college football are. #1 Michigan and #2 Washington enter next Monday’s CFP National Championship undefeated and unscathed (both 14-0) after a pair of CFP semifinal thrillers on New Year’s Day. And despite Florida State’s claim of deserving a CFP spot, the Seminoles got rolled by 60 against Georgia. It was #3 Texas and #4 Alabama who slid into the CFP in the 11th hour, but it’s #1 Michigan and #2 Washington for all the marbles in Houston just five days from now. Let’s see how we got here.

CFP Semifinal Highlights

#1 Michigan def. #4 Alabama (27-20, OT)

The first CFP semifinal pitted two of college football’s most remarkable defenses at the Rose Bowl, and this was one of the best games of the year. Alabama and Michigan traded blows on the field after their decorated head coaches — Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban — sidestepped drama in the press conferences. There were four lead changes and two ties in a contest that needed overtime. The Michigan defense held Alabama QB Jalen Milroe to just 116 yards passing. So, after Michigan struck first in the OT to take a 27-20 lead, the Crimson Tide put it in Milroe’s hands on the ground. His QB draw was stuffed on 4th down inside the 5, and the Wolverines are dancing into Houston. QB J.J. McCarthy (17/27, 221 yards, 3 TDs) was special, as well as RB Blake Corum (21 touches, 118 yards, 2 TDs). And despite recruiting violations and the sign-stealing scandal that kept Harbaugh off the sidelines for six games this season, Michigan has a shot at their first Natty since 1997.

#2 Washington def. #3 Texas (37-31)

The second CFP semifinal was more offense-heavy as the high-scoring Longhorns met the Huskies in the Sugar Bowl. Texas QB Quinn Ewers (24/43, 372 yards, 1 TD) went toe-to-toe with Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (29/38, 461 yards, 2 TDs), but the Huskies were too much in the end. Texas matched Washington on the scoreboard three separate times (7s, 14s, 21s), but a third-quarter spurt saw the Huskies put up 13 unanswered (34-21). The Longhorns rallied with 10 points in the final frame to pull within six. They even got the ball back with 45 seconds left before marching into the red zone. A 4th-and-11 on the Washington 13-yard-line brought the final play, and the last pass of the game fell incomplete in the end zone. A wild ride to the finish ended with the Huskies earning a shot at their third-ever national championship, and the first since 1991.

CFP National Championship Game

#1 Michigan vs. #2 Washington (Mon. 7:30 pm ET)

Read More

ESPN: CFP National Championship First Look: Michigan vs. Washington

SI: Connor Stalions Seen in Prime Seats for Michigan’s Rose Bowl Game

CBS Sports: Keys to How Washington And/Or Michigan Can Win CFP National Championship

Other Notable Bowl Game Highlights

#6 Georgia def. #5 Florida State (63-3)

#9 Missouri def. #7 Ohio State (14-3)

#8 Oregon def. #23 Liberty (45-6)

#11 Ole Miss def. #10 Penn State (38-25)

#14 Arizona def. #12 Oklahoma (38-24)

#13 LSU def. Wisconsin (35-31)

#16 Notre Dame def. #19 Oregon State (40-8)

#21 Tennessee def. #17 Iowa (35-0)

Read More

B/R: College Football Weekly Awards: NY6 & CFB Playoff Semifinals

ESPN: Georgia’s Kirby Smart Laments FSU Opt-Outs After UGA’s Orange Bowl Rout

Y! Sports: Oregon QB Bo Nix Sets Single-Season Completion Percentage Record in Fiesta Bowl Win



Week 18: NFL Playoff Outlook

Photo: Loren Elliot / Getty Images

9 of 14 Playoff Spots Claimed Entering Final Week of NFL Regular Season

The NFL Playoffs are just around the corner, and we now know nine of the 14 postseason teams following the holiday break. The Baltimore Ravens extended their win streak to six games with wins against the 49ers (33-19) and Dolphins (56-19). Those are two of the top teams in the league. The AFC Playoffs officially run through Baltimore. Was Christmas Day (49ers-Ravens) a Super Bowl LVIII preview? And is Lamar Jackson now the runaway MVP? He\’s now at -20000 odds to win it. There’s much to love about Baltimore’s potential hardware haul coming in the next month.

The Last 5 Spots (Scenarios)

Eleven teams are still eligible for the final five playoff bids entering Week 18 — the final week of the regular season. The keys to the postseason reside in the NFC South (Bucs, Saints, Falcons) and AFC South (Colts, Texans, Jaguars). Neither of those divisions has solidified a winner, and those divisional races are all tight. The Seahawks, Packers, Vikings, and Steelers are also clinging to postseason hope. That’s ten. The Bills are the outlier — not technically in — but they have a 94% chance of making the playoffs. Here\’s a look at the postseason standings.

AFC Playoffs

1. NORTH: Ravens (13-3)*

2. EAST: Dolphins (11-5)*

3. WEST: Chiefs (10-6)*

4. SOUTH: Jaguars (9-7)

5. WC: Browns (11-5)*

6. WC: Bills (10-6)

7. WC: Colts (9-7)

In the Hunt: Texans (9-7), Steelers (9-7)

NFC Playoffs

1. WEST: 49ers (12-4)*

2. EAST: Cowboys (11-5)*

3. NORTH: Lions (11-5)*

4. SOUTH: Buccaneers (8-8)

5. WC: Eagles (11-5)*

6. WC: Rams (9-7)*

7. WC: Packers (8-8)

In the Hunt: Seahawks (8-8), Saints (8-8), Vikings (7-9), Falcons (7-9)

\"📸\" Full NFL Playoff Picture

*There are no Thursday Night or Monday Night NFL games in Week 18 (only Saturday and Sunday). We’ll have more on the playoff-clinching scenarios in Friday’s edition.

Read More

CBS Sports: The Top 5 Juiciest NFL Stories to Kick Off 2024

ESPN: NFL Week 18 Futures Odds: Super Bowl, MVP & More

NBC Sports: With 1 Week Left, Lamar Jackson’s MVP Case Seems to be Insurmountable

Y! Sports: NFL Week 18 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins Control Division Fate



Rid the Skid: Pistons (Finally) End Streak

Photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

Pistons Snap Record 28-Game Losing Streak Just Before New Year’s Eve

The constant chatter of December in the NBA was the stacking of losses that made history, but that streak came to a close just before 2024. The Detroit Pistons won two of their first three games to start the season 1-2, then it happened. A 28-game losing streak spanning almost two months (November and December) broke the NBA single-season record for consecutive losses (27). The Pistons also tied the NBA’s all-time losing streak across multiple seasons (28). It came to an end on Saturday night when Detroit escaped with a narrow win over the Raptors (129-127). They lost again this week, and they’re now 3-30. Despite young star guards and plenty of youthful talent with high upsides, it’s ugly right now in Detroit.

“It wasn’t relief. It was more like, ‘Thank God! Finally.’” — Monty Williams (Pistons Head Coach)

Watch: Pistons Beat Raptors (129-127) to Snap 28-Game Streak

Read More

SI: Pistons Beat Raptors to Snap NBA Record 28-Game Losing Streak

B/R: Pistons’ Monty Williams ‘Was Almost in Tears’ After Snapping Losing Streak

Other NBA Highlights



Outdoor Hockey, Anyone?

Photo: Christopher Mast / Getty Images

Kraken Win NHL\’s 2024 Winter Classic in Epic Seattle Showcase

After a bundle of hockey over the holiday break, one event was more bundled than the rest (brr) as we rang in the new year on January 1 — the 2024 NHL Winter Classic. The 15th version of the NHL’s outdoor showcase featured the darling expansion team from the Northwest, the Seattle Kraken, and the reigning Stanley Cup champs from Vegas. The Kraken shutout the Golden Knights (3-0) for a celebratory home victory in front of 47,000 fans at T-Mobile Park. Goaltender Joey Daccord posted a 35-save shutout, and the NHL opened 2024 with a spectacle that was pretty magical. Seattle now owns the best win streak in hockey (5). Scenes from the event included Elvis costumes and Kraken players entering the ice while fans showered them with fish. Get ready for the stretch run of the NHL season!

Watch: Kraken Shine With 3-0 Win Over Vegas in Winter Classic

Read More

USA Today: Best Photos From 2024 NHL Winter Classic

ESPN: Joey Daccord Leads Seattle to Winter Classic Victory

Other NHL Highlights



College Basketball Poll Updates

Men’s AP Poll

1. Purdue (12-1) | —

2. Kansas (12-1) | —

3. Houston (13-0) | —

4. UConn (11-2) | ↑1

5. Tennessee (9-3) | ↑1

6. Kentucky (10-2) | ↑2

7. Marquette (11-3) | ↑3

8. North Carolina (9-3) | ↑1

9. Illinois (10-2) | ↑2

10. Arizona (10-3) | ↓6

Full Men’s AP Top-25

Women’s AP Poll

1. South Carolina (12-0) | —

2. UCLA (12-0) | —

3. NC State (13-0) | —

4. Iowa (13-1) | —

5. Colorado (11-1) | ↑3

6. Baylor (12-0) | ↑4

7. LSU (13-1) | —

8. Stanford (12-1) | ↑1

9. USC (10-1) | ↓3

10. Texas (13-1) | ↓5

Full Women’s AP Top-25