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‘It’s Going to Hurt’: A Football Playoff Without Alabama

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AUBURN, Ala. — As thousands of delirious Auburn fans poured over the hedges, turning a football field into a dance floor on Saturday night, there was a different scene playing out in a far corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

One by one, University of Alabama football players, in their familiar white uniforms and crimson helmets, trudged toward the tunnel entrance tucked away in the northeast corner. Christian Harris, a freshman linebacker, looked shellshocked. Trevon Diggs, a senior cornerback, wore a thousand-mile stare. Henry Ruggs III, a junior receiver, draped a towel over his head.

Wading through the Auburn celebration reinforced a grim reality for the Crimson Tide: For the first time in the six seasons that college football has had a four-team playoff to determine its champion, Alabama will not be included — not after a 48-45 loss that was a rollicking, ridiculous, roller-coaster, big-play bonanza of a rivalry game.

Clemson, Alabama’s playoff foil, will almost certainly be there, as will Ohio State and Louisiana State, who are all unbeaten. Joining them may be Georgia. Or Utah. Or Baylor or Oklahoma. But it will not be Alabama after its second loss of the regular season, something that had not happened since 2010.

“I’m still thinking about it even though I’m up here talking about it,” Jared Mayden, a senior safety, lamented as he stood outside the visitor’s locker room. “It’s going to hurt,” he added. “It’s supposed to hurt.”

What might have pained Alabama most was the 30-yard field-goal attempt by the sophomore kicker Joseph Bulovas that clanked off the left upright with two minutes to play. But it was not unexpected. No college team has missed more field-goal attempts than Alabama since Nick Saban arrived as coach in 2007, according to ESPN. And these were the same goal posts, after all, that Adam Griffith took aim at six years ago, when his field-goal attempt was short on the final play, leading to the famous Kick Six: a 100-yard return by Auburn’s Chris Davis.

But, in truth, it was not an errant kick — or a time-keeping fiasco at the end of the first half, or a fluky 100-yard interception return (one of two for touchdowns) — that was most disconcerting to Alabama. It is a persistent lack of discipline, which showed up on Saturday, just as it had in Alabama’s other loss, to Louisiana State.

This Alabama team is young, with as many freshman starters (five) as senior starters, and it has had to make do without its injured star quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, who is also the heartbeat of the team. But after years of waiting for an opponent to crack at a critical moment, the Crimson Tide this season have become unglued in the two games in which teams had the talent to test them.

“Bad discipline — we’ve had it all year,” Xavier McKinney, a junior safety, said. “It has shown up every time we’ve played good teams.”

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Knicks Fire Coach David Fizdale

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The Knicks on Friday fired Coach David Fizdale and one of his assistants, Keith Smart, with the team on pace to record the worst season in franchise history.

Mike Miller, also an assistant coach, was named the interim head coach.

Fizdale was doomed by a 4-18 start, which included eight consecutive defeats — the past two at home by a combined 81 points to Milwaukee and Denver. Such margins are often regarded in the N.B.A. as clear signs that the players are no longer responding to the coach.

The reality, though, is that Fizdale had been on the brink of dismissal since Nov. 10, when the Knicks lost by 21 to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. That defeat prompted the team president, Steve Mills, and General Manager Scott Perry to meet during the second half with the team owner, James L. Dolan, and then hold an unexpected postgame news conference in which they said that the team was falling short of expectations.

The Knicks are 2-10 since the Cleveland loss and have looked less and less competitive. Yet Fizdale’s departure, with a 21-83 record that sticks him with the lowest winning percentage of any coach in team history at .202, would appear to shift the pressure onto Mills and Perry.

Hours after seeing Durant and Irving land with the Nets, Mills issued a statement to the news media acknowledging that “while we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents.”

In an October radio interview, Durant shed some light on how much the Knicks’ stature has diminished under Dolan since the franchise’s last trip to the N.B.A. finals in 1999, saying that younger players, unlike fans, don’t remember the Knicks ever being good.

“I remember the Knicks being in the finals, but the kids after me didn’t see that. So the brand of the Knicks isn’t as cool to them as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now,” Durant said. “The cool thing right now is not the Knicks.”

A coaching change is bound to lead to better efforts from the Knicks, but their problems run far deeper.

Neither Dennis Smith Jr., the standout player acquired from Dallas in the Porzingis trade, nor Kevin Knox, the Knicks’ top draft pick in 2018, has shown signs of progress this season. The players Mills and Perry did manage to sign in July when they whiffed on Durant and Irving have created a logjam at power forward.

The website fivethirtyeight.com, run by Nate Silver, projected the Knicks to finish 20-62 after the summer signings of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

Fizdale is not even halfway through a four-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Knicks heading into last season. He said after losing 129-92 to the Nuggets on Thursday night that he was not concerned about being fired.

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Eli Manning Is Ready for Another Chance

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the past 11 weeks, as rookie Daniel Jones has taken over the spotlight as the starting quarterback of the Giants, Eli Manning has been running the scout team at practice. As the backup quarterback, Manning played in the style of opposing quarterbacks to prepare the Giants defense for what they will face on game day.

This week, Manning got to be himself again.

Manning, 38, was benched in Week 3 after the Giants (2-10) lost the first two games of the season. At the time, it seemed likely that Manning’s storied Giants career was coming to an end. But now Jones is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain and Manning will likely get at least one more shot, on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7).

“He’s a legend,” running back Saquon Barkley said. He added: “The way he operated in practice, the way he operated in the building was the same Eli that we know. Good to see him come out this week and get a chance. It’s going to be awesome for him.”

Jones was injured in the second quarter of the Giants’ loss to the Packers on Sunday. He played the entire game, but after a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday he was in a walking boot and was on the sidelines at practice during the week, biking and stretching.

“It’s pretty disappointing, especially after thinking I was going to be able to play,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “I understand it, I guess, and hopefully it’ll heal up pretty quickly.”

Last spring, the Giants drafted Jones, 22, sixth over all, and the expectation was that he would succeed Manning quickly. Jones made his first start against Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, when he led the Giants to a 32-31 comeback win. Jones has thrown for 18 touchdowns and has averaged 235.7 yards in his 10 starts.

Manning’s legacy with the Giants is already secure, despite his not being on the field for most of the season. He had been the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 2004, and he led the Giants to Super Bowl victories in the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

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Villarreal 0-0 Atletico Madrid – HIGHLIGHTS – 12/6/19

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Villarreal y Atlético Madrid no pudieron romper el cero y se tienen que conformar con el empate.

Atletico Madrid’s spiral continues with 0-0 draw with Villarreal in LaLiga.

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