Yahoo Sports AM: 12-team playoff

The 12-team playoff would have arrived this season if not for "The Alliance." What would that have looked like?

We hope you enjoy this edition of Yahoo Sports AM, our daily newsletter that keeps you up to date on all things sports. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.


🏈 Heisman finalists: Three transfer QBs (LSU's Jayden Daniels, Oregon's Bo Nix, Washington's Michael Penix Jr.) and a WR (Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr.) will be in New York on Saturday. Daniels is the favorite.

🏆 Knockout games: The Pacers beat the Celtics and the Pelicans beat the Kings to advance to the semifinals of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

🏈 Transfer portal: Plenty of big names entered the portal on Day 1, including Ohio State QB Kyle McCord and Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel.

🏀 Streak snapped: UConn dropped to No. 17 in the women's AP poll, its worst ranking in 30 years. The Huskies had been ranked in the top 15 for 357 straight weeks, a streak that trails only Tennessee (428 weeks).

🏒 Mandated neck guards: The International Ice Hockey Federation is making neck guards mandatory at all events, including the Olympics, after the death of Adam Johnson.


(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

If not for "The Alliance" formed by the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 in 2021, the 12-team College Football Playoff would have arrived this season as opposed to next.

What would that have looked like? The six highest-ranked conference champs would have earned auto bids, with the next six highest-ranked teams earning wild cards.*

First-round byes:

  1. Michigan

  2. Washington

  3. Texas

  4. Alabama

First-round games: This year's rankings would have created two first-round rematches in Georgia-Ole Miss and Ohio State-Penn State. To avoid that, we flipped Ole Miss and Penn State (the committee would have likely done the same).

  • No. 5 FSU hosts No. 12 Liberty

  • No. 6 Georgia hosts No. 11 Penn State

  • No. 7 Ohio State hosts No. 10 Ole Miss

  • No. 8 Oregon hosts No. 9 Missouri

Let's play things out… Assuming the favorites win, the second round would be Michigan-Oregon, Washington-Ohio State, FSU-Alabama and Georgia-Texas. From there, Vegas would likely have Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia advancing to the Final Four.

*With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the field will likely include five conference champs and seven wild cards next season.


(Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
(Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Premier League newcomer Luton Town hosts first-place Arsenal today in the latest "pinch-me" moment for midfielder Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, who's been with the club since they were about as far from this matchup as you can get, Jeff writes.

Started from the bottom, now we're here: Mpanzu, 29, is the first player to rise from England's lowest tier of professional soccer to its highest tier with the same club. "I feel I completed football," he said after Luton's dramatic promotion playoff victory over Coventry in May.

  • Fifth tier (2013-14): Mpanzu first joined the Hatters on loan from West Ham. At the time, Luton Town was in the National League*, having fallen all the way from the top tier over the previous two decades. By the end of the season, they'd won the league.

  • Fourth tier (2014-18): Luton Town spent four seasons in EFL League Two, never finishing worse than 11th. In 2018, they earned promotion with a second-place finish.

  • Third tier (2018-19): A much quicker ascent this time, as the Hatters won the title during their first season in EFL League One, yet again earning a promotion.

  • Second tier (2019-23): The Hatters got progressively closer to the promised land in each of their four years in the EFL Championship, finishing 19th, 12th and sixth before last season's third-place finish and promotion playoff victory.

  • First tier (2023-24): Luton Town's inaugural Premier League campaign got off to a rocky start (four straight losses) but they had a promising November, beating Crystal Palace, playing Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, and narrowly losing 1-0 to Manchester United.

What to watch: Mpanzu told the New Yorker that it's a personal goal of his to "score in all the divisions." He's scored 23 times for Luton Town but has yet to find the back of a Premier League net.

*Welcome to Luton Town: The National League is the same level that Wrexham (of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney fame) earned promotion from earlier this year.


(Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
(Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The NFL MVP is almost exclusively a quarterback award, and a wide receiver has never won. But Tyreek Hill is having the kind of season that merits serious consideration, Jeff writes.

By the numbers: Hill has 1,481 receiving yards through 12 games, putting him on pace to break Calvin Johnson's single-season record (1,964) by 134 yards and become the NFL's first 2,000-yard receiver.

  • Hill gets an extra game now that teams play 17 per season, but his yards per game (123.4) is higher than Johnson's was in 2012 (122.8).

  • Miami's speed demon also leads the NFL with 12 receiving TDs, and his play has helped lead the 9-3 Dolphins to their best start since 2001.

  • But will it be enough to capture MVP? Jerry Rice came closest among WRs, finishing six votes behind John Elway in 1987. Since then, just eight non-QBs have won the award, all RBs.

Where it stands: Hill's MVP odds (+2000 at BetMGM) are tied for seventh-best* behind, unsurprisingly, six QBs: Jalen Hurts (+350), Dak Prescott (+350), Brock Purdy (+350), Patrick Mahomes (+600), Lamar Jackson (+750) and Tua Tagovailoa (+800).

  • All of those signal-callers play for Super Bowl contenders, but it's hard to argue that any of them have been more impressive than Hill this season.

  • It would be unprecedented, but amid somewhat of a down year for QB play, voters may be inclined to pencil in Hill if he breaks the 2,000-yard barrier.

*Another non-QB: Hill is tied at +2000 with Christian McCaffrey, who's gained nearly 1,500 scrimmage yards and scored 17 TDs for the juggernaut 49ers.


Chourio at 2023 spring training. (David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Chourio at 2023 spring training. (David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Jackson Chourio has yet to make his MLB debut, but that didn't stop the Brewers from inking their young outfielder to a record-breaking contract, Jeff writes.

Biggest deal ever: Chourio's eight-year, $82 million deal shatters the previous record for the largest contract given to a non-big leaguer, which begs the question: Who is this guy?

Meet Jackson: The 19-year-old Venezuelan is MLB's No. 2 overall prospect and tore up the competition last year despite being the youngest player in Double-A.

  • Chourio flashed a tantalizing combo of power and speed across 122 games in the Southern League, where he ranked fourth in HRs (22) and fifth in stolen bases (43). He also led the league in hits (143) and runs (84).

  • He's continued to stay hot in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he's currently batting .379 with a .984 OPS against players who are, on average, nine years older than him.

An exclusive club: Chourio is just the sixth player to sign a pre-MLB extension, and the Brewers had better hope his career looks more like the top of this list than the bottom.

  1. Luis Robert, CWS (6 years, $50M; 2020): The ascendant superstar broke out last season with 38 HR and his first All-Star selection.

  2. Eloy Jiménez, CWS (6 years, $43M; 2019): He's battled injuries but has mashed when healthy to the tune of 33 HR per 162 games.

  3. Scott Kingery, PHI (6 years, $24M; 2018): He was supposed to be their shortstop of the future; instead, he's played 52 games since 2019.

  4. Evan White, SEA (6 years, $24M; 2019): The first baseman won the Gold Glove in 2020 but hasn't played in the majors since 2021.

  5. Jon Singleton, HOU (5 years, $10M; 2014): The lefty slugger struggled in his first call-up and was out of the league for eight years before making a comeback this past season.

What to watch: Assuming Chourio stays healthy and spends a majority of next season in the majors, he'll become the 10th player since 2010 to play 100 MLB games before turning 21. The other nine: Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Giancarlo Stanton, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Starlin Castro and Rougned Odor. Not a bad group.


(Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
(Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

Jacksonville — Jake Browning threw for 354 yards in his second career start to lead the Bengals to an improbable 34-31 (OT) win over the Jaguars, who lost Trevor Lawrence to an ankle injury.

(Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
(Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Cary, North Carolina — Florida State beat Stanford, 5-1, to win its fourth women's soccer national title (second-most behind UNC's 21) and become the first undefeated champion (22-0-1) in over a decade.

(Tommy Martino/University of Montana/Getty Images)
(Tommy Martino/University of Montana/Getty Images)

Missoula, Montana — Montana smashed Delaware in the snow on Saturday to advance to the FCS quarterfinals.

(Brian Bielmann/AFP via Getty Images)
(Brian Bielmann/AFP via Getty Images)

Haleiwa, Hawaii — American Koa Smith rides a wave while practicing for this weekend's Vans Pipe Masters event on Oahu's north shore, one of the most iconic events in surfing.

📆 DEC. 5, 2016: 60 POINTS, 11 DRIBBLES

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Seven years ago today, Klay Thompson* had just about the most efficient night imaginable in the Warriors' 142-106 route of the Pacers, Jeff writes.

  • 60 points

  • 29 minutes

  • 11 dribbles

More on this day:

  • ⚖️ 2008: O.J. Simpson was sentenced to at least nine years in prison for armed robbery. He was released on parole in 2017 after serving his minimum sentence.

  • 💉 2017: Russia was banned from the 2018 Olympics as punishment for their state-supported doping scheme. Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag.

*He's got a knack for this: This was one of two times in the shot-clock era (since 1954) that a player scored more than 50 points in fewer than 30 minutes. The other? Also Thompson, two years later (52 points in 27 minutes).


(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The In-Season Tournament quarterfinals conclude tonight on TNT, with the winners joining the Pacers and Pelicans in Thursday's semifinals in Las Vegas, Jeff writes.

  • Knicks at Bucks (7:30pm ET): New York's top-ranked defense (105.5 points allowed per game) will have its hands full against Milwaukee's No. 3 offense (121.1 points per game).

  • Suns at Lakers* (10pm): LeBron James and Anthony Davis vs. Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in a winner-take-all contest? Yeah, we'll be tuning in.

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NCAAM: No. 11 FAU at No. 20 Illinois (6:30pm, ESPN); No. 9 UNC at No. 5 UConn (9pm, ESPN)

  • ⚽️ Premier League: Luton Town vs. Arsenal (3:15pm, Peacock) … The first-place Gunners visit the most charming stadium in European soccer.

  • ⚽️ Friendly: USWNT vs. China (8pm, truTV/Max/Peacock) … In Frisco, Texas.

  • 🏒 NHL: Devils at Canucks (10pm, NHL)

*Head-to-head: Entering this season, LeBron and KD had gone five years without playing each other. This will be their third meeting in the past six weeks.


(David Madison/Getty Images)
(David Madison/Getty Images)

USC won the most Pac-12 football championships (37). Which school is second with 18?

Hint: They'll join the Trojans in the Big Ten next season.

Answer at the bottom.


The tee markers at The Chain. (Tacy Briggs-Troncoso via Streamsong)
The tee markers at The Chain. (Tacy Briggs-Troncoso via Streamsong)

Quirky short courses are in vogue at high-end golf resorts, and Streamsong in central Florida has joined the fray with one of the most interesting offerings yet, Jeff writes.

Details: The Chain opened on Friday at Streamsong Golf Resort, and there are two things you won't find there: tee boxes on each hole and pars on the scorecard.

  • The 19 holes are between 50 and 300 yards long. Instead of tee boxes, there are large areas (roughly 50 yards) set off by chain links as seen in the photo above, so the obstacles and length vary depending on where you hit from.

  • For example, the fourth hole plays 140 yards over a pond from the back chain. But start from the front and you take the water out entirely, and could even "tee it up" with your putter.

  • Pars, bogeys and birdies don't exist at The Chain, which is designed for casual match-play. In fact, each hole's winner is supposed to decide where to tee off on the next hole.

What they're saying: "We are quite fond of these shorter courses," architect Bill Coore told Golf Digest. "When you take strength and length out of the equation, golf becomes much more fun for a vastly expanded group of players."


Trivia answer: Washington

We hope you enjoyed this edition of Yahoo Sports AM, our daily newsletter that keeps you up to date on all things sports. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission.