National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

PSU AD: Search for football coach on 'schedule'

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State Athletic Director Dave Joyner says efforts to replace Bill O'Brien are on `schedule' and he anticipates having a new football coach in just days.

In a statement released by his office on Tuesday, Joyner said the search to replace O'Brien, who left last week to coach the NFL's Houston Texans, is "robust as we anticipated and we have an excellent pool of candidates."

He was not specific about possible candidates but added he has "heard from many coaches, or their representatives, who have expressed their interest in the position."

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak are reportedly under consideration for the job. Larry Johnson, who has been on staff for 18 years, was named interim coach. He's expressed interest in the job permanently.

O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons, restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.

Greg Maddux won't be unanimous Hall selection

NEW YORK (AP) Greg Maddux could break a 22-year-old record Wednesday, though he won't become the first unanimous selection in the history of the baseball writers' Hall of Fame ballot.

When Tom Seaver received 425 of 430 votes in 1992, his 98.84 percentage topped the mark set by Ty Cobb in 1936. A dominant pitcher when offense ruled in the Steroids Era, Maddux has a chance to enter Cooperstown with a little extra bit of fame.

"I just have just never come across any human being, whether they're a voter or just a fan, that doesn't think Greg Maddux is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest pitchers who ever pitched," The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo said Tuesday. "I can't imagine someone not voting for him. So I would guess that he's going to break Seaver's record."

Maddux is among three high-profile players on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the first time, joined by former Atlanta Braves teammate Tom Glavine and Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas.

Holdovers include Craig Biggio, who topped voting at 68 percent last year, 39 votes short of the 75 percent needed for election. It was only the second time in four decades the BBWAA failed to elect anyone.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, said Tuesday the only player he voted for was Jack Morris, on the writers' ballot for the 15th and final time after falling 42 votes shy last year.

"To me, I didn't exclude Maddux. I excluded everybody from that era, everybody from the Steroid Era," Gurnick said. "It wasn't about Greg Maddux, it was about the entire era. I just don't know who did and who didn't."

Gurnick said Morris also was the only player he voted for in 2013 and added he intends to abstain in future elections.

"Some people quibble over when the era starts, but the bulk of his career was in my opinion well before all of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs," Gurnick said.

Given that 569 ballots were submitted in 2013, Maddux likely could be omitted from six this year and still break Seaver's record.

Back in 1992, Seaver was left off by Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Bob Hertzel of The Pittsburgh Press and freelance writer Bob Hunter. They all submitted blank ballots to protest the decision by the Hall of Fame board of directors to bar Pete Rose from the vote because of his lifetime ban from baseball following a gambling probe.

Retired writers Deane McGowen and Bud Tucker also did not vote for Seaver.

"If it had cost Seaver anything, yeah, I probably would regret it at some level, but it didn't really cost him anything," Hagen, now with MLB.com, said Tuesday. "He still got the highest vote (percentage) total ever, and he wouldn't have been unanimous anyway."

The Steroids Era has impacted the vote totals of players with stellar statistics. In initial appearances last year, Mike Piazza was at 57.8 percent, Roger Clemens at 37.6, Barry Bonds at 36.2 and Sammy Sosa at 12.5. Mark McGwire received 16.9 on his seventh try.

The Baseball Think Factory website compiled votes by writers who made their opinions public, and with 161 ballots had Maddux at 99 percent, followed by Glavine (96), Thomas (91) and Biggio (79). The website's count had Piazza (68), Jeff Bagwell (61) and Morris (60) falling short along with Tim Raines (55), Bonds (42), Clemens (41), Curt Schilling (37) and Mike Mussina (29).

McGwire (14) and Sosa (8) had little support.

Eighth on the wins list with a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA over 23 seasons, Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and a record 18 Gold Gloves with the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego. An eight-time All-Star, he won at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons.

Among pitchers with 3,000 innings whose careers began in 1921 or later - after the Dead Ball Era - Maddux's 1.80 walks per nine innings is second only to Robin Roberts' 1.73, according to STATS.

Glavine, a 10-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young winner, was 305-203 over 22 seasons. At the induction ceremony in Cooperstown on July 27, Maddux and Glavine figure to join their former manager Bobby Cox, elected last month by the expansion-era committee along with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.

A two-time AL MVP, Thomas hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons with the White Sox, Toronto and Oakland.

Biggio was a seven-time All-Star who spent his entire 20-year career in the majors with Houston. He had 3,060 hits, 668 doubles and 414 steals and set a big league record by getting hit with pitches 285 times.

Approximately 600 writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point considered the 36-player ballot.

Next year's ballot could be even more crowded when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield become eligible, five years after their retirements. The BBWAA last month formed a committee to study whether the organization should ask the Hall to change the limit of 10 players per ballot.

Former NFL, Florida State player dies in hotel

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) Former NFL and Florida State offensive tackle Todd Williams has been found dead in a Tampa Bay area hotel.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office reports that deputies responded to the Sarasota Suites late Monday morning, just hours before the Seminoles won a national championship.

The 35-year-old Bradenton native had reportedly complained to his mother of feeling sick on Friday. She found his body Monday.

Sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow says they haven't found anything suspicious, but an autopsy will be performed.

Williams was one of the state's top prospects after his senior season at Southeast High in Bradenton. He was a redshirt freshman on the Seminoles' 1999 national champion team. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 2003 NFL draft and went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers.

NHL postpones 'Canes at Sabres because of blizzard

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Hurricanes have been shut down by a blizzard.

The NHL has postponed the game scheduled for Tuesday night in Buffalo between the Sabres and Carolina because of a snowstorm in western New York.

A makeup date has not been determined. The postponement comes with Buffalo dealing with a wintry blast of near-zero temperatures, heavy winds and blinding snow that has forced the closure of most major roadways.

The Hurricanes got to Buffalo before the brunt of the storm hit Monday afternoon. The weather, however, prevented both teams from holding their usual morning pregame skates.

Rescheduling the game could prove difficult in the near future. The Hurricanes host Toronto on Thursday, before traveling to play Columbus on Friday. The Sabres are in the midst of playing 15 games in 31 days.

Ex-NBA player says NKorea game dwarfed by politics

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) Former NBA star Charles D. Smith says he feels remorse for coming to Pyongyang with Dennis Rodman for a game on the North Korean leader's birthday because the event has been dwarfed by politics and tainted by Rodman's own comments.

Smith and other former NBA players are scheduled to play with Rodman against a team of North Koreans on Wednesday that organizers say leader Kim Jong Un is expected to attend. Many of the players on Tuesday privately expressed second thoughts about going ahead because of an outpouring of criticism back home in the United States.

Smith, who played for the New York Knicks, said the North Korea trip has been dwarfed by politics and Rodman's frequent boasts about his close friendship with Kim.

"What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it," Smith told The Associated Press. "Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government."

Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with seven former NBA players and four streetballers for the game on Kim's birthday, believed to be his 31st. Along with Smith, the squad features ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker.

The game would be another milestone in Rodman's surprising relationship with basketball fan Kim, who rarely meets with outsiders and is possibly the world's most mysterious leader. Rodman has called the game a "birthday present" for Kim but says he has received death threats for his repeated visits to this country and for calling Kim a "friend for life."

"The way some of the statements and things that Dennis has said has tainted our efforts," Smith said. "Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on - he gets emotional and he says things that he'll apologize for later."

The White House said Tuesday it would not have approved Rodman's latest trip to North Korea if it had any say in the matter. Spokesman Jay Carney said the visit was considered private travel and not subject to government review.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has distanced his organization from Rodman's squad.

"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," he said in a statement. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."

Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in late 2011. He traveled to the North for the first time last February and came back just before Christmas to hold tryouts for the North Korean basketball team, though he did not meet with Kim then.

The plan to hold the game has been criticized because of the North's human rights record, its development of nuclear weapons and its threats to use them if a conflict breaks out with Washington or Seoul. Rodman, in particular, has been slammed for not trying to use his influence with Kim to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who is being held in North Korea on charges of "anti-state" crimes.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. remains gravely concerned about Bae's health and is ready to send U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, to seek his release if Pyongyang reinstates an invitation that was withdrawn in August. Psaki declined to say whether Rodman's visit was complicating those diplomatic efforts.

Asked in a CNN satellite interview Tuesday whether he would raise the issue of Bae, Rodman yelled in response, "I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. ... One day this door is going to open because these 10 guys here."

Smith placed his arm around Rodman's shoulder and a hand on his arm in an attempt to calm Rodman down.

"I feel bad for Dennis, I feel bad for the players," Smith said afterward, adding that when he played for the United States in the 1988 Olympics he felt elation.

"I felt huge, I felt on top of the world. But I feel the reverse now," he said. "I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it's a lot bigger than us. We are not naive, we understand why things are being portrayed the way they are. We can't do anything about that, if we could we would.

"We're not skilled in those particular areas," he added. "Dennis is definitely not skilled in those particular areas."

NBA, NBRPA not backing Rodman's North Korea trip

MIAMI (AP) Dennis Rodman's latest trip to North Korea is generating no support from the NBA and the league's retired players association, both of whom made it clear they had nothing to do with the venture.

Rodman took a group of about a half-dozen retired NBA players to North Korea this week for a game that's intended to be a birthday present of sorts for Kim Jong Un, the nation's leader who is expected to attend. Kim's human rights record and North Korea's history when it comes to developing nuclear weapons are widely criticized globally.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association "denounced" the trip and the scheduled Wednesday game.

"While we support international goodwill and diplomacy in instances deemed appropriate ... it is important to clarify that the trip to North Korea led by Dennis Rodman and others was not sanctioned by the NBRPA and is not supported by our organization in any way," said Otis Birdsong, the NBRPA's chairman. "Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances."

NBA Commissioner David Stern was clear, though diplomatic in his remarks about Rodman's venture.

"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," Stern said. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."

The State Department has recommended that U.S. citizens not try to enter North Korea, with at least six Americans - including two with valid visas issued by that country - having been arrested there since 2009.

Rodman has also been criticized for apparently not yet trying to use his access to North Korea as a method of helping secure the release of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who is being held there on charges of "anti-state" crimes.

"You've got to be conscious and aware of what's happening in the world," said Miami guard Roger Mason Jr., the first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. "I mean, it's the life we live. I don't want to get too much into what Dennis is doing, but I'm certainly aware of it and it's tricky when you mix playing the game of basketball with sensitive subjects like North Korea."

Other players simply hoped the trip did not create even more problems.

"I think it comes from a good place," Miami forward Shane Battier said. "Intentions are good. I don't know if the execution is what they thought when they dreamt this initially. Hopefully some good things can come out of it."

No. 1 Florida State beats No. 2 Auburn 34-31

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) For all Jameis Winston had done as a redshirt freshman for Florida State, he never had to pull the Seminoles from the brink of defeat.

In the biggest game of the year, down by four with 79 seconds left, the Heisman Trophy winner put together the drive of his life, and the Seminoles proved they could take a punch to win a championship.

Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left and No. 1 Florida State beat No. 2 Auburn 34-31 to win the BCS national title game on Monday night.

"There's a lot of heart and guts down in Tallahassee, too," coach Jimbo Fisher said.

The Bowl Championship Series went out with a bang, with one of the best title games in its 16-year history. It will be replaced by a four-team playoff next season. And the Southeastern Conference's seven-year winning streak in college football's biggest game was snapped by the Atlantic Coast Conference school that played in the first three BCS title games but hadn't been back since.

Florida State was voted a unanimous No. 1 in the final AP Top 25. Auburn finished second.

Winston struggled much of the night but was near perfect when the Seminoles (14-0) needed it most, going 6 for 7 for 77 yards on the game-winning 80-yard drive.

"It was the best football game he's played all year," Fisher said, "and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down and he fought.

"And to pull it out in the atmosphere and environment and with what was on the line tonight, to me if that's not a great player, I don't know who is."

Winston was 20 for 35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He zipped the Seminoles down the field on the final drive, with a 49-yard catch and run from Rashad Greene.

Florida State also got help from Auburn, too. A pass interference penalty on Chris Davis on third-and-8 from the 10 gave Florida State a first down at the 2.

"Thought it was great defense. That's all I can say," Davis said, adding, the officials "should have just let us play."

On the next play Winston flipped high to the 6-foot-5 Benjamin for the touchdown.

"Once the ball is in the air on that post route, I've got to go get it, and I did," Benjamin said. "Simple as that."

There was no miracle finish this time for the turnaround Tigers, who went from 3-9 to SEC champions in their first season under coach Gus Malzahn. They tossed the ball around on one final play, but it ended with Florida State jumping on a fumble, and the Seminoles sprinting onto the field under a storm of garnet and gold confetti.

Florida State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the teams combined for 24 in a breathtaking last 4:42.

"It felt storybook again," Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright said. "It really felt like we were going to bring it out again. We're just on the other end of the stick. It's usually us going out on the field and celebrating. It's been a long time since we had an `L' in this locker room."

Auburn won nine straight to get here after starting the season unranked.

Tre Mason gave Auburn (12-2) a 31-27 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left after Kermit Whitfield had put Florida State in the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a 100-yard kickoff return to make it 27-24 with 4:31 left.

Mason ran for 195 yards and Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes for the Tigers.

"I told them in the locker room, we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons," Malzahn said.

Florida State hadn't been challenged like this all season, winning by an average of 42 points.

Florida State and Winston's biggest problem this season came off the field. Winston was investigated for a year-old sexual assault complaint in November, but after three weeks the Florida state attorney's office determined it did not have enough evidence to charge him.

Winston, who turned 20 Monday, told his teammates before the final drive: "'Guys, we didn't come here for no reason.' I said `Y'all, this is ours, man."'

The Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half, and wobbling, but never fell over.

And now Florida State is national champion for the first time since 1999, the first team to win the BCS title game after being down at halftime.

Winston was jumpy against a strong Auburn pass rush, led by Dee Ford. Winston was sacked four times.

The Seminoles cut it to 21-10 with a late touchdown in the second quarter, following a faked punt and a tough 21-yard run by Winston, and chipped into Auburn's lead with a 41-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo with 6:05 left in the third.

Meanwhile, Florida State had found some answers to Auburn's spread offense. A holding penalty that wiped out a long pass also helped keep the Tigers scoreless in the third quarter, and the Seminoles began the fourth with P.J. Williams intercepting Marshall's pass and setting up Florida State at its 38.

When Winston tossed in the flats to Chad Abram, who hurdled over a tackler on the way to an 11-yard touchdown, the lead was 21-19. Florida State was considering going for two to tie, but Devonta Freeman was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and that pushed the extra point back 15 yards and forced the Seminoles to kick and make it 21-20.

Auburn responded with Cody Parkey's 22-yard field goal to make it 24-20 with 4:42 left.

During Winston's record-breaking season, filled with blowouts and fourth quarters spent watching from the sideline, he never faced a situation in which he had to drive his team to a winning score.

Now he had a chance to add that last line to his remarkable resume - until Whitfield handled it for him.

Whitfield broke through a seam around the 30 and hit the sideline at full speed. Fisher ran down the other sideline yelling "Go! Go!" with Winston chasing behind pumping his arms and slapping his coach on the back. Florida State was on top, but Auburn was not done and Winston would be called upon one last time.

He delivered.

"Only thing is we're victorious and glad to say Florida State is the national champion again, and I guarantee you we're bringing that swag back," Winston said. "You'd better believe it."

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp

Cavs send Bynum, picks to Bulls for Deng

CHICAGO (AP) The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Andrew Bynum in time - and got an All-Star in return.

The Cavaliers acquired Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls late Monday night for Bynum and three future draft picks, beating the deadline to guarantee his full contract for the season.

Along with Bynum, who had recently been suspended indefinitely by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team, the Cavaliers also sent the Bulls a first-round pick, two second-rounders, and gave Chicago the right to swap first-round choices in 2015 if the Cavs are not in the lottery.

Deng has been an All-Star the last two seasons. But he will be a free agent after this season, and with Bulls' championship aspirations gone following Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury, there was no reason to hold onto him and risk losing him for nothing.

"We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person. He has been an incredible contributor to our team on the court, and he has also done great things in the community," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago."

Deng is averaging a career-best 19 points this season and has been a member of the league's All-Defensive team. He's also a former winner of the NBA's sportsmanship award, and his professionalism will be welcomed by the Cavaliers, who quickly ran out of patience with Bynum.

"Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "He's a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team-first mentality and is a high character leader."

Bynum signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Cavs in July, but only $6 million of the $12.5 million he was scheduled to earn this season was guaranteed if he was still on Cleveland's payroll by Jan. 7.

Now the Bulls can waive him and earn that salary relief - their release in announcing the deal never mentions anything about Bynum playing for them - and position themselves for the future.

Chicago gets a future first-round pick that had belonged to Sacramento, along with 2015 and 2016 second-round picks Cleveland had obtained from the Portland Trail Blazers.

"The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship," Forman said.

Bynum averaged 8.4 points in 24 games for the Cavaliers. He sat out all last season with Philadelphia because of knee surgery in his only season with the 76ers, but the way his contract was structured made him worth the risk for Cleveland.

But the Cavaliers suspended him on Dec. 28, excusing him from all team activities while they searched for a deal.

Clippers' Paul frustrated over his shoulder injury

LOS ANGELES (AP) Clippers point guard Chris Paul was upset right after he separated his right shoulder Friday at Dallas. That's all over now.

Speaking for the first time since the injury, Paul said Monday he was focused on making it back to the court.

"I want to play and I need to play," Paul said before Los Angeles faced Orlando in the opener of a four-game homestand. "You just want to be out there to help your team. But I'm cool. I woke up yesterday and was done feeling sorry for myself. It's one of those situations where it could have been worse. Now, it's all about attacking the rehab."

Paul is expected to miss at least six weeks after he was tripped by Mavericks guard Monta Ellis while dribbling around a screen during the Clippers' 119-112 victory.

"I was mad. That's why I slammed my mouthpiece," said Paul, who signed a five-year deal worth nearly $108 million back in July after becoming a free agent. "I felt it when it happened and I could sort of hear it, and I knew it was pretty significant. As an athlete, you prepare and do everything possible to try not to get injured. So that was the most frustrating part."

The six-time All-Star, who shoots right-handed, had an MRI on Sunday and will not need surgery.

The Clippers rallied for the win against the Mavericks. But they lost 116-92 at San Antonio on Saturday with Paul's former New Orleans teammate, five-year veteran Darren Collison, taking over as the starting point guard.

"Chris took it hard - and he should. He's a competitor, and that's why I love him," coach Doc Rivers said. "He's emotional, and I love emotional guys. The one thing I told him was: `We can't get the injury back. It's happened. So let's look at this as a blessing - that you get to have fresh legs for the stretch run.' That's the only way you can look at it."

Collison was UCLA's starting point guard for his final three seasons with the Bruins. As a rookie in 2009-10 with New Orleans, Collison filled in when Paul had to sit out with injuries and set a single-game franchise record for rookies with 20 assists.

Last season with Dallas, he became the starting point guard after Jason Kidd left for free agency. He eventually was bumped to the bench after the Mavericks signed Derek Fisher, but regained his starting job 14 games later.

"Derrick is not the Chris-type point guard," Rivers said. "But Darren's started, he's been in the league a long time and he knows how to play. He just plays differently. He's a more aggressive scorer, so we've just got to make sure he has the right balance between that and making sure the key guys - especially the starters - are involved offensively and that the team has a rhythm."

Collison signed a free-agent deal with the Clippers in July after they traded backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix.

But despite Collison's experience at running the floor, it's still going to be tough sledding the next 20 or so games for a team that entered Monday 23-13 and was tied with Golden State for fifth in the Western Conference - after winning a franchise-record 56 games last season and their first Pacific Division title.

Paul is averaging 18.5 points and 9.8 assists during his three seasons with the Clippers.

"I think with the starters, we don't have to change our style that much," Rivers said. "Obviously, we're going to have to do some things differently. The bottom line is, we were doing things before that only Chris Paul could see. So you're not going to get those, and you're going to have to get it a different way. But I'm more concerned with how the second group will play."

Los Angeles now has two starters on the shelf, including small forward J.J. Redick, who missed his 20th game because of a broken right hand and torn ligaments in his wrist.

Last season, Paul missed some games with a bruised right kneecap, which occurred when he banged knees with Redick in the final minute of a 104-101 loss to Orlando. Redick was playing for the Magic at the time.

Bolts earn another postseason shot at Manning

SAN DIEGO (AP) To keep their improbable playoff run going, the San Diego Chargers will have to beat Peyton Manning in January for the third time in seven seasons.

The Chargers won 27-10 at Cincinnati on Sunday to earn a shot at Manning and the top-seeded Denver Broncos on Sunday, the first time the AFC West rivals have met in the postseason.

When Manning was with Indianapolis, the Chargers eliminated the Colts from the playoffs in the 2007 and '08 seasons.

Manning has beaten the Chargers three of four times since joining the Broncos, although the Chargers pulled a shocker in Denver last month.

"It's tough to say you're confident knowing what you're going against. You don't want to take that the wrong way," Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle said Monday. "Do we believe we can win? Yes. Do we know what a tough challenge it is and how great we have to play? Yeah. It's not just because it's happened in the past it's going to happen. You still have to play at a high level and do the things necessary as a team to win."

The Chargers beat Manning and the Colts in a divisional playoff game after the 2007 season, with Weddle getting one of San Diego's two interceptions. In 2008, the Chargers won the AFC West at 8-8 and hosted the Colts in a wild-card game, winning on Darren Sproles' 22-yard run in overtime.

Until Sunday's win in Cincinnati, that had been the Chargers' last playoff victory.

"I've always appreciated and look forward to, as a fan of his growing up, to go against a Peyton Manning-led team," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Obviously, I and our offense is playing that defense, so I've never felt like I was playing him, but it's always awesome and exciting. The teams that we've both been on have had awesome games, and games have come down to the wire, overtime playoff games and our two games this year were really tight.

"I know they got a big lead in the first one, but we had a chance late, and we were able to win last time there. So it's going to be what you'd expect, I'm sure. It's going to be loud and it's going to be what playoff football is meant to be."

The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-20 in San Diego on Nov. 10. That came during a stretch of four losses in five games that dropped San Diego to 5-7.

The Chargers stunned the Broncos 27-20 at Denver on Dec. 12 during a four-game winning streak that, coupled with a lot of help from other teams, allowed the Bolts to sneak off with the AFC's final playoff berth.

With Ryan Mathews running for 127 yards, the Chargers kept Manning on the sideline most of the game. When the Broncos had the ball, San Diego's defense frustrated Manning.

So now the Chargers go back to Denver to face a record-setting offense led by Manning, who set NFL records with 55 TD passes and 5,447 yards through the air.

"Well, we have been the underdog all year," Weddle said. "I have been the underdog my whole life, so it is no different. We are out to continue to believe in ourselves. The great thing about this team is the struggles and the ups and downs have really molded us into what we are right now, which is a confident belief in each other. We are going to stick by each other. We really have a sense and a belief that we are us and we could care less what the outside thinks of us.

"It's great to be a part of, because we know everyone is focused on each other and getting better and ultimately to play the best we can. When you are worried about the outside, your play suffers and it clouds your mind a little bit. It has been a joy to be a part of this team and to see our growth. We have an ultimate challenge this week, but we are excited for it."

Rivers said the Chargers need to remember how hard and well they played on both sides of the ball at Denver last month and how they capitalized inside the 20.

"All those things are the reasons we won. We didn't just go in there and win. So it's going to be hard," Rivers said. "They're a No. 1 seed for a reason. This is a heck of a team and it's rare to play an opponent three times in a season and being a division opponent, one we know well, they know us well. It's going to be awesome."

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

Zach Johnson open new year with a win in Hawaii

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) Zach Johnson started the new year the same way he ended the last one.

Johnson pulled away with three straight birdies on the back nine at Kapalua and closed with a 7-under 66 to win the Tournament of Champions on Monday.

He didn't need any heroics, like holing out from a drop zone when he beat Tiger Woods in the World Challenge last month. This was mainly about chipping and putting, and Johnson is among the best.

He won by one shot over Jordan Spieth, who birdied the last two holes for a 69.

It was Johnson's third win in his last six starts. This was his 11th career win on the PGA Tour. Since his rookie year in 2004, only Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have won more.

Rodman, ex-NBA All Stars arrive in North Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) Dennis Rodman said Monday that a game he and other former National Basketball Association players are planning in North Korea will be a "birthday present" for one of their most unlikely fans: leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman's squad - featuring ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker - will play against a team of North Koreans on Wednesday, which is believed to be Kim's birthday. The former NBA players, who arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, also include Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, guard Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith, who played for the New York Knicks. Four streetball players also are on the squad.

Rodman told The Associated Press he was glad to be in North Korea for the game, though he said he has gotten death threats for his repeated visits. He said proceeds from the game would go to a charity for the deaf in North Korea.

"The marshal is actually trying to change this country in a great way," Rodman said of Kim, using the leader's official title. "I think that people thought that this was a joke, and Dennis Rodman is just doing this because fame and fortune." Instead, he said, he sees the game as a "birthday present" for Kim and his country.

"Just to even have us here, it's an awesome feeling. I want these guys here to show the world, and speak about North Korea in a great light," he said. "I hope people will have a different view about North Korea."

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement Monday night.

"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department," Stern said. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."

The game will be another milestone in Rodman's surprising relationship with Kim, who rarely meets with foreigners and about whom very little is known outside of North Korea. Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in late 2011.

Rodman traveled to North Korea for the first time last February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series. After spending time together, Rodman called Kim a "friend for life" and came back just before Christmas to hold tryouts for the North Korean basketball team, though he did not meet with Kim then.

Rodman has been given the red-carpet treatment on each of his trips, but visiting North Korea for any high-profile American is a political minefield. To keep the game itself friendly, the two sides will only play against each other in the first half, and then mix together in the second.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea since the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are still based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

Relations are also tense because of the North's development of nuclear weapons and its threats to use them if a conflict breaks out with Washington or Seoul. Rodman also has been slammed for not trying to use his influence with Kim to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who is being held in North Korea on charges of committing "anti-state" crimes.

To make the trip more complicated, Kim's once-powerful uncle was recently executed for a long litany of alleged crimes, including trying to divide the regime and usurp power from Kim. Although that has generated speculation abroad about the regime's unity, North Korean officials say the execution settled the issue and there is no instability.

Rodman, however, says none of that is his concern.

"I'm not a president, I'm not a politician, I'm not an ambassador," he said before arriving. "I'm just an athlete and the reason for me to go is to bring peace to the world, that's it. That's all I want, no money. I want no money, no money."

Former Knicks player Smith said he hopes the game will lead to better relations between the two countries.

"It's new being here, but overall the concept is not new," he said. "The team is made up of a lot of guys who really care, that's the most important, it's not about bringing dream-teamers. It's about guys who are coming that want to be a part of this, that care, and really that care about humanity."

Lawyers detail $765M plan for NFL concussions

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Lawyers representing former NFL players in the proposed $765 million settlement of thousands of concussion-related claims detailed Monday how the money would be divided.

The awards could reach $5 million for athletes with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease; $4 million for a death involving brain trauma; and $3 million for dementia cases.

Under the payout formula, those maximum awards would go to players under 45, who would likely need more lifetime care. For a man in his early 60s, the awards top out at $3 million for ALS and $950,000 for Alzheimer's disease. An 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.

Individual awards would also reflect how long the player spent in the NFL, unrelated medical issues and other factors. For instance, the award could be reduced significantly if someone had injuries from an unrelated stroke or car accident. Men without any neurological problems would get baseline testing, and could seek compensation if test reveal any problems.

"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families - from those who suffer with severe neurocognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," lead players' lawyers Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss said in a statement.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of Philadelphia must still approve of the plan, and is expected to hold a fairness hearing later this year. Individual players can also opt out or object to the settlement, which followed five months of what a mediator called "vigorous" negotiations between the players and the NFL.

"We of course support plaintiffs' motions, and will await further direction from Judge Brody," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Players taking part will be encouraged to share their medical records with researchers studying brain injuries in football players, according to the extensive papers filed Monday.

The plaintiffs include class representative Kevin Turner, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots and is now battling ALS.

"The compensation provided in this settlement will lift a heavy (financial) burden off of the men who are suffering," Turner said. He hopes it will ensure that future players "do not suffer the way that many in my generation have."

The total settlement would include $675 million for compensatory claims, for players with neurological symptoms; $75 million for baseline testing for asymptomatic men; and $10 million for medical research and education. The NFL would also pay an additional $112 million to the players' lawyers for their fees and expenses, for a total payout of nearly $900 million.

The league's annual revenues top $9 billion.

More than 4,500 former players have filed suit, some accusing the league of fraud for its handling of concussions. They include Hall of Fame standout and former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia.

Mediator Layn R. Phillips of California, a former U.S. judge, called the settlement fair, noting the risks to both sides if the case went to court. Players might have the case thrown out of court and their claims sent to league arbitration, while the NFL might have been forced to release internal files that reveal what it knew, when, about the consequences of playing after a concussion.

"It was evident throughout the mediation process that plaintiffs' counsel were prepared to litigate and try these cases, and face the risk of losing with no chance to recover for their labor or their expenses, if they were not able to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement result for the proposed class," Phillips said.

The money is expected to last for at least 65 years. About 19,000 retired players would be eligible to seek awards or medical testing, but current players are not part of the deal.

Redskins seek interviews with 5 NFL assistants

WASHINGTON (AP) The number of candidates for the Washington Redskins coaching job more than doubled in a single day, with the team reaching out to as many as five NFL assistant coaches.

The Redskins are also setting up an interview with Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, bringing the total of known candidates to 11 - enough to field a team.

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he was contacted by the Redskins on Monday and several media outlets reported that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt also were contacted Monday by Washington through their various teams, with the Redskins making the cursory requests for permission for an interview.

None of the five was available last week under NFL rules because their teams were preparing for first-round playoff games. The Bengals were eliminated on Sunday, so Gruden and Zimmer are free to pursue head coaching opportunities immediately. Roman, Fangio and Whisenhunt can be interviewed this week, but they cannot be hired as long their respective teams remain alive in the postseason.

The competition could be intense. The Redskins are one of five teams seeking a head coach, and several of their candidates have been approached by other teams. Gruden alone has drawn the interest of the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions.

"They're all different and they're all looking for something unique," said Gruden, who also interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs last year. "They're looking for somebody to come in and bring something different than what they had. But like I said earlier, I think the most important thing when you go to any interview is to be yourself and not try to be somebody you're not."

Meanwhile, at Redskins Park, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell became at least the fifth known candidate to meet with general manager Bruce Allen. Allen has also interviewed Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.

Franklin is expected to interview this week, according to John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that monitors coaching searches as part of its effort to encourage the hiring of minorities in the NFL.

Franklin to date is the only candidate from the college ranks. He's been at Vanderbilt for three seasons and was previously an assistant at Maryland. He has spent one season as an assistant in the NFL, as receivers coach for Green Bay Packers in 2005.

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AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Larry Lage in Detroit, and AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Smith expects to transform Buccaneers into winners

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Lovie Smith spent the past year watching lots of football, analyzing himself and preparing for his next job in the NFL.

"How many times in life do you get a chance to take a break and really evaluate everything that you've done and who you are as a man in every situation. That's what I was able to do," Smith said Monday after being formally introduced as the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, charged with the task of transforming a struggling team into a championship contender.

"From fending off wild monkeys in Costa Rica with my wife ... to just analyzing every situation that came up," in his first NFL head coaching stint with the Chicago Bears, he added. "I'm a football fan, and I think every time I saw something related to football it helped me, and I just put myself in those situations to make me a better football coach now."

Smith won 10 games in 2012 - his last season in Chicago - but was fired after missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007 and haven't won a postseason game since a Super Bowl run in 2002 produced the franchise's only NFL title.

The Glazer family that owns the team expects the drought to end with the hiring of Smith, a one-time Bucs assistant who coached the Bears from 2004 to 2012, winning 81 games and three division championships over nine seasons. Chicago appeared in two NFC title games and one Super Bowl under him.

And, he's confident he has what it takes to lead the Bucs back among the league's elite.

"When you get fired on 10-6, that's not saying that you don't know what you're doing. When you get fired, and your last three years are 12 wins and an NFC championship game, eight wins after you lose your quarterback when you're 7-3 and then 10-6, that's not saying let me change everything because you got this whole thing (wrong). So, we're just going to tweak, and then go from there."

Smith replaces Greg Schiano, fired last week after compiling an 11-21 record over the past two years, including a 4-12 finish that included an 0-8 start this season.

"We focused on finding a strong leader with a proven and established track record. We searched for a man who not only would command respect among his players, but stand tall as a symbol for our team," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said during a news conference at the team's training facility.

"It was easy. Not because we knew Lovie from his previous time here, but because he fit our criteria perfectly," Glazer added. "It was obvious he was the right man at the right time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Smith served as Tampa Bay's linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from 1996 to 2000, then spent four seasons as defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams before landing his first job as a head coach in Chicago.

The 55-year-old led the Bears to the Super Bowl during the 2006 season, losing to the Dungy-led Indianapolis Colts.

He said will forever be grateful to Dungy for giving him his first job in the NFL and allowing him to be part of a staff that laid the foundation for what would become a dominant Super Bowl-winning defense.

"There was a certain brand of football you expected from us every week," Smith said. "We have gotten away from that a little bit, but it's time for us to become relevant again."

And, he believes many of the pieces are already in place in Tampa Bay, including All-Pros Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The Bucs ranked 17th in the NFL in total defense this season, but were dead last in passing and total offense with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon making 13 starts.

Smith said he expects to have a balanced offense based on a power running game built around running back Doug Martin. He's impressed with what he's seen of Glennon and envisions a productive rushing attack creating opportunities to throw the ball downfield to receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

"I really like the foundation that's here in place for us to make a quick climb," Smith said.

One of the coach's first orders of business after agreeing to a five-year contract was hiring former California coach Jeff Tedford as offensive coordinator. Leslie Frazier, fired last week after three-plus seasons as coach of the Minnesota Vikings, is Tampa Bay's new defensive coordinator.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Colts sign former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Colts signed former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch six days before playing his ex-team in the divisional round.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch had 518 catches for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns over a career spent mostly with the New England Patriots. Branch also has 64 receptions for 948 yards and four TDs in 17 postseason games. He won two Super Bowls and was MVP during the Pats' third title run.

To make room, Indy (12-5) put starting cornerback Greg Toler and defensive end Fili Moala on injured reserve. The Colts promoted receiver Josh Lenz to the active roster and released defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad. Toler has been dealing with a groin injury and left the Colts' 45-44 victory Kansas City on Saturday after giving up two big plays.

Charlie Strong promises Texas will be tough

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Charlie Strong talked about being tough and winning championships. That is exactly what Texas fans wanted to hear from their new football coach.

There's little doubt he can deliver the first. The second part will determine whether he can revive a dormant program back and push it back among the national elite where the Longhorns are desperately longing to be.

"It's time to put the program back on the national stage," Strong said Monday at his introductory news conference. "The mentality is always going to be mental and physical toughness ... We will be a hardnosed football team."

That's the reputation Strong brings to Texas, which has floundered since playing for the 2009 national championship. Four seasons of at least four losses and no Big 12 titles ended with Mack Brown exiting after 16 years, and Texas turning to the coach who led Louisville to a 23-3 mark and two bowl wins the last two seasons.

Strong also had a reputation of being uncomfortable with the media, but with his wife and two daughters sitting in the front row watching him, he breezed through his 45-minute news conference with smiles and jokes before ending with the trademark "Hook'em Horns" hand signal for the cameras.

"Let's go win football games," Strong said. "Let's go win championships."

The 53-year-old Strong clearly has some of the same pages from Brown's playbook. He embraced the legacy of Texas's football tradition when he entered the room and hugged Edith Royal, the widow of former Longhorns coach Darrell Royal who won national titles in 1963 and 1969 and a share of a third in 1970.

And just like Brown did when he arrived in 1997, Strong made a point of embracing Texas high school coaches and his commitment to recruiting the state's best players.

"We will recruit with fire, recruit with passion," Strong said, adding he wants to "close the border" to out-of-state programs.

Brown, whose last game was Texas' loss to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, did not attend the news conference. Strong said he spoke to Brown over the weekend and assured him he would be welcome around the program.

But he also told Brown: "You ran your program, I have to run mine."

Strong said Brown left the program in good shape, even if it hasn't won in recent years like Texas expects to. The Longhorns last won the Big 12 in 2009. Their last national championship was in 2005.

"The bricks are there," Strong said. "I just need to put another brick on top of it."

Although his contract must still be approved by the school's board of regents, Strong was offered a five-year contract with an annual salary of about $5 million. Strong dismissed suggestions that Texas may have courted other coaches before offering him the job.

"I could have been the 15th choice," Strong said. "And I'm still so happy to be the coach here."

Strong also acknowledged this historical significance behind him taking the job: He is the first African-American head coach of a men's sport at Texas.

"People look at it lot as me being a minority. I'm a football coach," Strong said. "This is a historical day. There's always going to be a first somewhere."

Strong did not want to reveal which assistants he planned to bring from Louisville or who else he would hire from for his staff.

Strong said he doesn't feel any special pressure taking over a program that boasts the nation's wealthiest athletic department, its own television network and annual expectations of winning conference and national championships.

While Strong spoke, the football stadium's giant scoreboard displayed a huge picture of Strong cheering with a clenched fist raised in the air, a shot from his Louisville days with his Cardinals red shirt now tinted burnt orange.

"When you're not prepared, yeah, there's pressure," Strong said. "If you surround yourself with the right people, it's not pressure."

Duke top 10 AP poll run ends with fall to No. 16

Breaking down this week's Associated Press college basketball poll:

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GREAT RUN: For the first time since December 2007, Duke is not in the top 10 of The Associated Press college basketball.

The Blue Devils (11-3) dropped from seventh to No. 16 on Monday, following their 79-77 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday.

Duke's run started with the fourth poll of 2007-08. The Blue Devils were in the top 10 for 122 consecutive polls, the second-longest such run since the poll started in January 1949.

UCLA has the longest top 10 run, a stretch of 155 polls from the start of the 1966-67 season through January 1976.

Only three schools - Arizona, Syracuse and Michigan State - have been in the top 10 in all 10 polls this season.

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LEAGUE LOOK: The changes in this week's poll didn't affect conference bragging rights.

The new teams this week - No. 23 Illinois of the Big Ten and No. 25 Kansas State of the Big 12 - kept their conferences tied for the most ranked teams - this week it's five schools instead of four.

Illinois joined fellow Big Ten schools Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa in the rankings while Kansas State joined Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas of the Big 12.

The Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference are next with three schools each.

The American Athletic Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference had Connecticut and North Carolina, respectively, drop out of the Top 25 and both have two schools still ranked.

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BEATING BEST: San Diego State's 61-57 victory at then-No. 16 Kansas on Sunday was the Aztecs' third win this season over a ranked team, tying them with North Carolina for the most in 2013-14.

San Diego State hit the Big East hard, also beating then-No. 20 Creighton and then-No. 25 Marquette.

North Carolina, which dropped out of the poll this week, has wins over then-No. 3 Louisville, then-No. 1 Michigan State and then-No. 11 Kentucky.

The only other team with two wins this season over top 10 teams is Colorado, which beat then-No. 6 Kansas and on Sunday knocked off then-No. 10 Oregon.

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NEW ONES: Illinois and Kansas State made their first appearance this season in the rankings this week.

The 23rd-ranked Illini (13-2), whose biggest win this season was over Missouri, were ranked for eight weeks last season, reaching as high as No. 10.

The Wildcats (11-3), who enter at No. 25 after beating Oklahoma State last week, were in the poll for the last 13 weeks last season, reaching as high as No. 9.

They replace Connecticut and North Carolina.

The Huskies dropped out 17th after losing their first two American Athletic Conference games at Houston and SMU. They were 18th in the preseason poll and got as high as No. 9.

This is the second time this season the Tar Heels have fallen out of the Top 25. They were 12th in the preseason poll but dropped out in the fourth regular-season voting following losses to Belmont and UAB. But they were back in the poll after a one-week absence with their win over then-No. 1 Michigan State. They dropped out this week after opening Atlantic Coast Conference play with a loss at Wake Forest.

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BIG MOVES: San Diego State's win at Kansas had the Aztecs making this week's biggest jump in the Top 25. The victory moved them from 21st to No. 13.

The biggest drop of the week was Duke's fall from No. 7 to 16th after the loss at Notre Dame.

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RARE AIR: Wichita State's move from No. 8 to sixth in this week's poll has the Shockers at their highest ranking since they were No. 2 for one week in December 1981.

Iowa State moved from 13th to ninth, the Cyclones' first appearance in the top 10 since they were 10th in the final poll of 2000-01. They were in the top 10 for the final five weeks that season, reaching as high as No. 6.

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DOUBLE-RANKED: There are six games with two ranked teams this week, including a top 5 and top 10 matchup on the same night.

On Tuesday, No. 3 Ohio State visits No. 5 Michigan State, and No. 7 Baylor is at No. 9 Iowa State.

On Wednesday, poll newcomer No. 23 Illinois is at No. 4 Wisconsin. On Thursday, No. 24 Memphis visits No. 12 Louisville.

No. 25 Kansas State, the other poll newcomer, is at No. 18 Kansas on Saturday. On Sunday, Ohio State faces another ranked opponent when the Buckeyes host No. 20 Iowa.

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TOUGH Ls: Iowa split its games this week beating Nebraska and losing to Wisconsin. That was good enough to move the Hawkeyes up two places in the poll to No. 20.

The Hawkeyes' three losses this season have come to teams with a combined 41-1 record and all were by five points or less.

They lost 88-83 in overtime to Villanova (13-1) in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis; 85-82 at Iowa State (13-0) and 75-71 at Wisconsin (15-0).

Broncos ready for rematch with rival Chargers

DENVER (AP) The Denver Broncos are 13-3 and own the AFC's top seed, just like last year.

Only this time, they've lost to each of the three remaining teams in the bracket.

The Colts won 39-33 on Oct. 20 in Peyton Manning's unhappy homecoming in Indianapolis.

The Patriots won 34-31 in overtime on Nov. 24 in Wes Welker's disappointing return to New England

And, San Diego handed the Broncos their only loss in Denver 27-20 on Dec. 12.

The Chargers earned a return trip to the Mile High City by upsetting Cincinnati 27-10 Sunday in the wild-card round. The original AFL teams have never met in the playoffs.

Some Broncos admitted last year they were overly confident after roaring into the playoffs on an 11-game winning streak only to lose 38-35 in double-overtime to Baltimore, a team it had beaten handily on the road in December.

That shouldn't be a problem this time.

The Chargers held the Broncos, the highest-scoring team of the Super Bowl era at 37.9 points a game, to their lowest output of the season last month.

"It's fresh in our minds that if we don't do our best, we can get beat at home," wide receiver Bubba Caldwell said. "Baltimore a year ago, San Diego a month ago."

Denver was without Welker (concussion) against the Chargers that night, which cost them on third down (3 for 8) and in time of possession (22 minutes for Manning, 38 for Philip Rivers).

Ryan Mathews helped the Chargers gain more than 100 yards on the ground on first down, a problem the Broncos addressed with the signing of defensive end Jeremy Mincey a few days later after his release by the Jaguars.

Mincey has helped seal off the edge and curtail opponents' running games.

And Welker is set to return for the playoffs after missing the final 3 1/2 games.

But the Broncos also enter the playoffs without star linebacker Von Miller (knee) and a slew of other injured players on defense, one reason they so desperately wanted the home-field advantage and first-round bye again.

San Diego's win in Denver was one of four straight that helped the Chargers (10-7) sneak into the playoffs.

"SD it is! Excited! I'm done with sitting around. Now we have work to do!" guard Zane Beadles tweeted Sunday night.

The Broncos and Chargers will be playing at Sports Authority Field exactly one year after Denver's devastating defeat to the Ravens when Rahim Moore's mistimed jump allowed Jacoby Jones' 70-yard TD catch from Joe Flacco in the final minute that tied it at 35.

"The main thing we really learned was as a team, we have to play 60 minutes," Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "Nobody is going to give up, because it's do-or-die."

Broncos coach John Fox and his former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy took a lot of heat after that playoff pratfall for their conservative approach late in the game, especially when Manning was ordered to take a knee with 31 seconds and three timeouts remaining in regulation.

McCoy was hired as San Diego's head coach a few days later. Under his tutelage, Rivers, who is 6-2 in Denver, enjoyed a resurgent season and the Chargers ended a three-year playoff drought. On Sunday, they won their first playoff game since 2008 - against Manning's Colts.

"I'm not worried about last year, to tell you the truth," Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno said on Friday. "I'm ready for this year, ready for this new season. Last year is last year. Let's get it going this year."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Clippers say Chris Paul will be out up to 6 weeks

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Paul will be out of the Los Angeles Clippers' lineup for up to six weeks with a separated right shoulder, but the All-Star point guard won't need surgery.

The Clippers gave the prognosis Sunday after Paul had an MRI.

Paul was injured in the third quarter of the Clippers' game at Dallas on Friday when he tripped over guard Monta Ellis.

Paul is averaging 19.6 points, an NBA-best 11.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Pacific Division-leading Clippers, who lost to San Antonio on Saturday with Darren Collison starting in his place. Collison scored 20 points against Dallas and had 14 against the Spurs.

The Clippers waived point guard Maalik Wayns on Sunday. Coach Doc Rivers had said he wasn't a viable option for replacing Paul.

The Clippers open a four-game homestand Monday against Orlando.

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