BC-AP Sports Preview Digest
Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Wednesday. A full Sports Digest will be sent by about 3 p.m. All times EDT:
– PHILADELPHIA – The Dodgers can clinch their fifth straight NL West title with a victory in Philadelphia and an Arizona loss at San Diego. Already assured at least a wild-card berth in the playoffs, Los Angeles has dropped three games in a row. Left-hander Alex Wood tries to stop the slide when he pitches against Jake Thompson and the last-place Phillies, who need three wins to avoid a 100-loss season. Game starts 7:05 p.m.
– HOUSTON – J.J. Watt has recovered from the back surgery which cost him 13 games last season. Now Houston’s star defensive end is dealing with a painful finger injury as he looks for his first sack this year and the Texans prepare for the New England Patriots.
– The Southeastern Conference coaches who entered the season with questions about their job security haven’t done much to quiet them. In fact, the heat from fans has intensified around coaches like Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Tennessee’s Butch Jones.
– Familiarity often leads to volatility. For the most part, conference play is here in college football, which means far fewer blowouts and a much greater likelihood for the type of upsets that can really shake up the rankings and change the trajectory of the season.
– BOSTON – Not every school can be like No. 2 Clemson, which is going for a second straight national championship despite replacing two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Across the Atlantic Coast Conference, schools are struggling with new QBs – some freshmen or sophomores, others upperclassman playing for the first time.
– BOULDER, Colo. – At 30, freshman James Stefanou has come of age as a kicker for the Colorado Buffaloes. The former soccer standout from Australia is 6 of 7 on field-goal attempts this season and hit all 10 extra points.
– SHANGHAI – The National Hockey League is looking to build its visibility in China. It will hold its first two preseason games in the nation of 1.2 billion people, with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings facing each other in Shanghai and Beijing. With Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the government is putting a massive emphasis on developing winter sports. Hockey training programs and youth leagues are expanding across China.
– KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three-time U.S. Open Cup champion Sporting Kansas City meets the New York Red Bulls, seeking their first title, in the finals of the nation’s oldest ongoing soccer competition. Game starts 9 p.m.
They said soccer would never draw in the crowded Atlanta market. They were wrong. The United have been attracting big crowds for their first season in Major League Soccer. This past weekend an MLS record 70,425 fans came to a match against rival Orlando