Have winning record, will travel: UCLA considers bowl choices


It’s time to ponder holiday destinations.

Las Vegas? San Diego? El Paso?

UCLA will have a significant say in where it ends up after clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2017 with a 44-20 romp over Colorado on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

“It’s a real special moment, especially for the seniors, right?” Bruins safety Quentin Lake said after the game. “We’ve been through trials and tribulations for the last four years, so it’s fun to kind of really relish in all the work that you put in.”

The only place the Bruins (6-4 overall, 4-3 Pac-12) won’t be going is back to their home stadium for the Rose Bowl game. Utah ended that possibility by eliminating UCLA from Pac-12 South contention earlier Saturday with a victory over Arizona.

Like conference officials, the Bruins will be rooting for Oregon to make the College Football Playoff because that would ensure the team that loses to the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game goes to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Every other bowl-eligible team would get a one-spot bump in the pecking order as a result.

Bowl prognosticator Jerry Palm projects Oregon to miss the CFP because he’s factoring another loss for the Ducks into his calculations. In that scenario, Oregon would play in the Rose Bowl and Utah would drop to the Alamo Bowl, which gets the next-best pick from the Pac-12.

The Alamo, Las Vegas and Holiday bowls get their pick of Pac-12 teams if there isn’t more than a one-game difference in conference records. The Las Vegas and Holiday bowls alternate between the second and third picks on a yearly basis, with the Holiday Bowl getting the No. 2 pick in odd years, including 2021.

Palm predicts that UCLA will take that more highly coveted spot, playing No. 13 Wake Forest (9-1) in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 at Petco Park in San Diego as part of a matchup that would surely excite Bruins fans given the Demon Deacons’ success.

“We still have stuff to play for,” UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said Saturday night. “And obviously [qualifying for] the bowl game was one of them. So now that we have that, we can check that off the list. But the work’s not done. We still got to play the last two games.”

Starting with the Sun Bowl, which gets the No. 4 team from the Pac-12, the selections are based solely on conference record. The Sun Bowl’s Pac-12 participant will face an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent on New Year’s Eve in El Paso. The inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl goes next, matching the No. 5 team from the Pac-12 against a Mountain West Conference opponent on Dec. 18 at SoFi Stadium.

There’s one final spot for a Pac-12 team in one of the ESPN bowls — Gasparilla, First Responders and Armed Forces — that will be filled by a pool of at least five conferences.

UCLA sits alone in third place in the Pac-12 South, one game behind Arizona State and two games behind Utah. The Bruins have the easiest remaining schedule, with games against USC (4-5, 3-4) next weekend at the Coliseum and COVID-19-ravaged California (3-6, 2-4) on Nov. 27 at the Rose Bowl.

Utah hosts fourth-ranked Oregon and Colorado in its final regular-season games, and Arizona State plays at Oregon State before hosting Arizona.

In the Pac-12 North, Oregon State and Washington State are tied for second place, two games behind Oregon.

UCLA has not appeared in a bowl game since losing 35-17 to Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl in December 2017. The Bruins have lost their two most recent appearances in a bowl, last prevailing with a 40-35 victory over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2, 2015.

“I think it’s just a part of just working toward rebuilding the program,” Thompson-Robinson said of UCLA’s first postseason appearance in four years. “You know you want to get to a foundation, something that you can build up on as a program as a whole and I think a bowl game is definitely that.”





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Chiefs tip record despite offensive struggles | Sports


Who knows what would have happened had the Green Bay Packers had MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers at their disposal on Sunday? It’s easy to say that the Pack would have cruised to an easy victory after backup quarterback Jordan Love laid an egg in Kansas City’s 13-7 win on Sunday afternoon. Patrick Mahomes and the offense struggled, once again, while the defense had their second straight strong performance in leading the team to a win.

Juan Thornill has fully regained his starting position alongside Tyran Mathieu in the secondary, and the team is definitely better for it. Despite Anthony Hitchens returning to the lineup, the combination of Nick Bolton and Willie Gay were still effective, despite Bolton losing a good chunk of snaps. Rashad Fenton also continues to pick up snaps at corner, where he has been effective whenever he took the field. Likewise, there was heavy usage for the newly acquired Melvin Ingram, who brought a good amount of pressure, and more importantly, allowed the team to move Chris Jones back to the interior of the line, where he is most effective.

Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo continued his trend of heavy blitzing, which was particularly effective in keeping a young, inexperienced quarterback off rhythm. It’s remarkable how improved the secondary has looked when that pressure gets to the opposing quarterback, with Ingram looking like a good burst of energy when he sees the field and a Frank Clark who may be playing his best football as a Chief. Of course, the addition by subtraction of cutting into the playing time of Daniel Sorenson and Ben Niemann, who have been significant liabilities in pass coverage.

There was just not much to get excited about on the other side of the ball. The team continues to go away from the running game—even when it’s working—and struggling to get the passing game into a solid rhythm. As many times as I watch the team play, as many times as I rewind and replay the game, I just do not see any quick way out of the slump the team is in. The problems, from play calling, to receivers failing to get open, to Mahomes missing them when they do, are stacked up and seem to be getting worse instead of better.

Mahomes has never been asked to be a pocket passer, and he is struggling mightily with the adjustment, but there is no real solution to that, other than the face of the franchise learning a new skill. I think he will—I think he can—but it’s going to take time, and it may take long enough that we run out of time this season. Not only does he have to adjust to clearing his head of the noise and movement of passing from a crowded pocket, but he is also being forced to take more short chunks of yardage and plod his way down the field. Those are two big shifts in philosophy and style, and while I do think he will get there, things will need to click over the next few weeks if the team hopes to make any noise.

The Chiefs have moved to 5-4 on the year, getting back to a winning record for the first time since week one, and they now travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders for the first time this season, followed by a match up with Dallas the following week. The Raiders may be in turmoil, but they still sit in a tie at the top of the AFC West and present a tough challenge, and the Cowboys have been one of the NFL’s best team this year. If the Chiefs can split the next two games to get to 6-5, there are six winnable games to close out the year. If—and this is a big if—Kansas City can start to make small steps forward with their offense, and the defense continues to play well—a late season run and a red hot Chiefs team would be a scary match up for anyone in the playoffs.



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About Last Night: Canes fall 5-2 to Panthers, lose perfect record


The Carolina Hurricanes tasted defeat for the first time on Saturday night, and they were dominated from start to finish.

From allowing four goals in the first period to an injury to backup netminder Antti Raanta, it would only be truthful to classify the game as an overall disaster.

Carolina broke its nine-game winning streak and is now 9-0-1, still tied for second in the league. A loss at some point was inevitable— it just would’ve been nice for the Canes to see it play out in a different fashion.

With that being said, let’s keep it short and sweet and talk about last night:

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad start

Frederik Andersen made his ninth start of the season last night. He’s been phenomenal so far, but the first period was definitely not his best showing.

But let’s not pretend that the play in front of him was good. It wasn’t. The defense struggled big time and puck possession was a real issue during this first period.

But unfortunately, Andersen was the one in net last night and he suffered the consequences of bad special teams play.

In the first 20 minutes, he allowed four goals on 15 shots, three of which were during the Canes penalty kill. He looked choppy and his rebound control was less than stellar. This was unprecedented for Andersen in this year’s sample size. Before last night’s game, his GAA sat first in the league at 1.50 and his SV% was a phenomenal .949 (second in the league). He has been the Canes hero thus far this season.

So when Andersen had a rough start, he was given the benefit of the doubt. But after four goals allowed in the first period, Brind’Amour pulled him and Antti Raanta was put in for his second time on the ice this season.

He played well, saving all four shots he faced, until he and Ryan Lomberg of the Panthers had a dangerous collision and Raanta headed off the ice.

After the game, Brind’amour said that Raanta seemed fine, but it’s likely that he’s concussed.

Andersen returned after the injury to Raanta, and was back to his old self, making leaping saves left and right and stopping every shot he faced for the rest of the night.

“He actually gave us a chance to come back in the game,” Brind’amour said.

He ended the game saving 23 of 27 shots faced, with an .852 SV%. It was not what Canes fans are used to seeing from their netminder, but they can’t expect perfection from Andersen, especially with his heavy workload so far.

Special teams disappointment

Before last night’s game, no one could disagree with the fact that the Canes had one of the best special teams in the league. Their penalty kill was ranked third in the league at 90.24% and their power play was ranked fifth at 26.47%. It was impressive.

Last night did not follow that same trend, as the team took six penalties and allowed three Florida power play goals, for just a 50% success rate. This was a drastic decline that proved to heavily impact the course of the game.

The Canes are also taking too many penalties, period. This has been a source of concern all season, but their PK units have been strong enough to take care of business. This game highlighted many of the underlying issues that have yet to be addressed, specifically regarding special teams.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we’re staying out of the box, and that’s something that we’ve struggled with as a team over the past couple seasons, so just making sure we’re disciplined in that area,” said Jaccob Slavin.

Another newbie debut

Defenseman Brendan Smith, who signed a one-year deal with Carolina this past offseason, made his Canes debut last night. While he didn’t end up on the score sheet, his presence was clearly noted. He was a key part of the special teams from the start and ended the game with one shot and three hits in 11:48 of ice time.

“He’s a physical presence on the ice and he plays a hard game,” Jaccob Slavin said.

While Smith didn’t make many mistakes on the ice, Brett Pesce’s absence was clear as day. Injuries are hindering this team’s success, and Pesce is one key player that is much-needed.

Playing from behind

From 2:28 into the game to the very last second, the Canes trailed. This was just the second time this season that the Canes were behind by two goals or more, and at one point last night, Carolina let in four unanswered goals. This was the sixth time this season that the opposing team scored the opening goal of the game. It’s normal for the Canes to start slow— just not this slow.

“We can’t dig ourselves in that kind of hole,” Slavin said.

The Canes struggled to capitalize on power play opportunities, which was largely due to Panthers rookie goaltender Spencer Knight, who played a superb game. Jesper Fast was able to get the Canes on the board seven minutes into the second period with the help of a beautiful pass from Slavin, and Vincent Trocheck was able to score a gritty tip-in off Andrei Svechnikov’s puck to make it 4-2, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.

“It’s a 60 minute game, not 40, so we’ve got to come out a little better than we did,” Trocheck said.

This marks the end to a historic season-opening win streak for the Canes, as they fell one victory shy of tying the all-time record, which was set by both the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres.

Jarvis impresses in first few games as a Hurricane

There wasn’t much to see as a positive from last night’s game, but rookie Seth Jarvis’s play was definitely a bright spot.

“He’s competitive and makes plays,” Brind’amour said. “He’s been solid, really solid. Three games in and he’s looked good pretty much every shift. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do and that’s why he got more and more ice time tonight.”

In his first three games, he’s scored one goal on four shots, and currently has a +13 corsi.

He doesn’t just pass the eye test, his stats reiterate what we’ve seen on the ice.

Looking Forward

The Canes don’t have to travel far, as they remain in Florida to play the Tampa Bay Lightning (6-3-2) on Tuesday to finish off their road trip. With a few days of rest, hopefully the Canes can get back on track and end the excursion with a win.



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Airbnb Posts Record Results After Busy Summer Travel Season


Airbnb Inc. posted record revenue in the third quarter, punctuating the home-sharing company’s rebound from the collapse in bookings during the early days of the pandemic.

The three months covering much of the busy summer vacation period is typically the most lucrative for Airbnb. People resuming more normal travel patterns and other factors helped the company fill the rentals available on its platform. Airbnb said it is preparing for bumper Thanksgiving business, with bookings at the end of September up roughly 40% from the 2019 level.



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Avis Budget Posts Record $1B+ Earnings


Avis Budget Group
has reported adjusted EBITDA of $1.06 billion, the highest figure in the company’s
75-year history. CEO Joe Ferraro said that the company had set the figure as a
target in 2014 but that the headwinds of Covid had delayed its achievement.

Revenues for the
third quarter reached $3.0 billion, double the figure for 2020 and 9 percent
above 2019. 

Ferraro said, “We
are seeing the benefits of initiatives we began during the early days of the
pandemic and look to build on this positive momentum as the travel environment
continues to normalize.”

In the third
quarter, the Americas accounted for earnings of $952 million against $128
million from international markets. The figures were bolstered by strong
pricing, with average revenue per day up by 44 percent in the U.S. and 25 percent
internationally, excluding exchange rate differences. The rise in rates has
been driven in part by the shortage of semiconductors for new vehicles.

In the
group’s Q3 earnings call, Ferraro said that the expansion of contactless
rentals, particularly end-to-end bookings with Avis QuickPass, had been welcomed
by customers during the pandemic.

He said there
had been “sequential growth coming back” in the corporate sector but it was
“not back to 2019 levels.” The group makes 40 percent of its revenues from
commercial rentals.

He said,
“Some of the growth has been in the small- and midmarket. They have come out a
bit quicker [than larger companies] and those have come at an enhanced rate.”

Ferraro added,
“[Corporates] are keeping cars longer which is helping the utilisation curve.
On average, the commercial customer is keeping a car 30 percent longer than in
2019.

“I fully
expect commercial business to start coming back as people go back to their
offices and people start accepting them into their locations.”

Ferraro said
the company was “particularly encouraged by news that European vaccinated travelers
will be allowed entry to the U.S.”

“Since the
announcement we have definitely seen an increase in our business patterns of
people coming to do business here in the U.S. Booking patterns are above 2019
levels and we see the same thing the airlines reported a week or so ago,” he
said.

The Future Is
Electric

Ferraro added
fuel to the dialog around electric vehicle production and the role of car
rental companies in advancing toward that future. “You’ll see us going
forward be much more active in electric scenarios as the situation develops
over time,” he said, adding that Avis wants to see more EV models
available in the market to guard against parts shortages or potential recalls.

While the CEO
was bullish on Avis Budget Group’s involvement in the future, he didn’t discuss
any current or future commitments in the space. Last week, rival Hertz
announced
its commitment to purchase 100,000 Model 3 Teslas and an expanded
partnership
with Uber
that would make 50,000 of those available to top-rated drivers.  



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Travel agency H.I.S. expects record 53 bil. yen loss amid pandemic


Travel agency H.I.S. Co. said Saturday it expects to report a record net loss of 53 billion yen ($465 million) for the year ending this month, its second straight year in the red, as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the industry.

The Japanese firm’s latest result follows the 25 billion yen loss it made in the previous fiscal year. Revenue for the current year is expected to fall 70 percent to 125 billion yen, it said, adding it will not pay an annual dividend.

H.I.S. logo (Kyodo)

Nearly 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from services linked to overseas travel.

H.I.S. in September sold its head office in Tokyo for 32.4 billion yen to improve its financial position. It also plans to raise 21.5 billion yen through third-party allotment and issuance of share warrants, it said.

Its rival JTB Corp. has also been undertaking restructuring efforts including the sale of offices.





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California’s record rain re-ignites Yosemite’s famed ‘firefall’


Park officials said in a Facebook post on Monday that the Yosemite Valley got more than 6 inches of rain in a 36-hour period and that a few feet of snow fell at higher elevations.

Edgar Le, who was visiting from Rochester, New York, told CNN it was “extraordinary” to see the “firefall” on Tuesday while hiking near the Yosemite Lodge.

“Like looking at a stream of lava purging down from the top of the El Capitan,” he said. “Seeing the Firefall is more than a miracle to me as a landscape photographer.”

San Francisco creative director and photographer Scott Oller heard the “firefall” might be visible on Tuesday, so he left work at about 1 p.m. and made the drive to Yosemite. He told CNN that he got there with about 45 minutes to spare.

Oller said he saw the “firefall” for the first time in February after several failed attempts in previous years.

“The “firefall” is one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen,” Oller said. “It’s almost like watching a total solar eclipse or something, you just freeze up in awe.”

He said he found a pullout area about 2,000 feet from Horsetail fall where he could park and get out his gear.

There were only about 10 other people there, which is a lot less crowded than his previous trips.

“In the winter there’s just an endless sea of tripods,” Oller said.

Oller said that many of the people he saw seemed to be surprised tourists who pulled over their cars because they were amazed by what they were seeing.

“It seems unbelievable that that could even happen and it just keeps getting better and better as the minutes go by,” Oller said. “The light turns from gold to fiery orange to a faint pink. It’s unreal.”



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AHIC 2021: Radisson celebrates record year in Middle East | News


Radisson Hotel Group has secured a record year in its fastest growing region, the Middle East & Africa, with 21 signings and seven hotel openings achieved thus far.

The expansion drive includes the announcement of eight hotels in Morocco, the entry into Thakher Makkah with nearly 1,000 rooms, as well as the introduction of the Radisson Individuals brand in both the Middle East and Africa.

From opening the first Radisson hotel in Dubai and Africa’s second Radisson Red in South Africa, to multiple Radisson Blu resort offerings, it has been a year lined with significant milestones for the group.

With additional hotel signings and a further seven openings across destinations such as the UAE, Madagascar and Saudi Arabia expected before year end, Radisson Hotel Group remains prudently optimistic regarding the business recovery within the last quarter of 2021.

With more than 100 hotels currently in operation and 70 under development across the region, the aggressive expansion places them firmly on track to reach over 250 hotels in its Middle East and Africa portfolio by 2025.

Radisson Hotel Group has put forward growth priorities across key markets such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.

With over 75 hotels in operation and under development, the Middle East remains a key focus for Radisson Hotel Group’s global strategy as it is set to reinforce its position as a global leader across the region, striving to reach 100 hotels by 2025.

In line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the group has placed a focus in further expanding its presence across the kingdom and across all segments from resorts to city hotels but
also serviced apartments and conversion offerings.

As the economic and commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is the largest city and remains a strategic destination for the group’s expansion. The recent signing of Radisson Blu Resort, Riyadh Hills Itlalat and Radisson Blu Resort, Riyadh Hills Shalalah, is in line with an ambition to continuously supplement this market with modernised and exceptional experiences.

From the first airport hotel located in Riyadh to the second Radisson Collection in Saudi Arabia, the group aims to open an additional four properties during the last quarter to reach the total addition of 1,000 keys in Riyadh alone this year.

With the ambition to double the portfolio across the region, Radisson Hotel Group continues to drive their growth journey across sub-markets and support investors to develop and operate real estate efficient operations with a pragmatic approach to conversion solutions, especially during these unprecedented times. 

Elie Milky, vice president, development, Middle East, Cyprus, Greece and Pakistan, said: “With the launch of Radisson Individuals and the reinforcement of our strategy for resorts as well as serviced apartments, we stay more relevant to changing owner needs and remain one of the best conversion-friendly partners in the industry.

“Our focus on conversions and our recent signings have resulted in a target opening of 1,800 keys this year in the Middle East alone, with at least 1,500 keys planned to open in 2022.”

From a single hotel in Africa 20 years ago, Radisson Hotel Group’s African portfolio has grown to almost 100 hotels in operation and under development in more than 30 countries across the continent, cementing the Group’s leading position as the hotel company with the largest active presence in the most countries across Africa.

Setting a hotel expansion record in Africa with 13 hotel signings to date, translating to a new hotel signed every 20 days, the group remains firmly on track with their ambitious development strategy to reach over 150 hotels by 2025 across the continent.





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easyJet record surge in demand following loosening of restrictions | News


easyJet has seen UK bookings surge within hours of the UK government confirmation that fully-vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to take a PDT (pre-departure test) to return to the UK from non-red list countries.

The change comes into effect on October 4th, ahead of the half-term holiday.

Flight bookings for the late summer season increased significantly, with beach resorts among top destinations for this autumn and travel in October proving most popular, suggesting that Brits are keen to book a late summer break getaway.

Alicante, Majorca and Tenerife in Spain and Faro in Portugal are proving to be the most popular destinations for travel in October.

In the coming days easyJet will be adding a further 51,000 seats for departures from the UK to beach destinations for October.

With Turkey no longer on the red list, extra seats have been added on flights from across the UK, including London Gatwick, London Luton, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol Airports to Dalaman, a destination known for its natural coves, beautiful turquoise waters and protected natural park.

easyJet has also seen strong early demand for ski destinations for the New Year, with the top destinations being Geneva from Manchester, London Luton, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and London Gatwick.

easyJet operates 325 routes from the UK to 94 destinations across 35 countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East from the UK and is one of the UK leading operators to European green and amber list destinations, with nearly two million seats still available for a late summer getaway.

Sophie Dekkers, chief commercial officer for easyJet, said: “Every time restrictions have been relaxed or removed, we have seen pent up demand, and this is no exception.

“We have seen a huge surge in bookings since the move by the government to disband the traffic light system, take away the pre-departure test and remove popular summer sun destinations from the red list.

“With Brits scrambling for last minute summer sun, particularly over the October half term, we are putting on even more flights to the most popular beach hot spots to serve this added demand.”





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