More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed … and counting. Late last week, after a conversation about the NBA draft on our sports podcast Hot Takedown, I launched our show’s first crowdsourcing project. The question was simple:Lots of people think the NBA draft structure is broken, which leads to tanking by teams. How would you fix it?I thought this would generate a few dozen responses and perhaps some fodder for another conversation on the podcast.Turns out, we’ve tapped a nerd nerve. Almost 6,500 of you (as of this writing) have responded with incredibly thoughtful and rigorously defended proposals. Most used the form that was in the original post, but I’ve also received PDF email attachments — because the online form wasn’t big enough. And someone even dropped off a spiral-bound version of his plan at the FiveThirtyEight offices.So here we go. I’m going to sift through all 6,493 of your ideas. I can’t promise to catch every word, but the goal is still to find one plan to endorse as the official Hot Takedown proposal. Which we still plan to print out, notarize and deliver to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s office.Before I dive in, here a few first impressions. Many of the ideas are variations on five basic themes:Flatten out the disparity between the lottery team’s chances of getting the first pick.Scrap the lottery and have a draft-pick playoff for teams that didn’t make the playoffs.Reverse the incentive structure entirely — the best teams that didn’t make the playoffs get the highest pick.Scrap the draft entirely and let players enter the marketplace as free agents.Somehow mask a team’s incentives or uncouple them from the team’s record (e.g., only have some games count toward the lottery).But there are many, many weirder ideas as well. All of these plans have lots of wrinkles, cascading implications, and plenty of pros and cons. I was impressed by how willing most of you were to be honest about the downsides of your proposal.We’ve anonymized the proposals and posted the full set of raw submissions online. In the continued spirit of crowdsourcing, if you happen to see a plan you really like, flag it for us in the comments or tweet it to me (please include its row number so we can find it easily). By Jody Avirgan In the form, we also asked you a few questions. And a sample size of 6,500 means there’s some actual data to play with. Given that this was a poll of people who have written their own proposals to fix NBA tanking, it may not be that much of a surprise that respondents think tanking is a big problem. Some other notes:Almost a quarter of you think tanking is a 14 (big problem) on a scale of 1 to 14 lottery pingpong balls.A much smaller, but notable, number of you wrote in to argue that tanking is actually a good thing. We’ve discussed this on the podcast — it does create a compelling storyline of sorts.I’m most interested in those of you who think that tanking is not a problem but still crafted your own proposal to fix it.You are a confident bunch. About 35 percent have full faith that your plan will stop tanking entirely.220 of you have no confidence in your plan. I’d love to talk to those who don’t think tanking is a problem, don’t believe in your plan, but still submitted it. Good for you.That’s where we stand for now. I’ll be updating online and on the podcast (so, subscribe!) over the next few weeks. We’ll discuss the finalists on the show and pick a winner before the lottery May 19. Listen to the latest episode of Hot Takedown Embed Code
Month: September 2019 Page 1 of 21
Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson suffered a gruesome injury on Wednesday night and was carried off the field during a game against the New York Mets.In the second half of the eighth inning, Mets batter Eric Young Jr. hit a ground ball to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. Young raced to first base to beat the throw, but stepped on Hudson’s ankle on the base. Hudson made the catch, but fell to the ground wincing in pain.Hudson suffered a right ankle fracture and will undergo surgery in Atlanta when the swelling subsides.The video above shows how the brutal injury occurred. Warning: footage is graphic.
Every year, we look back on preseason win totals produced by forecasters and betting markets and chuckle at some of the more egregious misses. Last season, the Chicago Bears were initially forecast for seven wins by Las Vegas, then traded for Khalil Mack and somehow won 12. The Green Bay Packers’s predicted win total was 10, but they melted down in spectacular fashion and ultimately ended up winning just six games.We’ve already published our Elo projections, and we think they’re the best we’ve ever produced for the NFL, but there will still be lots of misses to grouse about come January. Forecasting a sport as luck-driven as the NFL is rough that way.It raises the question: How good are betting markets at predicting team wins? To find out, I got my hands on a tranche of win prediction data stretching back to 1989, courtesy of Sports Odds History, and checked how well Vegas preseason win totals predict actual team wins. While Vegas overall does a good job identifying good and bad teams, it turns out that at the lower end of the range of projected wins, Vegas predictions don’t seem particularly well calibrated — though the confidence intervals at the lower end are large because of the small sample size, so the results aren’t statistically significant. ExpectedActual2019 teams Which NFL teams might beat expectations?Average actual wins (1989-2018) by Vegas preseason expected wins, and the 2019 teams at each number of expected wins 5.04.6Arizona, Miami Projected win totals of six and fewer undersell teams’ prospects by about a win on average, with the exception of teams forecast for five wins.Win totals don’t change as frequently as the moneyline odds, so we probably shouldn’t take win totals at face value — at least for teams with low projected wins. What does this mean for non-bettors? It should be decent news for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins — teams that both Elo and Vegas have pegged for six wins in 2019 — since we should be more bullish on their chances than we currently are.Optimism for these probable cellar dwellers might feel forced. But we should fight the urge toward overconfidence, especially in the face of history. A few of these teams will end up surprising us — in a good way — at the end of the year for reasons inscrutable to us now. 6.56.4Detroit, Tampa Bay 9.08.5Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh 8.58.9Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle Sources: SportsOddsHistory.com, Greg Guglielmo, Pinnacle, Betfair, William Hill, Bet365, BetOnline 11.010.2New England 9.59.0Chicago, Green Bay, L.A. Chargers 8.07.4Jacksonville, San Francisco, Tennessee 10.59.9Kansas City, L.A. Rams, New Orleans 7.06.9Buffalo, Denver, N.Y. Jets 10.08.8Philadelphia 6.06.7Cincinnati, N.Y. Giants, Oakland, Washington wins 7.57.6Carolina Well … maybe not the Bengals. Not only is Cincinnati saddled with an injured A.J. Green, who appears to be out until around Week 8, the Bengals have an offense that is bereft of top talent at nearly every position. Cincinnati replaced head coach Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons of on-again, off-again contention and turned instead to Zac Taylor, a coach best known for being friends with L.A. Rams wunderkind Sean McVay. The hope must be that Taylor can revitalize the career of quarterback Andy Dalton, who sports a middling career yards per attempt of 7.2 and is one of the few starting quarterbacks who Vegas believes wouldn’t move a line if he were to be replaced in the lineup. The defense doesn’t offer a compelling reason for optimism: The Bengals ranked 28th in defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season. Perhaps we should view that as a reason to be bullish on their prospects in 2019 simply due to regression, since defensive performance year to year isn’t terribly stable. If that seems like a bridge too far, magic might be the answer: Taylor may give lip service to the notion that he isn’t trying to be like his mentor McVay, but McVay’s brand of QB sorcery seems like the best hope for the Bengals to crest seven wins this year.The Giants are more interesting. After a promising preseason performance by first-round pick Daniel Jones, New York fans are clamoring for a change of the guard at quarterback. As big of a reach as many believed Jones to be, I still see him as a better use of first-round draft capital than “generational talent” Saquon Barkley. Hailed as a potential savior and the missing piece for Eli Manning’s final championship push, Barkley helped the Giants improve from a terrible three-win team in 2017 to a merely bad five-win unit in 2018.The Giants were second-worst in the league on Expected Points Added per play on first-down play-action passes after adding Saquon to the backfield,1On a play call that averaged a robust 0.21 EPA per play for the rest of the league last year, the Giants were one of only two teams to average negative expected value, with -0.06 EPA per play. and prospects for a bounceback in play-action efficiency seem bleak. After trading all-world wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Giants lost free agent acquisition Golden Tate to a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and their expected No. 3 wideout Corey Coleman to a season-ending ACL injury. Their best hope for a productive season may rest in ownership’s willingness to bench Manning for good this time.The other team to somehow accumulate negative value on first-down play action was Oakland. In what seems to be a pattern for teams at the bottom of the win total forecast, Vegas sees Derek Carr as a quarterback worth just 1 point to the spread. The stats back up that view. Carr’s career yards per attempt is, at 6.7, below league average, and his best season as judged by QBR is an anemic 54.6. His weapons are improved from a year ago, but they are volatile. New Raiders wideout Antonio Brown sat out of practice because he wasn’t allowed to wear a helmet the NFL deems dangerous and is now likely to be suspended for some period of time, and Tyrell Williams is a boom or bust weapon who likes to be targeted deep — something Carr may be reluctant to do given his career average depth of target of just 7.7 yards. Meanwhile “Hard Knocks” captured head coach Jon Gruden disparaging “all the football stats and all the fantasy bullshit” in favor of running backs that will “BOOF” the opposing team in pass protection. Of all the six-win teams, Oakland may be the most unpredictable — and that unpredictability could manifest itself in good ways, as well as bad. Brown’s antics could end with a fashionable and safe new helmet, Carr might be coaxed into throwing the deep ball to a talented field stretcher, and Gruden might use rookie running back Josh Jacobs optimally, leading to wins we simply can’t foresee at this point.The final team projected for six wins in 2019 is Washington, a team that somehow came to the determination that Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson were better choices than Colin Kaepernick to take over for quarterback Alex Smith when his 2018 season — and perhaps his career — ended with a gruesome leg injury.In the draft, Washington team president Bruce Allen added Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins in the first round but then failed to surround him with receiving weapons. Jamison Crowder left via free agency, former first-round bust Josh Doctson was released at the end of the preseason and tight end Jordan Reed suffered another concussion heading into Week 1. Their current starting wide receivers are third-round pick Terry McLaurin — also from Ohio State — and Paul Richardson.The outlook at running back is brighter with the return of Derrius Guice from an ACL tear that derailed his rookie season, but there is little evidence to suggest they will put him in advantageous spots to run the ball. With the ageless, tackle-breaking cyborg Adrian Peterson in 2018, Washington lined up against neutral or stacked boxes on first-and-10 or second and long 174 times, decided they liked the look and ran right into the scrum 72 percent of the time. But if Washington can flip the script on downs tailor-made for passing and eke out some yards where they should come easy, the duo of Guice and Peterson could be enough to protect current starter Case Keenum or rookie Haskins while he learns on the job — and possibly beat the team’s six-win projection.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
After years of playing it cool in the free-agency game, the San Antonio Spurs entered the market this month and were the clear-cut winners. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise: Winning is pretty much what the Spurs do. And these summer victories have them poised for many more once the season starts.The Spurs nabbed LaMarcus Aldridge, the best (realistically)1There was little chance that Memphis’s Marc Gasol or San Antonio’s own Kawhi Leonard would switch teams, and while Cleveland’s LeBron James hasn’t officially re-signed, it’s basically a foregone conclusion that he’ll be back with the Cavs. available free agent of the summer, negotiated new contracts for essential wings Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, convinced Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to each forgo retirement in favor of another crack at a championship, and even managed to snag veteran forward David West for $11 million less than he would have made had he opted into the final season of his contract with the Indiana Pacers.In other words, it was a good week for Gregg Popovich.To measure just how good it was — or how dominant next season’s Spurs figure to be, I dusted off last year’s preseason projection system (fueled by Real Plus-Minus), plugged projected RPM values into Rotoworld’s depth charts, and (unscientifically) estimated how much playing time each player will receive.2Basically, I looked at last year’s minutes per game for each player, as well as how many minutes per game were logged by others who will be at the same position on his 2015-16 team, eventually ballparking a reasonable figure. (In other words, it was definitely not scientific.) Here’s a first pass at how good San Antonio could be next season:That predicted power rating of +8.9 means the Spurs are talented enough to win about 60 games,3That estimate is based on the Spurs’ being in the Western Conference. Because the West is (somewhat significantly) better than the East, it takes more talent for a team to get the same number of wins out West than it would if they were in the East. which is very high for a true talent projection. A lot of luck and variance lurks out there, ready to make a team’s record different from its underlying skill, so most teams that win 60 or more games don’t actually possess 60-win talent. (Using Statistical Plus/Minus talent ratings, I found that only 18 percent of teams that won 60 or more games in a season4If a season was shorter than 82 games, I prorated it. since 1979-80 truly had 60-win talent on their rosters.) But this Spurs roster appears to really have that much talent.It’s a formidable group that stacks up against any of the other teams across the league — even the defending champions in Oakland. To test this, I ran similar projections for a handful of other notable teams that were either good last season and didn’t lose much talent over the offseason (like the Warriors) or have enjoyed an eventful offseason thus far.5The official list of teams I checked, in order of projected 2015-16 quality: the Spurs, Warriors, Cavaliers, Thunder, Rockets, Raptors, Grizzlies, Clippers, Wizards, Mavericks, Bucks, Hawks and — just for fun — the Knicks. (As a sanity check: Yes, the Knicks are projected to be very bad.) Here were the best of those squads:According to these preliminary projections, the Spurs are excellent, although they’re not a super-team. (In other words, they’re not a juggernaut that looks poised to blow away the rest of the league.) In the eyes of RPM, they’re essentially tied with Golden State now as the best team in basketball, closing the gap that existed between the two teams last season.But San Antonio and Golden State do seem to be well ahead of the rest of the league. Cleveland ranks third among teams I checked but is still four to five wins behind the leaders, according to the power ratings. (Oklahoma City is two to three wins behind Cleveland; Houston is one to two wins behind Oklahoma City; and then there’s Toronto and a distant group containing Memphis and the Clippers.)The Spurs were already among the class of the league before strengthening their roster this summer. While San Antonio may not shatter any records, its surgical dissection of the free-agent market has left it with arguably the best team in basketball.
gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): After weeks of crunching every possible playoff scenario, we finally got our two matchups for the College Football Playoff: Clemson vs. Notre Dame and Alabama vs. Oklahoma. We have to wait until Dec. 29 to see those games. But in the meantime, we have some 37 bowl games to distract us from our families over the holidays.Let’s start with the big two. Were you surprised by the playoff selections? I think the committee avoided all of the doomsday scenarios as the conference championships played to form.neil (Neil Paine, senior sports writer): Yeah, they mostly got out of the woods compared with some of the scenarios we talked about here. Only thing that would have helped them more would be if either Oklahoma or Ohio State lost, but that didn’t happen.To your question, I wasn’t too shocked about the picks. Much was made of Georgia potentially making it, but it seemed very unlikely that they’d take a two-loss nonconference champ over a pair of one-loss conference champs — even if UGA was probably better talent-wise. I was really only slightly surprised they took Oklahoma over the Buckeyes. If you look at the power ratings like Football Power Index or Simple Rating System, or something like ESPN’s Strength of Record, Ohio State was the superior team. But the committee probably held OSU’s strength of schedule against it — as well as that bad loss to Purdue and the near-loss against Maryland.sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, general editor): It helped for the Sooners that, in the Big 12 title game, they beat the only team to have beaten them.neil: Yes — you definitely heard the phrase “they beat every team on the schedule” thrown around.sara.ziegler: And I feel like the committee members had Ohio State’s near-loss to Maryland on their minds.(I know I did.)Josh Planos (Josh Planos, contributor): I wasn’t all that surprised either. Three were shoe-ins, and if the playoff format has taught us anything it’s that most of college football’s elite programs hog all the playoff spots, and the committee will do everything in its power to eschew controversy. Ohio State certainly wasn’t lacking in that department this season.gfoster: Oddly, I think blowing out Michigan in such ugly fashion actually hurt Ohio State, because most people seemed to write off that game (rightly) as UM being overrated rather than Ohio State beating a team ranked fourth in the country.neil: And yet the Wolverines were allowed to (easily) be Notre Dame’s most signature win… 🤔🤔🤔sara.ziegler: Notre Dame getting its special dispensation, as per usual.neil: It was funny during the selection show to hear the note about how Vegas would have the Irish as underdogs against every other team in the playoff conversation (except UCF, I guess).Josh Planos: During Northwestern’s third-quarter scoring run on Saturday night, while Gus Johnson was firing off catch phrases, you could almost hear the committee scratching out the Buckeyes. Would a 40-point win in the Big Ten championship game even have gotten Ohio State over Georgia?gfoster: Last year, if it hadn’t lost to Stanford, Notre Dame could have easily finished the season with one loss and would have not have made the playoff. In that spot, not having a conference championship would have really worked against the Irish because they wouldn’t have had another opportunity for a signature win. But this year, we see the advantage for ND. Win all your regular season games, as easy as they may be, and you are in.But likewise, Northwestern didn’t really give Ohio State much of a resume boost. So … it’s Wisconsin’s fault for being lousy I guess.sara.ziegler: But of course, Geoff, that’s only the case for ND — not for any other non-Power Five teams. (😢 UCF)gfoster: UCF needs to boost its strength of schedule if it wants to be taken seriously.sara.ziegler: For sure. And I don’t think the Knights should have gotten in. But it’s not like Notre Dame’s schedule was off the charts.gfoster: For all we knock ND, they are playing teams like NC State, USC, Syracuse — all of whom would be one of the hardest games on UCF’s schedule.neil: How can they improve their SOS, short of joining a better conference? (Or is that basically it?)I don’t think any real power team wants to play them nonconference. No upside there, only downside.gfoster: You could get a mid-tier Power-Five team that would take them at home, no? When Notre Dame was playing Michigan in Week 1, UCF had UConn — quite possibly the worst team in FBS.neil: Defensively, at least.sara.ziegler: Though that UConn game was a conference game.Josh Planos: They followed it up by playing South Carolina State, too.sara.ziegler: They scheduled North Carolina, but that was canceled because of the hurricane.gfoster: North Carolina is also terrible.sara.ziegler: And that’s the other problem: You can schedule a mid-tier Power-Five team, but you can’t guarantee they’ll be good.neil: Or if you’re Notre Dame, you can schedule prestige Power 5 teams and not know if they’ll be good.sara.ziegler: UCF did schedule and beat Pitt, which was good enough to get trampled by Clemson in the ACC title game.gfoster: Truth is, maybe UCF does need to move conferences? TCU managed to do that when it was facing similar problem.sara.ziegler: Or we could solve this with an eight-team playoff!neil: This.^^gfoster: Well, yes.sara.ziegler: Solve it for this year, anyway.LOLgfoster: NO ONE is against that.neil: Except conference and university presidents.gfoster: As for this year, this is the first time both playoff games have double-digit spreads. Which falls in line with some lopsided lines in the conference championships. Any reason to like the underdogs here?Or is this destined for Clemson vs. Alabama again?neil: Maybe if Tua is still hurt? (He won’t be. And they will destroy Oklahoma.)sara.ziegler: And it’s hard to see Notre Dame doing much against Clemson.neil: Clemson vs. Bama Part IV is pretty redundant at this point. But at least there’s a chance it doesn’t play out according to chalk. Under the old BCS system, they’d automatically be slotted in at 1-2. (Although that would have been very uncontroversial.)gfoster: It’s hard to see any team doing much against the Tigers’ defense. Look at the line of Pitt QB Kenny Pickett in the ACC title game: 4 of 16 for … wait for it … 8 YARDS.That’s 0.5 yards per pass attempt. (538 math skills, folks.)Josh Planos: Yeah, we don’t know about Tua’s health. Oklahoma’s offense puts up video game numbers, so you’d expect Alabama to need to bring at least something to the table in that regard. Trevor Lawrence is playing the best secondary he’s seen all season. Brian Kelly is probably pretty motivated that his team’s recent struggles were broadcast on a Showtime series.sara.ziegler: If Tua plays, you gotta think he’ll go to town on the Oklahoma defense.Will he actually have to play all four quarters? LOLJosh Planos: Have we ever seen the likely two top vote-getters in the Heisman race square off in the postseason? Is this the best QB battle in terms of single-season QBR that we’ve ever seen? Each is on pace to set the single-season record (though that will change, I’m sure).gfoster: It might not change for Tua against that Oklahoma defense that gave up 700 yards to West Virginia.The Sooners also might be without their best receiver: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, which would be a significant blow to Kyler Murray.neil: Josh, we almost got 1-2 Heisman QBs in the 2008 title game: Tebow vs. Bradford.(But Tebow finished 3rd in the voting.)(Colt McCoy finished 2nd????)sara.ziegler: Wowgfoster: If we had an eight-team playoff, my guess is that it would be Alabama-UCF (lol), Clemson-Washington (I’m thinking they must include a token Pac-12 in this new world), Notre Dame-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Georgia.neil: What would the line be on that Tide-vs.-Knights game?gfoster: 28.5Josh Planos: Without McKenzie Milton? 30+neil: Isn’t that the same line they gave the Buffalo Bills vs. Alabama?gfoster: The Bills are like the sixth worst team in the NFL now. Shows how misguided those types of stories are.sara.ziegler: Would a Pac-12 team even make an eight-team playoff this year? The committee had Michigan at No. 7.Which is kind of amazing — another two-loss Power-Five team above poor UCF.neil: I would guess an eight-team playoff would have an automatic berth for a Pac-12 champ.sara.ziegler: There’s obviously no way to do this without some controversy.neil: Then we can get into those fun March Madness arguments about “at-large” bids.gfoster: Right … and one token non-Power Five. (Or in this case two, because of ND.)neil: Notre Dame is Power Five! (According to our tier system.)gfoster: Let’s talk about the other bowl games. Any others you are particularly excited for?neil: UGA-Texas should be fun, I think.Josh Planos: Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for the nostalgia of Big 8 football, but Missouri vs. Oklahoma State. FPI is really high on the four-loss Tigers (like, higher on the Tigers than UCF and LSU), and each of Oklahoma State’s past five games have been decided by no more than 7 points. If nothing else, there will be a lot of points.sara.ziegler: Missouri never should have left the Big 12.neil: I always forget they aren’t in the Big 12 now.sara.ziegler: Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl is kind of a fun throwback.gfoster: That should be called the Pinstripe Lack Of Motivation Bowl.sara.ziegler: HahaJosh Planos: Fun is an interesting word.Is this the underachieving bowl? And did any team underachieve more than Wisconsin? All we heard throughout the preseason was that Jonathan Taylor could win the Heisman, they returned the entire offensive line, and Alex Hornibrook was returning for a 12th year of eligibility.gfoster: In the bowl games, it’s always fun to identify the games where one team is really pumped to be there and the other has zero interest. For instance, Purdue vs. Auburn in the Music City.You think Auburn is getting up for that?Josh Planos: If they couldn’t get up to bully UCF last year, they’re not getting up to try and corral Rondale Moore.neil: Also, the biggest early spread in a lower-tier bowl might be the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. ESPN has BYU as a 14-point favorite over Western MichiganI always root for the Directional Michigans though.gfoster: Sad that Alabama-Oklahoma might be the most lopsided bowl game.Also a 14-point spread.sara.ziegler: I’m actually pretty interested in how UCF does against LSU.LSU is a good proxy for a playoff team, since the Tigers did OK against Bama (at least early on) and pounded Georgia.gfoster: I actually think LSU will get up for UCF, mainly because of what happened to Auburn and all this chatter.neil: Although I wish UCF had gotten one of the just-missed-it playoff contenders like UGA or Ohio State, just for experiment’s sake.sara.ziegler: Yeah, that would have been better.Though maybe it’s all moot with no Milton.neil: True. It wouldn’t have settled the debate.gfoster: LSU is actually still playing that game against Texas A&M. They are in their 134th overtime.sara.ziegler: 🏈 💤gfoster: But Neil, didn’t we see kinda see that the year they let Hawaii play UGA?neil: Hah, yes I was thinking of that exactly. Poor Colt Brennan.Josh Planos: Should’ve known that a haircut like this didn’t stand a chance.gfoster: OMGsara.ziegler: Why … would … you … do … that?gfoster: He even has the little island that they don’t let anyone on.neil: The run-n-shoot makes you do crazy things.gfoster: OK, what’s the worst bowl game.This answer is two parts.Worst name and worst game.neil: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla BowlCan anything top that?Short of bringing back the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl?sara.ziegler: I love the Boca Raton Bowl.Congrats, teams! You’re going to … Boca Raton!gfoster: That’s the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Sara.Josh Planos: Best bowl experience: The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, FIU vs. Toledo.Last season, folks could bring beer into the stadium. There were also archery opportunities near the concession stand.I apologize for not answering the question, Geoff.neil: I do miss the Popeye’s sponsorship for that one. Gave us an excuse to pick up fried chicken at Times Square and eat it in the office.sara.ziegler: As if you needed an excuse for that, Neil.neil: (Sorry again about the spicy tenders, Geoff.)gfoster: The DXL Frisco Bowl is a rare short name that is terrible.Jared Birmingham Bowl? It sounds like its named after someone named Jared Birmingham.neil: I think “Jared Birmingham” is UCF’s backup QB.Josh Planos: LOLgfoster: I will say. I’m a big fan of the Cheez-It BowlI wish I had a bowl of Cheez-Its right now.sara.ziegler: We didn’t talk about the best game of the weekend.neil: Iowa State!sara.ziegler: A dominant (not at all) win over powerhouse (not at all) Drake!Josh Planos: I think Washington State could beat Iowa State by 40 points. Or the Cyclones could ride the Matt Campbell relevancy train to a 13-10 win.sara.ziegler: That’s quite a range.neil: And nothing in between.sara.ziegler: LOLneil: I’m also kinda intrigued by the Peach Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida. Feels like that is a constant matchup in the tier of bowls just below the prestige level.That has happened in many Citrus Bowls, for instance.Josh Planos: How. Do. These. Teams. Keep. Playing.gfoster: Harbaugh’s only bowl win at Michigan was a romp of Florida. And Lloyd Carr’s final win was an upset of Tim Tebow Florida.neil: And don’t forget about the 2003 Outback Bowl!sara.ziegler: Who can forget?neil: Grossman vs. Navarre.gfoster: I’m excited for West Virginia vs. Syracuse in the Camping World. That feels like a 100-point game. I also am oddly interested in Boca Raton bowl! UAB is an amazing story. They won Conference USA just a few years removed from having their football program eliminated.It’s at this time where I’d normally ask for predictions. But I imagine no one is picking an upset in the first two playoff games?So let’s skip to the final predictions.sara.ziegler: It’s pretty hard to pick against Alabama.neil: Alabama 27, Clemson 24sara.ziegler: Clemson has been dominant, obviously, ever since squeaking by Syracuse. But Bama is just too good.Alabama 30, Clemson 18gfoster: Clemson 35, Alabama 28This isn’t (entirely) me being the contrarian. I think the Crimson Tide are kinda vulnerable to an upset. They start slow every game (tied with Citadel at halftime, remember) and it’s going to catch up to them at some point. Clemson defense can keep Tua off the field enough to win.(Assuming they beat ND, who I think will make a game of it against Clemson.)Josh Planos: Alabama over Oklahoma 35-14Clemson over Notre Dame 21-7Alabama over Clemson 28-14sara.ziegler: I guess there’s nothing left to do but watch the games!
As I tabulated these averages, another trend became apparent: Week 1 blowouts have become more rare of late. There were 31 between 1970 and 1996, an average of 1.1 per season. But between 1997 and 2018, there were 15 — only 0.7 per season.What’s more, opening-week blowouts used to be much stronger indicators of success. Before 1997, teams that delivered a Week 1 walloping won almost twice as many of their subsequent games as their victims did, and the victors went on to make the playoffs a whopping 83.9 percent of the time. Keep in mind that the wild-card round wasn’t introduced until the 1978 season, so earlier teams had a shorter road to the Super Bowl. Still, it’s impossible not to see the chasm in the postseason returns of blowout winners and losers: The difference in win percentage is much smaller in recent years than in the older sample.4The average win percentage for Week 1 blowout winners is now .144 higher than blowout losers. Prior to 1997, the difference in win percentage was .305. In fact, the number of Week 1 blowouts has been so small in recent years that we run into sample size concerns; the 6.7 percent rate of Super Bowl appearances for blowout winners and losers since 1997 represents one team each.Ideally, we would only examine blowouts that took place after the 2002 realignment, as that standardized divisions and playoff seeding across the league. That leaves us only nine data points, but the resulting gap between the winners’ win percentage (.531) and the losers’ (.438) continued to shrink.So what happened? Why did winning a season opener by 30-plus points before 1997 give an NFL team about a 5-in-6 chance of making the playoffs, but winning teams after that have had worse than even odds? Why did the blowouts occur more frequently than once a year over that first stretch, and significantly less often since?It’s probably a confluence of several factors, rather than any one switch being flipped. The advent of free agency in the early 1990s, a slate of player-protection rules passed a few years later and the concurrent evolution of more dynamic, three-wideout offenses all contributed to more seasonlong parity between teams despite more in-game scoring volatility.But there are still reasons to believe that a 59-10 drubbing means something. Only a handful of modern-era teams have been blown up in Week 1, as Miami was, and gone on to have any kind of success. Even though dominating a team in Week 1 isn’t nearly as strong an indicator of success as it used to be, Baltimore is still likely in decent shape for this season. Oh, and the Ravens are all but certainly better than the Dolphins.Then again, if any of these trends were ironclad, Milloy and the Bills would have won Super Bowl XXXVIII while Tom Brady and the Patriots watched from their couches.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Blowout losers.36718.104.22.168.0 Share that made it to … Blowout winners.62871.7%65.2%32.6%21.7% Blowout losers.39620.013.313.36.7 Blowout winners.54046.7%33.3%20.0%6.7% Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Blowout winners before the last 20ish years did even betterAverage end-of-year winning percentage and playoff success rate for NFL teams involved in Week 1 blowouts, 1970-96 TeamYear-end Win %PlayoffsDiv. RoundConf. Champ.Super Bowl Blowout winners.67183.9%80.6%38.7%29.0% Share that made it to … Share that made it to … The Baltimore Ravens’ 59-10 Week 1 demolition of the Miami Dolphins seemed to mark the arrival of Lamar Jackson as a complete quarterback, the establishment of the Ravens as serious AFC contenders and a death knell for the Dolphins — who reportedly had a flurry of players turn in trade requests the night of the loss.1The Dolphins have denied this. But other than dropping Miami from being tied for 31st to dead last in the FiveThirtyEight Elo rankings, did the third-biggest Week 1 beatdown since the AFL-NFL merger actually mean anything?Back in 2003, the Buffalo Bills baited the football-watching world into a massive Week 1 overreaction when they walloped the rival New England Patriots, 31-0. The win came with a neat narrative — new Bills safety Lawyer Milloy was surprisingly released by the Patriots in the preseason— and seemed to signal a changing of the guard in the AFC East. But the Bills finished the season 6-10, out of the playoffs — and the Patriots won 17 of their next 18 games, including the Super Bowl.Both participants in the biggest Week 1 blowout ever, the 1973 Atlanta Falcons’ 62-7 win over the New Orleans Saints, missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, Washington shut out Detroit 45-0 in 1991, only for the teams to meet again in the NFC Championship Game.2Notably, Washington blew Detroit out again, 41-10, to end up in the Super Bowl.So we know there’s no guarantee that the winner of a Week 1 blowout will have a better season than the loser. But how have the teams on either side of the ledger fared overall? We looked at all Week 1 blowouts — any game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger in which the margin of victory was at least 30 points3This doesn’t include the three blowouts that took place Week 1 of this season, as we don’t yet know how the teams involved will finish. — to see what the Ravens and Dolphins might expect for the rest of their seasons, if history proves a guide.Across the 46 games in question, it’s inescapable: Teams that opened their season with a statement victory had, on average, a higher regular-season winning percentage — and advanced farther in the playoffs — than the teams on the receiving end of a blowout. A total of 38 of the 46 blowout winners finished with a higher winning percentage than the losers did. But of course, if blowouts were both more frequent and more significant before 1997, that means they’ve been less frequent and less significant since: TeamYear-end Win%PlayoffsDiv. RoundConf. Champ.Super Bowl Blowout losers have been catching up in the last 20ish yearsAverage end-of-year winning percentage and playoff success rate for NFL teams involved in Week 1 blowouts, 1997-2018 Blowout losers can make the playoffs, but more winners doAverage end-of-year winning percentage and playoff success rate for NFL teams involved in Week 1 blowouts, 1970-2018 Blowout losers.37622.214.171.124.2 TeamYear-end Win %playoffsdiv. roundConf. Champ.Super Bowl Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com
Bradley Roby is coming back. The Ohio State redshirt sophomore cornerback is returning to Columbus for his junior season after flirting with the possibility of declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft, according to multiple reports. Roby, who was named an Associated Press second-team All-American and consensus All-Big Ten selection, played a considerable role on the defensive side of the ball during the Buckeyes’ undefeated 2012 season. Under the director of coach Urban Meyer, OSU finished the year 12-0 and is currently ranked No. 3 in the AP’s top-25 poll. Roby, who secured 63 tackles in addition to 17 pass breakups and two interceptions, will return to a defense that loses its starting defensive line, two of its starting linebackers, and fellow cornerback Travis Howard. Roby’s teammate, junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, opted to forgo his senior year and enter the draft instead. While Roby arguably played as consistently as any Buckeye throughout the season, perhaps his most notable game was against Nebraska on Oct. 6 when he recorded two interceptions, one of which he returned for a first-quarter touchdown to open the scoring. OSU went on to win, 63-38. At practice the next week, OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters that Roby would be a “first-round pick down the road.” “A kid like Bradley, whose film study is extraordinary, hours and hours of film study, he’ll know his opponent. He understands the route that’s coming, he’s prepared for the ball when it comes and then you go to finish those plays,” Coombs said Oct. 8. “He’s the guy that wants to make plays, that needs to make plays for our team to be successful.” Roby’s decision will likely help solidify Meyer’s Buckeyes as one of the early favorites for the 2014 BCS National Championship.
Ohio State men’s hockey senior goaltender Brady Hjelle knew how important last Saturday’s game at Alaska was for him and his team.Coming off a 6-1 loss against the Nanooks the night before, Hjelle surrendered four goals in 30 minutes of playing time before being pulled in favor of freshman Collin Olsen.Hjelle said he just needed to put that game behind him.“Friday night was a bad game for me, and we didn’t play well as a team either,” he said. “You just gotta learn to put that behind you and be ready to go.”He did just that, stopping 26 of 27 Alaska shots the following night, playing the entire game and helping the Buckeyes earn a 3-1 victory.The two teams entered the final period tied, 1-1, and Hjelle did his part to keep the Nanooks from scoring as he recorded 12 saves in the stanza.OSU coach Mark Osiecki called Saturday a great response from Friday night’s loss for Hjelle and the rest of the team.“Our guys played extremely well in front of (Brady). He didn’t have a very strong game on Friday along with our team,” Osiecki said. “His response was just how he showed up and played-very businesslike on Saturday after Friday.”Osiecki even compared OSU to last season’s Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, citing how aggressive the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions were due to having such a solid goalie in net behind them.“That’s kind of how our team is right now with Brady,” Osiecki said. “Our guys can play aggressive, they can play excited for each other and take opportunities on the offensive side of things. They know they have a brick wall back there.”Freshman defenseman Sam Jardine agreed with Osiecki, saying it makes playing the game a lot easier knowing Hjelle is behind him defending. He said his teammates still want to do their part to make their goaltender’s job easier.“Regardless of how good he’s playing we want to do the best job that we can blocking shots and eliminating quality chances,” Jardine said. “I think our (defensive) core is starting to take a lot of pride in that and obviously our success all year has started with Brady.”Jardine said Hjelle has an upbeat character and is at his best when he is playing with high energy.Despite this season being only his second at OSU, the 5-foot-11 senior from International Falls, Minn., said he is learning more about being a leader with each passing day. That leadership is something he tries to show daily on the ice, but not necessarily with his voice.“I’m not the most vocal guy on the team,” Hjelle, who came to OSU after playing two years at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said. “I’m not afraid to speak up when it’s needed, but I’m more of a lead-by-example guy. I just try to come to the rink every day and work hard.”That hard work is being recognized, as Hjelle received his fifth weekly award of the season when he was named the CCHA Warrior Goaltender of the Week on Feb. 4. The accolade came following OSU’s series split against then No. 9-ranked Notre Dame when Hjelle had a league-high 74 saves, including a career-high 45 in the second game of the weekend, helping his team skate to a 2-2 overtime tie with the Irish.Osiecki said he was happy with the way that his goaltender stood tall and defended the high number of scoring chances from Notre Dame so his team could earn a point in the CCHA standings.Hjelle’s 1.78 goals-against average is good for ninth in the NCAA, while his .942 save percentage ranks fifth. Despite the individual awards, he said they are a result of his teammates and their play.“(The awards) look better on the team,” Hjelle said. “It’s what they are doing in front of me, and it makes my job a lot easier.”As his senior season starts to wind down, Hjelle is excited for this weekend’s series at home because he knows the importance of the two games.“We have a big opportunity in front of us,” Hjelle said. “It would be really nice if we could win out, but we are playing some really tough teams and just gotta bring our best effort every game.”OSU (12-12-6, 11-7-4-1 CCHA) hosts Western Michigan (18-7-5, 14-5-3-1 CCHA) Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Then-freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan (2) attempts to make a tackle during a game against Wisconsin on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis. OSU won, 59-0.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo EditorWith the Ohio State Spring Game just days away, there are still a few positions with vacancies.Defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller join linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant as members of the OSU defense who will not return after the title run in 2014.With that in mind, I took a look at five players you should watch in Saturday’s game to either replace the former Buckeyes or at least get some playing time in 2015 on the defensive side of the ball.1. Redshirt-sophomore cornerback Gareon ConleyThe Massillon, Ohio, native was the first person mentioned by cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs as the likely cornerback counterpart next to returning starter redshirt-sophomore Eli Apple.Conley earned one start in 2014 against the Michigan State Spartans, but after giving up big plays and a touchdown on the first drive of the game, was quickly replaced by a less-than-healthy Apple.With a spot open after Doran Grant’s departure, it is likely that the spot will be filled by either Conley or sophomore Damon Webb.Conley seemingly has the upper hand and a good showing in the Spring Game can only help his chances.2. Sophomore cornerback Damon Webb While Webb is behind Conley for the corner spot, there is a good chance he will still see significant playing time in 2015 at the nickel position.With Armani Reeves not returning because of health issues related to concussions, the nickel spot, which is usually reserved for passing downs, is wide open and it’s Webb’s job for the taking.Webb must have the skill to play, as he did not redshirt last season behind players like Doran Grant, Reeves, Apple and Conley.He appeared in nine games in 2014, and is sure to make an impact in 2015.3. Sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillanMcMillan made an instant impact last season as a true freshman, collecting 54 total tackles and playing in all but one game in 2014.He is the odds-on favorite to take over for Curtis Grant at the middle linebacker position and could possibly be even better than the graduating senior.McMillan was constantly subbed in for Curtis Grant on passing downs last season and was clearly the better athlete. Don’t expect him to get too much playing time on Saturday, but watch to see how he communicates with his teammates as the new signal caller on defense.4. Senior defensive lineman Tommy SchuttCoach Urban Meyer said Monday that Schutt is currently the favorite to replace Bennett on the interior defensive line.Not quite yet the starter, Schutt has struggled throughout his OSU career battling injuries along with a lack of playing time. He has accumulated just 17 total tackles in his first three years as a Buckeye.The reason to watch him is not because he is going to be an impact player in the Spring Game, but rather to see how he reacts to being on the cusp of earning a starting job.5. Sophomore defensive lineman Jalyn HolmesMeyer said Monday that redshirt-sophomore Tyquan Lewis is the front-runner to replace Miller at defensive end, but Lewis will not play in the Spring Game because of a shoulder injury.That opens the door for a player like Holmes, who came to OSU as a four-star prospect out of Norfolk, Va.Holmes played in nine games last season, including the national title win over Oregon, and accumulated 11 tackles in those appearances.There is a good chance Holmes will play most of the game on Saturday, and a good showing could put make him a dark horse to unseat Lewis from the starting lineup.Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., and is set to follow the OSU lacrosse game against Maryland, which is set to start at 11 a.m. at Ohio Stadium.