Home » 2019 » September

Kentucky Lands Top Recruits Harrison Twins

Identical twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, considered the top high school backcourt in the nation, committed to Kentucky, assuring the Wildcats’ prominence for years to come.From Richmond, Texas, the brothers chose Kentucky over Maryland and SMU.“We liked coach (John) Calipari’s fire to win and we want to win a national chmpionship,” Andrew said.Added Aaron: “Also, Coach Calipari did not guarantee anything and we liked that.”They are the highest-rated basketball twins ever to come out of high school. Andrew, 6-foot-5, is the top point guard and No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, while Aaron is the No. 4 overall player and top-rated shooting guard in the country.The pair immediately boosts Kentucky’s recruiting class from unranked in the top 25 to No. 1 overall over Florida in ESPN’s 2013 class rankings.“I am very happy that Andrew and Aaron made their own decision,” their father, Aaron Harrison Sr., told ESPN. “They weighed all the facts and made their decision and it never changed.”Throughout the recruiting process, Calipari also was upfront with the twins and their family.“Coach Calipari told us, ‘We want you to come to Kentucky, but it is not going to be easy,’ ” Aaron Sr. said.Academics were important in their decision, according to their mother.“I liked the wall with the GPA of the players on it,” Marian Harrison said. “The GPA of the players that went to the NBA was great, and they are continuing to work toward getting their degrees.”Calipari made a great impression on the entire family and now is being rewarded with two immediate impact players for 2013.The twins’ announcement comes after a summer of intense recruiting. Each head coach who made the twins’ final three was omnipresent during July. Most of the time, the programs would dispatch their entire coaching staffs (three per school) to sit front and center to watch the twins.Andrew averaged 12 points, six assists and 4.9 rebounds per game for last year’s Texas Class 5A runner-up. Aaron averaged 18 points, four rebounds and two assists. Both are capable of big scoring numbers.In this case, Kentucky scored big. read more

Continue reading »

LeBron Heat Handle Celtics to Begin Title Defense

LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened defense of their championship with perhaps the best test the Eastern Conference has to offer, and the Boston Celtics just did not have enough. Rather, the Heat resembled the Heat of last year, only with a few more weapons, making them even more tough to beat.The Celtics, revamped themselves, battled long and hard, but they could not prevent Miami’s 120-107 victory. On a night when they received their championship rings, the Heat looked like champs, holding off Boston’s effort, a contentious tone to the game and even Kevin Garnett’s refusal to shake former Celtic Ray Allen’s hand.Wade scored 29 points, James had 26 points and 10 rebounds while missing much of the second half because of cramps in both legs, and the reigning NBA champion prevailed.“It was good to cap this night off with a win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was an emotional time for all of us in our organization.”There were actual fireworks before the game to close the ceremony where the Heat got their championship rings and raised their title banner. There also were plenty of figurative fireworks late, first with Boston almost digging out of a 19-point hole and, after the outcome was decided, Rajon Rondo flagrantly fouling Wade by wrapping his arms around his neck on a drive in the final seconds.“It was a punk play by (Rondo),” Wade said. “The league will take care of it. He clotheslined me, with two hands.”Meanwhile, Garnett would not extend a hand to Allen, who bolted from Boston to the enemy Heat as a free agent. As Allen entered the game for the first time, he trotted toward the Boston bench, exchanging a handshake, embrace and a few words with Rivers, who hasn’t hidden his displeasure about his former shooting guard’s decision to sign with Miami. When Allen tried to engage Garnett, the mutual pleasantries ended. Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulder as he sat on the Boston bench; Garnett didn’t even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way.“I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person,” Garnett said. “It was a blank. Obviously he’s on the other side. It’s time to play the game, man.”Allen didn’t seem flustered. His first shot in a Miami uniform was — what else? — a corner 3-pointer, which swished.“He was by himself in the corner,” Rivers said. “You’d think we’d know better.”In the end, though, the first Celtics-Heat matchup of this season was like the final one of last season — with Miami winning.Allen scored 19 points — needing only seven field goal attempts — in his first game with Miami and Chris Bosh threw in 19 points and 10 rebounds for Miami.Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists for the Celtics, who lost to the Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference finals. read more

Continue reading »

The Case For Kawhi Leonard MVP

Defensive Real Plus-Minus+0.971st Russell Westbrook has his triple-doubles, James Harden is probably the quintessential modern NBA player and LeBron James is having a typically MVP-worthy season. But among this year’s top candidates for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy,1Yes, that’s what the NBA calls the hunk of hardware it gives the most valuable player. Podoloff was the first NBA president, serving from 1949 to 1963, and he oversaw some the league’s crucial early developments, including the 1954 adoption of the shot clock at the urging of Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone. only San Antonio Spurs swingman Kawhi Leonard can say he’s good at everything there is to do on the basketball court.Last season, I wrote about how rare it was to find an NBA player — particularly one so good at shooting the basketball — whose other all-around skills were as well-developed as Leonard’s. Since then, all Leonard has done is mature into a breakout superstar, setting new career highs in scoring, usage rate, assist rate and a bunch of other (mostly offensive) categories. But, astonishingly enough, Leonard has held onto the distinction of being the league’s most complete player, despite his big uptick in scoring.Leonard is universally regarded as one of the league’s top perimeter stoppers, thanks to his combination of size (he’s 6-foot-7), athleticism, basketball IQ and massive hands. He has ranked among the top handful of pick-and-roll defenders in the game each of the past two seasons, and ballhandlers rarely try to size him up on isolations anymore. Overall, Leonard perennially qualifies as one of the NBA’s best at suppressing opposing shooting percentages and lowering opponents’ offensive efficiency while on the court. (There’s also a good case to be made that plus/minus is underrating Leonard’s defensive impact this season, since — like a great cornerback in football — opponents aren’t even giving him a chance to affect the game anymore.)This is the second entry in our series making the case for five NBA MVP candidates. We’ve also made the case for James Harden and the case for Lebron James. Still to come: Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. Also, check out our NBA predictions.But Leonard also supplements his great D with a deadeye shooting stroke, strong rebounding skills,2Relative to comparable players over the term of Leonard’s entire career. reliable ballhandling and, now, elite scoring. Starting from 11.9 points per game in 2012-13 (his first season as a full-time starter), Leonard has grown by leaps and bounds on offense, to the point that he’s now pouring in 25.7 a night — a stunning metamorphosis from a mere role player in the Spurs’ offense to head honcho. After this latest development to his game, it’s damn near impossible to find a player in the league today who does a wider variety of things at a higher level than Leonard does.With the help of Basketball-Reference.com, I pulled eight major rate statistics for this season that encompass the range of skills an NBA player can possess — true shooting percentage, usage rate, assist rate, turnover rate, offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, steal percentage and block percentage. I got a ninth — defensive Real Plus-Minus — from ESPN.3All nine statistics are current as of April 8. Among players who’ve logged at least 1,500 minutes this season, Leonard is the only one who ranks among the top half of the league in all nine statistical categories: Blocks1.8%73rd Steals2.7%96th Turnovers9.0%82nd DefenseValuePercentile Offensive rebounds3.8%59th Usage31.2%96th OFFENSEVALUEPERCENTILE True shooting61.1%90th Assists19.1%71st Percentile ranking in each category is among NBA players with 1,500 or more minutes in the 2016-17 season. Through April 8.Sources: Basketball-Reference.com, ESPN Kawhi Leonard was better than average at everything this season Defensive rebounds15.8%62nd All of Leonard’s MVP competitors, by contrast, have at least one statistical hole in their respective games. James turns the ball over too much; Stephen Curry doesn’t rebound; Westbrook and Harden play below-average defense, both by block rate and overall defensive RPM.So, statistically speaking, Leonard is the most well-rounded of all the 2016-17 MVP candidates. Just as important — among teams with an MVP-caliber player, the Spurs may be the one whose chances of winning a championship most benefit from its superstar.For all Westbrook’s singular, superhuman fury this season, the Thunder won’t crack 50 wins. And the odds of a team of that caliber winning a championship are next to nonexistent, according to a regression I ran between regular-season team win shares and championships since the NBA expanded its playoffs to 16 teams in 1984. Ditto James, whose 51-win Cavs would be one of the least successful regular-season champions if they were to defend the title. Even Harden’s Rockets, with 54 wins, are in the zone where a title is relatively unlikely. (Only an 8 percent chance, by the same regression.) At the other end of the spectrum, the Warriors — with their 66 wins — would have a good chance of winning the championship even if they had to replace Curry or Durant with an average player. (Sub out either of those stars’ win shares — 12.5 for Curry and 11.7 for Durant — with an average number, and the Warriors’ odds of capturing the title stay strong, north of 20 percent.)But for the 61-win Spurs, Leonard’s production is in a sweet spot, making the difference between a healthy shot at a ring and none at all. Without Leonard’s 13.6 win shares — third-most in the league — San Antonio’s chances of winning it all drop from solid (19 percent) to remote (3 percent). In other words, because Leonard led the Spurs to an elite record without the benefit of another superstar teammate, his production might have had the highest leverage of any MVP candidate’s.Other players had better individual numbers than Leonard did, but nobody had a better all-around season. And the Spurs’ championship outlook would be dismal without him. For our purposes, each of those distinctions is enough for Leonard to meet a very reasonable definition of what makes a player “most valuable” to his team. read more

Continue reading »

So … Are The Buffalo Bills Actually Good

CHI59CHI63CHI 31, WSH 15+0.7– Comparing Josh Allen’s Bills to other 3-0 Buffalo startsQuarterback and team Elo ratings for Buffalo Bills teams that started a season 3-0, 1985-2019 BUF74BUF69BUF 21, CIN 17-5.0– LAC66LAC56HOU 27, LAC 20+9.6– Sources: Pro-Football-Reference, NFL Next Gen Stats 1991Jim Kelly263326621081701✓ QB Elo ratings are the number of Elo points a team would gain or lose if the main quarterback was replaced by a league-average starter from that season.Source: ESPN, Pro-Football-Reference.com Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 3Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 3 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game TEN67TEN61JAX 20, TEN 7+5.7– TB69TB64NYG 32, TB 31+5.2– OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION YearPassesActualvs. ExpectedInterception%Poor Throw% 2008Trent Edwards536711-211535✓ So Allen may be getting better with his arm while remaining a threat with his legs. And as a team, Buffalo ranks ninth in total expected points added (EPA) per game so far this season, including 10th in special teams EPA, eighth in defensive EPA and sixth in defense against the pass specifically. ProFootballFocus grades safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer both as among the top 10 in the league at the position this season, two of 10 total Bills defenders who rank among the top 50 at their respective positions per PFF (and four who rank among the top 25). Last year’s Bills had one of the best EPA defenses in football as well, but they were undone by poor passing offense and special teams; if this year’s team has improved in those regards, Buffalo could have surprising staying power.Of course, the Bills have also played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL so far. The Jets, Giants and Bengals collectively had an average pregame Elo rating of 1415 going into their contests against Buffalo; only the Cowboys, whose opponents have averaged a pregame rating of 1392, have played a softer group of creampuffs this season. And now, here come the Patriots — the second-highest-ranked team in our Elo ratings. New England’s current rating of 1686 is the 13th-highest the Pats have ever had coming into a game against the Bills in the history of the rivalry. (If you can call it that — New England has won five straight and 33 of the past 37 meetings dating back to 2000.) The Pats’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since last year’s AFC title game, and some folks are already talking about the possibility of another undefeated season in Foxboro.So let’s be honest: A lot of signs point to the Bills’ magical season-opening run coming to a screeching halt against New England this week. (Our model gives the Pats a 65 percent chance of winning, despite being on the road, and that’s conservative compared with the probability implied by the Vegas line.) But we also give Buffalo a 70 percent chance to make the playoffs — and for a franchise with only one playoff game under its belt since 1999, that’s as good an excuse for a raucous parking-lot celebration as anything else.Looking Ahead: Week 4Best matchup: No. 4 Dallas (-1) at No. 14 New Orleans, 8:20 p.m. ET SundayMatchup quality: 85th percentile2In terms of the harmonic mean of both teams’ QB-adjusted Elo ratings, relative to that figure for all regular-season NFL games this year.Matchup evenness: 89th percentileAs we wrote about in an earlier edition of the column, Dak Prescott of the Cowboys has been one of 2019’s breakout quarterbacks: According to our Elo QB value metric, only Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes has been better on a per-game basis than Prescott this season. Now he’ll take Dallas and its 3-0 record into New Orleans to face Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints in our top game of the week. All things considered, Bridgewater was fine in his first game as Drew Brees’s stand-in, grading 73 Elo points better than average against the Seahawks last week — though he still ranks 25th among current starters in our QB rankings. New Orleans will probably rely heavily on Alvin Kamara again after the running back racked up 161 scrimmage yards versus Seattle, but our model gives the Cowboys a slight edge (53 percent chance of winning) on the road.See also: Minnesota at Chicago (80th/70th); Philadelphia at Green Bay (85th/62nd).Biggest playoff implications: No. 11 Minnesota at No. 7 Chicago (-2.5), 4:25 p.m. ET SundayPotential shift in playoff odds: 29.4 total percentage pointsThe NFC North has turned into a surprisingly strong division, with every team featuring an above-.500 record at the moment. That’s a good recipe for crucial early-season divisional matchups, and no Week 4 game is more important than Sunday’s showdown between the Vikings and the Bears. Minnesota rebounded from a tough loss to the Packers with a convincing win over the Raiders last week; Chicago finally got a good game out of Mitchell Trubisky en route to a Monday night romp over Washington. The winner of Bears-Vikings will see its playoff odds rise to over 50 percent, but the loser will drop into the 20-to-25 percent range. We give Chicago a 59 percent chance of coming out on top.See also: Cleveland at Baltimore (26.3); Philadelphia at Green Bay (25.3).Best QB duel: No. 1 Patrick Mahomes (KC) vs. No. 13 Matthew Stafford (DET)See also: No. 3 Tom Brady (NE) vs. No. 12 Josh Allen (BUF); No. 7 Carson Wentz (PHI) vs. No. 8 Aaron Rodgers (GB)FiveThirtyEight vs. the ReadersAs a weekly tradition here at FiveThirtyEight, we look at how our Elo model did against everybody who made picks in our forecasting game. (If you entered, you can find yourself on our leaderboard here. I am currently in 984th place!) These are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the field last week: ARI65%ARI55%CAR 38, ARI 20+9.8– MIN74MIN72MIN 34, OAK 14-3.2– YearStarterGm 1Gm 2Gm 3Qb Elo RatingTeam Elo w/ QBWon Gm 4? 1988Jim Kelly+8-48-36+61498✓ SF79SF72SF 24, PIT 20-5.8– 201910364.10.92.95.8 201832052.8%-7.7%3.8%24.4% PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS For just the third time since 1992, the Buffalo Bills have started a season 3-0, after they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Orchard Park. The team is currently thriving under second-year quarterback Josh Allen, who has led game-winning drives in two of the Bills’ three games this season. Don’t look now, but the Bills are tied for the 11th-highest Super Bowl probability in the league, according to the FiveThirtyEight model.Circle the wagons, Buffalo!But naturally, the Bills are staring at a potential reality check this week, in the form of the also-undefeated New England Patriots. So, in this week’s column, we must ask: Are Allen and the Bills actually good? And will it even matter against the Pats? Let’s dive into the early numbers.Allen has built on a polarizing rookie season with his play so far in 2019. On the one hand, Allen has won games with a combination of timely passing (he leads all quarterbacks this season in yards compiled during the final five minutes of one-score games) and impressive running (only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has more rushing yards among QBs). On the other hand, he ranks just 26th out of 35 qualified QBs in passer rating, with below-average rates of completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions per attempt. In that regard — winning despite across-the-board mediocre passing numbers — Allen is well on his way to joining a bizarre group that includes Jake Plummer, Trent Dilfer, Kordell Stewart and Mark Sanchez.Our own quarterback ratings basically split the difference between the good and the bad. With an Elo QB rating of 161, Allen isn’t great, but he’s not terrible either. In fact, he’s almost precisely average — just 4 rating points below the typical NFL starter — and by Buffalo standards, that’s not too shabby. The last time the Bills’ starter had an Elo rating that good relative to average, it was Tyrod Taylor in the middle of the 2017 season. (That happened to be the only year this century that Buffalo made the playoffs.) Compared with QBs from earlier 3-0 Bills starts, Allen is no Jim Kelly or even Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he is better than Trent Edwards was back in early 2008: QB Elo vs. Avg, First 3 GmsBefore Game 4 2011Ryan Fitzpatrick170176105311510 2019Josh Allen193221-41520— Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. Those 2008 Bills would beat the Rams in Week 4 to run their record to 4-0 … before closing the year on a 3-9 skid to finish out of the playoffs. The 2011 Bills also fizzled after a promising first two months — which included a rare win over New England — losing seven straight and eight of their final nine games to waste a 5-2 start. So Buffalo has been tantalized by fast starts before, only to fall flat later on. But all the Kelly-led Bills on the list above went to the AFC championship game, and two of them went to the Super Bowl.Fine — Allen and Kelly, his Hall of Fame predecessor, still have little in common aside from the charging bison on their helmets. But Allen has at least shown some hints of improvement as a passer so far in his second pro season. Despite his still-mediocre overall numbers, Allen has been more accurate this year, cutting his rate of “poor throws” (according to Pro-Football-Reference.com) from a league-worst 24 percent in 2018 to just 6 percent — which ranks fourth-best this year. Some of that can be attributed to a dose of shorter throws,1Allen’s average air yards per pass has dipped from 10.5 to 8.2 this season, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. but the NFL’s Next Gen Stats estimate that Allen is completing passes at a rate 0.9 percentage points higher than expected this season, even after adjusting for the depth of the pass and other particulars, while he checked in at 7.7 percentage points below expected last season (second-worst in the league). NE91NE95NE 30, NYJ 14-0.2– DAL91DAL95DAL 31, MIA 6-0.3– GB74GB76GB 27, DEN 16-0.9– KC69KC68KC 33, BAL 28-2.7– SEA70SEA72NO 33, SEA 27-4.3– 1992Jim Kelly-3201150501681✓ IND54ATL52IND 27, ATL 24-8.2– Completion% PHI70PHI69DET 27, PHI 24-0.5– Allen has gotten more accurateRates of good and bad passing actions (per attempt) for Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen by season, 2018-19 LAR61LAR66LAR 20, CLE 13+1.1– Week 3 was a victorious one for the readers! The average FiveThirtyEight picker beat our Elo model by 1 point this time around, giving the field its first win of the season. While Elo shrewdly took the Colts over the Falcons and had its faith in the 49ers and Bills rewarded, the readers picked up big points shading the Cardinals, Chargers, Titans and Bucs, all of whom eventually lost. Interestingly, the readers and the computer agreed on the favorite in all but one game last week (that Colts-Falcons game), but the human prognosticators won with smart probabilistic thinking. Nice job, all!Among individual readers, congrats to Bruce C, who led all (identified) readers in Week 3 with 170.9 points, and to Matt Melchior, whose total of 407.0 points leads the full-season contest. Thanks to everyone who played — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and try your luck against Elo, even if you missed Week 3.Check out our latest NFL predictions. read more

Continue reading »

The Gators Bite Back

On Friday, I noted that the Florida Gators had seen a decline in their chances of winning the NCAA men’s basketball tournament despite beating Albany in their opening game. What hurt the Gators’ prospects? They defeated No. 16 Albany by an underwhelming 12 points, and they drew a tough Round of 32 matchup against Pittsburgh and a looming regional final matchup against either Kansas or Syracuse.But the Gators had a terrific weekend. They thrashed Pittsburgh by 16 points. And they were helped by upsets in the other half of the South region, with No. 3 Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas both losing to opponents with double-digit seeds.The Gators’ game against UCLA on Thursday is no gimme — they have a 72 percent chance of winning it, according to our model.  But conditional upon winning that game, they have an 83 percent chance of winning the regional final against either No. 10 Stanford or No. 11 Dayton and advancing to the Final Four.All in all, the Gators benefited more than any other team from the opening week of the tournament. Their chances of winning the national title are 18.4 percent, up from 14.5 percent before the tournament began. read more

Continue reading »

NBA Playoffs Preview The Cavs Down Two Players Are Still Favored Against

Kevin Love’s dislocated shoulder leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers with just two of their “Big Three” for the rest of the playoffs. But the remaining “Big Two” — LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — are probably enough to outlast the Chicago Bulls. FiveThirtyEight’s forecast, which is based on Real Plus-Minus, gives the Cavs a 70 percent likelihood of moving on. The Cavs will also be without J.R. Smith — who was suspended for the first two games of this series after throwing an ill-advised elbow against the Boston Celtics.1These projections assume he plays 20 minutes per game, down from 32 minutes per game this year.The Cavaliers’ offense is spectacular; it ranked third, behind only the Clippers and Warriors, in points per 100 possessions. It is built on shooting a ton of threes — the second-most in the league, as a percentage of total shots — and highly efficient attacking drives to the hoop from James and Irving. The Cavs also excel at offensive rebounding, especially Tristan Thompson, who will play big minutes now that Love is out. Admittedly, it’s still not clear exactly how Cleveland will adjust its rotation. The Bulls are tough and will put up a fight, but the Cavs’ offensive firepower, led by James, will most likely be too much to handle.The Bulls, by contrast, win on defense. Chicago held opponents to the second-lowest shooting percentage in the league. The defense carried them through an inconsistent year from Derrick Rose, who was sidelined with sporadic injuries. Rose, however, showed flashes of brilliance in the first round. And Jimmy Butler is the Bulls’ real star — with a +3.7 Real Plus-Minus rating, he’s the second-best player in this series behind James. Rose and Butler will have to have a transcendent series against a short-handed Cleveland team for the Bulls to have a chance. read more

Continue reading »

Playing The Game OSU Michigan prep for battle

Malcolm JenkinsOverall: 16-8      Last week: 3-0Prediction: Ohio State 21, Michigan 10Comment: OSU’s defense is playing great and the offense won’t have to feel any pressure to have quick scores. They just have to maintain the drives and not turn the ball over. Look for the “D” to have a big game. I’m calling this the 6th in a row.Favorite memories: Beating them at home when we were No. 1 and they were No. 2 in ’06, that was an epic game. And last year when I slammed Michigan’s wide receiver Greg Mathews in the beginning of the game.Jenkins played cornerback for OSU from 2005–08.Marcus FreemanOverall: 13-11     Last week: 1-2Prediction: Ohio State 28, Michigan 10Comment: This is the greatest rivalry in all sports. No matter what the records are, it will be a fight until the end. Favorite memory: Celebrating in Ohio stadium with OSU students after the win in ’06.Freeman played linebacker for OSU from 2004–08.Zack MeiselOverall: 12-12    Last week: 2-1Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan 17Comment: Rabid Wolverine fans get over-excited about a first quarter lead, then reality sets in quickly once the typically slow-starting Buckeyes get rolling against a porous Michigan defense.Meisel is the sports editor for The Lantern. Whether undefeated or winless, it’s still Ohio State-Michigan.In 2006, OSU and Michigan clashed in Columbus undefeated as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.Any sensible observer could have explained the magnitude of the stakes.On Saturday, the Buckeyes will meet Michigan at The Big House, with a Big Ten title and trip to the Rose Bowl already wrapped up.Still, as OSU coach Jim Tressel warned, anyone involved in the unparalleled rivalry can find grounds for motivation.“There’s a reality in life that if you take anything for granted, you’re probably not thinking right,” Tressel said. “We talk about a lot of things that we shouldn’t take for granted. Maybe some things that aren’t even that real to us, but when you talk about the Ohio State-Michigan game, that’s very real. So I’d like to think our guys don’t take anything for granted, although I’m sure we all do take things for granted, but this wouldn’t be one of them.”The Buckeyes are currently riding their longest winning streak in the series’ 112-year history, having won each of the last five meetings.A sixth straight mashing of Michigan might spark comparisons to the Wolverines’ domination at the start of the series, when Michigan won 12 of the first 14 contests, tying the other two.Since taking the reins at Ohio State, Tressel has coached the Buckeyes to victory over their rivals to the north in seven of eight meetings.“I’ve known before I was even part of the series of the significance of the game and the excitement of the game,” Tressel said. “It’s part of you if you like football and you’re from Ohio State or you’re from Michigan, or if you’re in the Big Ten. You just grow up knowing that we’re fortunate to be a part of this game. It’s extraordinary.”While OSU will feed off the motivation to stomp on a struggling Michigan program, the Wolverines will rely upon desperation.Michigan must beat Ohio State to secure bowl eligibility. Otherwise, Rich Rodriguez’s squad will start the offseason early for the second consecutive season.“The nice thing of the Ohio State-Michigan game is it’s always let it all hang out because this is it,” Tressel said. “I mean, this is what it’s all about. And I think if you look specifically at Michigan, they could be at eight or nine wins right now with the ball bouncing this way different or a call being made this way different. I mean, that’s the fine line in college football.”So, despite the disparity in records, statistics and performance, it is all thrown out the window when the two programs go head-to-head, Tressel said.“It’s Ohio State-Michigan,” he said. “I’m sure you could talk to some people who have participated in this game as a player or a coach and they could tell you that probably in the forefront of their mind of their memories of their time here, more so is the Ohio State-Michigan things that flow through their head than it is which bowl did you go to and where were you ranked and this and that, so what’s at stake is Ohio State-Michigan.”The nature of the rivalry brings out the best in both sides, which represents the best in college football.It didn’t take much time for Rodriguez, closing out his second year at the helm at Michigan, to take notice of the passion and enthusiasm that encompasses the rivalry.“I don’t think it takes long to understand the rivalry when you’re a coach at Michigan or Ohio State,” he said. “You don’t even have to coach here or play here to understand the intensity of it if you watch college football.”Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Ohio State will play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.The undetermined future to Michigan’s season rides on the 106th meeting in the OSU-Michigan rivalry, and Tressel hopes his team is playing its best football to thwart a Wolverine attempt at evening its record.“What we’ve got to focus on is feeling like at the end of this game we’ve played the best we’re capable of playing,” he said. “It’s game 12. We’re as healthy as we are, and got all these experiences and learned all these lessons, and did we play the best we were capable of playing? Making the assumption Michigan will do that, because most people do that in the Ohio State-Michigan game, so all those other outside things, whether they’re outside things in their world or outside things in our world, this week there’s only one thing.” Justin ZwickOverall: 16-8     Last week: 3-0Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 10Comment: Defense plays another great game while the offense continues to grind it out but sprinkles in a few big plays against Michigan’s weak secondary. Bucks roll!Zwick played quarterback for OSU from 2002–06. WEEKLY FOOTBALL PICKSSaturday’s Game: No. 10 Ohio State @ MichiganQuinn PitcockOverall: 18-6     Last week: 2-1Prediction: Ohio State 45, Michigan 13Comment: This game will be a true test of our focus before the Rose bowl.Favorite memory: Pregame speech my senior year and the fans rushing the field aftervictory are my favorite OSU vs. M*chigan memories.Pitcock played defensive tackle for OSU from 2002–06. read more

Continue reading »

Dissecting Week Two of the NFL Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings  Tony Romo finally dismissed all of his critics after he won his first playoff game against the Cowboys’ division rival Philadelphia Eagles. But can Romo continue his recent success against his childhood idol Brett Favre?The Cowboys are actually the only team remaining in the playoffs that has no players on injury reserve. Wade Phillips’ squad has never played so well under his tenure and his defense has been hitting on all cylinders. The Vikings didn’t persuade Brett Favre to get off his tractor to simply guide the team to the playoffs. The front office believed that with their elite defense and All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, Favre was the missing piece to their hopes of a Super Bowl title.But the question revolving around Favre is, which quarterback will show up on Saturday? The gunslinging, reckless quarterback that haunted the Packers in his recent playoff games and in his stint with the New York Jets, or the game manager that he has been in most of his Viking games? Even though the Cowboys are riding into this contest with an overwhelming amount of confidence and momentum, the Vikings’ dominant defensive line should be able to hold Romo in check as Favre directs his new team into the NFC Championship game. Pick: Minnesota Vikings Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints New Orleans will host a meeting this weekend that has the potential to break playoff offensive records. Arizona’s offense looked nearly unstoppable in its overtime victory against the Green Bay Packers. The 38-year-old rejuvenated quarterback Kurt Warner looks poised to possibly make another playoff run to the Super Bowl as his team is playing its best football at the end of the season, just like last year. The Saints averaged 31.9 points and more than 400 yards of total offense per game this season, led by their All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees. New Orleans’ offense is so lethal because of the its array of wide receivers and three solid running backs. Playing in the Superdome in front of the Saints’ faithful should be a vital factor in Sunday’s contest. The Cardinals might be coming off of a record offensive showing in Arizona last weekend, but the Saints will counter-balance with a rested and superior offense of their own. Pick: New Orleans Saints Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore RavensThe Indianapolis Colts could have finished the regular season undefeated, but coach Jim Caldwell wanted to rest his starters for the playoffs. Now after finishing the season at 14-2, the Colts feel that most critics have jumped off their bandwagon as Super Bowl favorites. Coming off of his NFL-record fourth MVP season, Peyton Manning will look to guide the Colts to their second championship in four years. Manning possesses an ample amount of offensive weapons, including his No. 1 receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark.      The Ravens ran the ball effectively in wild card weekend to decisively dismantle the New England Patriots at Foxboro. Their defense that tormented Tom Brady last Sunday will look to try to confuse the Colts’ signal-caller. Even though the Ravens held an early, overbearing lead against the Patriots last week, quarterback Joe Flacco looked completely flat on the field. Indianapolis is under a great amount of pressure to win this playoff game after the decision to rest its marquee players and halt their near record-breaking momentum. While rust tends to tie in with extensive rest, the Colts should able to overcome this detriment and capitalize on their experience to win in Indianapolis.  Pick: Indianapolis Colts New York Jets vs. San Diego ChargersThe Chargers are riding an 11-game winning streak and look to potentially have a strong run in the playoffs. Quarterback Phillip Rivers, known as one of the toughest and most competitive players in the NFL, has blossomed into one of the marquee quarterbacks in the league. San Diego’s roster is stockpiled with playoff veterans such as LaDainian Tomlinson, who might have his last opportunity to reach a Super Bowl with the Chargers this year. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez played a nearly perfect game at Cincinnati last weekend and hasn’t turned the ball over in his past three contests. Cornerback Darrelle Revis blanketed star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco at Cincinnati; so don’t expect Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson to do anything special this Sunday. The Jets have had an impressive roller coaster-ride of a season as they weathered the slumps of their rookie quarterback. But the Chargers simply have too much talent and veteran experience to slip in their first playoff contest. Pick: San Diego Chargers read more

Continue reading »

Opinion The Michigan Daily reporters should not be punished for doing their

Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Michigan student newspaper The Michigan Daily recently broke a story about former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons violating the Student Sexual Misconduct policy. Credit: Kaily Cunningham / Multimedia editorAs a journalist, it is your duty to report the news. The real news. Not a fabricated story, not leaving important details out, but the honest to God news.That is all the writers at The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s independent student newspaper, were doing, and now they are being punished for it.Sports writer Matt Slovin and staff reporter Adam Rubenfire broke the story on former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons being separated from the university for violating the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.This in turn saw the paper’s reporters not invited by the school to a press conference Monday where coach Brady Hoke discussed the violations, according to Slovin and Detroit News writer Tony Paul.In a day and age where people will go out of their way to defend the free speech rights of just about anyone that speaks, seeing the school turn away their own paper because they were doing their jobs is outrageous.What would have happened if The Associated Press had broken the report, or ESPN? Would the school have been as keen to block their reporters from attending the press conference?The report from the paper is well written, well reported and factually correct. There have been no corrections issued for this story, they didn’t flat out lie — these journalists were just doing what they had been trained to do.According to the paper’s website, they are financially independent from the school, but that didn’t stop Michigan from making a statement about the content that was being run.As an editor for The Lantern, a rival Big Ten paper, I have immeasurable respect for these journalists. This story had to be reported on whether it made Michigan happy or not.In the end, I’m not sure what the program gained by blocking these reporters from entering. With the speed that news is reported in today’s world, it was guaranteed this story would get out. Michigan comes out as the bad guy and The Michigan Daily ends up having more power than it did before.The school failed in what it did and should be questioned for the decision. But more importantly we should celebrate the newspaper. Not for doing something extraordinary, but for simply doing their job: reporting the news. read more

Continue reading »

Football Ohio State defensive end Jalyn Holmes exits the game with apparent

Senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes (11) waits in between plays during the 2017 season opener vs. Indiana. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorLINCOLN, Nebraska — Ohio State senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes was forced to leave with an apparent injury with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Nebraska Saturday night. At the time, Ohio State led 49-7.Holmes was able to walk off the field and into the locker room with his arms draped over members of the training staff. Holmes has been listed as a co-starter at defensive end all season, and has also helped fill in at defensive tackle following the injury to redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones that caused Jones to miss the Rutgers and Maryland games. read more

Continue reading »