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Since 2006, Bortles’s QBR was easily the worst by the QB on a team that scored at least 50 points. Or 45. Or even 40. Among teams scoring 30 or more points, only Eli Manning’s microscopic 0.2 QBR in this 38-21 win against the Buffalo Bills was worse. (Naturally, Eli followed up that stinker with a near-upset of the 15-0 New England Patriots and then won four straight games, including the Super Bowl.) The average sub-5.0-QBR game yields a shade under 9.9 points. Overcoming that kind of performance, much less stacking another 40 points of production on top of it, requires something remarkable.In Manning’s case, it was two long rushing touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns. For Jacksonville, it was a couple of return touchdowns — a fumble and a punt — plus a dangerous Bortles pass to Allen Hurns that was nearly intercepted but instead turned into an 80-yard touchdown. The latter was likely scored as a bad pass despite its good result, which is one of the selling points for QBR — that its individual inputs and charting make it a better representation of play than traditional QB rating (which put Bortles at 114.6). But then, the black-box mechanics of QBR can also lead to wacky results; the formula, with all its credit-splitting and other arcana, undeniably makes more sense on a season-long scale than in single games.Even so, outliers as extreme as Bortles’s win don’t come along every week — or every decade. Fifty-point games are rare, but ones in which the quarterback is so immaterial to the product are all but non-existent. Fifty-point outings are pretty rare in the NFL. When teams do break the half-century barrier, it’s usually the result of an exceptional individual performance; in 26 of the NFL’s 36 50-point games since 2006,1The first season for which TruMedia has game-by-game Total QBR data. the high-scoring team’s primary passer2Meaning the QB who attempted the most passes for the team in the game. posted a score of 90 or better on Total QBR’s 0-to-100 scale, where 50 is average.Only twice in the past decade has a team dropped 50 or more on an opponent despite its quarterback having a QBR below league average. The first was a mediocre Jay Cutler game from 2012, in which Cutler had a QBR of 43.8 — not horrendous, though also not what you think of when you envision a 50-point offensive outburst. The second happened Sunday, in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ out-of-nowhere 51-16 romp over the tailspinning Indianapolis Colts. Because, despite his team’s huge scoring output, Jags QB Blake Bortles posted an impossibly low 3.8 QBR for the game: read more

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201515711658-8747%3 199915901531+59670 YEARAVERAGE HOME ELOAVERAGE ROAD ELODIFFERENCEAVERAGE HOME WIN PROBABILITYHOME UNDERDOGS 200116121589+22620 200315791573+5601 200015661617-50522 Since the NFL postseason expanded to 12 teams in 1990, home teams have won 65 percent of the time on wild-card weekend — an even better rate than the league’s 59 percent home field advantage in the regular season. For teams that can’t lock down a bye week, playing at home has traditionally been a solid consolation. This year, though, it could be that none of that will matter once the games begin.As of Tuesday morning, three of the four home teams in this weekend’s games are underdogs in Vegas, and you can make a good case that the fourth — Washington, which hosts Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers — should also be expected to lose. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, our favorite measure of a team’s strength at any given moment, this is the first time since 1990 that three home teams have been underdogs in the wild-card round: This year’s group is also the second-most-overmatched batch of home teams since 1990, the only impediment to No. 1 being 2010, when the 7-9 Seahawks hosted (and won!) a wild-card game. That year’s crop of home teams was exceptionally weak; in addition to Seattle, Kansas City was a below-average team according to both Elo and Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System, and the Eagles and Colts were helped by good fortune (they exceeded their Pythagorean expectations).While this year’s wild-card home teams aren’t great, they’re not all that bad — that three-quarters of them are underdogs owes more to the strength of their opponents. By Elo, this is easily the strongest group of road squads that wild-card weekend has seen since 1990. It includes teams ranked Nos. 1 (Seattle), 4 (Kansas City), 7 (Pittsburgh) and 9 (Green Bay) in the league. Those are the kinds of teams that typically host wild-card games, not travel to other cities as guests.Back in October, my colleague Andrew Flowers and I wrote about how downright weird the season was shaping up to be, in the sense that the distribution of wins was out of whack compared with historical norms. Now, on the eve of the playoffs, that weirdness is manifesting itself another way: Each conference’s lowest-seeded teams are among its strongest. It’s a phenomenon that could pay big dividends for road teams on wild-card weekend.Check out our Super Bowl odds for every playoff team. 200715701570+0590 199216161615+1590 201315641593-29551 199015681582-15570 201115521578-25551 199515571545+12601 199715851535+50660 200415951530+65680 199815941542+52660 199315531547+6600 200915891617-28552 200215911524+67680 199415761543+34640 201415961578+18620 201215991580+19611 199115971541+55660 199615981506+92710 Pregame Elo ratings and odds for wild-card round, 1990-2015 200815541628-74492 200616031522+81700 200515841615-31551 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 201015181638-120432 read more

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The Los Angeles Lakers, already struggling, will have to go on the road without three significant big men because of injuries: Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and is expected to miss at least a week of action before his injury is re-evaluated. He injured his shoulder in Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday’s defeat to the Denver Nuggets.“It shouldn’t keep me out for awhile, but to make sure that I’m cautious, to make sure that I’m healthy, that’s the most important thing,” Howard told reporters at the Lakers practice facility on Monday.The most encouraging the news about Howard’s injury is that he will not need surgery.”I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing right now is I have to make sure I’m 100 percent,” the six-time All-Star said. “I don’t want to play with my shoulder weak. I’d have a chance for more injuries. I’ve got to let it heal up.”In the meantime, Gasol will be out after sustaining a concussion in Sunday night’s loss to the Nuggets, when he was hit in the face with an elbow from Denver center JaVale McGee.Hill, a key reserve forward, has a right hip injury that he suffered during Sunday’s game as well. An MRI revealed a small tear of the labrum in his left hip, according to ESPNLA.com. He will also be re-evaluated in a week.The Lakers, who are 15-18 and sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, hardly could afford such a rash of injuries to key personnel.“When it rains, it pours, man,” star guard Kobe Bryant said. “It’s like the old Mr. Magoo thing. You just try to get through it.”Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni added: “The NBA is unforgiving, and nobody is feeling sorry for us. There’s 29 other teams that are happy, and we’ve got to do the best we can do.”D’Antoni said he will have to resort to a smaller line-up until the team gets healthy again. Darius Morris, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark and Devin Ebanks – bench players who had not made a significant contribution this season – will receive more playing time. The Lakers will also call up rookie center Robert Sacre from their D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.“Guys have to step up, and I made sure everybody knew because we want to make sure everybody is in the right frame of mind (Tuesday), whether it being playing a different position or playing a little bit differently than they normally have,” D’Antoni said.D’Antoni also said small forward Metta World Peace might play both forward positions and center until the big men return.“If you feel sorry for yourself, if you complain, if you make excuses, that’s when frankly I think you delay the turnaround or prohibit the turnaround,” point guard Steve Nash said.The Lakers, who have lost their three games, play their first game without the trio of big men Tuesday night at the Houston Rockets. They will end their short road trip at the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night and return to home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night — a tough stretch when healthy, and a much tougher one missing three key components. read more

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1Los Angeles Dodgers9794989595.9 5San Diego Padres6965656866.6 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS 2San Francisco Giants8888858887.1 4Arizona Diamondbacks7877777877.4 3Colorado Rockies7778748177.4 Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 14, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is once again assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the National League West with Molly Knight, author of “The Best Team Money Can Buy,” and Sarah Wexler, a writer for Dodgers Digest and The Hardball Times. The transcript below has been edited. neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): All right, so let’s talk NL West! I’m gonna start with the Dodgers, since they’re considered by most people to be the favorites in the division. (And, of course, both of you are very familiar with them!)mollyknight: It’s totally bizarre to me that they’ve won the division four years in a row. And yet somehow the Giants have won 11 World Series during that run.neil: Hah — yes, it does feel that way for the Giants. (At least until last year.)mollyknight: When I was reporting my book, Dodgers President Stan Kasten told me the goal was to make the playoffs every year because the playoffs are such a crapshoot and there’s no other way to control winning a title.But now it strikes me they may be turning into the ’90s Atlanta Braves. Which were also run by … Stan Kasten.neil: Well, that was one thing I wanted to ask about — the Dodgers seem to have an absurd amount of talent this year. FanGraphs considers L.A. to be the most talented team — not just in the NL West, but in all of baseball. It also gives them the third-best odds of winning the World Series.It seems kind of assumed that the Cubs are the NL’s best team. But is it possible that we’re all underrating the Dodgers, particularly with a healthy Clayton Kershaw, an improving Corey Seager, the Logan Forsythe trade, etc.? (Feels weird to say a $240 million team is underrated.)mollyknight: I still think the Cubs are better, but the gap is narrowing. The Cubs don’t have much starting pitching depth. If anything happens to one of their big three, I believe the Dodgers become the favorite.What do you think, Sarah?sarahwexler: That sounds about right. We saw last year the way the Dodgers were able to cobble together a rotation that worked (with the help of an excellent bullpen, of course) despite a league-leading number of injuries because of the incredible depth they have. And while that hopefully won’t be necessary this year, it’s certainly something they could do again if they had to.Also, I think it’s telling that they’ve traded away both Jose De Leon and Chase De Jong this offseason and they’re still flush with starting pitcher depth.mollyknight: It’s going to be so fun when top prospect Cody Bellinger gets called up. He’s a rock star. I think Seager/Bellinger will be the West Coast version of Bryzzo, and I’m here for it. And I think Bryzzo is here for it, too. They’re fun guys who love to compete. That rivalry should be outstanding.sarahwexler: I’m very much looking forward to Bellinger, too, though you have to wonder what that means for Adrian Gonzalez, who’s been an absolute rock at 1B for the Dodgersmollyknight: Yeah, that’s sort of the iceberg looming on the horizon for me with this team, tbh.neil: Although even that is a good problem to have!mollyknight: I don’t know how the team will respond if Gonzo’s production continues to taper off (as it does for all players on the wrong side of 32). It’s very difficult to bench a guy like that. But Bellinger plays in the outfield also, so I believe we may see him there first.neil: That’s going to be one of the questions that weighs on L.A. manager Dave Roberts. What did you think of his first season?mollyknight: He showed a willingness to embrace analytics and use relievers in unorthodox ways, both of which are vital to any team’s success going forward. This oversimplifies, but the three teams left standing at the very end (Cubs, Indians, Dodgers) all had managers willing to use their closers in the eighth inning or earlier.neil: That’s a great point — probably one of the reasons that creative bullpen management is the big new trend people are talking about leaguewide.mollyknight: Zach Britton sends his regards from hell.neil: Haha.So we’ve raved about the Dodgers’ strengths — what are the potential pitfalls for this team?sarahwexler: For as much talent and depth as there is in their rotation, there’s also a lot of uncertainty there. Will Rich Hill’s blisters be an issue again? Will Kenta Maeda wear out like he did last season? Is Julio Urias going to live up to his potential? Will we ever see Hyun-Jin Ryu again?mollyknight: They need to hit left-handed pitching. Logan Forsythe is a nice addition at second, but if he’s going to be leading off, I’m slightly concerned that his on-base percentage was .333 last season.Also, Clayton Kershaw can only pitch once every five days.sarahwexler: $240 million team, and they haven’t even figured out a way to clone Clayton Kershaw yet. Pft.mollyknight: I’m calling for a nonpartisan investigation into Rich Hill’s blister.neil: As long as nobody has to investigate his treatment method.sarahwexler: I was going to make a golden showers joke, but I restrained myself.mollyknight: I did not know about this, and now my lunch is ruined.neil: On that note, let’s move on to the Giants! They had such an up-and-down season in 2016 — at their best, they looked ready to keep that even-year championship streak going; at their worst, they nearly tailspun their way out of the playoffs down the stretch. What version do we expect to see this year?sarahwexler: I think those Giants evened out to about where they were supposed to be, and I think we’ll see similar end results with them this year. They’ve made a few key changes in signing closer Mark Melancon and bringing in Jae-gyun Hwang to play 3B, but besides that, they’re really not a radically different team.neil: How big was the Melancon pickup? The bullpen was a huge issue for them last year.sarahwexler: It was a great signing for them. It definitely fills one of their most substantial needs, and for one year fewer (and slightly less average annual value) than Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen got (which makes sense, given that Melancon’s a bit older and not quite as good, though still very good).Of course, besides that, their bullpen doesn’t look especially different, so we’ll see.mollyknight: It is tough to count the Giants out though. Never forget Hunter Pence is a witch.sarahwexler: I usually go with alien myself. Maybe he’s a witch from another planet.mollyknight: He actually lives in my friend’s building in San Francisco — and it’s sinking!sarahwexler: Something something metaphor for America.neil: Or the Giants’ division odds down the stretch?mollyknight: I was there in the fall, and I ran into him in the gym. He was doing Pilates.So Giants fans reading this should know that Hunter Pence takes his offseason seriously enough to do Pilates while the building sinks.neil: Even Pence is getting a little long in the tooth, though (supernatural origin notwithstanding). If this is basically the same group as the past few years, back for another go-around, they seem a little bit short of where L.A. is talent-wise (to say nothing of the NL’s other heaviest hitters). What has to go right for San Francisco to win the division?mollyknight: Buster Posey hitting for power again. Matt Moore turning into the guy everyone once thought he could be, on a consistent basis. Hunter Pence not changing his underwear.And the Dodgers collapsing.sarahwexler: All of that, plus Hwang panning out at 3B, and maybe also figuring out a way to plug the black hole that is their left field.mollyknight: It would also help if their bullpen didn’t blow 32 games. Melancon really should help. I don’t know how it could get any worse than last year. I looked up one night last September and saw Joe Nathan pitching in a tie game at Coors Field and thought I was hallucinating.neil: According to FanGraphs, basically the Dodgers and Giants were the only teams that had any shot at the division all year. Is this a two-team race again? Colorado got some buzz over the offseason (as much buzz as the Rockies ever really get).sarahwexler: The Rockies kind of seem to do the same thing every year, which is get off to a really hot start that leads people to question if they’re legit. They then answer that question by falling off quickly.mollyknight: It’s so hard to evaluate the Rockies since I’m not even sure what game they play in Denver. It looks nothing like baseball. Can you even imagine being a pitcher drafted by the Rockies?neil: Well, that was going to be one of my questions — is it possible their rotation looks … kinda OK?sarahwexler: They do actually have some intriguing young arms.mollyknight: They’ve got a young kid they drafted last year named Riley Pint who sits 97 and can touch 100. He’s 19 years old. I WANT TO BELIEVE.They’ve also got Nolan Arenado, who, in my opinion, is the most underrated player in baseball.neil: What did you make of the Ian Desmond signing? Was it as bad as everyone said?sarahwexler: Can’t say I love giving five years/$70 million to a guy to play a position he hasn’t played a single inning at in his entire career, but I don’t think their 1B situation is going to be what makes or breaks them this year.mollyknight: Their farm system is decent. I believe Baseball America has them at No. 10. The problem is the Dodgers and the Padres are both deeper. But they do have two potential future stars, in Pint and shortstop Brendan Rodgers — though neither one is close to the big leagues right now.neil: So even if the “dark horse” talk is premature for the Rockies, maybe they’re finally taking steps in the right direction. (Now, if only anybody can figure out what the heck to do about the weird underperformance of their batters on the road …)mollyknight: Spoiling the Dodgers’ or Giants’ season might be the best they can hope for this year.neil: The other team that I think is interesting as a spoiler is Arizona. They were one of the buzzy teams of last offseason and had a complete disaster of a season. Any chance they bounce back?mollyknight: I saw Zack Greinke was sitting 89 during his last spring training start. That is not what you want.I mean, unless you are Dodgers baseball-ops president Andrew Friedman.sarahwexler: Greinke rebounding is obviously going to be essential for this Dbacks team, as is Shelby Miller looking … well, better, but that’s a low bar.mollyknight: The Diamondbacks have a bunch of sort-of-broken young pitchers with plenty of promise. If someone can fix a couple of them, then this team looks very different.sarahwexler: Yeah, Taijuan Walker’s a guy who’s yet to live up to his potential, but I still think his addition improves their rotation.mollyknight: Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley — all of these guys were GUYS at one point.sarahwexler: Plus, Robbie Ray was one of the top strikeout guys in baseball last year. What’s up with that?mollyknight: Dansby Swanson looks like a franchise shortstop. That Shelby Miller trade will go down as one of the worst deals in the history of baseball if he doesn’t turn it around. No pressure, Shelbs. They’ve got to hope Greinke has a good first half and then unload him for prospects and money relief. They cannot win while paying his salary. Their farm system is in ruins.They’ve finally got a smart front office in there, but they are a decade behind other teams in terms of analytics. The good news is nobody expects anything, and Paul Goldschmidt exists. The bad news is everything else, including the uniforms.neil: Yeah, they seem like a team in a weird place, with too many expensive players to fully rebuild right now but nowhere near enough talent to contend.mollyknight: I believe Dan Haren will fix the Diamondbacks with his tweets alone.neil: Finally, we have the San Diego Padres. Exactly how bad are they going to be?sarahwexler: Oof. When I got asked to do this, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh, great, I have to find things to say about the Padres.” Uh … Carter Capps might be fun to watch?neil: Yes! They have to be glad that Carter Capps a) will return from injury and b) still has a legal delivery!mollyknight: I still can’t believe GM A.J. Preller didn’t get fired for trying to hide injuries of players he traded last year. I will give this to the Padres: Even when they are bad, it’s never boring.neil: Will other GMs ever trade with Preller again?sarahwexler: I mean, what does he even have at this point that anyone would want to trade for?mollyknight: Pitcher Anderson Espinoza and center fielder Manny Margot, both of whom could either wind up being total stars or total duds. Fun times! I also like Cal Quantrill a lot, especially as a pitcher in that park. He needs to work his way back from Tommy John, but I think he’ll be a solid front-end rotation guy for them in a few years.It’s hard for me to knock the Padres, though, because their ballpark food is so great. They even have beer garden days. And the crowds are so chill. It’s the most relaxing atmosphere in sports.But, yeah, they’re going to be ril bad.neil: One cool thing they might do is to tinker with pitcher usage, having the starter only go through the lineup once. So, that’s fun. (Bad teams should do more of this cool, experimental stuff.)mollyknight: Yes, if you are going to lose, you might as well do it in style.neil: Sounds like “intriguing” is just about the best you can hope for out of this division if you’re not named the Dodgers or Giants.sarahwexler: It’ll likely be another fun chapter in the Dodgers/Giants rivalry, and there’s certainly potential for the Rockies or Dbacks to surprise us. Or for the Padres to make us look like jerks for being so mean to them.mollyknight: I’d be surprised if the Dodgers ran away with the division. The Giants always hang around. As certain as a Madison Bumgarner snotrocket in September, the Giants will be there.sarahwexler: Peeing on blisters, snotrockets … this chat has everything.CORRECTION (March 14, 10:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this chat misattributed one of Sarah Wexler’s lines to Molly Knight. The statement beginning “It’ll likely be another fun chapter in the Dodgers/Giants rivalry…” was said by Wexler, not Knight. An earlier version of this correction misidentified the statement that had been corrected. How forecasters view the NL West RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE read more

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OSU freshman wide receiver Austin Mack (11) attempts to catch the ball during the spring game on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe roster turnover from a season ago has been well documented. Ohio State returns just six of 22 starters from 2016, and 44 of its scholarship players have yet to see game action for coach Urban Meyer. Not all 16 jobs are up for grabs. Meyer and others have indicated that junior Jamarco Jones will start at left tackle, redshirt freshman Mike Weber at running back, redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and sixth-year senior Corey Smith at receiver and redshirt junior Marcus Baugh at tight end on offense. For the defense, redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard will man the strong-side defensive end position, junior Dante Booker at outside linebacker and redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker at safety.A season ago those names lined the two-deep depth chart or were injured. Now, Meyer and Co. need to find other members of the Scarlet and Gray to fill remaining roles, and they could turn to a talented true freshmen class.OSU reeled in the No. 4 recruiting class in 2016 according to 247Sports, with seven of those recruits having enrolled in the spring. Some of those early-enrollees could earn pivotal spots in fall camp which starts Aug. 6.“My goal is to play every freshman,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days last week. “I know that doesn’t happen, but we want to play the freshmen as soon as we can.”There will be plenty of redshirt freshmen in starting and second-string roles, but these true freshmen are poised to see time in their first season in Columbus.Michael JordanOne of the best units on Meyer’s teams the last two years has been the offensive line. Redshirt senior Pat Elflein and redshirt junior Billy Price return for the “Slobs,” but they will be joined by three new linemates hoping to continue that “Slob” mentality.Freshman Michael Jordan is a four-star recruit from Plymouth High School in Canton, Michigan, who has made quite the impression during the summer. Enough of an impression that Meyer said that Jordan will likely be a starter.“What I’ve seen from (Jordan), his development since he got here in January is outstanding,” Meyer said.Meyer later said that Jordan will have to compete for the job and that he has to earn it in camp. However, it appears Jordan has the lead for a position on the o-line.Recruited as an offensive tackle, new o-line coach Greg Studrawa will likely put the 6-foot-7, 310 pound Jordan wherever he is needed. Junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon may have the right tackle position for Studrawa’s unit having played left tackle in JUCO.“He’s a smart guy. He’s taking coaching very well,” Elflein said about Jordan. “He gets after guys. Sometimes you have to develop that nastiness and some guys just have it. He has it.”Austin MackFreshman wideout Austin Mack first turned heads at last summer’s Friday Night Lights event in Ohio Stadium where he was nearly unguardable. When the Fort Wayne, Indiana, native enrolled in January, he became the first player to lose his black stripe and earn reps with the upperclassmen.Mack is just one of the many young receivers eyeing substantial playing time come Sept. 3 against Bowling Green. The second-string spot on the depth chart behind Brown and Smith are possibly the most open, and hotly contested, areas on the roster. Having been inaugurated into the program so early, Mack stands as good of a chance as any other receiver to see targets from quarterback J.T. Barrett.“The talent and speed and athleticism will not be an issue. It’s how they perform,” Meyer said about the receiving unit. “That’s where J.T. is going to be so critical because you’re going to see a lot of wide eyes. A lot of those guys have not played.”Mack had three receptions for 22 yards for the Scarlet team in the spring game in April.Nick BosaNo. 97 will be on the defensive front four once again for OSU, but it’s the other Bosa’s turn. Nick Bosa—known as “smaller bear” to brother and former Buckeye Joey—is Meyer’s most prized recruit from the 2016 class.Ranked as the No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the country, five-star Bosa tore his ACL in his senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Despite that, Meyer said that Bosa will not be redshirted in 2016, meaning that he wants Bosa to factor into the defensive line.Meyer added last week that he, strength coach Mickey Marotti and other defensive coaches will closely monitor Bosa’s progress throughout camp.Demario McCall / Antonio WilliamsLast season, junior Curtis Samuel served as a the backup running back to Ezekiel Elliott. He is listed as an H-back on the team’s roster, but following the dismissal of Bri’onte Dunn, freshmen DeMario McCall and Antonio Williams may be in the mix for playing time in the backfield.“Depth is a concern,” Meyer said. “You want four bodies in the tailback position, and I count Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel in the mix. So we have Demario McCall, Antonio Williams and obviously Mike Weber. So that is a concern.”Williams enrolled in the spring at OSU and benefitted from an injured Dunn at the time. Williams started for the Gray team in the annual spring game where he rushed for 29 yards on seven carries.McCall is another guy who could be rotated into the catalog of running backs. Standing at 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, McCall has the build to play H-back for Meyer. McCall registered an unofficial 4.34 40-yard dash in high school—and if there is one thing Meyer is consistent with, it’s finding playing time for players with top-end speed. McCall has that.Jonathon CooperOpposite from Nick Bosa, Cooper was ranked the No. 3 weak-side defensive end in the 2016 recruiting class. Hailing from Gahanna-Lincoln High School just 20 minutes outside of Columbus, Cooper participated in spring practice as an early-enrollee and is looking to backup redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis on the weak-side of the defensive line.At 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, Cooper may not be limited to the defensive end position. Sophomore Sam Hubbard and Lewis have the the end positions locked down, so the inside tackle positions may be where Cooper finds the most time on the field. read more

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A little more than four years ago when the two were freshmen, they sat next to each other in the locker room. Then, they played on the same line during games. Now, they’re in all the same classes. Senior forwards John Albert and Sergio Somma have developed a unique friendship while playing on the Ohio State men’s hockey team, which allows them to joke around but be serious when it’s time to take care of business. They seem to have a certain comfort level with each other, which was evident the moment they were asked to say something about the other. “His feet smell terrible; it’s pretty bad actually,” Albert said of Somma, with a chuckle. “I think over the years I’ve gotten used to it.” Albert had a few more fun facts about his buddy. “He really cares about his sticks,” Albert said. “If there’s a little dent on his stick … he always puts it in my face.” Somma wasn’t shy about sharing some tidbits about Albert either. “He eats funny,” Somma said. “He like dips his head down and shoves food in his mouth … and he, like, doesn’t move his head.” While the two aren’t afraid to point out the other’s faults and embarrassing habits, they also have a certain respect for each other. They don’t hesitate to talk about how much they like being teammates and how their friendship helps out on the ice. “(John is) a real great skater, a real dynamic player,” Somma said. “Somebody you enjoy being around off the ice, you’re probably going to click better with on the ice. … It happens to be like that with me and John.” Albert said he enjoys playing with Somma and their friendship makes it easy to be teammates. “I have a great time playing with him,” Albert said. “It’s great. He’s a great player; he’s feisty on the ice.” OSU coach Mark Osiecki said he knows he has to keep Somma and Albert on the same line because they make each other play better. “We’re trying to keep those two together,” Osiecki said. “They feed off each other.” Somma and Albert said they enjoy being on the same team now, but wonder what it would be like to play on different teams at the next level — the NHL. Albert has been drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers and Somma could receive offers after this season. Albert gave the impression that Somma is a player he wouldn’t want to face. “As an opponent,” Albert said, “I think it’d be a struggle to play against him.” Somma thought differently of facing Albert. “It would be funny,” Somma said. “Just give him a smile and a whack, and then you keep playing.” NHL fantasies aside, both players said they are concentrated on this season with the Buckeyes. Albert said the off-ice friendship makes it easier for the two to give each other constructive criticism on the ice. “He’s always there to pick me up,” Albert said, “and I think it’s vice versa.” Throughout the four years they’ve played together and been friends, Albert said, he wonders what Somma really thinks of him. “At least I hope he likes me,” Albert said with a smile. Somma reassured that they’re friends, saying even if he didn’t like Albert, he’d still act like it. “Everyone thinks I do,” Somma said, “so I guess I’m doing a pretty good job acting like it.” read more

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The 2012 Ohio State football team will be playing Central Florida at noon on Saturday, but they will not be the only Buckeyes in gridiron action this weekend. Many OSU alumni will play prominent roles for NFL teams who play their season-opening games on Sunday or Monday.There are 37 former Buckeyes playing for 20 different NFL teams.New York Giants center Jim Cordle, a 2010 OSU graduate, was the first Buckeye alumnus to be active for an NFL regular-season game this season. Cordle did not start on the offensive line, but was on the 53-man active roster for the Giants’ season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday.Many other Buckeyes will play more significant roles for their respective NFL teams.These former Ohio State players could make their most significant mark on the 2012 NFL season with the defensive backs they have sent to the league. Of the 37 Buckeyes in the NFL, eight of them play in the secondary and six are listed on their team’s depth chart as starters: Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Nate Clements, Philadelphia Eagles free safety Kurt Coleman, Carolina Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble, New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins, San Francisco 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield.Another former OSU defensive back, New England Patriots defensive back Nate Ebner, will be among the four members of the 2011 Buckeyes football team set to begin their inaugural NFL seasons. Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Mike Adams, a second-round draft pick, and Houston Texans wide receiver DeVier Posey, a third-round draft selection, are also rookies making their debuts on Sunday, along with Jacksonville Jaguars center Mike Brewster, who went undrafted.All four rookies are listed as reserves on their team’s depth charts, but depending on each game’s circumstances, they could see playing time. Another player from last year’s Buckeyes team, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, was drafted in the sixth round by the Bengals, but he failed to make the team’s 53-man roster.Many other prominent players with OSU ties can be seen in action this weekend as well. The New York Jets have two offensive starters, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and center Nick Mangold, who were also teammates for the Buckeyes from 2002-2005.Another member of the 2006 draft class from OSU, A.J. Hawk, starts at inside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, while Arizona Cardinals running back Chris “Beanie” Wells and St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis were both members of the 2009 draft class after successful careers for the Buckeyes.Whether you watch an NFL game this on Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Monday night, chances are good that a Buckeye will be on the field. read more

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Urban Meyer speaks to the media during Ohio State’s football media day Aug. 11.When you hear “Ohio State” or “Michigan,” the rivalry and The Game are one of the first things that come to mind.Growing up in Ohio with OSU alumni in my family, I view The Game no differently. It’s the biggest rivalry in sports with the most intense fans, one that culminates at the end of the football regular season for two teams that want nothing more than to beat each other.Whether you’re a football fan or not, if you hail from Ohio or Michigan, you’re ready to cheer come time for The Game. The most dedicated fans can never waiver to the other side, even for reasons completely unrelated to football.You stick with your team and root for them to win, no matter what.But there are some things even bigger than the biggest rivalry in sports, and one of those things is cancer.When Grant Reed, then 11 years old, now 12 years old, was diagnosed with cancer, he used the rivalry as his motivation to beat the disease, which kept him in the hospital for weeks at a time. Both of Reed’s parents are OSU alumni and former marching band members, so being a Buckeye was something Reed was born into.That’s why Reed decided to name his brain tumor “Michigan.”And then he beat it.Last December, when OSU football coach Urban Meyer found out about Reed’s creative choice in naming his tumor, he visited Reed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital while Reed was still undergoing treatment. Since The Game takes place in Ann Arbor, Mich., this year, Meyer wasn’t able to offer Reed tickets to the game.That’s where Michigan football coach Brady Hoke came in.When Hoke heard about Reed’s tumor, he felt the need to reach out to the young Buckeye fan.“Well I think as a father and a parent, we’re glad in this instance that he beat Michigan, and that’s probably the only time I’ll say it,” Hoke said. “But that’s important, it’s important for us, we’ve got a great, unbelievable opportunity to help kids and help people understand.”He said this was an obvious case where something was more important than the rivalry.“This is a great rivalry, the greatest there is, it’s competitive, and it’s passionate,” Hoke said. “But at the end of the day there’s a heck of lot more things more important than those rivalries.”As I am not a parent, I can’t relate to Hoke’s reasoning for reaching out to Reed in that aspect. But as a human being, you can’t help but feel Hoke’s compassion and the compassion coming from Buckeyes and Wolverines elsewhere.Hoke gave Reed and his family four tickets to come watch the Buckeyes and the Wolverines face off on Nov. 30.Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner agreed that this opportunity wasn’t something the Wolverines and coach Hoke could pass up.“That’s great on the part of coach Hoke. The rivalry is so big, what he’s fighting is so much bigger,” Gardner said. “If what he needs to do is name his deal “Beat Michigan,” I fully support it. But when he comes to The Game, I don’t support that in any way.” read more

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Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell controls the ball during the first quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Idaho on Nov. 15. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports EditorThe Ohio State women’s basketball team had to ferociously compete in its 85-64 win against No. 14 Stanford and in its 95-90 overtime loss to No. 5 Louisville, but its road to victory against Idaho proved to be much easier.Behind a 59-35 rebounding advantage, No. 9 Ohio State (2-1) defeated Idaho (1-1) 99-56 to pick up the program’s 1,000th victory Wednesday night at the Schottenstein Center.Redshirt junior guard Linnae Harper tallied a team-leading 18 points and 18 boards. Ohio State a 22-4 advantage in offensive rebounds and 5-foot-8 Harper, who started in the Buckeyes’ four-guard starting lineup, led the team with six offensive boards.“I’m just trying to be whatever the team needs me to be,” Harper said. “Yeah, I think it’s very versatile, but I think it requires a very mental, disciplined focus from me to be able to switch back and forth.”Redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and added 14 rebounds. She struggled in the Buckeyes’ second game of the year against Louisville after corralling a school-record 26 rebounds against Stanford in the season opener. “She gives that inside presence,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “What it does is it gives us more balance. We can get shot-happy from the perimeter. If we can get the ball to her around the basket, just get a little more balance in what we’re doing.”Mavunga and Harper each had double-doubles before halftime. The Buckeyes held a 19-0 edge in second-chance points and 36 of their points came from inside the paint. Ohio State’s 59 rebounds were more than it had in any game last season.The Buckeyes trailed 7-5 to begin the game, then redshirt junior guard Sierra Calhoun drained a jumper and they went on an 18-point run fueled by impressive ball movement. The Vandals, who made 18 3-pointers in their season-opening 83-69 win against Colorado State, had open looks, but failed to convert them into points. Idaho made six of its 32 3-point attempts.“We defended it well in practice and that just carried over to the game,” Harper said. “We just tried to focus on that and make sure that we kept them off the line because they’re a very great 3-point shooting team.”The Buckeyes connected on 13-of-34 shots from beyond the arc. Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell led Ohio State with four 3-pointers and scored 16 points while adding four assists.The Buckeyes ended the first half on an 11-1 run in the final 3:04 of the second quarter and entered halftime with a commanding 49-24 lead. Idaho never came within 23 points of Ohio State the remainder of the game.Calhoun rebounded from her 2-for-14 performance last game and made 6-of-13 shots for 15 points. Sophomore guard Jensen Caretti scored double-digits for the first time in her career, connecting on 5-of-9 shots for 14 points.“Tonight was really valuable for her and hopefully she can continue to gain confidence as we aspire to expand our rotation a little bit more,” McGuff said.Guard Mikayla Ferenz and forward Geraldine McCorkell led the way for Idaho, scoring 17 and 14 points, respectively.Ohio State will next take the court at 7 p.m. Friday against Quinnipiac. read more

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Senior goalkeeper Sean Romeo (30) makes a save during the first period of Ohio State’s game against UMass on Oct. 19. Ohio State lost 6-3. Credit: Nick Roll | For The LanternThe goaltending of redshirt senior goaltender Sean Romeo led the No. 7 Ohio State men’s hockey team to a 1-0 victory on the road against No. 5 Notre Dame.Ohio State (4-2-1) was looking to turn its season around after a shaky start, including a series tie with UMass and a blowout at the hands of Bowling Green, and everything clicked for the Buckeyes on the road against Notre Dame (3-3-1). The Buckeyes came out hot against Notre Dame, registering eight shots in the first period before scoring the first and only goal of the game.The first period score came with just under nine minutes into the game off a power play goal by senior forward Mason Jobst. He was assisted on his fourth goal of the year by redshirt junior defenseman Wyatt Ege and freshman forward Gustaf Westlund, who each notched their third points of the season.Freshman forward Quinn Preston, still awaiting his first point for the Buckeyes, turned in a good performance on the second line with junior forward Tanner Laczynski out for Friday night’s game. Preston had two shots on goal and was often there to confront Notre Dame when it had control of the puck.Romeo had a challenging season leading up to the Big Ten opener, allowing 11 goals on 60 shots faced in the three games he appeared in. Friday night, however, he showed signs of returning to form against one of the best teams in the nation.He didn’t allow a single goal on the 23 shots sent his way by the Fighting Irish, good for his third career shutout. Notre Dame pressured Ohio State on defense, imposing itself in the Buckeyes’ territory, but Romeo responded to the challenge and turned in his best performance of the season.Ohio State had positive developments on its special teams, which so far this season had been a struggle on both ends of the power play. The Buckeyes converted on one of their three power plays and killed Notre Dame’s only opportunity of the night.The Buckeyes showed improvement in discipline, only earning two penalties all night after previously earning 34 penalties in their first six games.The Buckeyes will return to Compton Family Ice Arena to face Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. read more