Month: September 2019

Charlie Strong Turns Down Tennessee to Stay at Louisville

Charlie Strong decided to turn down the Tennessee Volunteers football coaching vacancy on Wednesday to remain at Louisville, according to Sports Illustrated.The Volunteers reportedly offered Strong a contract worth $3.5 million a year, according to sources close with ESPN. This made his decision especially difficult because there were reports on Wednesday that Strong was debating on whether or not to take the offer. He chose to stick with Louisville and wait to receive a contract extension from the university.Strong, who is currently in the third year of his five-year deal, worth about $2.3 million a year, will receive a substantial raise for choosing to stick with the Cardinals. He will be one of the highest paid coaches entering the ACC, according to Sports Illustrated.Strong became Tennessee’s No. 1 focus after Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy turned down the Volunteers to stay put with the Cowboys. Tennessee was under the assumption that they were going to be able to lure Strong away on Monday, but that quickly changed Wednesday.“All I’m gonna say is I’m not worried about my coach,” Louisville center Mario Benavides tweeted after Wednesday’s team meeting. “We are family.”Strong’s name has surfaced for other coaching vacancies, such as the Auburn position. Auburn decided to hire Gus Malzahn earlier in the week.Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has made it clear several times that he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Strong along the Cardinal sidelines.Strong has amassed an overall record of 24-14 in his three seasons at Louisville. He led the Cardinals to a 10-2 record this year, a share of the Big East title and a BCS berth to the AllState Sugar Bowl against the Florida Gators on Jan. 2.When asked Monday whether he could say definitively if he would be back at Louisville next season, he said, “I will say that at the right time.”The right time will come at a Louisville scheduled news conference for 8 a.m. Thursday to announce his return to the Cardinals after turning down the Volunteers. read more

Luol Deng to Hawks GM Danny Ferry I Actually

Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry will keep his job, despite his racially ridiculous comments about fellow Duke graduate Luol Deng. But Deng had a lot to say about Ferry’s remarks that resulted in unknown discipline from the team.Ferry said during a conference call with Hawks owners that Deng, born in what is now South Sudan, “has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”Hawks owner Michael Gearon, who wants Ferry fired, said: “Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.”Deng, who now plays for the Miami Heat, responded with this:‘HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM”“These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.“I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.’ For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.“Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.“However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.“Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.” read more

Adrian Peterson Has Himself To Blame For Lost Season

Adrian Peterson’s season is over—and he has only Adrian Peterson to blame.His appeal to have an indefinite suspension for personal conduct violation was denied by NFL executive Harold Henderson, appointed by Goodell, effectively ending any hopes he harbored to join a team in the last weeks of the season.On Nov. 18, Peterson was suspended without pay by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for at least the rest of the season after pleading to a lesser charge in the beating of his six-year-old son, leaving visible abrasions.Henderson concluded that Peterson “has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent.“He was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.”Peterson’s salary for this season was $11.75 million. He gets to keep the money accrued while on the exempt list, but the NFL’s punishment amounts to a six-game ban, or the equivalent of a fine of $4.15 million. The Vikings have three regular-season games left. Peterson’s status will be revisited in the spring.“The facts in this appeal are uncontested. The player entered a plea which effectively admitted guilt to a criminal charge of child abuse,” Henderson wrote, “after inflicting serious injuries to his four-year old son in the course of administering discipline. No direct evidence of the beating was entered in the record here, but numerous court documents, investigative reports, photographs and news reports, all accepted into evidence without objection, make it clear that Mr. Peterson’s conduct was egregious and aggravated as those terms are used in the Policy, and merits substantial discipline.“His public comments do not reflect remorse or appreciation for the seriousness of his actions and their impact on his family, community, fans and the NFL, although at the close of the hearing he said he has learned from his mistake, he regrets that it happened and it will never happen again. I reject the argument that placement in Commissioner Exempt status is discipline.”Peterson beat his child to extreme levels and then did not show or express much sorrow for doing so. That did not help him. And he did not attend a meeting with Goodell, a meeting that he was told a tw0-game suspension would be levied. He stayed away because he was unsure of what questions he’d be asked. For real.So now the top running back in the game will be out until two months after the Super Bowl. Because he’s an enormous talent, he will find a home. But the hope is that this experience has brought him around  He certainly has a long time to think about it before he puts on the pads again. read more

Anthony Davis Has Been Great So Why Are The Pelicans So Bad

Source: ’97-98Denver NuggetsLaPhonso Ellis5.0 ’14-15Philadephia 76ersTony Wroten13.8 ’88-89Indiana PacersWayman Tisdale14.7 ’02-03Memphis GrizzliesPau Gasol14.4 ’85-86Phoenix SunsLarry Nance13.6 ’16-17New Orleans PelicansAnthony Davis26.3 Players with the highest Game Scores on NBA teams with an 0-8 start, since 1985 ’12-13Washington WizardsJordan Crawford8.2 ’05-06Toronto RaptorsChris Bosh16.6 ’04-05Charlotte HornetsBaron Davis19.2 ’13-14Utah JazzGordon Hayward13.9 ’15-16Philadephia 76ersJahlil Okafor12.2 ’01-02Memphis GrizzliesLorenzen Wright14.6 While players from earlier eras — Artis Gilmore, Bernard King and Mark Aguirre to name a few — put up big numbers for similarly bad teams, Davis’s statistics stand apart because of how many different ways he’s able to impact a game. He has career highs in both usage percent and true shooting percent (despite shooting just 18.8 percent from three this season) — one of the rare instances where a player’s increased workload coincides with an uptick in efficiency. That’s thanks to a hypermodern post-up game that often sees him catch the ball near the free throw line, post his man, and either quickly turn to drive or face up and work from the dribble. While these may not be “post” plays in the traditional, back-to-the-basket sense, they’ve been effective — Davis is scoring 110 points per 100 possessions on post plays, according to Synergy Sports, after scoring 78.2 and 84.7 points per 100 the last two seasons.While the 23-year-old’s average Game Score only covers about 10 percent of the season, consider this: If he finishes the season at his current level, Davis would surpass all but one MVP season over the past 30 years (Michael Jordan’s 1987-88 campaign, in which His Airness posted 35 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists a night)The obvious question: How are the Pelicans — who also lost 11 of 12 to start last season, as Davis missed three games with injuries — this terrible with such a great player, especially with their defense having improved considerably from last season?Several factors are to blame.Perhaps the most obvious: Besides Davis, there hasn’t been enough offensive firepower, or perimeter shooting, to keep opposing defenses honest. Yes, some of that figures to change once floor general Jrue Holiday returns to the lineup. But without floor spacer Ryan Anderson, who signed with Houston in July, Davis isn’t getting much help from the Pelicans’ wing players just yet. Shooting guard Buddy Hield, for example, the Pelicans’ first-round draft pick who averaged 25 points per game during his senior year at Oklahoma, is taking almost six three-pointers a night, but is connecting on just 23.5 percent of them.Teams have sent hard, aggressive double-teams at Davis on 9 percent of his post-up looks this season, three times as often as last year, per Synergy Sports. He’s done well when he opts to shoot over the double, but he hasn’t had a reliable shooter to pass to. Of the 15 times he’s passed out of a post-up double-team, the Pelicans have scored a total of four points and shot just 7 percent (1-of-13), according to Synergy. Defenses have been wise to ignore perimeter shooters: New Orleans is an NBA-worst 28.6 percent from behind the arc.Another problem: The team is essentially playing without a point guard. The Pelicans have been without guards Holiday and Tyreke Evans (who is out with knee issues), and recently lost Lance Stephenson — who’d played well as a primary ball handler off the bench — to a groin injury, leaving journeyman backup Tim Frazier to handle things. The ailment was a setback for a team that has done surprisingly well, all things considered, when Davis is forced to take breathers. The Pelicans’ net rating, while still negative, has been better in the minutes that Davis is on the sidelines, according to there’s a saving grace for Davis and the Pelicans so far, it’s that they’ve been relatively unlucky to this point. According to, they’ve lost a league-high six games in clutch scenarios, where the score was within five points in the final five minutes of play. They’re also the only team in the NBA with two overtime losses already, meaning they might be due for success in close games going forward.But even if their record doesn’t bounce back and they do indeed turn out to be one of the NBA’s worst teams, Davis’s otherworldly performances might be reason enough to watch them play from time to time.Check out our latest NBA predictions. ’11-12Washington WizardsJaVale McGee11.1 ’12-13Detroit PistonsGreg Monroe12.4 SEASONTEAMPLAYERAVG. GAME SCORE Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans finally found the win column Thursday, managing to hold on in a hard-fought game in Milwaukee that marked their first victory of the season.It took a lot longer than they would’ve liked. Before the win, New Orleans was 0-8 despite the dazzling play of Davis, who in the season opener posted a 50-point, 15-rebound, five-steal, five-assist, four-block performance. Through nine games, he’s averaging 31 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists.Davis’s off-the-charts, early-season numbers are essentially unprecedented in modern basketball for such a struggling team. If we look at Game Score — Basketball-Reference’s metric for a player’s contribution and efficiency in a single game — we can see that no player on a team that’s begun a season 0-8 has come anywhere near Davis’s average Game Score of 26.3 during that initial stretch of games in the 30 years for which the stat is available. (The Sixers, who haven’t won an October or November game since 2013, will seek to avoid an 0-8 start on Friday night.) ’97-98Los Angeles ClippersLamond Murray9.6 read more

Will The Divisional Playoffs Restore Order To The NFL

Total QBR8th25th Home teams are in bold.Elo quarterback adjustments are relative to average, based on a rolling average of defense-adjusted QB stats (including rushing).Source: Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Is Eagles QB history repeating itself?Key passing rate statistics for Carson Wentz and Nick Foles in the 2017 and 2018 seasons (including playoffs) NO166964%1605Drew Brees+5264% As my ESPN colleague Adam Teicher recently wrote about, Saturday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts is a historically great quarterback matchup. The two QBs — Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck — spent the regular season tossing 89 combined touchdown passes, an NFL record for QBs facing off in any postseason contest. (Even considering the NFL’s spike in passing numbers, that’s a lot of touchdowns!)The Chiefs are looking to finally snap a decades-long run of postseason futility that hasn’t seen them advance past the divisional round since 1993-94. But the bad luck of running into, um, Luck is part of their ongoing problem at this stage of the postseason. Among the 21 teams that have played at least five divisional playoff games since the Chiefs’ dry spell began, the Chiefs have faced the third-most difficult slate of opposing quarterbacks, according to our QB-adjusted version of Elo: Football Power Index4th5th OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION Readers won big when the Chargers won on the road over Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, and the Colts’ win over the Texans was basically a wash (both the readers and Elo incorrectly picked Houston). But Elo took the weekend on the strength of the Eagles’ win over the Bears — the algorithm liked Philly slightly more than the readers — and especially the Cowboys’ victory over the Seahawks. Despite the game being in Dallas, the average reader assigned Seattle a 54 percent chance of winning, and that led to a massive loss of points after Michael Dickson’s weird onside kick attempt went awry. Elo has now beaten the average reader 17 times in 18 weeks this season.Having said that, congrats are in order to Alex McQuillen and Ben Zornes, who currently lead all users in the postseason with 200.0 points apiece, and to Neil Mehta, who moved into first place for the season with 1,128.1 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and the game isn’t over yet! You should keep making picks and trying your luck against Elo throughout the playoffs.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Though L.A. running back Todd Gurley was on track for an MVP-caliber season before missing games with a balky knee down the stretch, there isn’t evidence that missing a stud RB necessarily hurts a team’s play-action game. The Cowboys had one of the NFL’s best run defenses this season, so overusing Gurley to set up play-action on Saturday might be a waste anyway. But getting Dallas to commit to defending the run and then shredding the Cowboys through the air seems like the Rams’ best ticket to the NFC title game.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersTo keep up with every team’s Elo rating during the playoffs, check out FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how likely every team is to advance to the Super Bowl. You can also pick playoff contests against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game and keep climbing up our giant leaderboard. (Or you could be like me, and forget to set picks before the first round of the playoffs…)According to data from the game, here’s how readers did against the computer on wild-card weekend: Sources:, Football Outsiders, USA Today, Wentz60.2% QBComp%AY/AttYAC/CmpTD%Int%Pressure%Sack%Play-Action% Passer rating7th15th Tale of the Patriots-Chargers tapeLeaguewide NFL ranks in various categories for the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots in the 2018 season CategoryChargersPatriots Jaguars51622+56167832.3%60.0% Elo rating3rd4th IND1608341565Andrew Luck+3732 BAL60%LAC51%LAC 23, BAL 17+17.0– Foles70. Starting quarterback’s Total QBR7th6th CHI61CHI65PHI 16, CHI 15-16.8– Jets51647+40168637.760.0 On paper, the biggest mismatch of the second round features the New Orleans Saints at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Las Vegas’s sportsbooks opened with the Saints as 8-point favorites, which would seem to make sense in a clash between a 13-3 top conference seed and a 9-7 team that needed an unlikely confluence of events just to make the playoffs at all. But, of course, the Eagles aren’t just any team — they’re the defending champs, with a script that seems all too familiar.Once again, backup QB Nick Foles has relieved the injured Carson Wentz (probably for the rest of the season?), and once again Foles is leading Philly on an underdog playoff run. When this happened with last year’s Eagles, coach Doug Pederson changed his offensive approach to better accommodate Foles’s strengths, focusing on higher-percentage short passes with more yards picked up after the catch (mixing in the odd deep bomb), and calling more play-action passes with an emphasis on getting the ball out quickly and avoiding mistakes. So how much of that stylistic shift has played out this time around? 2017 Season (incl. playoffs) HOU56HOU53IND 21, HOU 7+0.8– KC1656661619Patrick Mahomes+4968 Thanks to a steady dose of all-time greats such as Brady, Peyton Manning, John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger and now Luck, the Chiefs have seldom caught a break by facing a comparatively weak QB at this point in the playoffs. Since 1994-95, only the Jaguars and 49ers have had worse luck in that regard. (Of course, those teams still managed to overcome it and win more often than not, while the Chiefs keep finding ways to lose.) But it’s also worth pointing out that KC has seldom had the superior QB in the matchup, which it does have this year in Mahomes. According to Elo, Mahomes is not only better than Luck, but he has the second-best pregame rating adjustment of any Chiefs playoff starter in a divisional round game since the 1970 merger, trailing only Trent Green from 2003-04 (when Kansas City gained 408 yards — and didn’t punt the ball once — but still lost because the Colts gained even more yards and also didn’t punt.) With a likely MVP under center, the Chiefs are hoping they finally have the ingredient that was missing in those previous postseason disappointments. 49ers91596+40163653.355.6 Passing yards per game1st8th LAR1634661619Jared Goff+1166 NE1640581603Tom Brady+3863 Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of wild-card weekendAverage difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 18 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game Wentz69.6% The most up-for-grabs game of the divisional round might be the New England Patriots against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon. This year’s Patriots are not the unassailable juggernaut they usually have been, though they literally have been unbeatable at home (where they’ll be this week). In fact, come kickoff, it will have been 470 days since the Pats last lost a home game of any sort and 2,185 days since they fell at home in the playoffs.But the Chargers may actually be the superior team. Not only did L.A. have the better record (12 wins vs. 11 for New England), it ranks higher than New England in ESPN’s Football Power Index, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and Jeff Sagarin’s power ratings, among other rankings. 2018 Season (incl. playoffs) The Chiefs have run into some tough playoff QBsHighest average quality of opposing quarterback faced in the divisional round (based on QB-adjusted Elo ratings) for NFL teams with a minimum of five divisional playoff games since the 1994 season Average Opp. EloWin Percentage TeamGamesQB-NeutralQB AdjustmentEffective RatingPredictedActual Talent-wise, the Chargers also have more Pro Bowlers than the Pats (7 to 2) and just as many All-Pros (4 apiece). And although Elo does gives New England a 58 percent chance to reach the AFC championship game for the 10th time in 13 years, that’s the second-lowest pregame probability the Pats have had in a divisional playoff since 2006-07 — when they were given a mere 35 percent chance of beating, you guessed it, the Chargers.1The lowest since 2007 came when they had a 51 percent chance of beating the Chiefs in 2015-16. Then again, the Pats did in fact end up winning that one, in San Diego, under crazy circumstances. As always, it’s tough to count out Tom Brady in the AFC playoffs,2i.e., before the Super Bowl (where he’s won five times but also lost three). where he is 22-7 all-time as a starter and hasn’t lost since January 2016. The NFL’s wild-card round may have been a brutal showcase of grind-it-out defense and uninspired offensive play-calling. But at least it threw another intriguing wrench into what was already shaping up to be a chaotic postseason. Three of the four favorites (according to FiveThirtyEight’s pregame Elo ratings) lost on opening weekend: the home Texans, Ravens and Bears. Now we’re left with an eight-team field in which every member has at least a 6 percent probability of winning the Super Bowl, and no one is above 22 percent. Over the previous four postseasons, the favorite had an average championship probability of 31 percent at this stage of the playoffs. So with things still looking as wide-open as ever, let’s zoom in on some numbers — including classic Elo and a version with our experimental quarterback adjustments — for each divisional matchup. Chiefs61581+40162161.70.0 Yards per pass5th15th QBComp%AY/AttYAC/CmpTD%Int%Pressure%Sack%Play-Action% Standard EloQB-Adjusted Elo AY/ATT = Air yards per attemptYAC/CMP = Yards after catch per completionSource: ESPN Stats & Information Group Sagarin ratings4th5th The Rams’ play-action game disappeared down the stretchNFL ranks for the 2018 Los Angeles Rams on play-action passes, by week PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS CategoryWeeks 1-13Weeks 14-17 Defense-adjusted Value Over Average3rd7th Foles64. DAL1581341576Dak Prescott+534 Passing EPA per game1st7th LAC1648421605Philip Rivers+1337 TeamRatingWin Prob.Base RtgStarting QBQB Adj.Win Prob. NFL Rank DAL54SEA54DAL 24, SEA 22-22.5– Simple Rating System6th8th PHI1633361616Nick Foles+536 Falcons71608+34164251.957.1 Instead of having to face the Dallas Cowboys in January, the Los Angeles Rams probably would prefer it if the playoffs had been held a month and a half ago, back when they were on pace for 14 wins and sat as Super Bowl favorites in Vegas. According to Elo, the Rams peaked after beating the Detroit Lions in Week 13 — after which they went 2-2 and shed nearly 40 points off their rating. But the good news for L.A. is that similar “peaking too early” teams tend to do pretty well for themselves in the playoffs. I looked for other teams that cracked a 1650 Elo rating (with the QB adjustment) through 12 games of an NFL regular season,3Of the 16-game variety, so since 1978. then lost at least 30 points of Elo over the final four games before going into the playoffs. Of those 20 teams, 14 still made the conference championship, with nine making the Super Bowl and five winning it all (the most recent of which were the 2009 Saints). So any rumors of the Rams’ premature demise may have been greatly exaggerated.If there is a takeaway from the Rams’ late-season slump, it might be a reminder that one of the most important factors for Los Angeles will be getting back to selling the run and keeping the Cowboys off-balance with play-action passing. During the Rams’ 11-1 start, they led the league with 5.3 expected points added per game off play-action passing, more than 0.8 points per game better than New England, the next-best offense. In Weeks 14 through 17, that number dropped to 3.2 EPA per game, which ranked only seventh-best. Includes playoffs for the 2018 season.Source: 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. This year, the differences are more subtle. The Eagles have once again thrown downfield less with Foles, but that hasn’t been paired with more yardage after the catch, nor has it resulted in fewer picks. They’re also calling a lower share of play-action passes for Foles than they did for Wentz, a big reversal from last year. But one constant has been Foles’s ability to get rid of the ball under pressure and avoid sacks, which was a key factor on Sunday against Khalil Mack and Chicago’s ferocious pass rush. The Saints were sixth in sacks this season, so Foles’s quick release should come in handy again this weekend as the Eagles try to avoid a repeat of their 48-7 thrashing at the hands of New Orleans in November. But for all the Foles mania, it remains to be seen if Philadelphia’s defense can slow down Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense after allowing 546 total yards in that earlier matchup. How Elo sees the divisional round playing outWin probabilities for Week 19 games according to two methods: standard Elo and a version that contains an adjustment for starting quarterbacks read more

Is This The Worst Year For Quarterback Injuries

16201392.5-10.2% 18201240.4-15.4% 6200790.3 12200064.2 22005101.8 3201185.6+3.3% Leaguewide Adjusted Games Lost for quarterbacks, since 2000 8201777.8 10200790.3-1.9% 7201185.6 Quality quarterbacks are getting hurt in 2017Average passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average for injured quarterbacks, weighted by Adjusted Games Lost, 2000-17 2200248.6+4.0% 10201571.5 3201392.5 6201571.5+1.5% 14200363.2 12008102.4 14201473.9-6.2% 16200248.6 YEARADJUSTED GAMES LOSTAVERAGE DVOA 9200363.2-1.9% Source: Football Outsiders 72008102.4+0.2% 4201691.2 YEARADJUSTED GAME LOST 11200470.3 9201473.9 So far in 2017, we are at 77.8 AGL for quarterbacks3This number accounts for the possibility of Aaron Rodgers’s return in the final weeks of the season. — basically 2.4 per team. That means this season already ranks as the eighth-highest among seasons since 2000, even though we’re only a little past the halfway point in the NFL schedule. It has already surpassed all of 2014 and 2015 in terms of quarterback injuries, and will be closing in on 2016 any week now.The 2008 season ranks first by this measure, with 102.4 AGL. That number was headlined by Tom Brady’s torn ACL in Week 1 against Kansas City, but also by injuries like those suffered by the Chiefs, who lost their starting quarterback (Brodie Croyle) and their backup Damon Huard that season. Indeed, by losing Croyle and Huard, the Chiefs racked up 24.0 AGL — 23.4 percent of the league’s total that season.Of course, neither Croyle nor Huard will be getting measured for their Hall of Fame jackets anytime soon, which is a great illustration of why in addition to measuring the quantity of a quarterback’s playing time missed to injury, we need a way to measure the quality of each injured quarterback. Although every injury matters, it is clearly a bigger deal when a team loses an MVP candidate, compared with a journeyman who is fortunate to still be starting games.To do this, I first calculated the career passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average4DVOA breaks down every single NFL play and determines its value when compared to a league baseline based on situation (i.e., down and distance, field position, score). for every injured quarterback since 2000 through the season in which the injury occurred. For example, the value assigned to Brady for his 2008 injury is his passing DVOA through 2008, which was 22.2 percent.Then I weighted each injured quarterback’s DVOA by how much AGL he had accumulated that season, which essentially gives us the average quality of all the quarterbacks who went down in a given season. The better a quarterback was by DVOA or the more serious his injury was by AGL, the more his injury contributed to the league’s average. Going back to 2000, here are the worst seasons for QB injuries according to this method: 18201240.4 The average DVOA for an injured quarterback in 2017 is 3.0 percent above NFL average, which ranks fourth since 2000. By this metric, the 2005 season was the worst for injuries to quality quarterbacks. Although it only had the second-highest AGL (101.8), it rises to No. 1 in average DVOA (4.6 percent) because of the quality of the QBs hurt. That year, the underrated Chad Pennington missed 13 games for the Jets, while Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb had major injuries after both enjoyed career seasons in 2004. And this doesn’t even include the serious injuries suffered at the end of the 2005 season by Drew Brees (torn labrum in Week 17) and Carson Palmer (torn ACL in AFC wild-card game vs. Pittsburgh), because neither team had another game to play that season.But what 2017 lacks in its overall average, it might make up for in star power. For instance, even though Watson is only a rookie, his loss already ranks as one of the worst QB injuries in recent history: 13200663.9 4201777.8+3.0% 13201691.2-5.1% 5201090.6 12005101.8+4.6% 11200956.4-2.0% 17200064.2-11.2% 8200146.5-0.3% It’s Week 11 of the NFL season, and the most impressive 53-man roster this year may be found not on any sideline, but rather on the injured reserve list. Every season sees some star power lost to injury, but 2017 seems to be on another level, with a significant loss of superior talent.Picture a defense led by J.J. Watt, Cliff Avril, Dont’a Hightower, Eric Berry and Richard Sherman. Imagine David Johnson and Dalvin Cook running behind an offensive line that includes Joe Thomas and Jason Peters at tackle and Mike Iupati and Marshal Yanda at guard. When this team throws the ball, it has Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert at tight end and a strong supply of wide receivers, with Odell Beckham Jr., Pierre Garcon, Allen Robinson and Julian Edelman in the slot. “Team IR” would even have a solid kicker in Sebastian Janikowski.All this team needs is a quarterback, and that’s where 2017 takes its saddest turn, because there is a great selection to choose from.Andrew Luck, who should be in the prime of his career at age 28, will not play a down for the Colts this season as he tries to recover from shoulder surgery. Aaron Rodgers, who looked to be heating up for another MVP run, may not return to action this season for the Packers after he broke his collarbone in Week 6.In any given year, the loss of even just two of the game’s top signal callers would have made it a lousy year for quarterback injuries. However, 2017 has claimed even more starters at the game’s most important position:Ryan Tannehill’s knee failed him again, and he is missing Miami’s entire season with a torn ACL.Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 1, when Minnesota beat New Orleans, but his damaged knee has ended yet another season for him.Carson Palmer, who turns 38 in December, broke his left arm in the Cardinals’ Week 7 game against the Rams and could miss the rest of the season.Houston rookie Deshaun Watson was rewriting the NFL record book with 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games but is done for the year after tearing his ACL in practice on a non-contact injury before Week 9.Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston recently sat out a game for the first time in his career with a shoulder injury, and the team is planning to keep him out a little longer.Derek Carr (back), Marcus Mariota (hamstring) and Jay Cutler (ribs) all missed a start to injury this season (each has returned to the starting lineup).Things have gotten so bad that even ironman Philip Rivers, quarterback for the Chargers, has been afflicted, reporting concussion symptoms this week that are keeping his status uncertain for Sunday’s game. Rivers has started 194 consecutive games, including the playoffs, which is the fourth-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history.But how does this year’s spate of QB ailments compare with recent seasons? We can begin to quantify the damage done by injuries using Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric.1The Football Outsiders 2016 summary can be read here. AGL works by tallying up the number of games that players missed and adjusting for whether the player was a key contributor.2Using Football Outsiders’ injury database, which goes back to 2000. (So an injury to a backup quarterback, for example, would not factor into AGL unless the starter were also injured.) It also uses each team’s weekly injury report to account for players who take the field, but do so in a limited capacity. 15201090.6-7.6% 15200956.4 12200470.3-3.1% 17200146.5 AGL adjusts traditional games missed because of injury to account for playing time (starters versus backups) and factors in the player’s status on the injury report (questionable players receive partial AGL even if they played that week).DVOA is weighted by how many of the quarterbacks’ games were lost to injury in a given season.Source: Football Outsiders 5200663.9+1.6% If Rodgers does not return this season for Green Bay, his injury will also rank among the most damaging since 2000. And Andrew Luck’s also has to be in the conversation, particularly since his value to the Colts is greater than his stats would suggest.Making matters even worse, the injured QBs’ teams have done a poor job of cobbling together any kind of backup plan this season.The Texans went from a scoring juggernaut with Watson to one of the worst offenses in the league. In Watson’s six starts, Houston averaged 34.7 points per game. In Tom Savage’s three starts, he has led the Texans to two offensive touchdowns in 10 quarters of play.And the Texans aren’t alone in their struggles. Miami’s offense has fallen to 1.35 points per drive (ranked 30th) behind Jay Cutler and Matt Moore this season. Tannehill was never deadly efficient, but you have to think he would have done better in his second season with Adam Gase’s offense than a suddenly unretired Cutler.Jacoby Brissett has done an admirable job at times in place of Luck in Indianapolis. But the Colts have the fifth-highest rate of three-and-out drives, and Brissett ranks 25th in passing DVOA this season. Sustaining offense and closing out games have been big problems for the Colts. The team has blown four fourth-quarter leads this season — the most in the league. If Luck were behind center, one would think Indianapolis could have five or six wins — instead of the three it has now.With Rodgers out and Brett Hundley in, the Packers lost a pair of home games by multiple scores (to the Saints and Lions). They’ve only had two losses by multiple scores at home with Rodgers at quarterback since 2010. Hundley had his best game yet on Sunday against the Bears, but the Packers have a very difficult road ahead without arguably the best player in the NFL.There is one “case” of a backup thriving in place of an injured starter this season. Case Keenum currently ranks second (behind only Brady) in passing DVOA this season, and the Vikings are 5-2 with Keenum as a starter. The Super Bowl will be in Minnesota this season, and the Vikings have a shot to make it with Keenum — or they could go back to Teddy Bridgewater, who hasn’t played since the 2015 playoffs after a major knee injury.For a season that has featured so many demoralizing injuries, it would be a happy ending to see a replacement like Keenum or a recovered Bridgewater lead Minnesota to its first Super Bowl win. If that sounds too Hollywood to happen, just remember that injuries to Trent Green and Drew Bledsoe paved the way for Kurt Warner (1999 Rams) and Tom Brady (2001 Patriots) to embark on Hall of Fame careers and win a Super Bowl as first-year starters.Perhaps a reboot is on the way. read more

The Browns Suckiness Defies Math And Reason

1New England Patriots21,050Tom Brady19,743 If only the past 20 years of misfortune could be erased that easily. After the team lost its final game of the 2017 season to give the 2008 Detroit Lions some company in the 0-16 club, Cleveland fans held an ironic parade to “celebrate” the team’s anti-accomplishment. But it is perversely impressive to craft a pro football team so dreadful. No other team in the entire history of the NFL has ever suffered through a stretch of 31 losses in 32 tries like the Browns just did. (The next-worst 32-game period belonged again to those Lions, who won two contests total during the 2008 and 2009 seasons; even the infamous expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 4-28 in their first 32 outings.) On paper, the chance of a totally replacement-level team winning just once in two seasons against a typical schedule is about 0.1 percent.Cleveland’s futility, then, borders on impossibility. It’s almost like you have to be trying to be terrible in order to reach the depths the Browns have encountered these past few seasons. And even if you were trying, you probably couldn’t pull it off. So how could such a hopeless situation emerge organically? And as we sit on the cusp of Year 20, is there any hope for the franchise to reverse its own brief, unpleasant history, restoring the tradition of the original version that won four NFL titles right before the Super Bowl era began?For one thing, this team was not well-positioned to succeed in its second NFL go-round. When the original Browns packed up and left for Baltimore in 1996, they took with them the core of a team that had been built by future coaching GOAT Bill Belichick2Whose Browns tenure was admittedly rocky but who also brought to Cleveland elements of the system that would later help turn the New England Patriots into a dynasty. and would be improved upon greatly by standout Ravens general manager (and former Browns tight end) Ozzie Newsome. That team — the old Browns/new Ravens — won the Super Bowl within a half-decade of leaving Cleveland. The team that took its place was an expansion squad built from other teams’ leftovers. Although some new clubs (such as the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers) have had early success, it usually takes five to 10 years before an expansion team can reach respectability.And as longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer Terry Pluto notes in “False Start,” his book about the New Browns,3The book was written in 2004 but feels as applicable today as it did then — which speaks volumes about the Browns’ lack of progress during the intervening years. those teams had a significant advantage over Cleveland from day one. According to Pluto, the amount of time between owner Al Lerner being granted the new franchise and the team’s inaugural game (369 days) was the shortest for any expansion club since the New Orleans Saints in 1967 — and the third-shortest of any new team since 1960. By comparison, the Houston Texans (who joined the NFL just three seasons after the Browns were reborn) had a full 1,068 days to fill out their front-office and coaching staffs, and the Jaguars and Panthers each had in excess of 640 days.By Pluto’s estimation, the NFL spent two-and-a-half times as long (911 days) stalling to drive up the bidding on the Browns’ new ownership as the team had to actually build infrastructure and scout players for its new roster once an owner was finally in place. Is it any wonder, then, that the overmatched Browns went 5-27 over their first two seasons of existence?That, of course, doesn’t excuse the 17 seasons that followed. Even given the disadvantaged start, the Browns simply haven’t progressed like other expansion teams of the modern era.4Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. As noted above, in terms of Elo, Cleveland is the first modern expansion team to tumble back to square one after its first two decades in the league.A central paradox rests at the core of the Browns’ struggles. Since returning to existence in 1999, Cleveland has enjoyed the most valuable collection of draft picks in the NFL, according to the Approximate’s method of approximating a player’s value in any given season. It’s far from perfect, but it’s one of the only methods available for comparing performance across positions and ascertaining where on the roster teams are getting their production from. we’d expect players selected in those slots to generate early in their careers.6Specifically, their first five NFL seasons. Yet the Browns have also been — by far — the worst drafting team in the league, in terms of the AV its picks have actually produced relative to those expectations. 31New England011340 8Philadelphia Eagles10,171Donovan McNabb6,713 29New York Jets1,886Chad Pennington2,588 26Miami Dolphins2,569Jay Fiedler998 28Baltimore Ravens2,059Joe Flacco2,490 Source: 29Indianapolis147229Oakland-205.2 Cleveland is leading the league in instabilitySince 2000, the NFL teams with the most (and least) total CHAOS* points ⋮ 30Houston143430L.A. Rams-241.6 ⋮ 27Buffalo Bills2,457Tyrod Taylor1,130 It’s this kind of constant upheaval that probably helps explain Cleveland’s deficiencies in so many of the proverbial “little things” that add up to improve a team’s talent base. They botch easy trades for credible QBs and cut solid defensive backs just before opening day. They waste the prime of a Hall of Fame left tackle and watch him retire from football at age 33. They draft a first-round receiver (after trading down from potentially taking a franchise QB), only to pawn him off for a seventh-round pick within 28 months. The basic operations of running a football team can’t be taken for granted in Cleveland.And just like the franchise’s abhorrent draft record, there are plenty of other factors plaguing the Browns that we’d normally chalk up to bad luck, but in Cleveland’s case we probably have to blame on something bigger. The team went 0-6 in one-score games last season, for instance, and had one of the worst turnover margins in NFL history. They had the third-worst red zone Total Quarterback Rating (2.7) of any team since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2006. As statheads, we know these things tend to regress to the mean over time. But for the Browns, who never stick with any strategy — whether concocted by old-school scouting types or newfangled math nerds14The latter of whom (including chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta) have since been banished from the draft process. Because the team’s pre-analytics approach was working so well before the number crunchers came along. — long enough to give it a chance, it’s fair to wonder whether this endless string of calamities was always more likely to happen in Cleveland, thanks to the scattershot way the team operates in the big picture.As always, there are new reasons that the Browns might begin to break their cycle of despair in 2018. Between underrated ex-Bills starter Tyrod Taylor and the analytics darling Mayfield — plus incoming receiver Jarvis Landry and more games (maybe) from former All-Pro Josh Gordon — Cleveland’s passing game should be substantially improved this season. (It’s not like it could get much worse.) The rest of the roster is littered with new faces as well, presumably the sort of “real players” new GM John Dorsey lamented the team’s lack of at the end of last season. And among the holdovers, second-year defensive end Myles Garrett has the potential to break out as a star. One would even think at least some of the luck-based failures detailed above will reverse themselves eventually.But for now, the Browns are a case study in how bad things can get when a franchise starts on the wrong path and keeps trying shortcuts to get back to the right one. The NFL is a league designed for parity, so it seems like any ordinary bad team would have stumbled across a winning formula by now, even if just by chance. But by the same token, some team eventually had to be as bad as the Browns are now. Although Cleveland may not be cursed, it does play host to the perfect storm of hasty expansion plans, terrible drafting, constant on-field miscues, perpetually bad roster risks, no clear long-term vision and a historic level of instability.Against such forces, did the Browns ever really have a choice but to start from scratch again sooner or later? ⋮ 28N.Y. Giants148328Tampa Bay-170.9 9Dallas Cowboys9,478Tony Romo8,138 It’s a vicious cycle: If you pick highly and the draftees actually work out, then your future picks become less valuable because (duh!) you’re picking lower in the draft. By continually missing on high picks, though, the Browns keep spinning their tires in a constant loop of promising drafts gone to waste.Previous research suggests that much of draft success — after controlling for the typical value of a pick, as we did above — is just luck. But after getting negative pick-adjusted value 15 times in 19 drafts — and only one positive draft since 20077That was in 2011, when the Browns didn’t have an especially high pick and simply snagged a few useful players down the board, such as pass-rusher Jabaal Sheard and defensive back Buster Skrine. That’s the best draft they’ve had in more than a decade. — “bad luck” is no longer a satisfactory answer. Since its reboot, Cleveland has gone through three owners,8The second, Randy Lerner, was the son of original owner Al Lerner. nine general managers and nine head coaches. Somehow, all of them have contributed to the Browns’ poor decision-making in one way or another.Their unifying crime might be a penchant for all-or-nothing, quick-fix gambles. For instance, the Browns are infamous for their quixotic pursuit of the NFL draft’s biggest prize — the Franchise Quarterback™ — and they’ve burned through 29 different primary passers9Defined as a QB who led the team in passing attempts for at least one game. (including seven taken with first-round picks)10By either the Browns or another team. since 1999 trying to find one. (Numbers that don’t even include their No. 1 pick from this past spring, former Oklahoma signal-caller Baker Mayfield.) At the same time, they’ve also gotten easily the worst production from their QBs (in terms of yards above backup QB) of any team in the league: 25Jacksonville Jaguars3,551David Garrard2,117 Times team changed… 30Arizona Cardinals1,676Kurt Warner3,069 RKTeamExpected AVRKTeamAV vs. Expected 7Denver Broncos11,795Peyton Manning4,659 3New Orleans Saints17,900Drew Brees15,628 1Cleveland28716237 5Pittsburgh Steelers12,954Ben Roethlisberger10,945 5San Francisco2479155 At QB, the Browns are the bizarro PatriotsMost, and least, total yards above backup quarterback (YABQ) for NFL teams since 1999 Most Valuable PicksBest Drafting Teams ⋮ 10Atlanta Falcons9,100Matt Ryan8,251 31Washington138931Detroit-246.9 24Tampa Bay Buccaneers3,664Jameis Winston1,414 32Pittsburgh111232 31Chicago Bears-949Jay Cutler1,504 28New Orleans124366 6Los Angeles Chargers11,999Philip Rivers10,634 1Cleveland18841Green Bay+296.3 Cleveland’s curse: Draft highly, pick poorlySince 1999, NFL teams with the most valuable draft picks (in terms of expected future Approximate Value by slot) and the best record of draftees exceeding the expected value of those picks The Cleveland Browns will soon embark on their 20th season since the city got a second chance at an NFL franchise. And in one very specific, very depressing way, the team is right back where it started. When we fire up our NFL Elo ratings for the new season in a couple of weeks — Elo being FiveThirtyEight’s preferred method of tracking a team’s performance over time — the Browns will begin the year with a rating of 1302. (Average is about 1500.) Roll the clock back to Sept. 12, 1999, and Cleveland’s Elo going into the rebooted franchise’s very first game1A note for all the sticklers out there: Yes, the NFL technically considers the “New Browns” to be a continuation of the franchise that left Cleveland to become the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. We don’t, at least not for the purposes of Elo. Since they directly carried over the Old Browns’ roster, the 1996 Ravens were given the initial Elo implied from Cleveland’s performance in 1995, and the 1999 Browns started out with the Elo of an expansion club. was 1300, the same as any expansion franchise. In other words, two decades later, the Browns are essentially starting from scratch — again. 2Indianapolis Colts19,266Peyton Manning16,559 32Cleveland Browns-2,805Derek Anderson353 4Oakland12109168 30N.Y. Giants123249 23Carolina Panthers3,827Cam Newton2,831 2Miami16711179 RkTeamOwnerGMCoachQB⚡CHAOS Points⚡ 4San Francisco18064Carolina+166.2 Altogether since 1999, the Browns have sunk the league’s highest percentage of pick capital in the most volatile positions in the draft — receivers, quarterbacks and running backs — and the seventh-lowest percentage of capital in the most reliable positions — offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. It’s indicative of the team’s get-rich-quick mindset: Cleveland keeps buying scratch-off lottery tickets, trying to end the franchise’s problems overnight, but instead it just keeps coming up empty. Super Bowl winners aren’t built in a day — but if you operate as though they are, there’s a good chance that your team won’t get to the Super Bowl anytime soon.As all the losses and the failed picks have piled up, Cleveland has also gone through countless leadership changes up and down the organization. Since the Browns were reborn, no team has made more season-to-season switches at general manager or quarterback, and only one (the Raiders) has changed coaches more often.11We aren’t including in-season switches in our count if the new quarterback or coach weren’t the primary person in that role the following season. Our research shows that these moves come with a heavy price: Even after controlling for a team’s Simple Rating System (SRS) score the previous season,12Since bad teams tend to shake things up far more frequently than good ones. teams that change primary quarterback tend to decline by 1.31 points per game of SRS the following season, while that number is 0.91 SRS points for teams changing coaches, 0.36 SRS points for teams changing GMs and 0.26 SRS points for teams with new ownership.We can roll those relative values up into an overall turmoil tally I’m calling the CHAOS (Cumulative High-Activity Organizational Strife) Score. Between any pair of seasons, you get 2 points for changing owners, 3 for changing GMs, 7 for changing coaches and 10 for changing your primary QB. And since 2000,13The 1999 Browns aren’t included here because brand-new expansion teams aren’t eligible for a CHAOS score — it’s taken for granted that they have all-new personnel, so the metric wouldn’t mean much for them. the Browns are the undisputed kings of CHAOS: YABQ compares a quarterback’s passing and rushing performance (in terms of adjusted net yards) to that of a hypothetical backup-level NFL QB.Source: 3Buffalo16710169 32New Orleans136032Cleveland-307.6 2L.A. Rams18602Indianapolis+258.2 Top Passer 3Cincinnati18063Seattle+210.9 5Tennessee17475Atlanta+164.4 * Cumulative High-Activity Organizational Strife points are a weighted sum of a team’s total year-over-year changes at owner (2 points), general manager (3), coach (7) and quarterback (10). Those weights are based on the effect of each type of change on a team’s performance, after controlling for a team’s baseline level of play.Source: RKTeamTotal YABQNameYABQ 29Green Bay132355 4Green Bay Packers16,894Aaron Rodgers10,992 read more

5 things we saw between Ohio State and Michigan State

Before No. 3 Ohio State’s upset loss at the hands of No. 9 Michigan State, The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz wrote about five things they would be watching for during the game. Here is how those five items played out.How will Connor Cook respond to his injury?All week long, Connor Cook and Michigan State asserted that the redshirt senior was going to play against OSU despite injuring his shoulder against Maryland. Even OSU players and coaches said they were preparing like Cook was going to play. However, right before kickoff, the script took a relatively unexpected turn, as it was announced that the Hinckley, Ohio, native’s shoulder was not up to par, meaning Cook would not play.After the game, fill-in starter Tyler O’Connor said it was known since Friday that Cook would be unable to go, but Dantonio withheld that information to keep OSU off-guard.“I found out last night,” the redshirt junior said.It was a big loss for the Spartans, as Cook came into the game with a 31-4 record as the starting quarterback. To fill the winningest quarterback in program history’s void, the Spartans borrowed a page from OSU coach Urban Meyer’s book, using a two-quarterback system between O’Connor and redshirt sophomore Damion Terry.Both Terry and O’Connor did a valiant effort in relief duty, as they combined for 141 yards of total offense, which was just about half of the team’s total. The entire game was more about the defense than offense due to the rain and wind, but what Terry and O’Connor brought to the table was an ability to create problems with their legs, something that Cook would not be able to do as effectively.As a team, Michigan State threw just 16 passes, 12 of which were by O’Connor. With the poor weather, the Spartans kept the ball on the ground, using a multiple rushers to dominate time of possession by nearly 17 minutes. At one point, Michigan State ran the ball for 17 straight plays. “In a game like that, with the weather like that, it might be a little bit better in some instances,” OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said about Terry and O’Connor’s abilities to use their legs. “The reality is they had to prepare. They put their best 11 out there, we put our best 11 out there, and the reality is we didn’t get the job done.” What will Braxton’s finale be?When Braxton Miller ran out on the field for the final time at Ohio Stadium, he was greeted with a thunderous roar from the 108,975 fans in attendance. That, however, was the loudest the crowd got all night for Miller, as the redshirt senior H-back had a pin-drop quiet final outing. Miller, who switched back to his old No. 5 jersey after wearing No. 1 for every game this season up until Saturday, had just 12 total yards on two receptions and one carry. The offense as a whole struggled, compiling just 132 total yards. Miller’s performance was particularly uneventful, save one play before halftime.With a minute left in the first half, Miller ran free on a post, beating his defender. Barrett sailed a ball out toward him, but the pass had too much mustard on it, falling incomplete, just beyond Miller’s outstretched hand. Had Barrett been able to connect with Miller, it looked like it would have been an easy touchdown. Miller is OSU’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 88 and yards from scrimmage with 8,908, but on his final time wearing scarlet and gray inside the ‘Shoe, none of the electricity he displayed during his four seasons in Columbus was present. Will J.T. Barrett find time in the pocket?The buzzwords of the week for OSU were pass protection. Meyer harped on it after the win over Illinois and it continued to be the main subject of discussion throughout practice. He insisted it would be fixed come kickoff on Saturday, but whether or not that happened was hard to tell. For the second straight week, the Buckeyes were inefficient throwing the ball but this time, it had a lot to do with the conditions and play calling. It was under 50 degrees when the game started and throughout most of the first half, heavy rain and wind persisted. When the rain let up for the second half, it was still windy. When Barrett did drop back to pass, there was some pressure, but he only threw it 16 times, completing just nine of the attempts for 46 yards. “The passing game was just, it was not there,” Meyer said following the loss. Michigan State’s defense certainly came play, flustering the OSU offense all night long, especially on third down. The Buckeyes were just 4-of-14 on third down.“We lost the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said of the third-down deficiencies, latter adding: “That was a very poor performance.”Will Cam Johnston continue his record?Cameron Johnston is now atop the record books.On Saturday, the junior punter set the school record for most punts pinned inside the 20-yard line in career during the first quarter. It was his 79th. He had two more kicks downed inside the 20-yard line, extending his record to 81.However, his record-breaking performance is overshadowed by his third punt of the game in the second quarter. With the Buckeyes deep in their own territory, Johnston struck the ball poorly, resulting in a low line drive that hit an OSU player at its own 23-yard line, which made it a dead ball. It was a net punt of just five yards, by far his shortest of the season.Fortunately for Johnston, the OSU defense was able to cause Michigan State’s offense to stall out. A missed field goal by junior Michael Geiger meant there was no damage done, but nevertheless, Johnston’s blunder could have been costly for the Buckeyes. For the most part, the Geelong, Australia, native had a solid day outside of the five-yard punt but even so, it was too big of a black eye to ignore. Due to the offense’s ineptitude, he finished the day with eight punts for an average of 38.4 yards per punt. Will OSU repeat last year’s strategy for Cook’s top receiver?Last year when the Buckeyes and Spartans squared off in East Lansing, Michigan, the OSU defense was determined to shut down former Michigan State star wide receiver Tony Lippett. To do so, they employed Doran Grant to blanket Lippett wherever he went on the turf. It worked well, as he was limited to under 70 yards receiving.To stop Michigan State’s top target this season, senior wideout Aaron Burbridge, there was talk about potentially using redshirt sophomores Eli Apple or Gareon Conley to do the same thing. OSU opted to go a different route, where Apple and Conley stayed on a predetermined side of the field, rather than one guy following Burbridge throughout the whole game. Despite the less-than-stellar conditions to throw the ball, Burbridge led all receivers with 62 yards on four catches. He also drew a critical pass interference call on Apple that helped set up Michigan State’s first touchdown of the game. It was the stellar Spartan run game that hurt OSU the most, but Burbridge still a solid outing in the midst of it. OSU junior running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) high fives fans before a game against Michigan State on Nov. 21 at Ohio Stadium. OSU lost 14-17. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor read more

Critical weekend awaits womens volleyball team

The women’s volleyball team goes on the road this weekend in an attempt to move up in the Big Ten.  The Buckeyes got their first win against a ranked opponent, No. 7 Minnesota, Saturday at St. John Arena. They are now tied for fifth in the Big Ten. The win earned the Buckeyes (6-6 Big Ten) 14 votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll this week — their first time getting votes since September 2007. The Buckeyes meet the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday evening. The Hawkeyes are last (3-10) in the Big Ten.In their first match-up this season the Buckeyes swept Iowa, 3-0. Despite their recent losses, the Hawkeyes are still a part of the strongest volleyball conference in the nation. “A few years ago in the Big Ten, three or four teams were easy wins,” coach Geoff Carlston said. “There is no such thing now. That keeps us in the moment.”The Buckeyes will travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday evening. The Badgers are tied with Buckeyes in the Big Ten.This matchup will determine if the Buckeyes will move up in Big Ten rankings. The Buckeyes struggled with the Badgers in their first meeting, falling 3-1. They are among the elite in the Big Ten and will be extremely competitive at home, Carlston said. The team has been good at staying focused throughout practice this week in preparation for a lot of travel. Players and coach Carlston alike know that a Big Ten title is on the horizon and every win counts.“Any win on the road is a big deal,” Carlston said.The weekend is huge for Katie Dull, as she is on the brink of breaking the 1,000 career kills mark. At 996 career kills, she will be the 17th Buckeye to ever surpass 1,000. She is No. 4 in kills in the Big Ten and No. 57 in the NCAA. Dull has been focusing on her defense, playing in the back row. She has recorded nine double-doubles (kills-digs) this season. “Dull led the team in digs last week; clearly she is improving,” Carlston said.The Buckeyes face the Iowa Hawkeyes at 7 p.m. Friday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and play the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Wisconsin Field House. read more