Which team had the most impressive run to the Final Four?The question might seem like the sports equivalent of “Which of your children do you love the most?” Any team that wins four straight games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has a lot to be proud of. Papa Brackets thinks all the Final Four teams — Florida, Connecticut, Kentucky and Wisconsin — are very special.But conventional wisdom appears to hold Kentucky’s path in ever-so-slightly higher regard than the other schools’. The Wildcats defeated an unbeaten No. 1 seed (Wichita State) and both of last year’s finalists (Michigan and Louisville) en route to Arlington.Kentucky has been great. Despite entering the tournament as a No. 8 seed, it has a 19 percent chance of winning the NCAA championship, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast model. That’s up from only a 2 percent chance before the tournament began.Still, Connecticut’s run has been slightly more special than Kentucky’s so far. And Wisconsin’s, even more so.The FiveThirtyEight model has a particular way of answering our question. It evaluates teams not in any absolute sense, but relative to its expectations. And it accounts not only for wins and losses (by definition, any team that makes to the Final Four has won at least four straight games), but also for margin of victory.To be more specific, the model calculates not only the win probability for each game, but also an implicit point spread. For example, it gives Florida a 69.9 percent chance of beating Connecticut on Saturday. That translates into Florida being 5.5 point favorites. The model has Wisconsin with a 58.2 percent chance of beating Kentucky, which would equate to the Badgers being favored by two points.How a team fares relative to this point spread affects how the model evaluates it going forward. Why? Tournament results are quite predictive of future tournament results: A team that is terrific in the early rounds often does well in later ones.Occasionally, a team can end up in worse shape despite winning its game. This happens when the model expects a blowout and the team wins by a smaller margin.A case in point is Florida in its opening-round game against Albany. The model had the Gators as 24-point favorites, but Florida won by 12 points (in fact, the game was a little closer than the scoreline implies).What about Florida’s three other wins? It was clear that the Gators were the favorite in each game, but they performed about in line with the model’s expectations — beating its point spread by six points against Pittsburgh and four points against UCLA, and underperforming it by two points in their win Saturday against Dayton. To be clear, the Gators have been great — and the model has them as the plurality favorite to win the tournament. But Florida was a great team going in. It has performed roughly as expected against a relatively easy draw.How about Kentucky? If viewed as a No. 8 seed, the Wildcats have been extremely impressive — not least on account of the quality of competition they’ve faced. But Kentucky was no typical No. 8. The Wildcats ranked first in the country in the preseason AP and USA Today Coaches polls, a factor for which the FiveThirtyEight model accounts. They took 10 losses in the regular season, but they faced a tough schedule; all but two of the losses, both to Florida, came by single digits.Kentucky was badly underseeded to begin with, in other words. The FiveThirtyEight model actually had Kentucky as slight favorites against Michigan, despite the Wildcats’ inferior seed. The Wildcats were underdogs against Louisville and Wichita State, but only modest ones, and both games were close. Kentucky outperformed the FiveThirtyEight point spread by two points against Michigan, four points against Wichita State and 10 points against Louisville.By this standard, both Connecticut and Wisconsin have done more to exceed expectations. The Huskies were the narrowest of favorites against Iowa State on Friday, in part because Madison Square Garden is a de facto home court for them. (Geographic distance from a team’s home campus is another factor that the FiveThirtyEight model accounts for; the author of this article went to the games at MSG for “research purposes” and can confirm that there was a lot of Huskies love there.) But Connecticut also won as underdogs against Michigan State and Villanova. The Villanova win, which came by 12 points, was relatively emphatic.The improvement in the model’s esteem for Wisconsin is partially the result of the Badgers’ upset of No. 1 seed Arizona on Saturday. But it has more to do with the their performance in earlier rounds. Wisconsin thrashed Baylor by 17 points Thursday, and the Badgers beat American University by 40 points in their opening game. On average, Wisconsin has outperformed the FiveThirtyEight point spread by 12 points, as compared with nine points for Connecticut and four for Kentucky.Evaluating teams by their margins of victory is unpopular; it may seem as heartless as rating your kids by their SAT scores. We’re fans of systems such as the Basketball Power Index (BPI) that account for the scoring margins throughout games and not just at the final buzzer. But margin of victory predicts future performance reasonably well — better than ratings based on wins and losses alone do. By that measure, Wisconsin heads to Texas with the most momentum.(Nerd alert: The point spread can be derived through the formula NORMSINV(WINPROB)*10.36 in Microsoft Excel, where WINPROB is a team’s probability of winning.)
Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson stirred up some mild controversy last week when he declared that he — not Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who won this year’s Heisman Trophy — was the best player in all of college football.“I’m the best player in the country,” Watson told reporters on Dec. 19. “That’s how I think. That’s how I feel. You know, people have their own way of voting.”Although Watson won his second straight Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s most outstanding QB this season, he ended up second behind Jackson in the Heisman voting. And the O’Brien-Heisman split — “best quarterback” vs. “best player” — is pretty much the heart of Watson’s rivalry with Jackson.In the traditional sense of the QB role, Watson was probably a better pure passer than Jackson this season. Watson threw for 524 more yards, had a higher passing efficiency rating (according to the NCAA’s formula) and contributed many more expected points added (EPA) in the air than Jackson did. More to the point, Watson had a vastly superior completion percentage (68 percent to 58 percent), threw fewer of his passes off-target (11 percent vs. 15 percent), and was notably better in the short-to-intermediate passing game. He beat Jackson in Total QBR (81.2 to 76.9) on passes that traveled 15 or fewer yards through the air — plays that accounted for about three-quarters of each QB’s total attempts — and a higher percentage of Watson’s passing yards also came after his receivers caught the ball, a healthy indicator in the type of quick-passing game Clemson employs.As a result of all that controlled passing, Clemson’s aerial attack was more efficient than Louisville’s this year. The Tigers ranked fifth among Power Five conference teams in passing EPA, piling up about 40 percent more expected points per game via the pass than the 12th-ranked Cardinals.Still, Jackson made up the difference as an all-around QB. He generated nearly 70 more yards of total offense per game than Watson, thanks in large part to his mobility — Jackson rushed for an incredible 1,538 yards, the most of any Heisman-winning quarterback ever (as well as the second-most by a 3,000-yard passer).1That is, since at least 2000, which is as far back as Sports-Reference.com’s Play Index can search — but also probably even earlier, since I couldn’t find a season in their earlier data that even came close to matching Jackson’s 2016 output. Watson’s no slouch as a runner — he gained 524 yards on the ground, which ranked 15th among qualified FBS QBs — but Jackson probably had the best dual-threat season in college history. When we factor in Jackson’s huge workload in the running game, he had a slightly better Total QBR than Watson on the season, and he generated about 31 percent more total EPA per game than Watson did.Jackson even had Watson beat in a couple of important passing categories. First, Jackson threw 24 percent fewer interceptions per attempt than Watson did. (Despite his accuracy, Watson has had a problem with picks all year — though his overall game is still so good that it’s hard to say even the picks are a real problem.) And although Watson had the superior overall passing numbers, Jackson had a better year throwing the ball deep. Not only did he do it more — 14 percent of Jackson’s throws traveled at least 25 yards in the air, versus 9 percent for Watson — but he also had a better QBR (77.8 to 71.1) on those long tosses. Watson was more surgical in his deep strikes, with a sterling 8-0 TD-INT ratio on throws of 25 or more yards (Jackson’s mark was a more pedestrian 9-6), but he also spent a significant amount of his time setting up bubble screens with passes at or behind the line of scrimmage. Twenty-seven percent of Watson’s passes were for zero or fewer air yards, compared with 17 percent for Jackson.All told, many of the differences between Jackson and Watson simply come down to the trade-offs a QB makes playing in different offenses. While both teams call their share of zone-read plays, Louisville’s offense asks Jackson to keep the ball and run with it more than Clemson’s does of Watson. (There’s also a school of thought that says this was by design, and that Watson will be unleashed as a runner in the College Football Playoff, so stay tuned.) The Cardinals are a more run-oriented team than the Tigers anyway, and that allows them to exploit defenses for more big plays down the field when Jackson does throw. Clemson, meanwhile, is more set up to control the field through short passing and the selective use of Watson’s running and deep-throwing skills.The big takeaway, then, is that although the two quarterbacks played pretty different styles this season, they both arrived at a similar place in terms of overall production. So the question of who is the nation’s true best player might just boil down to preference: Do you like running QBs who throw a bunch of deep bombs, or do you prefer more pocket-oriented accurate passers who can also run when necessary?If I were starting a team, I’d flip a coin.
If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Aug. 4, 2015), we discuss whether mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey is unbeatable. We also talk about the winners and losers coming off the MLB trade deadline, as well as leaked data suggesting that one-third of medals at endurance events in the Olympics and at World Championships between 2001 and 2012 might have gone to athletes with suspicious blood-test results. Plus, our Significant Digit of the week: What if you broke a world record by accident?Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above.Below are some links to what we discuss on the show:Andrew Flowers on Ronda Rousey fighting like an outlier.Rousey’s controversial stance on trans fighters in her sport.Neil Paine and Nate Silver break down the MLB trade deadline using the brand-new “Doyle Number” metric.58 prospects at the trade deadline.Large-scale allegations of doping among endurance athletes.The International Association of Athletics Federations president calls the allegations a joke.Significant Digit: 2 — the number of times swimmer Katie Ledecky has broken her own world record, this week. Hot Takedown
3D. Culpepper2004MIN4-172.21766183127.0 9T. Brady2015NWE5-070.61699141118.4✓ NE61NE66NE+0.1– DAL53GB57GB+6.7– OAK68%OAK58BAL+9.4– The Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 5 win over the the Houston Texans was significant for several reasons. It squashed any lingering doubts about who the NFL’s best team is, as the league’s only 4-0 team moved to 5-0. It also solidified KC’s place atop our NFL projections, as we now give them a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs and an 81 percent chance of earning a coveted first-round bye. But perhaps the team’s most impressive achievement so far is this: These are the best Chiefs since KC’s last (and only) championship team, 48 years ago.Using Elo, our pet metric for judging a team’s strength at any given moment, we can trace the various incarnations of the Chiefs week by week in NFL history. Their current Elo rating of 1701 is the highest it has been since the team hit its all-time peak rating of 1775 after defeating the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Of the 899 weeks for which we have Elo data on this team, there are only eight in which Kansas City’s rating was higher than it is right now — and all of them came in that 1969 campaign, in the last year of the AFL. Move over, Len Dawson, make room for Alex Smith.But we have certainly seen hot starts from Andy Reid’s team before. They started the 2013-14 season 9-0 and then lost five of their next seven regular-season games before bowing out to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card game. So will this year be any different?The defense has regressed since the 2013 season, surrendering 22.2 points per game through five games, compared with 19.1 for the whole of the 2013 season. But they’ve maintained respectability despite losing star safety Eric Berry, who went down for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in the team’s opening-night road win over the New England Patriots. And any step back here has been more than compensated for by improvements on offense. Led by Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt, the offense is off to a blistering pace, averaging an NFL-best 32.8 points per game, 5.9 points better than the 2013 team managed to produce.This may be hard to digest, but Smith is having one of the best starts to a season of any quarterback in NFL history. In almost every major offensive category — passing completion rate, passer rating, adjusted yards per attempt and interceptions — Smith ranks among the best. Here are the best season-opening five-game stretches ever, according to passer rating, among QBs who made more than 150 passing attempts in that span in any season since 1950. 4A. Smith2017KAN5-076.61391110125.8 BUF51BUF57CIN-9.3– MIN58MIN64MIN+2.0– 7M. Ryan2016ATL4-169.11740122121.6✓✓ In addition to having the fourth-best passer rating in this time frame, Smith has yet to throw an interception. And among these quarterbacks, Smith’s completion rate of 76.6 percent is the highest. The table above puts Smith in some nice company: Every QB joining him is either a Hall of Famer already or will likely be one soon — with the exception of Daunte Culpepper. (And unlike Culpepper, Smith doesn’t have the luxury of being able to heave jump balls to Randy Moss.) In this group, Culpepper and Smith also stand out as the only ones to not start at least one Super Bowl in their career to date. Culpepper may be alone in that regard after this season.In the PittsKansas City’s Week 6 opponent had a slightly less glorious Week 5. In fact, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered one of the worst losses in their 85-year history. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions in a brutal 30-9 loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars (yes, them). The Steelers’ loss was so bad that they dropped 55 Elo points, the 49th-worst single-game drop in more than 30,000 NFL games, and the franchise’s third-worst loss ever. Steelers fans may not want to remember the two worse losses, but we’ll remind them anyway: a 24-6 defeat at home to the newly formed Houston Texans in 2002 and a 34-10 thumping on the road against the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals in 1979 (ouch!).The latest loss means Roethlisberger is under intense pressure to retire, with even the two-time Super Bowl winner admitting that he might not have it anymore. That, along with the quarterback’s public spat with wide receiver Antonio Brown in Week 4, means the Steelers could be in a minor crisis. Pittsburgh finds itself 3-2 and atop the AFC North standings, with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals lurking just behind. Looking at the underwhelming slate of opponents the Steelers have played so far — the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars — gives even more cause for concern. The Steelers travel to the Chiefs next week before a home game against their bitter rivals the Bengals and a visit to the surprisingly good Detroit Lions. The rest of October could alter Big Ben’s plans in 2018.FiveThirtyEight vs. the crowdWeek 5 in our NFL prediction game — in which we invite you to pick football games and try to outsmart our Elo algorithm — was much better for you readers than the previous two weeks had been — readers were just 21 points behind the Elo predictions in Week 5 compared with 146.2 points behind in Weeks 3 and 4 combined. The readers made gains mostly by being less wrong than our algorithm. Both Elo and the readers picked the Oakland Raiders to beat the Ravens and the New York Giants to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, and neither of those picks worked out. However, the average reader was less confident in either the Raiders or the Giants of winning than Elo was, so readers lost fewer points on those misplaced bets.The biggest net gain for Elo came in the Miami Dolphins’ win over the Tennessee Titans. Even without factoring in that the Titans’ Marcus Mariota was inactive for the game, Elo put its faith in Jay Cutler and the Dolphins and was rewarded. (Never doubt Jay Cutler! Haha, no, we’re kidding. Definitely doubt him.) That’s it for this week — be sure you make your picks for Week 6. NYG68NYG59LAC+9.0– 8D. Marino1984MIA5-065.21527153121.6✓✓ Source: Pro-football-reference.com QBYEARTEAMW-LCOMP %YDSTDINTPASSER RATINGWON DIV.?MADE SB? OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION 10D. Brees2009NOR5-069.21400132118.4✓✓ PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.WINNERREADERS’ NET PTS NYJ65NYJ59NYJ-7.3– 6K. Warner2000RAM5-072.11947147122.0 1P. Manning2013DEN5-075.8%1884201136.4✓✓ 5A. Rodgers2011GNB5-071.71721142122.9✓ PIT80PIT79JAX+0.0 Alex Smith is in royal company … plus Daunte CulpepperTop passer ratings among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 150 attempts in a team’s first five games of a season, since 1950 DET63DET59CAR+2.6– SEA55SEA51SEA-6.3– KC67KC65KC-4.1– 2T. Brady2007NWE5-074.11383162128.7✓✓ PHI65PHI67PHI-0.6– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 5Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 5 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game IND75IND62IND-11.3– MIA59TEN51MIA-11.9–
Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) carries the football into the end zone during a game against Maryland on Oct. 10 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 49-28. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorThe Ohio State offense seems to be coming into its own, putting up 121 points in its last three games, including 49 against Maryland in Week 6.The best test of the progress it has made since the start of the season could come on Saturday, as OSU (6-0, 2-0) welcomes a team ranked 10th in the nation in defense.Penn State (5-1, 2-0) has allowed just 275.7 yards per game, including only 158.7 yards through the air.OSU coach Urban Meyer said his team will have to be at its best to put up points against the Nittany Lions.“Excellent defense,” Meyer said. “I think they’re top 10 … we had a hard time moving them last year, very good defense.”That game last year was a double-overtime thriller in State College, Pennsylvania, in which the Buckeyes emerged with a 31-24 victory.Then-sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa was the star of that night, piling up 2.5 sacks, including a game-ending sack in which he threw the Penn State blocker into quarterback Christian Hackenberg.“I don’t think I’ll be able to top a moment like that this week,” Bosa said.The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native called last year’s game “the hardest fought game” he’s ever played and expects the Nittany Lions to present another tough test on Saturday. He said it all stems from the junior Hackenberg.“I see a very confident quarterback, a guy that can really make all the throws down the field,” Bosa said.Hackenberg, considered to be one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, has struggled at times this season. On the year, he is 87-of-164 for 1,086 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.Saturday’s contest is set to kick off at 8 p.m., the first night game Ohio Stadium has played host to since Nov. 1 of last season against Illinois. Redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller said games played at the primetime hour give the team a different sense of energy.“The last couple of night games I played in, it was exciting, the atmosphere was crazy,” Miller said. “Guys always love playing under the lights.”With Penn State standing as one of the four teams in the Big Ten East division undefeated through two conference games, Bosa said the team recognizes games like that as key points of the season.“It gets bigger as the season continues because it’s harder every week to stay undefeated I think,” Bosa said. “It’s Big Ten season and that’s when I think it really picks up.”Previously for Penn StateWhen the dust settled from the Nittany Lions’ opening game, things were not looking pretty.In-state rival Temple thoroughly dominated Penn State, coming away with a 27-10 victory, and potentially sending coach James Franklin’s squad to a downward spiral of a season.However, the Nittany Lions did just the opposite.Since the opening game in Philadelphia, Penn State outscored its opponents 141-59 on the way to a five-game winning streak.“I remember watching them their first game this year and it’s nowhere close to where they’re looking now,” Bosa said. “They’re finally getting it together and looking like a really good team.”Penn State’s victories came against Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana. However, all five of those games came at home at Beaver Stadium, so it remains to be seen if the Nittany Lions can improve from their lone road showing.Sack mastersSaturday’s game features two of the top players in the country when it comes to bringing the opposing quarterback down.Penn State redshirt senior defensive end Carl Nassib has recorded more sacks than anyone else in the nation with 10 — all solo.The hulking 6-foot-7, 272-pound West Chester, Pennsylvania, product has at least one sack in each of his six games this year, including three games with two or more sacks.On the other side, Bosa hasn’t found the same results this season but is still feared nationally after picking up 21 sacks in his first two seasons.Bosa recorded his first solo sack of the season against Maryland, with a first-game suspension, constant double or triple teams and quick-handed quarterbacks holding him back.“It feels good to get there, obviously,” Bosa said. “It’s what D-linemen go for every game, to get their sacks.”As a team, the Nittany Lions are second in the country with 4.17 sacks per game, while OSU is 11th with 3.17.On the other side of the ball, OSU is 20th in the country with 1.17 sacks allowed per game, while Hackenberg has been brought down 3.17 times per game, 112th in the nation.Up nextAfter Saturday’s 8 p.m. showdown, the Buckeyes are slated to travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face Rutgers on Oct. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Maryland quarterback Perry Hills calls a play against FIU in the third quarter on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, at FIU Stadium in Miami. Credit: Courtesy of TNSWhile the narrative of how much of a difference a week can make has been run dry, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes will be looking for back-to-back strong performances after last Saturday’s complete domination of Nebraska. This week, OSU travels to College Park to face the Terrapins in Maryland. Maryland started the year on a hot streak, earning four straight victories. Since then, however, D.J. Durkin’s team has picked up just one win in five weeks, and are coming off an embarrassing 59-3 loss to Michigan. And with OSU up next, it seems safe to say Maryland’s in for another rough week.All-time, the Buckeyes are 2-0 against Maryland. After being introduced into the Big Ten prior to the 2014 season, the Terrapins have given up a combined 101 points to OSU, and this year should be no different. Although senior quarterback Perry Hills has had success against the Scarlet and Gray in the past, a defense that has been gashed by the run all season could spell trouble for Maryland at home.OSU coach Urban Meyer has been repeating the same phrase all week.“Beat Maryland,” he said multiple times.So just how will the Buckeyes beat Maryland?OffenseHills is the man under center for Maryland, and has earned the moniker of one of the most accurate passers in the Big Ten. He leads the conference in pass completions, and has made good use of his legs to keep plays alive. Last time the two teams met, the Pittsburgh native moved with ease through OSU’s defense, compiling 170 yards on the ground. Another big day for Hills on the ground might be in store, but with his status in the air after reinjuring his shoulder, Maryland could instead lean on the ability of freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison III. The quick feet of Harrison have helped him on his way to 633 yards, just 57 shy of a freshman record set in 1997. The way OSU’s secondary has been playing, expect to see the Terrapins looking his way often on Saturday.The offensive line for Maryland has been disappointing at best so far. Allowing the quarterback to be hit is never a good sign for an offense, and that’s become the norm for Durkin’s unit. Giving up more than three sacks a game, Maryland ranks near the bottom of all Division I teams in terms of sacks allowed. The defensive front for OSU should be in for a field day.Staying true to never underestimating your opponent, redshirt junior defensive tackle Michael Hill doesn’t want to take anything for granted.“They seem pretty good at what they do,” he said. “They like to do (guard and center) pulls a lot, and they can move well and run well in open space.”DefenseOSU redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber has enjoyed a solid season of production against some stout defenses, but Saturday will present a new challenge; playing injured. A sprained AC joint could be a problem for Weber, but against a defense like Maryland, he could still be in for a great day. The Terrapins allow 245.6 yards per game, and have a defensive line that represents a sieve more than it does a run-stopping unit.Numbers are sometimes deceiving, according to redshirt junior guard Billy Price. He said Maryland’s defense still promotes a dynamic challenge to the Buckeyes and the offensive line.“Team has had some bumps and bruises, no doubt,” Price said. “But you know what? They’re going to come back this week, they’re going to come at us. They’re very athletic. Their defense … they got a backup quarterback playing linebacker, which is always cool. You never really see that that often. Their defensive front, they’re big guys; athletic.”That “backup quarterback playing linebacker” happens to Shane Cockerille, a redshirt junior who played as a quarterback against Indiana last season to fill in for now-senior Caleb Rowe. Now, however, Cockerille is the man in the middle of Maryland’s defense, and currently leads the team with 79 tackles. Look for his name to be called more than once on Saturday for making a play.BreakdownAfter dominating a quality opponent in Nebraska last week, OSU is itching to see what it can do against some less-than-stellar teams, like Maryland. While the Terrapins deserve praise for improving from last season, there is no indication of a close game this Saturday. OSU’s defense should dominate a Maryland offense that averages less than 200 yards passing per game, and relies on the legs of a freshman running back for most of its rushing yards. Expect a few more forced turnovers this week, along with another big-time blowout by the Buckeyes.OSU redshirt junior J.T. Barrett had one of his best overall performances last week, and could be in for another huge day. The Terrapins are allowing just 204.5 yards passing to opponents this season, but were torched by Michigan junior quarterback Wilton Speight last week for 362 yards and two touchdowns. If Barrett were to ever rack 300-plus passing yards for the first time since Week 1, this would be the time.
OSU then-junior attackman Eric Fannell (20) during a game against Michigan on April 16, 2016 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State men’s lacrosse team’s success thus far has been bolstered by a strong defense. For a win this weekend in University Park, Pennsylvania, that production will have to be consistent.On Sunday, the No. 5 Buckeyes (9-1) will take on No. 3 Penn State (9-0) in a clash of team strengths. OSU heads into the contest with the No. 3 scoring defense in the NCAA, averaging 7.20 goals given up per game. In contrast, the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 4 in scoring offense, averaging 15.33 goals scored per game.The Buckeyes have faced stiff competition all year, but they must regroup after suffering their first setback of the season in a 12-7 loss to Notre Dame. It was the second time this season in which the Buckeye defense had given up double-digit goals in a game.Penn State is one of the toughest challenges for the stellar Buckeye defense. Freshman attack Mac O’Keefe leads the way with 34 goals on the season, and he dictates how the PSU offense flows.OSU coach Nick Myers has taken notice of his team’s opponent, and the Nittany Lions offense is a focal point.“You’re immediately drawn to the fact that they have been able to generate offense in a number of ways,” he said. “They have a very skilled attack and are very well-coached.”From a player’s perspective, it comes down to what they have on their own sideline and the trust they have with their teammates to continue to play well defensively.“They have threats on offense and we know that, but we like our guys,” said Tom Carey, OSU’s redshirt senior starting goalie. “We want to do our best to put their shooters in spots that we want and give up the looks we want.”Like Carey mentioned, the Buckeyes have supreme faith in whoever is tasked at stopping the Penn State offense. The team wants to force the issue using its style of play to limit them to very few chances at scoring opportunities. With that being said, the goalie position has stepped up and contributed while using a rotation between Carey and junior Matthew Smidt.With rotations at a position in any sport, there can be concerns about inconsistent play. For the OSU defense, they have been an exception and have excelled with the duo. Both Carey and Smidt have kept their goals against average within Myers’ acceptable range, and they exert their upperclassman leadership whenever they enter a game.As for this weekend, Myers has his eyes set on who will lead the team onto the field in the Big Ten opener.“Tom (Carey) is our starting goalie and will start on Sunday night, and I think we need to do a really good job of supporting him,” Myers said.He said the duo is able to step in at any point due to the chemistry between them.“At the end of the day we’re great friends, and that (competition) comes with the territory of playing goalie,” he said. “It’s definitely clear that the coaching staff trusts both of us. Whichever one it is (on the field), we’re confident in the team in front of us.”Whether the team sticks to a rotation this weekend remains to be seen, but the team believes it will be prepared for whatever Myers chooses based on the flow of the game.Opening faceoff is set for 7 p.m. Sunday.
The Ohio State women’s volleyball team celebrates after defeating then-No. 4 Penn State in four sets on Sept. 23, 2018 Credit: Miranda Lipton | Former Lantern ReporterFollowing a win against Maryland to kick off Big Ten play, Ohio State women’s volleyball heads to Ann Arbor to take on rival Michigan.The Buckeyes (8-5) have now won five in a row and on Sunday, will take on a Michigan team (8-3) that has won four-of-five on the road.Even with the added pressure of being on the road for the first round of Big Ten matches, senior outside hitter Bia Franklin said the Buckeyes are heading into the weekend with a positive attitude and readiness to take on the added challenge.“We talk a lot about being road warriors so it’s awesome playing in a new court and makes it easy to get really excited and pumped with the fans,” Franklin said. “But we’ve been talking about going on the road and getting those wins because they’re really important.”Michigan sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones has accumulated a team-best 129 kills of the Wolverines’ 527 kills this season, and Franklin said the focus is on preparing for that power. “We can expect them to be aggressive, very physical with some big hitters and very talented players,” Franklin said. “So just knowing that they’re going to bring their A-game and make sure we bring ours.”Freshman setter Cecilia Rocafort said the Buckeyes are spending practice trying to mimic the playing style of the Wolverines in order to better anticipate what they will encounter come game time.“On the other side, we wear pinnies with the numbers of the other players so that whoever is on the starting lineup they know what to expect,” Rocafort said. “So, we play with their tendencies to prepare better for the game.”These practices are paying off for the Buckeye defense, as demonstrated by freshman libero Kylie Murr, who is leading the Big Ten with 250 digs. Murr received Big Ten Defensive Player and Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday.In addition to providing a stable defense, the Buckeyes are looking to reaffirm their efforts in decreasing errors while staying aggressive, which will prove to be important in these first conference games, Franklin said.If the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry didn’t provide enough tension for the matchup, Rocafort will have the added motivation of taking on her sister, Michigan senior setter Katerina Rocafort.“I’m just really excited to see her play because I’ve only seen her play on TV,” Rocafort said. “I want to see what she can do with her team, and I want to see what I can do for my team and I want to compete.”The competition between the Big Ten rivals will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at Michigan.
Two of the “Sustainability and Transformation Plans” which are being brought in following a record NHS overspend last year, propose to reduce the number of GPs in the local area.However, many other plans are “vague at best”, according to the profession’s leaders, and could be a prelude to more widespread reductions.In November the British Medical Association said that two out of three NHS doctors had not been consulted over plans which could also see bed cuts and closures of Accident & Emergency departments.It comes as research shows the proposals, being drawn up across the NHS, will mean at least £22bn in cuts.Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College, said: “The future of our health service relies on high quality, robust general practice, but it would appear that this may not be the case for vast swathes of the patient population across England.”“GPs and our teams conduct the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS for a fraction of the budget.“We provide the most cost-effective form of care, keeping our patients safe, in the community, and out of hospitals where care is more expensive.” GP leaders have warned that local health chiefs are exploiting plans to overhaul the NHS in order to slash the the number of family doctors.The Royal College of General Practitioners said last night the number of GPs proposed for many of the regional re-organisations went “against all common sense”.It also criticised the process for prioritising major hospitals at the expense of local surgeries, despite mounting evidence that shortages of GPs ultimately puts hospitals under more pressure. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. GPs and our teams conduct the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS for a fraction of the budgetProfessor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners
Helen Johnson, the Refugee Council’s head of children’s services, welcomed the decision. “It is absolutely fundamental that until a young person’s age has been established they are cared for in a safe and supportive environment,” she said. “Unaccompanied children who seek refuge in the UK have often suffered horrific abuse and exploitation that most grown ups would find difficult to imagine. Today’s ruling will help keep more of these children safe at a frightening and bewildering time.”It’s vital that local authorities put young people’s safety first and follow the expert guidelines available to them.” It is unlawful for the Defendant not to observe the statutory guidance and not to treat the claimant as a child pending the determination of his age assessmentMr Justice Lavender A housing authority which refused to provide an Iraqi asylum seeker with accommodation because he appeared over 18 has been told it must shelter him by a High Court judge. The Iraqi, referred to as S, claimed he was 15 years old and had been born in 2000 when he arrived in the UK unaccompanied in September 2016 and asked for asylum. He was detained overnight and then accommodated by the Home Office at Brigstock House in Croydon. The judge said it appeared the Home Office did not accept that he was 15, but instead formed the view that his physical appearance and demeanour very strongly suggested that he was significantly over 18 years of age.Croydon Council consequently refused to provide S with accommodation and support until the conclusion of an age assessment and it was clear that S was entitled to support as a child.But, in a ruling which could affect other similar immigration cases, Mr Justice Lavender, sitting in London, has found that the council is under a legal duty to step in.The judge said: “A local authority is exercising its social services function of providing support for children not merely when it actually provides that support, but also when it carries out ancillary functions such as determining which individuals are and are not children, and dealing with individuals whose age is yet to be determined.”He added: “In my judgment, it is unlawful for the Defendant not to observe the statutory guidance and not to treat the claimant as a child pending the determination of his age assessment.”S’s application for judicial review was backed by the Refugee Council and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.