Month: September 2019

Skeptical Football Good News And Bad News For The Colts

For example, of the 24 wild-card-round veterans who made it to the conference championships since 1994, eight have gone on to win the Super Bowl (including seven of 20 who faced a top-2 seed in every round). For a road team, having a 1-3 chance of winning the Super Bowl with two games to go is ridiculous: Road teams in the playoffs normally have only about a 1-3 chance of winning their next game.After two solid victories against strong teams (beating the Cincinnati Bengals — a fellow five-loss team — and the heavily favored Peyton-Manning-led Broncos in Denver, each by double digits), the Colts’ stats suddenly look a lot better than they did when they were getting thrashed by the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago.You can see how those wins have changed the Colts’ fortunes in the chart below. I plotted winning efficiency vs. scoring efficiency — generally the two main modes of statistical analysis in football.3Using expected wins added per game from offense and defense (similar to “WPA,” calculated using ESPN’s expected win percentage model) against the net expected points per drive (from “EPA” of offense and defense). I’ve then compared where each playoff team stood at the start of the playoffs to where they stand now (upper right is better):As you can see, the Colts have made the biggest positive move by a long shot. This is what the “trial by fire” phenomenon is all about: Since the Colts have taken the hardest road to get where they are, we’ve learned more about them.And what’s crazy is that this movement may underestimate what we’ve really learned. Unlike Elo ratings or SRS, these EPA and WPA metrics don’t account for strength of opponent (though ESPN’s model does account for playing on the road). It also treats the Colts’ playoff games as being just as important as their regular-season games, which empirically doesn’t seem to be the case (as I mentioned last week, we’re going on at least 20-plus years now where playoff games have been between two and five times as important as regular-season ones, depending on your assumptions).Of course, the other remaining playoff teams have won to get where they are as well. But think of it like this: If the chart underestimates each team’s movement, each arrow could be twice as long, and then we’d see a very different picture — the Colts might even leapfrog the Patriots. As it stands, the Colts have closed much of the gap between themselves and the favorites anyway, and may very well deserve to be right there with them.But are they good enough to win a Super Bowl? Here’s a plot of every team that had positive WPA and EPA stats entering the playoffs since 1994. I’ve marked Super Bowl winners in dark gray and present-year (eliminated) teams with empty circles:The Colts are well within “contender” range, and the teams ahead of them aren’t historically dominant.And the Green Bay Packers, tops in each metric, shouldn’t get complacent. Only three of 14 teams with better EPA have won championships, and two of 16 teams with higher WPA have won, and just one of the unlucky nine teams that were better on both axes won. Now, obviously the Packers are already into the third round of the playoffs, so we’d probably expect their chances to be a bit better than other teams in their neighborhood — but even accounting for that, a team of their strength at this stage hasn’t done any better than the average “trial by fire” team in the same spot.So things are looking up for Luck and crew: They’re a stronger-than-normal wild-card-round veteran playing against slightly weaker-than-normal dominant teams. Great.And now for the bad newsThe bad news is that the Colts have to play the Patriots, who eliminated them from the playoffs in last year’s divisional round, 43-22, and then dropped another 40 points on the Colts in their 42-20 Week 11 victory in Indianapolis (to add insult, the Colts were also coming off of a bye).So in the past year, in one home and one away game, the Patriots have won twice and outscored the Colts 85-42.But does this matter? Figuring out just how predictive “prequel” games can be (relative to other metrics) is a surprisingly thorny issue. Here are a few of the difficulties:The home team in the playoffs generally has the better record or holds tiebreakers against a team it has already played. This means it’s more likely to have won any regular-season matchup.We know that home-field advantage in the playoffs is generally stronger than it is in the regular season, and a big part of that is due to the fact that stronger teams tend to host playoff games. But part of the effect may also be because a team that can regularly beat another team it plays will also be more likely to play that team in the playoffs at home.Because of the aforementioned “trial by fire” effect, away teams in later rounds of the playoffs may be stronger than we would expect. This may actually mean that the home-field effect is stronger than it appears — such as if the home team won a regular amount of the time against teams that were stronger than average.The Super Bowl is weird. Again perhaps partly because of “trial by fire,” teams that lost to their Super Bowl opponents in the regular season actually have a winning record in the championship game. The possible causal link here4This is only 13 Super Bowls, and so, speculative.: A team that won the matchup in the regular season is more likely to have the easier road to get to the rematch.I tried to run some regressions, but because there are so many distinct scenarios that are very different from each other, the samples are too small to detect persistent trends, much less statistically significant ones.That said, there are a few things that we can probably extrapolate — at least as being supported by the data, if not proved by it — from looking at the equivalent scenarios. So let’s start with teams that played each other twice in the regular season vs. teams that didn’t play each other at all:Cases where the home team in the playoffs lost both regular-season games are too rare to give them any weight (though they do favor the regular-season victor). The most salient point is that playoff home teams that beat their opponents twice (as opposed to just once) in the regular season win about 9 percentage points more often (68.8 percent vs. 59.5 percent). This also doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the relative strength of the teams, because the sweeping teams have had a lower difference in margin of victory.5Why don’t teams that beat their opponents twice win more often than teams that haven’t played their opponent at all? I don’t know — perhaps some of the reasons above, or maybe there’s truth to the idea that divisional rivalries are different. In the baseline category — a game between teams that never played in the regular season — the home team has won in the playoffs 68 percent of the time.This suggests that matchups matter, at least in cases where a team goes 2/2 against their opponents. But what about cases where they only played one game? These have the added wrinkle that someone (almost always) had home-field advantage in that game. So the scenarios look like this:The differences here are smaller — as we would expect, and they comport pretty closely with the relative overall strengths of the teams in question — though there’s still some causal complexity (a single road win vs. a home loss can pretty much account for the observed difference in strength). You can contemplate the road/home performance and its relationship to margin of victory in the playoffs and ensuing results all day (I’ve spun my head around it plenty). But the bottom line is that playoff home teams that won their regular-season matchups against their playoff opponents on the road have won close to 75 percent of the time in the playoffs — the highest of any of these scenarios.tl;dr: The Patriots beat the Colts 42-20 in Indianapolis this year. That’s not good news for Indianapolis.But I’ll offer the same point I made about Carolina last week: While the situation looks bad, it will be especially meaningful if the Colts manage to win. If they pull off the upset against New England, not only will they have taken out the top two seeds in the AFC on the road to the Super Bowl, but they’ll have done it by avenging two losses from earlier in the year.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum. The NFL is down to its final four Super Bowl contenders, and it’s quite a group. All of them are division winners, and each has 13 wins on the ledger. Picking a favorite is tricky. The New England Patriots are a tempting choice, having led the NFL in SRS (“Simple Rating System,” or margin of victory adjusted for strength of schedule), as well as having been one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. Yet the other three teams have all won championships more recently. The AFC championship game features an old rivalry with a new face. And the NFC championship arguably features the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense. So, you know, this weekend should be boring.According to bookmakers, the weakest of these teams — by a healthy margin — is the Indianapolis Colts. Futures markets give them about 15-2 odds to win it all. After accounting for house advantage, that implies that gamblers thinks the Colts have about a 10 percent chance of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 1.It’s fitting that the biggest underdogs left in the playoffs are led by Andrew Luck — the Hacker Gods’ vicar on Earth — who seems to be on a mission to prove that you have to be willing to lose to win.Last week, Luck even made the interceptions he threw while in the lead (normally a big no-no) look good, throwing deep on third-and-longs — 43 yards downfield on third-and-12 in the second quarter, and then 37 yards downfield on third-and-13 in the third. No one throws deep interceptions quite like Luck, and after he casually shrugged them off on Sunday, even old-guard commentators noted how downfield interceptions are really just like punts.1But with more upside!Whether Luck’s relentless approach will translate into playoff glory remains to be seen. But in the meantime, there’s good news and bad news for the Colts.The good newsThe Colts have faced the toughest road of the teams left standing. Last week in this column, I examined the “trial by fire” effect in the NFL playoffs — the phenomenon by which wild-card-round veterans appear to get stronger and stronger the deeper they go into the playoffs.2Note, this doesn’t mean they are actually getting stronger; it means that only the strongest of them survive the trials. read more

LeBron James Quest To Be The Best

LeBron James won a championship and nothing changed.Sure, there were a few events. The obligatory champagne shower at his stall in the Miami Heat locker room. The parade before an estimated 400,000 fans. A pep rally at his high school. And Tuesday night brings the ultimate capper, the ring-and-banner ceremony just minutes before the start of a new season.Then it begins again, another year, another quest for a title.Having one title is not completely satisfying for James, who put the he-can’t-win notion to rest when the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games for last season’s NBA crown. It was a perfect run for the perennial All-Star: Besides getting engaged and winning his second Olympic gold, James walked away with the NBA’s three most coveted trophies: MVP, Finals MVP and the championship.For an encore, he wants more.“I want to be the best of all-time,” James said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s that simple.”He expressed similar sentiment last year, and the year before that, and probably all the way back to high school in Akron, Ohio. He always wondered if a championship would change that perspective.He now has his answer.“Not really, honestly,” James said. “I haven’t had much time to really just think about what actually happened. At the end of the day, there’s still going to be people that say, well, he’s not going to be able to win two. He’s not going to be able to do it again.”Time will tell.At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds and blessed with a speed-and-strength combination — “he’s a freak,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said — James is widely considered the best player in the game today. He has won three MVP awards and some opposing coaches say he might keep winning those until voters get tired of selecting him.But the best of all time, that title will obviously take some work.Read the rest of this story on the Bostonherald.com read more

Serena Williams Announces Engagement to Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian

Throughout the tennis pro’s year, Ohanian has been her biggest supporter, frequently posting messages of support online. When Williams tied Steffi Graff’s Grand Slam record at Wimbledon this past summer, Ohanian shared how proud he was on Instagram. Ohanian, 33, also commented on the Reddit post, which was accompanied by a graphic showing the proposal. He wrote, “And you made me the happiest man on the planet.” Additionally, he confirmed the news on his Facebook page by sharing his fiancée’s post and commenting, “She said yes.”The newly engaged couple, who began dating in Oct. 2015, are notoriously private, but Williams has occasionally mentioned Ohanian on social media. Most recently, the Olympian shared an image of the couple in costume on Nov. 28. Serena Wiliams and Alexis Ohanian (@serenawilliams Instagram/@alexisohanian Twitter)Tennis star Serena Williams is engaged to her boyfriend of a year, Alexis Ohanian. The 22-time Grand Slam champion announced the news on her official Reddit page, marking a very public showing for the very private couple.Williams, 35, detailed the story on Thursday, Dec. 29, explaining that she and the Reddit co-founder took a trip to Rome, where they first met. read more

Madison Bumgarner Rode A Hot Streak To Greatness And We Know Who

FASTBALL VELOCITY (MPH) Luis SeverinoNYY97.798.0+0.3🔥 PITCHERTEAMAVERAGELAST FIVE FASTBALLSDIFF.PREDICTED STREAK Who’s hot and who’s not as the playoffs beginAmong expected playoff starters, predictions of five hot and five cold streaks based on how each pitcher finished his last start John LackeyCHC91.492.7+1.3🔥 Most hurlers tend to lose velocity in October, whether because of colder temperatures or just the accumulated fatigue of six months of throwing baseballs.7We didn’t have pitch classifications for the postseason, so we compared the velocities of pitches in the 99th percentile for speed in both the postseason and regular season. All pitchers lost an average of 0.29 mph per fastball in the postseason. But a starter who finishes his last game hot tends to see his fastball drop by 0.55 mph less than one who ends the year on a cold streak. Over the last three seasons, there has been a significant correlation between a pitcher’s streak at the end of the regular season and his October velocity loss.8The correlation was 0.25, with a p-value of 0.02.The list of pitchers who were running hot going into the postseason reads like a who’s who of great recent playoff performances. The aforementioned Bumgarner makes two appearances, once in 2016 and again just before his overpowering 2014 run. Last year’s Kluber performance was there, alongside somewhat unexpected performances like the 2015 Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada and 2014 Cardinals’ Lance Lynn.And just as the hot starters often excelled, the cold ones often flopped. Nobody expected Clayton Kershaw to get shelled in the 2016 postseason, but sure enough, his fastball velocity had dropped enough to trigger a cold streak just before October. The same goes for other aces who underperformed in the postseason, like James Shields in 2014. (You may have forgotten, but Shields was actually good back then.)This year, there’s no shortage of starters riding hot streaks into the playoffs.9An important caveat is that pitch-tracking technologies that MLB uses switched from Pitchf/x to Statcast this year, so the results from the last three years may not match up as well with what happens this season. In fact, the Cubs (John Lackey), Yankees (Luis Severino), Red Sox (Chris Sale) and Astros (Dallas Keuchel) all enter the playoffs with a pitcher boasting higher than average velocities — and each one of these guys has the potential to take over a series. Rich HillLAD89.388.5-0.7❄️ One team does stand to lose more than any other, and that’s the Dodgers. With Kershaw and Rich Hill both on cold streaks, two of L.A.’s best starters might struggle this October.10The Dodgers’ Alex Wood is also on a cold streak, but it’s less clear whether he will make the playoff rotation. Kershaw’s struggles are nothing new, but the persistent loss of velocity he seems to have experienced each of the last three years suggests that he’s not a choker — he’s probably just tired.To measure the possible impact of these streaks in the upcoming playoffs, we re-ran FiveThirtyEight’s Elo-based prediction system for the last three years’ regular seasons, adding the hotness of each pitcher in a matchup to the analysis. Across 1,621 games, when one starting pitcher was hot and his opponent was cold, his team was eight percent more likely to win the game than it would be if both pitchers were hot or both were cold, which is roughly twice the benefit of having home field advantage compared to playing at a neutral site. If two otherwise evenly matched teams go head-to-head and one has a hot starter and one has a cold one, the hot starter’s team will win at about the same clip as the 2017 Red Sox did.Of course, knowing that a pitcher is hot isn’t a secret sauce for predicting the playoffs. October is so random that an ice-cold hurler could muddle his way to victory, and all it takes is one misplaced pitch to turn an ace’s fiery start into a blowout. For example, last year, every pitcher in the Chicago Cubs’ rotation entered the playoffs in cold mode and throwing more softly than normal. That didn’t stop the Cubs from claiming the title, although it was arguably a little more difficult than the projections expected. So although the Dodgers have some reason to worry, they might still be able to claim the trophy.CORRECTION (Oct. 2, 8:10 p.m.): A previous version of the table in this article reversed the numbers in two columns — average fastball velocity and velocity of last five fastballs — for Kyle Hendricks and Drew Pomeranz. The table has been updated. Ervin SantanaMIN93.392.8-0.5❄️ Kyle HendricksCHC86.487.2+0.8🔥 Source: PitchInfo Almost every year, one or two pitchers seem to take over October and almost single-handedly spur their teams to victory. In 2014, Giants starter Madison Bumgarner capped one of the best postseason performances in history with an unforgettable World Series Game 7 relief appearance. Last year, the Indians’ Corey Kluber led the way, allowing only seven runs across more than 34 innings.A few weeks ago, we showed that hot streaks like these can arise from pitchers throwing harder than normal. Add a couple ticks to an ace’s fastball, and he can go from normal, everyday excellence to almost superhuman levels of greatness. But the effect goes beyond mere velocity: Hot streaks can tell us when to expect a significant boost to a pitcher’s entire statistical profile, which can come in especially handy during the notorious crapshoot that is the MLB postseason.A lack of reliable metrics stymied many previous efforts to study the hot hand in baseball. Noisy measures of performance like ERA and on-base percentage can have just as much to do with the team a pitcher is facing or the fielders behind him as they do with his innate talent. By zeroing in on the one thing a pitcher has absolute control over — his fastball velocity — we could see when he was running hot or cold.Although throwing harder is almost always a boon for pitchers, it’s less important than getting outs. To show that hot streaks matter for more than just radar guns, we gathered the predicted stat line for each start that a pitcher made after June in 2016 (according to the Steamer projection system).1Provided to us courtesy of Rudy Gamble of Razzball. The projections gave us a pitcher’s expected performance in each game, adjusted for opponent, park and home-field advantage. We compared the pitcher’s actual performance to the pitcher’s projected performance. Then we ran an algorithm analyzing every start in the season preceding the start in question, to see whether a pitcher’s hot or cold streak predicted whether he would overperform his projection in the next game.2As in our last article, we analyzed only pitchers who threw at least 800 fastballs in a season. To minimize overfitting, we ran the model for the first two months of the 2016 season and then used the Viterbi algorithm to predict starts beginning in June. (We considered a pitcher hot if the last five fastballs of their previous start were hot and cold if their last five pitches were cold.)3We also tried looking at the last 10 and 20 pitches of the previous start, and we obtained similar results with those methods.Across a wide variety of measures, a pitcher who’s on fire at the end of one start seems to do better than expected in the next. Compared with a cold pitcher, a hot one strikes out 0.39 more batters than predicted per start, while allowing 0.1 fewer walks plus hits per inning pitched. Add it all up, and one pitcher can perform 1.02 earned runs per nine innings better than expected depending on whether he’s fiery or frigid.4After making a Bonferroni adjustment, we found the differences in strikeouts and ERA are significant at the standard 0.05 level (with adjusted p-values of 0.003 and 0.044), while the differences in WHIP are significant at the less stringent 0.10 level (with an adjusted p-value of 0.099).Although we detected hot streaks using fastball velocity, the performance boost doesn’t seem to be solely the result of speedier pitches. For example, when pitchers’ cutters are preceded by a hot pitch, they tend to have more lateral movement. Curveballs drop further, and sliders cut more across the zone. Since breaking balls that move further tend to get more swinging strikes, a hot pitcher’s entire arsenal takes a step forward. And the boost in speed and amount of break doesn’t seem to come at the expense of command, because hot pitchers are more likely to get called strikes than expected.5According to a binomial logistic regression, which used game location, pitcher, catcher, the count, pitcher handedness, pitch position in the strike zone and velocity as predictors.A pitcher’s ups and downs become even more important in October. A 1.02-run drop in a couple of starters’ ERAs can mean the difference between an early wild card exit and making the World Series. And fortunately for playoff-bound aces, when we looked at the last three postseasons’ worth of data,62014-2016 we found that a pitcher who ends the regular season hot is likely to carry that momentum into the playoffs. Max ScherzerWAS94.392.2-2.1❄️ Drew PomeranzBOS91.288.1-3.1❄️ ⋮ Clayton KershawLAD93.192.2-0.9❄️ Chris SaleBOS95.097.7+2.7🔥 Dallas KeuchelHOU88.090.2+2.1🔥 read more

Joe Girardi Was A Good Manager In 2017 Thats Not Enough

*Includes more than one stint as manager.Source: Baseball Gauge MLB’s 2017 class of departing managers is unusually good On the flip side, there have been 22 Yankee managers since 1903 that lasted fewer than four seasons — some across multiple tenures. And it’s not like these were all losers: Of those 22, 13 managers posted records of .500 or better. Girardi ranked only sixth in manager points among Yankee skippers — behind everyone else who managed 10+ years — but was poised to add to his total considering the franchise’s position.The future looks bright for New York. Between the emerging youngsters, a promising farm system and the capacity to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, the Yankees are on track to contend for years to come. It’s hard to say how much of their success in the past decade belongs to Girardi, but all the available metrics suggest he was an above-average skipper. Now the Yankees will need to find someone else to preside over their bright future, and it may not be as easy as management thinks.Neil Paine contributed research.CLARIFICATION (Oct. 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m.): The source of our data for managers’ postseason success, The Baseball Gauge, credits managers with a World Series win even if they managed only part of the season in question. The story has been updated to clarify Billy Martin’s relationship with the 1978 Yankees, who won the World Series that year.CORRECTION (Oct. 27, 2017, 4:20 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said Joe Girardi chose to not review a pivotal call in the ALCS. The play in question occurred in the ALDS. 1197162.6 41973111.6 9200061.2 Joe McCarthy1931-46 (16 yrs.).62787107.3 YEARMANAGERS LET GOAVG. MANAGER POINTS THAT YEAR 62011111.5 10199871.1 8199761.2 Source: Baseball Gauge 3201361.7 5200671.6 71978111.3 Yankee skippers have lofty standardsHow the 10 longest-tenured New York managers compare Miller Huggins1918-29 (12).5976370.3 MANAGERTENUREWIN %ALWSTOTAL MANAGER PTS Joe Girardi2008-17 (10).5621139.0 This year has featured an unusual level of managerial turnover. Nationals skipper Dusty Baker and Red Sox head John Farrell were also fired despite leading their teams to the playoffs. Using manager points, a Baseball Gauge metric that sums up record and playoff benchmarks, this group of managers qualifies as the second most accomplished set of unemployed skippers since 1969.1These numbers do not prorate regular season performance or postseason accomplishment for managers fired midseason. And according to Elias Sports, this is the first time three playoff teams switched managers in the same offseason — which is remarkable considering the offseason still hasn’t officially begun.Of the three unemployed skippers, Girardi might have been the best. He didn’t have the pitcher-destroying reputation of Dusty Baker or the tactical problems of John Farrell. Over 10 years as the Yankees’ manager, Girardi racked up 910 wins, earning a winning record each season. He was helped by massive budgets, but he also presided over multiple failed free agent contracts that landed the team in a cycle of rebuilding. This year, the Yankees seemed to be on their way to championship contention, and Girardi took them deep into the ALCS before losing to the Houston Astros.Girardi had his weaknesses. He inexplicably benched star catcher Gary Sanchez toward the end of the season. He made the unwise decision not to review a call in a pivotal game of this year’s ALDS, and it could have cost the Yankees dearly. But overall, Girardi was a good tactician: From his bullpen management to taking advantage of platoon splits, he often put his team in the best position to win.The other knock on Girardi was that he failed to develop young players. This season ought to have disproved that, however: With the emergence of Aaron Judge, Sanchez and Luis Severino, the Yankees have one of the best up-and-coming cores in baseball. By wins above replacement, the Yankees’ age-27-and-under hitters were the fourth most productive in baseball, and their young pitchers were second in the league.As strange as it may seem considering his win percentage, Joe Girardi was actually given a long leash by the standards of the Yankees brass. Six managers in Yankees history maintained their positions for 10 or more years,2Ralph Houk did it across two different stints. and all but Girardi won multiple championships in that time. (The Baseball Gauge credits Billy Martin with winning a World Series with the Yankees in 1978 even though he left the team midseason. He did manage the majority of that team’s games.) Clark Griffith1903-08 (6).531009.3 TITLES Joe Torre1996-2007 (12).6056494.1 2201762.0 Billy Martin1975-88 (8)*.5913235.8 Buck Showalter1992-95 (4).539008.3 After he brought the team to the brink of the World Series, manager Joe Girardi was let go by the Yankees on Thursday. Girardi’s tenure included a championship and 10 years in which the team was usually a playoff contender, but it wasn’t enough to save him from Yankees’ management and their exacting standards. In a postseason full of questionable firings, Girardi’s release will go down as one of the strangest. Casey Stengel1949-60 (12).623107106.1 Bob Lemon1978-82 (4)*.576218.6 Ralph Houk1961-73 (11)*.5393242.0 read more

College Football Playoff Final Thoughts And National Championship Odds

The field for the first-ever college football playoff was announced Sunday, and Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State have made it — leaving out TCU and Baylor.A quick reflection on the teams the committee chose in a moment; first, let’s look forward to the playoff. Here’s how ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) assesses the national championship odds:Oregon is ranked first in FPI, although just barely over Alabama. FPI also thinks the Ducks are helped slightly by getting to play No. 3 seed Florida State in the semifinals; it has Florida State rated below Alabama’s opponent, No. 4 Ohio State.There is no runaway favorite. Oregon has a 35 percent chance of becoming the national champion, according to FPI, with Alabama at 32 percent, Ohio State at 19 percent and Florida State at 14 percent.As for which teams made the field, one of the big things we were going to learn this weekend was how heavily the committee weighed its previous rankings when deciding on its final ones.Because the playoff committee is new, the FiveThirtyEight playoff model was based on a historical assessment of the Coaches Poll instead. In the Coaches Poll — and the AP poll — the rankings are quite “sticky” from week to week. Voters in those polls rarely engage in top-to-bottom reassessments of the field; instead, they’ll demote teams after they lose and sometimes move them up an extra position or two after a big win. Otherwise, they’re left in about the same order.Based on that assumption, Ohio State had a decent shot to make the playoff after its big win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship. But the model had TCU favored to make the playoff because it had been ranked No. 3 by the committee entering the weekend. The model had No. 4 Florida State as the more vulnerable team instead, simply because it had been ranked lower by the committee to begin with and its win Saturday — it beat Georgia Tech 37-35 for the ACC championship — was the narrowest of anyone in the top six.Instead, Florida State moved up to No. 3. And TCU was overtaken not just by Ohio State and Florida State, but also by Baylor (which missed the playoff but was given the committee’s No. 5 ranking for posterity). What the committee did last week — promoting TCU into the No. 3 position ahead of Florida State — proved to be a head fake.In other words, the committee appears to engage in a more thorough reassessment of the teams with its final rankings. For better or worse, it’s more concerned about getting the “right” answer in the end than in being consistent from week to week. read more

When Did Sports Become So Political

FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 28, 2017), we’re joined by New York magazine’s Reeves Wiedeman, who dropped by to discuss his article on recent political activism by athletes. Next, Michael Caley of ESPN FC and “The Double Pivot” podcast helps us break down Claudio Ranieri’s firing from Leicester City — not even a full year after the soccer team’s Premier League title win. Finally, ESPN baseball writer Sam Miller helps us imagine who the best baseball player would be in a world without stats. Plus, a significant digit on women’s basketball.Links to what we discussed this week:Reeves Wiedeman’s article on the rise of athlete activism.Firing Claudio Ranieri won’t fix Leicester City’s problems, writes Tim Wigmore for FiveThirtyEight.Catch more of Michael Caley’s soccer observations over on the “The Double Pivot” podcast.How do you determine baseball’s greatest player in a world without stats? Sam Miller lays out his theories.Significant Digit: 3,397, the number of career points that University of Washington senior Kelsey Plum has scored in her career for the Huskies. She broke the all-time NCAA women’s record on Saturday, with a 57-point game. Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed read more

What A Badass Olympic Skier Can Teach Us About WorkLife Balance

3Slovakia34.0– 22Turkey16.0– 28Switzerland14.0– 25Germany14.0– 19Luxembourg16.0– 12Denmark18.0– Randall’s Finnish peer Aino-Kaisa Saarinen had a child around the same time that Randall did, and she told me that her country has a mandatory four-month paid leave for mothers, which she started a month before her due date. After the baby was born, she and her partner received further benefits, including leave that they could split as they chose between the parents. “In our case, the dad took all that,” Saarinen said. (Not to mention the paid leave that fathers are entitled to.)Randall has competed in the predominantly Europe-based World Cup without that kind of paid leave but with Breck in tow for the past two seasons. It hasn’t always been easy. Although she emerged from childbirth without any serious complications (not all women do, as tennis star Serena Williams’s story demonstrates), the snap in her muscles didn’t return right away. And during her time off, the U.S. team “had gotten so strong,” Randall said. She sat out the second World Cup weekend after her return because she wasn’t skiing as well as her teammates.There have been many men who’ve continued competing after adding a child to their family, said Chris Grover, head coach of the U.S. cross-country ski team, but very few women. “Many of these guys are not primary caregivers and tend to come to the races Thursday and head back home on Sunday night or Monday,” Grover said. And while fathers may experience sleepless nights just like mothers do, they don’t need to physically recover after childbirth.Randall and her husband have built their work and family life around her job. Ellis secured a job as a media coordinator for the ski federation, which allowed him to travel the World Cup circuit with her. “He got the job so that we could see each other in the winter,” Randall said.Randall breast-fed her son until about a month into the racing season. Realizing that there would be at least four mothers coming to the World Cup with babies, the ski federation worked with the athlete commission, national ski federations and organizing committees to make formal recommendations encouraging race venues to provide a “baby room” with appropriate provisions so that moms can breast-feed and care for their infants as needed. Randall thinks she used these rooms much more than others in her cohort of new mothers. She said that may be because the others live in Europe, where most of the races take place, and can travel back and forth between home and races on a weekly basis.In Finland, Saarinen benefits from laws that guarantee child care facilities will be available. “The government also pays for most of it,” she said. That’s not all. “We also get child money from the government, which is about 200€ per month, a baby box with 48 items, and free and mandatory monthly health checks for baby and for the mom.”Things are different in the U.S. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 62 percent of parents of infant or preschool-age children report difficulty finding affordable, high-quality child care in their community, regardless of their income.Because Randall and Ellis are both working while on the race circuit, their parents and some friends have stepped in to provide child care, but paying travel and accomodations for these helpers isn’t cheap. In part because of the cost, Breck won’t be accompanying his parents to Pyeongchang. After calculating that it would run something like $15,000 to $20,000 for them to bring him and a caretaker along, they decided to send him to his grandparents’ house in Canada instead.As well as things are working out for her now, Randall acknowledges that her current situation is not sustainable. And it probably wouldn’t be scalable to the whole workplace either. Grover acknowledged that it’s difficult to imagine a ski team traveling around Europe with all the coaching staff’s kids, in addition to the team athletes.Randall plans to retire from racing after this season but will remain in the sport. She is president of the U.S. branch of Fast and Female, a group that encourages girls to participate in sports, and she’s running for election as an athlete representative on the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission. After two decades of competition, it feels right, she said. Success in a career like sports requires giving it your all, and that means family life can’t always come first. For a parent who wants to substantially take part in parenting, eventually something must give. 5Ireland26.0– 24Slovenia15.0– 23Belgium15.0– 6Hungary24.0– 16Austria16.0– 10Australia18.0– CountryLength of paid maternity leave, in weeks 20Netherlands16.0– 27Japan14.0– 7Italy21.7– 11Chile18.0– 29Iceland13.0– 2United Kingdom39.0– Source: OECD Family Database 15Canada17.0– 21Spain16.0– 35United States0.0 34Portugal6.0– 4Czech Republic28.0– 8Estonia20.0– 32Sweden12.9– 17France16.0– 13New Zealand18.0– 18Latvia16.0– 30Norway13.0– 1Greece43.0– 31South Korea12.9– Paid maternal leave policies around the worldAmong countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2016 33Mexico12.0– 14Finland17.5– 26Israel14.0– 9Poland20.0– Team USA has sent 20 fathers to Pyeongchang, but only one mother: Kikkan Randall. A three-time winner of cross-country skiing’s World Cup sprint title, Randall was part of a baby boom that happened after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when four of the sport’s top athletes took time off from racing to give birth.1The others were Marit Bjoergen of Norway (whose silver medal in Saturday’s skiathlon earned her the title of most-decorated woman at the Olympic Winter Games), five-time Olympic medalist Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland and Katja Visnar of Slovenia.These women didn’t just return to work — they came back to the highest level of a demanding sport, and all four are expected to compete in Pyeongchang. But Randall is doing so without the same safety net that her European colleagues have. And that’s left her facing the same challenge that many other American women experience: how to balance a grueling career with the demands of new motherhood. A job as arduous as being a professional athlete (or, say, director of policy planning at the State Department) has little room for compromise or scaling back, and that means that much of the parenting must fall to a spouse or outside help.The 2018 Games will be the fifth Olympic appearance for Randall, a 35-year-old cross-country skier from Alaska.2When I was an elite skier in the 2000s, Randall was an up-and-coming star. I never skied fast enough to make the Olympic team, and the U.S. women’s teams in 2002 and 2006 were unlikely contenders for medals. But since then, thanks in large part to Randall’s performance and leadership, the American women have become a force to reckon with — earning both World Cup and world championship titles. Minnesota native Jessie Diggins won the final World Cup race before Pyeongchang. In 2008, Randall, nicknamed Kikkanimal, made history by becoming the first American woman to win a World Cup in cross-country skiing. And in Pyeongchang, she has a legitimate shot at a medal.Mothers-to-be in most professions take time off after childbirth, but Randall’s situation was different: “I was on my maternity leave while I was pregnant,” she said. Because she remained on the U.S. ski team roster, she retained access to her health insurance, and most of her sponsors continued their support, in exchange for appearances, social media plugs and other publicity. She resumed training about three weeks after her son, Breck, was born in April 2016, with the support of her husband, Jeff Ellis, who parented while she trained. Having a husband who is willing to take on parental duties and, most importantly, to do so “unbegrudgingly” has been “a huge piece of the puzzle,” Randall said.There’s no such thing as a part-time return to work in elite sports, which usually require multiple training sessions each day, along with naps, massages, full nights of sleep and other recovery rituals. Of course, sleepless nights are almost a given for the first years of a child’s life. And Randall said that knowing Ellis will “take care of those night-time wakings before a race really helps.”She noted that her peers in Scandinavian countries have the benefit of paid time off for fathers as well as mothers. (Of the 35 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the only one without paid maternal leave.) read more

Tressel Buckeyes know exactly what to expect from Iowa

The No. 9-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes hit the road for the fourth and final time this season on Saturday as they travel to Iowa. Following a slow start to last week’s contest against Penn State, OSU coach Jim Tressel and his players said they look to fix mistakes heading into Iowa. “I think for us it’s just important that we come out ready to go and not flat like Wisconsin or this last weekend,” senior kicker Devin Barclay said. “I think we do our best when we come out ready to play and we set the tone right away.” Tressel said the Buckeyes know exactly what to expect from the Hawkeyes. “They do what they do and they do it so well,” Tressel said. “They’re very, very physical at what they do, and the schemes back that.” Revenge for the Hawkeyes Last year, with a trip to the 2010 Rose Bowl on the line for both squads, the Buckeyes escaped with a 27-24 overtime victory. OSU wide receiver DeVier Posey said he expects Iowa to come out eager for revenge. “I know those guys don’t have amnesia. They remember the last time we went against them,” Posey said. “They probably felt like we slipped away with an easy one, slipped away with a win because Ricky Stanzi got hurt the week before we played them, and the running back got hurt as well, so they … probably feel like they can beat us on their home turf.” New experience This will be the Buckeyes’ first time playing in Iowa since 2006. Although OSU is familiar with this Iowa team from last year’s game, Tressel said his team will face a tough task in Kinnick Stadium. “The veterans know what lies ahead because they have played against Iowa,” Tressel said. “I don’t know if any of our guys have played at Iowa City. I don’t know if any of those fifth-year seniors were playing as true freshmen that particular year, but they’re in for a heck of an experience and a heck of a challenge.” Barclay said he knows little about the atmosphere at Kinnick Stadium, but the game will be challenging, like all road games in the Big Ten. Special teams key to road success The Buckeyes have struggled on the road at times this season, with a 2-1 record away from the Horseshoe. “When you’re on the road, you better play solid in your special teams to give yourselves a chance,” Tressel said. “Now, that doesn’t guarantee anything, but you can almost guarantee that if you play poorly in the special teams that you’re not going to be successful on the road.” The OSU special teams unit has had its share of ups and downs, but Barclay said he believes the unit is moving in the right direction. “The kicks were deeper, higher, better,” Barclay said of last week’s special teams performance against Penn State. Buckeye line vs. Adrian Clayborn OSU will face one of the premier defensive lines in the nation Saturday in the Hawkeyes, including 2009 first team all-Big Ten performer Adrian Clayborn. “They’re just very, very powerful and very consistent. In games where you might have a 7-yard run, against them it’s 3,” Tressel said. Tressel said he has been impressed with his offensive line’s play as of late, but Saturday will be yet another challenge. He said there are two factors for an effective offense Saturday. “One is if you can rush the ball effectively and, two, if you end the day and there aren’t sacks, that’s a big deal,” Tressel said. “And to have both of those things come true on Saturday will be a tremendous challenge because these folks get after the passer and they play the run.” read more

From end zone to stage former Buckeye Maurice Hall back in the

“Maurice showed up and everybody knew who he was, but he was completely humble and he knew that he was just beginning,” McClatchy said. “He was a voracious learner — he was willing to try anything.” Hall had taken a theatre class at OSU when he was fairly new to campus and really enjoyed it. But he was concerned that his demanding football schedule wouldn’t allow him to participate in theatre. McClatchy, who’s currently teaching at OSU while pursuing his master’s in acting and performance, said Hall had a certain amount of poise that carried over from his football career. “He had the confidence that comes from accomplishments. He was uncertain about how to go about doing things, but he was confident that he’d (be) able to figure it out,” McClatchy said. “That gave him a little bit of a leg up.” Hall also believed his football career, particularly the season the Buckeyes won the National Championship, helped to ease his transition to acting. “In 2002, the practice, the work ethic, the faith and development, all of the things I learned while playing at Ohio State, and understanding what it takes to dive in and start from scratch really helped me out,” Hall said. Hall acted in a few plays and filmed the movie “Best Supporting Daddy” in Columbus. Still, Hall knew that, in order to pursue an acting career, he’d have to move to L.A. Hall quickly recognized the stark contrast between the protective blanket of Buckeye Nation and the fame-driven L.A. society. “Even though I did some independent films and some plays in Columbus, the reason I was picked for the roles was because I was a name that people knew,” Hall said. “People would come see the movie or the play because I was in it, not necessarily because I was a good actor. And that was one of the big differences in coming out to L.A.” Suddenly, it no longer mattered what Hall had accomplished on the football field. “Everybody in L.A. is some kind of actor, singer or other entertainer. It’s one of those things where you’re not going to get a role because you played football for Ohio State,” Hall said. “You have to actually be a good actor. So, from that aspect, it’s persuaded me to really pursue the craft and learn as much as I can and get better.” Charley Boon, Hall’s acting teacher at the Joanne Baron / D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica, Calif., said Hall has improved by “leaps and bounds.” “There are people who go out into the workforce and they have my name on them. Sometimes that can be a scary thing,” Boon said, “but the wonderful thing about Maurice is, I would not hesitate to recommend him for a job at all.” Hall recently made appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House.” “I had the opportunity to be on the show ‘House,’ where you get a chance to see Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, you know, these great actors,” Hall said. “I see what they do as far as preparation, and being in that atmosphere drives you to want to be better.” There’s an old saying that to be a successful actor, you have to be able to deal with rejection. Hall admits he’s faced his fair share of it. He’s currently working at Lululemon Athletica, a company that sells exercise and yoga clothing. It’s a supplemental job, helping to pay the bills until the crapshoot that is the auditioning process leads to something more lucrative. “Right now it’s pilot season,” Hall said. “I’m hoping to get some opportunities coming up.” Maurice Hall is familiar with the venomous stereotype that haunts athletes who have made a similar career choice. It followed Hall across the country, from Columbus, Ohio, to Los Angeles. “Initially you hear that ‘Oh, he’s just a football player that wants to get into acting’ kind of thing, and I wanted to really get rid of that stereotype,” Hall said. “So, I applied the work ethic and the practice methods I used playing football, and put it into acting. “Eventually it got (to) the point where my growth as an actor was visible, and more people started to look at me as an actor, versus a football player who just wants to act.” Hall was a running back on the Ohio State football team from 2001-04, winning a National Championship in 2002. The San Diego Chargers signed him in April 2005, but less than a month later he was unemployed. Hall returned to Columbus to pursue his master’s in sports administration, while working as an assistant to OSU athletic director Gene Smith and doing sports television work for NBC. “During football season, I would do sports analysis stuff pertaining to high school football, along with Ohio State football,” Hall said. “The more I did that, the more I got comfortable with being in front of the camera and having fun with it.” His future in acting was starting to take shape. While working on the show “Football Friday Nights,” Hall had an opportunity to perform in skits. “I liked the aspect of coming up with skits,” Hall said, “and performing them on TV really got me motivated to want to do more.” So, Hall searched for an agent. Though there might not be any Ari Emanuels in Columbus, Hall found a commercial agent. “She referred me to do some acting classes to help with my auditioning for things going on in Columbus,” Hall said. “Once I started taking acting classes, I kind of fell in love with it.” Hall began to search Craigslist for acting classes and found an advertisement for an audition at MadLab Theatre, where he landed on the doorstep of acting instructor Kevin McClatchy. McClatchy, who was aware that Hall was a former Buckeye, said Hall was disciplined and worked hard from the start. read more

US womens national soccer team down to nittygritty on road to 2011

With 44 days remaining until the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s preparations have reached their peak. The U.S. capped off a week of training at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium with a 2-0 international friendly match win against Japan on Saturday at Crew Stadium. Two tuneup matches remain for the U.S. squad before its first World Cup match on June 28 against North Korea in Dresden, Germany. The U.S. will face off against Japan again Wednesday in Cary, N.C., before having its traditional send-off match against Mexico on June 5 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. American goalkeeper Hope Solo said prep work for this summer’s tournament extends beyond the soccer field. “We have two more games to prepare for, and we have to crack down on everything,” Solo said. “There is no time to let anything go unnoticed. We are watching video; we are in meetings; we are cracking down on everything so that we can win this tournament.” Defender Becky Sauerbrunn agreed, adding that the team has focused on “smaller” details, such as set pieces, corner kicks and defensive formations. “We’re really getting down to nitty-gritty,” Sauerbrunn said. “Right now, it’s the small details that are gonna make the biggest difference.” Forward Abby Wambach said the U.S. might rearrange its lineup and strategies for its second match against Japan so potential World Cup opponents can’t scout the team as easily. “We don’t want to do the exact same thing,” Wambach said. “We want to throw a little wrinkle into our game here or there. Look to see some different things and maybe even some different personnel (against Japan).” Wambach, who scored her 118th career international goal Saturday, said she hopes the attention to minute details will allow the team to emulate the success of the U.S. women’s national team that won the World Cup in 1999. But make no mistake — Wambach wants the legacy of the 2011 national team to be unique. “We want to define this team,” Wambach said. “Obviously, everybody knows the (1999) World Cup-winning team. We want to prove ourselves. We want to show the world that this team is, in fact, great still and we still are capable of winning world championships at the World Cup level.” Wambach also said she expects the Americans to compete at a high level once the tournament begins. “I’m pretty confident that, no matter what goes on from now until (the World Cup), we’re gonna show up,” she said. U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said she is certain the team will be ready for its first World Cup match. “We need a couple more days together,” Sundhage said. “When the game against North Korea comes on (June) 28, we’ll be ready.” The U.S.’s next match against Japan is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday. read more

Wisconsin blasts Ohio State mens basketball in Madison 7149

Ohio State headed to Wisconsin with a “live in the moment” approach in one hand and hopes of prolonging its chances at a fourth straight Big Ten championship in the other. But the moment, nearly every second of it, belonged to the No. 20-ranked Badgers in a 71-49 rout at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., Sunday. In the process, Wisconsin handed Thad Matta and the Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) their worst loss since 2009 and likely eliminated them from the conference’s steeplechase for a league title. Matta, who led OSU to the Final Four less than a year ago, said he had seen enough after calling a timeout down 22-6 with 10:27 to play in the first half. “I, with composure, lost it,” Matta told reporters after the game. Seemingly, so did the Buckeyes. The loss, OSU’s third in four games, drops the Buckeyes to 1-7 against ranked opponents on the season and 3-5 in road games. OSU junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who has not scored less than double figures all season, led the way with 18 points. But in line with the theme of some of OSU’s losses this year, the Big Ten’s leading scorer had little help. Aside from sophomore forward Sam Thompson’s 10 points, starting junior guards Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and sophomore center Amir Williams combined for just 10 total points. The Buckeyes, though, came out of the gates firing, as Thomas, Smith Jr. and Craft all connected on each of their first shots within the first three minutes of the game. With the score tied early, 6-6, OSU appeared composed in front of a sold-out crowd at the Kohl Center, a place it had only won once since 2000. Any semblance of that notion, though, evaporated as quickly as the Buckeyes’ poise after junior guard Ben Brust’s 3-pointer gave the Badgers its first lead of the game at the 16:22 mark. They never looked back. Brust’s trey ignited an 18-0 run on 59 percent shooting from the floor and 56 percent from behind the arc that carried the Badgers into halftime with a 39-22 lead in tow. The second half brought more of the same. Wisconsin, which shot 53 percent on the day, still hit 13-of-28 shots and continued to stifle an OSU offense that seemed to only go as far as Thomas could take them. What concerned Matta, though, was not the Buckeyes’ struggles on the offensive end. His worry regarded their defense – the rock on which OSU has appeared to lean on now 25 games into the season. “I don’t know who’s in your jerseys right now in terms of being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do,” Matta said he told his squad. “We got to get back to that. … We’ve seen the results if we’re not going to play defense. We’re not a good basketball team.” Sunday proved to be an immediate reminder of that. “You know, if we’re going to rely on trying to outscore people, that’s not going to happen, we have to play defense,” Matta said. OSU returns home to play Minnesota Wednesday night at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is at 7 p.m. read more

Jalin Marshall moving up the ladder

OSU redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall (17) carries the ball during a game against Navy on Aug. 30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. OSU won, 34-17.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorDuring spring camp, redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall’s status was largely in question after the Middletown, Ohio, native underwent offseason surgery.Three weeks into the season, those questions are becoming a thing of the past.Marshall has already made his impact on the Ohio State offense, as he scored his first career touchdown last week against the Kent State Golden Flashes in a 66-0 victory.Following his first-ever score wearing the Scarlet and Gray, Marshall said he was happy to put the trials and tribulations of the offseason behind him.“I’ve had some injuries and setbacks, but the journey is worth it,” Marshall said. “This is a great university and crowd to play for. I feel great being able to get in the end zone and help my team every week.”Coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday that Marshall is continuing to improve each week.“He has done a nice job. He didn’t play real well early in the year,” Meyer said. “But the last game, he did a good job.”Meyer said that Marshall’s early issues came from a lack of effort — a problem he is starting to fix.“His whole issue is just the four-to-six mentality that we got, go as hard as you can. When he goes as hard as he can, he is really good,” Meyer said. “I finally saw that last week, where he put his foot in the ground and even on plays that he didn’t get the ball, he was stretching the defense.”Since he arrived in Columbus before the 2012 season, Meyer has preached his philosophy of giving four to six seconds of effort from point A to point B on every play.Despite Marshall only amassing seven total offensive touches thus far on the season, Meyer said he can envision the redshirt-freshman splitting more time with fellow H-back, sophomore Dontre Wilson.“The good thing is he is very knowledgeable about all spots,” Meyer said. “If (Marshall) keeps moving up the ladder, those two (he and Wilson) will be on the field at the same time.”Marshall electrified Ohio Stadium on Saturday when he nearly broke a Kent State punt for a touchdown, but he was cut down by the punter following a 51-yard return.Although the punt return was the longest by a Buckeye this year, Meyer said Saturday he teased Marshall before ultimately praising his and other young players’ efforts.“One guy (Marshall) got caught by a punter, I think, and so we’ll give those guys a hard time,” Meyer said Saturday with a smile. “But I think I’m really excited about our young skill, and I was hoping to try to get Buckeye nation and the stadium to see some of those guys out in open space, and (freshman running back) Curtis Samuel and Dontre and Jalin are — just off the top of my head — guys I’m excited to get out in open space.”Senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said the reason so many young guys have earned playing time is not because of a lack of production from the upperclassmen, but rather the impressive showing from the younger athletes.“Everybody has their own skill sets that everybody specializes in,” Spencer said Wednesday. “We are all great athletes, we are all great receivers and because we all are succeeding in certain areas of our game, that’s why so many guys are getting playing time.”In fact, 23 true and redshirt-freshman saw playing time against the Golden Flashes last week.After a bye week, the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats on Sept. 27 at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. read more

Column Its time to start lowering expectations on Ohio States potential

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer runs with the team back into the locker rooms before the game against Nebraska on Nov. 3. Ohio State won 36-31. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorEvery week, the same thing has been said about Ohio State.Every week since narrowly defeating Penn State, the Buckeyes have come out, underperformed in various areas of the field and didn’t live up to the clear potential that the team has.This week, following an embarrassing loss to Purdue and two whole weeks to prepare for a Nebraska team that sat at 2-6, it was supposed to be different.This week, Ohio State should have come out, showing the country that this team has the pieces to compete for not only a Big Ten title, but a spot in the College Football Playoff.Instead, this week, Ohio State proved one thing: maybe it didn’t have as much potential as people thought.Against Nebraska, the Buckeyes looked less than impressive, squeaking out a 36-31 victory over a team that lost to Michigan by 46.Head coach Urban Meyer seemed complacent after a five-point win over a team Ohio State was favored to beat by more than 20 points.“I thought our team gave great effort, I thought the energy was there,” Meyer said. “I was pleased.”The definition of potential, according to Merriam-Webster, is existing in possibility, capable of development into actuality.The Buckeyes have not once this season proved to be capable of sizable development, never once has proven to turn any of these supposed possibilities into actuality.Ohio State allowed freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez to run up and down the field, and when he decided to throw, the secondary did nothing to stop him either. Martinez threw for 266 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two more, totaling 342 yards on the day.Yes, the Buckeyes can have an excuse there. Both starting sophomores, safety Isaiah Pryor and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, missed the game due to injury. If that wasn’t enough, junior safety Jordan Fuller was ejected for targeting in the second quarter.Meyer said in the postgame press conference that Okudah had a groin issue and Pryor has an impingement of the shoulder and should be ready to go next week. But it is not like the secondary was a bright spot prior to Nebraska, and sophomore safety Brendon White jumped into the lineup and made an immediate impact, leading the team with 13 tackles and two for a loss.Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins had his worst game of the season against the 30th worst passing defense in the nation, completing 18-of-32 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.Those numbers are by no means alarming, but they are a regression from what Haskins has shown he can do. Haskins missed on more throws today than he has all season, even if the redshirt sophomore said the style of the offense changed on Saturday.“We definitely wanted to run the ball today,” Haskins said. “That was our goal for this game, for this Saturday, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.” There were certainly areas in which Ohio State improved in its victory over the Cornhuskers..Sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, finding space that wasn’t there in recent matchups. This was the first time in five games he averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry for the game.Two of Dobbins’ scores came in the red zone, where Ohio State converted three of its four attempts for touchdowns. But with these improvements, Ohio State still looked far from where it should be, and Meyer knows that.“I thought our defense improved. Obviously nowhere near where we need to be, but they improved,” Meyer said.In Week 10, the bye week gone and the chance to rebound from the loss over, it’s been enough time to say that Ohio State is most likely not going to dramatically improve from this point on.When issues are fixed, other ones pop up. When the team holds Nebraska to only two plays of 30 yards or more, the Buckeyes give up a load of intermediate plays that allowed the Cornhuskers to drive down the field and tally 31 points.When the Ohio State running game earned the most yards they have had since Oregon State, the pass game took a hit.When Ohio State had an opportunity to prove that it has figured out how to fulfill its potential, and had an extra week of practice to do so, the Buckeyes came out flat, barely beat a team at the bottom of the Big Ten and failed to prove the team, as a whole, has improved since the Purdue loss.Last season, after a 55-24 loss to Iowa that ended up eliminating Ohio State’s playoff chances, the Buckeyes came back a week later and defeated a then-No. 12 Michigan State 48-3.This year, with an extra week to prepare and a less impressive team in front of them, the Buckeyes won close, and did not prove to be overly motivated to do anything more.The Buckeyes still have a route to the College Football Playoff — winning the Big Ten most likely will get them in — but it would take some considerable improvements to beat the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.It’s about time to start thinking that won’t happen. read more

Islamic State supporters celebrate Manchester attack online

first_imgGreater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins speaks to the media Other Isil supporters said the attack was revenge for the UK’s involvement in the bombing campaign against Isil in Iraq and Syria. “It seems that the bombs of the British airforce over children of Mosul and Raqqa has just come back to Manchester,” wrote one user.  SCREENSHOTS Growing celebrations of situation in #Manchester on key Islamic State-linked Telegram channels. Strong indicator of IS linkage pic.twitter.com/RSJBt0gJcR— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) May 23, 2017 In that case the attacker, Khalid Masood, appears to have been inspired by the jihadist group but does not seem to have taken orders directly from an Isil controller. Isil claimed him as “a soldier of the Islamic State”, a vague term that does not mean the attack was centrally planned from Syria.  Michael S. Smith II, a US-based terrorism analyst said the celebrations on Isil social media groups were a “strong indicator” that the attack may be linked to the jihadist group. There were similar celebrations after the attack in Westminster in March and Isil eventually claimed credit for the assault which killed five people. Key Islamic State-linked Telegram channels that have celebrated #Manchester attack now spreading words re Pound loss relative to Dollar pic.twitter.com/3IX3rcw7d5— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) May 23, 2017 Claims of responsibility are usually issued through Isil’s Amaq News Agency, an official jihadist news source, and then disseminated through social media.  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. There has been no official claim of responsibility for the Manchester attack from any terror group but supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) celebrated the bombing on social media. Isil supporters hailed the bombing as a victory against “the crusaders” of the West. In one video an English-speaking supporter of Isil held up a home made sign with the word “Manchester” and the date of the attack.”This is only the beginning. The lions of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham are beginning to attack all the crusaders,” the masked man said in the short video. Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins speaks to the mediaCredit:Peter Byrne/PA Wire Isil often waits for some time after attacks in the West before making a statement, partly to ensure that it does not claim credit for an attack that was carried out by al-Qaeda or another group.  Isil supporters posted official statements from Greater Manchester Police about the attack and kept each other abreast of the latest news. They even cheered as the value of the pound fell against the dollar after the attack.last_img read more

Creepy traffic bollards cause outcry from residents

first_imgThey may look like something out of a nightmarish horror film, but these bollards have caused quite the controversy after residents branded them creepy and dangerous.The mannequin-style figures are the latest idea by Iver District Council in a bid to improve road safety outside local schools.The bollards, known as Bill and Belinda, have been installed near infants and juniors in Iver and Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire as a deterrent to speeding drivers, however many residents have hit out at the hair-raising figures calling them an “eyesore” and potentially hazardous. The bollard known as BelindaCredit: Heathcliff O’Malley The scheme was spearheaded by Buckinghamshire County Councillor Luisa Sullivan.She said: “I think we really need to experiment with our options. Whilst they may not look pretty, they have minimal facial appearances as to not distract drivers, they are merely supposed to resemble school children and just make drivers think. But the Councillor responsible for their implementation said she suspected parents were only annoyed as they were now unable to mount the kerb with their cars when dropping their children off at school.More than half a dozen of the youngster lookalikes have been erected at a cost of £5,395 in an effort to fool drivers into thinking a child is crossing the road, but reviews have been mixed on the eerie figures.Resident Alison Major said: “They look awful, they should have been a normal traffic bollard. They will be knocked over in no time or defaced with graffiti. Connor McGinn added: “If I was a driver they would scare me into crashing, super creepy.” “When people know that it’s just a bollard they will just continue as normal as they get used to them so when a child does step out the potential for them to get hit is still there.” Safety bollards modelled on schoolchildren outside Iver Heath Infants School, Iver Bill the bollardCredit: Heathcliff O’Malley A dog walker passes one of the bollards Safety bollards modelled on schoolchildren outside Iver Heath Infants School, IverCredit:Heathcliff O’Malley The bollard known as Belinda Bill the bollard “We also have a number of parents who mount the kerb at the school, and these bollards can act as a deterrent to this, maybe that is causing annoyance, but I think that if they make the school area safer they should only be seen as a good thing.”The scheme wasn’t a complete write off though with some residents seeing the funny side, providing the bollards with sunglasses and waterproof overalls. RAC spokesman Rod Dennis commented that if the scheme is proven to be successful in encouraging drivers to slow down they should be seen as a positive move.He added: “Regardless of their aesthetics, these bollards are likely to catch the eye of drivers and send a clear messages that young children will be walking in the area.” A dog walker passes ‘Belinda’…Credit:Heathcliff O’Malley 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.last_img read more

Up to 60 per cent of prisoners have head injuries as experts

first_imgRyan Aguiar, of Ashworth Secure Hospital in Liverpool where Ian Brady was detained until his death said head injuries were just a minor factor in crimeCredit:AFP It is thought that head injuries damage parts of the brain responsible for self-regulation, impulse control and pro-social behaviour.Links to violence and head trauma date back to the Vietnam War, when it was noted that veterans who had suffered brain injuries to the front of their heads – an area involved in planning, decision making and emotional regulation – became far more aggressive.Some of Britain’s most notorious criminals including Fred West and Ronnie Kray also notably suffered head injuries.Study author Prof Seena Fazel, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said: “It does seem to matter where the injury occurred. Frontal injuries appear to have more impact on aggression.“One of the consequences of head injury is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and studies have shown that treatment for ADHD leads to a reduction in criminality and that’s down to reduced aggression. So treating symptoms like that could help.” Ryan Aguiar, of Ashworth Secure Hospital in Liverpool where Ian Brady was detained until his death said head injuries were just a minor factor in crime The Kray Brothers  Fred West suffered a major head injury as a young man Fred West suffered a major head injury as a young manCredit:SWNS The Kray Brothers The majority of prisoners had suffered some kind of head injury, the review found  Ryan Aguiar, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist at Ashworth Secure Hospital in Liverpool where Ian Brady was detained until his death last year, said: “Brain injury does not lead to crime even though there are more prisoners with head injury and cognitive impairment per capita or as a percentage than there is in the general population“Crime is a much more complex condition that is brought about by a myriad of social, environmental, personality, mental health and situational circumstances.“Head injury is only one among many and not even a first among equals.”Graeme Fairchild, a reader in the psychology at the University of Bath, added: “One of the main problems is that many of the risk factors for criminal offending and violence, eg. being male, coming from a low socioeconomic status background, having ADHD, being physically abused, and abusing alcohol and other substances, are also risk factors for sustaining head injuries, so it is very difficult to disentangle cause and effect here.“Many young people sustain head injuries without going on to develop criminal behaviour.”Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway – the brain injury association, whose Justice Project calls for better screening of prisoners said: “The vast majority of people who sustain a brain injury will not be involved with the criminal justice system.“However, some of the effects of brain injury, such as memory loss, increased impulsivity, anger, and reduced inhibition can lead people into difficulty with the law and evidence suggests over representation of brain injury in offender populations.“It is vital that we better identify brain injury at the earliest possible stage in the criminal justice system.” The new review, based on all literature on the subject to date, found that between 10 and 20 per cent of inmates have a complicated, moderate or severe head injury, while an additional 30 to 40 per cent have a mild brain injury.Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive, from the Centre for Mental Health said: “Up to 60 per cent of adult offenders are thought to have a history of head injury, often alongside numerous other traumas in their lives.“For some people, serious and repeated head injuries, particularly early in life, have been associated with an increased risk of offending alongside a range of other difficulties in life including poor mental health.“Identifying those who have emotional or cognitive difficulties resulting from a brain injury may help to ensure they get the right support to improve their mental health and potentially reduce their risk of later offending.”However some experts argued that it was difficult to tease apart whether it was the trauma itself causing the criminal behaviour, or whether people who were more likely to offend because of their background, were also more likely to end up with a head injury. The experts say helping prisoners receive proper treatment could prevent future offending and called on schools, doctors and hospitals to help identify youngsters who have suffered head injuries before they commit crime.“Addressing traumatic brain injury offers a means to not only improve the lives of those who offend, but also to reduce crime,” said lead author Professor Huw Williams, of the University of Exeter.“A range of measures could reduce the risk of crime following traumatic brain injury.“These could include any form of neurorehabilitation, and better links between emergency departments, community mental health services, GPs and school systems that might lead to early identification and management.” The majority of prisoners had suffered some kind of head injury, the review found Credit:Peter Macdiarmid More than half of criminals may have suffered a head injury which could be fuelling their offending, a new review by British brain experts suggests.Specialists from the universities of Oxford, Exeter, Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield, and the Centre for Mental Health, are calling for all prisoners to be routinely checked for signs of traumatic brain injuries.A comprehensive review, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, suggests that bumps to the head from falls, assaults or road accidents can lead to neural injuries which alter the brain structure, and increase the risk of violence offending.The authors claim that up to 60 per cent of people in custody have suffered some kind of head injury in the past, ranging from mild to severe.In contrast, around one in 200 people in the general public have been admitted to hospital for a head injury according to the charity Headway.last_img read more

Sir Cliff Richard tells High Court he has been forever tainted by

first_imgSir Cliff Richard on the first day of the caseCredit:Yui Mok /PA He revealed that the legal action had cost him more than £3.4 million, “not counting the month of March.”“I had no idea that heading to my 80th birthday I would have such ginormous bills come through,” he told the court.”It’s a huge amount of money.” 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. He said he had found it “really painful” to read that the BBC had then criticised him for spending too much money on lawyers.“This was such a vile, serious allegation, I took it seriously,” he said.”I paid serious money for the most serious people I could find.”Sir Cliff sobbed as he said he believed South Yorkshire Police were “just doing their job” while “others felt they were above the law, above Leveson and certainly above the Magna Carta.” He added: “The BBC, doing what they did that day, did not just name me here… but everywhere I have ever been.“I felt my name was smeared. Of course the police did not do this. The BBC did.“I do blame the BBC. The police have already apologised to me, they have been big enough and gentlemanly enough.”Sir Cliff said he waited 22 months, between August 2014 and June 2016, before being told that prosecutors would take no further action.  He went to his hotel room and put on the TV news.“I could see the police going through the drawers in one of the rooms in my apartment,” he said.“I felt confused, disturbed and very upset.“It was like I was watching burglars in my apartment, going through my personal belongings.” I thought I was going crazy because I often found I was talking to myselfSir Cliff Richard Cliff Richard and Gloria Hunniford arrive at the High Court Cliff Richardcenter_img Sir Cliff Richard arrives at the High Court with his friend Gloria Hunniford Credit:Peter Summers/Reuters “It felt like torture, sustained over a period of almost two years,” he said.“I thought I was going crazy because I often found I was talking to myself.”At one point he was so tormented he thought he was going to have a heart attack or a stroke.He said that since then, his annual official calendar had been “thrown back” at him and he had felt unable to attend Wimbledon for the first time in 20 years.If he wins the case, he will seek £278,261 for legal costs, £108,500 for PR fees and an undisclosed sum for the “substantial non-recoverable advance” agreed for his autobiography, My Life, My Way, which was due to have been published in 2015 but was shelved.He said that “of all the people that might have done this” to him, he would “never have dreamed that it would be the BBC.”“It is an institution, respected around the world. I suppose it is for this reason that I thought the BBC would absolutely play by the rules.”He said that the BBC’s refusal to apologise since had been hurtful and it’s decision to submit its coverage of the police search for a Scoop of the Year award had left him “flabbergasted”. Sir Cliff told Mr Justice Mann, sitting at the High Court: “It changed everything for me, everything. It felt like my life had stopped.“I found it really disturbing. It was obvious for moments, if not days, I was not seen as a human being.”Everything I had lived for seemed to come to nothing.”Sir Cliff, dressed in a navy suit, spent around 90 minutes on the stand, visibly nervous and often, struggling to hear the questions asked of him by Gavin Millar, the BBC’s barrister, at one point admitting: “Rock and roll has not been good for my ears”.He said he preferred to be addressed as Sir Cliff, rather than Mr Richard, occasionally raising a laugh with the odd joke.When he had finished his evidence, he stepped off the stand straight into the arms of Gloria Hunniford, his close friend, and broke down in tears. Sir Cliff Richard broke down in court yesterday as he said he blamed the BBC for the way his name had been “forever tainted”.The 77-year-old singer was giving evidence in his legal action against the corporation for its coverage of the police search at his home following an alleged sex offence involving a minor.He said the BBC’s decision to identify him that day in August 2014 had turned his life upside down, portraying him as a “serious criminal”.“I know I didn’t do it, he (the accuser) knows I didn’t do it, God knows I didn’t do it but unfortunately for me it’s lasted a lot longer than I could have thought,” he said.”It felt as though everything I had worked for during my life – trying to live as honestly and honourably as I could – was being torn apart.”I felt forever tainted. I still do.” Sir Cliff was on holiday with friends in Portugal when he was informed the police had a warrant to search his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire.It left him “a bit shaken” as he had no idea why they were there.He then received a call telling him that a criminal allegation had been made against him dating back to 1985 involving a male who was under 16 and was later “horrified” to be told by a friend in the UK that the BBC was broadcasting footage of the police search. Sir Cliff said that as a consequence of the BBC broadcast he had felt unable to return to his apartment as it felt “contaminated,” describing the experience as worse than being burgled.The singer said he had also been “very disturbed” to see what was being written about him online.“We are totally fallible. We are fodder,” he said.The hearing, which began on Thursday, is due to last ten days.last_img read more

Childline must receive more funding to cope with demand from suicidal children

The open letterCredit:NSPCC The open letter Childline must be given more funding from government, 130 MPs have said in an open letter as the helpline sees demand from suicidal children almost treble. The NSPCC said its helpline is struggling to cope with a growing number of complex cases, a rising number of which come in overnight as children are more likely to have access to tablets and mobile phones. It now offers counselling via email, online chat and via a mobile app but struggles to recruit volunteers to work the unsociable hours when children are increasingly likely to call. Figures from the charity show that the number of sessions for children who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings has risen from 8,835 in 2010-11 to 22,456 in 2016-17, and they now make up almost 10 per cent of the charity’s counselling. Two thirds of counselling sessions about mental and emotional health, self-harm and suicide are now delivered between 5pm and 9am, and one in three counselling sessions about mental health take place over the weekend. In one in every four cases, calls or contacts go unanswered, the charity said, as not enough counsellors are available.The growing number of cases which involve suicidal thoughts also mean that volunteers need extra training to help them deal with the more complex issues they throw up. The letter addressed to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt is signed by Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen as well as MPs including Luciana Berger, Andrew Selous, and Yvette Cooper, as well as Conservative peers Lord Suri of Ealing and Lord Balfe. It calls for money from a £300 million pledge set out in the recently-published Government green paper on children’s mental health to be used to fund the service.”Government must think more widely about where and when children need support in order to address the real mental health crisis our young people face,” the letter says. “The NSPCC urgently needs to increase both the number of available volunteers and to improve and expand the training that they receive. “This will ensure that Childline is equipped to support the more complex mental health needs children are coming to the service with. It surely deserves Government support and investment.” The charity’s annual report for 2016/17 showed that the Department of Education pledged £8m in funding over four years. A Government spokesperson said: “Our plans will transform mental health services for children and young people, including the first ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems.“This will be supported by a new workforce – larger than the entire current workforce – and backed by £300m of additional funding that will also provide significant additional support for all schools.”   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. read more

Fire chief abandoned Grenfell stay put advice ten minutes after hearing pleas

Joanne Smith was the on-call manager on the night of the Grenfell fire  A fire control room manager on the night of the Grenfell Tower blaze ordered “stay put” advice to be abandoned after just ten minutes of hearing frantic phone calls from residents, an inquiry heard.Joanne Smith said that soon after reporting for duty she became “increasingly uncomfortable” that residents were being told over the phone to stay in their homes. The  senior operations manager for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said that her years of experience and the nature and length of the calls from residents were behind the “quick-time” decision to tell everyone to get out. But by the time she arrived at 2.15am the controversial advice, which some families have blamed for the death of their loved ones, had already “substantially failed”. Experts have said that the guidance failed by 1.26am when flames reached the top of the building and the stairwells filled with smoke. In a written statement to the public inquiry into the blaze, Ms Smith said: “I had arrived at Stratford at approximately 2.15am – within 10 to 15 minutes the decision was made to change policy and that decision was mine.” By the time Joanne Smith arrived for duty the ‘stay-put’ advice had already failed Credit:AFP On normal Fire Survival Guidance calls the firefighters have made contact with those trapped within ten minutes, she told the hearing, but some of the residents had been on the line for 45 minutes. Ms Smith was asked who, in practice, would normally be responsible for making the decision to alter advice to caller and said that, to her knowledge, the night of Grenfell was the first time such a decision had been made.It was a decision taken by her, in the control room, and agreed with those in charge on the ground, she said.She added: “The decision was made owing to a variety of factors – the duration of calls, the content of the calls and the resources available.”These factors and my years of experience formed the basis of my rationale and coincided with the recommendations following the Lakanal fire in 2009 in which certain questions were asked by the CROs (control room operators) regarding smoke and fire levels. “The information that was fed back by the CROs from residents and the conditions they were in led me to believe that they had no way of waiting to be rescued.”Once the decision was made, the new advice was passed to fire personnel on the ground and residents on emergency calls. Joanne Smith was the on-call manager on the night of the Grenfell fire  Residents were advised to ‘get out, hold hands and get wet towels to put around themselves’, and control room operators were told they may need to adopt more “forceful and blunt language” to emphasise the necessity of evacuation.Phone operator BT was also made aware of the change so it could advise residents what to do.Ms Smith said from 2.30am until 4am the influx of calls was “utterly relentless”, adding: “There were tears. Lots and lots of tears.”Looking around, I can only describe the staff as looking broken.” Ms Smith, who was on call manager on the night, was paged at 1.15am and as she was on phone to the Control Room, which was temporarily based in Stratford because of maintenance work in their usual office in Merton, she heard it was developing rapidly and told colleagues she was on her way.  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. By the time Joanne Smith arrived for duty the 'stay-put' advice had already failed  She said they were “incredibly worried” the building could collapse, and made a “collective decision” not to watch any coverage of the fire on television.She said: “This was a conscious decision to remain objective to the job in hand.”The last thing we wanted to do was to cause panic or distress to the staff members who were still talking to residents inside the flats whilst the building burned.”A total of 344 calls relating to the Grenfell Tower fire were received by control room operators, a log seen by the inquiry showed. The inquiry was adjourned until Thursday, when Ms Smith will continue  with her evidence. read more