Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love made news Monday when he endorsed Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA MVP race. Now, normally that wouldn’t be much of a story — we’ve made the case for Westbrook ourselves — except for one not-so-tiny detail: Love picked Westbrook over his own teammate, LeBron James.Asked to choose between Westbrook (Love’s old college teammate at UCLA) and James by Dan Patrick on his eponymous radio show, Love said:They’re both having an MVP-type season, but I’m going to go with Russell Westbrook because … every single night you’re looking at his stat sheet, they’re fighting for a playoff spot, with Serge Ibaka going down now, Kevin Durant potentially being out the rest of the year and him still going out there and fighting for his team, and winning, and fighting for that seventh or eighth spot in the playoffs. … I think Russ is arguably having the better season.The supposed slight between teammates was later downplayed by James (“Kevin has his own opinion of who he believes is the MVP. No one should fault him for that.”). But to some, it added to the speculation about a growing rift between the two superstars — and what it could mean for Love’s future in Cleveland. If he chooses to, Love can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer.Then again, maybe Love was just following the same rubric that MVP voters have adhered to for over a half-century. Several years ago, Justin Kubatko (then of Basketball-Reference.com) analyzed historical patterns in NBA MVP voting, attempting to create an algorithm that would predict the front-runners for the award in-season. After going through a variety of statistical combinations, he found that four categories had by far the most influence on MVP results: team wins, points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game.That research forms the basis for Basketball-Reference.com’s MVP tracker tool, which currently gives Westbrook about twice as good a shot at the award as James. While James’ team has been better, winning 64 percent of its games — compared with 58 percent for Oklahoma City — Westbrook’s edges over James in points, rebounds and assists per game are traditionally more than enough to offset the difference in team records. The Thunder’s winning percentage would have to drop to 48 percent for Westbrook and James to have the same MVP probability per the Basketball-Reference.com model.(For what it’s worth, the metric also lists Houston’s James Harden and — especially — Golden State’s Stephen Curry as overwhelming MVP favorites, with Curry garnering a 41 percent probability of taking home the hardware. So it’s still unlikely that Westbrook or James will win the award.)In other words, Love isn’t necessarily going out of his way to disrespect James here. Perhaps the homer pick — publicly backing one’s teammate despite evidence to the contrary — is still a customary gesture of solidarity among colleagues. But by picking Westbrook instead, Love was at least highly consistent with the way media members have voted for players since the first MVP was handed out.
Florida 10-113%<1%23%68%18% Iowa 11-030%14%46%>99%20% TeamPlayoff ChancesLose nextWin nextWin outWin out likelihood Utah 8-3<1%<1%<1%<1%89% North Carolina 10-110%<1%17%39%25% Oklahoma 10-164%7%>99%>99%62% Oregon 8-3<1%<1%<1%<1%96% Michigan St. 10-147%<1%61%98%47% Oklahoma St. 10-110%<1%25%25%38% Clemson 11-071%40%77%>99%50% Notre Dame 10-121%<1%49%49%42% Florida State 9-2<1%<1%<1%<1%46% Thanksgiving week: time for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. And college football, too! For many teams, it’ll be their last game of the year. But some are eyeing the College Football Playoff. Thirteen, to be exact.A baker’s dozen teams have more than a 1 percent shot at one of the four playoff spots, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model. For some (Alabama, Clemson), their paths are simple enough: just win out. For others (Ohio State, Baylor), their paths are a chesslike endgame: win the rest of their games and hope for some better-situated team to stumble. And still other teams (Michigan, North Carolina) don’t have a clear line to the playoff: instead they need a messy highway pileup for them to swerve into the mix.The Thanksgiving weekend games are a precursor to the Dec. 5 conference championship matchups, which leaves only two weeks before the College Football Playoff committee makes its final picks. To break down how each of these 13 squads can get in, let’s cluster the teams into five groups according to their playoff chances if they win all their remaining games (including any conference championship game). We’ve grouped them based on their chances if they win out rather than on FiveThirtyEight’s current playoff odds because, at this stage, almost no team can afford to lose, so it’s better to think of playoff odds in the event that they don’t slip up.The odds are presented in our what-if table below: Northwestern 9-2<1%<1%<1%<1%64% Baylor 9-121%<1%43%46%46% Washington St. 8-3<1%<1%<1%<1%33% Toledo 9-1<1%<1%<1%<1%61% Mississippi 8-3<1%<1%<1%<1%49% Navy 9-1<1%<1%1%2%27% Michigan 9-27%<1%15%16%42% Temple 9-2<1%<1%<1%<1%37% Alabama 10-164%29%78%>99%51% Mississippi St. 8-3<1%<1%<1%<1%45% Stanford 9-216%<1%28%52%30% In control of their destiny (> 98 percent): Clemson, Alabama, Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan StateAt FiveThirtyEight we have a policy against labeling any prediction “100 percent.” So, sure, for Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Oklahoma, their chances of making the playoff if they win out are “> 99 percent,” and Michigan State isn’t far behind at 98 percent. But that’s just a formality; these teams are locks if they can prevail over the next two weeks.The No. 1 Tigers1All the rankings I use in this article are the College Football Playoff committee’s. will face South Carolina on Saturday (they have an 86 percent chance of winning) and then UNC in the ACC championship (62 percent shot at victory). Alabama has a tougher lineup: the Iron Bowl rivalry with Auburn (’Bama is a 78 percent favorite) and Florida in the SEC title game if Alabama wins the SEC West. Clemson and Alabama — unlike anyone else — have a little wiggle room should they lose this weekend. A one-loss Tigers team that wins the ACC championship gets into the playoff in 72 percent of the 5,000 simulations we run for our model, and a two-loss Tide team that loses to Auburn but beats Florida gets in 65 percent of the time.Iowa, meanwhile, is one of two undefeated teams remaining in the country. And despite their weak schedule (the one knock against them), if the Hawkeyes win out, our model thinks they are a lock for the playoff. They have a tough test, though, at Nebraska on Friday (the game is a coin flip).Another Big Ten team is in this group: Michigan State. If the Spartans beat Penn State (the Football Power Index says that’s an 80 percent likelihood), they’ll face Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. So if both Big Ten teams win out, that conference final becomes a de facto playoff of its own. Michigan State is just a tad behind the Hawkeyes, with a 98 percent shot at the playoff should the Spartans win out. That Ohio State win was a season-maker for them.The last team fully in control of its destiny, by our model’s reckoning, is Oklahoma. The one-loss Sooners can lock up a playoff spot and win the Big 12 with a win against Oklahoma State (they’re favored even though it’s a road game). But if Oklahoma loses on Saturday, their odds fall to 7 percent, effectively eliminating them.A special case (68 percent): Florida The Gators are an odd duck — to mix our species. The committee docked them for being pushed into overtime by Florida Atlantic, so they fell four spots to No. 12. But look at Florida’s remaining schedule: Florida State on Saturday (with a 52 percent shot of winning) and then someone in the SEC championship, most likely Alabama (we estimate that Florida beats the Tide 31 percent of the time). If the Gators win both games, they’ll finish as a one-loss champion of a strong — if not the strongest — conference. In that scenario, our model puts their odds at 68 percent. Good, but not great. It’s not clear whether Florida winning the SEC with one loss would offset the otherwise harsh grades the Gators have received from the selection committee.A matchup of 50-50 chances (49-52 percent): Notre Dame, StanfordNotre Dame and Stanford face off on Saturday, but even the winner won’t control its own destiny. Both teams are probably left out of the playoff if Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and either Iowa or Michigan State win out; in that case, Notre Dame would very likely miss the playoff even if it beats Stanford, for example.Should the Fighting Irish beat the Cardinal — Notre Dame is the underdog — then their playoff odds rise to 49 percent. Notre Dame fans find it unjust that Oklahoma and Iowa leapfrogged them in the committee’s rankings, especially because the Sooners’ sole loss came against Texas, a team the Irish whooped 38-3. But who ever said the cries of injustice would end with a four-team playoff?On the flip side, should Stanford beat the Irish at home Saturday, which they have a 62 percent shot of doing, and then go on to win the Pac-12 title match over USC or UCLA, they’ll have a 52 percent chance of making the playoff. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ( 46-48 percent): Ohio State, BaylorThe Buckeyes and the Bears get crowned with that hallmark of sound statistical analysis: the shruggie. Both teams have contingent playoff paths — that is, either team getting in is heavily dependent on another team losing. There’s high uncertainty over how the committee will judge them should they win out.Ohio State’s playoff picture is complicated. It has two ways in. The team can still win the Big Ten title, but for the Buckeyes to do so, two things need to happen: (1) The Buckeyes beat Michigan at The Big House — which they’re just 58 percent favorites to do — and (2) Michigan State loses to Penn State (not very likely). Should the one-loss Buckeyes have such good fortune and then go on to beat Iowa to become conference champs, our model gives them a 94 percent shot at being picked for the playoff. On the other hand, if Ohio State merely beats the Wolverines, but can’t compete for the Big Ten title because Michigan State takes its place, then its playoff odds will be 38 percent. Those aren’t great odds; but they’re not terrible either.Baylor, too, has a split path. First, the Bears need to beat TCU on Friday (a prospect that’s little better than a coin flip). But Baylor needs Oklahoma State to win over Oklahoma, too. Then if the Bears beat Texas on Dec. 5, they will be one-loss Big 12 champs. In this scenario, Baylor makes the playoff 74 percent of the time. However, if the Bears win out without winning the Big 12, their odds are only 28 percent. Conference championships matter.Need lots of help (16-39 percent): North Carolina, Oklahoma State, MichiganThis is the group of chaos. Take one-loss UNC, for example. Even if the Tar Heels beat NC State on Saturday (a 64 percent likelihood) and No. 1 Clemson in the ACC championship game, it’s not clear they’ll get into the playoff. The Tar Heels’ playoff chances are 39 percent if they win out, but their chances were better last week. That’s because Ohio State lost and Michigan State is ascendant, and either team is now a better bet to be chosen over UNC. The Tar Heels, even if they should win, might be squeezed out by a one-loss Notre Dame or possibly a one-loss Ohio State that misses the Big Ten title game. Stanford, which ranked five slots ahead of UNC in this week’s rankings, could be another concern.Oklahoma State is an even longer shot. To win the Big 12, it needs to beat Oklahoma and have Baylor lose to TCU or Texas. But even if all that happens, our model gives the Cowboys only a 41 percent shot. In addition to Oklahoma and Baylor, Notre Dame probably needs to lose — that’s because a one-loss Irish team looks like a better bet than a one-loss, Big 12 champion Cowboys team.And then there is Michigan, which needs a lot to break its way. Yes, the Wolverines need to beat the Buckeyes, but Penn State needs to also upset Michigan State and then the Wolverines have to win the Big Ten championship over Iowa. If — and that’s a lot of ifs — all that happens, Michigan (as a two-loss Big Ten champ) has a 68 percent shot at the playoff. On top of winning the conference, Michigan — like all the teams in this final group — probably needs Notre Dame to lose, too.Read more: As The Playoff Nears, Notre Dame Is Running Out Of TimeCORRECTION (Nov. 25, 11:09 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the division that Florida Atlantic’s football team plays in. It plays in the FBS, not FCS. The article has also been updated to make clear that Notre Dame, Stanford, Oklahoma State and North Carolina have more difficult paths to the playoffs than the article originally described. UCLA 8-3<1%<1%<1%1%15% Ohio State 10-125%<1%45%48%51% TCU 9-2<1%<1%<1%<1%50% Playoff chances if they …
Three young Black sisters have resisted the pitfalls of their circumstances to achieve greatness as star athletes and cover models.According to Sports Illustrated Kids, runners Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard are siblings whose goals soar higher than their past tribulations.But the shift wasn’t easy. In 2013, their 17-year-old half-brother died from gunfire, and the family wound up in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, New York, with their mother, Tonia Handy, in Sept. 2015. Upon their arrival, they faced an infestation of vermin that Handy had to exterminate herself.However, after overcoming such adversity, the girls found their way to an indoor track meet last winter. Coached by Jean Bell as members of the Jeuness Track Club, it was then that their love of racing blossomed.The sisters have achieved astonishing results as runners and have now set their sights even higher. Eleven-year-old Tai and 10-year-old Rainn each qualified in the 4×400 relay at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games in 2015, where they helped lead their team to a gold medal. This past year, Rainn also earned gold in the 3,000 meters.Tai said she would like to qualify for the Junior Olympics each year, and Rainn hopes to go back to the AAU Games.“I plan to go to the Olympics one day in [a distance race],” Tai said. “My track and field goals are just to keep getting emotionally and physically stronger. It’s all about what’s inside, in your mind.”Not to be outdone, youngest sister Brooke, 9, also seeks to improve her endurance.“My goals are to get faster as a runner and jump higher,” she said. “For college, I would want to stay nearby, so I can see how the team’s doing.”The Sheppard sisters (Sports Illustrated Kids)But athletics is not the only area where the Sheppard sisters shine. Handy said they earn stellar grades, too. Because of that, she initially had reservations about her daughters joining the team.“The first thing I thought about was, ‘Will their education be interrupted?’” she said. “Because these are great kids. When it comes to schoolwork, they are No. 1. They were never into sports, so I was kind of leery, but [the parents and coaches] were so welcoming.”That proved not to be a problem. The girls all earn A’s and B’s in their classes, and their training has led them to branch out into other activities, including participating in a school performance of “Alice in Wonderland.” The Sheppard sisters pose with coach Jean Bell and her sister, fellow coach Karel Lancaster (Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated Kids)
This is Significant Digits, your daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. With Walt Hickey away on vacation — and with the third round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament getting underway tonight — I’m hijacking SigDig today and tomorrow in the name of March Madness. Enjoy! 6 ACC schoolsSix schools in the Sweet 16 — Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame and Syracuse — hail from the Atlantic Coast Conference, setting a record (at least, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985). The ACC had tied the previous record of five last season, so at this rate they’ll claim all 16 slots by 2026. [USA Today]24.5 pointsIn their two NCAA Tournament wins thus far, Villanova has outscored foes by 49 combined points, or 24.5 per game — more than any other team in the Sweet 16 field. Granted, one of those games was against 15th-seeded UNC Asheville, but the Wildcats also beat No. 7 seed Iowa by 19 and have exceeded the scoring margin our Elo ratings would expect by 11.8 points per contest. They’ll try to keep that hot streak going tonight against Miami. [Sports-Reference.com]63 pointsOklahoma’s Buddy Hield has enjoyed a season for the ages this year, and it’s carrying over into the NCAA Tournament, where he’s scored a tourney-best 63 points (31.5 per game) on a scorching 73.2 true shooting percentage. But maybe it’s best for the Sooners if Hield doesn’t keep that average up against Texas A&M tonight — Oklahoma was 4-5 in conference play this season when Hield scored 30 or more points, and 8-1 when the Sooner scoring attack was more balanced. [Sports-Reference.com]5 startersEach basketball team has five starters, and in the case of Maryland’s game against Kansas tonight, each Terrapin starter will be taller than the Jayhawk lined up across from him at tip-off. As a team, Maryland has the fourth-biggest roster in the nation, with an average height a good inch and a half taller than Kansas. But will it matter against the skilled Jayhawks? Our model says “probably not” — we’ve got Kansas favored with a 73 percent probability of winning, despite Maryland’s size advantage. [KC Kingdom]109th bestIf defense really does win championships, nobody clued in Oregon or Duke. The combatants in tonight’s late game ranked 43rd and 109th, respectively, in schedule-adjusted defensive efficiency this season, per Ken Pomeroy’s stats. Aside from their 116th-place finish in 2013-14, this year’s Blue Devils have given Coach K more defensive fits than any Duke squad since Pomeroy started crunching numbers 15 seasons ago. [KenPom.com]More than $30 millionWith those aforementioned six entries in the Sweet 16, the ACC stands to make a cool $30 million, at least, from an NCAA cash pool that rewards conferences when their teams go deep in the tournament. Naturally, none of that money will ever be seen by Brice Johnson, Malcolm Brogdon, Grayson Allen, Angel Rodriguez or any of the other players who powered those teams to the Sweet 16. [ESPN.com]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.If you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @WaltHickey — or to @Neil_Paine, I guess, if you want.CORRECTION (March 24, 5:35 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly described the average height difference between the starters on Kansas and Maryland’s men’s basketball teams. Maryland’s starters are, on average, about an inch and a half taller, not a foot and half.
Within 20 days of the its first game, the Ohio State women’s hockey team has hired former Minnesota Golden Gophers assistant coach Nadine Muzerall as its head coach, announced in the second quarter of the Ohio State football game on Saturday.Muzerall fills a hole left by former coach Jenny Potter who left the program on Aug. 18, just five weeks before the first game and five days before classes began. OSU was 10-25-1 under Potter in 2015-16.“We’ve all heard such good things (about Muzerall),” junior defenseman Dani Sadek said. “She has a winning mindset and I think that’s what this program needs.”The first thing to know about the new Buckeye coach is her connection to the Golden Gophers’ women’s hockey program.Muzerall was on the bench of last year’s Minnesota squad that won the national championship over Boston College. She spent the past five seasons at Minnesota coaching in five national championship games and claiming four championship rings.As a player at Minnesota from 1997-2001, she began her extensive trophy case by collecting two All-American honors in 1998 and 2000. Muzerall was also on the Gophers team that won an AWCHA national championship — women’s hockey was not an NCAA-sanctioned sport until 2000-2001 season — and a 2001 Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference championship.Muzerall still holds the all-time goals record for Minnesota women’s hockey with 139 career goals. She also leads the all-time goals per game mark with 1.08. She ranks third all-time in career points with 235.The Ontario, Canada, native was the first women’s hockey player inducted into the hall of fame at the university. She is still the youngest athlete to be inducted into Minnesota’s hall of fame.Muzerall is OSU’s third coach in as many years following Porter’s departure and the resignation of former coach Nate Handrahan amidst sexual harassment allegations.OSU opens the season on Friday, Sept. 30, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The Ohio State women’s volleyball team’s run in the NCAA tournament was cut short by a devastating loss Saturday night. The NCAA Tournament began Friday night when the Buckeyes faced Cincinnati in the first round. Behind a team-high 17.5 points from junior Katie Dull, the Buckeyes defeated Cincinnati 3-1 to advance to the second round. In the first set, two kills from freshman Emily Danks and two ace serves from junior Susan Halverson brought the Buckeyes out of a 16-12 deficit. Two Dull kills sealed the first game 25-20 for the Buckeyes.The second game had quite a different rhythm as the Buckeyes fell 25-16. The Buckeyes felt the pressure and came back in the third 25-15 and a Dull kill in the fourth ended the game 25-23 and the match 3-1. The victory was short-lived as the team was focused on its next task, No. 9 California, who defeated Lipscomb earlier in the night. Both coach Geoff Carlston and Dull were excited to get the opportunity to play California on Saturday. “First of all, I thought it was a great match,” Carlston said. “You are going crazy through it but in the end, to be able to win a match like that against a great team is neat.”Excitement immediately turned to focus.The Buckeyes met California in St. John Arena on Saturday night. The Buckeyes were slow to start in the first and trailed the entire game, falling 25-13. Seniors Ashley Hughes and Kristen Dozier exploded in the second game, opening a run early. Ohio State edged California 25-18, and tied the match 1-1.The third game was nothing short of a nail-biter. With 13 ties and four lead changes, the Buckeyes battle ended just short, 25-23. California held the lead throughout the fourth game. The Buckeyes only trailed by as many as eight points in the game, but fought back to stay within three points.The Buckeyes fell 25-20 in the fourth and 3-1 in the match. Carlston credited the players for their success just as much as the players credited the coaching staff for believing in them. “We knew we had a good team and we had something to prove,” Carlston said. “More than that, the coaching staff believed in us so every day. We came in determined to do something good with this season.”Good is an understatement. The Buckeyes finished last season 15-20 overall. This season they finished 25-11 overall and received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes will have to say goodbye to three seniors this year, Kristen Dozier, Ashley Hughes, and Chelsea Noble. The team recognizes them for all they have given to the season and the program as they look to the future. “This year was our year to prove to the Big Ten that we are back on track and we are who we are,” sophomore Kelli Barhorst said. “We are Ohio State. We are looking forward to building on it next year.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) is run down by Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso as he scrambles toward the sideline during first-quarter action at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland Oct. 3.Credit: Courtesy of MCTIn 1996 the Cleveland Browns were forcefully relocated to Baltimore and renamed the Ravens by owner Art Modell, also known as Cleveland’s most hated man, save for, perhaps, LeBron James.In 1999 the NFL held true to its promise of bringing football back to Cleveland and the Browns returned as an expansion team.Since then, the Ravens have gone on to win two Super Bowls while the Browns have managed a whopping one playoff appearance, of which the team lost in the first round.During the time since that 1999 season the Ravens have fielded 13 starting quarterbacks. While still high, that number pales in comparison to Cleveland’s 19 signal callers in said period.Over that time, only one quarterback has started all 16 games in a single season for Cleveland: Tim Couch during the 2001 campaign. That year also marked one of only three times the Browns finished a year 7-9 or better. The other two times you ask? In 2002, when Couch started 14 games and 2007, when Derek Anderson started 15. Anderson got the nod halfway through the season opener.The biggest difference between the old Browns (Baltimore) and the new Browns (Cleveland) is stability at the quarterback position. The Ravens have had a quarterback start all 16 games seven times since 1999, including five straight seasons out of their current quarterback, Joe Flacco.It is time for the Browns to commit, and that can’t happen if they hire a new coach and draft a new “quarterback of the future” every few years.Cleveland has three options at the position right now. It can ride it out with 29-year-old second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has shown flashes but may be too far away from stardom considering his old-age. The Browns could wait out the rest of the season with Weeden, then fully commit to the currently injured but promising Brian Hoyer.Or they could draft a quarterback in 2014.Some might argue they could pick up a free agent like Matt Flynn, but a player who has failed to capitalize on the QB situations in Seattle and Oakland has to have some issues. Keeping Weeden, waiting for Hoyer or signing Flynn are the only viable options in Cleveland, and they must pick one right away in order to have any chance at stability.For me, the best choice is Hoyer. Weeden has talent, but he has a knack for playing game to game, there is no consistency so far, plus he is nearly 30. Hoyer is two years younger and spent three seasons learning under Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. While he has made a grand total of two starts in his Cleveland career, Hoyer won both of them and provided hope for a fan base that has been searching for a spark for nearly two decades.In past seasons I might choose the “draft a new guy” option, but I do not see anyone in the upcoming draft that I would commit to from day one, and that is what Cleveland has to do.No more quarterback battles in training camp. No more drafting of a Couch or a Brady Quinn, no more gambles on a too-old rookie like Weeden. It’s time for Cleveland to pick a player, give him the job and stick with him through thick and thin.Without stability the Browns will continue to be one of the laughing-stocks of the NFL, and the blame can only be placed on themselves.
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer made his weekly appearance on the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday afternoon and discussed the improved play of the offensive line, the emergence of sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott and his comfort level with the team thus far.The Buckeyes are 3-1 on the season following a 50-28 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday night. Meyer said after Saturday’s win over Cincinnati his offensive line has “crossed the barrier” and added he believes the offense has developed depth and more of an identity. He named redshirt-junior Chase Farris as someone who has improved and is earning playing time on the offensive line. He said that with the return of senior tight end Jeff Heuerman from injury to go along with the improved line play that the Buckeyes have more of an offensive identity now. Meyer said he believes the performance of Elliott is a product of better offensive line play. Meyer said the running back position as a unit is the hardest working group on the team. He gave credit to running backs coach Stan Drayton and said Elliott is among the top two or three hardest workers on the team. He said after evaluating the pass defense, he doesn’t think there is a lack of talent, rather a lack of execution. He said young corners in the secondary simply need to play better, singling out redshirt-freshmen Gareon Conley and Eli Apple as players who need to improve. Meyer said his comfort level with his team is night and day from where it was week one against Navy. He said the biggest challenge for the Buckeyes going into Saturday’s game against Maryland will be slowing down the Terrapin offensive skill players. Meyer added that Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown will greatly test OSU as he is the leading passer and rusher for Maryland.The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday at noon at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md.
Ohio State freshman defensive end Chase Young (2) sacks Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe and forces a fumble during the Ohio State-Maryland game on Oct. 7. Ohio State won 62-14. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThere was a case to be made that Ohio State’s defensive end depth in 2017 was as strong as any in college football. It could even have been the best of the past several seasons.It not only had the 2016 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in Tyquan Lewis, but also the 2017 winner in Nick Bosa, as well as future NFL draft selections Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard. Waiting behind the four starters were a pair of former top defensive end prospects in five-star freshman Chase Young and four-star redshirt freshman Jonathon Cooper, both of whom spelled the starters when needed.That depth was envious in 2017. It will not be there in 2018.Ohio State lost Hubbard to the draft while Holmes and Lewis both graduated, leaving Bosa, Young and Cooper as the only returning players at defensive end.“We’ll find some guys to play with them,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said after the Cotton Bowl. “We’ll make some changes. We’ll make sure those guys have a chance to be fresh. We’re a long ways away from that, but I think we’ll be OK.”The concern with Ohio State’s defensive end group will not come from the talent present. Bosa and Young could be a dynamic pairing at the top, potentially the most explosive duo in college football, if the talent they have shown in the past continues in 2018. Cooper will present the Buckeyes with a strong third option in the rotation.And even though Young and Cooper have only part of one season full of garbage time minutes under their belts, they both feel ready to step into larger roles in the 2018 season.“I think we were prepared right now,” Young said after the Cotton Bowl. “But even this spring and this winter and the summer, it’s going to get us, and after all three of those [seasons], man, I think we going to be there. Just watch out.”The depth from there takes a bit of a hit and will remain questionable heading into the season.Since the bowl game in December, Ohio State has a clearer vision of who will be able to provide backup to next year’s starters. The Buckeyes brought in defensive end recruits four-star Tyreke Smith, four-star Tyler Friday and three-star Alex Williams. However, Friday will be making the change from defensive tackle to end while Williams might get a shot at playing tight end in college.Even with the recruits coming in, it seems unlikely any of them will have extended roles. None are as highly regarded as Young coming out of high school. Young appeared in 10 games and had 3.5 sacks while Cooper played in nine games.Still, that playing time proved valuable for the pair. It was given chances to play against collegiate competition — though almost always toward the end of blowouts. Bosa remembers that even when the game was not on the line, the playing time was important for his own development.“My freshman year, I was able to play a decent amount,” Bosa said. “Just get that big game experience. Just get used to the speed of the game. It’s a lot different than high school and you just learn a lot when you actually get in there, you can’t really replicate it in practice.”The recruits could be thrust into playing time due to the lack of depth, but none are expected to have Young’s impact. He demonstrated speed and elusiveness during his freshman season that has convinced the Buckeyes he will be a force when he steps into a starting role for Ohio State.Cooper’s name often gets lost in the shuffle — overlooked in favor of Bosa and Young — when looking ahead to 2018. Cooper did not have as much impactful playing time as Young in 2017 and had just two sacks. But the players all believe he has the chance to be another top option for the Buckeyes when they need relief.“If you name me and Nick, you’ve got to name Coop too,” Young said after the Cotton Bowl. “Coop, his motor is unreal and I don’t think guys have seen a lot of him this year, but like I said with [defensive tackle] Davon Hamilton, you going to see a lot of him next year, you going to see what he brings to the table.”Ohio State is going to have to deal with a lack of depth, but there is still plenty of talent at defensive end. With Young, Bosa and Cooper, the Buckeyes have a formidable trio that should present challenges to opposing offensive lines, just like they did in 2017.“I think it could be the best pass-rushing unit ever,” Bosa said on Jan. 19. “I think it could be a step up from last year just because they’ve really set the bar for us and we’re going to enhance it and just so much talent on this D-line right now, even though we’re young. Some of the best talent that I’ve ever seen, so it’s going to be really good once we get all the chemistry together.”
Ohio State freshman midfielder Talani Barnett (4) scores a goal off a header in the second half of the game against Iowa on Sept. 27. Ohio State won 2-0. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s soccer team (6-4, 3-1 Big Ten) extended its three-game winning streak Thursday, prevailing 2-0 over Iowa (5-5-2, 1-3-1 Big Ten) at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr continued her scoreless streak, recording four saves against the Hawkeyes for the fifth shutout of the season. In the past three games, she has recorded 16 saves, bringing her total to 42 saves in nine games this season. Ohio State has not won a game without a Kerr clean sheet.Freshmen defender/midfielder Talani Barnett notched the Buckeyes first goal of the night on a header off a corner kick with the assist by sophomore defender Izzy RodriguezRodriguez was not done. She scored the second and final goal of the match on a penalty kick late in the match. “I think our performance was pretty good,” Rodriguez said. “We took advantage of the moments we had and were just going to have to get better for Sunday.”The Buckeyes came off a victorious weekend prior to the match, taking down Illinois and No. 21 Northwestern with two consecutive shutouts. After three consecutive wins, head coach Lori Walker-Hock said she is glad that the team gets to play at home this weekend. “We’ve been on the road so much that there’s a great energy about the team,” Walker-Hock said. “I thought they came out with the right energy, we really pinned Iowa in, got to the end line a ton of times and created a bunch of corners, so we figured out a way to win.”Ohio State was also able to hold a 4-2 advantage over the Hawkeyes in corner kicks in the first half. The Buckeyes return to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to play Nebraska on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.