Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon said Wednesday he doesn’t think he has a drinking problem.Blackmon spoke with reporters during an 18-minute news conference following a Sunday morning DUI arrest, which was his second in 20 months.“First off, I want to openly apologize to Gene (Smith, general manager) and Mr. (Shad) Khan and his family, coach (Mike) Mularkey, the whole organization, teammates, everyone that I, with my poor judgment over the weekend, that I brought bad press to,” he said.“I just want to apologize for that and just let people know that it’s not who I am, that’s not who I’m going to be.”Blackmon said the incident resulted from putting himself in a bad situation. Smith pointed out a common issue for athletes: who you hang out with may not actually be looking out for your best interest.“There are a lot of people that sometimes you associate with that don’t have the same goals you have,” Smith said. “You’ve got to say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to do things in a different way. I can’t keep doing this. This is going to take me down the wrong path and I’ve got to change.’ I think that’s what he’s got to do. I’ve expressed that him.”Blackmon said he plans to stop drinking.“People are going to think what they are going to think. Words are words. It’s my actions that are going to have to show,” Blackmon said.Source: Chicagotribune.com
How can the 2007 Patriots be the best NFL team ever when they didn’t even win the Super Bowl? Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Sept. 22, 2015), Nate Silver joins for a special one-on-one discussion with Chadwick Matlin (Neil Paine and Kate Fagan are out of town). Nate and Chad talk about a Boston University report that raised an alarm about long-term brain injury in NFL players and what it says about sample size. Then, Nate offers a defense of Elo, the power rating we use at FiveThirtyEight to rank teams and athletes in nearly every sport. What is Elo? How does it work? Are the 2007 New England Patriots really the best NFL team of all time despite not winning the Super Bowl?And to close out the show, a Significant Digit on a new accomplishment by U.S. soccer midfielder Carli Lloyd.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Below is a video excerpt and links to some of what we discussed on the show:Concussion watch: ESPN’s list of injuries in the NFL.The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University announced that 87 out of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains for testing after their deaths tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).The 2007 Patriots have the highest Elo rating of any team in the history of the NFL.Significant Digit: 5 x 5. Carli Lloyd’s hat trick in Sunday’s U.S. women’s national team win over Haiti makes her the fifth American with five international hat tricks. Hot Takedown More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
As things stand coming out of the All-Star break, the Warriors will probably catch Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls, which own the record of 72 wins, and are a little better than a coin flip to pass them.Last time we checked in on Golden State’s run to 73 was back in December, when the model gave the Warriors a 54 percent chance of getting at least 72 wins and a 44.1 percent chance of at least 73. A little more than two months later, the Warriors are 48-4 and those chances are 69.8 percent to hit 72 and an even 54 percent to reach 73. From where we sit, at least, the Warriors now appear likely to break the ’96 Bulls’ record. WINSSIMSCHANCE OF EXACTLY THIS MANY WINSCHANCE OF AT LEAST THIS MANY WINS 57880.299.9 593940.899.3 64530.199.9 72785715.769.8 68631712.631.2 591<0.1%100.0% 7112182.43.3 7028075.68.9 676341.398.9 6223724.794.0 64502210.082.2 611<0.1>99.9 75575411.520.9 582030.499.7 The Warriors are shooting 46.3 percent from three on “wide open” (defender more than 6 feet away) threes, best in the league. They also lead the league in “open” threes at 41 percent and “tight” coverage threes at 37.3 percent. They do fall to fourth in “very tight” threes (36.1 percent) but have taken only 36 of those all season. Curry’s 646 3-point attempts last season were more than those Miller and Bird seasons combined — and he’s on pace to demolish that number this year. 6321<0.1>99.9 7632076.49.3 782430.50.5 50,000 CARM-Elo simulations of the Spurs’ season with data through Feb. 18Before Thursday night’s loss, the Spurs’ chance for 70 wins was 19.4 percent. With the loss, it fell to 8.9 — still absurdly high, but well back of the Warriors.Andrew Flowers and Jay Boice contributed research. 723790.80.9 According to nbaminer.com, Curry has scored 10 straight points for his team 10 times, the most in the league (James Harden is second with nine); he’s scored 15 straight team points three times (Harden is second again, two) and 20 straight once (only Paul George has also done that this season). Curry has scored five straight unanswered points 55 times (Harden is second with 47, followed by George and Klay Thompson at 30).2Reggie Jackson is the only player to score 15 unanswered points this season. Only three players have done it since the 1996-7 season — Jackson this year, Jamal Crawford in 2013-14 and Brandon Jennings in 2012-13.Probably the most alarming thing about the Warriors this season is how thoroughly they are outpacing the Spurs, another omega-level team stalking around the league. Also according to nbaminer.com, the Warriors’ average first-quarter margin is +6.04. The Spurs are second at +2.98. The Spurs remain ahead of the Warriors on the overall marks, +12.7 to +12.5, but this difference is more than accounted for in the fourth quarter, where the Warriors are -0.12 and the Spurs are an NBA-best +2.56. The Warriors’ average margin per overtime period is +4.0, best in the league.And here’s the same display of possible records we generated for the Warriors above, but for the Spurs. 71599612.081.7 73855917.154.0 67710514.245.4 50,000 CARM-Elo simulations of the Warriors’ season with data through Feb. 18 5511<0.1100.0 74803116.136.9 542<0.1100.0 (While we’re digging out old charts, get a load of Draymond in these.) 73680.10.1 If the Warriors completely gave up the 3-pointer and shot none of them per game from this point forward, the Timberwolves, who take the fewest threes per game, would need 50 games to catch up in attempts and 83 games to catch up in makes, pulling even right around the 137th game of the season. Steph Curry is 11 for 24 on threes from 30 feet or more, according to nbawowy.com. Six of those shots (and one of the makes) were from beyond half court, meaning he’s 10 for 18 between 30 feet and the center line. (The rest of the Warriors are 1 for 14 from 30-plus.) Consider this a reminder that Ben Morris dug into Steph’s imperious shot selection in December. 7712242.52.9 651380.399.8 625<0.1>99.9 6925855.294.9 In order to match the best 3-point-percentage season of Reggie Miller’s career (42.9 percent), Steph Curry (45.4 percent from three on 10.8 per game) would have to miss 31 straight threes; to match Larry Bird’s best (42.7 percent) he’d need to miss 34 straight; to match LeBron’s mark this season (27.4 percent) he would have to miss 354 straight 3-point shots. 66715314.359.7 Oh, here’s a scatter plot of 3-point attempts vs. 3-point percentage since the 1979-80 season, the first year of the 3-pointer: 532<0.1100.0 This foolishness: The Warriors create 70.4 points per game through assists. The rest of the league has a fairly linear progression from the bottom on up — the Lakers are the worst, at 43.2, and the figure creeps up team by team until it stops with the Hawks, in second place, at 60.3. That isn’t adjusted for tempo (the Warriors play at the second-fastest pace in the league), but the Dubs are also comfortably in first in percentage of passes that are assists, are secondary assists or lead to free throws. 6114502.996.9 WINSSIMSCHANCE OF EXACTLY THIS MANY WINSCHANCE OF AT LEAST THIS MANY WINS 6335447.189.3 65622812.572.1 608091.698.5 56360.1100.0 7040088.089.8 Our colleagues at ESPN Stats & Info once again have a less optimistic outlook, today giving the Warriors a 37 percent chance of hitting 73 or more wins. The explanation for the difference in the two models is the same as it was in December, when we were also more bullish than our colleagues: We devised a different rating system, called CARM-Elo, which allows good (or bad) runs of play in the simulations to inform a team’s simulated strength through the rest of the simulated season. Basically, this means that it allows for extreme performance to be reflected in the results, and the Warriors are certainly extreme.Still, all of the back-and-forth over exactly how good the Warriors are is more than a little backward. Any serious debate over whether Golden State is an all-time team dried up months ago; all that’s left now is the dreary accounting of decimal points next to the team’s name. Screw that. NBA nerds slapfighting over some grandiose meaning of the Warriors is boring — it’s the spectacle that matters, the crossovers and no-looks and nonsense transition threes, and how those feats of skill translate to the stat sheet. That in mind, here’s a bunch of Warriors facts aimed at appreciating the wild mess they’re accomplishing this season, rather than simply measuring it.The Warriors would have to miss their next 545 3-pointers to bring their team mark of 42.4 percent down to the level of the league-worst Lakers, at 31.5 percent. 6813682.797.7 663140.699.6 521<0.1%100.0% 601<0.1>99.9 6947919.618.5 Remember that two-month stretch in the summer of 2009 when Steph Curry might have gone to the Knicks, before Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni went around telling anyone who would stand still long enough to hear it exactly why Curry would be a superstar? And remember how disappointing it was, then, when Curry landed on a Warriors team that didn’t use him at all in the way fans dreamed he might be used by the Pringles ‘stache? Well, Curry found his way into the seven-seconds-or-less offense anyway. By NBA.com’s count (which can lag a game or two behind), the Warriors have taken 299 threes in the first seven seconds of the shot clock and made 48.5 percent of them. The next closest by percentage is Indiana, at 42.5 on 167 attempts; Houston, first in attempts with 301 (in four more games than Golden State) has made 38.9 percent of its own; and the Thunder have found a way to make just 31.6 percent on 171 attempts. On all field goals in the seven-seconds-or-less window,1NBA.com doesn’t have free-throw data for these, for some reason. the Warriors have a 68 percent effective field-goal percentage — the next closest is the Cavs, at 63.4 percent. The Knicks, meanwhile, are last in the league at 51.4 percent.
Coach Jim Foster usually attributed his team’s struggles during conference play to a lack of commitment to defense. Now, in the midst of an impressive 11-game winning streak and an upcoming game against top-seeded Tennessee in the Sweet 16, his team’s commitment to its play on the defensive end has been as key a factor as any. “I think we realize … how good we can be if we play (defense) really well, and then that opens up everything else,” guard Samantha Prahalis said after OSU’s second-round win against fifth-seeded Georgia Tech on Monday. Heading into that game, the Buckeyes were allowing opponents to shoot just 37.8 percent from the floor. During the rough patch of the season where the team lost nine of 15 games, its defense was allowing teams to shoot at a 44.7 percent clip in the losses. In contrast, OSU is shooting 45.6 percent from the field — good for 11th in the country. Its shooting numbers are thanks largely in part to Jantel Lavender, who accounted for 28.8 percent of her team’s field goal attempts while shooting 54.4 percent before Monday’s tournament win. The lowest point of the team’s season came Feb. 6, when the team suffered a 74-68 loss to conference foe Northwestern. It was the team’s ninth loss in 15 contests, and the psychological low point for Foster and his players. After that game, Foster mentioned how disappointed he was in his team’s lack of will, especially defensively. “We let them do what they wanted to do and needed to do, and we didn’t fight through it,” he said. “We aren’t a team that fights through adversity, and that’s how you win games. “Basketball is a game of stops. … In all of these games, there is a point where we just don’t get stops.” He went on to say that although his team was good offensively, it would not turn things around until it did a better job of guarding opponents. And now it has. During its current 11-game winning streak, OSU has clamped down defensively by only allowing opponents to shoot 36.8 percent — a nearly 8 percent decrease from its nine losses between Dec. 11 and Feb. 6. The team’s improved defense has allowed it to pick back up where it left off early in the season when it was ranked as high as No. 6 nationally. Accompanying the 11-game winning streak is a new type of self-confidence that was absent in conference play. “Our confidence level kind of boosted when we won our seventh game, eighth game, ninth, 10th,” Lavender said after her team’s first-round win against Central Florida on Saturday. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We realize who we are now, and everyone’s playing their role and they’re playing their role well.” The Buckeyes will play the Lady Volunteers, led by heralded coach Pat Summitt, in the Sweet 16 at noon Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Tennessee shoots 47 percent from the floor, good for sixth in the country, and likely is the toughest team the Buckeyes have faced since squaring off against UConn, losing, 81-50, on Dec. 19 in the midst of the Huskies’ all-time record winning streak of 90.
Here are five pressing questions regarding No. 15-ranked Ohio State football (1-0) as it prepares for its Week 2 matchup against the Toledo Rockets (1-0), which opened its season with a 58-22 win against New Hampshire of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision. 1. Four previously-suspended players return for the game against the Toledo. What role will these players have in the game? Ohio State coach Luke Fickell confirmed Tuesday that junior running back Jordan Hall, sophomore defensive back Corey Brown, junior defensive back Travis Howard and redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting will be available for Saturday’s game. Expect each of the players to see game action, but don’t expect them to play a significant role in the contest. Not in the first half, anyway. For starters, OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel said Wednesday that sophomore Carlos Hyde will start Saturday’s game. Hyde rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries during the Buckeyes’ 42-0 win against Akron. Redshirt freshman Rod Smith also rushed for 74 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown. Considering all that, Hall might find himself as OSU’s No. 3 running back at the start of this weekend’s game. In attempting to earn his job back, Hall will also be competing with sophomore Jaamal Berry who, according to Tressel, is 100 percent recovered from a hamstring injury and will see an increased role as the weeks pass. Sophomore defensive back Dominic Clarke isn’t likely to relinquish the starting job to Howard, either. “(Clarke) competes everyday,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. “I think he’s a great player. He got an opportunity on Saturday and took advantage of it.” The four previously-suspended players will take the field on Saturday, but it might not be early and it might not be for extended periods of time. Keep in mind that these players are returning from punishments, not injuries. They’ll have to earn their jobs back. 2. Who is Toledo and how do they compare with Akron? Both Toledo and Akron are members of the Mid-American Conference, but that’s about all they have in common. The Rockets are 10-time MAC champions and are expected to be at or near the top of the conference again in 2011. Toledo also returns 22 seniors and is looking to extend its streak of five consecutive seasons with a win against a team from an automatic BCS qualifier conference. Don’t expect this Rockets squad to be awed and intimidated by the sight of a sold-out Ohio Stadium either — members of this team have enjoyed road victories at Michigan in 2008 and at Purdue last season. 3. Which Toledo players could hurt OSU on Saturday? Let’s start with Rockets’ senior running back Adonis Thomas. Thomas rushed for 115 yards and one touchdown on just 15 carries last weekend against New Hampshire. There’s a tendency to roll your eyes when you hear that an FBS player put big numbers up against an FCS team, but he did what you’d expect a talented player to do against less-skilled players. Thomas also rushed for 1,098 yards in 2010 and earned second-team All-MAC honors. He is legitimate talent at running back that could burn the Buckeyes if they don’t give him his due respect. The most dynamic player on Toledo’s roster is junior Eric Page, a dual threat at both wide receiver and kick returner. Page, whose name is already littered throughout Toledo’s football record book, caught more than 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Rockets while also grabbing 16 touchdown receptions in his 26-game career. As a kick returner, Page has collected 1,389 yards, three touchdowns and averages 28.9 yards per return in his career. The Buckeyes could have their hands full with both Thomas and Page on Saturday. 4. Who is the most important OSU player or coach going into the Toledo game? Luke Fickell. Toledo is a talented team that travels well and, with a trip to play the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on the horizon for the Buckeyes, this weekend’s contest is a classic “look ahead” game. Fickell will need to keep OSU focused its present task — beating a Toledo team that it should beat. The Buckeyes are bigger, faster and stronger than the Rockets. The difference between a blowout win, a tight game or a loss will be how focused Fickell has his team. “We’re definitely nit-picking,” Fickell said at a Tuesday press conference. “We’re definitely going to make sure (our) guys know we’re never satisfied with where we are. We have to find ways to get better.” 5. Will Toledo be the first in-state opponent to beat OSU in 90 years? The Buckeyes’ last lost to an in-state opponent in 1921 when Oberlin College upended OSU, 7-6. Toledo will have a better chance of ending OSU’s unbeaten streak against in-state rivals than Akron did, but by game’s end, it won’t have accomplished the feat. Toledo has the athletes and the experience to make a game of it at the ‘Shoe this weekend, but do not expect an upset win. OSU is still too focused on proving its doubters wrong — one win against Akron won’t change that. Final prediction: Ohio State 49-10 Toledo
They may be nothing quite like sweeping a mid-season tournament to keep momentum rolling for the Ohio State women’s volleyball team.OSU (5-1) took the Maryland Invitational tournament by storm, defeating both Binghamton and Seton Hall, 3-0, before clinching a tournament sweep in come-from-behind fashion by defeating Maryland, 3-2, on Saturday. While the Buckeyes swept their first two matches over the weekend, they struggled early in its third match against Maryland. The Terrapins took the first two sets, but the Buckeyes fought back and eventually won.“After the (first) game, everyone was just kind of frustrated, but we wanted to stay optimistic and be fired up,” senior outside hitter Emily Danks said. “We realized that we are in this for the long haul and that this game wasn’t over. We weren’t going to go down without a fight.”OSU coach Geoff Carlston said he understood that trailing on the road isn’t an easy obstacle to overcome. So, when his team refocused its energy in the last three sets, he said he was very proud of the way it handled adversity.“It takes a lot of energy and a lot of concentration to come back down 0-2 on the road,” Carlston said. “It’s not easy to do. I’m very, very happy for our team that we were able to come back.”Danks, senior outside hitter Mari Hole and junior defensive specialist Davionna DiSalvatore were named to the all-tournament team, with Danks being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.“Emily was a stud tonight, an absolute stud,” Carlston said. “Mari also played very well for us tonight. They are our senior leaders. They are the ones who we look to, who the team looks to and they’re vital. If they don’t play or keep their head up, there is no way we come back and win tonight.”Danks and Hole said they were honored by their awards, but gave most of the credit to their teammates.“Oh yeah, it was a huge honor, there were a lot of talented players at this tournament,” Danks said. “I’m so proud of this team, I can’t even tell you. I look around at every player and I wouldn’t pick anyone else to be on my team in terms of talent, leadership and work ethic.”Hole agreed.“It’s always an honor to be recognized,” Hole said. “This is a confidence booster to our team because three of us got recognized, and without our teammates, we wouldn’t have gotten this honor.”Danks had 24 kills to lead all attackers against Maryland, which is a career-best, and contributed three blocks and eight digs. Hole had 13 kills and 13 digs, as she recorded her first double-double of the season.Next weekend, the Buckeyes will compete in the Western Kentucky Tournament, where they will face in-state rival and No. 10 Dayton, along with games against IUPUI and host Western Kentucky.Hole said the team’s 5-1 start gives it confidence for its upcoming tournament and the rest of the season.“We all know that Coach scheduled a tough season because we are such a strong team,” Hole said. “So coming up with such a great start and getting this fifth win is such a confidence booster.”Danks also credited the team’s success because of the Buckeyes’ bench, which consists of sophomore middle blocker Anna Faul and freshman outside hitter Katie Mitchell.“We had great help off the bench, and they set the world on fire when they came into the game,” Danks said. “It just kind of shows how good our team is with so much depth at every position.”
The University of Maryland is the 13th team in the history of the Big Ten Conference. Maryland’s Board of Regents voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the university’s application to the Big Ten, and current conference university presidents assembled for a Monday conference to unanimously approve the school’s admittance. Maryland’s move to the Big Ten will take effect July 1, 2014. Maryland athletics, which bears the nickname “Terrapins,” a kind of turtle, will abandon the Atlantic Coast Conference after nearly six decades of membership. Maryland is expected to negotiate down the ACC’s $50 million exit fee to help facilitate the conference switch. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith welcomed Maryland and its fans to the conference during a Monday press conference at the Fawcett Center. Elsewhere on campus, OSU students are split when it comes to the Big Ten’s latest addition. Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said talks about the school’s move to the Big Ten began to heat up about two weeks ago. The Big Ten move, Loh said, will help stabilize its athletics department’s finances. “This is, today, a watershed moment for Maryland,” Loh said during a Monday press conference at the university’s student union in College Park, Md. “Membership in the Big Ten is in the strategic interest in the University of Maryland. As members … we will be able to ensure the financial stability of (Maryland athletics) for decades to come.” As Loh spoke, he was joined on an elevated platform by coaches from 15 of the university’s 20 athletics teams, as well as athletic director Kevin Anderson, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and university Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, a former OSU president. Smith extended a welcome to the entire University of Maryland community. “We look forward to having you as a member of our family and embracing your rich tradition and everything that you mean to higher education and intercollegiate athletics,” Smith said. “It’s a great move for our conference. When you think about where the landscape is today (and) what is happening in intercollegiate athletics, there is going to be, and, I think, as we move toward the future and years out, there will continue to be some change. Maryland is a great addition to our conference, so we’re looking forward to getting down to the details of trying to deal with the scheduling issues.” Rutgers could be added as the Big Ten’s 14th team Tuesday, according to multiple reports. Smith did not comment on that possibility, however, saying instead, “today is about Maryland.” Delany also declined to comment on the possibility of a Rutgers addition during the press conference in College Park. The president of Maryland since Nov. 1, 2010, Loh spoke of having to face student-athletes after a commission decided to cut teams from the university’s athletic department. Maryland cut seven of its sports programs were cut earlier this year due to a multimillion-dollar deficit, according to a Washington Post report. Men’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming, competitive cheer, women’s water polo, men’s cross country and men’s indoor track and field were the casualties of Maryland’s financial troubles. Loh said he hopes no Maryland president will ever have to cut a Terrapins team again, a sentiment echoed by Anderson. “For me, the most important thing today is that no future Maryland athletic director will ever have to look in young men and young women’s eyes and say that you can’t compete anymore,” Anderson said, “that you can’t wear the colors for this school.” Anderson confirmed that the school would reinstate the commission to determine which of the seven previously-cut sports can be brought back. The positive effect of Big Ten inclusion on the College Park community came to light quickly, but OSU students said they were skeptical of the Maryland addition. Travis Opritza, a first-year in civil engineering, said he has little faith that the Terps will be able to play with the Big Ten’s football elite. “I don’t really think they’re on par with a lot of the Big Ten schools, particularly like Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin,” Opritza said. “There’s a lot of tradition with football in the Big Ten and I don’t know if Maryland will be able to keep pace with that more than anything else.” Nicole Baitt, a third-year in human nutrition, said the continued addition of teams dilutes the Big Ten and sacrifices tradition. “The Big Ten should only be 10 teams. The conference is about tradition. Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan – those are all teams we play every single year so when you start diluting it, there’s more teams to play in the season (and) we’re no longer going to be playing those teams every year and it ruins the tradition of the Big Ten and the competition and rivalries.” The super-conference theory Stated simply, Smith thinks the idea of intercollegiate athletics morphing from a fragmented system of many smaller conferences to a system of significantly fewer larger conferences is possible. A mega- or super-conference featuring upwards of 16 athletic programs could be in play down the line, Smith said. “I can’t project other conferences’ thinking, but as I think through the geography of what’s going up and trying to set yourself up for legitimate opportunities to win championships, and you look at the revenue opportunities, I think you’ll see more expansion down the road by other conference(s) and getting to larger conferences.” A neighbor for Penn State Penn State University received consideration in the Big Ten’s discussion about adding Maryland. PSU was the Big Ten’s first-ever expansion project when it became the 11th member of the conference in 1993. As the new member of an already established conference and the eastern-most school on the Big Ten map, PSU teams lacked rivals. Smith said that by adding Maryland to the fold, PSU will finally have a geographic rival. “We have a member in Penn State University that, in some of our views, needed to have, geographically, some colleagues, and I think Maryland offers that,” Smith said. “They offer a neighbor.” Stagnation elimination Standing pat wasn’t an option for the Big Ten, Smith said. The conference needed to continue expanding and Smith used the Big 12 as the case study to prove his point. Smith said that expansion would continue, both for the Big Ten and elsewhere, and stabilization in the current market place would not have been achieved by holding at 12 members. “I don’t think we could have sat still for that goal, reaching stability,” he said. “We added Nebraska (in 2011) – that was one team. That didn’t cause (other conferences) to add just one team. They added multiple teams. “(Conference) consortiums are going to look at what’s in their own best interest relative to positioning themselves to be the best that they can be, regardless of the Big Ten or regardless of the Big 12, who is sitting at 10 (members).And my thought (the Big 12) probably won’t last a whole lot of years at 10.” Todd Avery contributed to this article.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier (2) and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby (1) make a tackle during the Big Ten Championship Game Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. OSU lost to Michigan State, 34-24. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorINDIANAPOLIS – The Ohio State defense allowed six touchdowns and 603 total yards to the Michigan offense in the two teams’ regular-season finale Nov. 30, but that didn’t cost OSU its chance at a second consecutive undefeated season.One week later, the 34 points it gave up to the Michigan State offense in the Big Ten Championship Game did.That defense allowed 438 total yards, four touchdowns and two field goals Saturday as OSU (12-1, 8-1) fell to the Spartans (12-1, 9-0), 34-24.Although the Buckeyes were able to score 24 consecutive points and put up 374 total yards against a Spartans defense that came into the game allowing just 11.8 points and 237.7 total yards per game, the plays allowed by its own defense proved to be too much.OSU gave up five plays of 20 or more yards to the Spartans on Saturday. Three of those — a 72-yard pass from Michigan State redshirt-sophomore quarterback Connor Cook to redshirt-junior wide receiver Keith Mumphery, a 33-yard pass from Cook to redshirt-junior wide receiver Tony Lippett and a 26-yard run by redshirt-junior running back Jeremy Langford — were touchdowns. A 48-yard pass completion from Cook to sophomore wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. set up the Spartans’ other touchdown, while a 34-yard run by Langford set up one of the Spartans’ field goals.“It is what it is,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said of his unit’s struggles. “Guys got to make plays. We got to put them in situations where they can make plays. There’s no finger-pointing.”For the second straight week, the OSU defense allowed its opponent’s quarterback to have a career-best performance. After giving up 451 passing yards and four touchdowns to Michigan redshirt-junior quarterback Devin Gardner Nov. 30, the Buckeyes allowed Cook to throw for 304 yards.“Disappointed with our pass defense,” coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday’s loss. “We have to get this fixed. We’re going to get back to work.”Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said the defense’s struggles to defend the pass against Michigan State were a result of miscommunication.“We just got to do better,” Shazier said. “Everybody did their best out there, and we just got to rally up and just get ready for the next week, just keep practicing.”That struggling pass defense’s cause was not helped when redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby went down with a knee injury in the third quarter. He would eventually return to the game, but Meyer said it hurt the OSU defense not to have him on the field for a stretch.“Take a great player off the field, that’s an issue,” Meyer said of Roby, adding that sophomore cornerback Armani Reeves “didn’t screw it up” and played fine when he entered the game in Roby’s place.Although the Michigan State offense ranks just 83rd nationally with 384.6 total yards per game and 60th nationally with 29.8 points per game, Fickell said the quality of that unit was another factor in OSU’s defensive struggles.“You got to give (Michigan State) credit,” Fickell said. “They did a good job. (Cook) threw the ball in the right spots and guys got to cover, guys got to rush, guys got to get there when they pressure.”Still, as OSU prepares to finish its season in what will likely be a BCS bowl game, its defense has to bounce back. After giving up 34 or more points just twice in its first 11 games, OSU has allowed that many points in each of its last two games.Fickell said the defense has to “get better as a group.”“Football’s the greatest team sport known to man because it takes 11 guys,” Fickell said. “You have 10 (defensive players playing well) out there and they’re going to find that one guy. That’s what we got to make sure we do a better job (of) is all stick together through those adverse situations.”
US forward Joe Pavelski (left) and goalie Jonathan Quick greet each other following their loss to Finland in the men’s Bronze Medal hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 22. Finland defeated the US, 5-0.Courtesy of MCTIt wasn’t supposed to end this way, was it?That’s the question every U.S. hockey fan was asking themselves after the men’s team was shut out by Canada Friday and then Finland Saturday to depart Sochi empty-handed.After three awesome performances in Group A of the Olympic Games — highlighted by a shootout win over host Russia — the Americans overpowered the Czech Republic to reach the semifinals against the Canadians. Everything was going according to plan.Then it all changed: two losses, no goals scored and an overwhelming sense of unfulfilled expectations.First came the frustration of Friday’s game against Canada, where those pesky neighbors to the north played a nearly flawless game, nullifying that esteemed American attack to win 1-0. Less than 24 hours later, with the disappointment of the semifinal defeat still clear for all to see, the U.S. sleepwalked through a 5-0 loss against Finland in the bronze medal game.A promising Olympic adventure ended in failure, with not even a consolation prize to help ease the pain. The chance was there. They just couldn’t take it.All of this seems that much more dispiriting because of the team’s incredible run four years ago in Vancouver, one that seemed like a seminal moment in U.S. hockey. Here was a youthful American team standing toe-to-toe with everyone it faced, even beating Canada in group play before losing to the same opponents in the gold medal game. Those silver medals the players received were more than just a reward for their efforts, they represented the growth of the American player in the NHL, a talented player on par with those produced in any other country.Naturally, many people saw this year’s games as another stepping stone in the United States’ ascent to the top of the international hockey mountain.This was supposed to be another memorable journey — and for the most part it was — but the margin between success and victory at the top level proved to be thin, and instead of the heroic exploits of 2010, it was the thwarted glory of 2014.Though, when viewed through the lens of history, the fourth place finish isn’t entirely surprising. Team USA men’s hockey team has only won two gold medals (1960, 1980) and hasn’t made it to the Olympic podium in consecutive Olympics since that win in Squaw Valley in 1960. The entire men’s ice hockey competition is also somewhat unpredictable, with Finland being the only country to medal in it each of the last three Olympics (Sochi, Vancouver and Turin).But none of those facts makes the reversal in fortunes of this year’s American team any harder to swallow. Neither does seeing Canada breeze past Sweden to win back-to-back gold medals.In the end, Team USA was still a misplayed puck or a goaltending error away from the gold medal game, but the reality is that they didn’t do enough to get there.Hopefully we will look back on Sochi as an anomaly, a time when things just didn’t click into place for the Americans. Or we could see it as indicative of the improvement Team USA still needs to make. Either way, expectations will once again be high when the men in red, white and blue take to the ice in PyeongChang, South Korea, in four years time.I see no reason as to why things won’t be better, but the uncertain nature of Olympic hockey makes me hesitant to make any predictions. All I know is that if you see someone watching the games with a look of pained anticipation, it will be me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.