What if Aaron had never hit a home run? What if those 755 round-trippers had fallen for base hits instead? (If we’re trying to isolate the effect of his power, that seems like the fairer way to do it, instead of turning them into popups or something.) Would he still be a Hall of Famer?If all of his homers had been singles, Aaron would still have his 3,771 hits. Instead of being the second-best home-run hitter of all time, he’d be the third-best singles hitter of all time, after Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. His RBI total would have gone way down; based on the number of runs that Aaron knocked in on home runs and singles throughout his career, I estimate that he’d have 1,232 of them rather than 2,297. But 1,232 isn’t a shabby total; it would rank Aaron 141st all time, in the general vicinity of Derek Jeter, Edgar Martinez and George Sisler. He’d still be a lifetime .305 hitter and have a .374 on-base average.We can also consider Aaron’s wins above replacement (WAR) and how much of it was produced by home runs. On average, a home run is worth .93 runs more than a single. And according to FanGraphs, each run that Aaron produced above was worth about .11 wins to his team (.1077 if we want more precision). So we can figure out how many wins Aaron created with his home runs by multiplying 755 by .93 by .1077. The calculation comes out to 75.6 WAR. Aaron produced a total of 136.3 WAR, according to FanGraphs. So those home runs, worth 75.6 WAR, represented about 55 percent of his career value.But Aaron still has 60.7 WAR left over. That’s quite good: Aaron’s revised WAR would rank him 44th among outfielders all time, and there are 67 outfielders in the Hall of Fame (not counting Aaron). Aaron’s WAR without his home runs is comparable to what players like Duke Snider, Kenny Lofton, Willie Stargell, Carlos Beltran, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson and Richie Ashburn produced with their home runs. A few outfielders with a WAR of about 60 aren’t in the Hall of Fame (Sherry Magee didn’t make it, for example, and Lofton probably won’t get in). But Aaron would seem like a safe bet with his gaudy career-hit total.I also ran these numbers for the other members of the 500 home-run club. How many of them would have a Hall of Fame case without their home runs?Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds (issues with performance-enhancing drugs notwithstanding) would still be slam dunks. A homerless Mel Ott and Mickey Mantle would rate about the same as a homerless Aaron and would probably get in. Jimmie Foxx, Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez would be tough calls. Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson would probably fall just short. The other 13 members of the 500 home-run club would have no chance. Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run. Aaron extended his record to 755 home runs, and his record was eventually eclipsed by Barry Bonds in 2007.I was struck by Joe Posnanski’s reflection on Aaron: The degree to which Aaron’s reputation is associated with the home-run record in some ways does him an injustice. You can think of this post as the nerdier younger brother of Posnanski’s column.
Month: September 2019
Singapore01045 Sources: Sports-reference.com, CIA World FACTBOOK 1Bangladesh0169.0– 8Sudan136.1– 2Philippines9101.0– 3Vietnam294.3– Total2724192090 Indonesia19100130 7Iraq137.1– 4DR Congo079.4– 11Malaysia630.5– A few countries dominate the chart above. Two-thirds of all medals since 1928 have been won by Indonesia and Thailand, and five of the region’s 11 countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Timor-Leste — still have never made it to the podium. In terms of events, over three-quarters of medals have been won in badminton, boxing and weightlifting: COUNTRYSILVERS & BRONZESPOPULATION (MILLIONS) COUNTRYBADMINTONWEIGHTLIFTINGBOXINGOTHERTOTAL Most populous countries with zero gold medals through 2012 14Ghana426.3– 12Saudi Arabia327.8– Thailand01114530 13Yemen026.7– Vietnam01034 15Madagascar023.8– 10Nepal031.6– 6Tanzania251.0– As the Olympics wind down, it’s customary to argue about which parts of the world performed best relative to expectations. The U.S. is a reasonable answer. Maybe Armenia. Probably not India. Definitely not Russia. Here’s a dark horse candidate: Southeast Asia.Despite a population over 600 million, Southeast Asia hasn’t seen a lot of Olympic success.1 We’re using the standard definition of Southeast Asia, which comprises 11 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. In terms of historical Olympic results we’re also including the now non-existent entities of South Vietnam (1952 to 1972 Olympics), Malaya (1956 and 1960) and North Borneo (1956), although none medaled. In fact, going into Rio, three of the five most populous countries never to have won gold were in the region: 5Myanmar056.3– MEDALS On Aug. 6, Vietnam broke through, as Hoang Xuan Vinh won his country’s first-ever gold in the 10m air pistol. Six days later, Joseph Schooling of Singapore captured another inaugural gold, in the 100m butterfly. With several events remaining, Southeast Asian athletes have secured medals in weightlifting (seven), badminton (four), shooting (two), taekwondo (two), swimming, cycling, and diving. The region has set new highs in total medals and golds, bouncing back from a disappointing 2012 Olympics: How Southeast Asia has gotten its medals, 1928-2016 9Afghanistan232.6– Malaysia800311 Philippines015410 Through Aug. 19, 2016. Includes a 2016 medal for Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who is guaranteed silver or gold in men’s singles badminton. Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Brunei have never won Olympic medals, nor did now-defunct South Vietnam, Malaya and North Borneo.Sources: sports-reference.com, rio2016.com The weightlifting specialization may explain some of the 2016 bump. Many of 2012’s best weightlifters were absent from Rio following doping allegations, and the Russian and Bulgarian teams were outright banned. Southeast Asian countries won just two silvers and two bronzes in these events in 2012; in 2016 they snagged two golds, four silvers and a bronze.There are more medal opportunities to come. On Saturday, Sorn Seavmey of Cambodia, seeking her country’s first-ever medal, will compete in the round of 16 in women’s over 67kg taekwondo, as will Kirstie Alora of the Philippines. And Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei — silver medalist in men’s singles badminton in 2008 and 2012 — will compete in his third straight gold medal match.
20131,10239226 Number of U.S. Open credentialed members of the media 20151,18345728 Professional women’s tennis players make as much as the men do at all four Grand Slams. And the most successful American players are women: Serena Williams has 22 career major titles while her sister, Venus, has seven; no American man in this year’s U.S. Open draw has reached a major semifinal. At this year’s Open, like last year’s, by far the biggest story to watch is Serena Williams’s. Last year she was looking to tie the Open-era record for major titles and win all four in the same year; this year she’s looking to break the record.And yet the people who are telling the story of this tournament to the world are mostly men. Among the nearly 1,500 people who received media accreditation for the tournament, including broadcast staff, and who indicated whether they prefer to be referred to as “Mr.” or “Ms.,” 73 percent chose “Mr.,” according to Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the tournament. And a count I did in the media work spaces and stadium seats on Thursday afternoon showed that about 78 percent of the people present were men. Freelance tennis writer Ana Mitric, who contributes to the Serbian media outlet B92 and has written about sexism in tennis, provided a second pair of eyes, reviewing video of nine player press conferences on Saturday and counting men and women among the media in attendance. At women players’ press conferences, 67 percent of media were men; the figure was 82 percent at men’s. 1Widmaier said he couldn’t say how many people didn’t indicate which honorific they prefer; media members aren’t obligated to choose one. His count includes people accredited as media, photographers and broadcast staff — but not people accredited as part of broadcasters who hold rights to the tournament, which includes ESPN, owner of FiveThirtyEight. I counted 231 people in the photographers’ pit, the photo facility, the two media work rooms, the media dining room, media-center patio and the main media seats during Venus Williams’s second-round match. The estimate is imprecise: I didn’t ask people for their gender identity, nor whether they were members of the media. I also may have counted some people who weren’t part of the tournament’s media coverage. I counted people who I knew worked in the tournament’s media operations but not other tournament staff.“Our goal is to make tennis look like America,” Widmaier said — including by gender and race. He put the onus on media to achieve that: “I hope media organizations are following recruitment protocols to ensure their people look like America.” It’s a point well taken. I’m a white man and the only reporter in Flushing for FiveThirtyEight; producer Jorge Estrada, a Latino man, is also accredited for FiveThirtyEight. Source: USTA 20141,14241827 201299332525 YEARMR.MS.SHARE MS. 20161,01037227% Women make up a larger share of the tennis media at the U.S. Open than they do of people covering some other sports — a 2014 report found that just 13 percent of sports staffers for U.S. newspapers and websites in the U.S. are women. And women fill an even smaller share of executive positions with major international sports bodies. Carole Bouchard, a French freelance writer who has covered 20 majors on site, said the gender gap has narrowed in her 12 years covering tennis, but that it “would be ridiculous to say that there aren’t consequences.”The ways in which having far more men than women in tennis media threatens the coherence of coverage are all around. Take, for instance, the continued attention paid to debates about equal prize money, or the casual discussion of women players’ looks. How the sport is covered by the people who tell its story affects how much of the total interest and revenue paid to tennis goes to women’s tennis, and when men so outnumber women in the telling of the sport’s story, it can put a thumb on the scale in the consuming.Women I spoke with who cover mixed-gender tennis tournaments said the share of men among the media at other tournaments they’ve covered is at least as big as at the U.S. Open — roughly 80 to 85 percent, they estimated.2My own observation of media rooms at Wimbledon and the French Open in recent years suggests that if anything the gender gap was bigger in those, though I never counted. “I am used to it,” said Bouchard.“This is a topic I hadn’t thought about much before you asked, and now I can’t help but look around and notice this,” said Bobby Chintapalli, a freelance writer who covers primarily women’s tennis for USA Today and other publications, over email. “Which is why when it comes to topics like this, I think awareness is key; it’s often a first step to improving a situation naturally.”Lindsay Gibbs, sports reporter at ThinkProgress and contributing tennis editor at Excelle Sports who has written about sexism in tennis, wrote in an email, “Sports culture is not the most welcoming for women, and that bleeds into the media, which has always been seen as a ‘boys’ club.’ It’s a global issue.”The gender gap also might make some men think the press room is an appropriate venue for sexism or harassment. “There can be a very ‘boys’ club’ vibe,” Mitric said, “including banter & other behavior that verges on, if not crosses over into, the inappropriate.”Bouchard also said media members who are parents might be put off by the travel demanded by covering a global sport — and because of cultural expectations of mothers, that might dissuade more moms than dads.“Another gendered split I’ve noticed — and one that is just as important — is that more men are in positions of power, whether that’s in terms of seniority or status,” said Mitric.Mitric doesn’t believe in quotas but echoes Widmaier’s call for outlets to step up recruitment of women, as well as the mentoring and promoting of them. She also said it’s up to men covering the sport to learn its history, which includes the rise of the WTA, the long fight for equal prize money and sexism in advertising and coverage of the sport; while she sees a rise in women’s voices around the sport, including on Twitter, she worries some men now see gender issues as covered and don’t bother with them themselves. “I think tennis media often fall short in connecting the sport to the larger world around it — and not only when it comes to gender,” Mitric said by email.ESPN, which owns FiveThirtyEight and which broadcasts the tournament in the U.S., has five women and nine men on air during the Open, according to ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle, plus a woman, Prim Siripipat, appearing in videos reporting on the tournament for ESPN.com. Nagle added that two match producers, managing producer, senior highlights producer, the lead producer on features and the production coordinator are women, as are many associate producers, graphic coordinators, social media producers and production assistants. (Of the 35 people accredited through ESPN.com — writers, editors and others not involved with the TV side, and not counting Estrada, Siripipat or me — 16 are women.) “ESPN has a long history of being a leader in providing opportunities to women both in front of or behind the camera,” Nagle said. (Widmaier declined to provide the number of journalists accredited from specific news organizations, but said that ESPN is the biggest “by far,” with The New York Times a distant second.)The frequent flaring of debate about whether women should continue to earn as much prize money as men might be less frequent with more women in the press room, Bouchard said. “Not a lot of men journalists have a huge love for women’s tennis,” she said.There are some notable exceptions, including several American men who write frequently about the WTA, the overseer of the women’s game worldwide. Also, women covering tennis often write about the men’s game. But even where there isn’t a firewall around gender, the old lines are often assumed to be in place. For instance, Bouchard says she’s had several conversations in which editors express interest in her contributing to their publications, but ask, “Oh, but also you are covering men’s tennis?” To which she replies, “I haven’t told you I am covering women’s tennis.”Men covering tennis may also discuss women athletes’ bodies differently, for instance talking about their looks. “I’m not sure women journalists would go at it the way men would,” Bouchard said. “Maybe I’m wrong.” To know, there would need to be more women tennis writers, she said.The media gender gap may help contribute to the growing gap in revenue between the men’s tour and the WTA. (For instance, broadcasters influence scheduling of tournaments, including which matches are featured on show courts, which skews male at some mixed-gender tournaments, notably Wimbledon.)“Men are still the ones making broadcasting decisions, writing the stories and controlling the narratives,” Gibbs said. “That leads to less coverage of women, which then leads to less people knowing about women’s tennis, which then directly impacts interest. Then, they cite less interest for the reason they don’t broadcast it more or write about it more. It’s a self-defeating cycle.”It’s a tough cycle to break, and far from the only one tennis is staring down. The vast majority of U.S. Open journalists are white, too. Trying to divine a person’s race at a glance is obviously fraught — as is divining their gender, it should be said — but it’s clear that the media rooms at the U.S. Open are a long way from looking like America. “You could count the number of black people here,” Bouchard said while looking around the workroom where we talked. She added, “The more diversity the better.”
Deion Branch – The New England Patriots closed a chapter from their storied past by releasing Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch in Friday’s final round of cuts.The Patriots also released center Dan Koppen to get down to the NFL limit of 53 for the opener at Tennessee on Sept. 9.Branch, 33, took to Twitter on Friday to bid adieuto his fans.“Truly thankful for all the support from everybody. I Love You guys (hash)LovePeaceandHappiness,” the wide receiver wrote.Branch had spent all or parts of six seasons in New England, recording 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns in 15 starts last year. He has 502 receptions for 6,499 yards and 39 touchdowns in his career. Branch’s spot on the team appeared safe after the Patriots cut receivers Donte’ Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney earlier this week.The release of Branch and Koppen leaves the Patriots with just two players from their last Super Bowl championship team in 2005 in quarterback Tom Brady and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.Branch was a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, and was named MVP of their victory over Philadelphia after tying a Super Bowl record with 11 catches for 133 yards.He was the first receiver to win the honor since San Francisco’s Jerry Rice (1989). He then spent four injury-plagued seasons with Seattle before returning to New England during the 2010 season.Because of his status as a vested NFL veteran, Branch was given his outright release rather than being placed on the waiver wire. If he doesn’t go elsewhere, Branch could be re-signed by the Patriots after Week 1 of the regular season when his base salary would no longer be guaranteed for the entire year. It’s unlikely, but this would give the Patriots both roster and salary-cap flexibility in case they chose to release Branch again later in the season in another roster move.
Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly has not decided who will be the starting quarterback this week.Quarterback Michael Vick hurt his hamstring last week and has been sidelined. Nick Foles replaced the injured Vick for the second straight week, and led the Eagles (3-3) to two straight wins. Now, the team will play Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at home for sole possession of the NFC East, but Kelly has not named who will be at the helm.In a news conference on Monday, Kelly answered several questions about his QBs, but didn’t give any definite answers.“Until we know what the health is, I’m not saying what anybody or anybody is,” Kelly said. “All our decisions on who is going to play… [are] based on health.”Two games back, Vick strained his left hamstring during a win over the New York Giants. Foles entered the game and threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Foles then played even bettter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he passed for 296 yards and three TDs. He also ran for another score.“All of our decisions are made on what’s going to give us the best opportunity to win,” Kelly said. “And we have to put healthy guys on the field and make sure we can get a scheme together that’s going to help us beat the Cowboys.”Vick had played very well too, before the injury. So far this year, he has thrown for 1,185 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Vick has had another 307 yards on the ground and two more TDs.
DAL1992-9421748SF1989-9421720 Teams needed at least two Super Bowl wins during the span of seasons to qualify.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 7Pittsburgh197517607Indianapolis20051742 PIT1972-8041685DAL1971-8221671 SF1984-9841696SF1981-9851681 MIA1972-7421739NE2011-1621720 TeamYearElo Blend 15-Year Dynasties18-Year Dynasties The New England Patriots are back in yet another Super Bowl — No. 9 since 2001, for those keeping track — and this time they’re the favorite to beat the Los Angeles Rams, according to both Las Vegas and our Elo model. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and friends have been doing this kind of thing for so long that sometimes it’s easy to take their greatness for granted. But with another championship potentially looming, we thought we’d zoom out and take stock of just how incredible New England’s success has actually been. Because, love or hate the Patriots, we’ve never seen anything like what they’ve accomplished over the better part of the past two decades.New England has enjoyed some of the most dominant seasons of all time.Let’s start at the single-season level. To grade a team’s Elo dominance, we like to use a blend of its final end-of-season rating, its peak rating and its season-long average rating.1Excluding the first four games of the season, to give Elo the chance to “catch up” to a team’s true potential in a given season. According to that metric, the Patriots own a number of the greatest teams of the Super Bowl era (since 1966) — including both the greatest team to win a Super Bowl (in 2004) and the greatest team to not win a Super Bowl (in 2007). 1New England200417921New England20071824 NE2010-183?1714NE2006-1721712 TeamSeasonsTitlesMean EloTeamSeasonsTitlesMean Elo 10Pittsburgh2004-11821656+93.9 9Washington199117569Indianapolis20071737 11Green Bay1966-68321688+87.7 9Washington1982-921131653+99.1 Despite their loss to the New York Giants in one of the most thrilling Super Bowls ever, the 2007 Pats, who went 16-0 in the regular season, remain the highest-rated team in NFL history — in addition to being one of the most talented and influential teams ever assembled.2For the Giants’ part, they can take joy in knocking off both the No. 1 and No. 10 best teams to not win the Super Bowl. And unlike that 2007 squad, the 2004 Patriots finished the job and capped off a 17-2 season with a Super Bowl crown, in a campaign that contained part of an NFL-record 21-game winning streak.This year’s Pats are not in that conversation. But the 2016 version was the 16th-best team to win a Super Bowl, according to Elo, and the 2017 version that lost to the Eagles last February ranks as the 14th-best nonwinner of the Super Bowl era.The Pats’ dynasty is the most impressive of the Super Bowl era (according to Elo).Sometimes it’s difficult to pin down when a dynasty begins and ends, but one way to look at it is to find the stretch of seasons that would be the most difficult for a generic contender to replicate. (We also did this for the NBA last summer when looking at the Golden State Warriors’ place in history.)To do that for any given franchise, we take the single-season blended ratings from above and calculate their harmonic mean over every possible span of seasons. (The harmonic mean is a special kind of average that rewards high marks across every value in a set — in this case, elevating teams that were consistently great.) Then we compare that number to what a team with an initial Elo rating of 16173The average Elo through four weeks for historical Super Bowl champs. would be expected to have over the same number of seasons. Since it becomes progressively harder to maintain a high mean Elo as more seasons pass, this helps balance short bursts of greatness against longer, more sustained periods of dominance.The most impressive dynasties are the ones that exceed expectations the most. And after filtering for teams that won at least two Super Bowls in a given span (plus tossing out duplicate overlapping stretches for the same franchise), the NFL’s best stretch of seasons belongs to the Patriots since 2003 — potentially including this year, if they beat the Rams. (And if not, then the stretch from 2003 through 2017.) 2San Francisco1984-951241706+155.1 13Baltimore2000-141521599+54.6 NE2003-1741714NE2001-186?1699 SF1988-9021727PIT1974-7941712 TeamSeasonsTitlesMean EloTeamSeasonsTitlesMean Elo TeamYearElo Blend 4Pittsburgh1974-79641712+139.0 3San Francisco198917703Washington19831762 7Oakland/L.A. Raiders1967-851931654+115.3 Pick a span of years; the Pats are one (or two) of the bestBest dynasties of N seasons during the Super Bowl era (since 1966) based on Elo ratings over that span 4Miami197317674Green Bay19971758 8Denver1996-98321704+103.9 Most great teams get only one truly historic period of dominance before they begin to break apart — particularly in the salary-cap era, when talent became tougher to hold on to and build around. The Troy Aikman/Emmitt Smith/Michael Irvin Dallas Cowboys, for instance, rank as our third-most impressive overall dynasty, but that run ultimately lasted only a few years: Aikman, Smith and Irvin stayed in Dallas for the rest of the 1990s, but as they got older, the rest of the roster wasn’t strong enough to compensate, in part because the cap forced the Cowboys to shed talent. The Patriots, though, have numerous nonoverlapping subsections of years that would each be the pinnacle of most franchises’ entire histories, and they’ve done it all in an era when the NFL is (theoretically) trying to promote parity.And one of the most interesting things about the Patriots’ micro-dynasties is that many were accomplished with different styles of football, despite the constant tandem of Belichick and Brady. As my colleague Mike Salfino pointed out last week, the Pats’ playoff offenses this decade have run the gamut from some of the least dependent on running backs to some of the most. It’s a testament to the chameleon-like way Belichick and staff have been able build their teams that they’ve maintained New England’s run of dominance despite constantly shifting their strategic tendencies.2018 might be Belichick’s most impressive coaching job yet.Sure, we’re tired of the Patriots’ current “nobody believes in us” schtick. But it is true that this incarnation of the Patriots is comparatively underpowered, at least compared with previous versions of the team in the Brady-Belichick era. By whatever measure you want to use to account for New England’s talent level — star performances or team strength — this team looks less impressive on paper than usual. 9-Year Dynasties12-Year Dynasties OAK1966-8021653OAK/LA1967-8431655 TeamSpanSeasonsTitlesMean Elovs. Expected New England*2003-18165?1711+169.4 10Miami1972175410New England20111734 Among stretches of anywhere near the same length, the only other dynasty in the same neighborhood as the Patriots is the San Francisco 49ers’ run during the 1980s and ’90s. Built by Bill Walsh and quarterbacked by Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young, the Niners won their five Super Bowls in a span of 14 years (including four in the 12-year span listed as their most dominant above). That’s two fewer than it took the Patriots to get five of their own from 2001 to 2016. (Those 49ers also weren’t embroiled in various cheating scandals, but that’s a matter for another story.) But the 21st century Pats have also visited almost twice as many Super Bowls as did the Niners (who, granted, won all five they made it to in this stretch). With the chance to tack on a sixth championship in 18 years, the Patriots would solidify the most impressive stretch of football the game has ever known.New England’s main dynasty also contains several GOAT-level mini-dynasties.As incredible as the entirety of the Brady-Belichick era has been, you can also pick out just about any subset of it that you want, and there’s a good chance that the Patriots will be the best in NFL history over that length of seasons. For example, using the same mean-Elo approach as above, the best five-season span of the Super Bowl era4Again requiring the team to win at least two Super Bowls. is the Patriots’ run from 2003 through 2007. But they also own a separate, nonoverlapping five-season span from 2013 through 2017, which is the third-best such “mini-dynasty” since 1966. They also own both the best and third-best seven-year mini-dynasties, the best and fourth-best eight-year mini-dynasties, the best and fourth-best nine-year mini-dynasties, and so forth. (You get the picture.) 3Dallas1992-95431740+150.7 PIT1974-7621725DAL1991-9631694 Not only is this the worst Pats Super Bowl team since 2001, according to our blended Elo dominance metric from above, but New England also had its fewest Pro Bowlers (two) and players with double-digit Approximate Value5Pro-Football-Reference.com’s single-number approximation of a player’s contribution in a given season. (five) in any of its Super Bowl seasons over that span, and its second-fewest first-team All-Pros (one, Stephon Gilmore). In fact, there were numerous Patriot teams that fell short of the Super Bowl entirely that, according to all of the categories above, had more talent than the 2018 version. Suspensions (Julian Edelman) and off-field headaches (Josh Gordon) certainly played a role in New England’s reduced star power, but it was also a roster Belichick had to cajole more wins out of than usual.Regardless, it worked — and it helped the Patriots extend their historic dynasty. The only thing left is to see whether Brady, Belichick and company can add yet another ring to their collection versus the Rams, the opponent it all started against. Check out our latest NFL predictions. 5Chicago198517675Seattle20141749 NE2014-1621728NE2003-0821720 NE2001-0931683PIT1972-8341659 6Dallas199317656Green Bay20111748 2Denver199817712Baltimore19681766 12Green Bay1995-152121619+81.7 8San Francisco198417598San Francisco19901742 SF1987-9531711SF1984-9541706 DAL1971-7921676OAK1969-8021653 *The current Patriots’ run will be No. 1 if New England wins Super Bowl LIII.Mean Elo is the harmonic mean of a team’s seasonal blended Elo ratings (which mixes the average, final and peak Elo during the season) over the span of the seasons in question.Expected Elo is the mean Elo we’d expect for a generic Super Bowl contender (from a starting Elo of 1617) over the span of the seasons in question. Teams are ranked by how much they exceeded this expectation.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 3-Year Dynasties6-Year Dynasties 5Miami1972-74321739+138.5 TeamSeasonsTitlesMean EloTeamSeasonsTitlesMean Elo 6Dallas1968-831621667+125.7 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 1New England2003-171541714+169.8 The best single-season teams of the Super Bowl eraNFL teams ranked by a blend of their final, peak and season-long average Elo ratings, since 1966 MIA1971-8521643MIA1970-8721625 Super Bowl winnersDidn’t win Super Bowl The Super Bowl era’s most impressive dynastiesAmong franchises with at least two Super Bowl titles, the most impressive (nonoverlapping) spans of seasons, according to Elo ratings, since 1966 DAL1969-8321668DAL1966-8321658 14N.Y. Giants1985-90621627+54.3
Troy Aikman10/27/1996at MIAW, 29-10421+329 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Don Meredith11/10/1963at SFL, 24-31390+304 SEA75SEA79SEA 21, CIN 20+0.2– 12014-15SEARussell Wilson17– NYJ55NYJ54BUF 17, NYJ 16-0.9– TB55TB50SF 31, TB 17+3.5– T-262017-18DALDak Prescott8– Longest streaks of alternating above- and below-average performance 2018DALDak Prescott9– The only question now is, can Prescott keep this up and put his old inconsistent ways behind him? Although our QB values are adjusted for the quality of opposing defenses, it’s still valid to wonder how much a stellar performance against the Giants — whose defense ranked last in the league according to preseason projections from ESPN’s Football Power Index — will translate against better opponents such as, say, the Vikings (who tied for ESPN’s No. 1 preseason defense) in Week 10.But there are also reasons to think Prescott’s breakout might endure throughout the season. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore already has added new wrinkles to the Cowboys’ scheme that were absent under Scott Linehan in previous years. Prescott also has a new(ish) set of primary targets, with Amari Cooper present from the start of the season — after averaging 80.6 yards per game upon his midseason arrival in Dallas last year — plus Michael Gallup graduating to No. 2-target status after Cole Beasley’s departure, and former Pro Bowl WR Randall Cobb coming over from the Packers. (Future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten is also back after a much-maligned year in the broadcast booth.)After throwing for a below-average 7.69 air yards per attempt in 2017 and 2018, Prescott was up to 9.34 air yards per throw against the Giants, with 19 percent of his passes traveling at least 20 yards — including completions of 35 and 21 yards downfield to Cooper, 30 yards to Gallup, 22 yards to Cobb and 22 yards to tight end Blake Jarwin.Again, those were against the Giants, so it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from Prescott’s Week 1 numbers, impressive as they were. But for a team that ranked ninth in defensive efficiency (via Football Outsiders) but only 26th in passing efficiency last season, an improvement from Prescott could vault the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East — and maybe beyond.Looking Ahead: Week 2Best matchup: No. 3 New Orleans at No. 5 L.A. Rams (-1.5)Matchup quality: 97th percentile4In terms of the harmonic mean of both teams’ QB-adjusted Elo ratings, relative that figure for all regular-season NFL games this year.Matchup evenness: 76th percentileThe Rams and Saints will meet on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of that infamous NFC Championship game. Both teams won in Week 1 by slim margins, and Elo has the Saints ranked third in the NFL while the Rams are ranked fifth. A big part of that difference comes down to the quarterbacks: New Orleans’ Drew Brees ranks third in our ratings, but L.A.’s Jared Goff ranks only 26th after another subpar game (on the heels of a terrible Super Bowl and a string of mediocre outings late last season). Goff has a lot to prove, but he’ll also have a big opportunity against a Saints defense that FPI ranks just 28th in the league.See also: Philadelphia at Atlanta (80th/81st); Minnesota at Green Bay (77th/75th).Biggest playoff implications: No. 9 Minnesota at No. 12 Green Bay (-1.5)Potential shift in playoff odds: 30.7 total percentage pointsIn terms of playoff odds, the biggest game of Week 2 squares the Vikings off against the Packers. The teams have essentially identical chances to make the postseason (52 percent and 51 percent, respectively), and the winner would be set up well in the NFC North race. If Minnesota wins, their playoff odds go up to 69 percent; if Green Bay wins, their number would be 65 percent. In either case, the loser’s playoff percentage drops into the mid-30s.See also: Indianapolis at Tennessee (25.0); Philadelphia at Atlanta (22.3).Best QB duel: No. 5 Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. No. 7 Carson Wentz (PHI)See also: 2. Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. 11. Wilson (SEA); 1. Mahomes (KC) vs. 21. Carr (OAK)FiveThirtyEight vs. the ReadersAs a weekly tradition here at FiveThirtyEight, we look at how our Elo model did against everybody who made picks in our forecasting game. (If you entered, you can find yourself on our leaderboard here. I am currently in 1,995th place!) These are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the field last week: Dak’s place among the best Cowboy QB games everBest single-game performances for Dallas Cowboys starting quarterbacks according to QB Elo value relative to league average, 1960-2019 2017-18DALDak Prescott8– PHI77PHI80PHI 32, WSH 27-0.6– Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson stole the show on the NFL’s opening Sunday with a passer rating of 158.3, the maximum number possible. But Jackson wasn’t the only QB with a perfect 158.3 mark Sunday. He was joined by Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, who went 25 for 32 with 405 yards, four touchdowns and zero picks against the rival New York Giants. It was the first time ever that two passers had perfect games in the same week1With a minimum of 20 attempts. — and in fact, Prescott’s game may have been the superior perfect outing.At least, that’s according to our new Elo QB ratings, which saw Prescott outperform both Jackson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for the best game of Week 1, after adjusting for the opposing defenses each faced. Our model considered it to be the best game of Prescott’s entire career, easily surpassing his effort against the Ravens in Week 11 of 2016 — and there’s nothing the Cowboys would welcome more than a return to form of that (mostly) storybook season, both as a team and for Prescott individually.Dallas had high hopes Prescott would be a fixture atop these kinds of rankings ever since 2016, when he produced one of the greatest rookie QB campaigns in NFL history en route to a 13-3 record as the starter. Thanks to that immediate success, Prescott went into 2017 with the ninth-highest Elo rating of any starting QB, and he eventually rose to No. 5 in the league by Week 9, when the Cowboys had a 5-3 record and a legitimate chance of winning the Super Bowl.2Five percent, according to our old Elo ratings. It was the best a Dallas quarterback had rated in Elo (relative to league average) since Tony Romo in the middle of the 2013 season.From that moment onward, however, Prescott has been all over the place. Over his following 26 starts — taking him through the end of the 2018 season — Prescott’s average game-to-game performance was about 11 points of Elo value below that of an ordinary starter, while he registered exactly 13 above-average starts against 13 below-average ones.But we’re just scratching the surface of how up-and-down Prescott has been.Over an eight-start period from Dec. 24, 2017, to Oct. 14, 2018, Prescott alternated between an above- and below-average QB Elo performance every single game. Then he strung together two consecutive above-average starts… before embarking on a separate stretch of nine more starts in a row in which every single game alternated between an above- and below-average performance. LAR52LAR59LAR 30, CAR 27+4.3– 2013CARCam Newton10– SeasonsTeamQuarterbackNumber of games * Super BowlSources: Pro-Football-Reference.com, ESPN CLE60CLE64TEN 43, CLE 13-6.9– 2012HOUMatt Schaub8– Roger Staubach12/12/1977at SFW, 42-35371+299 The kings of inconsistent quarterbackingQuarterbacks with the longest streaks of their Elo values per game alternating between above average and below average, 1950-2019 Quarterbacks with at least two streaks of at least eight games of alternating performance 2014-15DETMatthew Stafford8– NO68NO68NO 30, HOU 28-1.7– DET51DET53ARI 27, DET 27+0.0 Troy Aikman1/31/1993vs. BUF*W, 52-17418+348 Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. Craig Morton12/20/1970vs. TENW, 52-10411+331 Don Meredith11/13/1966at WSHW, 31-30439+346 CHI64CHI58GB 10, CHI 3+4.8– … T-42003-04ATLMichael Vick11– 2012CARCam Newton10– – Don Meredith9/18/1966vs. NYGW, 52-7423+330 BAL61BAL72BAL 59, MIA 10+5.0– T-152018DALDak Prescott9– Tony Romo12/6/2009at NYGL, 24-31411+296 OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION It was one of the most erratic runs in pro football history. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson once had an incredible 17 consecutive starts (!) waver between positive and negative during the 2014 and 2015 seasons,3During which time Wilson led Seattle to a Super Bowl, amazingly enough. so Prescott wasn’t quite at that level of inconsistency. But he, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Matt Schaub are the only QBs in our dataset (since 1950) to have two separate streaks in their careers with at least eight consecutive starts that seesawed between above- and below-average performance every game. KC58%KC69%KC 40, JAX 26+5.7– 2016-17DETMatthew Stafford10– 21994-95ATLJeff George14– Don Meredith10/9/1966vs. PHIW, 56-7481+389 31973-74CLEMike Phipps13– T-42015-16BUFTyrod Taylor11– Dak Prescott9/8/2019vs. NYGW, 35-17504+340 Readers knew better than Elo in a few notable cases — although it was all about the prognosticators’ degree of confidence in the favorite, rather than differences in opinion about who would win. (Elo was too bearish on Mahomes and the Chiefs against Jacksonville, for instance.) But Elo still won the week, beating the average reader by 7.9 points, thanks to a last-minute victory in Monday night’s Raiders-Broncos game. Perhaps because of the torrent of drama over the weekend, readers thought the Broncos would pull out the road victory; instead, Carr and the Raiders managed to win in spite of the tumult — and that was exactly the margin Elo needed.Congratulations are in order to Joe Tito, who led all (identified) readers in Week 1 with 252.3 points. Thanks to everyone who played — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and try your luck against Elo, even if you missed Week 1.Check out our latest NFL predictions. SeasonTeamQuarterbackNumber of games LAC72LAC73LAC 30, IND 24-1.6– MIN59MIN55MIN 28, ATL 12-5.1– DAL74DAL73DAL 35, NYG 17-2.3– QuarterbackDateOpponentResultQB Elo valuevs. Avg 2009-10HOUMatt Schaub9– Prescott finally broke the cycle late last season, stringing together four consecutive starts with positive value to close the year (including the playoffs). That’s how Prescott already had entered this season with the ninth-best Elo rating of any starting quarterback in the league, a big improvement over his No. 22 ranking going into 2018. And after Sunday’s impressive outing, he now ranks sixth — behind only Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. According to our Elo values, Prescott’s performance against New York was the fourth-best game by a Dallas starting QB (relative to league average) in Cowboys history: OAK51DEN55OAK 24, DEN 16-7.9– NE68NE65NE 33, PIT 3-4.4– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 1Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 1 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game
Connor Halliday2.7 Blake Sims9.7 Brett Hundley39.8 Rakeem Cato15.8 Taylor Heinicke8.8 Jameis Winston60.8 Garrett Grayson17.0 Marcus Mariota64.1 Grant Hedrick10.1 PLAYERFOUR-YEAR PROJECTED TOTAL QBR Anthony Boone10.2 Shane Carden8.3 We’ve heard the debate for so long that its edges have nearly gone dull: Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? Who should go first?If there were a formula for how to choose a No. 1 quarterback in the NFL draft, Tom Brady would have gone No. 1 overall and JaMarcus Russell would have been lucky to be selected 199th. This stuff is hard, especially when you consider the stakes. Missing on a first-round quarterback can set a franchise back for years. Because of the “boom or bust” nature of the position, selecting a quarterback, particularly in the first round, is riskier than selecting a player in any other position.What, then, to do about Winston versus Mariota this Thursday? Build a model, of course. This year, ESPN’s Production Analytics crew created a QB model to help teams reduce the risk of drafting the wrong quarterback. Like all models, this one had a few outliers, but it would have predicted that Andrew Luck would be the top QB in the last three draft classes, that Russell Wilson would be far better than his third-round grade, and that first-rounders Brandon Weeden and EJ Manuel would be below-average quarterbacks — and of course that’s without using those years of data to fit the model.1The model is based on 122 quarterbacks from the 2005 to 2011 NFL drafts. The model’s opinion on this year’s top two: Mariota — not Winston — is the top prospect.The goal of the model is to predict a player’s Total Quarterback Rating over his first four years in the league, which is generally the length of his rookie contract. The main inputs into the projections were a player’s college stats (adjusted for defenses faced),2Expected points added (EPA), the backbone of QBR and many other NFL models, was used to measure quarterback success in college. We adjusted for opposing defenses faced to measure a QB’s success in college, and EPA/play was used as an output to project QBR. Because of small sample sizes, stabilization techniques were also applied to obtain less volatile measures of success. combine/physical measurements, scout grades and play-type frequencies in college. After determining which factors mattered most,3To do this, we used a censored regression, using Bayesian information criteria as the variable selection criteria. Prospects that never played in the NFL or players that performed worse than replacement level were left censored. the model projected a player’s NFL success in four categories — on passing plays, on running plays, how many sacks he’s likely to take, and how many penalties he’s likely to incur — over his first four seasons. These play-type projections and how often each play is expected to occur4A random forest model was used to project NFL play-type frequencies using the same set of predictor variables from the censored regression. Only players that had at least 300 NFL action plays were used to fit this model. were combined to produce the QBR projections.Not surprisingly, scout grades5Mel Kiper and Scouts Inc. were used for the grades. were the most significant predictor of quarterback success. Scouts have the luxury of knowing things that aren’t completely captured in college stats, and they generally do a good job measuring a quarterback’s passing capabilities. Where the scouts fall short, however, is their evaluation of efficient rushing quarterbacks.The model found that players who were effective rushers were generally undervalued by scouts. That does not mean that every player who runs for 1,000 yards in college will be a good NFL quarterback; rather, the quarterbacks who are efficient runners have an ability to extend drives that serves them well in the NFL. For example, Luck ran for 150 yards in his final college season but was one of the more effective college rushers, converting a first down on 39 percent of his rushes (excluding sacks). Once in the NFL, Luck has been one of the best scramblers in the league and was the most efficient rushing quarterback in 2013.The added rushing component is also a major reason that Wilson was projected to be one of the top quarterbacks in his class (47.3 projected QBR) but only the eighth-best quarterback by Scouts Inc.Winston had a better Scouts Inc. grade, but Mariota’s better rushing stats and combine tests helped him beat out Winston in the model’s approach. Cody Fajardo12.0 Sean Mannion9.1 Brandon Bridge5.3 Bryce Petty24.5 The model did not explicitly take into account the sexual assault allegation made against Winston or his off-field transgressions — although those were likely baked into the scout grades, which were a part of the model.Out of the 67 players evaluated in the 2012 to 2015 draft classes, Mariota was the most efficient rusher on a per-play basis. Excluding sacks, he averaged 9.8 yards per rush attempt in his college career and gained a first down on 41 percent of those plays. Winston, on the other hand, ranked 29th in per-play rushing efficiency and gained a first down on 24 percent of his carries.Mariota and Winston are each projected to be above-average quarterbacks in their first four years in the league, but they are far from the elite level that the model projected for Luck (79.2 projected QBR) when he came out of college. Their four-year projections are closer to the expectations for Robert Griffin III entering the 2012 draft.After Mariota and Winston, Brett Hundley is expected to be the third-best quarterback in the class, but there is a clear gap between the top two QBs and the rest of the prospects. Like Mariota, Hundley is athletic and ranks in the top 10 in per-play rushing. Other models look favorably upon Hundley, making many believe he could be the sleeper of the 2015 draft class.The rest of the 2015 QB class is expected to perform at the level of replacement level QBs.6Defined as a player with a QBR of 25 or lower.No one model can perfectly predict NFL quarterback success, but looking at what numbers have mattered in the past tells us that we will be lucky to have three players come out of this draft class who will have long-term NFL success.
See more college football predictions College Football See more NBA predictions Things That Caught My EyeBest football game of the weekendLast night the Toronto Argonauts pulled off a come-from-behind victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League championship game, the Grey Cup. Down 17-8 by half time, Toronto mounted an immense second half and tied the game 24-24 on a two point conversion following a 109-yard fumble return with four minutes left to go, and a last minute field goal to seal the deal. I watched at least a dozen different football games over the past four days and honestly? Canada put us all to shame. [TSN]Plus 57For the 25 minutes when Luc Mbah a Moute was on the court last Wednesday in Houston’s 125-95 rout of Denver, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by 57 points. That’s the highest plus-minus (net scoring when a given player is on the court) recorded in any game since November 8, 2001. [ESPN]They did it?Congratulations to the several teams who are finally mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but specific congratulations are in order for Cleveland, an entirely defeated team that now enjoys a 71 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft. Their main competition is the 49ers, who have a 27 percent chance of getting the “prize.” [ESPN]The king is dead. Long live the king.Alabama lost to Auburn in the extremely important Iron Bowl and has been dethroned from its perch at the top of the AP poll. Indeed, Alabama now is down to a 79 percent chance of finishing with a top four strength of record. Clemson sits on top of the AP top 25, and is now the favorite to win the title with a 21 percent chance of taking it. Alabama has a 48 percent chance of making the playoffs following their extremely ill timed loss. [ESPN, FiveThirtyEight]No more 7-9 nonsenseThe Los Angeles Rams will go at least 8-8 this year with a win over New Orleans Sunday, which is consequential for one reason: It’s their first non-losing season since 2006. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. Here’s something absurd: This year with Jared Goff behind center the Rams are ranked third when it comes to points scored. In the previous 10 years they had never ranked above 21st, and three times were straight up last place in points scored. [The Washington Post]Protest works on football?Tennessee reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding with Greg Schiano to make him their head coach but backed out of it amid political and protest pressure over his alleged connections to Penn State’s Sandusky era. [ESPN]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number0.54Chicago had a truly awful game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mitchell Trubisky posted the third worst single game total quarterback rating since 2006, with a 0.54. The Bears recorded six rushing yards. This is the second fewest in the recorded history of the Bears, who have existed since 1920. [ESPN, ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:Bills finally came to their senses and will start Tyrod (for now)gfoster:I kinda feel bad for Peterman.kyle:i feel bad tyrod has to play for the bills more nowPredictions NFL See more NFL predictions All newsletters Oh, and don’t forgetOdell Beckham Jr. is an American treasure We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe NBA
OSU players cheer during a game against Michigan State on Feb. 23 at the Schottenstein Center.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorSince early November, the Ohio State men’s basketball team has been trudging through a 31-game swamp of a regular season, its caliber of play seemingly as unpredictable as the Ohio weather. The Buckeyes’ future went from being grayscale amid an early three-game losing skid to technicolor after they stunned then-No. 4 Kentucky before fading fast into an unidentifiable palette during conference play.Yet now the regular season, and all its confusion, has concluded, and seventh-seeded OSU (19-12, 11-7) has been allotted a chance to start over Thursday in the Big Ten tournament against 10th-seeded Penn State. The game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, is the epitome of a make-or-break situation for the Buckeyes. OSU not only needs a victory to advance in the tournament, but a first-round exit would, effectively, end all its chances of an NCAA tournament berth.“I think that mostly our guys have a pretty good understanding that you’re entering into a tournament that if you don’t win, you go home,” OSU coach Thad Matta said Monday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “The level should be raised in terms of how we want to play and how we want to compete.” OSU enters the conference tournament on the heels of two double-digit losses to now-second-ranked Michigan State with a victory over then-No. 8 Iowa sandwiched in between. The Nittany Lions (16-15, 7-11) wander into the Bankers Life Fieldhouse winners of five of their last eight games, headlined by wins over eventual regular-season conference champion Indiana and then-No. 4 Iowa. On Jan. 25 in Columbus, the two teams met for the lone regular-season matchup, which OSU won by 20 points. But in tournament play, putting too much weight on previous meetings can be dangerous, especially since the two teams are playing differently now. “They’re obviously a much better basketball team than when we played them a month ago, and our guys will be well aware of that from film,” Matta said. Added Penn State coach Pat Chambers: “We’re really two different teams … it should be an interesting matchup.” Burden of youth The Buckeyes are nearly bereft of upperclassmen, with junior forward Marc Loving being the sole one. That inexperience hurt them during the regular season, and Matta said he understands it might play a role again Thursday. OSU freshman guard JaQuan Lyle (13) controls the ball during a game against Michigan State on Feb. 23 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorOf the 10 players on OSU’s active roster, seven have yet to log a minute in a Big Ten tournament. The three who have are Loving, sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop and redshirt sophomore guard Kam Williams. To compensate, the coach said pristine performances in practice leading up to Thursday’s matchup are of heavy emphasis. “We want to have the best practice we’ve had all year and be as good as we can possibly be going into this tournament,” he said. Who will take Taylor? In the first meeting, both teams struggled at times but particularly, Nittany Lion senior Brandon Taylor had a tough time on that wintery evening. The forward struggled to engineer anything offensively, finishing the night with 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting and two rebounds in 36 minutes. In the 27 games this season in which Taylor logged north of 20 minutes, his 11-point outing against the Buckeyes was tied for his second-lowest scoring total. Singling out one cause for the woes wouldn’t be fair, but the suffocating defense that OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate supplied certainly trammeled Taylor. On Thursday, however, keeping Penn State’s leading scorer in check won’t be as easy as assigning Tate to follow Taylor wherever he goes. That is, of course, because Tate is out for the season after having shoulder surgery on Feb. 26. It’s a prime example of why regular-season games can’t be too much of the focus entering tournament time. Both teams are now playing with a different deck than they were in Columbus.The Buckeyes certainly have no shortage of wing defenders — freshman forward Mickey Mitchell, Bates-Diop and Loving, to name a few — but all pale in comparison to Tate on the defensive end. Taylor is the type of player who “can get going at any given moment,” Matta said, and what makes slowing him down laborious is the fact that other perimeter players, such as sophomore guard Shep Garner, can score the basketball, too. Garner was hobbled by an ankle injury in the January, but he’s been hot as of late. In his past five games, he’s averaging 19.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. His play, coupled with the fact that Taylor won’t have to deal with Tate’s peskiness, present an interesting challenge for the Buckeyes. “Obviously, on Thursday we’re going to have to have the same type of effort (from the first meeting), same type of focus of not letting those guys get going,” Matta said. Up nextThe winner of Thursday’s game will advance to take on No. 2 seed Michigan State. That game is set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.