In January, Florida State beat Auburn in the last-ever BCS National Championship Game, capping an undefeated season that earned it the No. 1 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. Seven months later, the Seminoles are atop the college football world, ranked No. 1 in the AP’s preseason top 25 poll. How rare is it for the defending champs to return to No. 1 the following preseason? And how has that rate changed over time?Since 1950, defending No. 1s have begun the following season atop the polls 23 times, or once every 2.8 years. Four of the last six preseason No. 1s were defending champions — although before that, it only happened three times in 12 years, and seven times in 33 years. On average, the top team in the AP’s preseason poll checked in at No. 3.1 in the final poll taken after the previous season.Top preseason teams have gone on to win the championship 10 times in the 65 seasons since 1950, or 15 percent of the time. The last preseason No. 1 to finish the season No. 1 was Southern California in 2004.
Jameis Winston and No. 1 Florida State University had no problems defeating No. 20 Duke on Saturday night in the ACC championship game. In result, the Seminoles are headed to the VIZIO BCS National Championship.“This whole week has been very high emotion,” Winston said. “We wanted to win this championship so bad. We were looking forward to having an undefeated season.”FSU (13-0) are expected to play No. 3 Auburn in Pasadena, CA, on Jan. 6 after No. 2 Ohio State lost to Michigan State Saturday night. Winston threw three touchdown passes and ran one in, as the Seminoles routed the Blue Devils 45-7.The Heisman Trophy favorite, Winston, was 19 of 32 for 330 yards and threw two touchdown passes to 6-foot-5, 234-pound receiver Kelvin Benjamin.“The football field is our sanctuary,” Winston said. “Every time I stepped on the field, every time we stepped on that field, everything that happened outside of our family, it was just zoned out.”Remaining humble, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher told the media, “We’re not champs yet,” in response to “We Are the Champions” being played after their win.The Vizio BCS National Championship takes place on January 6 at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA.
2016140.6+22.9-45.5-8.7109.3 Abbreviated seasons prorated to 82 games.Source: hockeyabstract.com, Hockey-Reference.com Without those kinds of star turns, Detroit might be starting up a new playoff streak — one of the “drought” variety. Although there’s still plenty of time for the club’s recent draft picks to develop, the Red Wings as they’re currently constructed aren’t an especially young team — they have the NHL’s 12th-oldest roster — and they certainly aren’t a good one. The NHL is a league designed for parity, so Detroit’s record probably won’t stay outright bad for long, but it might also be awhile before we see the Wings restored to their former glory.If so, it’s all the more reason to appreciate the playoff dynasty Detroit built over the past 26 years. Thanks to shrewd drafting, trades, player development and a forward-looking vision of the game, the Red Wings built one of the best teams in hockey year in and year out for two and a half decades. For a whole generation of Motor City fans, greatness on the ice is all they’ve ever known. It’s a remarkable legacy, even if, like every great empire, it eventually collapsed.CLARIFICATION (Feb. 9, 2:34 p.m.): Since this article was originally published, a sentence has been rephrased to reflect the fact that Alexey Marchenko is no longer on the Red Wings’ roster, though he did have a Corsi greater than 50 percent during his time as a regular skater for the team this season. NET GVT ADDED VIA… 2010174.6+15.9-8.2-46.9135.4 2008178.4+22.1+35.7-35.8200.4 2015114.9+3.8+25.7-3.8140.6 2009200.4+28.3-50.3-3.8174.6 2012145.4+9.7+28.9-12.2171.8 No NHL team averaged a better Corsi than the Wings from 1991 to 2016, and the team even ranked fifth in the statistic as recently as two seasons ago. But the next generation has fumbled the torch on the handoff, and Detroit’s fabled possession machine has eroded badly in recent seasons as its stars have aged and departed.Gone are such advanced-metric idols as Pavel Datsyuk, whose 58.1 percent on-ice Corsi3At 5-on-5, adjusted for score effects and zone starts. ranked second among all NHL players from 2007-08 until his retirement from the NHL last summer, as well as Brian Rafalski (fifth), Tomas Holmstrom (10th), Mikael Samuelsson (14th) and Nicklas Lidstrom (19th). (Fifteenth-ranked Johan Franzen is also technically on the Red Wings’ long-term injured reserve list, but is unlikely to ever play again.) In the wake of that mass exodus, Detroit has fallen to an unheard-of 25th in the NHL in Corsi, according to PuckOn.net’s calculations. Only three players who have regularly skated for the Red Wings this season — forwards Anthony Mantha and Tomas Tatar, and recently waived defenseman Alexey Marchenko — have been on the ice for a Corsi greater than 50 percent (i.e., on the ice while Detroit possessed the puck more than the opponent). Even Henrik Zetterberg, normally one of the best possession-drivers in the game, has a mere 49.9 percent mark this season, with his relative Corsi, which measures how much he influences play relative to his teammates, dropping 12 percent from what it was during his best seasons.Detroit’s decline isn’t just about a drop-off in possession rate. The Red Wings have bled talent up and down the ice for years, going back to their post-lockout high-water mark of 124 standings points in 2005-06. Here’s how their roster changed each season since then, according to incoming and outgoing goals versus threshold (GVT), a metric that estimates each player’s value over a hypothetical replacement player in terms of goals added per 82 games: SEASONPREVIOUS GVTNEWCOMERSHOLDOVERSDEPARTURESSEASON GVT 2013171.8+5.9-14.8-25.1137.8 Related: Hot Takedown Simply put, the talent coming in hasn’t been able to keep pace with the talent going out — and nowhere is Detroit’s drain more evident than on the blue line. The Red Wings used to be able to pencil in the likes of Lidstrom, Rafalski and Mathieu Schneider for 50 to 60 points a season, with significant contributions made in quarterbacking one of the league’s top power-play units. This year’s Wings, though, have the worst power play in the NHL and the league’s fourth-worst group of offensive defensemen, according to GVT. (Where have you gone, Paul Coffey?) Although some of their weak shooting percentage with the man advantage is bound to improve with better luck, Detroit’s D corps is contributing about half as much GVT as the team got from its defensemen during the playoff streak, with nearly two-thirds of the blueliners’ drop-off coming specifically on offense.And it isn’t as though the rest of this season’s roster has picked up the slack. Goalie Petr Mrazek has been one of the worst in the league, and Detroit’s forwards have been mediocre at both ends of the rink. (They rank seventh-worst in offensive GVT and 10th-worst on defense.)In the past, the Red Wings were able to phase in a few promising young forwards every time one of their veterans declined or left the club. When Yzerman’s point totals dipped in the mid-1990s as he focused more on checking, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov and Keith Primeau provided an offensive spark. When Yzerman, Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan left the club in the mid-2000s, Datsyuk and Zetterberg were there to carry the torch. But although Tatar, Mantha, Gustav Nyquist, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou have all shown flashes of potential, none has emerged as a star on anything approaching the level of a Fedorov or Datsyuk. 2011135.4+8.5+5.3-3.8145.4 2014137.8+10.2-24.7-8.3114.9 On April Fools’ Day in 1990, the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers skated for the final game of the season at The Spectrum in south Philly. Captain Steve Yzerman banged home a goal late in the third period to earn the Wings a 3-3 tie, ending Detroit’s campaign with 70 points and a last-place finish in the Norris Division. Soon after, the 1989-90 Red Wings cleaned out their lockers and parted ways for the summer.In the nearly 10,000 days since then, Detroit has played 2,035 regular-season games and employed 246 players. It’s gone through three captains, four general managers and six head coaches. But the one constant throughout the last 25 full seasons of Red Wings hockey has been extra action in the spring — and often deep into the summer. Detroit hasn’t missed the postseason since that April day in 1990, a mind-boggling run that beats any playoff streak outside of hockey1The longest playoff streak for an NBA team is 22 seasons, by the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers from 1950 to 1971. The longest for MLB is 14 seasons, by the 1991-2005 Atlanta Braves. The longest for the NFL is nine seasons, by the 1975-83 Dallas Cowboys and 2002-10 Indianapolis Colts. and is tied for the third longest in NHL history. (That it has come partially during the NHL’s salary-cap era is especially impressive.)But it could all come screeching to a halt this season. With a 22-21-10 record, Detroit currently occupies last place in the Atlantic Division, five points out of the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot with seven teams ahead of them. According to Hockey-Reference.com’s playoff simulator, the Red Wings have just a 7 percent probability of continuing their run for a 26th straight postseason. Every streak has to end eventually, but how did Detroit go wrong after so many years of success?Perhaps the Red Wings’ most distinctive hallmark during their playoff streak has been a focus on puck possession. Even as teams won through superior playmaking and shooting talent in the 1980s and early ’90s, Detroit loaded up on ex-Soviet stars who’d been trained to take care of the puck. In doing so, the Red Wings anticipated the direction that the game would head in the future, building their dominant teams of the 1990s less on the premise of aiming pucks past the league’s rapidly improving goaltenders and more on the basis of simply controlling the flow of play. These days we measure that control through Corsi percentage, the share of even-strength shots a team directs at the opponent’s net (as opposed to vice-versa) after adjusting for score effects and other factors.2For seasons after 1986-87 and before 2005-06, this number can be estimated using a team’s shots for and against, its power-play and shorthanded chances, its record and its goal differential. Although we didn’t know it at the time, the Red Wings were dominating Corsi back when Corsi was just a guy, not a metric. 2017109.3+15.1-12.9-22.788.8 Is College Basketball Broken? We Asked The Game’s Top Stats Guru Net change in goals versus threshold (GVT) for Detroit Red Wings 2006199.2+32.6+32.0-45.7218.1 2007218.1+22.7-4.2-58.2178.4
25Milwaukee BrewersNLOct. 41463 26San Diego PadresNLOct. 41457 30Atlanta BravesNLOct. 41424 10Houston AstrosALOct. 141520 2Kansas City RoyalsALOct. 231558 neil_paine (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): After the long season, it all comes down to the Royals and the Mets. So, first things first, let’s just put it out there: How do these two teams compare? Kansas City had a better regular-season record (95 wins vs. 90 for New York), but what do the deeper indicators say?hjenten (Harry Enten, senior political writer and huge baseball fan): Well, let me take the surface-layer answer here as a non-sportswriter (though one who follows some of the deeper statistics) — based off runs scored and allowed (i.e., the Pythagorean win formula), the teams are very close. The Royals should have won 90 games, while the Mets should have won 89 games.rob (Rob Arthur, baseball columnist): I would echo Harry and say that the teams are quite even. BaseRuns gives the Mets a small but significant edge, but the Royals relief corps plays up in the postseason, when they can use their top three relievers more.hjenten: I think that, of course, ignores the fact that the Mets were a far different team after they traded for Yoenis Cespedes in late July. The Mets went a combined .627 in August, September and October, while the Royals went .567.neil_paine: Rob, to your point, it seems like the Royals used “sequencing” to their advantage, but there may be reason to think that at least some of that is real and can persist in the World Series?rob: The Royals are a very contact-oriented team, with the lowest strikeout percentage in the majors by a large margin. They are also excellent against high-velocity fastballs, which pitchers often go to when they are in a jam. Those attributes may give them a tiny edge in terms of sequencing, but there’s no question that they’ve been overachieving as well.neil_paine: And for what it’s worth, it should probably be mentioned that the Royals played a tougher schedule (certainly during the regular season); Baseball-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System has the Royals ranked 10th in baseball in strength of schedule and the Mets 29th, which probably feeds into the difference in their Elo ratings even now: hjenten: Of course, the Mets just beat the team that had the NL’s best Elo rating going into the league championship series, the Cubs …neil_paine: That’s true — Elo gave the Cubs about a 60 percent chance of winning that series, and the Mets won (swept!!) anyway; now Elo gives KC a 55 percent chance of beating New York, so grain of salt and all that.Harry, you brought up a difference in the two teams as the season went on. Obviously the Mets added Cespedes at the trade deadline, but the Royals also did some dealing — some of which has worked out better than others.rob: The Royals grabbed Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the deadline. And while Zobrist has been his typical self — with a .933 postseason OPS (on-base plus slugging) — Cueto has not looked comfortable. It’s hard to tell how much of that is normal performance fluctuation and how much is real. There are reasons that Cueto might not be at his best: a new catcher in Salvador Perez, the fatigue of a long season and many innings, and the ever-present threat of a hidden injury.hjenten: Yes, and the Royals were actually slightly worse in the final few months of the year than they were overall. The Mets, on the other hand, were clearly better after those trades.neil_paine: How much of that do we think is because the Royals all but locked up the division and the playoffs so early? And maybe more to that point, how much credence do we give to playing your best baseball right now? Certainly that’s what the Mets seem to be doing.rob: I don’t put very much stock in the second-half stats, partially because the Mets put up those stats against the weakest second-half schedule in MLB. As for the more recent postseason performance, a lot of the Mets’ playoff run has been fueled by an insane stretch from Daniel Murphy, which likely will not continue.It’s also worth noting that Cespedes is injured, so if he’s the cause of their second-half surge, the Mets may be in trouble.hjenten: Well, here’s why I would put a little more trust in the late-season records. Yes, the Mets beat up on some crummy teams, but they also went 7-2 against the Nationals from July 31 on and more than whacked the ever-loving snuff out of some of those bad teams. They scored 320 runs and gave up 243 (a 103-win pace, according to Pythagoras); meanwhile, the Royals scored 290 and gave up 269 (an 87-win pace). In other words, NY was playing far better ball than KC over the season’s final two-plus months.And it’s not like Kansas City has dominated the postseason, either. If not for a miracle against Houston, they’d be sitting at home like we are. As for Cespedes — yeah, he got hurt in that final game, but I haven’t seen any signs that he’s not going to play. We’ll see.neil_paine: Since you guys mentioned Cueto, Murphy and Cespedes, let’s talk about the Mets’ hitting against the Royals’ pitching. I think we can all agree that Murphy will eventually cool down and stop hitting like a real-life Roy Hobbs, so where will the Mets’ offense come from when that happens? Do they have any players on cold streaks that might regress to the mean (in a positive way) and cover for Murphy?rob: One reason for Mets optimism is the fact that so many of their players have been underachieving in the postseason: David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud all spring to mind. So even if (when!) Murphy cools off, one of these guys might step it up. They have an OK offense by BaseRuns, so they shouldn’t need Murphy to be superhuman forever.hjenten: I think we’re obviously dealing with small sample sizes in the playoffs, but during the regular season, the Mets’ best hitter was not Daniel Murphy. D’Arnaud (who hit two homers in the NLCS) posted a 128 OPS+ in limited action, and Mike Conforto (who homered in the division series) had a 132 OPS+. Obviously Duda (132) and Cespedes (157) were also outstanding hitters. Duda had been in a slump, but he showed some signs of life in Game 4. To me, the offense is less of a question than whether Jacob deGrom, Thor and Matt Harvey can continue to pitch as well as they have been doing.neil_paine: We’ll certainly get to those three later, but before we do: Is KC’s rotation as concerning as it might seem? Can its dominating bullpen make up for it?rob: The Royals’ rotation is worrisome, especially with Cueto potentially being in trouble. But as you mentioned, Neil, the Royals have the tools to make up for their shaky starters: an incredible defense (best in MLB last year by a HUGE margin) and a top-notch group of relievers. Here, too, the Royals may be able to take advantage of sequencing, by putting their good relievers in at the moments when the lead is most threatened. (This relies on Ned Yost knowing when to put his best relievers in, but he’s been much improved in that regard of late — Game 6 of the ALCS aside.)I think it will come down to whether the Mets can chase the Royals starters early and expose the weaker members of the bullpen. Because once it gets to their best relievers in the late innings, the Royals become very hard to beat.hjenten: And the Mets bullpen, outside of Jeurys Familia, is quite troubling. Their eighth-inning man, Tyler Clippard, has been anything but steady, giving up three runs in 4 2/3 innings this postseason. (That’s after giving up 10 runs in 14 2/3 innings in September/October.) And their lefty specialist is Jon Niese, who was rubbish as a starter. I’d say their best pitcher out of the pen at this point (besides Familia) is Bartolo Colon. That’s never a good sign.rob: Don’t underestimate Fireman Bart!neil_paine: But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out that the Mets’ starting rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey (you mentioned these guys earlier, Harry) and Steven Matz have been otherworldly in the postseason so far. I crunched the numbers, and New York is allowing the second-lowest playoff FIP (fielding independent pitching) — relative to the league average — of any pennant winner during the wild-card era (since 1995).Rob, you talked about the overwhelming velocity of New York’s starters when the Mets played the Cubs in the NLCS and how the strikeout-prone Cubs might have been particularly ill-equipped to deal with their heat. But now we almost have the polar opposite kind of lineup with the Royals.rob: Right, the Royals are contact-heavy. And there’s some limited evidence that they are better than average at hitting heat. So as far as the matchup between the Mets’ starters and KC’s lineup, this looks to be strength against strength, and it’s not at all clear how that battle will end up.It’s worth noting as well that temperature plays a significant role in offense, and it should be pretty chilly.hjenten: On the weather front: Going for a low of 49 in KC on Tuesday night, 40 on Wednesday night. 42 in NYC on Friday night. 45 on Saturday night. So it will not be warm.rob: Cold temperatures mean less offense, so when you mix the cold, high velocity and the quality Mets starters, we could see the Royals doing a lot more whiffing than they are used to.hjenten: The Mets’ great starting pitching is not a fluke, either. During the regular season, deGrom had a 2.70 FIP, Harvey 3.05, Syndergaard 3.25. Matz was the worst, with 3.61 in limited time — still 7 percent better than the NL average. That stands in contrast to the Royals’ starters (during their time with KC): Only Ventura (3.57 FIP) was better than any of the Mets starters were during the regular season.neil_paine: Through that lens, it looks like a pretty big mismatch of starting rotations.hjenten: Now, can the Royals, who hit for contact, avoid that? Maybe. As you mentioned, the home-run-hitting Cubs were the opposite of the Royals in that regard. The key for the Royals is to get into that Mets bullpen early. If they can, the Mets are in trouble.rob: And bear in mind that FIP won’t be totally fair to the Royals’ pitchers. Because their pitchers aren’t fielding-independent: Every liner they give up goes toward Lorenzo Cain or Alcides Escobar or some other, similar-competent defender.neil_paine: That’s a great point, Rob. Although relative to the league, the Royals in this postseason actually look worse by ERA than by FIP!hjenten: Here’s another thing. Compared with the regular-season numbers for deGrom (2.54 ERA), Harvey (2.71), Syndergaard (3.24) and Matz (2.27), the only Royals starter with a better ERA than any of them was Chris Young, at 3.06. No one else was under 3.50. (And it isn’t as though the average ERAs for the AL and NL were drastically different — the NL’s ERA was about a tenth of a run lower.)rob: Ha — well there goes that idea.neil_paine: We mentioned the cold and how it might not be conducive for hitting. Does this give an edge to a team like the Royals, who are pretty adept at the small-ball things that win one-run games? Or have we seen enough of that out of the Mets this postseason (even if it’s uncharacteristic, given their regular season) that it might not be as much of a lopsided matchup on the basepaths?hjenten: The Mets didn’t really run in the regular season, with only 51 stolen bases (worst in the NL). Meanwhile, the Royals stole 104 times (second in the AL). But in the postseason, you’re right, it’s different: The Mets have had nine steals, while the Royals have had seven. Cespedes can run, and Granderson can definitely run (three stolen bases in the NLCS).rob: In theory, the Mets have the baserunning edge anyway. That’s hard to believe when you look at specific players like Lorenzo Cain (who scored the series-winning run from first on a single in Game 6 of the ALCS), but bear in mind that Cain is counterbalanced to some extent by Kendrys Morales, Mike Moustakas and others.neil_paine: So it sounds like that won’t be as much of an edge for KC as it’s often made out to be.rob: Yep. I think a lot will hinge on the Royals’ appetite for (and execution of) those small-ball tactics (like sacrifice bunts) that are despised by modern sabermetrics. It works for them — or at least it has worked, over and over — but the percentages suggest that it isn’t helping them in the long run. We’ll have to see whether Kansas City’s magic runs out.hjenten: And all it takes is one play in the World Series.neil_paine: OK, so let’s bring it all the way back for the big picture on the Series itself. What are your predictions?rob: I will say Royals in seven, but let’s be realistic: A 55 percent favorite (as Elo estimates) is barely a favorite at all. The outcome is almost certainly within the margin of error of any publicly available forecasting tool.So it will not surprise me whichever way this goes. And after this postseason, I am just excited to see some more weird baseball.hjenten: I also want to say the Royals in seven. But to be different, I will say Mets in five.neil_paine: OK, you heard it here first — Royals in seven … maybe.Thanks for chatting, guys, and we’ll be back later in the World Series. See you then! 1Toronto Blue JaysALOct. 231565 12San Francisco GiantsNLOct. 41516 7Los Angeles DodgersNLOct. 151530 17Tampa Bay RaysALOct. 41502 9Texas RangersALOct. 141523 11Baltimore OriolesALOct. 41517 19Arizona DiamondbacksNLOct. 41487 23Oakland AthleticsALOct. 41465 8Cleveland IndiansALOct. 41523 RANKTEAMLEAGUELAST PLAYEDELO RATING 13New York YankeesALOct. 61516 16Boston Red SoxALOct. 41509 14Los Angeles Angels of AnaheimALOct. 41511 Why should politics get to have all the fun with chats? In preparation for the World Series, which starts Tuesday, we summoned the biggest baseball obsessives on FiveThirtyEight’s staff to Slack to talk about the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals. As usual, the transcript below has been lightly edited. 5Chicago CubsNLOct. 211546 20Seattle MarinersALOct. 41487 29Cincinnati RedsNLOct. 41436 15Washington NationalsNLOct. 41509 28Philadelphia PhilliesNLOct. 41437 22Detroit TigersALOct. 41466 21Chicago White SoxALOct. 41478 27Colorado RockiesNLOct. 41450 3Pittsburgh PiratesNLOct. 71554 6St. Louis CardinalsNLOct. 131542 18Minnesota TwinsALOct. 41500 24Miami MarlinsNLOct. 41463 4New York MetsNLOct. 211546
Alabama 10-121359%66% ▲ 2122% Florida 10-18101932%17% ▼ 5a3% Clemson 11-014660%69% ▲ 2116% Michigan 9-21213157%6% ▲ 21<1% LSU 7-31538120%<1% ▲ 21<1% Utah 8-31337260%<1% ▲ 21<1% Northwestern 9-22021550%<1% ▲ 21<1% RankingProbability of … USC 7-424261033%<1% ▲ 21<1% Iowa 11-05122937%29% ▲ 6a3% Stanford 9-21111952%11% ▲ 212% Oklahoma 10-175163%55% ▲ 1022% North Carolina 10-11781640%11% ▲ 212% Navy 9-116163826%<1% ▲ 21<1% College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 17. Playoff probability changes are since Nov. 18; only changes greater than 5 percentage points are shown. Florida State 9-21419130%<1% ▲ 21<1% Notre Dame 10-1478—a31% ▲ 216% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title Baylor 9-1109216%19% ▲ 217% Oklahoma St. 10-16141420%9% ▼ 162% Wisconsin 8-32531280%<1% ▲ 21<1% Memphis 8-32152490%<1% ▲ 21<1% Houston 10-119284431%<1% ▲ 21<1% Michigan St. 10-1921747%44% ▲ 336% (But first, a reminder: Our predictions are probabilistic for a reason. There’s a lot we don’t know! With only one year of data to work off, it’s not clear how the playoff committee weighs winning a conference championship against not playing in one, or how it judges a one-loss team in a strong conference versus an undefeated squad from a weak one. We’ll learn a lot more on Dec. 6 when the committee makes its picks.)Clemson and Alabama cruised on Saturday and retain pole position to make the playoff at 69 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Oklahoma sweated out a thrilling TCU comeback and remains the best bet from the Big 12 to make the playoff: The Sooners’ odds have risen to 55 percent. If they can win at Oklahoma State next Saturday, the Sooners make the playoff in 85 percent of our simulations.After that, it’s a pair of Big Ten teams — and things get hairy. Our model now gives Michigan State the inside track to be the fourth team in the playoff (with a 44 percent likelihood). Right behind the Spartans are the Buckeyes, at 33 percent. Luckily for Michigan State, it has a clear path to the playoff: Beat Penn State next week (the Spartans are 80 percent favorites) to wrap up the Big Ten East and then win over Iowa in the conference title game. Should Michigan State win out, our model gives them a 92 percent shot to make the playoff.Ohio State is not out yet, however. The Buckeyes’ path is just much less clear. They first need to beat Michigan at The Big House next week — no easy task, as the Buckeyes are only 58 percent favorites. Then they need the Spartans to lose. In a scenario in which Michigan State does slip up and a one-loss Ohio State team wins out — including over Iowa — the Buckeyes make the playoff in 96 percent of those simulations.But that is not the Buckeyes’ only way to the playoff. Should they win out and be excluded from the Big Ten championship game, they still make the playoff 54 percent of the time. As I explained last week, Ohio State as a one-loss defending national champion presents an impressive résumé for the committee to consider, even if the Buckeyes are prevented from vying for their conference title. It’s possible that two Big Ten teams make the playoff.Other takeaways from our model: Notre Dame, even if it wins out, is not assured a playoff spot. Three teams ranked behind it by the committee — Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma — have a good chance to leapfrog the Irish if they win out. Still, if the Irish beat Stanford next week to finish their regular season, their chances jump noticeably, to 69 percent.Baylor notched an impressive win over undefeated Oklahoma State on Saturday, but it didn’t help its playoff chances much. Currently, the Bears’ chances are 19 percent. Florida, on the other hand, had an overtime scare against Florida Atlantic, but despite a Gator victory, the model revised Florida’s playoff odds down to 17 percent. Oregon 8-3236240%<1% ▲ 21<1% TCU 9-2181850%<1% ▼ 5a<1% Mississippi 8-3221779%<1% ▲ 21<1% Ohio State 10-133410%33% ▼ 299% Michigan State kicked a field goal on the last play of its game on Saturday to topple the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes — and made the College Football Playoff picture more complicated. You may have some unanswered questions: What does the upset of the Buckeyes mean for the eventual Big Ten champ’s chances? Does it help or hurt Notre Dame’s playoff position? And what about the Big 12? Fear not! FiveThirtyEight’s college football model has some (probabilistic) answers. Here are our updated projections following Saturday’s games (these numbers will change again on Tuesday night after the new committee rankings are released):
After the dramatic way this World Series played out through its first five contests, is anyone really surprised that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros will require the full seven games to determine a champion? LA ensured the series would go the distance with its 3-1 victory Tuesday night, finally getting to Justin Verlander in the sixth inning and shutting down the high-powered Astros bats down the stretch. Now, everything will come down to the outcome of Wednesday’s Game 7 in Los Angeles — and that’s probably how things should be, given the way these teams have jockeyed back and forth with each other all season long.The Astros had their chance to end things earlier than expected. Although they were on the road for Game 6, they sent Verlander — their top starter according to our pitcher ratings — to the mound in a potential closeout game (games in which he’d previously had a 0.78 ERA in his postseason career), and they even held a slim lead for most of the middle innings. According to The Baseball Gauge, Houston had an 87 percent chance of winning the championship at one point in the fifth, their highest mark of the entire series. But Verlander went from cruising early to sputtering in the sixth inning for the second time in the series. Joc Pederson tacked on an insurance homer (extending the record for most home runs in a World Series to 23) that helped seal the victory.Now the Astros have to be wondering whether their best shot at ending the franchise’s 55-year championship drought — the team was founded in 1962 and has never won — has passed them by. They’ve won on the road in this series, but Game 7 will be on a different level. They’ll be facing four-time All-Star and former Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish, whom LA picked up at the trade deadline, with Clayton Kershaw potentially looming in relief. Houston will counter with Lance McCullers, who won Game 3 but is inferior to Darvish by the numbers.So the championship odds will be stacked in Los Angeles’s favor. We have them pegged at a 60 percent win probability for the Dodgers.But we probably also haven’t seen the end of this series’ many twists and turns. According to The Baseball Gauge, it’s tied for the seventh-most exciting postseason series ever, in terms of its average per-play movement in championship probability added — and that’s without yet having the benefit of a Game 7, where the stakes are magnified to mind-bogglingly high levels. The tension can only rise from here, in a winner-take-all game to crown the champion of one of the most stacked seasons we’ve ever seen.
emily:what omgalso there’s usually way more yelling in curlingandrea:is this our way of returning to the topic of a curling podcast?(please)Predictions NFL ella:huh NBA College Football See more college football predictions Oh, and don’t forgetJeremy Kerley blames ghost We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe See more NBA predictions See more NFL predictions Things That Caught My EyeWe figure out the Super Bowl favorite SundayNew England plays Pittsburgh this Sunday. They’re the two top seeds in the AFC, and the game will set the pair up for the postseason. A win for Pittsburgh locks their first round bye and, per the FiveThirtyEight Elo predictions, increases their chance of winning the Super Bowl from 17 percent to 22 percent. A loss would mean New England has only a 60 percent chance to score that first round bye, but for the Patriots a win gives them a 30 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, up from 22 now and 16 percent if they lose. [FiveThirtyEight]Lifetime banSix Russian women’s hockey players — Inna Dyubanok, Ekaterina Lebedeva, Ekaterina Pashkevich, Anna Shibanova, Ekaterina Smolentseva and Galina Skiba — recieved lifetime bans from competing in the Olympics as part of the continued fallout from the doping scandal that has prevented the Russian team from competing in the forthcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. [The Ice Garden]Input no longer requestedBeginning in 2018, the USGA will no longer allow viewers at home to call in penalties for players competing. A professional will be doing that now. Call-ins have historically affected tournament outcomes in significant ways. Now you can enjoy golf without having to obsess about the minutiae of the rule book, which I actually think may suck a bunch of the enjoyment out of golf for the people who enjoy golf. [USA Today]Oh, well, that answers that questionTurns out that Yu Darvish was accidentally tipping off his forthcoming pitches to the Astros’ batters in the World Series, as he had a rather simple tell that was easy to decode. The pitcher made it through 10 outs in two starts. [Deadspin]Try out our fun new interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Blocked and reportedThe Golden State Warriors have 8.68 blocks per game which trails only the 1985-86 Washington Bullets historically. In the past three games, the Warriors blocked 12.0 blocks per 48 minutes. Coupled with the fact that Golden State is really good at scoring points off of those blocked shots, it’s yet another instance of the Warriors being even better than their perception as “ridiculously good.” [FiveThirtyEight]Nick Foles to the rescue?Carson Wentz tore his ACL, devastating Eagles fans and sucking the air out of one of the most electric seasons the franchise has ever had. His backup is Nick Foles. So, how do backup QBs of wonderful teams do in the postseason? There have been seven quarterbacks who won at least 10 games for their playoff-bound team who were unable to start in the playoffs. Their backup quarterbacks, in five of the seven cases, lost the team’s first game in the playoffs. In one of the cases — Mike Tomczak taking over for Jim Harbaugh in Chicago in 1990 — their team won the first but lost the second game of the playoffs. But one time, the team went 3-0, when Phil Simms backup Jeff Hostestler took the 1990 New York Giants to a Super Bowl win. [FiveThirtyEight]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number62.8 percentLe’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will finish the season with a projected 62.8 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ total yards of scrimmage this year, beating out their previous combined record, 58.2 percent in 2014, when the pair notched 3,926 of 6,749 Steelers yards of scrimmage. Either way, they’re the best RB/WR duo in NFL history. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: All newsletters
OSU junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe (10) during a game against Purdue on Oct. 16 at St. John Area. OSU won 3-2. Credit: Christopher Slack / Lantern PhotographerA dominant effort from junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe propelled the No. 14 Ohio State women’s volleyball team (21-6, 10-5) to a comeback win against No. 16 Illinois (17-9, 8-7) on Wednesday.Sandbothe recorded her first career double-double on 19 kills and a career-high 11 blocks (one solo), registering a game-high 25 points as the Buckeyes came away with a win in four sets (16-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23) in St. John Arena to complete a season sweep of the Fighting Illini.“You can’t take points off,” Sandbothe said. “I don’t get the opportunity to be that player and I don’t want to be that player.”Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell also left her mark on the game with 16 kills and 13 digs, her 10th double-double of the season.“It’s a product of the whole team,” Campbell said. “Being able to get a really good dig or setting up a good block makes it easier for us to be able to distribute the ball all over the place.”After missing two games as she continues to deal with a left elbow injury, freshman setter Taylor Hughes returned to the starting lineup and led all players with 47 assists, along with four blocks and three kills.With 14 total blocks, OSU was able to hold Illinois to a .163 hitting percentage for the match. Junior libero Valeria León played a pivotal role in the strong defensive effort, picking up a game-high 19 digs.The Buckeyes also struggled on the offensive end through the first two sets as the Fighting Illini had 10 of their 11 blocks for the game. But OSU came alive in the third and fourth frames with a combined .373 attack percentage and only six errors.Campbell said a win over an Illinois team that came into the contest on a four-match winning streak will help her team’s confidence moving forward after losing four of its last six games.“It feels really good to get a really good win against a really good team, just helping us finish these last few games out strong,” she said.After a three straight games on the road, being back at home also helped the Buckeyes.“We wanted to get back in our house this week,” Sandbothe said. “We’ve got a big week ahead of us to show what we’re about, what we’ve been working hard on all practice last week (and) just bringing that to light.”OSU got into a deep hole early on in contest, finding itself down 9-1 quickly in the first set. Sandbothe tried to get her team back in it with three kills and four blocks, but the Buckeyes could never close the gap to less than five as they dropped the opening frame.That would be the only set dropped by the Scarlet and Gray on the night, however, as they battled back to take the next three. Getting back to the gameplan was crucial in the comeback effort for the Buckeyes.“Our coaches had talked to us about having a fast tempo on our sets and really limiting our errors,” Campbell said. “I think that we gave them a lot of points in that first set.”Sandbothe continued her dominance in the second set, but the result was different for her team as it evened the match at one.She picked up seven kills and her four blocks helped hold Illinois to a .000 hitting percentage for the set. Things were closely contested until the junior went on a tear, as she had a hand in six of eight Buckeye points to fuel an 8-1 run and give her team a 20-10 advantage to put things out of reach.The momentum stayed on the home side in the third set. Led by seven kills from Campbell and five more from Sandbothe, the Buckeyes attacked at a .415 clip and never trailed, taking a 2-1 lead.The Buckeyes found themselves down for much of the deciding frame, trailing by as many as five points, but worked their way back to tie the Fighting Illini at 18.From there, the two teams went back and forth, looking poised to go to extra points with the game knotted up at 23, but a Sandbothe kill and a block by Hughes and senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson ended the match.OSU will be back in action on Saturday when they are scheduled to take on Michigan in St. John Arena. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Michigan’s offense struck early and often to help the No. 20 Wolverines sweep the Ohio State softball team in a three-game series at Buckeye Field over the weekend. The Wolverines outscored the Buckeyes, 27-11, and out-hit them, 32-16, on the way to three key wins in Big Ten play. Both teams entered the series with a 5-1 record in the conference. Game three was the most tightly contested of the weekend, but it didn’t look that way early as senior pitcher Mikayla Endicott dug herself a hole in the top of the first inning. Endicott threw 60 pitches, walked five batters and gave up four runs before OSU ever had a chance to step to the plate. She credited the Wolverine batters for the length of her first inning. “I just kept attacking them, mixing things up,” Endicott said. “It was a battle and I was just trying to keep them off-balance and throw my game.” Trailing, 4-0, the Buckeyes responded quickly in the bottom of the first. A leadoff single followed by two hit batters loaded the bases with no outs and Evelyn Carrillo took advantage of the opportunity. The sophomore first baseman hit a grand slam over the right field wall to tie the game. Carrillo said she had a good idea of what pitch she would see. “I was expecting change-up all day today because I knew they had gotten me the previous day on a change-up,” she said. “I was like something up, I’m just gonna hit it, and that’s what it was.” The Wolverines added one run in the second and one in the third to make the score 6-4 and the Buckeyes couldn’t overcome the deficit. OSU scored once in the bottom of the fifth on a Michigan error, but that was it as OSU fell, 6-5. Despite the third loss to Michigan in two days, senior shortstop Alicia Herron found some positives in game three. “We came out a lot better the second game in comparison to the first two games,” Herron said. “We played tougher, we made adjustments, we were better at the plate. Overall it was just much better.” In game two, OSU built an early lead, but saw it disappear quickly. The Buckeyes batted through the order in the bottom of the first and took an early 3-1 lead. The Wolverines’ potent offense answered in the top of the second with five runs and never looked back. They added one run in the third, one in the fourth, two in the sixth, one in the seventh and finished the game with 16 hits to defeat the Buckeyes, 11-4. OSU coach Linda Kalafatis said it wasn’t the physical aspect of the game that caused her team problems. “A lot of this was mental and we had some breakdowns,” Kalafatis said. “A great program like Michigan isn’t gonna let you get away with a whole lot.” On Friday, game one started and ended the same way as game two. The Buckeyes scored two in the first inning thanks to a Herron home run, but could not muster another run the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Wolverines blasted Endicott for nine runs in three innings of work to build a 9-2 lead before tacking on one run in the seventh off freshman pitcher Olivia O’Reilly to post a 10-2 victory. OSU fell to 23-14 on the season and 5-4 in the Big Ten while Michigan improved to 27-10 and 8-1 in the conference. The Buckeyes finish up a six-game homestand Wednesday at 6 p.m. versus Dayton at Buckeye Field.
Junior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir serves during a match against #7 Fort Wayne at St. John Arena on Thursday, March 23. The Buckeyes won the match, 3-0.The No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (23-1, 12-0 MIVA) notched another win on its belt, sweeping rival No. 11 Ball State University (15-7, 6-5 MIVA) in straight sets on Saturday in St. John Arena.The win for the Buckeyes keeps them perfect in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play for the season and atop the MIVA standings. The Ball State Cardinals’ third straight MIVA loss keeps them slotted at fifth best in the conference standings.“I thought we had a really, really sharp and energetic practice yesterday. I saw a lot energy in the guys. Their spirits were up,” OSU coach Pete Hanson said. “I really felt like that was going to carry over into tonight, and it really did.”After trading back-and-forth points to begin the match, OSU began to pull away after a 5-1 run to take the lead 13-8. Two more three-point runs gave the Buckeyes a 22-13 lead. An attacking error from freshman outside hitter Ball State’s Matt Szews sealed the team’s fate in the first frame, losing 25-16.The Buckeyes’ attacking regime proved to be too strong for the Cardinals defense, as Ball State could only dig five balls in the first set. Coming into the match, Ball State was averaging 9.14 digs per set as the sixth-ranked team in that statistic in the country.The second set started off close and remained tied at 8. A three-point run gave the Buckeyes the lead 13-9. Three kills and two aces from junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen helped OSU eventually win the set, 25-15.For the second time during the night, the Buckeyes tallied nine digs and 2.5 blocks. This time, OSU’s defensive efforts kept Ball State’s attacking rate to .045. Senior opposite hitter Miles Johnson and Szerszen both put four balls a piece to the hardwood, while the entire Buckeye squad swung at a rate of .500 in the second frame.“You could just sense that they were eager to play. They were excited to play,” Hanson said. “I thought all the guys were energized tonight. I’m real happy for them, and they just played a real nice match.”After intermission, the Buckeyes took four straight points with the help of two service aces from junior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir. Points continued to be scarce for the Cardinals as they faced a 14-8 deficit midway through the third set. The Cardinals had a late set surge but their efforts fell short, losing the final set 25-19.“I’m trying to improve my level because the championship is so close,” Hervoir said. “We’ll need everybody to be at maximum in May. So, I’m trying to take responsibilities and be ready for these great games.”For the first time all season, the Cardinals did not stuff their opponent in the match. Before Saturday, Ball State was slotted No. 4 in the country in blocks per set with 2.55.“The bottom line is our passers did a great job,” Hanson said. “Anytime you have multiple options and you’re passing well, if your setters are doing a good job and your hitters are executing, you’re probably going to beat up the blockers and the diggers. The offense is at an advantage.”The Buckeyes are back in action again on Tuesday against Big Ten rival No. 13 Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania, at 7 p.m.