Wisconsin—18245%<1%<1% Iowa9122925%7%<1% USC—20530%4%1% Mississippi18171020%8%2% Texas A&M193016<1%<1%<1% Houston25233330%2%<1% Stanford1161346%19%3% Michigan State731915%22%3% Northwestern214257<1%<1%<1% Oklahoma1516315%14%5% Mississippi St.201917<1%3%<1% What to watch for this weekSECThe No. 4,1All the rankings I’m using in this article are the committee’s. one-loss Crimson Tide face No. 2, undefeated LSU in what is as close to a play-in game for the playoff as can be devised at this point in the season. Vegas has the Tide favored by about 6 points. That seems about right. After all, the game is in Tuscaloosa, and the FiveThirtyEight model gives home teams a 3.5-point advantage. But Alabama also has a slight edge over LSU according to FPI, despite its earlier loss to Ole Miss.The FiveThirtyEight model gives Alabama a 41 percent chance of making the playoff, largely because they’re favored in this game; LSU’s playoff odds are 30 percent. But let’s answer our first what-if question: How will those odds change after this game? My colleague Jay Boice ran additional simulations contingent on each team winning. In this thought experiment, if the Tide win, their odds would rise to 53 percent; but if the Tigers were to win, their odds would tick up to 45 percent. The Tigers’ odds are still lower, even if they beat Alabama, because their remaining schedule is so grueling. A road game against Ole Miss and a matchup with Texas A&M at home stand out on what is, going into this week, the toughest remaining schedule.(As a diehard fan who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, I’d like to be able to tell my fellow LSU faithful that these numbers favoring ’Bama are made up. But I can’t. What we Tiger fans do have going in our favor is Leonard Fournette, the Heisman Trophy favorite and, as Wright Thompson wrote, emerging legend.)Interestingly, though Alabama is favored to win and gets higher odds of making the postseason, because LSU is undefeated, the Tigers have higher odds (22 percent) of winning the conference, according to our model. (That’s because if LSU stumbles, Ole Miss is in position to win the SEC West with a tiebreaker over Alabama.) But beyond Alabama and LSU, Florida is waiting in the wings with an 18 percent chance of squeezing into the playoff. The Gators are looking like a good bet to win the SEC East, as they face only creampuffs for the remainder of their conference schedule; and if they emerge as a one-loss champion of the SEC, it will be hard for the committee not to include them.Big 12Baylor and TCU are putting up basketball scores each week. High-powered offenses drive the two highest-ranked teams according to FPI. Our model gives undefeated, No. 8 TCU the best chance of breaking into the playoff, even though Baylor is notionally better according to FPI. That’s because the Horned Frogs host the No. 6 Bears on Nov. 27 in what amounts to (assuming both teams are undefeated) a Big 12 championship game the conference never planned.The Big 12 is deep — very deep. Take this week’s biggest game: TCU faces No. 14 Oklahoma State. Although the Horned Frogs look strong according to our model — which gives them a 31 percent chance of making the playoff — the Cowboys can’t be ignored (they have a 6 percent chance themselves). The conference also includes a strong Oklahoma team, whom our model gives a 14 percent chance of making the postseason.Big TenThe FiveThirtyEight model gives No. 3 Ohio State the best odds of making the playoff: 61 percent. Furthermore, we give the Buckeyes a 16 percent chance of repeating as national champs. But look beyond them and you’ll see a strong conference, with the winner likely to be placed in the playoff.Ohio State has a difficult schedule ahead. Like the LSU vs. Alabama game this week, the Nov. 21 matchup against No. 7 Michigan State could be viewed as a de facto national quarterfinal game; Michigan State has a 22 percent chance of being in the final four. The winner likely will face currently undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.ACCAfter those three conferences, there’s a huge dropoff in quality. With the exception of Clemson, the ACC looks wobbly. That said, the undefeated Tigers are viewed favorably by the selection committee, which gave them their No. 1 ranking. Our model gives them a 51 percent chance of making the postseason (the best after Ohio State), but after them, Florida State is the next best ACC squad, with a 5 percent chance. That said, the Tigers face what is probably their toughest remaining challenge at home against the Seminoles on Saturday. If they survive, a what-if simulation we ran gives the Tigers a 61 percent chance of making the playoff. Furthermore, if they run the table in their remaining games, they’re likely to make the playoff (our model would put their chances at 99 percent), but if they don’t win out, the ACC champion won’t have a guaranteed spot. Why? Because if Clemson loses this week, our model would give both Clemson and FSU about a 15 percent chance.Pac-12What a total mess. Among Pac-12 teams, Stanford has the best chance of making the playoff, at 19 percent. Despite having just one loss, Utah does poorly in our model, registering a 6 percent chance — little better than unranked USC. FiveThirtyEight reckons that if Stanford does win out, it’s 90 percent likely to make the playoffs. In other words, the Pac-12 is not guaranteed a spot right now. To push the Cardinal’s odds up, Clemson would have to slip, and still a second team from the SEC or Big Ten might leapfrog the Pac-12 champ.Beyond The Power FiveThe best bet outside the five major conferences is No. 5 Notre Dame, with a 25 percent chance of making the playoff. Memphis and Houston, as impressive as they’ve been, stand only a 6 percent and 2 percent chance, respectively, of being included. In other words, the stellar mid-major teams should keep rooting for those in the major conferences to cannibalize each other. Baylor610132%31%13% RankingProbability of … Penn State—2741<1%<1%<1% Florida1091241%18%4% Temple22324541%<1%<1% Michigan1722187%6%<1% Clemson17756%51%12% Ohio State31447%61%16% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title FiveThirtyEight can’t stop the CFP from screwing your team, but we’re going to try to use numbers and our football knowledge to prevent you from being blindsided.Each week, we’ll break down the latest CFP rankings, preview the big upcoming games and explore what-if questions. As we did last year, we’ll take an iterative and probabilistic approach to project which four teams the CFP committee will select into the playoff on Dec. 6.We’ll cover the Power Five conferences and make a special effort not to ignore the mid-major darlings. Translation: we’ll show Memphis and Houston some love. And as a born-and-raised LSU fan, I’m obliged to exhibit a cocky and blatant SEC bias intended to solicit all your angry emails.Before we dive into the new rankings and preview games by conference, a few nitty-gritty details about the model are worth reiterating from what editor-in-chief Nate Silver has written in greater detail elsewhere on FiveThirtyEight:Game predictions are based on a tweaked version of ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) for each team.Based on game results, each team is given an Elo rating that reflects, primarily, its strength of schedule and, to a lesser extent, the margin of victory in its games.Each team is given a new projected ranking based on the previous week’s ranking, the outcome of the game it has just played and its Elo rating.Then the model iterates through the season’s remaining games and, using past coaches’ polls as a guide, tries to predict what the CFP committee will decide.Latest CFP RankingsJust like last year, the CFP committee angered Big 12 fans. Baylor and TCU were ranked sixth and eighth, respectively, while Ohio State is third. One-loss Alabama sneaked in at No. 4 and LSU at No. 2, a clear sign that the committee respects an SEC schedule. But the committee really has a penchant for Clemson, the squad at No. 1. That also helps Notre Dame, whose only loss is to Clemson. The committee puts the Fighting Irish just outside the party at No. 5. Oklahoma St.14111415%6%1% Notre Dame589—25%5% Good gosh o’mighty, what a college football season so far. It’s early November, and fans have already witnessed:a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown as time expired;an eight-lateral kickoff return that was returned for a touchdown as time expired;a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown as time expired; andthe ongoing dominance of the next Herschel Walker.Amid all this excitement, in walks the selection committee to cut the ribbon on its first iteration of this season’s College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings. Unveiled over the next month, these CFP rankings will determine who plays in the second-ever four-team playoff. But reading the CFP tea leaves can be overwhelming.Confused by the CFP committee’s weird pronouncements? Fearful that Condoleezza Rice and her comrades will stab your team in the back? (Baylor and TCU fans, you know the feeling.) Trying to interpret the CFP rankings probably makes you feel like the Michigan guy who made his way around the Internet: UCLA2321225%1%<1% Memphis13143621%6%<1% Toledo24244328%<1%<1% Utah12152118%6%<1% Florida State16131513%5%<1% North Carolina—262323%<1%<1% LSU25822%30%8% TCU84237%31%11% Alabama42614%41%11% Arkansas—3926<1%<1%<1% Oregon—2532<1%<1%<1%
Finally, all the haggling came to an end and the Robert Griffin III era with the Washington Redskins began in earnest today with Griffin signing a contract worth $21,119,098 over the next four years. He can join his teammates in the final days of a five-day mini-camp.Griffin offered on Twitter: “Well people…. It’s Time to go to Work!!! off the unemployment line and oh yeah HTTR!!!!”The deal is very much like the one given to last year’s second-overall pick, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, and about $12 million less than the guaranteed figure given to St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith, the last second-overall pick signed before the rookie wage scale went into effect. Smith signed a six-year, $61.775 million deal with $33 million in guarantees.Griffin’s contract, which includes a $13.8 million signing bonus, contains no “offset language,” according to one person with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because all its aspects have not been made public. That provision had been a stumbling block in negotiations for many top picks.Without the language, the Redskins would owe Griffin the full amount of his guaranteed contract if they release him and he signs with another team, regardless of his salary from the new franchise.As with all contracts given to the top-10 picks, there is a team option for a fifth year. Should the Redskins exercise that option, they would pay Griffin the transition tag value in the fifth season, which is the average salary among the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in that year.The highest draft pick to sign before today was Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was taken with the ninth overall pick and received a four-year, $12.58 million deal.The Redskins traded up with the St. Louis Rams from the sixth slot to the second to take the highly productive Baylor quarterback, and they paid a high price in doing so. Washington gave up their sixth overall pick in 2012, their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, and a second-round pick in 2012 for the pleasure of ensuring their franchise quarterback.
NEL. BlountD. Lewis3.94.4-0.5 DALE. ElliottA. Morris5.13.5+1.6 BALT. WestK. Dixon4.04.3-0.3 NYJM. ForteB. Powell3.75.5-1.8 PITL. BellD. Williams4.93.5+1.4 TEND. MurrayD. Henry4.44.5-0.1 YARDS/ATTEMPT SFC. HydeS. Draughn4.62.7+1.9 Not every running back is replaceableDifference between teams’ primary and secondary running options by yards per attempt, 2016 JAXT.J. YeldonC. Ivory3.63.8-0.2 NYGR. JenningsP. Perkins3.34.1-0.8 SDM. GordonK. Farrow3.93.2+0.7 ATLD. FreemanT. Coleman4.84.4+0.3 OAKL. MurrayJ. Richard4.05.9-1.9 The 25-year-old averaged 4.86 yards on 261 carries last season — or 1.36 yards more than Williams averaged in 98 attempts while running behind the same offensive line. That differential was the fourth in the NFL when comparing primary ball carriers to their best backup with 50-plus carries, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. That means Bell gained 355 more yards on his 261 carries than his backup would have, and those extra yards are worth 23 points, based on the league rate of a point every 15.4 yards from scrimmage. That was bested only by the Chicago Bears’ Jordan Howard (1.98 yards better per carry), San Francisco 49ers’ Carlos Hyde (1.90) and Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott (1.55). But in those three cases, the 2016 backups — Jeremy Langford, Shaun Draughn and Alfred Morris, respectively — are nowhere near the caliber of Williams, one of only three backs since 2000 who have matched Bell’s active streak of averaging at least 4.7 yards in three consecutive seasons (minimum 100 carries).2 The other two are Tiki Barber (2004 to 2006) and Jamaal Charles (2012 to 2014). No back this century has ever done it four straight years.If you look at the list across the league, you begin to see why an NFL front office might think twice about giving big money to a first-string running back. There were 11 teams in 2016 in which the difference in efficiency between the starter and the backup was separated by less than half a yard per attempt. What’s more, there were 16 backups who were actually more efficient in less work, perhaps because of fresher legs. And the four backs who averaged at least 1 yard more per rush than the man they were behind on the depth chart are backups again this year. That includes the best backup rusher last year, Oakland’s Jalen Richard (1.88 yards per carry more than the now-departed Latavius Murray, who was replaced by Marshawn Lynch). More mysteriously, the Jets’ Bilal Powell (5.51 per carry) is expected to back up the same starter, Matt Forte (3.73), as is Washington’s Chris Thompson (5.24) behind Rob Kelley (4.19).Bell’s teammates, at least, seem to appreciate his value. “We need him,” star wide receiver Antonio Brown told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Monday. “He’s a special piece.” But on Wednesday, prior to training camp, Brown expressed dismay on Instagram over Bell’s anticipated absence, saying the “First rule to getting better is showing Up!”Brown was rewarded for his stellar output with a four-year, $68 million deal in February. But Bell’s best offer from the Steelers didn’t approach that, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, which is instructive in showing how much more the NFL values passing over the ground game. But Bell is arguably the team’s second-most important receiver behind Brown, too. Last year, he became the first player in NFL history to average more than 50 yards receiving per game in addition to 100 rushing yards. And his total of 157 yards from scrimmage per game was third-most in league history.Yet despite their arguably equal importance to the team, it’s Bell who is skipping camp while he waits on his payday. Brown, meanwhile, arrived at camp on Thursday chauffeured in the backseat of a 1931 Rolls Royce. HOUL. MillerA. Blue4.04.2-0.2 NOM. IngramT. Hightower5.14.1+1.0 WSHR. KelleyC. Thompson4.25.2-1.1 DEND. BookerC.J. Anderson3.54.0-0.5 BUFL. McCoyM. Gillislee5.45.7-0.3 CARJ. StewartF. Whittaker3.84.7-0.9 TEAMRB1RB2RB1RB2DIFF. RB2 is the teams’ best backup running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.Source: TruMedia CHIJ. HowardJ. Langford5.23.2+2.0 CINJ. HillR. Burkhead3.84.7-0.9 CLEI. CrowellD. Johnson4.84.9-0.1 Le’Veon Bell was born in the wrong decade. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is the best player in the NFL at his position, but he’s playing at a time when that distinction has never been less valued. On Thursday, Bell didn’t report to camp (and was under no obligation to do so), having yet to sign his franchise tender for $12.1 million. Earlier this month, negotiations between the All-Pro and the Steelers broke down without Bell signing a long-term contract after he reportedly sought $15 million per year. Assuming Bell does sign the tender, he’ll still play this season for the Steelers as the game’s highest-paid back. But the Steelers can’t resume negotiations on a long-term deal until 2018, meaning Bell will be a free agent once again.Put another way: This could be Bell’s last season wearing black and gold. In another era, when running backs like Earl Campbell, Franco Harris and Walter Payton were the gods of the gridiron, this would be unfathomable. But in the modern NFL, any running back, regardless of his ability, may be viewed as replaceable simply because he doesn’t throw or primarily catch the football. Despite this new line of thinking, Pittsburgh could still be making a huge mistake.Local papers have noted that Pittsburgh has won at a higher rate without Bell the past two years (11-5 including playoffs) than with him (12-7). But Bell played in five games without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during that span, compared with just one for his backup the past two years, DeAngelo Williams, who is no longer with the team. The Steelers went 10-3, meanwhile, when Bell and Roethlisberger both played.1 This is excluding a 2015 game against the Bengals in which Bell suffered a season-ending injury early in the second quarter and January’s playoff loss against the Patriots when Bell left the game in the first quarter.In addition to durability risk, the knock on running backs is that they are interchangeable –that their success is based more on a team’s offensive scheme and run blocking than any innate ability. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Bell. DETT. RiddickZ. Zenner3.93.8+0.1 PHIR. MathewsD. Sproles4.34.7-0.4 KCS. WareC. West4.33.3+1.0 TBD. MartinJ. Rodgers2.94.3-1.4 GBT. MontgomeryE. Lacy5.95.1+0.9 MINJ. McKinnonM. Asiata3.43.3+0.1
13Eli Manning2007Giants99.180.6✓ 2Matt Ryan2016Falcons132.692.5 16Nick Foles2017Eagles122.177.5✓ Goff’s been off in the playoffsSuper Bowl quarterbacks by passer rating and Total QBR for playoff performance through the championship round, 2006 through 2018 playerseasonteamRatingQBRWon SB? 3Peyton Manning2009Colts104.691.9 6Tom Brady2018Patriots91.585.6? 24Peyton Manning2015Broncos81.740.0✓ Most quarterbacks drive the bus to the Super Bowl. Their play is so sharp that it’s a major factor in their team’s advance through the postseason. A few, however, are merely passengers on the bus.Based on his performance so far in the playoffs, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who will face off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday, may be a part of this second group. This is strange considering all that Goff accomplished in the regular season: He was top five in the league in yards per attempt and top 10 in passer rating, threw 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, was named to the Pro Bowl for a second straight year and was even a leading MVP candidate. But that Goff was absent from the divisional and championship rounds of the playoffs.Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Goff’s overall performance as measured by Total Quarterback Rating is 62.8, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.1Total QBR is a metric on a 0-to-100 scale that incorporates all of the quarterback’s contributions to winning on all of his plays, adjusting for opponent quality. Among the 26 postseason performances by quarterbacks who have played in the Super Bowl since February 2007 (including Brady’s 2018 postseason to date), Goff’s ranks 20th. That’s more than 10 points worse than the average Super Bowl quarterback over the same span (73.7). And it’s nearly 23 points short of Brady’s current postseason performance, the best of his six seasons in the sample. 18Eli Manning2011Giants103.174.8✓ 23Russell Wilson2014Seahawks81.953.0 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 5Aaron Rodgers2010Packers109.286.1✓ 12Joe Flacco2012Ravens114.780.9✓ 11Kurt Warner2008Cardinals112.182.3 15Tom Brady2011Patriots105.878.7 19Peyton Manning2006Colts66.872.9✓ 8Tom Brady2017Patriots105.083.3 Check out our latest NFL predictions. 9Cam Newton2015Panthers113.483.0 Goff’s performance isn’t quite as uninspiring as Rex Grossman’s in the playoffs following the 2006 season (30.6 QBR) or even Peyton Manning’s in the playoffs for the 2015 season (40.0 QBR). So the Rams clearly did not advance to the Super Bowl despite Goff. But they aren’t in Atlanta because of him, either. And for the Rams to claim the sport’s ultimate prize against the Patriots on Sunday, Goff will almost certainly need to raise his game to a much higher level, considering that nine of the last 12 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks.2Since the 2006 season, the only Super Bowl MVPs who have not been quarterbacks were on teams whose quarterbacks advanced to the big game despite playoff performances that were worse than Goff’s — Manning in the 2015 season, Russell Wilson in the 2013 season and Ben Roethlisberger in the 2008 season.It’s easy to write off Goff’s lackluster postseason to the small sample size of two games, but the problem for the Rams is that this is a continuation of a larger trend: Goff’s performance has been in a free fall during the second half of his season.Over the nine games that Goff played from Week 10 through the conference championship (a span that covers 358 dropbacks), his Total QBR was 54.6, which ranks 21st out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks.3The NFL requires quarterbacks to throw 14 passes per team game to qualify. Beyond that, the number of games played may vary by QB. Brady’s number over the same time period (76.9) ranks second, behind only Sam Darnold of the Jets.4Across just four games. Goff was barely better than Denver’s Case Keenum (53.3).Compare Goff’s second-half-of-the-season performance to his Total QBR in the nine games he played between Week 1 and Week 9 — 77.0 (323 dropbacks). That’s a decline of 22.4 points, which ties him with Cam Newton, who was playing with a throwing shoulder that has required surgery, as the biggest falloff since Week 10 among quarterbacks who qualified in both the first half and second half of the season: 10Tom Brady2007Patriots105.782.5 25Russell Wilson2013Seahawks89.135.6✓ 21Ben Roethlisberger2010Steelers75.562.1 22Ben Roethlisberger2008Steelers90.856.5✓ 17Tom Brady2016Patriots99.575.9✓ 20Jared Goff2018Rams79.562.8? 7Peyton Manning2013Broncos107.083.8 4Drew Brees2009Saints116.189.0✓ 1Colin Kaepernick201249ers105.994.7 26Rex Grossman2006Bears75.430.6 Goff’s yards per dropback, which factors in sacks and yards lost to sacks, has dropped a league-worst 2.32 yards. A good part of this decline can be explained by the inability to capitalize on what had been the bread and butter of the Rams’ passing game, the play-action pass. When passing after faking a handoff to the running back, Goff has averaged 7.39 yards per dropback since Week 10, which is a far cry from the 10.90 he gained in the first half of his season (on 112 and 107 dropbacks, respectively). Goff’s QBR on play action is down 20 points compared with the first half of his season.The big play that often came via play action is also lacking from the Rams’ offense. The team has managed 3.2 passing plays of 20 or more yards per game since Week 10, just under the NFL average. In the first half of their season, however, the Rams averaged 5.1 big passing plays per game, tied with the Chiefs for the league lead. In the playoffs, the Rams have been even less explosive, with just six big passing plays in two games, four fewer than the Patriots have.To be fair, Goff has not been operating with the same supporting cast. His best player, star running back Todd Gurley, has been hurt, limited or rusty since just before Christmas. And Goff has clearly missed his most efficient receiver this year in yards per target, Cooper Kupp, who tore his ACL in Week 10.On the sport’s biggest stage, Goff has a chance to silence critics who have been hounding him since his draft class. He has been called a system quarterback, to the great annoyance of the creator of that system, Rams head coach Sean McVay. (His argument wasn’t helped, however, when people started noticing that the Rams often rush to the line of scrimmage so that McVay can call audibles before the play clock cuts off his radio communication into Goff’s helmet.)Goff, just 24, has the opportunity to take Brady’s spot as the second-youngest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl. But doing so will likely require Goff to again be the quarterback he was in the first half of his season. 14Tom Brady2014Patriots99.880.0✓
Dear NBA Diary (in video form!),With both NBA teams in L.A. making moves this summer, we wondered which team would dominate this upcoming season. Will the City of Angels bleed purple and gold? Or will it truly become #ClipperNation?Using our updated NBA projections for the 2019-2020 season, we took a look at how stars like Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard will reshape the West — and what L.A. fans can expect from their teams.
The Golden State Warriors are an insanely dominant team. To answer the question in this article’s headline: Yes, the Grizzlies have a chance — about a 6 percent chance according to our Real Plus-Minus-based projections. The Warriors projected Real Plus-Minus (RPM) of +15.8 points against the Grizzlies is easily the best of any team; Golden State has about a 10-point advantage per 100 possessions.So the Warriors are likely to win, yes, but the series has several interesting contrasts for the basketball geek.Take speed. If the Warriors do succeed against Memphis, they’ll probably do so playing their breathtakingly fast style. Golden State had by far the fastest pace in the league this season, at 98.3 possessions per game. The Grizzlies play at a lumbering gait: at 92.0 possessions per game, Memphis ranked in the bottom five of the league. The Warriors are also in the top four in total blocks and steals, which ignite fastbreaks. The Grizzlies are content playing solid half-court defense, forcing turnovers and limiting your total shots. It’s fast vs. slow.Shot selection is another difference. The Warriors, especially Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, excel behind the 3-point arc. The team led the NBA in both 3-point percentage (at nearly 40 percent!), and in the total number of threes attempted. The Grizzlies? They attempt the second fewest 3-pointers of any team in the NBA, with below-average success. Memphis’ strength is near the basket, where you’ll find their two big men, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. It’s outside vs. inside.Curry, who might just win the MVP award, leads the way for a stacked Warriors team; his projected +8.8 RPM is the second highest of any player (behind Cleveland’s LeBron James). At the other end, the Warriors will rely on defensive superstar Draymond Green, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. Draymond will have a unique challenge against the two Memphis big men. If he can handle one of them one-on-one, the Warriors could cruise.For the Grizzlies, their (already slim) chances took a hit when point guard Mike Conley suffered a facial fracture. He’s projected to play only 15 minutes per game by these RPM calculations. But if he plays through the injury, and if the Grizzlies can slow the pace and prevent the 3-point-happy Warriors from blowing the roof off, Memphis could make this series interesting.
When Did Sports Become So Political? Last week, only 298 days after Claudio Ranieri helped Leicester City win the Premier League title, a 5,000-1 triumph, Ranieri was sacked. But does sacking a football manager have an effect? Not very much of one, a growing body of evidence suggests. There is over a 90 percent correlation between teams’ wages and their results, according to analysis of teams’ spending and results from 1973 to 2010 in “Soccernomics,” a book by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. That leaves less than 10 percent to be decided by other factors — who its manager is, injuries, scouting and plain old luck. In English football from 1973 to 2010, Kuper and Szymanski found, only 10 percent of top-flight managers consistently overachieved when wages were taken into account. A very select few managers do make a difference, but most have a negligible impact on how a club performs.Today, the average Premier League manager — except Arsene Wenger, in his 21st year at Arsenal — lasts a little over a year, slightly shorter than Ranieri’s reign. That doesn’t leave much time for a manager to leave a mark. Occasionally, innovations can help managers succeed immediately, as Antonio Conte has in reintroducing the 3-4-3 formation at Chelsea this season, to stunning effect. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, clubs’ complex systems of coaching, player analysis, scouting, youth development and training facilities far predate — and normally outlast — any new manager.Take Leicester and Ranieri. There were several crucial aspects of their success last year: the brilliant end to the 2014-15 season, winning seven of the team’s last nine matches under a previous manager; sophisticated use of data analytics (several members of Leicester’s backroom team have subsequently been poached); and a brilliant scouting network. All of it was in place before Ranieri took charge. While Ranieri tweaked the side’s tactics and elevated the midfielder Danny Drinkwater from the substitutes’ bench, overall he changed relatively little about Leicester’s method.What did change was Leicester’s luck, first for the better, and then for the worse. Last season, Leicester’s goal difference was 11.5 greater than predicted by a model of expected goals developed by David Sumpter, a sports economist, using Opta data that takes into account the location of shots; the team also benefited from the fewest total days lost to injury of any Premier League team. Until Leicester defeated Liverpool in its first match without Ranieri, it had been the unluckiest team in the league this season according to Sumpter’s model. When Ranieri was sacked, Leicester had conceded 9.6 goals more than expected, while scoring 0.8 fewer than expected, adding up to a goal difference of -10.4 compared to its actual figures, the lowest in the league.“Sacking Ranieri now is stupid. It’s falling into the trap of underestimating randomness,” said Sumpter, author of “Soccermatics.” “This season’s run of bad form is partly down to a run of bad luck.” Football is particularly prone to randomness, because it is so low scoring; underdogs win more than in any other major sport.So if Leicester continues to maintain its level of play for the remainder of the season, its results should improve, regardless of who the new manager is — or whether Ranieri had stayed.Ranieri’s sacking is likely to lead to an upswing in Leicester City’s results, just not because a new manager is better than him. New Premier League managers generally enjoy “a short honeymoon period,” a study of sackings from 1992-2008 by Sue Bridgewater, director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Liverpool Management School, found — but this is not because of the new boss. Managers tend to be sacked when a team is at a low point, after which they tend to revert to their former level: Bridgewater found that an average team earns 1.3 points a match, which is what they earn in the three months after a sacking. The “bounce” a new manager enjoys is just regression to the mean. Bas ter Weel, a Dutch economist, has found the same phenomenon in the Netherlands.In 2015-16, there were 58 sackings across the 92 clubs in the top four tiers in English football, a record. In most cases, teams would have been better off retaining their managers and using the saved cash on new players, or greater investment in scouting and youth development. Related: Hot Takedown In recent years several unglamorous teams have thrived while adopting strategies that limit a manager’s importance. As Kuper and Szymanski note, Lyon won seven consecutive titles in France from 2002-08, as well as reaching the quarterfinals of Champions League in three consecutive seasons from 2003-04, with four different coaches – Jacques Santini, Paul Le Guen, Gérard Houllier and Alain Perrin — who subsequently had undistinguished records. Lyon recognized that a previous manager, Bernard Lacombe, was exceptional at spotting talent, so moved him to a director of football role, focusing on player recruitment while insulated from day-to-day pressure. More recently, Southampton has excelled in the Premier League despite repeatedly losing its coaches to other clubs. Southampton’s success, like Lyon’s, has been underpinned by excellent youth development and a philosophy for player recruitment that changes little depending on who the manager is.Routinely branded the savior or destroyer of a club, the football manager is rarely either. Indeed, given how short his stints are and how many other staff members clubs now employ, perhaps the manager has never been less important. Ranieri’s unfathomable two years at Leicester might be best remembered as a reminder of the limits of a manager’s significance.Check out our latest soccer predictions.
The Ohio State men’s hockey team’s regular season ended with a shootout loss on Thursday and a 3-1 loss Friday to Ferris State — not how the Buckeyes wanted to wrap it up. OSU men’s hockey coach Mark Osiecki showed that with his discouraged look in Friday’s postgame press conference. Of their 14 games following a sweep of then-No. 7 Miami (Ohio) on Jan. 7–8, the Buckeyes (15-16-4, 10-14-4-2 CCHA) lost 10. “It’s a little frustrating knowing that we had a chance, had an opportunity and we didn’t make the best of it,” senior defenseman Chris Reed said. The chance Reed is referring to is the Buckeyes’ ability to get a first-round bye if they were to win both games against Ferris State. The Buckeyes could have moved up all the way into the fourth seed for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament. But that didn’t happen. Osiecki said he was unhappy with the way the offense performed. “We just didn’t generate enough offense,” he said. “We get offense from three players; we need to generate more from other players.” Scoring chances in Friday’s game became harder when the Buckeyes lost two defensemen who play significant minutes. Sophomore defenseman Devon Krogh was disqualified for a hitting-from-behind penalty, and freshman defenseman Curtis Gedig had to leave the game with a leg injury. But junior defenseman and captain Sean Duddy made no excuses, saying, “We just didn’t do a good enough job of putting ourselves in a position to create chances.” OSU will be the ninth seed in the CCHA Tournament and face Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., this weekend. Look for the CCHA Tournament preview in Thursday’s edition of The Lantern.
The Ohio State men’s volleyball team dropped a pair of road matches over the weekend to teams that sit below the Buckeyes in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association standings. The losses dropped OSU out of the nation’s top 10 for the first time since Feb. 1, from No. 8 to No. 11. Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) defeated the Buckeyes, 3-2 (28-26, 17-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-9), Saturday night. OSU’s defense combined for 16.5 blocks, led by redshirt senior middle blocker John Tholen, who notched eight blocks. Sophomore libero Brennan Anderson totaled a match-high 16 digs, and has now reached double digits in the category 15 times this season. On the offensive end, four Buckeyes finished with 10 or more kills. Redshirt sophomore setter Peter Heinen assisted on 51 of the team’s kills. OSU was forced to take an early timeout following an 8-3 IPFW run out of the gate. The Buckeyes responded soon after with a 6-2 run to bring the match within a point, 11-10. A back-and-forth set played out from there, ending in a 28-26 win for the Mastodons. A pair of late-set service aces from Tholen gave OSU the second set, 25-17. The Buckeyes went on to take the third set, 25-20 but were unable to finish off their opponents in sets four or five. Back-to-back errors by OSU gave IPFW the fourth set, 25-22, the fifth set, 15-9, and the match, 3-2. Ball State swept OSU (25-15, 25-21, 25-21) Friday night in Muncie, Ind. The winless road trip dropped the Buckeyes another game off the pace of league-leading Lewis, which went 1-1 across the weekend. OSU coach Pete Hanson’s squad remains in second place, 1.5 games behind the Flyers. OSU (15-5, 7-3 MIVA) returns home to St. John Arena on Friday for a non-conference match against Mount Olive at 7 p.m.
Lantern file photoWhen Maurice Clarett and Jim Tressel started their respective football careers in a city in the heart of Mahoning County, each seemed destined for greatness.For Clarett, it was supposed to be a Heisman-worthy career at Ohio State before a lengthy and successful NFL journey. For Tressel, it was meant to be multiple national titles in Columbus and surpassing the shadow of Woody Hayes before riding off into the sunset.Both men fell short, but ultimately found purpose in their lives that could impact many other people in ways other than either of the aforementioned legacies. In the end, two Youngstown boys, known for their football prowess, could very well make their hometown proud for reasons that could never take place between the white lines of a football field.As part of its noteworthy documentary series “30 for 30,” ESPN released the latest chapter in the series Saturday, chronicling the lives of the former Buckeyes.The special program, called “Youngstown Boys,” portrayed the rise, fall and rebirth of the former OSU running back and his relationship with the former Buckeye football coach.As one could assume, the documentary offered a very in-depth profile of Clarett and his life, but took on a different theme as well. His relationship with Tressel took a large role in the film and made “Youngstown Boys” about much more than the trials and tribulations of one of the most iconic players in Buckeye history.Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, the film provides a look into the firm relationship between the two men, from their roots in Youngstown to their beginnings at Ohio State. As the film depicted, Clarett was leaning towards Notre Dame or Michigan before Tressel took over in Columbus in 2001. From that moment on, the running back knew he was meant to be a Buckeye.Although everything started off smoothly for the duo, their relationship — along with Clarett’s life — took a sharp negative following OSU’s 2003 National Championship victory against the Miami Hurricanes. Former OSU athletic director Andy Geiger took the brunt of the heat for Clarett’s suspension in 2003 after it was found he took illegal benefits, but the film also took an angle that portrayed Tressel as a sellout. Rather than being a father figure to the young and lost Clarett, Tressel followed the route of prestige and power, ultimately retaining favor and love from OSU and its vast nation of fans.From that point, Clarett’s life turned into a nightmare. He sued the NFL and was ultimately denied the right to enter the NFL draft early. He fell into a deep depression that sent him back into the streets he narrowly avoided as a child. He worked hard to impress at the NFL combine after two years away from the game, but failed miserably and didn’t receive a single NFL carry after being drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos. Finally, it all hit a breaking point as Clarett was jailed for having multiple loaded weapons in his car after a high-pursuit police chase.That breaking point, as Clarett sat in jail, began to string together incidents that would bring the “Youngstown Boys” back together again.Tressel, seeing the result of his mishandling of the former running back, began taking responsibility for his actions and hold himself to a higher standard. Ultimately, that higher standard cost him his job at OSU, as Tressel defended his players, as “any father would,” and took the fall for their actions.Tressel resigned in 2011 after 10 seasons at the helm in the wake of the Tattoo-gate scandal, where some former players were found to be receiving illegal benefits. And in what seemed to be an ironic paradox, both “Youngstown Boys” saw such glory just years before, sat at the lowest points in their respective lives.In their misery, both men found their purpose in life beyond football. As Clarett sat in jail, enriching his mind in the way he had enriched his body for years before, both the running back and the coach reached out to each other and rebuilt a strained relationship.While OSU was certainly a glorious path along their journey, each of the “Youngstown Boys” said they believe there is a higher purpose to fulfill. Both are using their influence and experience to help people to better their lives.Tressel, now executive vice president at the University of Akron, is trying to provide a guiding light to a new generation of students while Clarett is using his life to help provide a way for others to avoid his mistakes. Through it all, they maintain a very loving and helping relationship in which they have forgiven and forgotten all of their past transgressions.