Last year, Kansas City went 11-5 despite a significant regression in QB Alex Smith’s statistics from the year before. How did they do so well (aside from having a highly favorable turnover differential)?Largely because of Alex Smith.5And, by extension, Andy Reid. He may not be the QB Chiefs fans wanted, but he’s the QB Chiefs fans needed. While Smith’s passer rating of 89.1 represented a 15-point drop from his 2012 season with San Francisco,6Fueled in part by Randy Moss. it’s still 25.3 points higher than Kansas City’s 2012 quarterbacks.7They also saw a huge improvement on the defensive side of the ball (going from -3.7 defensive SRS to +4.3), though part of that may be a result of the Chiefs’ offensive improvement.But Alex Smith isn’t even close to being the Chiefs’ best player.8At least relatively. Smith being “kind of OK” at QB might be more valuable than some non-QB being the best at his position, but that doesn’t make him the best QB. That would be all-star running back Jamaal Charles, who led the Chiefs in both rushing and receiving last year, and who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry over his career.While Fantasy Football players have been intimately familiar with Charles since his breakout 2009 season, the three-time Pro-Bowler has flown a little under the radar playing for a Kansas City team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1993.In my NFC North season preview, I mildly criticized Adrian Peterson9Or at least the running game he spearheads. for being better at the kinds of things the passing game already has covered (breaking long plays), and worse at the kinds of things that help keep the running game relevant (gaining yardage consistently, setting up high-leverage second downs). So with another star running back on my plate, I thought I should check to see if Charles has similar problems.The simple answer is “no.” The slightly more complicated answer is “no, and this is a silly comparison because Jamaal Charles is way better than Adrian Peterson.”Let’s start with what kinds of outcomes each back produces on first-and-10 runs from outside the red zone10I used slightly different filters from the ones I used in the NFC North article, so Peterson’s numbers may not match perfectly.:Charles runs for losses or no yards less often than Peterson does, has more quality (4-6 yard) and high-leverage (7-9 yard) gains, runs for first downs more often, and has more yards per carry on those first down runs.OK, fine. But there’s more to being a running back than just running on first down, right? For a more comprehensive comparison, I looked at a number of different scenarios11Still filtered to exclude red-zone possessions.:This is a bit of a split decision. AP is a little better on second-and-mid-distance (which is one of the more common running situations) and a little bit better on third-and-1 (though Charles isn’t used that way very often). On the other hand, Charles appears to be better at second-and-short-distance as well as third-and-medium to third-and-long (which Peterson is not asked to do very often, either).To try to boil it down in a way that’s neutral to team circumstances, I took each RB’s performance for all scenarios (including those above and rarer ones) and applied it to the frequency of those scenarios league wide. The result of that calculation is pretty lopsided: On a common set of runs, Charles would likely pick up first downs 5.7 percentage points more often and would gain 1.6 yards more per carry than an average running back, compared to 3.2 percentage points and 1.0 extra yards per carry for Peterson. In other words, per carry, Charles gains about 0.6 more yards and is 2.5 percentage points more likely to pick up a first down than Peterson.Meanwhile, Charles is also more of a threat to catch passes, wrangling in 222 receptions for 1,975 yards and 14 touchdowns in 80 games, compared to Peterson’s 206 catches, 1,697 yards and 5 TDs in 103 games. When throwing to Charles, QBs have a passer rating of 101.1, compared to 77.3 normally. QBs have a passer rating of 89.7 when targeting Peterson, versus 80.6 normally.In other words, not only does Charles catch more passes, but targeting him has led to better outcomes for worse quarterbacks. Also, he has had worse quarterbacks! This makes his performance less likely to be a product of his team’s offense.All in all, the Chiefs should probably expect to regress somewhat after such a dramatic improvement (and such a favorable turnover margin) last year, but they definitely have some weapons to keep them competitive.San Diego ChargersExpected wins: 7.9Playoff probability: 35 percent (17 percent to win the AFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 2 percent FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight NFL previews, one division at a time, to highlight the numbers that may influence each team’s season. America’s favorite weekly soap opera is about to begin; get prepped.Denver BroncosExpected wins (using implied power ratings from Las Vegas point spreads): 10.3Playoff probability: 73 percent (56 percent to win the AFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 11 percent The Denver Broncos are coming off a second straight 13-3 season and their first Super Bowl appearance in the post-Elway era. It was MVP quarterback Peyton Manning’s 10th time winning 12 or more games in a season — nobody else has done it more than eight times (Tom Brady holds that mark).Yet there are “whispers” that the Seattle Seahawks defense may have finally exposed Manning’s limitations. Doubting Manning is an ancient sport, and though it has changed somewhat over time, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.The last time Manning failed to win at least 10 games was 2001 (when Russell Wilson was still in middle school) yet Manning is only 11-12 in the postseason. Critics often say Manning is a good “regular season quarterback,” but not a great “playoff quarterback.” The theory is that there’s something about Manning’s game that makes him great at beating up on weak opponents, but that can’t handle the tougher, more complex defenses found commonly in playoff opponents.I’ll confess, before looking into this myself, I thought it was a plausible-sounding theory.1The best example of this phenomenon is very fast-paced offenses in the NBA that win a lot of games against weaker opponents by trading lots of possessions but with a tiny edge on each exchange; that strategy can backfire in the playoffs, when they face better opponents who have the edge on them. But for the most part, the reason Manning has had a harder time winning games in the playoffs is the same as it is for virtually everyone else: He has faced tougher opponents and tougher defenses. While it’s true that his teams haven’t won quite as many games as expected, and that he performs a little worse in the playoffs than in the regular season, he has actually performed better against playoff defenses that we would expect given the strength of those defenses.To examine this, I looked at ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) from 2006 to the present.2QBR is a bit less production-oriented and a bit more win-oriented than most QB metrics — this has its drawbacks, but seemed appropriate for the subject. I also tried a similar approach using adjusted yards per attempt to make sure the results were crudely similar prior to 2006. They were. In the regular season, Manning’s average QBR per game3I averaged across games weighting by number of dropbacks, which leads to slightly different numbers from each QB’s overall yearly QBR but makes it easier to combine quarterbacks. was 74.8, while the average QBR for other quarterbacks who faced the same teams in the same season was 50.8. In the playoffs, Manning’s average QBR was 68.4, for a decline of 6.4 points. But the average QBR for other quarterbacks who played his playoff opponents was 41.9, an average decline of 8.9 points.The chart below shows all of Manning’s games since 2006. Every dot above the line is a Manning performance that exceeded that of other quarterbacks against the same defense.Yes, Manning had a pretty terrible game against a terrific Seattle defense, but he has a long history of lighting up similarly accomplished opponents.4In case you’re wondering, the toughest defense Manning has faced in this data set was the 2008 Baltimore Ravens, against whom he went 19-27 for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns.Kansas City ChiefsExpected wins: 8.3Playoff probability: 42 percent (22 percent to win the AFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 3 percent The Chargers have to be one of the NFL’s most frustrated franchises. In 2013, they led the league in average drive distance on offense — gaining an average of 37.6 yards per drive. They also had the lowest three-and-out rate, with only 25.6 percent of their drives failing to gain a first down. And overall they scored 2.32 points per drive, good for second in the league behind Denver’s 2.83. Their defense was mediocre, ranking 22nd in average points allowed per drive, but their net point differential between their drives and their opponents’ drives was ninth in the league. Despite all that, they finished only 9-7. The Chargers haven’t had a 10-win season since LaDanian Tomlinson’s departure in 2009.Since Philip Rivers took over as starting QB in 2006, the statistical darling and regular Pro Bowler has made the Chargers an offensive powerhouse, scoring 2.20 points per drive, the fourth-highest in the period, behind only the Patriots, Peytons,12i.e. the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning at quarterback. and Saints. This has put them in very good company among NFL franchises.Every team in the Chargers’ neighborhood has won a Super Bowl, and the only team with greater success to fail to win one over that period is the Patriots.Like Manning, Rivers has his detractors: He can’t win in the playoffs! He can’t win big games! He makes mistakes at key moments! These are the classic arguments against statistically sound quarterbacks who perform well year in and year out but then fail to perform well in a few games (or even a few parts of a few games) in January.But in this case, there may be something to it. At a cursory level, Rivers’s teams have not performed well in close games — which you see more of in the playoffs:Since good teams are less likely to get blown out, they will naturally lose closer games much more often than blowouts. For example, Tom Brady has won 92 percent of his games decided by eight or more points, but “only” 58 percent of those decided by seven or fewer. But even considering this, Rivers has been terrible: He has won 77 percent of his larger-margin games, but just 38 percent of close ones. And as far as football goes, this isn’t a very small sample: Rivers is 19-31 in those games.13This is another area where criticisms of Peyton Manning are turned on their heads: Manning is a whopping 30-16 in close games.The only quarterback who has won more blowouts and lost more close games is Aaron Rodgers. As a Super Bowl-winner and one of the highest-rated quarterbacks of all time, he may sound like good company, but as I discussed earlier, while Rodgers’s skills aren’t in doubt, his win-maximizing tactics are.With that in mind, I used a similar method to look more closely at when Rivers throws interceptions and touchdowns14This is also similar to the analysis I did with Matthew Stafford (I’ve been doing this a lot lately). The full report looks like this., and a few things stuck out:Like Rodgers, Rivers’s interception rate is lowest relative to expectation when his team is trailing by two or more scores. This is typically the best time to be “aggressive” in the passing game.Rivers is good at not throwing interceptions when his team is way ahead. While fine, that habit inflates his statistics. Not throwing interceptions in those situations will help things like his passer rating or his team’s points-per-drive stats, but it won’t improve the team’s chances of winning games by much.Rivers throws 26.0 percent of his interceptions in the first quarter, compared to a league average 18.4 percent (the only quarter in which he throws more interceptions per attempt than average). I have nothing against gambling early, but this is a symptom of a common syndrome, wherein a QB will gamble early, or when it comes down to the wire, but will be overly cautious in between.Rivers actually does appear to play worse than his usual self in close situations. For example, he throws 71.2 percent of his interceptions when the two teams are separated by one score or fewer, compared to a league average of 60.2 percent. Meanwhile, he throws 59.3 percent of his touchdowns in those situations, compared to a league average of 63.1 percent.So overall it appears that there are markers of Rivers being a bit too conservative in some of the wrong places. On top of that, it’s likely that his stats are a bit inflated, and he has played worse than normal in the highest-leverage situations.But good news, Chargers fans! This is preferable to consistency across scenarios. As I said with Rodgers, strategic shortcomings are fixable. And while playing the worst in the most important spots may get a quarterback a reputation as a choker, those are the most likely spots for his play to improve (as he regresses toward his own personal mean).Oakland RaidersExpected wins: 5.4Playoff probability: 10 percent (4 percent to win the AFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 0 percent Last year, the Oakland Raiders went 4-12 for the second year in a row. Aside from two 8-8 seasons in 2010 and 2011, for more than a decade the Raiders have been the New England Patriots of stinking. Since 2003 their loss totals are 14, 12 (five times), 11 (three times) and 8 (twice).Over that period, their defense has given up the most points per drive, and their offense has scored the second-fewest, leading to a net difference of -0.56 points. This is the worst net difference in football; on the opposite extreme are the Patriots (+.79) and the Peytons (+.77).So do the Raiders have any reason for hope?Yes!Following a (single) great preseason outing against the Seattle Seahawks, the Raiders have announced that they’ll be starting second-round draft pick Derek Carr on opening weekend. Carr is perhaps best known for being former No. 1 pick David Carr’s younger brother, though he also threw for a nation-leading 5,083 yards and 50 touchdowns in Fresno State’s 2013 Mountain West Conference campaign.15Full disclosure: My wife is from Fresno, and a number of her family members went to Fresno State, so I’ve been hearing about Carr for years.It would be quite reasonable to doubt the Raiders’ judgment after their recent history of high-profile coaching and quarterbacking disasters. But in a vacuum, having a QB drafted 36th starting on opening night should be good news to Raiders fans. I’ve modeled career success for rookie QBs based on a number of factors (such as weight and stature), including draft position. Combining this with data on how much each rookie played, we can estimate the expected number of wins following his rookie season for a QB drafted with the 36th pick like so16Technical stuff: This data represents QBs selected between 1970 and 2009 in the regular (non-supplemental) draft, taken between No. 2 overall and the seventh round (No. 1 picks severely skew the data), who recorded at least one game played (in whatever capacity) in the year they were drafted. I created linear models for each category using as predictor variables the logarithm of each player’s draft position and whether or not he played at least X games. I then plugged 36 and “yes” into each to get the Y values.:Without knowing how many games he’ll start, the expected number of post-rookie wins for a No. 36 pick is about 21. Knowing that Carr will start at least one game boosts him up to about 25 wins, and if he makes it to four games his wins go up to about 30. You can use other metrics as the predicted variable and the results are similar: His odds of “success” (which I defined as Career Approximate Value greater than 32.0) jump to 51 percent from 33 percent with four games started, and his average non-rookie AV jumps to 44.4 from 32.7.Four games seems to be about the inflection point — beyond that, as the number of rookie QBs in the data set who started that many games shrinks, it gets very noisy with a flatter trend.Note that I am absolutely not saying that it’s better to start rookie quarterbacks rather than let them develop. It’s likely that most (if not all) of the effect we’re seeing is merely a result of better quarterbacks being more likely to earn a starting nod than worse ones, independent of where they were drafted.All else being equal, the odds that Carr is the real deal are looking better.Read more of FiveThirtyEight’s NFL season previews.
Hot Takedown Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Aug. 18, 2015), we follow up on the soccer metric WhoScored. Last week, we cited it as a reliable metric. This week, we talk about why so many soccer geeks don’t trust it and what it says about the state of soccer analytics. Then ESPN FC analyst Gab Marcotti discusses how he uses stats for a general audience and offers a preview of the new Premier League season. Then we take a look at how RFID tracking could change the NFL. Every player in the league will be wearing a tracking chip this season.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Below are links to some of the articles we discussed on the show.Mike Goodman of Grantland offers a Premier League preview.Deadspin questions the usefulness of Expected Goals (ExpG).Carl Bialik interviews Bayern Munich’s head of analytics.All NFL players are getting RFID chips this season.More on all the juicy data we’ll have from each NFL game.Significant Digit: 4. Neil Paine found that golfer Jordan Spieth’s majors run this year was the fourth-best of all time. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Video: RFID tracking comes to the NFL If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
In a typical year, the NBA’s All-Star break offers the league’s most dysfunctional contenders a chance to reset, take inventory and right what ails them heading into the final stretch before the playoffs. This season, thanks to Cleveland’s moves at the trade deadline, the post-All-Star watch likely will fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder and how it weathers the loss of Andre Roberson, the beating heart of its defense.After an offseason that included acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to combine with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, the Thunder expected to compete at the highest levels. It hasn’t worked out that way. The team is 33-26 at the break and has lost six of its last nine games. There are all manner of reasons for this, from the obvious difficulties of integrating three high-usage stars to the decline of key players on an already-thin squad. (Offseason acquisition Patrick Patterson, who was a reliable stretch 4 for years in Toronto, has disappointed and tanked the offense while he’s been on the court.) Despite all that, the team seemed to have figured something out by January, when it ran off eight straight wins on the strength of its defense and a newly thriving offense. But late in that stretch, Roberson went down with a ruptured patellar tendon. He was lost for the season, and the Thunder had a whole new sort of crisis.Roberson is a singular player in the NBA. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and at 6-foot-7, he has the size and quickness to guard four positions. Roberson’s effect on the Thunder defense is tremendous. He can switch practically any matchup, cover opposing stars and not only challenge their shots but also dissuade them from even attempting them. His defensive Real Plus-Minus — a stat that heavily favors big men — ranks fourth in the league. Overall, the defense was 12.5 points worse per 100 possessions when he left the floor. His effect doesn’t grade out at quite the same level of Golden State’s Draymond Green or Utah’s Rudy Gobert, but he just about maximizes the impact a perimeter defender can have on a game.Or as Westbrook put it: “I think people outside our building, people across the world always complained about different things Andre didn’t do instead of embracing all the great things he did do. I’ve always embraced Andre and I was always very, very happy he was on my team because of things he did on both sides of the ball. Setting screens, cutting, running the floor. A lot of things that you can’t teach.”Those “things Andre didn’t do,” of course, refer to Roberson being one of the worst regular offensive players in the league. Roberson is a notoriously inept and unwilling shooter. He is shooting 22 percent from the 3-point line this season on a diet of wide-open shots the opposing defense is thrilled to see him take. And yet, his overall effect on the offense doesn’t seem to have been as dire as advertised.Since Roberson went out, Oklahoma City’s defensive rating has been 112.3, which would rank 27th in the league, ahead of only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. That’s extreme though not unexpected with Roberson no longer there to cover for weaker defenders like Westbrook or Anthony. But here’s the kick in the head: The team’s offensive ratings has barely budged despite losing one of the worst offensive players in the league, going from 110.9 before Roberson’s injury to 111.8 after it. This is much harder to explain.Roberson didn’t simply deprive his offense of a player who could do a better job of shooting, passing or dribbling. He shrank the court, allowing defenders to roam guilt-free, to harass ballhandlers and make life difficult for anyone establishing post position or running around off-ball screens.So clearly the team would be expected to show more improvement than it has in his absence. But while the overall offense has been flat, the individual stars have thrived with Roberson out. With Roberson on the floor, the Thunder pick and roll barely worked at all, producing just 87 points per 100 chances, according to data from Second Spectrum. It didn’t much matter if it was Westbrook handling the ball (90 points per 100 chances), George (73), Raymond Felton (91) or Carmelo Anthony (94). Without Roberson there, the team’s pick-and-roll points jump to 95. Westbrook and George see especially large jumps without Roberson, landing at 100 and 91 points per 100 chances created on the pick and roll, respectively.It gets stranger: George produced only 77 points per 100 chances on drives with Roberson on the floor; without him, that shot up to 96 — on a significant number of shots. Westbrook, too, goes from 98 points per 100 chances to 105, or the difference between Ish Smith and Victor Oladipo this season. And while Roberson didn’t actually affect the team’s effective field goal percentage overall, both Westbrook and George suffered large drop-offs in their shooting numbers when they shared the court with him.But the Thunder have yet to capitalize on the additional space available with Roberson out. Westbrook has played well in some ways, creating at James Harden/Chris Paul levels on the pick and roll, and poorly in others, shooting just 43 percent from the field and 18 percent from the three in the games since Roberson’s injury. George has been hot from the three — he’s hit at least five 3-pointers in four consecutive games — and has averaged 29.6 points on a 62 effective field goal percentage through those 10 games. But Anthony has gone absolutely dormant, and both he and Westbrook missed two games to injury.There’s plenty to be encouraged by over these past few games. George looks like a different player without Roberson, and all may be right if he and Westbrook are both firing at close to optimal levels by the playoffs. Further, second-year shooter Alex Abrines, seeing increased minutes with Roberson out, has run hot and cold, shooting 35 percent on threes overall since the injury. That should improve over time.But even so, the offense taking a dip despite subtracting a guy who may be the single worst offensive player who’s actually allowed to play s troubling, and Oklahoma City doesn’t have an obvious source of those unteachable qualities Westbrook mentioned — the cutting, the running, the screens. The Thunder’s stars may finally have the room to operate as stars, but its problems are now ones not solved easily by star power.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
There’s been no shortage of attention on the Sacramento Kings in the wake of their mind-boggling choice to deal DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans for pennies on the dollar. But one thing that’s garnered almost no scrutiny is the inconsistency of the team’s play.The Kings this season have lost a league-worst five games in which they once held a lead of 15 points or more, according to NBA Miner, a site that tracks advanced and unusual statistics. But they’ve also tied for an NBA-best four wins in contests that they once trailed in by 15 points or more. How are those two things even possible?Well, it helps when you’re as inconsistent as the Kings are. Sacramento is the NBA’s worst team in first halves by far yet owns the league’s 10th-best net rating1A net rating measures how many points a team outscores an opponent by — or is outscored by — for every 100 possessions. in second halves (even better than the defending-champion Cavs). Those numbers fit the pattern of what’s happened in the team’s craziest outcomes: Three of Sacramento’s four major comebacks this season began during the third quarter, while four of the Kings’ five collapses began unraveling in the second quarter.In the comebacks, the Kings often had trouble containing opposing forwards — Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Hayward, Tobias Harris and Paul Millsap, among others — in the early going. But Sacramento wisely dumped the ball into Cousins, who repeatedly drew fouls and visits to the line during second halves, which allowed his team to play catch-up with the clock stopped. This especially worked in a 94-93 win over Utah, in which Cousins shot 10 free throws in the fourth quarter without taking a single field-goal attempt.During the back-breaking losses, the slow-paced Kings have often been outrun by their opponents. In a game on Nov. 10, the Lakers outscored Sacramento 13-4 in second-half fast-break points, according to NBA.com. The Warriors outscored the Kings 21-3 in fast-break scenarios during the second half of their Jan. 8 comeback. And the Pacers finished with a 22-0 second-half advantage in fast-break scoring over the Kings en route to a come-from-behind victory on Jan. 18. (Sacramento’s 3-point defense, one of the worst in the NBA, was also less than stellar in those second-half efforts.)Cousins obviously had a ton to do with the Kings’ outcomes in these games — particularly in a 3-point loss to the Sixers in which he had 46 points but fouled out in the final minute. But the loss of Rudy Gay, out for the season, arguably had a bigger impact in some cases.Gay tore one of his Achilles tendons in the midst of one of the collapses, with the Kings up by 10 against Indiana in a Jan. 18 contest that Sacramento once led by 22. Gay’s injury took a psychological toll on the club that night, Cousins told reporters after the game. Cousins shot 0-for-9 with six turnovers after halftime.And there was a tangible difference in the team’s play. Without Gay’s ability to ease some of the scoring burden (his 26 percent usage rate was the team’s second-highest before the team remade itself at the trade deadline), Cousins was overworked in some fourth periods. His fourth-quarter usage rate jumped to 57.5 percent during the last week and a half of January, after Gay’s injury, up from 37 percent earlier in the same month. That’d be asking too much of anyone — let alone the NBA’s most double-teamed post player.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cousinsnorudygay.mp400:0000:0000:16Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Things will change considerably now that Cousins is in New Orleans. The Kings can only hope that the move allows for increased stability, and perhaps fewer blown leads, going forward.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Then-sophomore forward Katie Matheny (23) skates down the ice during a game against New Hampshire on Oct. 4, 2014 at the Ohio State Ice Rink. OSU won, 4-3. Credit: Lantern file photoAgainst the high-scoring Wisconsin Badgers, the Ohio State women’s hockey team failed to sustain momentum after its opening-weekend victories against Lindenwood, getting dismantled twice.The Buckeyes allowed 15 goals on 102 shots in the two games, including a combined five first-period goals. Conversely, the Scarlet and Gray only took a combined 29 shots of its own in the two games.The third-ranked Badgers’ goal scoring opened early on Saturday when sophomore forward Emily Clark tallied a point 30 seconds into the game. The Badgers would proceed to score three goals on the power play in the third period of the first game, en route to topping the Buckeyes 7-0.Special teams play had been an emerging strength for OSU early in the season, but the series against Wisconsin demonstrated that there is still plenty of work to be done. In addition to the three goals the Buckeyes allowed with a player in the box, the Badgers scored a goal while on the penalty kill on Saturday. The Buckeyes went 0-of-4 in power-play opportunities on Sunday, which ended as another lopsided loss by the final score of 8-0.The squad’s strongest period of play from the weekend was the second period on Sunday, when OSU recorded nine shots on goal and successfully killed two penalties, and despite the penalties was able to control the pace of play for much of the period. The Buckeyes will look to get back on track when they return to Columbus for their first home series of the season against Minnesota beginning on Friday. The puck is set to drop in the first game at 6:07 p.m. and 2:07 p.m. the following day.
I admire Terrelle Pryor’s athletic ability.I salivate over his potential, considering his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and supposed 4.3 40-time.I marvel about the occasions in which he makes defenders look helpless and foolish, burning them with an atypical combination of speed and power.But as I watch the Ohio State sophomore quarterback complete just 56 percent of his passes, while tossing six interceptions in as many games, I have doubts about whether he’ll ever reach that ceiling.Yes, Pryor is one of the most gifted athletes to ever grace the field at Ohio Stadium. But it takes much more than athletic skill to anchor an offense in one of the nation’s most prestigious football programs.Pryor has certainly shown glimpses of greatness.On countless occasions, he has turned a possible sack into a large gain because of his scrambling ability.His arm strength, a glaring weakness last season, seems to have improved. Pryor seems to have an easier time connecting with a receiver 30 yards downfield than he does with a target five yards away.That has been a major concern through the first half of 2009. Against Toledo, Pryor threaded a pass deep downfield that resulted in a 76-yard touchdown to Dane Sanzenbacher.But too often, Pryor can’t find that same precision on short passes, frequently throwing over the heads of receivers several yards away.His lack of accuracy has been alarming; he has yet to post a completion rate higher than 66 percent in any game this season.And although completing passes to teammates is one thing, completing them to the opposition is an even bigger issue.Pryor threw just four interceptions in 165 passes during his freshman campaign. His decision making was wise and methodical, especially for a 19-year-old. This year, he has been sloppy and indecisive, resulting in six picks in 127 attempts.So where is the progress?The Buckeyes boast one of the country’s best defenses, holding opponents to just 11.5 points per game. Unfortunately, the offense just can’t keep pace.Pryor wasn’t expected to morph into Troy Smith or Vince Young overnight. But at this point, he has done nearly as much to hold back the offense as he has to help it improve.It’s been a work in progress meshing with coach Jim Tressel’s offense, the prototypical Big Ten-style run-based scheme. Tressel, however, has adapted, switching to a shotgun option formation, which plays to Pryor’s strengths.Out of the configuration, the quarterback often has the time to dissect the defense and choose to pass or run. If only Pryor could make the decision quickly enough.Perhaps Pryor will never develop into an above-average dropback passer. If that’s the case, then he should look to run more often.Pryor has recorded a rush of 11 or more yards in each game this season. When he finds open space, he’s nearly impossible to bring down.Pryor said he prefers to find his receivers rather than constantly looking to run the ball himself. Fair enough; but too often, he locks in to one target, usually sophomore DeVier Posey.Just once this season — the opener against Navy — have more than two OSU receivers made three or more receptions in a game.Maybe Pryor is simply sifting through a sophomore slump, finding difficulty in reading defenses that are now facing him for the second time.Maybe Pryor will brush off a sluggish stretch and demonstrate improvement in his accuracy and decision making.Or maybe Pryor isn’t the Michael Vick clone (minus the dogfighting) or Daunte Culpepper duplicate that so many Buckeye backers dreamed about.Time will tell, but so will results. So far, the facts and figures indicate that Pryor’s game hasn’t progressed at anywhere near the ideal pace.
Former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley speaks with the media on March 5 at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports DirectorAfter his name surfaced Tuesday afternoon connecting him to a rape allegation, former Ohio State cornerback and potential NFL first-round pick Gareon Conley will not attend the NFL draft in Philadelphia that starts Thursday, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.Source: #OhioSt CB Gareon Conley has decided not to be in Philadelphia for the 2017 NFL Draft.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 25, 2017Conley, considered a top 15 pick by several NFL draft analysts, was planning on being one of the 22 athletes in the green room at the NFL draft on Thursday, but will now watch from home as he waits for his name to be called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.Conley has not been charged in connection to the rape allegation.
Ohio State then-freshman goalie Andrea Braendli (30) prepares for a shot in the game against Minnesota State on Oct. 11. Ohio State won 4-0. Credit: Wyatt Crosher | Assistant Sports EditorThe Ohio State women’s hockey team is ready to prove that last year’s Frozen Four run was no fluke.The No. 7 Buckeyes (14-6, 8-4 Big Ten) will try to steal a win against No. 1 Wisconsin (19-1, 9-1 Big Ten) as they begin a home series against the Badgers on Friday.Ohio State will face a Wisconsin offense that is No. 2 in the country in goals and No. 1 in scoring margin.With the Badgers entering the weekend on an 11-game winning streak, the Buckeyes’ interim associate head coach Andrew Cassels said the series will test his team’s mettle.“It’s a great way to measure up our team versus the best team in the country,” Cassels said. “It’s going to show us where we are and how far we have to come. It’s a great challenge for the girls.”Ohio State is no stranger to defeating the Badgers. The Buckeyes claimed victories in their past two matchups against the Big Ten rival last year in February.“We had some success against them last year,” Cassels said. “We’ll take a lot of footage from that and try to put that into our game plan.”Cassels emphasized Wisconsin’s speed and said that blocking shots will be key to neutralizing its prolific offense, encouraging his team to get into shooting lanes and making sure the Badgers cannot easily get shots off.Coming on the heels of a three-game win streak, Ohio State’s standout freshman goalie Andrea Braendli said the Buckeyes don’t have many adjustments to make.“I don’t want to change my strategy,” Braendli said. “I have to play my game. The most important thing is that we have to trust each other. We have to have each other’s back.”Braendli, who is No. 8 in the nation with a .939 save percentage, said playing a highly touted conference rival such as Wisconsin provokes a higher sense of anticipation from the team, bringing an excitement to the Ohio State locker room ahead of the weekend.But Ohio State redshirt junior defenseman Jincy Dunne thinks it brings a higher expectation for the team, saying the Buckeyes defense will have to be aggressive in front of Braendli against the creative Wisconsin lines.“We have to be a nightmare to play against,” Dunne said. “We have to be all over them all the time, every second. Any time they’re around us, they’re not being untouched.”With Wisconsin outscoring opponents 81-23 on the season, Dunne said the Badgers defense has yet to face the type of challenge that the Buckeyes can give them.“I don’t think their defense has really had to play defense,” Dunne said. “They’re a very offensive-heavy team so if we can just get pressure on their defense and get pucks behind them, I think we’ll be very successful.”Dunne stressed the impact a series victory against the Badgers could have on the national perception of the Buckeyes. “It would be huge for us to get up in those rankings and show that the Frozen Four wasn’t a mishap,” Dunne said.The Buckeyes face Wisconsin in Columbus at 6:07 p.m. Friday at the OSU Ice Rink and again at 3:07 p.m. Saturday.
The peer, who was the first Muslim woman to sit in Cabinet, has also suggested building mosques without minarets to make them look more like “quintessentially English” places of worship as much as any village church.She is calling on architects and designers to come up with new styles for Islamic places of prayer to blend in closely to their surroundings.The event is being held at the Woking Peace Garden, where Muslim soldiers who died in the two world wars are buried.A local school choir has been invited to sing Muslim hymns in English, presented in the English choral style. Mosques are being encouraged to draw inspiration from church choirs as part of a drive to develop a distinctively “English” brand of Islam led by the former Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi.Muslim devotional verse and music could be adapted to sound similar to hymns sung in parish churches, drawing from the centuries-old traditions of English choral music, it has been suggested.The idea is among a series of proposals being discussed at a “very English” tea party in Surrey hosted by Lady Warsi and organised by the think-tank British Future. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Dr Avaes Mohammad of British Future added: “We have a British Islam, one that most Muslims here identify with, but with the union now looking more fragile and Englishness growing in importance, we may need an English Islam too.“An inclusive national identity can help bring us together as a society.“For that to happen, Englishness will need to feel open to ethnic and faith minorities.“Understanding our shared history can help.“Islam didn’t arrive in England with South Asian migrants after the war – its heritage here goes back much further.“It includes the Victorian converts who opened England’s first mosques and the 400,000 Muslims who fought for Britain in the First World War.“Knowing that, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, can help us understand the multi-ethnic, multi-faith country that we live in today.” We have a British Islam, one that most Muslims here identify with, but with the union now looking more fragile and Englishness growing in importance, we may need an English Islam tooDr Avaes Mohammad Baroness Warsi said: “Recent polls have indicated that ethnic minority communities in England have tended to feel a much stronger association with Britishness than Englishness. “Post-Brexit this question becomes more urgent.“An inclusive sense of national identity can bond us together. “How we use the physical spaces that we all share can help do that – whether it’s a new mosque that blends into its local surroundings or a peace garden in Woking.” Post-Brexit this question becomes more urgentBaroness Warsi Woking Peace GardenCredit:British Future
Blackburn opening the BBC’s pop music station Radio One in the 1960sCredit:Getty Images “Tony Blackburn for his part stands by his statements to Dame Janet Smith but recognises that the BBC considered a period off air was appropriate.”In a statement released by the BBC, Blackburn said: “I do not seek to criticise the BBC for decisions it has made in the past.”I have had a difficult year personally, but I’m pleased to be returning to the BBC and can’t wait to get behind the mic again.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A BBC spokesman said: “We are pleased to announce Tony Blackburn’s return to the BBC in January 2017.”He will present an hour-long show on BBC Radio 2 on Fridays at 7pm, and will also return to local radio.”The BBC stands by the findings of Dame Janet Smith and the decision it made to take Tony Blackburn off air at the start of this year based on Dame Janet’s Smith’s preference for the documentary evidence relating to meetings that took place over Tony Blackburn’s statements. Tony Blackburn, the veteran broadcaster, is to return to the BBC eight months after he was sacked over evidence he gave to the review into sexual abuse at the Corporation.The BBC said it “stands by the findings of Dame Janet Smith” and its decision to take Blackburn off air.Blackburn, who will host a new show on BBC Radio 2 from January, said he “can’t wait to get behind the mic again” and does “not seek to criticise the BBC for decisions it has made in the past”. Thank you for all your lovely messages xx— Tony Blackburn (@tonyblackburn) October 19, 2016 In February, the BBC director-general said Blackburn was sacked because of inconsistencies in statements he made relating to claims that he had seduced a 15-year-old girl in 1971.Dame Janet Smith concluded that the veteran DJ had been questioned by Bill Cotton, a senior BBC executive, and Sir Brian Neill QC, a lawyer who oversaw an inquiry into Top of the Pops, over allegations that he invited teenager Claire McAlpine back to his flat and seduced her.Blackburn, 73, who strenuously denies the allegations, told Dame Janet that he had not been quizzed by either man.But he later told the retired judge, via his solicitor, that he accepted that she “might well prefer” documentary evidence that showed that the questioning had taken place.