The 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes haven’t played a game yet, but they’re off to a historic start. Not only does the team rank first in the Associated Press’s preseason poll, but it also garnered all 61 possible first-place votes — making it the first time in the 66-year history of the preseason rankings that a team was unanimously voted No. 1.There’s no question that the Buckeyes are bursting with talent, having retained 14 starters (including three All-Americans) from last year’s 14-1 squad that won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship. The metrics are fond of them as well: The Buckeyes rank No. 1 in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI), with a 31 percent probability of finishing the season without a loss. (No other team has more than an 11 percent chance of going undefeated.)But as great as Ohio State figures to be, the share of No. 1 votes that a top-ranked team receives hasn’t historically been a reliable indicator of how strong it will be at season’s end.Among top-ranked teams in the preseason since 1992, there’s a passable relationship between the percentage of available No. 1 votes gathered and the team’s eventual end-of-season power rating.1As measured by the Elo-like estimated version of FPI we used here. But that’s almost entirely because voters (sensibly) tend to hand their No. 1 votes to teams that were already good in the first place. If we look at whether the share of No. 1 votes a top-ranked team receives in the preseason predicts the change in its rating from the preseason to the end of the year, there’s essentially no relationship at all.In fact, Ohio State’s accomplishment might actually be more indicative of an overall trend toward consolidation atop the preseason poll. In the five polls between 1992 and 1996, for instance, the No. 1 team accumulated 56 percent of all top votes on average. In the most recent five years, that average was 79 percent, with each of the past three preseason No. 1 teams garnering at least 95 percent of the vote.This year’s Buckeyes should be a treat to watch. But their unanimous No. 1 ranking doesn’t make them any more likely to dominate the season than a team with the same FPI but a less-impressive vote tally.
Vegas is notoriously hard to beat. But as the NFL season gets started Thursday, there’s some promise for gamblers in betting on projected team win totals. Half-win totals from 8.5 on down seem to be very solid bets to hit the over, even when accounting for the vigorish, or house margin.Money-line data is only available for a subset of the years for which we have win totals, but using a curated data set covering 2003 through 2018 provided by FiveThirtyEight contributor Greg Guglielmo, I calculated the implied probability that a team would hit the over for each half-win total below nine wins and compared it to the actual win percentage of those NFL teams. Surprisingly, there appears to be an edge.Vegas typically wants a healthy margin on its action — the vigorish on win totals averages about 30 percent. But blindly betting the over on half-point totals from 5.5 to 8.5 wins since 2003 is nearly a push, with the house netting just a percentage point edge. And if you were to bet any of the half-point totals where the under is favored (indicated by a money line that is positive), you would actually come ahead, beating the house by 3 percentage points. Put in a way more familiar to gamblers: If you bet $100 on each of the 110 half-point overs in the sample with positive money lines, you’d come out ahead $330.So why is there a systematic undervaluing of teams with half-point win predictions? One possible explanation might be that the public isn’t exactly sure how to value them; half-point totals aren’t particularly intuitive to bet. Additionally, perhaps there hasn’t been a widespread interest in surveying historical odds and win predictions, so bettors may not be particularly aware of the lack of calibration of the closing lines.I ran this finding by professional bettor Seth Burn, and he pointed out that half-point win totals with the under favored don’t appear to exist currently, so perhaps the edge has already been squeezed out of the market. Or perhaps it’s a phantom edge that never really existed in the first place.
“Playoff Implications” is a phrase you usually don’t hear until the final weeks of the NFL regular season, but almost every regular season game has playoff implications. In the early going, however, it can be difficult to figure out just what those implications are, and how much is riding on each game.Most other major sports leagues play a greater number of regular season games, and thus the playoff picture in those sports evolves in a more incremental fashion. The pace can seem glacial at times for MLB, and inevitable and foregone when it comes to the NBA. But with just 16 regular season games, the NFL’s playoff landscape can change dramatically over the course of a single Sunday afternoon. And these tectonic shifts take place throughout the season, not just in those final weeks of December.With a week or two left in the season, the “eye test” usually suffices for judging which games will shape the playoff picture. But in mid-October there are far too many possibilities for the unassisted human mind to make sense of. We can only speak in general terms. For example, we know the playoff chances for the New Orleans Saints will improve with a victory this Sunday over the Detroit Lions. But by how much? And how far would they drop with a loss? Expanding our focus, what other teams have a vested interest in the outcome of this game? One would expect Carolina’s playoff chances to improve with a Saints loss, given that the Saints are their division rival. But once again, by how much?To answer these questions, we’ve created a weekly feature that measures the playoff implications of each game. To do this, you need to be able to simulate the remainder of the season multiple times and analyze the results. And in order to simulate the season, you need a way to rank all 32 teams, and use that ranking to create outcome probabilities for future games. We’ve been doing just that with FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rankings. But the Elo ratings, simple and beautiful, aren’t the only word on NFL rankings. For this feature we’re going to turn to the wisdom of the crowd instead, and use a ranking system one of the authors developed based on betting markets. In stock market terms, think of it as technical analysis in lieu of fundamental analysis.We’ll get into the methodology in a moment but first the results. Think of each interactive table below as a playoff implications “cheat sheet” for this week’s upcoming games.1The table is initially sorted by game importance, where we define importance by its cumulative impact on the playoff picture. Where you see blank cells on the table corresponds to games and teams in which there was not a statistically significant difference in playoff odds. (If you hover over a colored square, you’ll see details for that game.)UPDATE (Oct. 17, 12:30 p.m.): The interactive tables above have been updated to include Thursday night’s game, which now shows no playoff implications because its result is included in the playoff chances (the text of the article has not been updated).Reading the table across tells you which teams are affected by any particular game.2Notice that we don’t restrict ourselves to just the two teams competing in each game. As we alluded to above, teams benefit when they win games, but they also benefit when division rivals (and other competitors for playoff seeding) lose games. The Panthers, for example, would see their playoff chances rise by 11 percent with a Saints loss to the Lions. Reading the table down tells you which games matter most to any given team. For example, if you’re a Texans fan, what games should you care about this week, how much should you care about them, and who do you want to win? The column headers are sortable, so clicking on the “HOU” column tells you to care about HOU @ PIT, ATL @ BAL, CIN @ IND, NYJ @ NE, CLE @ JAC, and KC @ SD — in that order. And you want the Texans, Falcons, Bengals, Jets, Jaguars and Chiefs to win.My rankings start from the assumption that the NFL gambling market is efficient, and then attempts to determine how that efficient market ranks each of the 32 NFL teams. Unfortunately, Vegas doesn’t actually share its rankings with the general public, but with a little reverse-engineering, we can arrive at a pretty good guess at what they are. We start with the point spread. For Thursday night’s game, the New England Patriots are a 9.5-point favorite at home against the New York Jets. Since home field advantage is worth about 2.5 points, the market thinks the Patriots are 7 points better than the Jets when playing on a neutral field.Armed with this interpretation, we then take the point spreads from each game and for multiple weeks and run a simple linear regression to arrive at a consensus ranking. The process is akin to drawing a map of the United States but nobody tells you a city’s location. Instead, they only tell you how far away each city is from another city (e.g. Los Angeles is 1,700 miles away from Chicago, Chicago is 165 miles from Indianapolis, and so on). To further complicate matters, our map “moves” over time, making earlier “distance” measurements less reliable. For example, the Steelers opened the season as a 6-point favorite at home against the Browns. If the market were to set that point spread today, Pittsburgh would most likely drop to just a 2.5-point favorite, as the Steelers have fallen short of preseason expectations, and the Browns have exceeded them. So, the ranking methodology gives more weight to recent point spread data in an attempt to get the most up-to-date market evaluation of each team.Now that we have a ranking system that assigns a probability to each future regular season game outcome, the next step is to simulate the season multiple times (50,000 times to be exact). After simulating win/loss records, we apply the NFL playoff seeding rules (plus tiebreakers) and summarize the results. There are already several sites that do these types of simulations for the purpose of producing team playoff odds (including FiveThirtyEight). For this feature, we’re going to go a bit deeper than that.Instead of focusing on each team’s overall playoff odds, let’s instead focus on each game. We’ll use the New Orleans-Detroit game as an example. Of the 50,000 simulation runs, there were precisely 30,180 (or about 60 percent) that resulted in a Lions victory, and 19,820 that resulted in a Saints victory. Let’s now focus on those two samples in isolation. Of the 30,180 simulations in which the Saints lost, they made the playoffs 8,273 times, or 27 percent. Of the 19,820 simulations in which the Saints won, they made the playoffs 9,172 times, or 46 percent. Put simply, the Saints playoff odds could swing by a not-insignificant 19 percent as a result of their game against the Lions. (The games with the most cumulative influence on the overall playoff picture (“leverage”) are listed at left).We can repeat this calculation for every game and every team. The result: A measure of how much every game matters to every team.
After Ohio State was ousted in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, junior Evan Turner’s dream of hoisting a National Championship trophy this weekend fell by the wayside.However, the Buckeye point guard was in Indianapolis accepting a different trophy.He was named the AP’s Player of the Year Friday, receiving 54 of the 65 votes, and is OSU’s first recipient of the award since Gary Bradds in 1964. Turner led the Buckeyes in nearly every statistical category this season, and averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists.Kentucky’s John Wall finished second with nine votes, and West Virginia’s Deshaun Butler and Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody each received one vote apiece.The award could be the first of several for Turner, not the least of which may come Monday night, when the Naismith National Player of the Year is announced.
As soon as Howard “Hopalong” Cassady stepped onto the field, he was a difference-maker.“He was the guy that could make the big play when you needed it the most,” said Jack Park, author of The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia.That is exactly what the running back did in his first game at Ohio State, as he recorded three touchdowns in a win over Indiana.Cassady played for OSU from 1952-55, which was unusual at the time because most players only played three seasons then.Cassady also played for the baseball team. He led the team in home runs in 1955 and in stolen bases in 1956.He graduated from Central High School in Columbus.When he came to OSU, he played offense and defense for under legendary coach Woody Hayes.Cassady won the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award in 1955 in his senior season. To top it off, he was named the Associated Press “Male Athlete of the Year” in 1955, beating out boxer Rocky Marciano and quarterback Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns.This was monumental, considering a pair of Hall of Fame center fielders — Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle — won it in 1954 and 1956, respectively.Cassady excelled on defense as much as he did on offense. As a cornerback, he never allowed a reception to be caught on him in a Big Ten game, Park said. He also said that when Cassady was on the field, OSU never allowed a big play on defense.But what made Cassady famous was his elusive running style, which earned him his nickname from sportswriters. He would hop all over the field.“Hopalong was fast and good at getting around the corner,” Park said.The play that determined Cassady’s career was an 88-yard interception return against the No. 2 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in 1954. A close game in the third quarter, Cassady intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. This was symbolic because it changed the atmosphere of the game and saved the season, leading to the Buckeyes’ second national title.“This [showed] the real mark of a champion,” Park said.After college, Cassady spent six years with the Detroit Lions and also played a season each with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. He returned to the Lions for his eighth and final season before retiring.In 1979, Cassady was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. On Nov. 18, 2000, at halftime against Michigan, OSU retired Cassady’s No. 40 in Ohio Stadium.Outside of football, Cassady became an entrepreneur and formed a company that manufactured concrete pipe, steel and ships. More recently, he has served as a scout for the New York Yankees, and has spent summers in Columbus as the first base coach for the former minor league Columbus Clippers. He now resides in Tampa, Fla.
After struggling through a portion of its Big Ten schedule, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is starting to turn it around. With an 89-67 win over No. 23 Penn State Thursday, the Buckeyes (16-9, 7-6 Big Ten), have won three straight games and continue to climb the muddled conference standings. OSU coach Jim Foster said, in a postgame press conference, that his team has picked up its defensive intensity over the last three games. “At no point in time was I in doubt that we would finish the season strongly,” he said. “Most people come and they see a two-hour blip. We see a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that we like.” The game was tied 6-6 with 14:53 left in the first half. After a layup by senior center Jantel Lavender, the Buckeyes took the lead and never relinquished it. The Lady Lions (21-7, 10-4 Big Ten), struggled with turnovers, committing 27. They came into the game averaging 17.3 turnovers per contest. Penn State coach Coquese Washington said the turnovers were “the difference in the game.” “We turned the ball over and they’re able to go down and score in transition,” she said. “Ohio State is just a dangerous team in transition.” The Buckeyes turned the Lady Lions’ turnovers into 30 points on offense and had 10 fast break points. Lavender, who was honored before the game for breaking OSU’s career scoring record Sunday, finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Former Buckeye guard Katie Smith (1992-96), who held the all-time scoring mark before Lavender, recorded a video message for Lavender. The video played at Value City Arena before the game. “It was really nice that she took time out to congratulate me,” Lavender said. “She held that record for so long so she’s probably like ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’” Lavender helped a fellow Buckeye break a record of her own. Junior Samantha Prahalis set the OSU career assist record after Lavender converted the guard’s signature behind-the-back pass into a turn-around jumper. Prahalis finished the game with 11 assists. With both the scoring and assist records falling in the same week, Foster said he went “out of character” and reflected on what the records meant to him. “It’s going to be very difficult to recruit someone who can break them,” he said. “But, we’ll try.” With 14:40 remaining in the second half, OSU led by 23 after sophomore guard Tayler Hill hit two consecutive free throws. Lavender said Hill’s defense was key for the team. “Our flow started because of our defensive intensity,” she said. “Tayler really set the tone for us on defense and we all fell into place with that.” The Lady Lions cut the OSU lead to 10 three different times in the second half, but couldn’t get the deficit under double digits. “Coach called a 30-second timeout and just said we had to get stops,” Lavender said. “We just started to calm down on defense.” Ohio State’s next game is Sunday at Purdue (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten). The Buckeyes won their previous meeting, 90-67.
My favorite halftime show of the Ohio State men’s basketball games is undoubtedly when they bring in that guy who has all the Frisbee-catching dogs. It doesn’t get any better than that.But Sunday’s halftime spectacle which included the basketball crowd cheering OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and jeering athletic director Gene Smith gave the Frisbee guy a run for his money.Here’s what was supposed to happen.New OSU football coach Urban Meyer was supposed to come on the court and introduce his family and coaching staff to the fans. The eager crowd would snap some pictures and cheer excitedly. The staff would wave to some babies and walk off.What actually transpired was much more interesting.I don’t know whose bright idea it was, but I guess it wasn’t acceptable for Meyer to take the microphone and do the introductions himself. Someone had to introduce Meyer so he could get a nice little cheer.There’s nothing wrong with that. It was the first time Meyer had been formally introduced to the fans in a setting other than a press conference.But I will never understand the decision to have Smith introduce Meyer. John Schmo sitting in the nosebleeds would have been a better choice.So before Meyer took the floor, Smith started his walk out to center court.Before he got there, the boos started. It wasn’t just one or two knuckleheads who had a little bit too much fun before the game. It was a chorus, mostly of students, heckling Smith.Not everyone participated and it certainly wasn’t a drowning noise, but people weren’t happy.My question is who let Smith walk out there? The adverse reaction is hardly a surprise. The OSU football program has been riddled with controversy and scandal for more than a year and it’s no secret that more than a few people think Smith deserves the axe for his role in the debacle. There’s no way anyone affiliated with the university wanted something like fans booing to distract from the introduction of the new era of OSU football. It was something so obviously preventable that it baffles me no one threw themselves in front of the train wreck. I guess after the “I just hope he doesn’t dismiss me,” disaster from President E. Gordon Gee following the Jim Tressel-scandal and the litany of bone-head public relations moves that culminated in Tressel’s firing, nothing should surprise me.I just don’t understand how it never occurred to anyone with any say in letting Smith walk to midcourt that “Hey, a lot of people don’t like this Gene Smith guy. Maybe he’ll get booed.”Comically, Smith ignored the boos and tried to drown them out by baiting OSU fans into an “O-H” cheer.Some fans responded, but most continued to steadfastly boo their villain.It wasn’t until Smith finished his introduction that the boo-birds flew away and happily flocked around their newest trophy — Urban Meyer.The cheer was loud and exuberant. Meyer introduced his family and all was back to the plan.But there was one more surprise before the basketball Buckeyes took the floor again.When Meyer introduced Fickell, who is now serving as Meyer’s defensive coordinator, the place went nuts. The positive reaction wasn’t surprising, but the level of it was.Not only was the cheer louder than Meyer’s, but it was the loudest I have ever heard in the Schottenstein Center. People went crazy.Just weeks before, when OSU lost to Michigan for the first time since 2003, people couldn’t wait to show Fickell the door and usher in Meyer to sit on the golden throne of OSU football.Now, Fickell was being revered like he brought the team a national championship.In reality, the fans were showing Fickell gratitude for his handling of an almost impossible situation. He took the OSU job at a time when many would have been afraid.He led the team to a 6-7 record that quite frankly, isn’t good enough for a football program like OSU.OSU fans have a reputation for being arrogant and ruthless, but their outpouring of affection for Fickell showed they have a heart.Sunday’s halftime spectacle put both sides of the average OSU fan on display — the caustic critic and the appreciative spectator.The essence of OSU fans was captured in less than 10 minutes.And it was almost better than a dog catching a Frisbee.
Senior midfielder Nick Diegel (15) attempts to stop an opposing player during a game against Robert Morris Feb. 1 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU won, 11-7.Credit: Ryan Robey / For The LanternIn its final exhibition match of the preseason, the No. 9-ranked Ohio State men’s lacrosse team bucked a troubling trend.After falling behind in the start in each of their first two exhibition matches, OSU lit the lamp early and never trailed against Robert Morris Saturday, defeating the Colonials, 11-7.Junior midfielder Jesse King — who finished the game with two goals and two assists — got the scoring going for the Buckeyes when he found the back of the cage just 39 seconds into the contest.Sophomore midfielder Eric Rankel scored 19 seconds later for the Colonials, who went 8-7 last season, before the Buckeyes scored the next two goals to lead 3-1 after the first quarter.Continuing the momentum, OSU used goals from King and senior attackman Adam Trombley to go into halftime with a 5-3 lead.“We just wanted to come out and start fast,” senior goalie Greg Dutton said after the win. “Last week against Navy, we had a bit of a slow start, so the focus this week was to get guys going.”Dutton was one of the big reasons OSU was able to get out to an early lead as the Timonium, Md., native stopped six shots in just under three quarters of action.Trombley said it helps the offense when their goaltenders are playing well because it allows them to take a few more chances.After replacing Dutton late in the third with the Buckeyes leading 8-5, junior goalkeeper Cameron Stephens continued to stymie the Colonials offense as he made four saves of his own.“It helps our confidence knowing that if we turn it over, Dutton and Cameron will stop the shots and get the ball back to us,” Trombley said.OSU coach Nick Myers was impressed with how both goalies played.“I thought that the goalie position today was what we expect here at Ohio State,” Myers said. “Those guys really did their job. They made some saves they shouldn’t and they made saves we expect them to make. It was a really solid day in the cage.”Offensively, OSU spread the ball around as seven different Buckeyes tallied a goal with King, Trombley, sophomore attackman Gordie Koerber and freshman attackman J.T. Blubaugh tallying two goals apiece.Led by senior defenseman Joe Meurer, the Buckeyes defense held Robert Morris to seven goals, the lowest OSU has allowed in their three exhibition games, as well as forcing 17 turnovers.“I thought we were better today than we were last week and that is a small step in the right direction,” Myers said. “I’m happy with the improvement, but we understand there is still work to be done.”Up next for the Buckeyes is their regular season opener as they are set to hit the road for Baltimore, Md., where they take on future Big Ten Conference opponent No. 13 Johns Hopkins Sunday at 11:30 a.m.“Playing at Homewood Field is always a challenge,” Dutton said. “We look forward to the task at hand and we are going to prepare hard for them this week.”
Junior midfielder Jesse King (19) cradles the ball during a game against Marquette Feb. 22 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU won, 11-7.Credit: Brett Amadon / Lantern reporterFresh off its first victory of the season, the No. 19 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is hoping to continue building momentum during the young season.After taking down Marquette Saturday, 11-7, the team is set to battle No. 10 Penn State in Ohio Stadium Saturday for the 2014 Creator’s Trophy.Starting the season with two overtime losses to both Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts, the Buckeyes’ (1-2, 0-0) fortunes reversed with the home victory against Marquette.Freshman midfielder Jake Withers played a key role in that game, winning 14 of 21 faceoffs and collecting 11 ground balls, taking home ECAC co-Rookie of the Week honors in the process.Senior defenseman Dominic Imbordino said winning the faceoff and ground ball battles are important because they give the offense more opportunities to score.“It was definitely big for Jake to get that many wins and ground balls because it gave us that many more possessions on our offensive end,” Imbordino said. “It allows us to play the make-it-take-it, not somebody else.”Penn State (2-1, 0-0), which has big expectations after making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, is coming off an 8-7 victory at then-No. 4 Notre Dame last Saturday.Senior attackman Shane Sturgis led the way for the Nittany Lions, netting five goals against the Fighting Irish defense. OSU senior defenseman Joe Meurer said Penn State boasts an offense that can put points up on the board, but thinks OSU has a gameplan in place that will limit the Nittany Lions’ chances.“It’s all about adjusting to what we see on film,” Meurer said. “They definitely have a great attack and some capable midfielders, but we will be ready to take them.”Offensively, OSU will look to break down a defense that is yielding only about 8.7 goals per game. Junior midfielders Jesse King and Turner Evans have shined early in the season, but OSU coach Nick Myers said he knows it will take a team effort to put the ball in the back of the net.“They have arguably one of the best goalies in the country in senior Austin Kaut,” Myers said. “For us, it’s going to be generating quality shots and then finishing off those opportunities.”Last season, the Buckeyes won a nail-biter in Happy Valley after King scored in overtime as time expired.“We know they are a great team; they are really hard-nosed and gritty,” Meurer said. “It’s just about not only matching that but taking it to another level, playing with more fire and energy than them. I think we will come out on top.”Myers said the importance of this game goes well beyond what happens during the 2014 campaign.“This is why you come to Ohio State,” Myers said. “It’s a top 10 opponent and a rivalry in Penn State … It’s important for not only the 2014 team, but also to all the men who have made this program what it is.”Gametime is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Colin and Wyatt discuss Ohio State’s 26-6 win against Michigan State, its lack of movement in the playoff for the third straight week, the Brett McMurphy article on Trevon Grimes and men’s basketball’s hot start. Also, we talk Shrek quotes, so buckle up.