Month: September 2019

  • Notre Dame Is Less OneDimensional Than It Was Last Year

    Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale is a big part of that, though she’s by no means alone. The whole team had to pitch in to guard Texas A&M star Chennedy Carter in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, and while Carter did manage to score 35 points, this number is deceiving: It took Carter 34 shots to do it. Ogunbowale scored 34 in the game but did so on just 25 shots.“I think we got stops when it mattered,” Ogunbowale said after the Texas A&M game. “Fourth quarter we held [Carter], we got stops. And like I say, we got stops when it mattered. So that’s all that matters.”This has been the case for much of the season. Notre Dame is allowing 0.73 points per possession this season overall, per Synergy Sports. But after timeouts, that number drops to 0.59, good for sixth in the country. So when McGraw and company have a chance to set up their defense, the Irish essentially become as effective as anyone, with that number besting everyone else still left in the NCAA field.So how do they do it? A combination of forcing turnovers, closing out on perimeter shooters and an elevated dose of protecting the rim.The Notre Dame steal percentage is up from last season, 12.0 percent this year from 11.1 percent a year ago. Much of that improvement comes from Ogunbowale herself, whose steal rate jumped from 2.3 to 3.2 percent. All five starters, however, have steal rates north of 2 percent, reflecting an ability to get into passing lanes, and those live-ball turnovers are immensely valuable for a Notre Dame team that scores at a rate of 1.12 points per possession in transition.The biggest change, though, is the element of rim protection provided by Brianna Turner after the Notre Dame center missed last season with an injury. No Notre Dame starter last season topped Jessica Shepard’s 2.3 block percentage. But this year, Turner checks in at 9.2 percent, and as a team, Notre Dame is at 11.5 percent. That’s 38th in the country, up from 225th in Division I last year.But while most attention goes to Turner’s blocks — a particular aesthetic favorite of McGraw when she watches her team — there are improvements by other players that have made a difference as well.Take Shepard’s ability to end possessions by simply anchoring herself in the right spot off of misses by opponents. Her improved strength and agility this season has led to a significant jump in her defensive rebounding percentage, from 17.1 percent last year to 20.5 percent this season.“Jessica is such a phenomenal player inside and out,” Turner said of her teammate when talking to reporters in Chicago on Sunday. “She’s the strongest player I’ve ever played against or with, so that just speaks for itself. Her ability to like chase down rebounds and just offensively, as well, just her strength is really one of her great assets.”Then there’s Marina Mabrey, known primarily for shooting threes and taking over at point guard last season out of necessity. But the versatile Mabrey is also a standout on defense. Already strong last season at 0.676 points per possession allowed, per Synergy, she’s dropped that number all the way to 0.625 in 2018-19, 45th in the country among 713 eligible Division I players with a minimum of 200 possessions. This stems from her ability to defend spot-up shooters. Her allowed points per possessions on these plays is down to .587 from 0.855 a year ago. The result is a Notre Dame team that allowed opponents to shoot 34.5 percent from three last year, 302nd in the nation, but now is giving up just 28.6 percent to opponents beyond the arc this year, 33rd best in the country.To be sure, there are still gaps in the Notre Dame defense. As McGraw noted last weekend, the team’s offense is what holds the key to its defense, an inside-out formulation compared with most teams.“We do like to run,” McGraw said. “We’re a transition-type team. I think our offense feeds our defense, which is kind of the opposite of the way it’s supposed to go.”It’s true: While the Irish are among the nation’s leaders in offensive efficiency both in the halfcourt and in transition, they have a far more effective defense in the halfcourt set (55th in the nation, per Synergy) than in transition (197th). Put simply, the best way for Notre Dame to defend is to make baskets and keep opponents from running.And while Notre Dame has every chance to repeat, don’t think of this 2018-19 Irish team as a clone of last year’s champion. Notre Dame’s defense has made big stridesHow the Final Four teams have changed from a year ago in terms of their efficiency on offense and defense Muffet McGraw has been worried all season about Notre Dame’s defense. When the Fighting Irish beat Bethune-Cookman in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, McGraw said in postgame interviews that her team had “a long way to go to be a good defensive team.” This was after Notre Dame conceded only 50 points and won the game by 42.Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and McGraw’s team has now reached the Final Four for a ninth time. Next up is a bitter rival — and the most decorated team in the sport’s history — in the Connecticut Huskies. It’s safe to assume which aspect of Notre Dame’s game concerns McGraw the most ahead of this epic rematch of last year’s semifinal.After all, Notre Dame is a juggernaut on offense. The Irish are first in the nation in points per game and third in offensive efficiency, according to HerHoopStats.com — trailing only Oregon and Mississippi State. Both stats are on par with what the team posted last season en route to the national title.But despite McGraw’s concerns, Notre Dame has come a long way toward becoming a good defensive team. It’s just not on the same level as the impeccable execution Notre Dame displays on the offensive side of the ball. Last season, Notre Dame ranked 150th in defensive efficiency. For comparison with recent champions, South Carolina finished 18th in 2016-17, while UConn’s 2015-16 team finished first — in fact, the Huskies finished first in all four of Breanna Stewart’s title-winning seasons. (Not a coincidence.)Typically, championship teams play far more effective defense than the Irish did last season. So far in 2018-19, though, they’ve bridged that gap significantly. Though they are allowing 64.2 points per game, 153rd in the country, that number fails to account for Notre Dame’s pace. In defensive efficiency, they are up to 52nd in the country. Check out our latest March Madness predictions. Notre Dame114.2117.5+3.391.886.1+5.7 Team2017-182018-19Diff.2017-182018-19Diff. Baylor117.4113.1-4.377.276.4+0.8 UConn122.2116.8-5.473.779.6-5.9 Points Per 100 PossessionsOpp. Points Per 100 Possessions Source: Her Hoop Stats Oregon117.8121.9+4.191.192.5-1.4 read more

  • Vegas Has The Best Expansion Team In The History Of Pro Sports

    The Vegas Golden Knights are only halfway through their inaugural season, and they’ve already redefined what anyone thought was possible for an NHL expansion franchise. Against all odds, the Knights are currently 29-10-3 with 61 points, good for the best record in the Western Conference — and only 4 points shy of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best record in the entire league. It’s enough to make the Knights hockey’s greatest debut team ever, hands down.But that’s not all: Vegas is also lapping the field of expansion teams across every major pro sport. Even after adjusting for the way records are distributed in other sports, no other brand-new club in modern history came close to doing what the Knights have done so far. Expansion teams just aren’t supposed to have this kind of success this early.Constructed as a Frankenstein’s monster of unwanted parts from the rest of the league, a new club is usually very bad indeed. In a franchise’s first season, merely being “competitive” — code for losing but keeping things close most nights — is an admirable goal. And going into this season, there were plenty of people who had trouble seeing the Knights even reaching that modest level of success. Most outlets picked Vegas to finish either last or next-to-last in the Pacific Division.That was a reasonable expectation based on the past performance of first-year clubs. Our own analysis found that Vegas had dredged more talent out of the expansion-draft pool than normal — but that was just supposed to mean the Knights would exceed historical expectations. It didn’t mean we thought they’d make the playoffs, much less that they’d contend for the Stanley Cup.So far this season, however, Vegas has picked up 73 percent of the maximum number of points in its games and outscored its opponents by 0.7 goals per game. To compare those marks across NHL seasons, we converted them to z-scores, or the number of standard deviations they sat above or below league average. (This helps us account for changes in the league’s spread of talent over time and allows us to make comparisons between different sports — which will come in handy later.) In both categories, Vegas’s z-scores are easily the top marks for an NHL expansion team since the league blew up the Original Six and added six new teams in 1967-68:1Excluding the four World Hockey Association teams (the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets) that merged into the NHL in 1979. Although those teams held an expansion draft, they were also able to keep some of their existing players, and they had existed in the WHA since its founding, making them different from brand-new franchises starting from scratch. 1967Chicago Bulls-3.7-0.740.7-0.5 2018Vegas Golden Knights+0.7+1.372.6%+1.7 21994Florida Panthers49.4-0.06 1961Los Angeles Angels-0.3-0.343.5-0.7 Point percentage 61968Minnesota North Stars46.6-0.40 2018Vegas Golden Knights+0.7+1.372.6%+1.7 YEARTEAMPOINT %–Z-SCORE Goal differential 1969Milwaukee Bucks-5.1-1.132.9-1.1 41968Los Angeles Kings48.7-0.16 31968Philadelphia Flyers49.3-0.08 101994Mighty Ducks of Anaheim42.3-0.76 12018Vegas Golden Knights+0.7+1.28 81968Los Angeles Kings-0.3-0.62 51968St. Louis Blues47.3-0.32 YearTeamValueZ-ScoreValueZ-Score 1968Seattle SuperSonics-6.5-1.328.0-1.3 41968St. Louis Blues-0.2-0.36 12018Vegas Golden Knights72.6%+1.73 61968Pittsburgh Penguins-0.3-0.54 1961Minnesota Vikings-8.7-0.921.4-1.3 Vegas beats other sports’ expansion teams, tooHow the Vegas Golden Knights stack up against top expansion teams in each league by z-score* of winning percentage, 1961-2018 1993Colorado Rockies-1.3-2.141.4-1.2 *Z-score is the number of standard deviations above/below average, relative to the overall league that season.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Basketball-Reference.com, Pro-Football-Reference.com 1969Seattle Pilots-1.0-1.339.5-1.1 The Florida Panthers used to be the model for a successful NHL expansion team. Florida was more than merely competitive in 1993-94 — it finished one win shy of a .500 record and scored exactly as many goals as it allowed. Then, with the good core of talent they had picked up in the expansion draft, the Panthers made the Stanley Cup final three seasons into the franchise’s existence. Before Vegas came along, that was the gold standard for brand-new clubs: solid in the first year, outright good within a couple seasons. But the Knights’ debut has flipped those expectations on their head.(Yes, it should be noted that the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues made the Cup final in their first season. But that was solely because the NHL dropped all six of its new teams into the same division, the winner of which had to make the final. Every team in the new West division, which housed all the expansion clubs, had a negative goal differential during the regular season, but someone had to win it — and the Blues were that team. They were also swept by the mighty Montreal Canadiens when they played for the Cup.)2In fairness to St. Louis, it was as close a sweep as you’ll see; each game was decided by a single goal.Vegas’s season becomes even more impressive when you compare its z-scores to those of the top expansion teams from other sports. No modern MLB expansion club finished a season any better than the 70-win 1961 Los Angeles Angels; no debut NBA team ever topped the 33 wins of the 1967 Chicago Bulls; no NFL expansion team could beat the 7-9 Carolina Panthers from 1995. Hockey does tend to see its teams’ records more tightly bunched than in such sports as football and basketball, but even after adjusting for that with our z-scores, the Golden Knights’ current season blows away any would-be challenger from the NFL, NBA or MLB since the early 1960s: 2018Vegas Golden Knights+0.7+1.372.6%+1.7 Vegas vs. MLB expansion teamsScore DifferentialWin percentage 21994Florida Panthers+0.00.00 YearTeamValueZ-ScoreValueZ-Score 1968Cincinnati Bengals-8.1-0.821.4-1.1 Vegas vs. NFL expansion teamsScore DifferentialWin percentage 1990Minnesota Timberwolves-4.2-0.926.8-1.3 71968Pittsburgh Penguins45.3-0.57 1962Houston Colt .45’s-0.8-1.040.0-1.0 Full-season statistics are used for all teams except Vegas.Source: Hockey-Reference.com 31968Philadelphia Flyers-0.1-0.15 YearTeamValueZ-ScoreValueZ-Score 91971Buffalo Sabres40.4-0.65 1971Portland Trail Blazers-4.5-0.935.4-1.0 1967New Orleans Saints-10.4-1.221.4-1.3 Vegas is destroying its NHL expansion competitorsBest z-scores (standard deviations relative to average) for point percentage and goals per game differential, NHL expansion teams (1968-2018) 1969Kansas City Royals-0.6-0.842.6-0.8 Vegas vs. NBA expansion teamsScore DifferentialWin percentage 81973Atlanta Flames41.7-0.57 71973Atlanta Flames-0.6-0.58 1995Carolina Panthers-2.3-0.443.8-0.4 1966Miami Dolphins-10.6-1.221.4-1.4 91971Vancouver Canucks-0.9-0.77 One thing that jumps out is that many NHL expansion teams had better z-scores than the best expansion teams in the other sports. But why is it so much easier to build a strong NHL expansion team (relative to the league) than in the other Big Four North American sports? I don’t have a great explanation.Hockey is the sport with the least reliable individual stats — while scouts’ eye tests can be swayed by recency and other biases — so it may be that the caliber of players left available in the expansion draft is higher than in other sports. Or perhaps the outsize value of goaltending means one good pick between the pipes is enough to carry a team of talent-strapped skaters to respectability. Or maybe good coaching deserves more credit than it sometimes gets around the league. Whatever the reason, expansion teams have done better on ice in general, even before Vegas started to blow the doors off the league.We know that, in the NHL, it takes a lot of games to tell who’s good and who’s bad — which is why even a hot half-season can turn cold overnight. For Vegas, the heat has been generated by MVP-candidate seasons from the likes of William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault and a near Vezina-worthy performance from Marc-Andre Fleury — all players who were considered expendable as recently as seven months ago. Peeking under the hood, the Knights’ ratio of shots taken to shots allowed at even-strength is nothing special, even after adjusting for score effects and other factors. And let’s face it: Few teams can sustain this pace for an entire season: Of the 24 teams with at least 60 points in their first 42 games since 2005-06,3Excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. only one (last year’s Capitals) had a second-half point percentage as good as it did in the first half of the season.So it would be logical to assume that a second-half regression could be lurking around the corner for the Golden Knights. But the advanced stats don’t suggest that Vegas has been particularly lucky. In terms of expected goals (which measures where a team’s chances come from in addition to their volume), the Knights have the ninth-best ratio in the league.Regression or no regression, various projection systems consider the Knights all but a lock to make the playoffs, which would make Vegas the first expansion team to claim that honor since the 1968 season’s standings guaranteed that four new clubs would qualify. Even the in-town sportsbooks are paying attention to the possibility of playoff action in the desert: The Knights are currently tied for the second-best Stanley Cup odds of any team in the league.For an expansion team, all of this seemed unthinkable going into the season. New franchises aren’t supposed to be instant contenders. They’re supposed to struggle, to require years of building before achieving this kind of success. Vegas clearly doesn’t care about any of that. And now we have an entirely new yardstick with which to compare every other expansion club that comes along in the future, no matter the sport. YEARTEAMGPG DIFF.–Z-SCORE 101971Buffalo Sabres-1.0-0.85 51994Mighty Ducks of Anaheim-0.3-0.37 read more

  • Gareon Conley confident in young secondary Malik Hooker

    OSU redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker (24) carries the ball after an interception during the spring game on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern file photoLast season was a standout year for the Ohio State secondary. The Buckeyes excelled in 2015 with the likes of now NFL players Vonn Bell and Eli Apple. Redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley is now the veteran member of the unit—and only returning starter—with fans eager to see how he and the rest of the defensive backs will respond to the immense pressure of living up to expectations. Conley had a solid 2015 campaign where he recorded two interceptions and 49 tackles and earned high praise from the OSU coaching staff. During his freshman campaign, he also found his way into a role with the special teams, and he contributed as a reserve cornerback. Coach Urban Meyer believes Conley is the next cornerback in a lineage of NFL-ready players“Gareon is playing, man, he’s playing at a high, high level right now,” Meyer said. “He’s an NFL corner someday.”With Conley the go-to guy, the secondary for the Scarlet and Gray has a scarcity of snaps played under their belts. The young players will turn to the now No. 1 defensive back for guidance, and Conley feels ready for the challenge. “It’s going to be a great challenge because I got a lot of guys who I’ve gotta bring up,” Conley said. “I just gotta help the guys right now learn the game.”Even though the task is tall, Conley feels the unit will respond to the pressure with poise, and there should be no drop off from last year’s secondary. “They all play at a high level already,” Conley said. “It’s just getting that experience right now so we can be ready for that first game.”One of the top candidates for the secondary for OSU, redshirt sophomore Marshon Lattimore, is coming off a season-ending hamstring injury. The injury ultimately led to a redshirt season for the Cleveland native, but his teammates expect he won’t be affected in 2016. “When he’s out there, he’s going full speed,” Conley said. “He looks real good. You can’t even tell when he’s out there.”Of all the candidates to start as a defensive back for the Scarlet and Gray, Conley said redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker has been one of the top performers of the summer so far. Hooker played in all 13 games last season, where he earned 10 total tackles on the year. He was listed as the No. 1 safety in the spring and has been named as a possible replacement for Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell.“(Hooker), that’s my best friend,” Conley said. “He’s always been a great athlete. I say he’s one of the best on the team. His game right now, he’s playing at a high level. Off the charts.”The former New Castle, Pennsylvania, standout wide receiver and cornerback knows he has plenty of expectations by coaches and players. However, Hooker said he feels the backing of Conley is a testament to the effort he has put forth during the offseason, and his teammate’s confidence will keep him putting forth as much effort as possible. “For (Conley) to be a major key in the defense this year and last year, to say something like that just motivates me to work even harder and be the best I can be for the defense,” Hooker said.While starters have yet to be named for most of the team, Hooker appears to have an edge with two weeks before the season starts. Only time will tell if OSU enjoys another year of dominance in the secondary. read more

  • Ohio State victory fueled by big plays in the secondary

    OSU redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) guards Tulsa redshirt sophomore wide receiver Justin Hobbs (29) during the first quarter against Tulsa on Sept.10. The Buckeyes won 48-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorA pick-six and three interceptions against Bowling Green in Week 1 was the start coach Urban Meyer was looking for out of his defense. However, all along, he knew Tulsa’s offense would be more of a test for his secondary.From the very first play from scrimmage, the OSU defense made its presence felt.Tulsa redshirt senior quarterback Dane Evans threw to his left on the first play of the opening drive where redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore made a diving interception the pass inside the Tulsa 20 yard line.OSU only mustered a 29-yard field goal from the short field, taking an early 3-0 lead, and continued to look sluggish throughout the first quarter.Redshirt quarterback J.T. Barrett was 2-for-6 passing for 19 yards in the first quarter. Junior H-back Curtis Samuel — who accumulated 261 yards of total offense against Bowling Green — didn’t register a touch on the team’s four possessions in the first quarter, three of which ended in three-and-outs.The offense started to move the ball in the second half, but only could add another short field goal to extend the lead to 6-0.OSU was likely heading into the half without a touchdown when the defense decided to take matters into its own hands.Redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker intercepted a pass from Evans and returned it 26 yards for his first touchdown as a Buckeye, giving the Scarlet and Gray a more comfortable lead heading into halftime.Then, right before the half, the defense struck again. Lattimore returned to the scene in the middle of an intense rainfall at the end of the second quarter, making his second interception of the game when the intended Tulsa wide receiver lost his footing and the ball fell right into the hands of Lattimore, who returned it 40 yards for his first-ever pick six.“Just getting here on defense and having the whole team get hyped for you, it’s a blessing,” Lattimore said. “I love it. I loved getting everybody hyped like that.”The play of the defense thus far has lifted the team at several points in OSU’s first two games. Hooker and Lattimore each sit with a touchdown and five combined picks in just the first two weeks of the season. Hooker said after the game that he had been battling a stomach bug and a nagging back injury throughout the week, yet his performance yielded more raving reviews of his athleticism.At halftime, the Buckeyes led 20-3 without having an offensive touchdown and with just 161 total yards of offense. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell that his defense prides itself on harnessing momentum when it’s available.“Whether it’s the offense, defense or special teams, there is momentum in every game and once you get it, you got to keep it,” Fickell said. “If you don’t have it, you got to find a way to get it. We have to be able to feed off of each other, and I think we did a good job of that today.”Fickell compared the 2016 defense to that of 2006 when the Buckeyes had to replace several starters, yet caused turnovers at will.Meyer credits the play of the defense thus far to coaching and the ability of young players to buy into the coaching. He said guys like Lattimore, Hooker and sophomore cornerback Denzel Ward have waited for their opportunity and it’s paying off now.“Secondary tonight, we knew they were going to come out and try to throw the ball around a lot,” Hooker said. “We just wanted to go out there and play our technique, our fundamentals and it ended up working out for us.”Gareon Conley had his first pick of the season late in the third quarter for the defense’s fourth on the day. Moving forward, OSU has its toughest opponent yet of the young season in No. 14 Oklahoma next week in Norman.The secondary has been the best unit on the team for Meyer and company through the first couple weeks, but it knows the road that lies ahead.“The great thing is we have some depth and we have talent,” Fickell said. “But we have to make sure we understand this is a process that we’re going to continue to grow.” read more

  • Lone ranger Sole Ohioan took different route to OSU

    Of the 23 players on the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team, senior forward Michele Tonnessen is the only Buckeye born and raised in Ohio. The other 22 members hail from dominant hockey domains like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada.The Gahanna native has been ice skating for as long as she remembers, but didn’t start playing hockey until she was 10 years old. With two older brothers who played, Tonnessen said she grew up around the sport and quickly became familiar with it.“After watching them play and having to travel around with my parents, I guess I just kind of decided I wanted to play rather than watch,” Tonnessen said.But Tonnessen encountered a dilemma many young girls face in non-traditional hockey states: women teams can be few and far between.Coach Jackie Barto said Ohio doesn’t possess as much strong talent as traditional hockey states, so the “bulk of our recruiting is up north.”“We’re looking to bring in the best hockey players at Ohio State,” Barto said. If there’s an Ohio girl who shows promise at the Division I level, “we’re going to try and make it work.”It was Tonnessen’s sophomore year of high school when college hockey became a real possibilities. After attending OSU’s summer camp, she weighed her skills against other campers and solicited advice from the coaches about her potential.“We knew she would be a hard worker, that she would continue to grow and develop while she’s here in our program,” Barto said.“Once I knew I had a chance, I knew that I wanted it,” Tonnessen said.So Tonnessen played with the boys until her senior year of high school. She switched to the women’s game after OSU coaches told her she’d need experience in the women’s game to be recruited.“It was kind of a no-brainer to switch over,” Tonnessen said.Tonnessen joined the Ohio Flames, a women’s club team, during the 2005-2006 season. The Flames advanced to nationals after becoming the 2006 Under-19 Mid-Am District Champions.Although playing the women’s game took some adjusting for the first two years, Tonnessen believes her experience in men’s hockey has helped her in the long run.“It makes you more physical, it makes you tougher, a bit faster,” Tonnessen said. “I think it just gives you an edge on everybody else. It makes you more competitive.”Even though the women’s game proved to be slower for Tonnessen, she said it took hard work to play the women’s way.“It was a lot more skill and finesse with stick handling,” she said. “You could see plays develop.”But despite the hockey program, Tonnessen said she came to OSU because it was close to home and her two brothers graduated as Buckeyes. It was more about the school and academics. Hockey was just a “bonus that ended up coming along with it,” she said.As Tonnessen’s collegiate hockey career comes to an end, Barto credits Tonnessen for being a great representative of OSU hockey.“She’s been a good teammate; … a positive influence and member of the program,” Barto said. “She’s become the best hockey player she can become.” read more

  • Report 3 Ohio State football players named in search warrant regarding alleged

    Three Ohio State football players are named in a search warrant filed by OSU police in an investigation of an alleged rape, according to a report from Columbus television network ABC 6. According to the ABC 6 report, a female student reported the rape, which she said happened on Oct. 21, to police on Nov. 10. No charges have been filed. OSU police logs indicate that a rape was reported by a female student on Nov. 10. The log listed Neil Avenue Building as the location of the incident, and stated that an investigation was pending. The ABC 6 report indicated that the search warrant is for a cell phone of one of the named players, which may contain evidence of the alleged rape. According to the ABC 6 report, the three players are OSU freshmen, and one of those players left the football team last week. Gayle Saunders, OSU’s assistant vice president of media relations, confirmed to The Lantern in an email that “there is an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct involving Ohio State students.” “As this is an ongoing investigation, the university is not at liberty to discuss the matter at this time,” Saunders said in the email. read more

  • Opinion Michigan bringing in former Alabama coordinator Buckeye fans should take notice

    Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (left) and coach Brady Hoke share a smile after a news conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 10.Credit: Courtesy of MCTUnder coach Urban Meyer, the Ohio State football team has yet to lose to Michigan, but a recent big-time move on the Wolverines’ coaching staff could inflict some uneasiness into Buckeye fans.Offensive coordinator Al Borges, the same coach who helped the Michigan offense put up 41 points against Ohio State in November, was out of a job Wednesday morning. By nightfall, however, his replacement was already announced.That replacement is former Alabama offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, who will become one of the highest-paid coordinators in college football.While the details of his hiring are still a bit cloudy, rumors are swirling that Alabama head coach Nick Saban was pushing out Nussmeier in order to bring in his new buddy, Lane Kiffin, to take the reigns of the Alabama offense.In any case, this somewhat-shocking hire by the Wolverines should motivate OSU players and fans.Even with the aforementioned Borges at the helm, the Wolverine offense torched the Buckeyes’ defense and was even a single play away from winning The Game. But under control of Nussmeier and a revamped pro-style offense more suitable to Michigan’s personnel coming along with him, the Michigan offense could certainly take leaps and bounds forward.If OSU wants to continue its dominance against Michigan, the defense will have to at least match the improvement of the Michigan offense.In hiring Nussmeier, Michigan might have started a domino effect that will definitely have an impact in Columbus. Should Borges have stayed, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell’s job might have been safe. Now, however, Michigan has challenged OSU even further to resurrect the formerly fantastic “Silver Bullet” defense.If the Buckeyes stand pat, meaning Fickell is retained and the entire defensive outfit continues its less-than-stellar production, OSU will certainly have taken a step backward while Michigan has taken a step forward. That’s something no one involved with OSU football would be content seeing.Be it the firing of Fickell, a change in scheme, or just an overall closer examination of certain players, something needs to change defensively for OSU. Michigan made its move and is challenging the Buckeyes to answer with a counterattack.If the Buckeyes don’t take measures to improve their defense, a loss to Michigan next season in Columbus will be no one’s fault but their own.A word to athletic director Gene Smith and Meyer, in this century-long chess match between OSU and Michigan: it’s your move. read more

  • Buckeye Brief Ohio State running back Mike Webers reward struggles of defensive

    Ohio State redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell races to the end zone for a touchdown that was called back due to a holding penalty during the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ game against Army. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Social Media EditorOhio State rebounded well Saturday after its 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, beating Army 38-7. Coach Urban Meyer shared his view on what he expects to see from the team in the next couple days before its next matchup against UNLV at a press conference Monday afternoon. Here are some of the key takeaways.Struggles of passing defenseA game in which Ohio State’s defense allowed just 19 passing yards could be viewed as a positive for the team, but only if the context is removed. Ohio State faced off against the least-productive passing offense in college football, as Army had accumulated just 17 passing yards over its first two games of the season. The Black Knights almost solely relied on the triple-option for offensive production. After the game, Ohio State went from ranking last in average passing yards allowed per game (403 yards) to ranking 101st (275 yards), but Meyer said Monday that passing defense is still an area the team is looking to improve.He added that the team’s younger and more inexperienced players could earn themselves playing time if he doesn’t notice improvements, listing freshman cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah as two players who have caught his eye.“Wade’s been dinged up a little bit. He didn’t practice at all,” Meyer said. “Okudah is scratching the surface of playing time. [Cornerback Kendall] Sheffield is getting better. He had his best week of practice last week. And I know it’s [Sheffield’s] third year in college, but he’s not had a lot of experience. And [cornerback Denzel] Ward’s gotta continue to get better. Those are the guys we keep moving forward.”Going back to Oklahoma filmIn preparing for their matchup against the Black Knights, the Buckeyes had to put away the film from the Oklahoma game as they prepared for a team that could not have been much more different than the Sooners. Now that Ohio State has beat Army, it can go back to look at and learn from the Week 2 film as it prepares for more commonly used spread offenses in UNLV and Rutgers.In fact, Meyer said the team already has.“[The defense] spent all day yesterday on Oklahoma,” Meyer said. “Graded the effort and rewarded the effort in here with me and the team, and they went to work. And they’ll continue to work on, because now we’ll see another spread offense.”Campbell being used moreWith six wide receivers listed as starters, it could be viewed as a challenge for any one player to stand above the pack. But if anyone in the receiving corps has looked like he could take that next step, it would probably be H-back Parris Campbell. Campbell leads the team in receiving yards with 217, ranks fifth in rushing yards with 32 on three carries and has averaged 36.5 yards on kickoff returns in four attempts. The redshirt junior first flashed his explosion against Indiana in the opening week, when he caught a pass on a short crossing route and bolted through the secondary, taking the ball 74 yards for a touchdown. He used that speed again versus Army, nearly scoring his first rushing touchdown of the season when he broke out past the defense and into the end zone, before it was brought back due to a holding penalty. Meyer said he sees a lot of former Buckeye H-back and current Carolina Panthers wideout Curtis Samuel in Campbell, and added he’d like to get the ball in Campbell’s hands more often.“Everybody can see [the comparison]. I was so upset we had another holding call,” Meyer said. “Parris has that kind of skill set.”Weber could be ‘rewarded’For the bulk of this season, redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber has been helplessly watching from the sideline as freshman running back J.K. Dobbins dominates on the field. Weber has been limited to 42 yards on seven carries due to a lingering hamstring injury that has prevented him from seeing regular playing time.However, Weber is coming off a season as Ohio State’s primary running back in which he rushed for 1,096 yards on 182 carries and added 91 receiving yards on 23 catches.Despite his injury and Dobbins’ success as the No. 1 running back so far, Weber could still return in a major role for Ohio State’s offense once he is fully healthy.“He’ll be rewarded once he gets back full speed,” Meyer said. “It’s not that Mike’s a lost soul around here … He’s very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks.”The third-year running back had just four carries for 13 yards in Saturday’s 38-17 victory over Army.Nuernberger could start as kickoff specialistAnother area Meyer cited kickoff coverage of an area needing dire improvement. Freshman kicker Blake Haubeil has handled kickoff duties so far this season, and Meyer said the freshman and the rest of that special team have not been effective thus far.“Kickoff coverage is a mess right now,” Meyer said. “We don’t have a kicker that can kick the ball. If you notice, one almost went out up in the seats.”Army returned five kicks during the game and averaged 23.2 yards in returns, including a 43- yard return. The Black Knights twice began a drive after a kickoff twice beyond their own 25-yard line, and Oklahoma was able to bring the ball out beyond its own 25-yard line three of its times in four returns. Meyer suggested the poor start for Haubeil could lead to a change, stating that redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger could become the team’s new kickoff specialist. read more

  • Buytolet crackdown will end the dreams of middleclass investors

    first_imgHe said: “This change is a proactive move that recognises the need to help safeguard rental cover for landlords over the coming years, and in advance  of the forthcoming changes to mortgage interest tax relief.” While would-be landlords are being locked out of the market, current landlords are rapidly looking to sell, studies have indicated. One survey of almost 1,000 experienced private landlords by the  Residential Landlords’ Association found a quarter of buy-to-let investors  are planning to sell their rental properties as a result of the  Government tax changes.  Philip Hammond will deliver his Autumn Statement next weekCredit:Rex / Shutterstock From Jan 1 the Prudential Regulation Authority, the lending arm of the Bank of England, will impose new minimum affordability thresholds which will reject borrowers who make less than 25 per cent profit from their investment, or would no longer be able to afford mortgage repayments if interest rates  rise to 5.5 per cent. For example, someone with a £200,000 interest-only mortgage borrowing at  1.79 pc would have monthly mortgage payments of £299.However, as these repayments would rise to £917 if their rate of repayment interest rose to  5.5 per cent, they would need to prove they could charge rent of £1,146 a month to  be approved for the mortgage.   As the Bank rate is currently at a record low of 0.25 per cent, mortgage deals are cheaper than ever with many charging less than 2 per cent interest.  Prior to the announcement of the Bank’s new rules, some lenders went further and tightened their criteria voluntarily with some, including Nationwide, now refusing to lend to landlords making rental profits of less than 45 per cent of their mortgage repayments. When the building society announced the change in April this year, Paul  Wootton, managing director of its buy-to-let arm, The Mortgage Works, said  the move was a response to the change on tax relief.  Philip Hammond If interest rates were to move up quickly that would cause buy-to-let  investors a huge problem as they are too acclimatized to low ratesRay Boulger Many have turned to buy-to-let to fund retirement income after being effectively barred from putting more money in to their pensions by the Government. Low mortgage rates have made the investments attractive. However, ministers have recently targeted buy-to-let properties with aggressive new taxes, including higher rates of stamp duty and the removal of tax relief on mortgage interest. Experts fear that the announcement will make the investments unaffordable for many middle class people, closing down another potential  saving opportunity. Mr Hammond and Theresa May, the Prime Minister, are expected to come under pressure to ease the burden on savers with new tax breaks or government help in next week’s  Autumn Statement.  Andrew Montlake, director at Coreco, a mortgage broker, said: “Many people will see this as the beginning of the end of the middle class buy-to-let dream which is a big shame. “Until recently middle-class savers have helped fuel a buy-to-let boom in  Britain with more than two million savers funnelling cash into rental properties to help fund their retirement.  The Bank is forcing lenders to “toughen up”  over concerns they have relaxed standards for landlords.  Ray Boulger, from John Charcol, a mortgage adviser, said: “The rationale for these stress tests are the same as those which were brought into the residential market to avoid people being unable to repay their mortgages if interest rates rise.”If interest rates were to move up quickly that would cause buy-to-let investors a huge problem as they are too acclimatized to low rates. If rates rose sharply and they were unable to repay their mortgages en masse the market could suddenly be flooded with properties.” Many people will see this as the beginning of the end of the middle class buy to let  dream which is a big shameAndrew Montlake, Coreco Property investors will face tough new mortgage affordability tests from next year which will herald the “beginning of the end of the middle-class buy-to-let dream”, experts have warned.Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, announced additional rules on buy-to-let which will result in ordinary investors being able to borrow far less towards their purchase.Mr Hammond indicated he was concerned about “financial stability” following a boom in residential property investment as savers desperately try to find profitable places to put their money.  Under the plans to give the Bank of England extra powers, affordability checks are to be introduced for investors, who will now have to prove they can make a profit of 25 per cent profit from tenants even if large interest rate rises make their mortgage more expensive. The Chancellor said: “It is crucial that Britain’s independent regulators  have the tools they need to keep our financial system as safe as possible. “Expanding the number of tools at the Financial Policy Committee’s disposal will ensure that the buy-to-let sector can continue to make an important contribution to our economy, while allowing the regulator to address any potential risks to financial stability.”  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.last_img read more

  • Bird flu confirmed in chickens and ducks in Wales as disease spreads

    first_imgTurkeys on a farm 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. It means extra biosecurity measures for all poultry and captive birds to protect them from the risk from wild birds.The zone covers the whole of Wales and is due to remain in place until Jan 6.It requires the immediate and compulsory housing of domestic chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks, or where this is not practical, their complete separation from contact with wild birds.For farmed geese, game birds and other captive birds, keepers should take practical steps to keep them separate from wild birds.  Bird flu has been confirmed in chickens and ducks in Wales, in the latest instance of the spread of the avian disease across Britain. The decision was taken to cull the birds before confirmation, amid strong suspicion of avian influenza H5N8 on a premises near Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire.It follows previous outbreaks across the country, including cases last month in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, and Somerset and Leicestershire.  Welsh Government environment secretary, Lesley Griffiths said: “This case of Avian Influenza H5N8 in a backyard flock near Pontyberem in Carmarthenshire follows the findings of infection in wild birds and a confirmed case in Lincolnshire.”It serves to reinforce the need for all bird keepers, particularly back yard flock keepers, to adhere to the requirements set out in the Prevention Zone, remain vigilant for signs of disease and practice good biosecurity at all times.”center_img Show more The disease has also affected other parts of Europe where thousands of farmed birds have been slaughtered following outbreaks. A 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone have been put in place to limit the risk of the disease spreading in the latest instance, as part of the wider surveillance and disease control measures.An avian influenza prevention zone declaration was made by Welsh ministers on Dec 6 last year. Restrictions have been placed on poultry farming following bird flu outbreaksCredit:Niall Carson /PAlast_img read more