The Arizona Cardinals continue to get no respect. Despite an NFC best 11-3 record, Las Vegas has them as eight-point underdogs, at home, against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Similarly, our rankings, which are derived from point spreads, have the Cardinals pegged as just the 19th best team in the NFL. Their “generic points favored”1Generic points favored is what you would expect a team to be favored by against a league average opponent on a neutral field. is essentially zero.The Cardinals are, quite literally, average.Of course, this is largely a reflection of the Cardinals’ starting quarterback situation. Because of injuries to Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton, Arizona will start Ryan Lindley against the Seahawks defense. If Lindley and the Cardinals pull off the upset, power rankings, point spreads and “respect” become meaningless, at least when it comes to playoff positioning. A win for Arizona would not only clinch the NFC West title, it would also guarantee it the top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.A loss keeps the Green Bay Packers in contention for the top seed. Their opponent this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are in no hurry to win: As you can see in the table above, we’re simulating each team’s chances of getting the top pick in the NFL draft. The Buccaneers are in the lead.With their decisive Monday night victory over the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints re-established themselves as the front-runner in the NFC South. They host the Atlanta Falcons this week in a game that is truly a must-win for Atlanta. A loss would eliminate the Falcons from the playoff race. Although not quite a must-win for New Orleans, the Saints’ chances of winning the division and making the playoffs would drop to 11 percent with a loss to the Falcons. The Carolina Panthers can also afford to lose this week, but a loss to the Cleveland Browns would drop their playoff chances to just 3 percent.As it stands, the probability that the NFC South winner finishes with a losing record is slightly better than 50 percent. And there is about a 1 percent chance that Carolina will win the division with a 6-9-1 record. As if that wasn’t unfair enough, the NFC South winner may also find themselves with a favorable draw in the first round of the playoffs. If Arizona loses this week, they will most likely finish as the fifth seed and face the fourth-seed NFC South winner in the wild card round. The third seed plays the sixth seed in the first round, and that sixth seed would probably be a much tougher opponent than the fifth seed. In the event of an Arizona loss, the most likely sixth-seed teams would be the Detroit Lions, Packers or Dallas Cowboys, all of whom place higher in our rankings than the Cardinals.While all four divisional races are undecided in the NFC, in the AFC, only the North remains up in the air. But with three teams still vying for the AFC North title, and an additional five teams in the wild card race, things are far from settled in the conference. The Miami Dolphins are clinging to a 0.2 percent playoff probability going into Week 16 and will need a lot of help to make it to the postseason. The best case scenario for every team is included in the graphic below, which also includes “top pick” chances for the teams lousy enough to have a shot. The game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers will have a bigger impact on the Dolphins’ playoff chances than Miami’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens playoff chances actually improve with a Steelers victory over the Chiefs; this despite the fact that they are battling the Steelers for the division title. With 143 percent of playoff “swing” at stake, the Chiefs-Steelers game figures to be one of the most important matchups this week.At the top of the AFC, the picture is relatively certain. The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos are virtual locks for the top two seeds and byes in the first round. The Indianapolis Colts’ fate as a third or fourth seed was effectively sealed in Week 11 with their loss to the Patriots. In the NFC, there are still five teams in contention for both the top seed and the bye week. As we mentioned above, a victory would guarantee the Cardinals the top seed. But a loss would drop their top-seed probability to just 7 percent — a swing of 93 percent.CORRECTION (Dec. 18, 9:23 a.m.): The initial version of the “Which Teams To Root For In Week 16” graphic included three instances where a game in one conference (e.g. a matchup between two NFC teams) affected the playoff odds of a team in the opposite conference. These effects are not statistically meaningful and have been removed.CORRECTION (Dec. 20, 2:13 p.m.): Because of a programming error, this analysis miscalculated the outcomes of “head-to-head sweep” tiebreakers involving multiple teams. This miscalculation had a large effect on the race for the top two NFC seeds and a smaller effect on the AFC wild card race. The interactives, tables and text have been updated.
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Monday’s show (May 21, 2018), Neil and Kyle discuss where each conference finals series stands. Did Golden State’s resounding Game 3 win really change the tenor of that series? And what changed to allow LeBron James and the Cavaliers to run the Celtics out of the building in that series’s Game 3?The Lab will be back with another episode later this week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game.
HomeAwayMinutes ball in playExpectedActualDiff.* PortugalSpain57:23––14:0805:51-8.3 GermanySweden61:08––08:5609:06+0.2 Altercations30 UruguaySaudi Arabia58:49––08:2406:02-2.4 For the first 32 matches of the 2018 World Cup. PolandSenegal56:21––11:5706:33-5.4 * Difference in minutesFor the first 32 matches of the 2018 World Cup. FranceAustralia55:24––11:2506:30-4.9 ColombiaJapan58:58––11:2706:14-5.2 Goal kick6.2–06:03 Corner kicks45 BrazilSwitzerland59:30––15:3208:52-6.7 Costa RicaSerbia57:02––12:3509:36-3.0 PortugalMorocco52:02––10:1508:07-2.1 RussiaSaudi Arabia55:27––10:2706:45-3.7 Stoppage typeShare of all playAvg. min. per match Goal celebration3.0–02:55 Arguing with referee30 PeruDenmark51:41––13:3908:03-5.6 RussiaEgypt53:25––08:0704:10-4.0 Nobody gets enough extra timeMinutes with ball in play for each World Cup match and difference between expected and actual stoppage time added Dissent0.6–00:36 GermanyMexico58:41––08:5504:06-4.8 SerbiaSwitzerland56:31––10:2607:57-2.5 TunisiaEngland48:26––17:3707:11-10.4 ArgentinaCroatia51:56––16:2406:13-10.2 Free kick60 BrazilCosta Rica62:31––15:2709:12-6.3 Penalty kick60 S. KoreaMexico53:37––12:2906:46-5.7 Injury4.3–04:10 IcelandNigeria51:19––15:4108:37-7.1 Throw-in8.1–07:50 PolandColombia56:16––18:3709:08-9.5 Unfortunately, these calculations are not as simple as pausing the stopwatch every time the ball goes out of bounds. The rules leave plenty to the discretion of each referee, but they do lay out some concrete guidelines regarding allowance for time lost. According to FIFA’s official rules, the following occurrences are to be factored into time lost: substitutions, “assessment and/or removal of injured players,” disciplinary sanctions, hydration breaks, and “any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart (e.g. goal celebrations).”For our purposes, these were the easiest chunks of dead-ball time to tally. This number gave us a base stoppage. And it’s worth noting that these actions alone averaged almost five minutes more than the average added time allotted. But the FIFA rules are more cryptic for routine stops such as throw-ins, goal kicks, free kicks and corners. To be included in added time, these types of stoppages need to be considered “excessive” and not a “natural” part of the game. For this, we developed thresholds for the routine activities to determine excessive stoppages. Goal kicks30 DenmarkAustralia60:11––10:0805:07-5.0 MoroccoIran44:36––18:4908:00-10.8 Throw-ins20 These thresholds, which are based on how long the event usually takes on average, were intended to allow for a generous length of time before considering a stoppage excessive. For example, if a keeper spent 41 seconds to take a goal kick, 30 of those seconds were considered natural, but the last 11 seconds were considered excessive and added to the “excessive stoppages” total. Anyone who has watched a team try to burn clock at the end of the game knows that players will really milk routine throws and set pieces for precious seconds off the clock.By adding base stoppage time to excessive stoppage time, we reached the estimated amount of ideal stoppage time for each game. The second half of Iran-Morocco wasn’t even the most egregious example in one half. That honor belongs to the first half of the England-Panama match, which underestimated stoppage time by 10:49 . Across a full game, Belgium-Tunisia was the biggest offender: By our count there should have been more than 20 minutes of stoppage time and there was actually just a shade more than seven minutes (although Tunisia was probably not that upset over this).Some of the referees’ estimates for added time look even worse when broken up by half. For example, the first half of the Colombia-Japan game featured two goals, a substitution and a red card, which added up to 5 minutes and 53 seconds of stoppage time by our count. But somehow referee Damir Skomina of Slovenia decided to add only one extra minute. FIFA rules say that the length of the second half must not be changed to compensate for timekeeping errors in the first half so it may have just been luck that led Skomina to overestimate second-half stoppages by 37 seconds, which kept the overall discrepancy more in line with others.There was only one match that actually had more time added than our stoppage time estimate called for: Sweden vs. Germany. Our calculation estimated 8:56 as an accurate amount of added time, but referee Szymon Marciniak allowed the teams to play 17 seconds more than that. The game was also the closest any referee came to matching our estimated figure.Regardless of how accurate stoppage time is, the sheer amount of time the ball was out of play is also interesting. By our calculations, the average game lasted 97 minutes and the ball was in play for only 55 minutes on average, meaning 43 percent of the game is lost to dead ball time. Many of the stoppages can feel like action hasn’t stopped (e.g. a quickly taken throw-in or free kick), but even if we throw out any stoppage of 17 seconds or less, the average match has contained 75 separate stoppages in play.This statistic is also a good snapshot of the pace of the game. The highest percentage of action in a single match was Egypt vs. Uruguay, where the ball was in play for 63 of the 97 minutes played (65 percent). Meanwhile, the struggle that was Iran vs. Morocco clocked in with under 45 minutes of action and over 53 minutes of stoppages (46 percent action).So where exactly is all that time going? The chart below breaks down each type of break from action based on our classifications. JapanSenegal51:51––15:0204:59-10.1 The second half of Iran and Morocco’s tightly contested group match contained nothing too out of the ordinary by World Cup standards. Each side used all three substitutes; there was only one booking; no goals were scored. In a group with Spain and Portugal, both teams presumably were eager to steal a crucial three points and break the 0-0 tie. When the game reached the 90-minute mark, the fourth official raised the electronic board to indicate six minutes of added time.It should have read 14 minutes.It’s no secret that the stoppage time in soccer is often inaccurate, but it’s not easy to know exactly how inaccurate. This is unique to soccer — particularly when held against other major sports. In basketball, tenths of seconds can be decisive and are often exhaustively reviewed for accuracy. In football, pundits and fans measure coaches by the nuances of their clock management. But without an official clock in view of spectators and no dedicated timekeeper, the duration of each soccer game is solely up to the discretion of the referee. This, in turn, affects strategy as players and teams that are eager for a game to end find ways to stall.With this in mind, we decided to test the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the referees’ stoppage time decision made at each half. Using a stopwatch and a team of patient timekeepers, FiveThirtyEight meticulously tracked and categorized every stoppage during the first 32 games played of the World Cup — a total of 3194 stoppages in all, or one every 58 seconds.Our findings confirmed what avid fans already know: Actual stoppage time is a wildly inaccurate measure of how long the game was actually stopped. The average added time flashed on the board for these 32 games was 6:59, which includes both halves. By our calculations — which adhered to FIFA’s rules on the matter — the time that should have been added to each game was 13:10. This means stoppage time was roughly half of what it should have been for most games. EnglandPanama53:25––19:0107:22-11.7 FrancePeru55:12––11:3406:30-5.1 BelgiumPanama52:44––14:1906:08-8.2 Substitution3.1–03:03 Booking0.9–00:55 *Anything over is counted towards expected stoppage time estimates Stoppage time What slows matches down the mostHow much time each type of stoppage has taken up per World Cup match, on average IranSpain53:46––15:3307:15-8.3 EventSeconds BelgiumTunisia50:58––20:5807:14-13.7 Penalty kick0.6–00:33 Corner kick4.4–04:14 Free kick10.8%–10:29 ArgentinaIceland60:03––08:4406:09-2.6 Warnings30 Yes, almost eight minutes of each game is waiting for the ball to be thrown inbounds while an additional six minutes per game is spent waiting for the keeper to take his goal kicks. (Interestingly, the much ballyhooed Video Assistant Referee barely made a dent in the overall stoppages.)In some respects, the referee deserves a pass for not getting the extra-time number exactly right (or remotely right). Putting more than 10 minutes on the board would represent such a break from tradition that it might incite a riot — the highest actual number allotted in any of the 64 halves we watched was six minutes1The longest time played in a half was actually 8:06 in the Brazil-Costa Rica match but only six minutes was initially posted.. Also, the referee must manage play across roughly 7,700 square yards while running up to 12 miles per game. This is perhaps why he may turn to his assistants for help with the clock.“The referee has the ultimate responsibility as timekeeper for the game,” said Alan Black manager of senior referees at Professional Referee Organization, which sent two of its members to the World Cup as referees. According to Black, referees will often ask “their assistant referees and fourth official to keep a mental note of the stoppage time that is lost and the referee will also do the same.” The referee then consults with the other officials, usually with about five minutes left in the half, and informs the fourth official how much time is to be added.That referees are awarding an average of six minutes less than what should be included in added time is substantial. These are often the most valuable minutes in a game. Through Tuesday, 16 goals were scored in added time of either half, or 15 percent of all goals. In fact, the only goal in that Morocco vs. Iran game came in the 95th minute.But the bigger issue to many fans is the time-wasting behavior that underestimating stoppage time rewards. There’s a reason that players feign injuries when leading or dig the ball out of the net and run to midfield after scoring a goal while trailing. Their perception is that not enough stoppage time is added. So far this World Cup, their perception has proven to be reality.Jacoba Gundle, Andrez Guerrero, Angel Gutierrez, Dan McDowell, Rick Dunning and Wade Starnes contributed to this article. Warning0.3–00:17 How long routine soccer events should take SwedenS. Korea51:21––14:5806:19-8.7 Video review0.5–00:31 Altercation0.1–00:05 EgyptUruguay63:02––09:2507:15-2.2 CroatiaNigeria54:57––10:0805:58-4.2
Women’s volleyball (12-1, 0-0) With only one loss, to then-No. 16-ranked Kentucky, the Buckeyes prepare for their Big Ten weekend opener against Wisconsin on Friday and Illinois on Saturday. Anna Szerszen earned most valuable player honors at the Owl Invitational for defeating Presbyterian (3-0), Coastal Carolina (3-1) and Kennesaw State (3-0). Men’s cross country The Buckeyes took a first-place finish after five runners placed in the Top 10 at the 6.4K Appalachian State Mountaineer Open. No. 1 runner Taylor Williams sat out, but the team ran in a pack to take the season opener. Top 10 finishers included Chad Balyo, Adam Green, Donny Roys, Julian Meyer and Cory Leslie. “Overall, we’re off to a good start,” coach Robert Gary said. “More importantly, we are way ahead of where we were last season from a conditioning standpoint.” Women’s cross country After 10 days of training in the mountains, Ohio State took the top four spots at the 5K Mountaineer Open in the State Farm Fields of Boone, N.C., and placed five runners in the Top 10. Jordan Jennewine did not compete but is expected to return to full health at the All-Ohio Championships Friday, Oct. 1. Field hockey (6-2, 0-0) The No. 10 Buckeyes set a program record by defeating the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils in back-to-back seasons following a 3-1 victory. Junior Aisling Coyle leads the team with 17 points and has scored in all eight games this season. Men’s golf The season-opening Marshall Invitational proved to be no obstacle for the men’s golf team. Earning a first-place finish, the Buckeyes set a tournament record for lowest 18-hole team score with an 11-under 273 after the first round and set the team 54-hole record 820, 32 under par. “Any time you win, it’s something to build on,” coach Donnie Darr said. “We are building momentum and really starting to believe in ourselves.” Women’s golf The women’s golf team took home a second-place trophy at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational. Sophomore Rachel Rohanna finished 7-under 212, one stroke behind first place finisher Erica Omlid of the Oregon Ducks. Rohanna set two career records, lowest round (69) and lowest 54-hole score (212). Men’s soccer (4-2-0, 0-0-0) The Buckeyes have four wins under their belt after defeating College of Charleston, Buffalo, Binghamton and Bucknell. Falling to USF and Florida Gulf Coast, the Buckeyes look to knock off Big Ten foe Michigan in the first Big Ten matchup on Saturday. Senior midfielder Konrad Warzycha earned national accolades early in the season for leading the Buckeyes to four consecutive wins. TopDrawerSoccer.com named Warzycha to the national team of the week following the 2-1 Bucknell win. Women’s soccer (6-2-1, 0-0-0) The Buckeyes suffered a 1-0 loss to No. 19 Arizona State after giving up the game’s lone goal in the first half. Junior Caitlyn Martin earned Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for scoring both goals in the 2-0 win over Cleveland State on Sept. 8.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta walked down the hall at Boston’s TD Garden a richer man after his team defeated Syracuse to advance to the Final Four. A group of reporters quickly flocked around the coach and he was asked about sophomore forward Jared Sullinger’s decision to return to school instead of leaving for the NBA. The win against Syracuse seemingly validated his choice. “I’m very happy for him,” Matta said. But that wasn’t all Matta had to say. “And very happy for me,” he said. Matta should be happy. He likely wasn’t talking about it at that moment, but OSU’s trip to the Final Four has earned him a pretty penny in addition to his base salary. According to Matta’s contract, a trip to the Final Four gives Matta a $20,000 bonus and the tournament run up until this point has garnered Matta a total of $80,000. Matta’s contract dictates that he gets $40,000 every year his team qualifies for the NCAA Tournament, $20,000 for his team making the Elite Eight, and $20,000 for making the Final Four. There is no extra bonus for making it to the National Championship game, but if OSU wins it all in New Orleans, Matta will receive another bonus of $100,000 . Matta will be paid about $2.1 million combined for his base salary, media obligation and endorsement deals for the 2011-12 season . In addition to the NCAA Tournament bonuses, Matta also received a $20,000 bonus for OSU sharing the Big Ten regular season championship with Michigan State and Michigan. Sharing the championship also guaranteed him a one-year contract extension. OSU students tended to think all the money spent compensating Matta was worth it. “With football and basketball, those are the two high revenue sports, if he brings our team more prominence and national spotlight, of course he deserves the money,” said Vilok Desai, a third-year in biology and anthropology. But compared to the rest of the coaches in the Final Four, Matta is at the bottom of the totem pole. His counterpart Saturday night, Kansas coach Bill Self, has a base salary of $2.5 million and has already earned $50,000 for winning the Big 12 regular season title and $100,000 for advancing his team to the Final Four, according to an Associated Press article. Self would earn another $200,000 if his team wins the championship, according to the article. Kentucky’s John Calipari has more money on the line than anyone, though. According to the report, he’s already banked $400,000 in bonuses in addition to his base salary of $3.8 million for the Wildcats’ run to the Final Four and SEC conference championship. If Kentucky wins the title, a bonus of $350,000 would kick in. Calipari’s opponent, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, has a base salary of $3 million and has earned $225,000 in bonuses according to the report. If Pitino can maneuver his squad past Kentucky and win the championship, he’ll make another $150,000. Ryan Buntain, a fourth-year in material science engineering, said the discrepancy in pay is warranted. “I think his bonuses are fine where they’re at right now,” he said. “His job is to get to the National Championship and he’s doing it right now.” Calipari and Pitino’s incentives actually approach the incentives in OSU football coach Urban Meyer’s contract. Meyer, who makes $4 million as his base salary, earns $50,000 if OSU wins the Big Ten Leaders’ Division, $100,000 if OSU wins the Big Ten Championship Game, $150,000 if he leads to the team to a BCS game appearance, and $250,000 if OSU appears in the BCS National Championship. Meyers incentives are significantly higher than Matta’s, but students reiterated that despite the basketball team’s success, OSU is still a football school and the money reflects it. “With how big football is at Ohio State, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Eric Felton, a fourth-year in nutrition and community health.
After upsetting No. 10 Northwestern, 3-2, on Wednesday, the Ohio State field hockey team routed visiting Missouri State and made history in the process. OSU (7-3) defeated Missouri State (3-6), 10-1, on Sunday, at Buckeye Varsity Field. The 10 goals are tied for the most any OSU team has ever scored in a single game. Six OSU players scored in the game and three members of the team had multiple goals. The Buckeyes’ offensive attack was led by three goals from senior forward Berta Queralt. In OSU’s last three games in five days, they’ve scored 21 goals, a figure that triples the amount of goals they netted in the first seven games of the season. “We were moving the ball very well and we were attacking in numbers,” said coach Anne Wilkinson. “We are finding the open player and we are very, very unselfish with the ball.” Thanks to an assist from junior midfielder Paula Pastor-Pitarque, OSU took the lead early with Queralt’s first goal of the game almost five minutes into the contest. Queralt said the team could have taken it easy today because it was their third game in a week, but they came out and passed the ball and finished their scoring opportunities well. Next, senior forward Danica Deckard netted her 10th goal of the season with the help of an assist from sophomore midfielder Mona Frommhold. Just 33 seconds later Frommhold scored a goal of her own, deflecting in a shot from freshman forward Peanut Johnson. “We are just working really well together, connecting passes and stuff,” Deckard said. Queralt scored again on a reverse shot in front of the net with 17 minutes left in the half after an assist Deckard. The two would team up again later. Pastor-Pitarque scored the half’s last goal seven minutes later, making the score 4-0 in favor of the Buckeyes. “We kept the patience, kept passing around, practicing the easiest ball and playing our field hockey,” Pastor-Pitarque said. “I think that was the key, us playing unselfish and the team playing like we would do against the best teams of the Big Ten.” The Buckeyes came out firing in the second half as Queralt scored her third goal of the game, and sixth of the season, less than two minutes into the half. Deckard provided the pass to Queralt. The next two goals came in an eight-minute span from Johnson and brought the score to 8-0. She scored both shots unassisted and leads OSU’s freshmen class with three goals this season. With 19 minutes left in the game, Missouri State scored their lone goal. Pastor-Pitarque answered the Bears’ shot two minutes later, scoring her second goal of the game which extended the Buckeyes’ lead back to eight. The final goal of the game came with less than two minutes to play and was scored by freshman back Emma Royce. She sent a screaming slapshot into the goal on a pass from Frommhold. Players from the Buckeye bench saw more action than usual as seven players came off the bench and six of them played 20 minutes or more. In the last five matches an average of almost four players have substituted in. Just five times have one of those players played more than 20 minutes. “It was nice to have some of the younger kids get in to play and get those minutes so they can build their confidence up,” Deckard said. The Buckeyes are scheduled to play against Robert Morris University, Wednesday at Buckeye Varsity Field.
Ohio State men’s lacrosse looks to lock up a top-four finish in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and a berth in the conference playoffs this weekend against Air Force. OSU (8-3, 3-2) is currently tied for third in the ECAC with Fairfield. About two weeks ago, the OSU men’s lacrosse team was reeling. The Buckeyes were coming off a 9-4 loss to Loyola (Md.) to cap off a month that saw them lose three of six games and drop to 1-2 in ECAC play. With dreams of making it to the postseason slowly slipping into fantasy, OSU needed to turn things around. But two games later, the Buckeyes are coming off back-to-back conference wins against Hobart and Michigan as they head to Colorado to seal a top-four finish and a playoff spot. Senior attacker Nick Liddil said it was about getting back to basics for OSU. “We just had to focus on us and do the things that we know how to do and play within ourselves,” Liddil said. “That’s what got us out of our rough patch.” A big issue for the Buckeyes during March was an inconsistent offense. Only scoring four times each during losses against Notre Dame and Loyola, OSU was struggling. In recent weeks, though, Logan Schuss has helped turn the team around. The senior attacker’s five goals led the Buckeyes to a 17-8 victory against Michigan Saturday. OSU coach Nick Myers said Schuss getting back in the swing of things was a contributing factor in OSU’s turnaround. “Offensively, we hit a bit of a wall I think,” Myers said. “After that Loyola game, we hit the rest button a little bit and got back to basics, focused on fundamentals, got a little faster. We’re sharing the ball and it’s been great to see Logan get back in a rhythm.” Senior midfielder Dominique Alexander said he knows, though, the trip to the playoffs can be hard. “The juniors and seniors, we’ve been up there before, and we know this is no cakewalk,” Alexander said. “Our coaches explained to us today that there are still two spots left in our conference tournament and about five teams that are competing for that.” The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Air Force in United States Air Force Academy, Colo., Saturday at 2 p.m.
Senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo (5) celebrates a point during a match against Michigan Sept. 27 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1.Credit: Mark Batke / Lantern photographerOnce in the midst of an eight-match losing streak, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team’s fortune has taken a turn for the better.The Buckeyes are fresh off two statement victories: a sweep of Indiana and a four-set win against then-No. 14 Purdue.While the team is still unranked, the Buckeyes will have to remain focused as they hit the road for matches against two ranked opponents this weekend.OSU is scheduled to face off against No. 11 Minnesota in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. Friday, before heading to Madison, Wis., for a date with No. 14 Wisconsin at 2 p.m. Sunday.Freshman setter Maggie Heim said the team has to remain focused and disciplined, especially on the road.“These are going to be two huge crowds,” she said. “So staying intent on what we need to get done, what we’re there for (will be important).”Both teams have topped OSU at home this season. The then-No.19 Badgers topped the Buckeyes 3-2 Oct. 11 in Columbus while No. 11 Minnesota swept OSU on its home court the following night. Those were also the first two losses of OSU’s eight-match losing streak.Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary said it will be important to focus on the Golden Gophers first because OSU cannot afford to overlook any Big Ten team.“Minnesota is just a really good team, so we have to play hard,” she said. “(Last) weekend, I think we played well as a team together, so we’ll have to do that.”Leary added Wisconsin will be just as ready for the Buckeyes, since the teams have already played this season.“Obviously, we know more about them, they know more about us now,” she said. “Whatever the coaches set for our game plan, we need to follow that and just play together as a team.”Leary leads the Big Ten this season with 476 kills, followed by freshman middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe’s 225.Sandbothe was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after tallying a combined 26 kills against Indiana and Purdue.“It’s a huge honor, to get Big Ten Freshman of the Week,” Sandbothe said. “It’s just really humbling, the fact that I have a big impact on this team.”The challenge facing OSU is finding a way to stop Minnesota senior middle blocker Tori Dixon, who is sixth in the Big Ten in average kills per set and is tied for third in blocks per set, if it wants to win Friday.“We’re going to try to get four hands on her every time,” senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo said about Dixon. “She’s going to get her kills, but if we minimize them, then I think we put ourselves in a very good position to win the game.”No matter how many kills Dixon gets, the Buckeyes will have to turn around and face Wisconsin Sunday before making their way back to Columbus. OSU is scheduled to return home Nov. 22 for a match against No. 25 Illinois.
OSU then-freshman designated hitter Brady Cherry (1) swings at a pitch during a game against Kent State on April 5 in Kent, Ohio. OSU lost, 8-3. Credit: Courtesy of Matt Baker | The Kent StaterA day after serving up five runs on 11 hits in Game 1 of the series, the Ohio State baseball team needed to make sure they kept the explosive bats of the Minnesota baseball team quiet in order to salvage the series.But the Golden Gophers were not to be silenced on Saturday, as the team combined for 21 runs and 30 hits across the two games of the doubleheader and completed the sweep of the Buckeyes in the first conference series of the season.OSU coach Greg Beals tipped his cap to the bats of the Golden Gophers, saying that they demonstrated a great approach to the plate and take advantage of mistakes up in the zone. “They have guys with a feel for hitting. So when you’re up in the zone, they’re going to put balls in play,” Beals said. “I think they’ve got a solid two-strike approach where they’ll scrap and fight you.”Game 1The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader saw its fair share of runs being scored, but it was largely one-sided. The Golden Gophers piled on seven runs late to win the game 15-5.Despite the final score being so lopsided, it was the Buckeyes who jumped on the scoreboard first. A groundout from junior right fielder Noah McGowan with a pair in scoring position scored the runner from third and gave the Buckeyes the early 1-0 lead.Two innings later, freshman second baseman Noah West later stepped up to the plate with his team still searching for their first hit of the game and launched the fourth pitch he saw over the left field fence for his first career home run, helping OSU jump ahead by two.For West, that home run wasn’t about trying to do too much, it was just about trying to put a good swing on it and hoping to drive it.“I was just trying to go out and be aggressive and saw a fastball, and my eyes just lighting up and (I was) able to get it over the fence,” West said. “It was probably the best feeling of my life honestly.”It did not take long for the Golden Gophers to respond. In the top of the fourth inning, Minnesota had a runner on first base and no one out. Then a wild series of events took place with a bunt single, followed up by a pair of throwing errors that allowed a run to come across and bring the Golden Gophers to within one.An RBI double from redshirt senior left fielder Jordan Smith immediately followed and tied the game at two.A walk coming right on the heels of that double to put two runners on base for sophomore catcher Cole McDevitt who crushed Curlis’ 0-1 offering over the fence in straight-away center to give the Golden Gophers the 5-2 lead.The Buckeyes again channeled the long ball in the bottom half of the fourth inning, as junior left fielder Tyler Cowles crushed a no-doubt home run to left field to bring the score to 5-3.Minnesota was not done with the power surge. With two runners aboard in the top of the fifth, Jordan Smith connected with the 3-2 pitch and sent it over a leaping attempt at the wall from McGowan for the Golden Gophers’ second home run of the day and his second in the series. In the bottom of the fifth, sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell sent a 3-1 fastball over the left-center field wall for his first career home run.Two scoreless innings came and went, and all was quiet until the top of the eighth. And then the wheels fell off for OSU.With a run already having scored on a ground out earlier in the inning, junior first baseman Toby Hanson doubled to right field, scoring a pair of runs.A single and throwing error allowed Hanson to come around to score and give his team the seven-run lead. Redshirt freshman Jordan Kozicky tripled to the right-centerfield gap, scoring two more runs. Kozicky later came around to score on a passed ball to bring the score 15-5.Beals said this game was not an easy one to get through for the Buckeyes as it seemingly everything went against his team.“First game just kind of got away from us. I think Curlis went out there, and for three innings looked pretty good and disappeared on us,” Beals said. “Then we went to the bullpen and like I said, it just got away from us.”Curlis, who had not allowed a run in his previous 11 innings, gave up seven runs (all earned) on nine hits and two walks across four innings while only striking out three.But the bullpen did not help to pick him up either. The relievers allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks across five innings of work, adding to their struggles of late.Junior relief pitcher Seth Kinker said that for the bullpen to start finding success, they need to start to feel more confident in their stuff and trust themselves to pitch well.“Right now, people are a little rattled when they do go in the game. And they’re lacking a little bit of confidence,” Kinker said. “You’re not going to pitch well if you don’t have confidence. And that’s what I’ve always been told while I’ve been here for three years. If you have the confidence in your stuff, then you’re going to do well.”Game 2For the third-straight game in the series, the Golden Gophers tallied double-digit hit totals and secured the sweep, winning by a final score of 6-5.The scoring got started in the bottom of the second with a sacrifice fly to right-center field from Tyler Cowles, but the Golden Gophers responded right back in the top of the third with a sacrifice fly of their own to tie the game at one.In the top of the fourth, the Golden Gophers started to get to sophomore starting pitcher Ryan Feltner. A double and single put runners on the corners for Kozicky who delivered an RBI double down the left field line. The runner on first base was thrown out trying to score, but Minnesota still managed to take the 2-1 lead.A single up the middle from McDevitt scored Kozicky, expanding the Minnesota lead to 3-1.The Buckeyes answered quickly though, bringing themselves back within a run when freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone singled to right to score his team’s second run of the game.Feltner again ran into issues in the fifth as he served up a home run to junior right fielder Alex Boxwell in the top of the fifth to give Minnesota the 4-2 lead. He later walked another batter in the inning and was pulled from the game.For the second-straight inning, OSU would put a run up on the board. With a runner on second, senior shortstop and co-captain Jalen Washington singled up the middle to cut the Gopher lead to just one.Just as quickly as OSU put up a run, so too did Minnesota. After a leadoff double in the top of the sixth put a runner in scoring position, a single to left field brought the score back up to 5-3. Later in the inning, the Golden Gophers had runners on second and third and a wild pitch allowed the second run of the inning to come around and score. In the bottom half of the sixth inning, Canzone stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second, and for the second time today drilled a base hit through the right side of the infield, scoring the runner from second. OSU had one of their best scoring opportunities of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Canzone stepped up to the plate and delivered a sacrifice fly, bringing the game to 6-5.An attempted squeeze bunt failed to amount to anything but advancing the runner on first to second. A walk and a strikeout would end the inning and leave the bases loaded.Beals saw this situation as a golden opportunity for his ball club and he felt that while they were able to put some good swings on the ball, nothing went right for his club.“In that eighth inning, Canzone drives the ball to right-center field. It’s a really hard hit ball. It’s a sacrifice fly, so it’s quality in that. It’s hard hit. We’ve got to be able to find the gap with that,” Beals said. “There’s a lot of things from a process standpoint, we did really good. But there’s not a lot of moral victories in it. The taste in the mouth doesn’t make it any better.”For his team to improve, Beals believes there is not any magic answer. He said that his team just needs to stop pressing too much and try to get back to fundamental baseball.“One more hit. It takes one more hit. There’s no magic answer to it,” Beals said. “I think guys are pressing a little bit and this is the time of the year when you’re struggling and you’re not winning games where that pressing can come into play and we’ve got to fight that. We’ve got to stick to our process, stick to the fundamentals and the core values that we believe in and execute those.”The Buckeyes will look to get back in the win column when they host Ohio University for the fifth of their nine-consecutive home games on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
Then-junior outfielder Noah McGowan steps to the plate during the Scarlet and Gray World Series on October 7, 2016 at Bill Davis Stadium.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsIn just the second week of the season, Ohio State will face one of the most complete teams in baseball.The Buckeyes have a four-game weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona, with two games each against Utah (0-3) and national title contender No. 2 Oregon State (3-0)“We’ve gotta be ready to play defense and defend the small ball, the base running game, the bunt game,” head coach Greg Beals said.Senior first baseman Noah McGowan is riding the biggest wave of momentum of any player for the Buckeyes (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten).He earned national player of the week honors for his 8-for-14 performance with two home runs and 13 RBIs in the season-opening week. Even with that, McGowan is taking nothing for granted.“Some weekends you get lucky and get a few bleeders that drop and get hits, and some weekends you just hit missiles at people and get out,” he said.Game 1: UtahBefore taking on the highly-touted Beavers, the Buckeyes will face off against the Utah Utes at 7 p.m. Thursday.The Utes were swept in a season-opening, three-game series by Oral Roberts. Utah manufactured only seven runs across the three contests.Based on those results, Beals said his team needs to be focused and not look ahead to the Oregon State game the next day. “It should be relatively easy [not to look ahead] because it’s in our cultural blueprint,” Beals said. “We’ve gotta be ready for what’s next, and Utah’s what’s next.”Junior pitcher Connor Curlis will take the mound for the Buckeyes, looking to improve upon giving up three earned runs in five innings his first outing of the season against UW-Milwaukee.Game 2: Oregon StateThe second-ranked Beavers are one of the premier programs in the NCAA. Last year, they went 56-6 with a Pac-12 championship and captured its sixth berth in the College World Series in program history.They lost four key contributors from that team.Ohio State will get an early look at how it stacks up with the nation’s best at 3 p.m. Friday. Junior Ryan Feltner is expected to take the mound for the Buckeyes. Rated as the Big Ten’s top prospect before the season by D1Baseball.com, he is looking to rebound from surrendering four earned runs in five innings against Canisius.Game 3: UtahThe Buckeyes take on Utah a second time at 6 p.m. Saturday.Redshirt senior Adam Niemeyer is set to take the ball for the second time this season after his season debut. His season debut against Canisius resulted in his first loss of the season, giving up five runs. However, only one of those runs was earned in his five innings of work and he struck out five batters.Game 4: Oregon StateRounding up the trip to Arizona is a second matchup with the Beavers at 11 a.m. Sunday.Redshirt senior Yianni Pavlopoulos (1-0, 3.60 ERA) takes the hill for the Buckeyes.Pavlopoulos was the starter for the Buckeyes last season when they delivered Oregon State one of its four regular-season losses, perhaps the highlight of an otherwise disappointing 22-34 year for Ohio State.“Defense was really, really good behind me, tempo was good,” Pavlopoulos said. “A key to beating them is just let them hit it. Throw strikes and let them get themselves out.”