Only one home team lost last weekend in the English Premier League. It was the same the weekend before. How unusual is this? Or, put another way, how significant is home-field advantage in soccer?It’s significant — at least, it was significant.Using a data set of scores compiled by one of this article’s authors (James), we can quantify the home team’s advantage in English football over the past 126 years. Here are the percentages of home wins, visitor wins and draws, by year, since the founding of the league in 1888 (the data is from all games played in the top four tiers of the English football pyramid, or just shy of 200,000 games):In the early days of English football, about 60 percent of games were won by the home team. The rest split about equally: 20 percent draws and 20 percent visitor wins. Now, the home team wins only about 40 percent of games, the visitor wins 30 percent, and the rest are draws. This trend doesn’t show signs of slowing. Home-field advantage in English football is disappearing.What’s responsible for this dramatic shift? Most immediately, it’s the result of a decrease in home-team scoring. Here are the average home and away goals per game, by year:Although scoring for either side has fluctuated, visitor goals have remained relatively constant, floating mostly between 1.00 and 1.3 per game. Home goals have fallen to roughly 1.5 per game from more than 2.5. The average difference (home goals minus away goals) has fallen to about 0.3 goals last year from about 1.1 goals at the league’s founding.A laundry list of explanations for home-field advantage have been offered over the years: partisan crowds, influenced officials, the comforts of home, the hardships of travel, stadium accommodations that favor the home team (e.g. nicer locker rooms or grass mowed to the liking of the players), even “home-cooked” stoppage time.Just as many reasons have been offered for the advantage’s decline, in soccer and elsewhere: easier access to tickets for away fans through sites like StubHub, more comfortable travel accommodations, better oversight of officials, the gentrification of soccer crowds — or maybe just random chance.1For a brief review of the literature, see this paper by Richard Pollard.Economists Mark Koyama and J. James Reade noticed this decline, too, and offered a provocative explanation in a 2008 paper. Writing mainly about English soccer, they argued that the effort put forth by players depends on how much they are “monitored” by their team’s fans. Players tend to put in more effort, they write, when their fans can observe it — they tend not to shirk. More of their fans observe this effort during a home game, of course. But that fact is mitigated by televised soccer. Television serves as a “monitoring technology,” and enables fans of the visiting team to monitor their players’ performance more easily. This, in turn, increases the effort put forth by players of visiting teams. Therefore, Koyama and Reade conclude, the increase of televised soccer has depressed home-field advantage.The theory seems plausible, but struggles to explain the decline in home-field wins in the first half of the 1900s. And it struggles to explain variations, or the lack thereof, in other sports.While a constellation of factors is likely responsible for shifts in advantage, one especially convincing explanation is changes in officiating.The soccer referee was introduced in roughly his modern-day form in 1891 (minus the aerosol spray). A single official can have an enormous influence on a game — an influence rarely rivaled in other sports. One reason is that soccer games are low-scoring and a referee can, in many cases, effectively award a goal to one team or the other by calling for a penalty kick. Since 1992, penalty kicks in the Premier League have led to goals 85 percent of the time. And there has been a systematic bias of awarding penalty kicks to the home team: Of 1,666 penalties called over the last two-plus decades, 1,051 (or 63 percent) went to the home team. With the exception of the 2001-2 season, home teams have won more penalties every single year. There are, on average, 75 penalties awarded each season, or about one every fifth game.Koyama and Reade noted that a similar home-team bias has been found for the “awarding” of yellow and red cards. High-leverage biases could also manifest in the calling of close-range free kicks, corner kicks and offsides violations. It often hasn’t taken much to influence the outcome of a soccer game.But with the rise to prominence of English football over the past 100-plus years2The Premier League has revenues of nearly $4 billion a year. came correspondent increases in money, exposure,3Television may influence refs, too. professionalization, organization, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the league. All these could have lowered referee bias toward home sides.While hard data on historical referee bias is hard to come by, there is some evidence. There has been a slight downward trend in penalty-kick bias since the founding of the Premier League, for example. In the 1992-3 season, 74 percent of penalties were awarded to the home team. Last season, just 55 percent were.Soccer’s long-diminishing home-field advantage seems to be the exception in sports, not the rule. Here are home teams’ regular-season winning percentages for the four major American sports. (For simplicity, we’ve included ties as half wins, where applicable.)With the exception of four NFL seasons, home teams won more than visitors every year. Basketball and hockey typically show the most sizable home-field advantages. Basketball’s home teams have historically won at nearly a 70 percent clip, though that has dipped to around 60 percent in recent years. NHL home teams have won consistently between 60 percent and 65 percent of their games over the league’s history.While no American sport has shown the sustained decline in home-field advantage that English soccer has — a mark against Koyama and Reade’s “monitoring technology” hypothesis — there are hints of decreases, especially in basketball. That makes sense. Basketball is another sport that can be heavily influenced by the subjectivity of officials.
WH: Wrapping it up, who’s your sleeper pick to win the cup this year?AW: I still think the Predators are due to break through.WH: Because of the trade? [Montreal traded P.K. Subban to the Predators in exchange for Shea Weber in June.]AW: They won that trade.WH: They won it?AW: No doubt about it. [Subban]’s basically two years younger, much more of an impact kind of a guy. It was basically they were getting rid of his attitude problem or whatever the hell they had. So the Predators have always been — I always get burned on the Predators. I picked them to go far. They had a weird year this year. Their goaltending was off the first quarter, third of the year. I think Pekka Rinne is one of my favorite goalies. I think he’s amazing. But I don’t know. The East is super strong. The East is very strong. The Democratic National Convention hosted a who’s-who of prominent Democratic figures. Thursday I met with former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represented New York’s 9th congressional district from 1999 through 2011 and recently ran for mayor of New York. Weiner is a lifelong hockey fan and currently plays goalie for a recreational league team, so we talked about the state of hockey analytics, the Subban-Weber trade, and what he’s been watching this offseason.Walt Hickey: How long have you been a hockey fan?Anthony Weiner: My first good memories of being a hockey fan [were when] I started following the Islanders when they came into the league. It was probably like the mid-1970s I was old enough to get into sports. I’m not like a lot of your readers. I’m not someone who can tell you the 1984 Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, but, yeah.WH: What do you make of the offseason so far?AW: The Las Vegas expansion is interesting to me. I want to see if that’s going to work. I always assumed growing up that the reason you don’t expand to Las Vegas was the influence of gambling, but now that gaming is so pervasive everywhere, they’re like football; they want to get a piece of the action. I have emotional connection to teams like the Nordiques [a defunct Quebec professional team], and so it’s kind of interesting watching that. I’m obviously interested in seeing what the Islanders do.WH: You think they make the playoffs next year?AW: Oh, they’ll make the playoffs. In fairness, it was the Saturday before the season began last year where they got [Nick] Leddy and [Johnny] Boychuk, they’ve done some things late that have been pretty dramatic, so maybe they’ll do something late here. The trades that they made — not the literal trades, but the trading that they’ve done when we lost [Kyle] Okposo and [Frans] Nielsen, we lost in those trades, so I imagine they’re going to do something more. But they’ll make the playoffs. Even though that East is tough, the Rangers are much worse too.WH: What do you make of the deplorable state of advanced hockey analytics compared to other professional sports?AW: I’m one of the few people that thinks CORSI analytics, that stuff, is actually interesting to me. I think it’s additional information. In the summers we play four on four with no icing, and so my goals against average goes up in the summer maybe 10 percent. One player on the ice that’s 10 percent better than his opposite number can wreck havoc.Things that talk about possession and how many net shots are being shot as a way of understanding what’s going on, it’s helpful. I mean it’s not a substitute for watching the games. But they give you something more. These things also give you something to argue about and talk about, which is half the fun. Like when people argue about salaries, it’s not their money, but still it doesn’t make it any less of something you want to argue about and how it affects the cap, and is Bobby Bonilla still on the Mets’ payroll, stuff like that. These analytics do give us something else to argue about. Hockey by definition is harder to reduce to zeros and ones and put into a big spreadsheet than other sports are.WH: Do you think Sidney Crosby could be the greatest ever?AW: I just don’t think you can compare across eras. You look at the old film of hockey when I was growing up watching in the ’70s and ’80s. And you got these tiny goalies who had this bad equipment, so they never developed certain moves that the goalies today do all the time. There’s a reason why goalies didn’t do a slide from post to post then. They didn’t have the pads that have the protection and landing gear that allow them to do it. If Glenn Resch had that stuff? I think it’s really hard to do.The other thing is you develop tools to analyze stuff as you grow up. No one was more dominant from moment to moment as a pure goal scorer than Mike Bossy was. But it was a different kind of weird era. Wayne Gretzky was a great player that never got checked. Crosby, he’s playing in a league at a time when you’re going to get checked. So I don’t know how you do it is my way of not answering that question.WH: Who do you think the best goalie in the league is right now?AW: There’s different kind of styles. [Carey] Price, I think, if he comes back and he’s healthy, is just a great tactical goalie, almost flawless. He competes on every shot.By the way, I wrote about this for Business Insider. I wrote a column for them. The Kings were playing the Rangers in the Stanley Cup, and I was living a block away from the Garden, and I was like, “I’ll cover the Stanley Cup for you. You don’t have to pay me a dime.” Plus, I was going to the West Coast for one of the games, so I figured I’d get press credentials or something. I’d go to the games. No dice! So I’m stuck writing these effing columns.So I did this one column about how [Henrik] Lundqvist and [Jonathan] Quick were the most highly evolved goalies of their different styles — Lundqvist being the positional blocking goalie, Quick being the low-to-the-ice reacting goalie. A lot of folks think Quick is overrated, and he had a rough playoffs; I still think physically he’s amazing. To be that low to the ice and that powerful from side to side, that’s superhuman the stuff he does. But Lundqvist, his ability to play so deep in the crease and be so large, and have his angles so perfectly that he never seems to be out of position, you’ve got to give it to him.You basically only get beaten in the modern NHL on deflections and screens, and one goalie, Quick, is as fast at responding and seeing through a screen as anyone else, and the other goalie has just found ways to be positionally really deep so that extra split second he’s in a position that stops. In the evolution of goalies, those are the two highest evolved goalies I’ve seen.WH: What did you make of the continued reluctance to extend the Zadroga Act1The James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act was a signature achievement for Weiner in Congress, but last year a campaign to extend the benefits to 9/11 first responders was met with substantial resistance from some members of Congress. from some parts of Congress?AW: To some degree it’s a reflection of what’s gone wrong in the days since I went to Washington in the ’80s as a staffer, got elected in 1998, and to when I left, in that there was a merit argument that you can make on things that transcended. Not always. Sometimes there were philosophical problems. But now there’s not. If it’s a Democratic thing, the Republicans don’t want to do it by and large, and if it’s a Republican thing, the Democrats don’t want to do it by and large. Much more the former than the latter in my view. And there’s no better example in the modern times than the Zadroga Act. No one can make a merit argument against it. It was basically, “We don’t want to do it because we don’t want to give you guys any new government program without respect to how good it is or whether it’s been vetted or whatever.”
Reggie Rose, the brother and manager of Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, said that the team’s franchise player’s return from a torn ACL injury this season could be determined by the current roster. The Bulls did not make a trade before Thursday’s deadline, and Reggie Rose was not happy.He said the lack of championship-caliber talent around Rose could be a “big factor” in whether he returns this season from the injury. He pointed out that he was speaking for himself, not his brother.“What have you pieced together?” Reggie Rose said to ESPNChicago.com. “Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami. What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs?“Joakim Noah is a great player. Luol Deng’s a great player. But you need more than that. You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It’s up to the organization to make them better.”He went on. “It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie Rose said.Chicago vice president John Paxson said last month on ESPN Radio: “In order for us to do something, we’re not in a position to take on any real salary, so we’re kind of limited in what we can do. I think our team has grown. It’s not always pretty. Let’s face it, we’ve had some ugly games this year, and that’s kind of who we are right now. But we do grind it out and play hard.“You’re always on the lookout to do certain things, but I think our move hopefully will be bringing Derrick back into the fold.”The Bulls, who have had the NBA’s best record the past two seasons, have been without Rose all season as he recovers from May knee surgery but have stayed near the top of the Central Division standings. They enter Thursday’s game against the Miami with a 31-22 record and are the fifth seed in the East.Initially believed to return sometime after last weekend’s All-Star break, Rose said last week he wouldn’t “mind missing this year” if he didn’t feel ready to return and insisted that the decision is his to make.Reggie Rose said the Bulls have known all along Rose could sit out this season but the organization hasn’t mentioned it because it would affect ticket sales.“Everyone is expecting Derrick to come back,” Reggie Rose said. “If Derrick comes back, they’re going to sell more tickets. Is the reason for Derrick to come back to win a championship or make money? Right now, I don’t believe a championship. Everything in the NBA is financial.”Bulls general manager Gar Forman declined comment when contacted by ESPNChicago.com.
Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (Aug. 22, 2017), we ponder the Indiana Pacers’ allegations that the Los Angeles Lakers tampered with the Pacers by trying to lure Paul George to L.A. Next, we’re joined by SB Nation writer Bill Connelly to preview college football. We talk about the validity of preseason polls, the lack of parity in NCAA football, and which metrics are most important. Plus, a significant digit on Felix Hernandez.Here are links to what we discussed during the show:Tom Ziller at SB Nation wrote about whether tampering should still matter in the NBA.Check out more of Bill Connelly’s work in SB Nation’s 2017 College Football Preview.On Monday, the Associated Press released its first poll of the college football season, and results were mixed, according to The Ringer’s Shaker Samman.Significant Digit: 51.8, the number of wins above replacement that Felix Hernandez has produced in years the Mariners did not make the division series of the playoffs. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight
After a stunning, thrilling, come-from-behind 105-92 win in what may have been the last-ever game at the famed Oracle Arena,1Which erupted into thunderous “Let’s go Raptors!” chants late in the fourth quarter, by the way. the Toronto Raptors are one win away from capturing the first NBA title in franchise history. By definition, their opponents, the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, are one loss away from elimination.Given the intense, yearlong speculation surrounding the free agency future of multiple Warriors stars — and the accompanying speculation that important longtime contributors like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala could retire at the end of the year — this might also mean that the Warriors’ dynasty is one loss away from coming to a close.Golden State is one of just nine teams since the ABA-NBA merger to win the title in at least two consecutive years. Among that group, the Warriors are one of just five teams to win three titles in four or fewer years.2Counting the two Chicago Bulls’ runs in the 1990s as separate dynasties. With this era of dominance potentially ending as soon as Monday, it feels like a good time to check in on how the previous NBA dynasties and mini-dynasties ended.All but one of those teams saw its run come to an end with a loss against an opponent that either played in or won the NBA Finals that year.The mid-to-late 1980s Lakers were swept by the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons in the 1989 finals. Two years later, the Pistons were swept out of the playoffs by the eventual three-peat champion Chicago Bulls, who saw their own title run end with a second-round loss to the eventual Eastern Conference champion New York Knicks in 1994 after Michael Jordan retired to go play baseball. The Houston Rockets won both titles during Jordan’s absence, then lost to the eventual Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics in 1996. Those Sonics were the first victim of the Bulls’ second three-peat, which ended when Jordan retired again after the 1998 season. The early 2000s Lakers were dethroned by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in 2003. The late 2000s Lakers were knocked off by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011.But the best parallel to this current series came in 2014 when the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat were blown off the floor by the San Antonio Spurs. The 2014 finals marked the Heat’s fourth consecutive trip to the championship round — this is Golden State’s fifth consecutive trip — and the series played out in a manner that should sound eerily similar: San Antonio took Game 1 handily, then lost a close Game 2 at home. The Spurs then waxed the Heat in consecutive games on the road to take a 3-1 lead, before ultimately closing the series out at home.That’s exactly how the current finals series has played out, which is fitting because the 2014 finals MVP was Kawhi Leonard, who now leads this Toronto team. It was Leonard who led the Raptors on Friday to the monster third quarter that ultimately gave them control of Game 4 for good. Leonard scored 17 points in the quarter, shooting 5 of 8 from the field, 2 of 2 from three and 5 of 5 from the line.3Kawhi finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds, making this his 14th 30-point outing of the postseason. That ties him with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for the most in the past decade. And after he had to single-handedly keep Toronto in the game while his teammates were busy shooting a combined 0 of 12 from beyond the arc before halftime, Leonard finally got a little help from his friends as the other Raptors hit 3 of 5 triples — and clamped down defensively — during the third period.Toronto’s 37 third-quarter points came on only 23 possessions, making it the most efficient quarter either team has had all series. The outburst also highlighted the issue that has defined this finals: Golden State’s defense has simply not been good enough. The Raptors’ first-half offensive rating was a scant 85.7 — but that was largely due to players missing the same kind of open looks they had been making earlier in the series. The shots started falling again after the break, and the Raptors lit up the Warriors to the tune of 140.0 points per 100 possessions.It’s not all that difficult to find reasons for the Raptors’ scoring success: The Warriors are incredibly banged up. (And this year’s defense was not quite as good as it was in previous years to begin with.) Kevin Durant has not played a second in the series. Klay Thompson was clearly hobbled by his balky hamstring throughout this game. Kevon Looney — somehow playing through a fractured collarbone — looked like he could barely move. DeMarcus Cousins is still not 100 percent after tearing his quadricep earlier in the postseason. Livingston is slowing down. Quinn Cook is a subpar defender. Alfonzo McKinnie can only occasionally be trusted. Jonas Jerebko and Jordan Bell seemingly cannot be trusted at all. And Stephen Curry is not the world’s best defender when he’s carrying his usual offensive burden. His shot-creation workload has necessarily limited him even more than usual on defense, and he has compounded those limits by taking silly and often unnecessary risks away from the ball.Toronto’s offensive rating for the series now stands at 115.1, per NBA.com, better than any mark the Cavaliers posted against the Warriors during their four consecutive finals clashes. This is also not the only series this postseason in which Golden State’s defense has struggled.4The Warriors had a defensive rating of 111.5 during their first-round series against the Clippers and a 112.1 defensive rating during their second-round series against the Rockets. Their defensive rating for the postseason overall is no longer even in the top 10 among the 16 teams that made the tournament. That is a major departure from their previous four trips to this round, when they ranked first, seventh, second and first among playoff teams in defensive rating.This Warriors team has overcome a whole lot during its time together. They have even overcome a 3-1 lead against an elite team. But no team in Golden State’s current position — down 3-1 and having lost both games at home — has ever come back to win a playoff series played under the current 2-2-1-1-1 format. That’s a lot of bad history to be working against.It would be one thing if the Warriors were playing things close and just coming up short, but that’s not really been the case. The Raptors have won the scoring battle in 13 of the 16 quarters played in this series. What the Warriors appear to need right now is a miracle comeback. With doubts about Durant’s ability to return to the floor — and with the Warriors having already lost a game during this series where Steph went supernova — it’s difficult to fathom that miracle materializing.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
A’ja Wilson against ranked teams for the last 2 seasons PTS PER 40 MINS.FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGEDOUBLE-DOUBLES 2014-1523.147.42 Coates, the 2013-14 SEC Freshman of the Year, leads the nation in field goal percentage and has an SEC-best 12 double-doubles this season. Coates and Wilson are averaging a combined 29.6 points per game, the most by any frontcourt duo in the SEC. Overall, South Carolina is averaging 40.3 points per game in the paint and has outscored its opponents down low in every game this season.Based on their performance, the Wilson-Coates tandem could prove difficult for UConn to defend. Maryland’s Brionna Jones — one of the premier post players in the nation, with skills and stature similar to Wilson and Coates — put up 24 points against the Huskies earlier this season. UConn allowed a season-high 38 points in the paint to the Terrapins and trailed in the third quarter for the only time this season.South Carolina is also aggressive on the offensive glass, averaging 8.6 points per game on put-backs2All tracking data courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology. and grabbing 13.7 offensive rebounds per game. Connecticut is allowing 10.7 offensive rebounds per game but the Huskies’ opposition has failed to capitalize, managing just 3.5 points per game on put-backs.And don’t discount South Carolina’s home-court advantage. The Gamecocks have won 45 consecutive home games, the longest active streak in Division I, and are on track to lead the nation in attendance for the second consecutive season. Notably, South Carolina averages 80.2 points at home, compared to 68.4 points on the road.But will a strong post presence and a favorable crowd be enough to hand Connecticut its first loss in over a year? Probably not. UConn is on pace to lead the nation in both offensive and defensive efficiency for the fourth consecutive season; to have a chance against Connecticut you need to score at least 70 points. Over the last five seasons, UConn is 5-7 when opponents score 70 or more points, compared to 163-3 when holding its opponent to 69 points or fewer.And here’s the bad news for Gamecocks fans: South Carolina is tied for eighth in the nation in offensive efficiency but has been held below 70 points on seven occasions this season, four times against ranked teams.The Gamecocks also struggle on 3-pointers and free throws, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to run up a big number on the Huskies. South Carolina is shooting 31.4 percent from deep this season, which ranks 150th in Division I. In one of Connecticut’s most tightly contested games this season, Notre Dame shot 65 percent from beyond the arc, making 13 3-pointers. DePaul and South Florida also had early success against Connecticut, making 12 or more 3-pointers and shooting 45 percent or better from beyond the arc.The view is even worse from the foul line, where South Carolina ranks 272nd in the nation with a 65.3 percent free throw percentage. Facing a Connecticut squad that holds opponents to a Division I-low 6.2 free throw attempts per game, the Gamecocks need to convert on any opportunity to put points on the board.Is South Carolina capable of upsetting Connecticut on Monday night? It’s possible, sure. But SC will need either something truly absurd out of Wilson and Coates or a momentary reprieve from its season-long trend of their range extending no farther than the length of their arms. 2015-1626.6 points53.1%7 While the rest of the country recovers from its post-Super Bowl hangover, the South Carolina women’s basketball team will attempt to do what only one team has accomplished in the last 35 months: beat Connecticut.The UConn Huskies are in one of the most dominant stretches in college basketball history, winners of 59 straight and 106 of their last 107 games. The South Carolina Gamecocks are having an impressive season of their own, off to a 22-0 start for the second consecutive season. And Monday night’s game between the only undefeated teams in Division I basketball will be the 56th meeting between the AP’s No. 1 and No. 2 women’s college basketball teams. The last such meeting did not turn out so well for the Gamecocks, with No. 2 UConn beating No. 1 South Carolina, 87-62 in Storrs, last season to snap a 22-game win streak.For any hope at a better result this season, the Gamecocks will need something special out of their dynamic duo on the interior, A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates.Wilson is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and top-ranked recruit for the Class of 2014,1According to ESPNW and HoopGurlz rankings. and she has elevated her game in her sophomore season, becoming South Carolina’s go-to player against ranked teams. The 6-foot-5-inch forward has accounted for 25.6 percent of South Carolina’s points and 26.3 percent of its rebounds against Top 25 opponents this season. Wilson had a tendency to disappear in big games last season, but she’s now averaging 26.6 points per 40 minutes against ranked teams and has a double-double in seven of her nine games against Top 25 opponents this season, more than she had all of last season.
But this year’s Week 1 results aren’t just close by Week 1 standards. The Broncos (over the Panthers), Bengals (Jets), Raiders (Saints) and Giants (Cowboys) all won by just 1 point: That’s the first time that four games in one week have been decided by a single point in 34 years.Since 1993, only one week has been as close on average as the 5.1-point margin tallied so far on opening weekend — Week 5 of the 2001 season. Since 1993, the standard deviation of from the previously mentioned 11.6-point average margin of victory was 2.3 points. That makes this season’s Week 1 a true outlier: At 5.1 points (pending tonight’s games), it is 2.3 standard deviations from average. The graph below shows the average margin in each week of the regular season since 1993: Of course, if you insist on having something to overreact to, your best bet for a hot take this morning is to look at the performance of the two NFC heavyweights, Seattle and Arizona. The Seahawks were favored by 10 points but needed a late touchdown to beat the Dolphins, 12-10. And Arizona, favored by 9 points against a New England squad without both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, missed a last-minute field goal and fell, 23-21. But given that Seattle and Arizona both rank in the top five in wins over the last three years, both teams have earned the benefit of the doubt after one mediocre performance. When a game takes an unexpected turn in Week 13 of an NFL season, it can easily be recognized for what it is: an outlier. But when a favorite is upset in Week 1, it’s harder to say whether the game is an aberration or a sign of how the rest of the season will unfold. Observers have such a tendency to overreact to the results in Week 1 that Football Outsiders has coined it National Jump to Conclusions Week.But this year, in a special Week 1 twist, there’s very little to overreact to, at least at a macro level. As usual, some games unfolded in fascinating ways — the Chargers blew a huge lead to the Chiefs, the Lions blew a huge lead but then still beat the Colts, the Raiders won on a 2-point conversion — but Week 1 should generate surprisingly few hot takes. In fact, the most notable result in Week 1 was how close the games were.Philadelphia beat Cleveland, arguably the worst team in the NFL, by 19 points. That otherwise tame result is notable for one reason: Of the 14 games played so far, this was the only game decided by double digits. That’s already tied for the single-week record, with two games (Washington/Pittsburgh and San Francisco/Los Angeles) still to play this evening.The NFL introduced free agency for the 1993 season, another in a long line of efforts by the league to create parity. From 1993 to 2015, the average margin of victory in Week 1 was 11.6 points; this year, pending the results of tonight’s games, the average margin of victory is a microscopic 5.1 points.
Ohio State sophomore Tristan Burke performs on floor against Michigan at St. John Arena on Feb. 4. Credit: Daneyliz Rodriguez | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State men’s gymnastics team was victorious at Saturday’s co-ed dual home meet against Michigan at St. John Arena with a final score of 422.200 against Michigan’s 404.950.After the first rotation on the floor, the Buckeyes already had an advantage over the Wolverines with a score of 68.100, while the Wolverines earned a 67.150.The Buckeyes proved triumphant on the pummel horse, as well, after receiving a score of 72.250 against Michigan’s 66.000. Redshirt junior Jake Dastrup received the highest pommel horse score on the team (14.90), the third best in the nation.On the still rings and vault, the Buckeyes received the best overall score of 69.300 and 71.450 respectively, extending their lead over Michigan following the fourth rotation with a running score of 281.100.Similarly, on the parallel and high bars, the Buckeyes received the highest scores of 71.900 and 69.200.Redshirt juniors Sean Melton and Dastrup received first place on floor with a score of 14.4 and on the parallel bars with a score of 14.7. Sophomore Tristan Burke placed first on the still rings with a score of 14.150. Redshirt senior captain Jake Martin was awarded first place on the horizontal bars with a score of 14.85.The team’s victory was followed by a ceremony dedicated to the senior athletes. For the seniors, this meet was their last at St. John Arena.“It’s pretty emotional because it’s been a difficult run-through in my college career, so to come out here and be able to do this was amazing,” Martin said. “I mean a year ago, I tore my achilles … a lot of people doubted if I’d be able to even do six events, so to come out here and do six events is the greatest memory I will have at Ohio State.”OSU coach Rustam Sharipov was more than pleased with his team’s performance which yielded a season-high team score.“Some of the scores were high and the guys, they worked for that,” Sharipov said. “The seniors did a good job and it’s always nice to finish your last meet at St. John Arena on a good note with Michigan coming and the rivalry and senior night, so I think it’s good. We had a lot of stakes … I’m proud of the guys for stepping up. Overall I’m happy with their performance because every weekend we keep improving little by little, so I’m happy.”Up next, the Buckeyes will face Penn State in a co-ed dual meet at State College, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 11.
If the No. 24-ranked Ohio State women’s basketball team (11-6, 2-3) is going to win a seventh straight Big Ten championship, coach Jim Foster knows he’s going to have to make some adjustments. The Buckeyes, who returned all five starters from their 2009-10 Big Ten championship team, have hit an untimely slump as they’ve entered conference play, having lost five of their last eight games. In an attempt to spark the OSU offense, Foster has moved Samantha Prahalis off the ball and away from her customary point guard position, and has given more ball handling duties to sophomore Tayler Hill. “It’s called playing basketball,” Foster said. “We weren’t really shooting the three particularly well, and Sammy right now is probably our best 3-point shooter. So, when you’re off the ball, and you have a penetrator like Tayler in the game and a penetrator like Amber Stokes in the game, we don’t need Sammy to be a penetrator. We need her to be a shooter.” Hill, former OSU men’s point guard P.J. Hill’s sister, is no stranger to the point guard position. When Prahalis was suspended for the first three games of the season for a secondary rules violation, Hill took over the point guard role, playing all 40 minutes of all three games. Hill said the reps she got in those first three games made her more confident in her new role. “The first game, I think I had seven or eight turnovers,” Hill said, “and (my teammates) were still behind me like, ‘You got it. We need you.’” OSU’s leading scorer, Jantel Lavender said there’s a contrast between Hill’s and Prahalis’ styles of play. “Sammy might do something flashy and she can see the open floor,” Lavender said. “Tayler just gets the ball where it needs to go.” Foster agreed. “Tayler’s strength is her strength. She’s a very strong guard that can get into seams and use her strength to get good penetration,” Foster said. “Sammy has got to use deceptiveness and her quickness to get there.” Despite the differences between Hill and Prahalis, Foster insisted his decision to give more point guard duties to Hill is about giving opposing defenses different looks, and is not because of Prahalis’ play. “Prahalis is the best open-floor player in the country, OK?” Foster said. “When we’re in transition, aka the Oklahoma game, what she does is absolutely terrific.” The Buckeyes, who beat Michigan State, 67-53, on Sunday, will look to improve their conference record this week when they take on Illinois at 8 p.m. Thursday in Champaign. Foster said he’s tired of using losses as learning lessons for his team. “The only thing you can learn from them is whether or not your effort was what it needed to be,” he said. “That’s the only byproduct.”