Utah 8-110112121%11%2% Alabama 8-121435%43%12% Clemson is sitting pretty at the top spot. Alabama leapfrogged Ohio State to be No. 2. While LSU and TCU slipped, Iowa and Stanford made big leaps.So go the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Were the selection committee to form a playoff this week, its top four would be Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. But who cares about this week? Let’s fast-forward to Dec. 6, when the final decision on this year’s playoff participants will be announced. Our model simulated the rest of the season, and the results are in the table below. TCU 8-1151239%10%4% Ohio State 9-032544%56%15% LSU 7-199814%12%3% Temple 8-122283944%<1%<1% Wisconsin 8-22517243%<1%<1% We project that three of the top four teams from this week will make the playoff, but we expect Baylor to surpass Notre Dame. It’s no guarantee, though; the Bears will play three games against top 15 teams — including a big one against Oklahoma on Saturday — so their playoff odds are only 31 percent.Another big change in our model since last week: Clemson has a lock on the No. 1 ranking. After gritting out a tough win over Florida State last week, the Tigers’ playoff odds are at 67 percent, with a 17 percent chance of taking the national title. Both numbers top all other teams. Ohio State has the second-highest odds of making the playoffs; the model put them at 56 percent. Alabama, fresh off an impressive win over LSU, has playoff odds of 43 percent.And finally, for you methodology diehards, we’ve made some slight tweaks to the model since last week. You can read about them here. For a deeper explanation, read Nate Silver’s original explanation of the model’s methodology. Oklahoma St. 9-0841338%23%5% Mississippi St. 7-21716153%3%<1% North Carolina 8-123182030%4%<1% Oklahoma 8-11214119%17%7% Michigan St. 8-11382211%10%1% Memphis 8-12131453%<1%<1% Clemson 9-013667%67%17% Navy 7-120155418%<1%<1% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffNat. Title Florida 8-111101438%17%3% Notre Dame 8-1469—30%8% USC 6-3—19719%1%<1% Houston 9-024223634%2%<1% Iowa 9-05132928%22%2% Baylor 8-067234%31%12% RankingProbability of … Michigan 7-214201613%7%1% Mississippi 7-3—26109%<1%<1% Northwestern 7-2182961<1%<1%<1% Stanford 8-1751152%28%6% Florida State 7-21624170%<1%<1% Oregon 6-3—23321%<1%<1% UCLA 7-21921186%3%<1% College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 10.
TB53NYJ54NYJ 10, TB 15-9.1– DET88DET89CLE 24, DET 38-1.1– 10Tobin Rote1950 to 1951Green Bay+0.5+2.4+21.9 1Nick Foles2012 to 2013Philadelphia+12.3+4.5+40.1 The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. 2Jared Goff2016 to 2017L.A. Rams+3.3+4.7+37.9 7Falcons+27.2-8.335.45-4 10Saints+78.3+26.351.97-2 6Steelers+14.5+46.932.47-2 3Bills-21.4-4.716.75-4 8Norm Snead1961 to 1962Washington+0.5+2.5+23.1 RANKPLAYERYEARSTEAMTD/INTAY/APASSER RTG 5Seahawks+12.2+40.628.46-3 1Rams+54.5+49.35.27-2 SEA56SEA66SEA 22, ARI 16+5.4– McVay may be pleased with his team’s performance so far, but he no doubt knows that the biggest tests have yet to come. As well as the Rams have played, they’ve yet to register a “statement” win4We don’t count their Week 4 win against the overrated Dallas Cowboys as a statement. and have instead been piling up gaudy numbers against the league’s sadsacks such as the Deshaun Watson-less Texans, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, whom they humiliated to the tune of 51-17 two weeks ago.By the average winning percentage of its remaining opponents, L.A. has the league’s second-toughest strength of schedule down the season’s final stretch, trailing only the Atlanta Falcons. And its final seven games include matchups against four teams that rank in the top 10 of FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings. While fans in Los Angeles decide whether they want to turn up for the playoffs, McVay and his team are facing a stretch of games that could define their season.FiveThirtyEight vs. The ReadersWeek 10 in our NFL predictions game — in which we invite you to outsmart our Elo algorithm — saw the readers get handed three heavy losses, the worst of which came at the hands of the Brett Hundley-led Packers, who beat the Bears 23-16. Elsewhere, the readers had their hearts broken by the Cowboys, who were taken care of by the Falcons 27-7. With that win, the Falcons overtook the Cowboys in odds of making the playoffs. The biggest win for the readers came via the “Toilet Bowl,” which saw the 49ers beat the Giants for their first win of the season. The cold-hearted calculations of Elo have yet to account for the fact that Big Blue has all but given up on the season.Make sure you get your Week 11 predictions in early — thanks for playing. 10John Elway1983 to 1984Denver+0.7+1.5+21.9 TEN63TEN65CIN 20, TEN 24-0.6– OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION EXPECTED POINTS ADDED LAR71LAR78HOU 7, LAR 33+1.9– Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 2Vikings+28.8+20.88.17-2 15Chiefs+62.0-56.1118.16-3 4Titans-14.6+6.721.36-3 NO52NO56NO 47, BUF 10+1.0– NYG62%NYG55%NYG 21, SF 31+6.2– 3Josh Freeman2009 to 2010Tampa Bay+3.6+3.5+36.1 8Panthers-1.8+34.636.47-3 Only Nick Foles, who caught lightning in a bottle with Chip Kelly during the coach’s first year in Philadelphia, topped Goff. This isn’t merely a function of Goff being terrible last year and decent this year, either. His 8.5 yards per passing attempt is currently the best in the NFL.While Goff and the Rams offense have drawn the bulk of the headlines, the defense has shown stellar improvement as well. Although the Rams’ D has gone quietly unnoticed,3Especially for a unit that allowed 20 points or more in 10 games last season, compared with just three occasions through nine games this season. it has jumped from 23rd in the league in opponent’s points per game last year to tied for third-best so far this season.When both units work in tandem, as they did against the Texans on Sunday, there might not be a better balanced team in the NFL — L.A. is the only team this season that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive expected points added. Jared Goff’s improvement has been historicThe largest increases in passer rating from a quarterback’s first to second season in the NFL 5Terry Bradshaw1970 to 1971Pittsburgh+0.3+2.0+29.3 12Packers+38.6-32.571.15-4 14Cowboys+49.2-30.679.95-4 13Jaguars+22.9+95.572.66-3 9Ken O’Brien1984 to 1985N.Y. Jets+2.3+2.3+22.2 16Patriots+92.3-64.5156.87-2 7Carson Palmer2004 to 2005Cincinnati+1.7+2.1+23.8 Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 10Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 10 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game WSH50MIN52MIN 38, WSH 30-0.6– GB55CHI55GB 23, CHI 16-12.7– PIT69PIT79PIT 20, IND 17+3.3– 11Lions-20.3+33.053.25-4 ATL56DAL51DAL 7, ATL 27-9.4– INCREASES The Los Angeles Rams had a 13 percent chance of making the playoffs at the start of the season and were projected to win just six games, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions. When they improved to 7-2 with a 33-7 demolition over the Houston Texans in Week 10, the Rams exceeded our projected win totals and now own a 71 percent chance of making the postseason. You can forgive our Elo algorithm for being so low on the Rams in the preseason — they did have the NFL’s worst offense last year1According to points scored per game and did finish on a seven-game losing streak as part of a 4-12 record. This season’s truly incredible transformation has taken place under the league’s youngest-ever head coach — Sean McVay, who was hired when he was 30 years old — and thus far, L.A. ranks among the best teams in the league (the same can’t be said about their fans though).Led by sophomore quarterback Jared Goff — who is firmly in the MVP conversation — the offense is on pace to make the Rams the first team since the 1965 San Francisco 49ers to lead the league in scoring2Points per game. in a season immediately after finishing last in scoring, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The addition of wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins from the Buffalo Bills and development of third-year running back Todd Gurley have helped L.A.’s offense increase their points scored per game by 18.9 — that would be the largest annual jump since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. As for Goff, the No.1 pick in the 2016 draft was truly awful in his rookie campaign, and his future in the league was questionable. The former Cal Golden Bear went winless in his seven starts and finished with more interceptions than touchdowns. But under the guidance of McVay, Goff has flourished. Indeed, merely saying that he has improved is an understatement: He’s tracking for the second biggest increase in passer rating — a measure of how good a quarterback is — from year one to year two of any QB in history to make at least 200 passing attempts in each year. 6Carson Wentz2016 to 2017Philadelphia+3.5+2.9+24.8 NE71NE77NE 41, DEN 16+0.9– RANKTEAMOFFENSEDEFENSEDIFFERENCERECORD 4Steve DeBerg1978 to 1979San Francisco+0.4+2.8+33.1 10Jack Trudeau1986 to 1987Indianapolis+0.6+2.5+21.9 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.RESULTREADERS’ NET PTS JAX67JAX66LAC 17, JAX 20-2.4– 9Eagles+63.1+24.438.78-1 Among quarterbacks who made at least 200 pass attempts in each of their first and second seasons.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com CAR71CAR73MIA 21, CAR 45-1.4– The Rams are the most balanced team in footballThe difference in offensive and defensive expected points added for teams with positive records Check out our latest NFL predictions.
The buildup to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 10 Nebraska has been growing for weeks. After the Buckeyes dropped a game to Penn State midway through the year, all eyes were on Saturday’s primetime showdown with the Cornhuskers. But the potentially résumé building game against Nebraska spells trouble for OSU. After failing to contain a mobile quarterback in Penn State redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley, who scrambled in for a key touchdown late, the Scarlet and Gray will be faced with an even more difficult challenge in senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.Armstrong has been scoring touchdowns through the air and on the ground for the entire season, much like he has done throughout his career in Nebraska. After running back Ameer Abdullah left, Armstrong has been the go-to guy for the Cornhusker offense, and he has not disappointed.With 1,764 yards passing and 419 yards rushing, Armstrong is well on his way to challenging for 3,000 yards this season. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs knows his unit will be pushed and will face adversity against him.“He’s a very dynamic football player,” Coombs said. “He can run, he can throw, he scrambles. He does everything well. He probably has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks we’ve seen this year. We know we’ve got to do everything we can to contain him in the pocket, try to make sure we have on-body coverage, but then we also have to stop him when he runs the ball.”OSU has struggled at times against dynamic signal callers this year. On top of McSorley, the Buckeyes faced redshirt junior Baker Mayfield, the lead man for Oklahoma. While the Sooners failed to top the Buckeyes, Mayfield had a decent day passing the ball. His legs were not a factor, as he could only find five yards on eight carries. However, last week against Northwestern, OSU struggled to stop Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, who scampered for a 35-yard run. So how will the Buckeyes stop Armstrong? It’s simple, really.Crash the pocketOSU redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley (8) and OSU redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) celebrate Conley’s first half interception during the Buckeyes game against the Badgers on Oct. 15. The Buckeyes won 30-23 in overtime. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorMobile quarterbacks have a tendency to have “happy feet” in the pocket. Plays occasionally take a long time to develop, and a signal caller who struggles to keep his legs under him in the pocket can have a secondary licking its chops. If OSU wants to have opportunities to be ballhawks, they have to put pressure on Armstrong. Bringing edge pressure will force Armstrong to backpedal away from the pocket. If he rolls to his left, then half the field will be removed from the play. The same can be said for his right. When a quarterback removes himself from the pocket, it’s up to receivers to run rover and find a way to get open. With two stud cornerbacks in redshirt junior Gareon Conley and redshirt sophomore Marshon Lattimore, a trigger-happy Armstrong without his feet under him could make those two corners very happy by the end of the night.Defend the deep ballArmstrong is a cannon-armed quarterback who loves to chuck the ball deep. That much is known, but just how well can the Buckeyes keep the ball from receivers further than 20 yards down the field?OSU has been guilty of giving up chunk plays down the field, including some key ones against Penn State. That could spell trouble for OSU early. The Buckeyes have not seemed like a team that can handle an early deficit well, and expect Nebraska to chuck it downfield early.Sure, Conley and Lattimore are looking good at this point of the year, but the secondary has been guilty of the occasional misread on passes over the top, like this instance against Wisconsin.If the Buckeyes want to find a way to win, they have to keep Armstrong from pitching it deep. Get out in front earlyAlthough Nebraska does not have the most potent offense, any form of lead can be enough for a team that puts up 32 points a game and only lost one game this season.OSU has struggled mightily in the first half this year, and needs to find a way to get points on the board early to keep the dynamic ability of Armstrong from hurting them. If he is playing with the lead, OSU’s defense might tense up and be in for a long night in Ohio Stadium. As aggressive as they are, the Silver Bullets could run themselves right out of the game if overly aggressive.Putting points up early would force Armstrong to push in order to catch back up, and the Buckeyes defense is best with the lead.
For around the clock OSU sports updates, follow the Lantern Sports Twitter @lanternspts24_7 At the beginning of the season, if one had said Ohio State’s hopes would rest on the shoulders of Devin Barclay, most would have been skeptical or uncomfortable. But as OSU and Iowa went into overtime to decide the Big Ten Championship, a 39-yard field goal by the 26-year-old junior ended the Hawkeyes’ hopes and sealed a Rose Bowl bid for the Buckeyes.Barclay came into the starting role only after starting kicker Aaron Pettrey was injured during the New Mexico State game. Since then, he went just 3-5 on field goals up until the game-winner Saturday, with a missed field goal early in the fourth quarter that would have made it a two-possession game.Barclay knew missing again in overtime wasn’t an option.“I knew that I had an opportunity to redeem myself,” he said. “And I knew right when I hit it that it was good.”Barclay admitted to being nervous prior to the kick, but coach Jim Tressel never doubted that his kicker could do the job.“We had so much confidence in Devin that we were going backwards to make his kick longer,” Tressel joked after the game. For Barclay, his journey to the OSU football team has been a strange one. After playing professional soccer for more than five years after high school, which included a stint with the Columbus Crew, he decided to use his remaining NCAA eligibility to kick for the Buckeyes.“I was kind of thrust into this unexpectedly,” Barclay said. “But the feeling is unbelievable. All the hard work, all the 6 a.m.s, all the time spent at the facility … it’s absolutely worthwhile. It was a wonderful experience, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”Defense bends, doesn’t breakIowa quarterback James Vandenberg, making his first career start, was supposed to be the weak link coming into the game.Instead, coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes put their Big Ten title hopes on the back of the redshirt freshman, having him put the ball in the air 33 times, accounting for 233 of the team’s 300 total yards.For most of the game, Vandenberg appeared unfazed, but in overtime the swarming OSU defense finally got to him and the rest of the Hawkeye offense. After starting just 25 yards from the goal line, the Hawkeyes were pushed back 16 yards, which took them out of field-goal range and forced Vandenberg to heave a desperation pass that became OSU senior Anderson Russell’s second interception of the day.“He’s probably the most accurate QB we’ve seen all season,” Russell said. “[The interception] goes to the D-line. They did a good job getting pressure, and he was just throwing the ball up, trying to make a play, and I was in the right place at the right time.”After the game, senior captains Austin Spitler and Kurt Coleman said that the fact the defense saved its best for last was no coincidence and is a big reason why this season’s OSU defense has been one of the best.“We let a lot of opportunities slip away, but we fought back and responded to the adversity we faced,” Spitler said. “We never gave up, and that says a lot about our team.”“We kept on fighting — that’s what our team is all about,” Coleman said.Running game takes pressure off PryorFor most of his OSU career, Terrelle Pryor has accounted for an overwhelming majority of the Buckeyes’ total offense, already becoming among the 10 largest gainers in OSU history after less than two full seasons.But Saturday, in contrast to Iowa’s game plan, the OSU coaching staff didn’t ask its young quarterback to put Rose Bowl hopes on his shoulders.Instead, the “Boom and Zoom” combination of Daniel Herron and Brandon Saine rushedfor 200 of the offense’s 322 total yards and scored all three touchdowns.“Those two guys are guys that have been here three years,” Tressel said. “They’ve been with the seniors for a long time, and they were not going to let those seniors down.”The performance against Iowa was what many expected all year from the combo, but injuries made it difficult for the duo to find their rhythm. Saturday was a sign of what many hoped and believed the “Boom and Zoom” combo could be.“The times I was out of the game were perfect for me,” Saine said. “I was able to catch my breath while ‘Boom’ was in there rocking. It worked out well.”Saine needed all his breath for both of his touchdown runs, one of which was 49 yards, the other 22. If it’s possible for a former state 100-meter dash champion to find another gear, Saine said he did it Saturday.“The cutback was right there. I just followed a couple blockers, and once I saw the goal line, I knew I had to get in.”Celebration in Columbus… for nowOhio State clinched a fifth-straight Big Ten title, its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1997 and a victorious senior send-off. But the celebration didn’t last long.“We told our guys they could have three hours and savor that, but when the clock strikes 12, we know what week it is, and that’s exciting,” Tressel said.Tressel referred to Michigan week, and although the Wolverines are only 5-6 on the season, the OSU players and coaches know they can’t overlook the team from up north, especially with Michigan needing a win to become bowl-eligible.“It’s Michigan time now,” Pryor said. “It’s going to be a fight, no matter what the record is.”Pryor did acknowledge that after what was probably the biggest win of his Buckeye career, he took a moment to hug Tressel and congratulate him on making his first Rose Bowl, but he joked that all he wanted to do was get off the field after the win as the fans stormed the field.“I was trying to get out man. Kids were in there drunk and hitting me all hard,” he said, laughing.The opponent for next week is known, but OSU’s Rose Bowl opposition is still undecided. Oregon currently leads and controls its destiny in the Pac-10. Other possibilities include Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State.But as many were thinking about Michigan or possible Rose Bowl matchups, one player did seem to be savoring the moment after the big win.When asked to make a statement after the game, senior lineman Jim Cordle poured a cup of water over his head and shouted, “We did it, Baby! We won! These guys up here, we’ve got five rings now. We did it! We won!”As the room filled with laughter, fellow senior Kurt Coleman shook his head and smiled.“He’s still the crazy man,” he said.
Before news broke Monday that Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel had violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1, many would have indicated the coach as one least likely to break the rules. It’s always the one you least suspect. Because of Tressel’s unwavering trust in his players and desire to do right by the young men he coaches, this is exactly the type of violation Buckeye Nation could have seen coming. “We talk about most especially we’re going to take care of these young people, and we’re going to treat them like they’re our own,” Tressel said in his Tuesday press conference. “Admittedly, I probably did not give quite as much thought to the potential NCAA part of things as I read (the e-mail that was not turned over to officials). My focus was on the well-being of the young people.” It was that focus, the coach said, that led him not to inform his superiors or NCAA officials of an e-mail indicating his players violated NCAA rules by selling OSU memorabilia. Despite this focus on his players and their well-being, this is far from the first violation under Tressel. Former OSU quarterback Troy Smith was suspended for the 2004 Alamo Bowl and first game of the 2005 season for receiving $500 from a booster. Former running back Maurice Clarett was suspended for the entire 2003 season after receiving thousands of dollars in improper benefits and misleading NCAA investigators. While Tressel was at Youngstown State, his quarterback Ray Isaac received nearly $10,000 from a YSU board chairman. Though the incidents of current players selling memorabilia to Edward Rife, owner of the Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor, are not the first violations under Tressel’s watch, they appear to be the first that the coach knew about before the NCAA. Some signs might have pointed to the knowledge of these transgressions. With five players suspended, individuals might have looked for more knowledge of the situation within the team. Nine Big Ten Championship rings, 15 pairs of signed cleats and a handful of signed jerseys were found in Rife’s possession, according to e-mails Tressel received. That this many items were found might indicate that this has been a long practice, a sentiment backed up by former running back Antonio Pittman. “This OSU tattoo stuff is silly. Cats been gettin hookups on tatts since back in 01,” Pittman posted Dec. 23 on his Twitter account, shortly after athletic director Gene Smith addressed the NCAA’s suspension of the tattooed players. Though he might not have known for as long as his former players, Tressel did know about these transgressions months before the NCAA. He did not inform it because he thought he was following the rules. “I needed to keep sight of the fact that confidentiality was requested by the attorney, and so I followed that,” Tressel said, emphasizing his fear of disrupting a federal investigation. Former players indicated that Tressel would not violate an NCAA bylaw intentionally. “He is the kind of guy that every single thing he does, he does it by the book,” former kicker Mike Nugent said. “I think at the time, he thought he was doing things right and going over things the right way.” Tressel’s desire to keep the law in mind probably would not surprise most followers of the seemingly straight-laced coach. Maybe these violations shouldn’t have either.
Forty-five games into his collegiate career, Zach Boren finally debuted at linebacker, the position he was originally recruited to Ohio State to play. Boren came to Ohio State in January 2009 as the No. 45 overall middle linebacker prospect in the nation according to the recruiting site Scout.com, but, until Saturday’s 52-49 win against Indiana, Boren was used as a fullback. Against the Hoosiers, Boren finished the game with a team-high eight tackles and the position switch is a move his OSU teammates said is for the good of the team. “That’s the ultimate sacrifice. He’s the best fullback in the country, and he’s going to go over and play linebacker and give up three years of playing fullback and maybe be an All-Big Ten playing fullback, to go over there and do everything he can for the team playing defense,” redshirt junior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “We love him for that and that’s just the guy that he is.” The change might have been less of a sacrifice in Boren’s own mind, because defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said he has wanted to play defense for years. “He wanted to be a linebacker for three years here. He’s been asking, ‘Hey, can I come over? Can I come over? Can I come over?’” Fickell said. “Tuesday afternoon in practice … (head coach Urban Meyer) brought him over, because we had talked about it, and … he naturally gave us a spark.” Boren was given an opportunity at linebacker because redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino broke his fibula. Meyer said Sabino was “kind of our guy” and called Boren’s switch “temporarily permanent.” Against Indiana on Saturday, Boren played linebacker for the first time since high school, and in his first start, he led the Buckeye defense with eight total tackles. “I think someone said he led the team in tackles, which is hard to believe, but he did,” Meyer said. This was not the first time Meyer has dealt with a depth issue by switching over an offensive player to defense. Meyer said strength coach Mickey Marotti reminded him that while at the University of Florida, Meyer moved current Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey from offensive line to defensive line. “Right in the middle of the practice I moved (Pouncey) to defensive tackle because we were banged and bruised and didn’t have the leadership, didn’t have the toughness at that point. His energy, his leadership, his toughness, and we kept him over there for several games just until guys got back,” Meyer said. Meyer said Boren’s switch would not have happened if it were not for the play of sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman. He is fourth on the team in reception yards, and is one of five players with a touchdown reception. “That move could not have been made if you didn’t have Heuerman and (redshirt freshman tight end Nick) Vannett. Heuerman has been coming on,” Meyer said. “He’s been playing 10 to 15 plays a game, and now he played 50,” Meyer said. When faced with the challenge of learning an entire defense, Boren had help from some of his teammates, including sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier.. “We try to help Zach a lot,” Shazier said. “Zach pretty much knows everything because he came in a little bit at (linebacker) and it wasn’t that difficult because he knows what he is doing.”
Lebron James of the Miami Heat gives a thumbs up before a 95-88 win against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, June 20, 2013. Credit: Courtesy of MCTAlmost four years ago, I sat in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s SUV, my mouth stuffed with red-stained tissues and napkins, sore from the early morning removal of my wisdom teeth.As my mom sped along the highway with my exhausted sister in the backseat (she had just been through an exciting week at a tennis camp at the University of Florida), I sat in that front seat, staring at the dark, star-speckled Florida sky, wondering what I did to deserve this punishment.An hour earlier, LeBron James had uttered those infamous words that will forever live in NBA lore, spurning Cleveland, the city that I loved and opting to play, instead, about an hour away from where I lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Four years later, I remember that entire day perfectly. I remember as I entered my house, with the five hour drive home from Gainesville behind me, I stormed into my closet and snatched every James jersey I had, looking to torch each of them slowly. Unfortunately, in my mind, the numerous pairs of LeBron sneakers I had worn for the past seven years would suffer the same fate.Those sneakers and jerseys remain in that same closet to this very day, as my mom was able quell my raging anger, but nevertheless, in one fell swoop, the King went from my hero to my personal villain.He came to South Florida specifically because I wronged him in one way or another, or at least that’s how my immature mind thought of the situation.As I matured and time passed, my LeBron-loathing lightened to a mild distaste and it became less and less about the move and more and more about the execution of the move.I came to admire again, as I had for the seven years James spent in Cleveland, his dominance and his reckless abandon for anyone who dared stand in his way between those painted lines.He was no longer my favorite player – I may never have one again – but he was no longer the object of my youthful vitriol. In fact, following his second title and a couple of forgettable Cavaliers campaigns, I began to realize what so many in Cleveland had feared: the Cavs needed the one who trashed them on national television to become relevant once again.On June 15, 2014, it seemed as if, all of the sudden, my sentiments regarding James were mirrored by the entirety of Northeast Ohio.As James and the Heat left the floor deflated following just their second NBA Finals loss in four seasons, this dream sequence I’d conjured over the years seemed to suddenly turn tangible.Be it the pictures of LeBron in the wine and gold, standing amidst Kyrie Irving and potential top draft pick Joel Embiid, or the way in which the Heat fell to the most underrated team in the history of basketball, it seemed as if James had already packed his bag, bought a plane ticket and was headed back home.Everything, and I mean everything, has set up perfectly for him to come back to the Cavs, some of it due to chance, some of it planned all along.On the Cleveland front, it’s been no secret that the Cavaliers have been scheming for the past four years, making every move in their power to lure King James back to his throne.It’s certainly no mistake that the Cavs have put together a young, talented roster without ever filling the small forward hole in their starting lineup.It’s not an accident that the Cavs, on the brink of the biggest summer in their existence, have hired an up-and-coming general manager and have yet to hire a head coach, perhaps in an effort to let James help them on that front as well.It’s not a coincidence that the Cavs have an unbelievable amount of cap space going into free agency – cap space that they haven’t used much of over the past couple of seasons.The Cavs have done their part pretty well, aside from their lack of playoff appearances, to bring James back, but there are certainly other factors that are all pointing in the Lebron-to-Cleveland direction.Those factors start with the perfectly timed demolition of James’ current outfit, the Miami Heat.The Heat’s problems right now are plenty.Dwyane Wade looks to be a slightly better, slightly more creaky version of Mo Williams.Chris Bosh is a victim of his own inability to command any respect.Ray Allen, Greg Oden, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen could all very well ride off into the sunset of retirement.Erik Spoelstra looked completely lost for the first time in his NBA career, or was it that the lack of production from Wade and Bosh finally shed light on his shoddy coaching ability?So, thus far, the Cavs have set up everything perfectly for No. 6 and the Heat crumbled at exactly the right moment.With the Heat’s run all but done, there seems to be one last factor in the formula for James’ return: a lack of other possible destinations.If his time in South Beach has come and gone, where else, outside of Cleveland, could he go?The Los Angeles Clippers looked to be the best place for James until the team’s owner Donald Sterling cost them that chance, so I now see only one option.The New York Knicks could be the place for the King. An Eastern Conference team in a huge market with a new President, a new coach and a ton of talent. Yet, the cap room could become an issue. Carmelo Anthony, presuming he sticks around, would have to take a massive pay cut, as would players like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire, to name a few.The Knicks could be interesting, but again, no place sets up more perfectly for james than Cleveland.Which is why he won’t return.Something will come out of the blue – something I, or anyone else, have yet to even consider – and LeBron will turn it into reality, unintentionally letting Cleveland down once again.Pat Riley will move some pieces around to strengthen the Heat’s struggling roster, the Boston Celtics will add Kevin Love, Jay-Z will somehow sell Brooklyn to James, something will ultimately happen that will send him to his third NBA city.As it often does, once again, Cleveland will be left to sit in its own misery and the Cavs, despite their numerous top draft picks and overall talent, will be more effective in Seattle, as the newest version of the SuperSonics.While all of this is nothing more than a series of situations playing out in my mind, this summer is setting up to be yet another fascinating one for the fans of Northeast Ohio.With Johnny Football already in tow and Lonnie Baseball hitting his way into the hearts of Indians fans everywhere, a return of Bronny Basketball could turn Cleveland into the most lucrative sports city in America.And for some reason – that same reason I tried to put my finger on as I sat heartbroken and gazing at those stars out of the window of my mom’s SUV on July 8, 2010 – it just won’t happen.
OSU senior midfielder Max Moller (31) shields a defender from the ball during a game against Akron on Sept. 24 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost, 3-1.Credit: Ben Jackson / For The LanternAs the regular season approaches its conclusion, the Ohio State men’s soccer team is still searching for some sense of consistency.OSU (5-5-3, 3-2-0) continued its up-and-down season with a 2-0 win on the road against Wisconsin on Saturday to break a two-game losing streak.“It was a very good win, we gutted it out,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “Good to get a road win in the conference, not easy to come by those, and kind of keeps us in the middle of things still.“When I say ‘gutted it out,’ I mean we were under a lot of pressure and we just kept fighting and guys are throwing themselves in front of the ball to block shots and just working hard in the final third to deny opportunities.”OSU now looks to take the momentum from the road victory back home to begin a three-game homestand. That stretch is scheduled to begin with a nonconference matchup against Bowling Green (9-3-1).“Bowling Green is very tough for us to play against,” Bluem said. “It’s a big in-state rivalry, their players are very motivated to challenge us, and for them, probably every year, they look to us as one of the bigger games on their schedule.”The Falcons carry an impact player on their roster in sophomore forward Pat Flynn. Flynn leads the nation in goals per game, scoring 12 times in 13 contests for an average of .92 per game.In response to Flynn, the Buckeyes might have a new impact player on their side as well.Freshman forward Marcus McCrary had a season-high three points for the Buckeyes in his homecoming to Madison, Wis.“It felt really good,” McCrary said. “Everybody, all of my friends, and my dad and stepmom came to the game. It felt really good because the Badgers are a really good team, so it felt really good to get points and put the Badgers away, get the job done.”OSU had nearly a week to prepare for its game against Wisconsin. Senior midfielder Max Moller said the week of preparation included OSU restructuring its formations to generate more offense.“The time off helped a lot, because coming off two losses, we needed to settle down and re-evaluate what we’re doing in practice and in games,” Moller said. “We focused on our formation and keeping the ball instead of just lobbing it up to the forwards, and really figured out which players we’re going to go at.”Part of that focus on offense centers on McCrary. The freshman scored his first two goals of the season in his past three games. Bluem has said all season that McCrary is adjusting to a new position at center-forward, but McCrary said he feels more comfortable now.“Playing up top now, it’s definitely a change,” McCrary said. “I’m used to playing wide. Playing up top, there’s more to expect, being alone up top, but I think I’m definitely adjusting and definitely getting more used to the role.”McCrary is set to showcase his new role against the Falcons, which OSU has battled in each of its last three seasons, going 2-0-1 in that span. The draw came last season in a scoreless match at Bowling Green.The Falcons already have one victory on the road against a Big Ten team this season, defeating Michigan, 1-0, on Sept. 16.Moller said regardless of the results of the past, he is sure the team is ready to show consistency.“We’re 100 percent prepared to start this three-game stretch,” Moller said. “We’re done with being inconsistent, we’re ready for the rest of the season.”OSU’s game against Bowling Green is scheduled to kick off Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Braxton Miller’s Instagram post showing the Ohio State redshirt-senior quarterback posing with AdvoCare products was deemed a “promotion of a commercial product” by the NCAA, according to a statement from OSU athletics. But the matter has been resolved and Miller has been reinstated “without any conditions,” the statement said.OSU said the post was a minor violation.The university initially said it was “looking into” Miller’s social media picture from March 24, which showed the quarterback posing with the products alongside the owner of Authentik Fitness in Columbus, Brandon Oshodin, who is also an AdvoCare distributor.Click to enlargeAdvoCare is a company that “provides innovative nutritional, weight-management, sports performance and skin care products,” according to its website.The AdvoCare website states that student-athletes can’t be in photos on “an AdvoCare Microsite, Facebook, Twitter, personal website or any other place where AdvoCare is mentioned.”In addition to the Instagram picture, Miller had his name displayed in the upper right hand corner of his AdvoCare site, labeled as a distributor. His name was later removed, along with the Instagram post.The AdvoCare website says student-athletes are allowed to be distributors.
Andrew Wesson (24) attempts to score during a game against Fairleigh Dickinson University. Credit: Mason Swires | Former Assistant Photo EditorAfter spending missing all of the summer and the first few weeks of fall practice with an injury, sophomore forward Andre Wesson has been cleared to participate in team practices, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann said during halftime of Ohio State’s football game against Oklahoma.It had been reported earlier that Ohio State was optimistic Wesson would be able to play this season, but revealed neither the injury nor the severity.“He’s been cleared medically,” Holtmann said. “First and foremost, we were making sure he was in good health. He needs to get in shape, but that will happen.”Holtmann added that Wesson participated in the team workout today and did a skill workout Friday. It is still yet to be determined when he will be ready to play, and Holtmann said it will depend more on how quickly he can get back into shape.Wesson played 29 games, averaging 11.6 minutes and 2.3 points per game as a freshman.