One of NFL’s greatest defensive tackles, Alex Karras, died on Wednesday at the age of 77 from kidney failure.Many people will remember Alex Karras as the father from the 1980s sitcom “Webster” or the Cowboy who knocked out the horse in “Blazing Saddles.”Before that, he was the centerpiece of the Detroit Lions’ defense during the 1960s that thrashed offensive lineman and harassed quarterbacks.The fear that Karras put into opponents was even documented in retired Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer’s 1967 diary, after they played in 1962.“I’m thinking about him every minute,” Kramer wrote.In the 1962 Thanksgiving day game against the Green Bay Packers, Karras butchered Packers quarterback Bart Starr. Starr was sacked 11 times by Karras, and Detroit defeated the Packers 26-14 – Green Bay’s only loss of the season.The passing of Karras has been felt around the league. His success on the field and notoriety off was unprecedented.“Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex,” Lions president Tom Lewand said.Karras had become ill over the last couple of years. Recently, he was suffering from kidney failure and dementia. According to the Lions, he had been suffering from heart disease for the past two years, along with stomach cancer.His death will be linked to the NFL’s clash with former players over concussions. He was one of the most recognized names that joined the more than 3,500 football veterans suing the NFL over concussions. Craig Mitnick, the family attorney for Karras, said that the family is uncertain if they will donate his brain to be studied on by scientist, such as other families.Susan Clark, Karras’ wife, said that the deterioration of his life was due to head injuries that occurred during his playing career.He was unable to drive and could not remember some of the recipes to his Greek and Italian dishes he would cook.“This physical beating that he took as a football player has impacted his life, and therefore it has impacted his family life,” Clark told The Associated Press earlier this year. “He is interested in making the game of football safer and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement.”Karras retired from the NFL in 1970 at the age of 35 and played his entire career with the Lions. He was a first-team All-Pro in 1960, 1961 and 1965 and he made the Pro Bowl four times.“We know Alex first and foremost as one of the cornerstones to our ‘Fearsome Foursome’ defensive line of the 1960s and also as one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL,” Lewand said. “Many others across the country came to know Alex as an accomplished actor and as an announcer during the early years of ‘Monday Night Football.’ “
GlamourSerena Williams stuns in her latest magazine cover. The 34-year-old tennis champion boasts her toned arms and legs in a bold white body suit, but the star is not just showing off her physique. In a new interview with Melissa Harris-Perry, Williams opens up about her favorite poet Maya Angelou and gives her opinion on the wage gap. Plus, she explains what led to her twerking on Snapchat.“I love ‘Phenomenal Woman,’ ” Williams tells Glamour magazine of Angelou’s poem. “The experiences she had of being African American in the U.S. — that itself is a task. I appreciate the hardships she went through for our generation. I’m super influenced by the black people that paved the way for us.”While Williams can appreciate the arts, she does not take herself too seriously. She reveals what started that viral twerking video.“I had to leave my house at 3:30 a.m. for a photo shoot,” she says. “By the time noon rolled around, I was so tired. I started making these silly videos, [including] the twerk tutorial. I was being super sarcastic. I said, ‘Engage your glutes’ and ‘Squeeze those quads.’ ”It’s not all fun and games, though. The star was listed by Forbes as the highest-paid female athlete in the world after earning $28.9 million over the past 12 months. But Williams believes there is much work to be done for equal pay in the world of sports.“We work just as hard as men do,” Williams says. “I’ve been working, playing tennis since I was three years old. And to be paid less just because of my sex — it doesn’t seem fair.”GlamourShe continues, wondering how the wage gap is going to affect her children when she begins a family.“Will I have to explain to my daughter that her brother is gonna make more money doing the exact same job because he’s a man? If they both played sports since they were three years old, they both worked just as hard, but because he’s a boy, they’re gonna give him more money? Like, how am I gonna explain that to her?”When it comes to the legacy the 21-time Grand Slam winner wants to leave behind, she says she is proud of her philanthropic work – tennis doesn’t come to mind.“I never thought about leaving a tennis legacy,” she tells the magazine. “I always thought about leaving a legacy of fulfillment, living out your dreams, and giving back. I’m proud to have opened [two] schools in Africa and one in Jamaica [through the Serena Williams Fund and its partners]. I was given a lot. I was given two parents. That’s already starting above a lot of kids. And then I was given the opportunity to play tennis and parents who supported that. I feel I can give back.”For the woman who grew up in Compton, California, Williams says “I never left my roots. You can identify me as someone that didn’t become high and mighty. Humility is a defining [trait] all of us can forever learn, and I try to be as humble as anyone can be. “
Data is king. When we’re making any decision of consequence about the future — whether in business, sports or politics — our tech-filled world demands that we collect data to make a meaningful prediction.Despite the criticism that gets leveled at the NCAA tournament selection committee, the group does take a data-driven approach to choosing the competitors for March Madness. The RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, helps the committee select and seed the field of 68 teams. The RPI takes into account all college basketball games and measures not only the strength of each team’s opponents but strength of its opponents’ opponents as well.In contrast, the preseason AP and Coaches polls don’t use data from the current season. They can’t, as members must submit their ballots before seeing a single game. It’s the ultimate in gut-level, subjective analysis.So surely the RPI rankings from the end of the season are a better predictor of tournament success than the preseason polls, right? Right?Nope. The RPI doesn’t beat out the early polls — well, at least not by one measure. The margin between them is admittedly narrow — they all predict the correct result around 70 percent of the time — but the fact that it’s so close shows how remarkable the gut-instinct ratings are and how flawed the RPI is.To find this result, I looked at how often the team that was ranked higher by each system won a tournament game. This study includes the past 16 years of men’s NCAA tournaments, or 1045 games, including play-in rounds.The RPI ranks every Division 1 team, so it makes a prediction in every tournament game.1For this study, I used the RPI rankings as they stood after all the regular-season games and the conference tournaments had been played. The polls, by contrast, rank only the top 25 teams, leaving most of the eventual March Madness field unranked. To partially correct for this, I included all teams that got votes in the polls and ranked them according to the same points system that determines the top 25. For game outcomes, any ranked team is predicted to beat any unranked team, a higher-ranked team is predicted to beat a lower-ranked one, and whenever two unranked teams meet, no prediction is made.2In a handful cases, teams that had the same number of points in the poll faced off. When that happened, no prediction was made.Over the past 16 tournaments, the RPI’s higher-ranked team won 69.2 percent of tournament games (723 correct, 322 incorrect). Surprisingly, the preseason AP poll did slightly better, as the higher-ranked team won 71.8 percent of tournament games (674-265, with no prediction in 106 games).The preseason Coaches poll picks games with the same accuracy of 71.8 percent (671-263 with no prediction in 111 games).3Given this sample of games, the error in the prediction rate is 1.5 percent. The preseason polls are a decent March Madness barometerBased on preseason polls and pre-tournament RPI rankings, how often higher-ranked teams beat lower-ranked teams in NCAA men’s basketball tournament games from 2002-17 To see the predictive power of the preseason poll, consider Wisconsin in last year’s tournament. The Badgers ranked ninth in the preseason AP poll, as they brought back Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, two starters on the 2015 team that lost to Duke in the title game.Wisconsin didn’t live up to preseason expectations during the 2017 regular season. The team was 25-9 heading into the tournament, ranking 35th on the RPI, which resulted in a No. 8 seed. However, they beat No. 1-seeded Villanova in the Round of 32, and then came within 1 point of beating Florida to make the Elite Eight.What can we learn from this study? Is data no longer king when it comes to college basketball?For one thing, the preseason polls harness the wisdom of crowds, a surprisingly powerful predictor. No one ballot is perfect, as each will make some bad calls and reflect a person’s biases. However, putting many ballots together helps cancel out these small errors and leaves a powerful predictor of team strength. FiveThirtyEight has known this for years and incorporated these polls in its NCAA tournament predictions.In addition, the RPI is a poor predictor because it restricts itself to wins and losses. More accurate methods use teams’ margin of victory or points per possession to make rankings and predictions. These approaches do a better job of stripping away the noise built into wins and losses, as a team’s record can look very different depending on the outcomes of a few fluke buzzer-beaters or blown calls.This year’s tournament might be a particularly good one to demonstrate the predictive power of the preseason polls. Before the season started, Duke was ranked first and Michigan State was ranked second in both the AP and Coaches polls. However, these teams underachieved to end up as the 2 and 3 seed, respectively, in the Midwest region (and 6th and 15th in RPI).The preseason poll should remind us why these two teams are capable of deep tournament run: They have superior talent. Duke has three first-round picks, according to the latest ESPN NBA mock draft — big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., and shooting guard Grayson Allen — with point guard Trenton Duval listed as a second-round pick. Michigan State features two projected lottery picks — Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges — along their front line. Both teams have the next-level talent needed to win six straight games and cut down the nets on April 2.What team might be overrated according to the preseason poll? Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the South region, tops this list, as they didn’t crack the top 25 in either preseason poll. Virginia always plays incredible defense, but this team lacks for NBA talent.Data is king, but only if used properly. The RPI is a poor method for evaluating college basketball teams. To get an edge in your tournament pool, you might be better off ignoring the metric the committee uses and looking to the preseason polls, a surprisingly powerful predictor of the tournament.Check out our latest March Madness predictions.Ed Feng has a Ph.D. from Stanford and developed the predictive algorithms for his sports analytics site The Power Rank. PicksCorrectlyIncorrectlySHARE Preseason AP67426571.8% RPI72332269.1 Game outcomes picked Outcomes for preseason polls don’t count any games in which both teams were unranked.Sources: The Power Rank, AP, ESPN Preseason coaches67126371.8
The Minnesota Vikings said this offseason that they were going to get Kirk Cousins, their $84 million quarterback, “to that next level to do the things he does best.” Based on the game plans the team has run since overhauling its offense December — especially in Sunday’s 28-12 victory over the Falcons — the thing he does best is apparently handing the ball off to a running back.Cousins threw only 10 passes all game, completing eight, good for 98 yards and a touchdown. That’s the fewest passes a Vikings quarterback has attempted in a regular-season win since 1977, in a game at Green Bay where the wind chill made it feel like it was minus 3 degrees. But Sunday’s game was played indoors. Since 2001, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, only one winning team has attempted fewer passes while playing indoors — the visiting Carolina Panthers at the Atlanta Falcons in a 10-3 victory in 2006. The Atlanta Falcons had the next fewest passes in an indoor home win, throwing 13 times in a 34-21 victory in 2008 — Matt Ryan’s first game his rookie season. Cousins, of course, is no rookie. He’s 31 and in his eighth season. Yet he’s being treated like a game manager by his head coach, Mike Zimmer, who fired pass-happy offensive coordinator John DeFilippo last December after DeFilippo dialed up pass plays at a rate of 67.0 percent overall and 57.3 percent in wins. DeFilippo also reportedly ignored repeated instructions from Zimmer to run more. That message was received by new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski:1Stefanski served on an interim basis last year after DiFilippo’s firing and took over the job officially this year. In Minnesota’s three wins (in four games) since the firing, the Vikings have looked to throw just 37.6 percent of the time,2Including dropbacks on which the quarterback was sacked. including just 22.4 percent versus the Falcons this week.This is a radical departure in today’s game. From the start of the 2018 season through Week 1 of the 2019 season, winning NFL teams pass a majority of the time: 52.6 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Info.Don’t expect Zimmer’s Vikings to change their approach anytime soon. “I did not foresee us throwing the ball 10 times, but I’m happy we did,” Zimmer said after the game.Cousins doesn’t seem to mind.“Throwing 10 times is really unique,” the quarterback said. “Probably haven’t had a game with that few attempts since literally Pop Warner. I probably threw 10 times or more in most high school games, too. It was what the game called for, and I have no problem with being conservative. As long as we win the football game, that’s all that matters to me.”The Vikings and Stefanski adopted what is ostensibly a Mike Shanahan-inspired offense, bringing in former Shanahan disciple Gary Kubiak as an assistant head coach. But in reality, Zimmer may be looking even further back for inspiration, to the NFL’s last undefeated team3In the regular season and playoffs. — the 1972 Dolphins. Miami that year passed only 32.3 percent of the time. But the NFL then was all about establishing the run, running to win and then running to beat the clock — the Bears that year called pass plays just 17.5 percent of the time in their wins. The leaguewide passing average in 1972 was 37.2 percent, or almost identical to what Zimmer’s squad has averaged since jettisoning DeFilippo.This is a shocking turnaround for a team that went all in on Cousins in free agency, connecting him with a pair of elite receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The receivers each posted 100-catch seasons with Cousins in 2018, but they were targeted only a combined six times on Sunday. Minnesota’s relatively low number of total plays (49) and slow pace (the Vikings controlled the ball for just under half the game) certainly helped keep the number of pass attempts down, but the share of passes should still worry the receiving tandem. In the four games since the coaching change, Diggs is catching balls at a pace of 64 per 16 games, and Thielen’s pace is even lower, at just 52. That would put them on track for just 116 combined catches for the duo, while Thielen by himself caught 113 last year — 103 of them in the 13 games where DeFilippo was calling plays.The Vikings may keep winning by making Cousins mostly a middleman in getting the ball from the center to the running back. And that would make Zimmer a hero to fans of a forgotten NFL, when teams were built to win in the trenches and defense and the running game were the stars of the show. But in 1972, most top quarterbacks made only about 10 times the league’s minimum salary. Zimmer’s Vikings are paying Cousins about 55 times the league minimum today — a lot of money to simply hand off the ball.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
In “No Team Can Beat the Draft,” my colleague Neil Paine argued that the player-evaluation market in the NFL appears to be pretty efficient. No team or general manager has shown an ability to consistently pick players who earn better stats in their first five years than we would expect given where they were taken in the draft.Neil’s argument doesn’t imply that no teams are better at general draft strategy than others. Some add value by trading their picks for more valuable picks. Some get value by picking in the “sweet spot” — the area where the return on investment for a pick is the highest (typically late in Round 1 or early in Round 2) — more often than others. Some address their team needs better than others. And so on.Of course, there’s also a lot of uncertainty in how players are valued. For Neil’s analysis, that’s not particularly important, because any arbitrary metric will do: If someone drafts better players, they will generally have more fruitful careers as measured by most metrics. But one weakness that almost all of those metrics share is not really understanding how much each player contributes to the overall quality of a team. This is a completely open question in football, with a wide range of estimates.So rather than looking at how players perform, I thought I’d take a quick look at how teams making certain types of picks perform overall over the next five years, relative to how we would expect teams of their strength to perform over the same period.For example, here’s how teams perform relative to their SRS (Simple Rating System, or margin of victory adjusted for strength of schedule) depending on where in the first round they drafted (using data from 1970 onward):Teams drafting in the top five slightly exceed expectations, while teams in the early and mid-round underperform; teams who draft late in the round do better than we’d think (again, this is in addition to the fact that teams who draft late are generally stronger).This is completely consistent (and, in fact, supports) the Massey-Thaler analysis, which suggests that early first-round picks are somewhat valuable, mid-round picks are not, and then the value of picks rises steadily until peaking in the second round.If we use this result to adjust for when a team makes its picks, we can start to look for other patterns, such as how teams have done after drafting players of certain positions in various spots.For the following table, I first calculated each team’s expected performance (in SRS) over the next five years based on its record, its SRS in the previous year and where it was making their draft pick. Then I compared that expectation to its actual performance, broken down by its draft slot and the position of the player it drafted. Here are the results for the eight positions most commonly drafted in the first round:Granted, these results are noisy. A lot of the difference is likely just variance, but slightly more results seem statistically significant than we would expect. A couple of the strongest results also reflect plausible theories:First, teams who take quarterbacks in the first five picks tend to perform better than expected (unsurprisingly), but teams who take QBs later in the round typically perform worse. This is the result I was hoping to find, based on the theory that marquee quarterbacks are easy to identify, but sorting out the rest is difficult. In other words: If the top QBs are off the board, it’s probably not worth spending a first-round pick (and more money) speculatively.Second, tackles possibly aren’t as valuable as people think. Guards didn’t make the list because a lot fewer of them were taken in the first round, though for those that were, the teams who took them did better than average. This could be explained by tackles being poorly-valued by the market relative to guards.
Going into conference tournament week, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were no lock to extend their string of consecutive NCAA tourney berths to 18 years. To maintain the streak, the Zags probably needed to run the West Coast Conference tournament table, since an at-large bid was unlikely with seven losses on their résumé. The automatic-bid route was how Gonzaga qualified for 13 of the previous 17 NCAA tournaments, but it wasn’t even the conference favorite this year.The streak, tied for seventh-longest in history, seemed to be in jeopardy.Three victories later, the Bulldogs are West Coast champs and tournament-bound. Since its streak began in 1998-99, Gonzaga has been the best non-power-conference school, going by cumulative adjusted net efficiency:1Point margin per 100 possessions, adjusted for strength of schedule. ADJUSTED NET EFFICIENCY 7BYUWestern Athletic648362+9.52+3.78+5.74 1GonzagaWest Coast484117+17.57-0.34+17.92 SourceS: Ken Pomeroy, Daniel Myers 5BYUMountain West395185+12.07+4.48+7.59 (Note that I’m defining “power conferences” as the ACC, Big 8/Big 12, Big East — but not its offshoot the AAC, which has had the power ratings and total NCAA bids of a mid-major thus far — Big Ten, Pac-10/Pac-12 and SEC. I also filtered out teams like Cincinnati and Louisville that played fewer than three-quarters of their games in a non-power conference.)As you might expect, Gonzaga towers over the other mid-majors. But even more striking might be the heights to which it’s risen over its fellow WCC members; as the Bulldogs were putting together the 12th-best rating of any program in the nation, the average non-Gonzaga WCC team has been worse than the average Division I school over the same span. Since ’99, the Bulldogs have dominated their conference more than any other mid-major; second place (Butler) isn’t especially close.The same holds true if we expand beyond our admittedly selective endpoints and look at more than Gonzaga’s streak. Here are the top non-power teams of the 64-team NCAA Tournament era (since 1984-85): SourceS: Ken Pomeroy, Daniel Myers 6UtahWestern Athletic531289+10.37+4.11+6.26 7CreightonMissouri Valley353147+11.62+4.02+7.60 Best non-power-conference programs of the 64-team bracket era 4ButlerHorizon League356136+12.83+0.34+12.49 2TempleAtlantic 10689351+13.37+4.18+9.19 4GonzagaWest Coast689279+11.64-0.47+12.11 6TempleAtlantic 10373222+11.99+4.56+7.44 ADJUSTED NET EFFICIENCY 3XavierAtlantic 10640267+12.45+2.95+9.50 SCHOOLPRIMARY CONFERENCEWINSLOSSESTEAMOTHER CONF. MEMBERSDIFF 5UNLVMountain West715310+11.33+3.60+7.74 SCHOOLPRIMARY CONFERENCEWINSLOSSESTEAMOTHER CONF. MEMBERSDIFF 3XavierAtlantic 10355145+14.64+4.11+10.54 10ButlerMidwestern Collegiate554323+7.69+0.48+7.21 10UNLVMountain West371201+9.16+5.34+3.82 1MemphisConference USA733324+13.61+5.96+7.65 Over this extended time period, the Zags are surpassed by Memphis, Temple and Xavier overall but remain the most dominant relative to the rest of their conference. On the one hand, this can be seen as Gonzaga beating the tar out of weak conference opponents. On the other, over more than three decades now, no mid-major has beaten the tar out of its conference the way Gonzaga has beaten down the WCC. Best non-power-conference programs of the last 18 seasons 9TulsaMissouri Valley631381+8.19+2.23+5.96 8New MexicoMountain West658357+8.47+4.30+4.17 8Wichita St.Missouri Valley373208+10.39+3.72+6.67 2MemphisConference USA442172+14.84+4.34+10.50 9DaytonAtlantic 10384203+9.54+4.72+4.82
Fresno State81.6713.11982.617.48888 Share of plays for zero or negative yards35.6%34.8% No modern-day college football program has publicly coveted the role of Cinderella quite like Central Florida. Just two years removed from a winless season in 2015, the Knights went undefeated a year ago and even proclaimed themselves national champions. After beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the Knights threw themselves a parade at Disney World and took photos in front of, yes, Cinderella’s Castle.But a more fitting photo might have been in front of Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. UCF’s fairytale narrative, at least for the time being, doesn’t really exist. After all, it’s not much of a story if Cinderella never gets invited to the ball and just continues scrubbing the floors.Just like last year, 11th-ranked UCF is again undefeated and clamoring for a spot in the College Football Playoff — which, barring a late-season Armageddon, it won’t get. This doesn’t sit too well with the team holding the nation’s longest winning streak, nor with officials of the American Athletic Conference, one of the Group-of-Five conferences1The others are Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt Conference. that sit just below the Power Five.2The Big Ten, the Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Pac-12. But lost in the endless debate over whether UCF deserves to be considered one of the four best teams in the country is a more interesting question: Is UCF even the best Group-of-Five team?Two teams from the Mountain West — Fresno State (8-2) and Utah State (9-1) — have arguably better resumes than the Knights. Utah State lost in the waning moments to Michigan State in East Lansing but has rebounded to win nine consecutive games by ostentatious scores — only Alabama and Clemson tout stronger average scoring margins. Fresno State has dropped two road games — at Minnesota and Boise State — but has overwhelmed the rest of its schedule. Fresno State is averaging 20-point victories this season, the sixth-best average scoring margin in the country.Comprehensive metrics such as ESPN’s team efficiency and Football Power Index and Jeff Sagarin’s team ratings all favor Fresno State over UCF, and both of the ESPN metrics also favor Utah State over the Knights. The Knights trail six teams with one loss in the College Football Playoff rankings. A team with two losses is also ranked ahead of the Knights. Source: ESPN.com, Jeff Sagarin Utah State77.81111.62679.829.415122 Undefeated UCF may not be the best non-Power Five teamHow Central Florida, Fresno State and Utah State compare in a variety of metrics and ranking systems The Knights’ defense has regressedHow Central Florida’s defense this year compares with the defense of last year’s team Share of plays for 10+ yards19.3%20.2% UCF71.7219.93080.823.458104 Defensive efficiency national ranking32nd54th While UCF has indeed blown out its competition, the Knights are effectively playing a junior-varsity schedule.3Though so is Utah State. Central Florida’s case is acutely hurt by its mere membership in the American Athletic Conference, which boasts five of the 35 worst teams nationally, according to ESPN’s FPI. In total, UCF’s opponents have combined to go 37-51 over the season — and the Knights have yet to play a team that has compiled fewer than four losses or one ranked better than 50th in FPI.4UCF hosts No. 24 Cincinnati this weekend in what will be the Knights’ toughest game of the regular season. The Bearcats rank 44th in FPI. The Knights’ nonconference schedule didn’t do the team any favors; South Carolina State, for example, is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. As ESPN’s Heather Dinich notes, an average team ranked in the top 25 would have a 42 percent chance of going 9-0 against UCF’s schedule, according to ESPN’s strength of record metric.Then there’s another team that UCF can’t measure up to: the 2017 Knights. This year’s version is lagging the team from a season ago, when it had a much stronger case for playoff inclusion, in nearly every phase of the game. Some of that is certainly attributable to the departure of head coach Scott Frost and his entire coaching staff. New head coach Josh Heupel hasn’t had difficulty hitting his talking points, but the Knights have regressed in offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency.5Efficiency is ESPN’s measure of per-play effectiveness on a 0-100 scale. No facet has ebbed more than the defense. Rate of drives with a first down resulting in a score37.8%40.5% Share of plays for 5+ yards39.3%40.0% TEAMTotal EfficiencyRKFPIRKSagarinRKOpp. Win %RK Defensive StatisTIC20172018 Share of rush first downs or TDs per rush23.5%27.2% Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group The Knights startled the country last season when their defensive front dominated an SEC offensive line in the Peach Bowl. However, this season has been chock-full of poor defensive performances. UCF transitioned to a 4-3 base scheme from a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, and the team has seen improvements in yardage allowed per play and per contest. However, the Knights have dropped from 32nd to 54th in defensive efficiency. Only 27 teams have allowed more running yards after contact than UCF, and the school ranks 96th in three-and-out rate and 83rd in third-down conversion defense. These shoddy marks are further amplified when taking into consideration the quality of opponent that UCF has faced.Until the playoffs expand beyond four teams, there will always be frustrated fan bases at the end of the regular season. The playoff selection committee has never taken a Group-of-Five team, a streak that will almost certainly be extended this season because the argument for UCF’s inclusion doesn’t hold much water. If anything, Fresno State and Utah State have pieced together stronger seasons and candidacies for a spot in the playoff. The Knights desperately want their Cinderella slipper to fit, but the clock may have already struck midnight for them.Check out our latest college football predictions.
OSU redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett (81) carries the ball during a game against Kent State on Sept. 13 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 66-0. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorThrough three games, the Ohio State football team’s offense has posted more than 30 points twice, but was held to just 21 in its other matchup.Since that Sept. 6 game against Virginia Tech, coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been preparing for another team to come out in a similar defense to the Hokies, and the wait might be over just three weeks later.Virginia Tech’s bear defense often featured a cover zero look with no supporting safety, which Meyer said could be on the books against the Bearcats on Saturday.“They are playing zero coverage and bringing pressure, and we struggled with the one team that did that a lot,” he said Wednesday. “So we’ve got to be ready for that.”Redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett said OSU was taken by surprise against the Hokies, and the Buckeyes have been preparing to prevent future surprise since.“Ever since the Virginia Tech game, we really didn’t expect them to do that to us,” he said Wednesday. “Ever since then we want to expect that teams are going to come out and do that to us, just prepare for that just in case.”Against the Hokies, OSU totaled 327 yards — including just 108 on the ground — and found the end zone just three times while punting six times. In their other two games, the Buckeyes averaged 50 points and 524 total yards. Three of redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett’s five interceptions on the season came against Virginia Tech, as did seven of the eight sacks given up by his offensive line.In OSU’s 66-0 win against Kent State one week after the matchup with the Hokies, Barrett was not sacked, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt just twice.The Golden Flashes attempted to run a similar defensive look to Virginia Tech, but changed strategies early in the blowout. The key to the bear defense is bringing as much pressure as possible, something Vannett said OSU has a plan for if it happens again against the Bearcats.“If they bring more than we can handle, we just got to get the ball out quick, and into the hands of our playmakers, because they make plays,” he said.Bringing a heavy attack against the offensive line is something junior offensive lineman Jacoby Boren — who is working back from a high ankle sprain — said OSU can and must be ready for against Cincinnati.“Expect them to be tough, they look like they can bring it on defense,” Boren said Wednesday. “They do a lot of great stuff, they bring some pressure too.”As the Buckeyes prepare for a heavy Bearcat attack on defense, they are also preparing for a Cincinnati offense that has posted 89 points through the first two games of its season. In those two games, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel has thrown for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns.Aside from the Virginia Tech game, OSU has been able to move the ball with ease, meaning a matchup between two high-powered offenses could be on the horizon.Despite the possibility of a high-scoring shootout, Meyer said he isn’t approaching the matchup with that in mind.“You just prepare offensively and defensively and manage the game how you have to manage it,” he said.But if it does come down to simply trying to outscore the Bearcats, Meyer said he expects his offense to perform well.“I get confidence from what I see and not what I hope, and I see it on the practice field (and) I saw it in the games,” he said. “I see the maturity of a quarterback happening, and most importantly the offensive line is starting to get a little savvy to them now.”Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall said the offense has the ability to win a shootout, but said the OSU defense is also up to the challenge of stopping Kiel and the Bearcats.“I feel like our defense has been working really hard this week, so hopefully that’s not the case,” Marshall said Wednesday. “But I feel like we’re really confident in our offense that if we have to put up points we can.”While the Buckeyes have had a normal game week to prepare for Cincinnati, they also had extra practice time with only the Bearcats in mind during their bye week last week. Boren said that is something that could give OSU an edge come Saturday.“Like I said, we got two weeks to prepare for them, which is pretty good for us so we should be good,” he said.The Buckeyes and the Bearcats are scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
Meanwhile, here’s what happened when Beckham surprised a paramedic and patient in London with this warm gesture.In July, the star shared this adorable birthday tribute to daughter Harper on Instagram. David Beckham is no doubt used to Michelin-starred cuisine but he still enjoys tucking into some pie and mash when he heads back home to east London.The former England captain posted a photo on Instagram of a trip to a pie and mash shop with his youngest son, Cruz, 11.Beckham, who was born in Leytonstone, east London, wrote that he was enjoying some time at home. Then Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said: “He had pie and mash delivered from a lovely little shop in Waltham Abbey. The foreign lads weren’t too sure. It’s only us cockneys who know what pie and mash is. I was brought up on it so when they came I had three.”Shop owner Tony Lane explained at the time: “He has brought his family here as well. Victoria doesn’t eat it, I don’t think she’s a pie and mash girl, but his boys seem to love it. He said: “Always nice being home – 2 & 2 twice for me and the boy … Oh and don’t forget the jellied eels.”The former footballer is a big pie and mash fan and has previously been spotted in Tony’s Pie And Mash Shop in Waltham Abbey, Essex. He previously posted the meal “reminds me of granddad.”After training with Tottenham Hotspur in 2011 he treated his colleagues to the popular East End favourite. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Still gasses me that David Beckham goes to Waltham Abbey just for Pie & Mash— jamie (@jmbryn) September 3, 2016 “David also loves jellied eels – but he doesn’t like the stewed version.”Beckham previously explained: “I always miss London. It is one of the reasons why when I am here I always go and have pie and mash with my mum or dad and also go and see my nan.”
Paul Gascoigne smiles as he poses for a selfie with a fan outside courtCredit:Rui Vieira/PA It is not acceptable to laugh words like this off as some form of jokeDistrict Judge Graham Wilkinson Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Paul Gascoigne surrounded by cameras as he arrived at Dudley magistrates’ court on MondayCredit:Rui Vieira/PA Gascoigne posed for a series of selfies with fans outside court as he arrived for the hearing. His career included spells at Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers. He changed his plea to guilty before the first witness was called to give evidence at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning.District Judge Graham Wilkinson was told the offence was committed during an on-stage performance by Gascoigne on November 30 last year at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall.After Gascoigne’s change of plea, Judge Wilkinson said the ex-player had admitted “the sort of insidious racism” that needed to be challenged.He told the retired footballer: “You sought to get a laugh from an audience of over 1,000 people because of the colour of Mr Rowe’s skin.” The ex-footballer has fought a public battle with alcoholism for years. Paul Gascoigne, the former England footballer, has been fined £1,000 after admitting making a racist “joke” in front of hundreds of people at his An Evening With Gazza show.The 49-year-old humiliated Errol Rowe, his black security guard, by asking him: “Can you smile please, because I can’t see you?”Gascoigne, who lives in Dorset, had been due to stand trial accused of using racially aggravated “threatening, abusive or insulting” words or behaviour. The former football star poses with another group of fans before the court hearingCredit:Rui Vieira/PA The judge told Gascoigne – who admitted a racially aggravated public order charge – that his previous convictions were not relevant to the offence.Mr Wilkinson, who praised the Crown Prosecution Service for taking the case to court, told Gascoigne: “Mr Rowe was clearly humiliated on stage, as part of an act. As a society it is important that we challenge racially aggravated behaviour in all its forms.”It is the creeping ‘low-level’ racism that society still needs to challenge. A message needs to be sent that in the 21st century society that we live in, such action, such words will not be tolerated.”It is not acceptable to laugh words like this off as some form of joke.”