Having not won a major in six years could be a reason Tiger Woods is considering changing his pre-Masters preparation.Woods shot a 71 in the first round of the Honda Classic Thursday and afterward said he could alter his playing schedule or the way he prepares for the year’s first major in April at Augusta National.“It could be all of the above,” he said to ESPN.After the Honda Classic, Woods is scheduled to defend his titles at next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in three weeks, giving him two tournament weeks off prior to the Masters, which begins April 10.“Still looking into that, yeah,” Woods said of his preparation. “Still looking to possibly make some changes going in there.”Woods being Woods, he did not elaborate on the potential changes.He skipped last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and his 1-over 71 at PGA National on Thursday was just his eighth official round of 2014. He missed the secondary 54-hole cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and also played the Dubai Desert Classic.The only tournaments he could add are the Valspar Championship in two weeks at Innisbrook, near Tampa, Fla.; the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, which follows Palmer’s tournament; or the Shell Houston Open, which is played the week before the Masters.To play near Tampa would mean competing four straight weeks, something Woods rarely does; he has not played the San Antonio event since first turning pro in 1996; and Woods has never played the Houston Open or the week prior to the Masters as a pro.
NBA59.9+9.864.5+13.9+4.1 The NBA and NFL have the biggest regular-season home advantages, improving a team’s chance of winning by 10 and 7 percentage points, respectively. And those benefits grow even larger in the playoffs, ballooning to as high as 14 percentage points for NBA teams. NFL home teams gain almost 5 extra points of win probability in the playoffs — again, after controlling for the fact that better teams tend to get more postseason home games.In baseball and hockey, on the other hand, playing at home doesn’t get you nearly as much help. MLB teams win about 54 percent of home games whether it’s the postseason or not (so much for last licks!), and while NHL teams do a bit better at home in the regular season (55 percent), they actually see their advantage decrease slightly in the playoffs.In general, home advantage is a subject that deserves more research, simply because we’re still not entirely sure what combination of factors actually cause it. Some, like crowd noise, are obvious, while others are written into the sport’s rules (home hockey teams have the right to make the final line change before the puck drops, giving them a consistent edge in matchups). Other phenomena, like the home team getting preferential treatment by officials, still need further study. But numbers like the ones in the table above show that each sport brings its own weird nuggets to the overall topic of home-field/court/ice.Either way, after their loss Tuesday night, maybe the Rangers and their fans will take solace in being the latest case study for a fascinating natural experiment. (Probably not.) What’s home-field/court/ice worth in the postseason? LEAGUEWIN PERCENTBOOST*WIN PERCENTBOOSTPLAYOFF DIFF. NFL57.1%+7.064.7%+11.8+4.8 NHL55.1+5.155.3+4.8-0.3 When the Ottawa Senators traveled to New York to take on the Rangers in Game 6 on Tuesday night, it was fair to think the series would probably head back to Ottawa for a Game 7. The Senators got drubbed in the series’ first two contests in New York, and the nervously raucous Madison Square Garden crowd was hoping to give the Rangers a key home-ice edge in an otherwise tight series. The problem with this thinking, though, is that home-ice advantage is not much of an advantage in the NHL — and it has proven even less important in the playoffs.And so, the Rangers’ 4-2 loss at home (and playoff elimination) provided just the latest in a string of home-ice disappointments this postseason. So far, home teams are exactly .500 (33-33) in 2017, their worst playoff showing since 2012, when teams actually had a losing record at home at 39-47. Hockey home-ice isn’t actually the disadvantage that record would imply, but it’s also not the game-changer we’re used to seeing in other sports like football and basketball, where home teams have been very spoiled over the years.To measure the strength of each league’s home edge, I gathered data on every regular-season and playoff game since 2000, tracking how often the home team won. I also used our Elo ratings1Or, in the case of the NHL, Hockey-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS). to calculate an “expected” winning percentage for each game — based on the quality of the two teams — had the matchup been staged at a neutral site. (This isn’t important for the regular season, because every team is scheduled for roughly equal home and road games. But in the playoffs, better teams are rewarded with more home games, a factor for which we must control.)Comparing home teams’ actual winning percentages to what we’d expect on neutral ground, we can see how much of a boost teams get by being at home in each sport. We can also see how that boost changes from the regular season to the playoffs — if indeed there is a change. HOME TEAMS IN REG. SEASONHOME TEAMS IN PLAYOFFS MLB54.0+4.054.2+4.0+0.0 Percentage point change from home team’s expected win percentage at a neutral location. In the playoffs, better teams are awarded more home games, so expected home win percentage is higher than 50 percent.Source: Sports-Reference.com
Heading into college football’s conference championship week, we knew three schools (Alabama, Clemson and Washington) could basically punch tickets to the College Football Playoff with victories in their respective conference title games. The only real questions involved what would happen in the event of an upset or two — and, just as important, what the selection committee would do with Ohio State. The Buckeyes ranked second in the committee’s rankings going into the week, but they also weren’t playing in the Big Ten championship game. How the committee handled that dilemma would in effect be a referendum on the value of a conference championship in the CFP era.The upsets never really came. Although Virginia Tech gave Clemson a fight, the Hokies ultimately succumbed to the Tigers in the ACC championship by a touchdown. Washington, meanwhile, routed Colorado 41-10 in Friday night’s Pac-12 title game, and Alabama secured the greatest peak Elo rating by a college football team in the last 80 years when they crushed Florida 54-16 to win the SEC. The only real drama came from an upset victory in the Big Ten championship for Penn State, which could build a case around beating Ohio State earlier in the season.For what it was worth, our CFP projection model thought there was very little chance the committee would jettison the one-loss Buckeyes in favor of the two-loss Nittany Lions, even after we made a tweak that placed extra emphasis on head-to-head results. Yes, the committee once dropped a team that won its final game by 52 points (TCU) from third to sixth when they reshuffled the field for their final rankings. But the model still said there was only a 13 percent probability that Penn State would bump Ohio State this year.1Our model output from Dec. 3 showed Ohio State with an 87 percent chance of being selected, so the rest of Penn State’s probability must have come from the (extremely remote) possibility that they’d bump one of the other three teams in the top four.And, sure enough, the CFP committee went with the Buckeyes. On Sunday, it produced a final four of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington, the semifinals of which will be sorted out on New Year’s Eve.Although Penn State was understandably frustrated by the decision, it would have been difficult to justify taking the Lions over the Buckeyes. Ohio State was a consensus No. 2 in both the Associated Press and Coaches’ polls, as well as most statistical rankings, including ESPN’s Football Power Index and Strength of Record metric. Undefeated Alabama is clearly the nation’s best team — quite possibly the best in college football history, in fact — but Ohio State is an obvious No. 2 by most measures. We can always debate the eternal question of whether the CFP should reward the best team or the “most deserving” one, but in the end the committee took the team that had the more dominating season against the tougher schedule, just as it usually does.So, now that we have a final four, who will win? From here on out, our model no longer has to forecast the committee’s decision making, so it’s all about what ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts. The FPI sees Alabama as 64 percent favorites to beat Washington in the Peach Bowl (which, we should also note, is held in Atlanta — far closer to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, than to Seattle), and it gives Ohio State a 55 percent chance of knocking off Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.Overall, that works out to a 39 percent chance of yet another Alabama national title — it would be the school’s fifth in the last eight seasons under coach Nick Saban — though the rest of the field is still more likely to upset ’Bama than not. If the Crimson Tide beat the Huskies, Alabama’s title odds would rise to 62 percent; if Washington pulls the upset, the CFP championship would basically be a coin flip no matter who wins in Clemson-OSU.But that’s all about a month away. There’s still plenty of college football to consume between now and then, including Army-Navy next week, the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 10, and about a trillion bowl games (which I mostly enjoy, even if they often lose money and feature increasingly poor teams). For college fans, the most wonderful time of the year is just beginning.CORRECTION (Dec. 6, 7:30 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated TCU’s final 2014 College Football Playoff ranking. TCU dropped to sixth place in the final week, not to fifth.
Ohio State junior forward Claudia Kepler (24) controls the puck during a game against Bemidji State University on Nov. 6 at the OSU Ice Rink. OSU lost 2-1. Credit: Eileen McClory | Senior Lantern ReporterThe Ohio State women’s ice hockey team is still searching for consistency after losing both games in its weekend series to Bemidji State, falling to 4-6-0 on the season.On Friday, the Buckeyes lost 2-1 despite outshooting the Beavers 22-17 in what turned out to be a stifling defensive game. Freshman forward Dana Rasmussen scored the lone goal for OSU. Senior Hannah Moher and sophomore Bailey Wright scored for the Beavers.On Saturday, the third period began tied 1-1 with the Buckeyes leading in shots 27-14. But two goals late in the third period gave Bemidji State the victory and the series sweep.“I think for the most part we controlled both the games. I thought we outplayed them for the majority of the game,” OSU coach Jenny Potter said. “I think there were just a few times that our players broke down mentally.” Bemidji State junior goaltender Brittni Mowat started both games for the Beavers, allowing just two goals on the weekend despite facing a combined 55 shots in the two games.“Bemidji has a great team, but they’re not invincible. We had plenty of scoring opportunities, plenty of chances, our team needs to learn how to bury them,” Potter said.Redshirt freshman Alex LaMere started both games in goal for the Buckeyes, turning away all but three shots on the weekend, while going through long stretches of quiet net play. With the lull in opportunities to save shots, LaMere said she just tries to stay locked in.“It’s definitely a mental game at that point, you just have to keep sharp on your edges,” LaMere said.The second game opened with the Buckeyes holding an 8-1 shot advantage, but the team believed the tempo of the game picked up considerably as it wore on. LaMere said she thinks the defense was able to keep pace with the Beavers’ attack. “Our defensive zone has come a really long way,” LaMere said. “(The skaters) stick with your girl, if we can play five-on-five that way we’ll be just fine.”LaMere expressed no frustration in having sit through a quiet first half of play before a run of fast-paced play in the final 30 minutes.“Yesterday we saw a lot of the same thing as today, it started off slower and then the pace picked up, from a goalie’s standpoint. (We) just have to keep moving and keep in the game,” LaMere said.Bemidji State entered the weekend series with one of the top ranked defenses in all of college hockey, however, OSU expressed frustration at the opportunities missed having outshot the Beavers in both games.“I guess they’re learning the hard way,” Potter said. “It can be frustrating as a coach, but it’s the learning process they’re going through.”Senior forward Kendall Curtis, who scored the lone OSU goal on Saturday, voiced her irritation with the lack of offensive results, but she said she believes in the team’s system.“Sometimes it can get frustrating, but we what want to focus on is getting new looks and how to create new offense, that was our focus,” Curtis said.Curtis’ goal was the product of strong communication and game planning with her linemates: sophomore Julianna Iafallo and junior Claudia Kepler.“We really know our roles,” Curtis said. “We know that the best way for us to operate is by playing with some giddy-up, winning battles, keeping it simple, keeping our feet moving.”Curtis, who earlier this week was named an alternate captain, said she thinks the play of her line is important to the success of the program, which is struggling to score with only 22 goals in its first 10 games.“The giddy-up we bring to the ice every shift is really important,” Curtis said. “We know that.”The Buckeyes are set to begin a five-game road swing when they travel to face North Dakota in Grand Forks for a weekend series on Nov. 14 and 15.
Ohio State senior linebacker Storm Klein was arrested Friday night for alleged domestic violence and assault, according to Franklin County Municipal Court Records. Klein pleaded not guilty to both charges at his arraignment Saturday morning and a temporary protection order will keep him away from the complainant, according to ESPN. OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig said the athletic department is aware of the situation and confirmed that Klein was arrested. Emig wouldn’t comment on Klein’s status with OSU coach Urban Meyer and the football team. “We are in the process of gathering more information in order to understand all the details,” Emig said in an email to The Lantern. Klein’s lawyer, Columbus attorney Timothy Walsh, did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s Satuday request for comment. According to an NBC4 report, the alleged altercation developed after an argument about the future of a relationship between Klein and the alleged victim. According to the report, the prosecutor at Saturday’s court hearing said Klein “purposefully threw her against the front door causing her head to hit the door” and that “there were noticeable injuries all over the prosecuting witness’ body including to her arms.”
For nearly a year-and-a-half as the sports editor of The Lantern, I suppressed my inner sports fan out of professional obligation. Having come out the other side and attempted to rekindle my love of sports this past weekend for the first time since resigning from my post in January, I’m not sure how much of a sports fan still resides in me. The times I spent as the sports editor of The Lantern were some of the best of my life. I had the privilege of roaming sidelines and locker rooms all over America while bearing witness to the Ohio State athletic department’s many teams and student-athletes. The price of admission for this rare opportunity was shelving the sports fan in me. Upon taking the position in the summer 2011, I was all too happy to abide by that stipulation, which all sports writers must do, of course. I didn’t stop to realize what I was looking at during my editorship, but there were times when covering the OSU athletic department went far beyond the chalk on the field. In truth, the editorship was a lot like walking in on your parents having sex. By this, I mean that you also bear witness to the ugly side of things – things that are burned into your memory forever. It is the kind of stuff that is obviously taking place but you’d rather not see. In the case of the sports writer, it is the kind of thing you’d prefer not to report on or witness, but must. It is the things you read while sifting through hefty documents after Freedom of Information Act open records requests are fulfilled. It is the stories you hear about coaches and athletes being jerks when the bright lights aren’t shining their way. Of course, it is also the public relations person that argues you have misrepresented the truth about their team or their department. There is no ugly side to the true sports fan, though. Fandom, in its purest form, is innocent and unassuming. Men, women and children of all ages commit themselves to their chosen team and make an emotional investment with no promise of a return. The team’s success can be the daily metric of a fan’s happiness or despair. This can be a cruel way to live, but it’s the chosen way of life for so many. When I attempted to awaken my inner sports fan for the occasion of the OSU men’s basketball team’s game against Indiana on Sunday at the Schottenstein Center, my inner sports fan didn’t wake up. I don’t know if he ever will. With only a vague recollection of the game day rituals OSU fans partake in, I did my best to recreate an authentic fan experience. To gain admittance to the stadium, I pulled a crumbled ticket from my coat pocket and held my breath as an usher scanned the barcode – I had purchased the ticket for an exorbitant price from a scalper just five minutes earlier. This, of course, was a departure from flashing a press badge to get inside. Once inside, I didn’t have a free meal with unlimited Coca-Cola products provided for me. Rather, I had to pay for a hot dog and a pop like the other 18,808 fans in attendance. And my seat wasn’t arm’s length from the court. I was up in Section 332, Row “R,” Seat 12. It is not as posh as press row, but true fans take pride in simply being present for the big event, proximity to the playing surface aside. I even perused the souvenir shop on the lower level and wore an OSU T-shirt to the game – to the untrained eye I was just another nameless, ticket-bearing, die-hard member of Buckeye Nation. This die-hard died quickly, though, and I quickly had to concede that my experience was anything but authentic. I observed the game with the submissive silence and shifty eyes of a deadline reporter. No time or cause for cheering as far as I could see. Of course, silence in the presence of two top-10-ranked basketball teams playing in sold-out arenas was beginning to make me stick out. The media resist emotional reaction to game play, but the wild crowing and bellowing of the sports fan – let us call those reactions “fangasms” – is accepted bleacher etiquette in most stadiums. In a desperate attempt to participate and gain the approval of the people I was sitting near, I began to curse and cry out loudly during the second half of the game. Having not attended an OSU game of any kind as a fan in about a year-and-a-half, I had all but forgotten how to cheer. I was crying out at inappropriate moments, or too long after the play was over. My reactions were a forgery. I was a fraud. I was faking my fangasms. The embarrassment of my fraudulent fangasms arrived midway through the second half, and Indiana was in control of the game by that point. The Hoosiers went on to coast to an 81-68 win. I stayed until the final buzzer, but I knew I had spent each second of the 40 minutes of game action occupying a seat that would have been better suited for someone eager to twirl a Homage rally towel and root hard for OSU. If there was a way for me to realize I wasn’t fan enough anymore that didn’t involve handing a fistful of cash to a ticket scalper, surely I would have pursued that action. For all that I gained as sports editor of The Lantern, and I promise you that I gained greatly, I lost the fan in me, for now at least. Sports are my lifeblood, so shelving my fandom and my passion for sports writing simultaneously is out of the question. I suppose it is really a win-win situation because, as I did during my editorship, I’m sure to continue meeting interesting people and seeing things that true fans can only dream of seeing. There are more good days ahead. Perhaps I came into the field of sports writing too naive about how things really work. Maybe my view of sports fans is more of an idealistic hope than a reality. In any event, the path of the sports writer, and not that of the sports fan, is the path I will continue down. That is to say, I’ll stay on this path as long as I can continue to stomach a job that occasionally requires me to witness things that we don’t always want to see.
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. Credit: Courtesy of MCTIn arguably its biggest game of the 2013 season to date, the Ohio State football team will hear from a fellow Ohioan and current NBA World Champion before its tilt with Wisconsin Saturday night.An OSU spokesman confirmed that Miami Heat forward LeBron James will be on the Buckeyes’ sideline during the game. The four-time NBA MVP will also address the team before kickoff according to media reports.James, a graduate of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, is a longtime fan of OSU, even though he never went to the school. The NBA star even has his own locker inside the newly renovated locker rooms at The Jerome Schottenstein Center.OSU men’s basketball coach Thad Matta showed his own support for the Heat star, when the new facility was released to the media. OSU was the first team to wear Nike’s LeBron line of shoes as well as have their jerseys sponsored by him in 2007.“He’s done a lot of things in his time, but I think from a standpoint we always want to pay our respects to him for what he did for us in ’07 in terms of we were the first LeBron school,” Matta said Sept. 3. “I know he’s very proud of what he does for us.”Matta was not the only person to express his gratitude for arguably the biggest star in sports.“I feel sorry that our fans won’t rally around LeBron because of the way he did his things, because for us, he’s been unbelievable,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said Sept. 3. “He’s always kept us at the top of his thoughts when he’s doing things.”OSU is scheduled to take on Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett carries the ball into the end zone during a game against Maryland on Oct. 4 in College Park, Md. OSU won, 52-24.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorWith all the success the Ohio State offense has had in recent weeks, there is one spot where the Buckeyes aren’t up to par: the red zone.Coach Urban Meyer said his team’s play inside the opponent’s 20-yard line simply isn’t on track with the expectations at OSU.“It’s not very good at all,” Meyer said Monday. “For what we expect, it’s not good.”Overall this season, the Buckeyes have put points on the scoreboard 23 times in 28 trips to the red zone, coming out to a conversion rate of just 82 percent. Of those 23 scores, just 19 have been touchdowns. Those numbers compare to a 92 percent success rate for opponents, who have scored 10 touchdowns and added one field goal in 12 red zone tries against OSU this season.In 2013, the Buckeyes scored 60 times in 63 attempts — a 95 percent success rate — including 53 touchdowns in the red zone. That means the 2014 Buckeyes are putting points on the board in the red zone less often than last year’s counterparts were able to come away with touchdowns alone. Their opponents, meanwhile, were held to a 79 percent rate of success inside the 20 last season.OSU’s success rate was just over 71 percent in its most recent game — a 52-24 win against Maryland on Oct. 4 — as it went just five for seven in the red zone.Meyer said the success — or lack thereof — near the goal line comes down to coaching and not the ability of the players on the field.“It’s not the players’ fault, it’s our fault,” Meyer said. “It’s coaching errors, whether it be tempo, we just have to do a better job.”OSU co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said he agreed the team’s red zone offense isn’t rolling at the necessary level, but noted the expectations are high when it comes to putting the ball in the end zone in Columbus, especially considering the success the Buckeyes have had since he and Meyer arrived in 2012.“I think our red zone, goal line or scoring touchdowns in the red zone is certainly not where we want it to be,” Herman said Monday. “Now we’ve set the bar pretty high finishing first in the country, I think second in our first year, first last year in touchdown percentage in the red zone.”The Buckeyes’ struggles in the red zone have them ranked all the way down at No. 72 in the country for red zone scoring percentage and No. 42 in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage. OSU was ranked in the top five for both scoring and touchdown percentage last year and 16th and second, respectively, in 2012.Senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said he has noticed the Buckeyes’ less-than-expected success in the red zone so far this season.“On offense, we’ve got to try to make sure that we’re capitalizing in the red zone,” Spencer said Monday. “We had a few times — last week I’m not sure, but I know the week before — we had a few times we got stalled in the end zone. Granted we’re putting up a lot of points at the same time, but there’s little small things that we can do personally and as a team.”Herman said one of the problems OSU has had near the goal line this season is making sure it takes advantage of soft spots in the opposing defense.“We don’t care what those weaknesses are,” Herman said. “We just need (to do) a better job of exploiting those weaknesses and not trying to beat our head against the wall into their strengths.”As players and the coaching staff have taken notice of the need to convert more often inside the 20, there has been more of an emphasis on it in practice — especially during OSU’s recent bye week.Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said the coaching staff focused on red zone offense more often than normal last week after the less-than-stellar showing against the Terrapins.“We obviously had three days of practice, I think we did red zone two of the three,” Heuerman said Monday. “We usually only do red zone once a week.”He said the Buckeyes also practiced “some live short yardage situations” that they wouldn’t normally.Herman said improvement on that part of OSU’s game will be key going forward, and added he believes it can happen if the Buckeyes continue to work toward executing every play throughout the game.“I think we’re capable now and moving in the direction of, ‘Hey, you need to play with great technique for 80 plays in a row,’” Herman said. “And I think that’s a fair expectation given the point in the season that we’re at.”The Buckeyes are scheduled to return to the field Saturday against Rutgers at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) waits for the snap during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorThe script surrounding the Ohio State quarterback picture is the same as it was three months ago — the lead character just has a different name.When the Buckeyes took the field for fall practice in August, their top quarterback was a Heisman Trophy contender with the ability to rewrite the record books.But that quarterback — senior Braxton Miller — was lost for the season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder during fall camp, leaving the door open for redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett to take reigns of the OSU offense.Now with three regular season games still remaining for the Buckeyes, Barrett is just four touchdown passes away from tying the single-season school record of 30. That record just so happens to have been set by OSU’s most recent Heisman winner, Troy Smith in 2006.On Monday, coach Urban Meyer said he thinks Barrett’s play — at least on paper — should have him in the conversation for the sport’s most prestigious postseason award.“I think statistically he’s got to be in the mix somewhere,” Meyer said, but he conceded he hadn’t had a chance to watch most other players who are in the Heisman conversation.But before Barrett’s play elevated him into that conversation, all signs pointed toward Miller returning to the Buckeyes as the starter next season. Since his injury was season-ending, Miller qualifies for a medical redshirt, meaning he can choose to stay at OSU next season with one year of eligibility remaining.In fact, Miller’s future at OSU was even qualified by Meyer on Sept. 29.“Braxton is our quarterback,” Meyer said, seemingly ending any debate as to whether Barrett — the former understudy — could send Miller packing.But now with Barrett’s play putting him in the national spotlight and Miller having already come in ninth in Heisman voting last season and fifth in 2012, Meyer could be tasked with choosing between two of the top signal callers in the nation next season.And after saying he was committed to Miller less than two months ago, Meyer’s stance shifted Monday when he addressed a potential Barrett vs. Miller battle next season.“Competition brings out the best,” he said. “And I’m really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year.”But with that potential decision still months away, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said he’s focused on 2014, and not who will be under center on Sept. 7, 2015, when the Buckeyes are scheduled to open their season against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.“I honestly give that zero, zero thought,” Herman said Monday. “Zero.“I’m focused on this team and I’m also focused on Braxton and his rehab, which is going greatly from what I understand.”Herman added that the Buckeyes will “cross that bridge when we come to it,” in reference to possibly having a quarterback competition on their hands next fall.Meyer said having both quarterbacks on the roster isn’t a problem for him — even saying the Buckeyes are “fortunate and blessed” to have Barrett and Miller — and agreed with Herman that he’ll worry about making any decisions at a later date.Then-junior quarterback Braxton Miller (5) looks for an open receiver during the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium. OSU lost, 40-35.Credit: Lantern file photo“I think they’re both excellent quarterbacks. Excellent quarterbacks,” Meyer said Monday. “And we’ll worry about that day when it comes.”Miller proved that excellence to Meyer by picking up back-to-back Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year awards, while Barrett has done so by progressing after taking over before the season opener against Navy. For Herman, Barrett’s speed of that progression has come as a surprise, he said, but not a big one.“I think the pace at which his improvement has accelerated is mildly surprising,” Herman said.“To see a kid that’s played nine college games now, to make the progress that he’s made,” he expanded. “It’s visual … You don’t have to be a coach to know that.”Now coming off a 49-37 win against then-No. 7 Michigan State on the road in which he threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns while adding another two scores on the ground, Barrett has totaled 2,156 passing yards and 26 touchdowns through the air this season. He’s also tallied a 172.9 quarterback efficiency rating and is second on the team with 582 rushing yards and first with eight rushing touchdowns.In comparison, Miller threw for just 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns in his entire first season as the Buckeyes’ full-time starter in 2012. But the then-sophomore also rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 more scores that season.While that production has mostly been replaced by Barrett’s play this year, many might not have expected such an output. But at least one of Barrett’s receivers said he expected the Wichita Falls, Texas, native to step in seamlessly after replacing the injured Miller.“It’s kind of like the next man up, and he’s a mature dude and he took his job real serious,” redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas said Monday. “So I had a lot of confidence in him.”While the Buckeyes had championship aspirations under Miller, those plans seemed to take a hit when Barrett stepped in. But — with the right team around him — Herman said he feels Barrett is the type of quarterback who can lead OSU to a title as well.“I think with the right pieces around him and the right preparation and the right protection and ability to block people up front, yeah, he can certainly win any game that we put him out on the field to go against,” Herman said.But if Barrett can win any game Miller can, does that leave the door open for the Buckeyes’ injured star to leave OSU for another school next season?“I can’t even imagine that,” Herman said about the prospect of Miller transferring after he graduates from OSU this year.Whether or not the curtain has dropped on Miller’s time as OSU’s starter, Barrett is set to be the man taking the lead when the curtain rises for the Buckeyes on Saturday in Minneapolis. OSU is scheduled to kick off against Minnesota at noon.
Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell (0) holds the ball during a game against Wright State on Dec. 27 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 100-55. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorIn its last game before opening conference play, the No. 21 Ohio State men’s basketball team flexed its muscle in a 100-55 rout of intrastate foe Wright State.The Buckeyes built on a 47-18 halftime lead, outscoring the Raiders by 16 in the second half, as freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored 11 points in a less than nine-minute stretch to help propel OSU in the blowout win.The Buckeyes (11-2) scored 22 of their 47 first half points in the paint as the Raiders (8-6) could not stop OSU senior center Amir Williams who posted 11 of his career-high 21 points in the opening frame.Williams said after the game that because of Wright State’s lack of size, he, along with his teammates, were able to take advantage of the size discrepancy.“The guy guarding me wasn’t as tall as I was,” Williams said. “So D’Angelo saw the mismatch right away and gave me a couple of early post feeds and we just played off of that.”OSU coach Thad Matta added that getting Williams involved in the offense early was planned as the Buckeyes head into Big Ten play.“Amir has practiced the last couple days just like he played there (tonight),” Matta said. “It was good to see him get the success and finish around the basket. He did a tremendous job for us.”Williams scored the first five Buckeye points as OSU started the game on a 10-0 run, capitalized by a three-point make from Russell.OSU’s defense stood tall alongside its inside offensive game, as the Buckeyes held the Raiders to just 20.6 percent shooting in the first half and allowed just six points in the paint.The Buckeyes also tallied nine blocks in the contest, four from Williams.Despite his big game, Williams said that whether or not he has the size advantage in a game doesn’t matter to him once the game starts.“I just like playing whether it is a mismatch or not,” Williams said. “Doing what I do in the post or on the defensive end…I think we just do a good job of staying within the offense and finding ways to score.”While it was inside in the first half, OSU used its outside game to its advantage in the second half as the Buckeyes hit seven of their 11 three-point makes in the second frame, three of which came from Russell.Every Buckeye that took the floor scored at least two points, aside from walk-on Jake Lorbach who checked in with less than three minutes to play.Redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee did not play for the Buckeyes as he injured his ankle during OSU’s 93-55 win over the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks on Dec. 22.Matta said after the game against the Raiders that he is not sure how long Lee will be out.Russell led all scorers with 24, tallying 12 in each half. Russell finished six of eight shooting from the floor and made all of his six three-point attempts.Wright State coach Billy Donlon said after the game that it was Russell’s demeanor that impressed him at first.“What I am incredibly impressed with is, for a freshman, the amount of poise he plays with,” Donlon said. “He has a scoring mentality, but understands how to distribute.”Donlon added that ultimately it was Russell’s shooting that hurt the Raiders and even gave the freshman guard his own title.“His ability to make shots. He made three straight three’s on us in the second half,” Donlon said. “He is an absolute assassin out there.”The Raiders were led by freshman guard Grant Benzinger who scored 12 points to go along with six rebounds.With the first conference game of the season looming, Russell admitted he is not sure of what is coming down the road.“I don’t know what to expect. I am just trying to prepare the best way I can for it,” Russell said. “I am definitely looking forward to it. I just don’t know what to expect.”Matta said he has pulled Russell aside to let him know that Big Ten play has arrived.“One of the biggest things for freshmen is they have to learn how to take care of their bodies throughout,” Matta said. “It (Big Ten play) just keeps hitting you. He is going to work on his game.”The Buckeyes are scheduled to open Big Ten conference play Tuesday at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Tip is set for 1 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.