Ohio State has compiled six perfect seasons through the course of its glorious football history, but not even Michigan’s fiercest group of Wolverines presented a challenge as mountainous as this latest opponent. To get where they want to go in 2020 — the College Football Playoff — the Buckeyes now must be competitively and medically perfect.
With the Big Ten announcing Wednesday its football teams will contest eight games starting Oct. 24 and leading toward a Dec. 19 Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes must be both lucky and good on the field of play and wherever its players might encounter the novel coronavirus in their daily lives.
Flip through your calendars and see what flows from that late-October start date: eight weekends to complete eight regular-season games before the title game.
No margin for error.
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We already have seen college football games postponed elsewhere because of issues with positive COVID tests either among players or on a particular campus: Virginia Tech vs. Virginia, Memphis vs. Houston, Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa, Central Arkansas vs. Arkansas State.
If such circumstances develop in the Big Ten, the operative word might be “cancellation” rather than “postponement.”
When the Big Ten originally announced its amended schedule Aug. 5, it called for a start date the weekend of Sept. 5 with a conference title game Dec. 5. That provided everyone with 13 weeks to complete 10 games. Each team received two off weekends during the schedule and all were set to be idle Nov. 28, creating multiple windows to make up any games postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. There also was the possibility, in what amounted to a worst-case scenario, of pushing back the Big Ten title game for a week or two.
What did the Big Ten gain by abandoning that plan five days after it was revealed and then enduring nearly six weeks of controversy among its fan base, player pool and, indeed, some member schools? A comprehensive plan for daily testing of all competitors, as well as a program in which anyone who tests positive will be monitored for cardiac irregularities.
“Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the groundbreaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities,” Ohio State team physician Jim Borchers, co-chair of the league’s Return to Competition task force medical subcommittee, said in the league’s release.
“The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”
Those inside the Ohio State program had been so eager for an opportunity to compete in the CFP that coach Ryan Day took the extraordinary step of releasing a statement last Thursday challenging the conference to “give our young men what they have worked so hard for: a chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall.”
The Buckeyes have it now, albeit it with the implied stipulation that anything less than perfection will be insufficient. With Southeastern Conference members playing 10-game schedules that include none of their customary empty calories — no games against the Citadel or Southeastern Louisiana — with the Big 12 playing a full league schedule of nine games and Clemson pretty much certain to smoke every ACC opponent unlucky enough to be assigned the Tigers as an opponent, any Ohio State slip is going to be severely punished.
And that might include any further truncation of its schedule. If a game were to be eliminated by COVID issues, it’s possible that the CFP selection committee will not consider an 8-0 record — seven regular-season games, plus the B1G title game — to be sufficient.
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Avoiding this situation will be dependent not only on the good judgment (masking, avoiding circumstances in which COVID is known to spread rapidly) and good fortune (some of this surely is just wrong place/wrong time) of the Buckeyes, but also of their scheduled opponents.
“Everyone’s routine has been blown apart,” Fox Sports college football analyst Urban Meyer told Big Ten Network on Wednesday morning. “You didn’t have spring practice. You had stop-and-start during training camp. And I know Coach Day has been brought up the right way, I know his belief, but it has got to be absolutely on point with fundamentals these next few weeks, as far as ball security, blocking, tackling. … The fine line is: How do you get your team ready?”
The Buckeyes entered the year ranked No. 2 by the Associated Press, with such stars as quarterback Justin Fields and wideout Chris Olave to fuel the offense. They were dropped out of subsequent polls because, well, they weren’t expected to compete, but they’ll be back in the rankings as soon as someone hears their shoulder pads popping.
The last time the Buckeyes compiled a perfect season, in 2012, they were ineligible for postseason competition and could not earn the national title. They won the championship once since, in 2014, but had to overcome a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech to be invited. Regular-season stumbles against Michigan State (2015), Iowa (2017) and Purdue (2018) gave the playoff committee excuses for excluding them.
There will be fewer challenges this time — that’s just the basic math of an eight-game schedule. But those the Buckeyes will face may be greater than ever before.
Jordan Montgomery’s Yankees role up in the air for first round
Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka will start the first two games of the best-of-three postseason series that will be played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Aaron Boone has J.A. Happ and Deivi Garcia to consider starting for a deciding third game.
So, where does that leave Jordan Montgomery for the first round?
Boone said Wednesday that if the Yankees advance to the ALDS, Montgomery would be in the starting rotation. But the manager didn’t say whether Montgomery would or wouldn’t be in the Yankees’ bullpen for the first round.
“That’s possible. Again, we will discuss that. Monty goes [Thursday] and we will discuss what we want to do on the weekend,” Boone said before the Yankees were routed by the Blue Jays, 14-1, at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. “There could be that role for him. He is obviously going to start at some point, but everything is on the table.”
Montgomery was on the 2017 postseason roster and available to relieve, but he didn’t get into games against the Indians and Astros. Of his 73 big league games, Montgomery has started 69 of them.
Montgomery’s season has been up and down. He takes a 2-2 record and a hefty 5.12 ERA into Thursday night’s game, which will be his 10th start of the season.
Montgomery isn’t the type to cause a stir, and he didn’t Wednesday when asked about the possibility of working out of the bullpen.
“I am here to help the team, so whatever I got to do to get outs for them, I will do,” Montgomery said of possibly working in relief. “I definitely probably throw harder out of the pen, so I think I would be pretty good out of the pen, but I can get outs as a starter also. Whatever they want me to do, really not up to me.’’
The Yankees are very protective of their relievers. Chad Green was the only one to work three days in a row this year. And without built-in off days, the bullpens are going to get plenty of postseason work.
“If we go on a deep run in the playoffs, guys are going to have to pitch multiple days,” Boone said. “But it is also imperative that whoever ends up holding the [World Series] trophy at the end, my vision of it is that you are going to have to lean on 10, 12, 13 pitchers more so than ever before. You are not going to be riding two starters twice a series and four main, high-impact relievers. You are going to have to, in given games, lean on the 12th, 13th man on a pitching staff to get important outs for you. I think that will be imperative for the team that wins it all.”
Montgomery could be useful in the pen during the first round because of his ability to get a strikeout (39 in 38 ²/₃ innings), but that could depend how many pitchers Boone carries.
As for this season, which followed a 2019 during which Montgomery pitched in two games (four innings) late in the year after coming off Tommy John surgery, the 27-year-old lefty pointed out what he could have done better at and what he was satisfied with.
“Definitely the ERA is too high for my liking,” Montgomery said of his 5.12 ERA. “But soft contact, strikeout percentage, walk percentage, I am pretty happy about how I am getting outs. A couple of games the pitch count has gotten high, but I have induced a lot of soft contact and had guys on their toes a little bit. Keep trying to get better.”
Lakers take their LeBron James frustration straight to the league
The Lakers lead the Western Conference Finals and are the title favorites. Still, they feel they’re at a disadvantage.
Following a Game 3 loss to the Nuggets, the Lakers formally presented a case to the NBA that LeBron James is not getting as many foul calls as they believe should have been assessed, according to the L.A. Times. In Game 3, James shot just two free throws — due to a Jamal Murray flagrant foul — giving him a total of 10 in the series. This season, James averaged a career-low 5.7 free-throw attempts per game. During the first two rounds of the playoffs, the four-time MVP averaged 7.6 free throws per game.
“We’re dealing with the fouls through the proper channels with the league,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Wednesday. “I think he’s gone to the basket very aggressively, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Lakers’ issues with the officiating has also resulted in Dwight Howard picking up technical fouls the past two games, and assistant coach Phil Handy being assessed a technical foul in Game 2.
“Yeah, I mean, I think we’re exhibiting decent composure,” Vogel said. “I know we got the tech in Game 2, but yeah, we’re playing through it.”
NFL overtime rules 2020: Explaining how the OT format works in football for regular season, playoffs
The NFL’s current overtime rules have had a rough stretch over the last few years. Yet despite inevitable criticism of the format in pro football every time a team loses in part because it did not get a chance to possess the ball in overtime, the rules established a decade ago remain in place in 2020.
The NFL’s overtime rules do not allow for a sudden-death situation until both teams have possessed the ball and the game remains tied. However, if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown, the game ends. Many argue the existence of that rule gives too much value to something as random as a coin toss.
Last year’s Saints became victims of the NFL’s overtime rules when Drew Brees and New Orleans’ offense helplessly watched the Vikings drive down the field for a touchdown in overtime of a playoff game without getting a chance to match. The same happened to the Chiefs against the Patriots in the 2019 AFC championship game. Super Bowl 51 ended when the Patriots scored on their first possession of overtime against the Falcons.
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These high-profile recent examples are major reasons why multiple teams have proposed changes to the NFL’s overtime rules in recent years. Following the aforementioned heartbreak in the AFC title game, Kansas City proposed a rule change that would allow both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least one time in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown.
That proposal was tabled by the NFL competition committee and eventually dropped. More recently, the Eagles submitted a proposal that would have changed the time in an overtime period — it’s currently 10 minutes — but that idea suffered the same fate.
So for now, the NFL’s overtime rules are the same as they have been for the last four years. Below is the NFL’s overtime format, plus a more detailed explanation of the recent overtime rule change proposals.
NFL overtime rules 2020
The NFL’s overtime rules were amended as recently as 2017, when the overtime period was shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in the name of player safety.
The sudden-death NFL overtime format we know today was established in 2010. It gives both teams the chance to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless — and this is key — the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.
The full section of the NFL rule book on overtime, which explains all the procedures in full, can be found here.
NFL overtime rules for preseason and regular season
- At the end of regulation, the referee will toss a coin to determine which team will possess the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
- No more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.
- Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
- Each team gets two timeouts.
- The point after try is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
- If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, the result of the game will be recorded as a tie.
- There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.
NFL overtime rules for playoff games
- If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
- There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
- The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
- Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
- The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
- If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.
NFL overtime rule change proposals
Shortly after the Patriots beat the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC championship game by driving down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession of overtime, Sports Grind Entertainment’ Mike DeCourcy delivered the perfect analogy to explain what was so wrong about the rules that didn’t give Patrick Mahomes and Co. a chance to respond.
“Imagine if baseball were to decide a League Championship Series game that progressed to extra innings by awarding a spot in the World Series to a team that scored a run in the top half of the 10th — without allowing the team in the field a turn at bat,” DeCourcy wrote. “That’s what the NFL just did.”
The Chiefs were understandably frustrated by what had transpired, so the following spring, they submitted to the NFL competition committee a rule change proposal that would address the issue.
Below is what the Chiefs’ proposal included:
- Allow both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least one time in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown.
- Eliminate overtime for preseason.
- Eliminate overtime coin toss so that winner of initial coin toss to begin game may choose whether to kick or receive, or which goal to defend.
The Chiefs’ proposal was tabled twice in 2019 and eventually dropped, but similar modifications to the NFL rule book can and likely will be suggested in the coming years.
In 2020, the Eagles submitted a rule change proposal that would have restored preseason and regular season overtime periods to 15 minutes (rather than 10) as they were prior to 2017. Philadelphia’s proposal also looked to minimize the impact of the overtime coin toss.
That proposal never made it to the voting process as a potential NFL rule change.
History of NFL overtime rules
The first NFL game ever to use overtime as a way to decide a game that had ended regulation in a tie came on Aug. 28, 1955. The Rams beat the Giants thanks to a sudden-death overtime format that was the brain child of Harry Glickman, the promoter of the game in Portland. That game, not the 1958 NFL championship between the Colts and Giants, was the first NFL overtime game.
It wasn’t until 1974, though, that the NFL officially added a sudden-death overtime period to be played in the event a game ended in regulation time with a tie. It was simple: First team to score wins; field goal included.
After 35 years of games using that overtime format, in 2010, the rules were amended for playoff games.
A field goal on the first drive of overtime no longer was enough for a team to win in sudden death; instead, a touchdown was required. That format — “both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession” — was expanded in 2012 to be used in preseason games and regular-season games, too.
In 2017, the length of the overtime period in preseason games and regular-season games was shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in the name of player safety.
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