The 45-23 victory was the first time Michigan has won in Columbus in 22 years, and knocks Ohio State out of the Big 10 championship game. Michigan seems like a lock for the final four

With three TD’s in the fourth quarter, Michigan knocked their favored opponents down from “THE” Ohio State University to “AN” Ohio State University. Michigan’s star running back was injured and left the game after two short carries, but their sophomore back-up guy, Donovan Edwards, was pretty much unstoppable in the fourth quarter, with touchdown runs of 85 and 75 yards.

In other contender news:

  • Georgia won easily and seems poised to sail into the finals.
  • TCU gave poor, lowly Iowa State a major ass-kicking (62-14), thus moving one step closer to clinching another of the final four slots.
  • USC moved to 10-1 by defeating Notre Dame. They seem to be the headed for the fourth spot in the fab four. Their opponent in the conference championship game will be Utah. (Surprise!) That happened because the Oregon loss created a three-way tie for second place, and the anfractuous tie-breaker system worked out in Utah’s favor. The practical consequence is that a USC win is the only hope for the conference to get a team into the fab four. I think we all know that the committee is not going to put in three-loss Utah team over Ohio State or Alabama. By the way, a Utah victory is not far-fetched at all. They have already beaten USC once this year!
  • LSU’s spot as the next-in-line was eliminated by their loss to the Aggies in College Station. Clemson’s long-shot chance to make the final four fell off the table after a loss to South Carolina. Oregon’s desperate, hail-mary shot ended with a loss to Oregon State, and that even cost them their spot in the conference championship.

South Carolina was this year’s spoiler team. They had a good, not great, year at 8-4, but they were tremendous in the last two weeks, knocking off Tennessee and Clemson when each was considered a contender for the national championship.

USC and the three undefeated teams (Georgia, Michigan and TCU) all seem to be sure finalists if they win their conference championships.

I think that Georgia is already in the fab four, win or lose in the conference final. If they lose, there will (presumably) be two undefeated teams, and Georgia would be the best team with one loss, giving them a third seed. Michigan has a similar, if slightly weaker case.

On the other hand, USC and TCU wins seem to be the only hope for their respective conferences. If one or both of them should lose, Ohio State and Alabama will probably be the next teams under consideration, with Ohio State first in line because they have but one loss to Alabama’s two.

Here’s how the bookies see the odds of winning the national championship after Saturday’s play:

Georgia 5-8
Michigan 3-1
USC 13-1
TCU 13-1
Ohio State 15-1
Alabama 26-1

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RUTGERS watch: they closed out their season in fine fashion by dropping a 37-0 squeaker to Maryland, following last week’s nail-biting 55-10 loss to Penn State.

Their debating teams are, however, excellent. One of their campuses won the national championship in 2017.

None of the top seven teams looked very impressive.

#1 Georgia scored only 16 against Kentucky, which is a mediocre 3-5 in the SEC.

#2 Ohio State was losing at halftime to Maryland, which is a mediocre 3-5 on the Big Ten.

#3 Michigan needed to stage a furious fourth quarter comeback to win by 2 against Illinois, which is a mediocre 4-4 in the Big Ten.

#4 TCU barely eked out a 29-28 win against Baylor, which is a mediocre 4-4 in the Big 12. To be fair, the practice of barely eking out victories seems to be what TCU does every week. That was their 7th consecutive win by 10 or fewer.

#5 Tennessee got slaughtered, allowing 63 points to South Carolina, which is now a mediocre 4-4 in the SEC.

#6 LSU played a jobber in order to pad their record with an easy win.

#7 USC allowed 45 points, barely escaping with a 48-45 victory.

So Tennessee seems to be totally out of the Final Four picture. If the other six continue to win except when they play each other, then the final four will be:

  • The winner of Michigan vs THE Ohio State next week.
  • The winner of LSU vs Georgia the following week.
  • USC.
  • TCU.

If any of those teams falter badly, Clemson and Oregon still have long-shot odds of sneaking in. Clemson pays off at 20-1 if you bet them to go all the way, while Oregon is up there at 55-1

Moving the Bills game seems to have been the right move. Get this: ” Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, has picked up 77.0 inches in the last 48 hours”

Sports Update: the Bills will play Sunday – in Detroit!

Weird stuff: Buffalo Channel 4 Weather has confirmed 77 inches in Orchard Park, a southern suburb, but Tonawanda, a northern suburb, has received only three inches! Orchard Park is directly in line with the eastern shore of Lake Erie, while Tonawanda is just far enough north on the Niagara River that it is out of the direct path of the lake effect snow.

The four top teams remained unbeaten

Here are the complications:

* Michigan and Ohio State will match up during the regular season, so they can’t both retain a perfect record.
* When one of them loses, do they stay in the top four, or be replaced by Tennessee?
* But how can the committee select Tennessee to be among the top four in the country when they finish third in their own conference?
* How can the committee select the loser of the Michigan/OSU game to be among the top four in the country when they also finish third in their own conference? (Neither Tennessee nor the loser of the OSU/Michigan game will make their conference championship game.)
* So if it is TCU, OSU-or-Michigan and Georgia – who gets the fourth spot? Tennessee and OSU-or-Michigan seem to be eliminated by the logic above, but assuming one of them will go in, which one? ESPN’s panel of 15 experts takes Michigan by a 14-1 vote!
* #6 LSU can really complicate things in the unlikely event that they defeat Georgia in the SEC championship game, especially since they were slaughtered by Tennessee earlier in the season.
* Michigan, OSU and Tennessee are rooting for TCU to lose one, but the Horned Owls refuse to co-operate. They have won their last six games by ten points or fewer, but they always come out on the correct side of the score. Sagarin’s computer ratings suggest that those three teams (and several others) are better than TCU, but an undefeated team from a Power Five conference is going to get a bid, no questions asked, even though they may go into a Georgia playoff game as two-touchdown underdogs.

She is now playing in her 21st season in the WNBA, and shot .911 from the free throw line one season.

Some of the women in the WNBA are exceptionally good at free throws. Elena Della Donne, for example, has an unreal lifetime free throw percentage of .937 after ten years in the league. (Among the men, even dead-eye Steph Curry is “only” at .909.)

Becky Hammon shot .897 over 16 years, including a perfect 1.000 in her final season. (The male record in .981 – only three misses in 154 attempts. Oddly enough, that guy dropped below .800 the following year.)

Another woman, Kayla McBride, has been over .900 in five of the last six seasons, including the current one – and the other season was .897! (Curry has actually bested this one. He’s topped .900 in eight of the past nine seasons, and his off season was .898.)

None of the six major unbeaten teams lost.

Some of the other ranked teams got exposed as pretenders.

  • Oklahoma State had been ranked #9 in the nation. I reckon they were a tad overrated, considering that they were utterly curb-stomped, 48-0, by Kansas State.
  • Former #10 Wake Forest received a drubbing of their own, 48-21, against unranked Louisville.
  • A few of the teams ranked between 16 and 25 suffered losses, but let’s be honest, those teams are not contenders for the Final Four. They are just hoping for a strong game in the post-season.
  • Rutgers watch: LOSS, 31-0. That’s the Rutgers we know and love!

By the way, there will be no bowl games on New Year’s Day this year. It falls on a Sunday, and the NCAA doesn’t compete with the NFL, so the colleges will play the New Year’s bowls on Monday, January 2nd. (The Final Four will play on December 31st.)

The biggest regular-season game of the year is coming next week – #1 Georgia vs #3 Tennessee. It’s kind of a do-or-die game because its a difficult climb back after a loss there. They are both in the same division (East) of the SEC, which means that only one of them can get into the conference championship game, so the one that doesn’t make the conference championship game is unlikely to make the Final Four, even if it suffers a mere one-point loss to the #1 team in the nation. (This is particularly problematic if there are unbeaten teams in the other conferences, and there could be three: TCU, Clemson, and either Ohio State or Michigan.)

Ohio State and Michigan don’t clash until the final game of the regular season. They are in a similar situation to the one I described in the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan are in the same half of the Big Ten, so only one of them can make the conference championship game, even though they clearly seem to be the best teams in the conference.

Football scoreboard

The only thing that really impressed me this week, besides the fact that the Jets and Giants keep winning, was the performance of Joe Burrow.

34 for 42 for 481 yards. Three TDs, no picks.

Burrow passed for 525 yards in a December game last year. Will he be the guy who finally breaks the long-standing record? Norm Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards in a 1951 game, and that record has held for 71 years. To place that in perspective, Ruth’s 60 homer mark held the record for a mere 34 years before Maris topped it. Maris’s AL record held for 61 years until Judge broke it this year. (Easy to remember. He hit 61 in ’61 and it lasted 61 years.)

Even Wilt’s legendary century game has only been the NBA record for 60 years, although that one may last forever, so the longevity of Van Brocklin’s record is impressive. It’s also a bit surprising, since 554 doesn’t seem insurmountable like Wilt’s 100. Quite a few men have climbed over 500, but nobody has ever been able to reach the summit.

They swept the Mariners, then swept the Yankees on their way to the World Series.

And the ‘Stros also had the league’s best record in the regular season.

Except for Harrison “Darth” Bader, the Yankees had nothin’ in the ALCS series.

The Phillies did not have an impressive regular season. At the end of May they were 21-29. They finished with a mediocre 87-75 record, barely enough to make the post-season.

But they surely chose a good time to get hot.

It’s Houston vs Philadelphia for all the marbles.

Do you remember the wrestling “jobbers”? Back in the day, the televised wrestling matches served no purpose other than to develop and market story lines for the live events. In the TV matches, no headliners clashed. The heroes du jour would defeat some poor jobbers in short order with “scientific” moves, and then the main villains would abuse other lackluster jobbers with trash talk and dirty tricks, while boiling over with braggadocio about how they would do the same to our heroes in the live events. There were a few of those jobbers that came out every week to get slaughtered. Among the notorious perpetual losers were such luminaries as The Duke of Dorchester, Iron Mike Sharpe, the Brooklyn Brawler, Barry Horowitz, and Leaping Lanny Poffo, who happened to be the son of one wrestling legend, Angelo Poffo, and the brother of another, The Macho Man. The first three I listed usually lost to heroes, while Poffo and Horowitz normally squared off against heels.

Four of those guys were at least trying to be colorful, with the nicknames and all. Iron Mike Sharpe even billed himself as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete.” (Sorry, Gretzky!) As for the other one, I don’t know what the deal was with “Barry Horowitz.” He could have been “Bart Howitzer” or “the Florida Flash,” but no-o-o-o-o. He just remained plain old Barry Horowitz. That’s not a moniker likely to strike fear into someone’s heart, unless he’s auditing your tax returns.

Anyway, to the topic of this post, college football also has its jobbers, uninspiring programs that manage to make big bucks by traveling to the homecoming games of powerhouse teams, fully expecting to lose by 40.  You recognize some of the names: Bethune-Cookman, Southern Utah, Albany, Akron, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, etc. Unlike the wrestling jobbers, one of these teams occasionally receives the smile of Lady Fortune and wins a game against a power team. There was one this year. Texas A&M got shocked at home by Appalachian State.

As a general matter of honor, there are two conventions that apply to jobber games (1) the big teams usually only schedule these teams in the first three weeks of the season, before conference play begins;  (2) the big teams shouldn’t run up the score any higher than 70, preferably even less. Tennessee, ranked #3 in the nation, chose to ignore convention #1 this week by scheduling a game against UT Martin. They probably could have scored 100 against these jobbers if they had tried. They had scored 52 with two and a half minutes to play in the first half! They did follow the mercy convention, however, and emptied the bench. They eventually used nine different rushers, and five different passers who threw to ten different targets. By the end of the game they were calling plays for members of the marching band. I think the tuba guy even rushed for a first down.

In other, fairer match-ups, several unbeaten teams fell.

  • #7 Ole Miss, held scoreless in the second half, got shellacked by LSU (45-20).
  • #9 UCLA lost to a conference rival, #10 Oregon.
  • #14 Syracuse blew a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, ultimately losing to #5 Clemson in a battle of undefeated teams.

Elsewhere:

#8 TCU knocked off a ranked team for the fourth consecutive week.

Poor Indiana got the embarrassment of the week as they lost to Rutgers, 24-17!

 

Scoreboard

Alabama’s QB passed for 455 yards and they still lost, 52-49. I would not like to be on that ‘Bama defensive squad this week.

It was a week for upsets, as two other formerly undefeated top-ten teams fell alongside the Tide: #7 USC lost to Utah; and #8 Oklahoma State lost to TCU in an overtime battle of unbeatens. It appears that TCU is for real. This is the third consecutive week that they have bumped off a top-25 team.

Texas A&M has really had a crazy season. Saturday they almost beat Alabama in Alabama, but some weeks back they lost at home to Appalachin State, which has a losing record in the puny Sunbelt Conference.

In other college news: the major undefeated teams in the top ten all stayed unbeaten. ‘Bama was the only one seriously challenged, although Oklahoma State was losing at halftime.

Rutgers watch: They were ahead 13-0 at halftime, but being Rutgers, they lost anyway by failing to score in the second half. They only lost by one point, so even so much as a measly field goal, at any time in the second half, would have won the game for them. But, well, they are Rutgers.

Stats

Some notes:

Although Judge’s homer total led the league by 22, and he won the RBI crown, he did not win the triple crown. He finished second in batting average.

Mike Trout finished with a surge (16 homers in his last 36 games) to finish second in the AL with an even 40, giving him an even 350 for his career. His final homer traveled a prodigious 490 feet. That was the longest homer anyone hit in 2022 outside of Coors Stadium, and that’s just about as far as they can go. As I have written in the past, if you were to achieve the highest recorded launch speed in history, launched at the optimal spin and trajectory, the farthest a ball can travel is 515 feet, and it’s almost impossible for those three things to happen at the same time, so there has never been a homer that long in the era since scientific measurement. (Assumptions: there is no wind, the park is at sea level, the temperature is 75 degrees, the barometer is steady at 29.92, and the relative humidity is 50%.) Even if we ignore all of those assumptions I just listed, and just list everything, Coors and wind and all, the longest major league homer of the StatCast era is still only 505 feet.

39-year-old Justin Verlander completed his incredible comeback year by leading the AL in wins (18), winning percentage (.818), WHIP (0.83) and ERA. (1.75). Because of a long series of surgeries, he had won only one game in the previous two seasons. He now has 244 lifetime wins, most among active hurlers.

Tony Gonsolin of the Dodgers finished with a winning percentage of .941 (16-1), a NL record for a starter with 17 decisions or more, and just short of the overall NL record of .947. (Reliever Elroy Face was 18-1 in 1959. Face started that season with 17 consecutive wins for a mediocre team that went 78-76, but the season wasn’t as remarkable as it sounds. He came into 19 save situations and blew 9 of them!)

Gonsolin only pitched 130.1 innings. No major leaguer has ever won 16 or more starts in fewer innings.

Shohei Ohtani became the first player in the World Series Era to qualify for the leadership in the percentage stats as both a hitter and a pitcher. (That requires 502 plate appearances and 162 innings pitched. Ohtani led his team in both categories!) He finished 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA as a pitcher (for a team that finished 16 games below .500), while hitting 34 homers. He finished 6th in the league in OPS as a batter, and 4th in ERA as a pitcher. What a ballplayer! His salary next year will be $30 million.

Major leaguers batted an anemic .243 this year, the lowest since the infamous 1968 season when Yaz led the AL at .301. Yaz was the only .300 hitter that year, and there was only one guy in the .290s, so Tony Oliva was third in the league at .289!

Story

Here’s what I wrote when he hit #61

Judge is one level-headed dude. He earned that record. He’s surrounded by a bunch of guys hitting less than .230.

On the other hand, the AL pitchers of 1961 couldn’t afford to pitch too carefully around Maris. He had four great hitters behind him – three MVPs (Berra, Mantle, Howard) and Moose Skowron, who hit 28 homers of his own that year. The details:

  • Maris faced a lot of minor league pitching in 1961 because it was an expansion year. About 20% of those pitchers would have been in triple A if the league had the 1960 configuration in 1961.
  • Maris received a grand total of zero intentional walks that year. Judge has been awarded 18.
  • Maris came to the plate 157 times with runners in scoring position, and drew only 19 walks. Judge has had about the same number of opportunities (151), but was walked 40 times (18 intentional).
  • Weirdly enough, Maris came to the plate with runners on second and third 20 times and received no intentional walks in those situations, and only one unintentional walk. (Walk rate: 5%) Judge has had only 12 such plate appearances, and three of those resulted in intentional walks, with one more unintentional free pass. (Walk rate: 33%)
  • In seven of Maris’s “second and third” appearances, there was only one out – an obvious situation to walk a guy in the process of setting the all-time home run record, since it simultaneously avoids his bat and sets up the double play. No dice. They pitched to him all seven times rather than face Mickey with the bases juiced. In contrast, Judge had six chances in that situation, and was intentionally walked three of those times. Only three? Yeah, go figure. The other three pitchers or managers were obviously daft, since Judge took two of them deep, giving him a nifty 3.500 OPS in that situation.

—–

RELATED: As of Wednesday morning, Judge has 694 plate appearances. Maris had 698 in 1961, and didn’t hit #61 until the very last game of the year, which was #163 in a 162-game schedule! (One game was rained out while tied. The stats counted since it went enough innings to be “official.”)

Rutgers opened the week as 41 point underdogs against THE Ohio State University.

41 points? Ouch! (73% of the bettors have taken Rutgers and the points, which have now plummeted to a mere 39.5 from the opening 41.)

Rutgers, the Big Ten’s perennial punching bag, actually started this season 3-0 against non-conference teams, including a 66-7 drubbing of Wagner, whatever that is. Can a football team schedule games against dead German composers? In that case, I’m impressed that Wagner scored a TD. At least he must put on a good halftime show. I wonder if they bothered playing the second half after the fat lady sang.

The Knights stayed within 17 last week against Iowa in their first conference game, but I suppose the ol’ Rutgers dream bubble is about to burst against THE.

Miami Dolphins fans set up a makeshift strip club in the parking lot before the game.

One wag tweeted: “Disgusting! Does anyone know when the next Miami home game is?”

Hey, it’s good to root in Miami. Outdoors at Lambeau we’re lucky to set up a makeshift igloo. I once saw some guys ice fishing in their truck bed.

And that was a pre-season game in August.

Of course this is a magnificent milestone reflecting two decades of achievement. Only three other men in history have reached the 700 Club: Ruth, Aaron, Bonds.

Many people were supposed to make it. Gehrig got sick. Williams went to war twice. Mantle, Mathews and Foxx hit the bottle. A-Rod ran out of time with just four to go. Mays came close, even after losing part of his youth.

But Señor Sluggo endured.

The most interesting thing about this year has been Albert’s complete rejuvenation. In his youthful years with the Cards, he was the best hitter in the game, with a slash line of .326/.417/.612, good for a 169 OPS+. His 1.029 OPS was the sixth-highest in history, behind only Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Bonds and Foxx. Since four of those guys were American Leaguers, that made Pujols the second-best in National League history.

Even now, he possesses the second-highest OPS in National League history, behind Bonds, but ahead of #3 Hornsby and #4 Musial,

(SIDEBAR: If you do the calculations by AWAY games, Pujols drops quite a bit, and the list goes Bonds-Hornsby-Piazza-Musial-Mays. Most people do not realize how much Piazza’s career was hurt by playing in pitchers’ parks, and therefore do not realize that he was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the NL. Based on rate stats in away games, it’s very close between Piazza and Hornsby for the best right-handed hitter in NL history. Piazza has a higher slugging average, but Hornsby makes up the difference and more in OBP. By the way, Piazza’s lifetime batting average on the road was .321 – pretty impressive when you consider that Ted Williams and Stan Musial “only” batted .328 and .326 on the road. Any time you are in the same general category as those two guys, it shows that you could swing that stick.)

During his stint in LA, Pujols was at best an average-hitting first baseman, with a .758 OPS for the decade, and even worse numbers toward the end. In his last five years in California, his OPS+ was 87, and his on-base percentage was a paltry .290, which basically made him the equivalent of a weak-hitting shortstop taking up a slot at first base or DH that would normally be occupied by a big hitter.

But something miraculous happened this year.

It didn’t start out that way. In early July he was hitting .198 with 4 homers, and it appeared that he would never get the 17 additional dingers he would need to reach 700. But the miracle happened around July 10. Somehow, out of nowhere, he fully rediscovered his youthful stroke. “After his 2-for-4 night Friday, he is batting .319/.381/.696 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs in 48 second-half games.”

Go figure.