Detroit Lions Offensive Line

Detroit Lions offensive line preview 2018

Championship teams are built in the trenches. On defense, the goal is to pressure the quarterback. Offensively, the goal is to open running lanes and keep the quarterback’s jersey clean.

General manager Bob Quinn saw this as a major need last offseason. He shored up the right side of the line with guard T.J. Lang and tackle Rick Wagner. With all signs pointing to the Lions moving on from center, Travis Swanson, the interior offensive line is likely to be a position Quinn focuses on in the draft or free agency.

coaching and outlook

There is a lot of optimism surrounding the offensive line coach heading into this coming season. Jeff Davidson is coming in from Denver as the new offensive line coach for the Lions. He will take over a group that allowed 47 sacks in 2017 and finished last in rushing.

Davidson also has a Patriots connection. He is one of the best in the league at getting the most out of the offensive line. Davidson has spent 13 seasons as either an offensive coordinator or the offensive line coach. In those 13 seasons, his teams averaged the 10th most yards per carry in the league. In six of these seasons, Davidson’s offense finished in the top three in rushing.

Another stat Lions fans have heard constantly is how they have struggled to have a back reach 100 yards in a single game. Let us put this stat into perspective. Davidson had 67 players run for 100 yards in those aforementioned 13 seasons. During these same seasons, Detroit only produced 13 players with 100 yards in a game.

The time is now for the Lions to make a real run at a championship. Matthew Stafford is in his prime. Time will tell how many years he has left, but as we have seen recently in Seattle, windows for championships close fast.

In Stafford’s first nine seasons, he has only had seven 100-yard rushers. Compare that to Blake Bortles in Jacksonville, who had the benefit of seven in 2017 alone. Jared Goff was fortunate enough to have seven this past season as well. Think about what Stafford could do with the offensive balance Bortles and Goff experienced this past season.

ol on the roster

Tackles

Detroit Lions Offensive line

Taylor Decker (Photo by Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

Taylor Decker headlines this group, as he appears to be a franchise left tackle. Surgery forced him to miss more than the first half of the season. This ultimately hindered Detroit’s ability to establish chemistry across the line.

The Lions tried desperately to fill the void left by this injury. Attempts included Brian Mihalik, Greg Robinson and Corey Robinson. Mihalik is young and raw with exceptional arm length. He gained a lot of experience, but being on a roster with Decker and RickWagner will make it hard for him to supplant one of the bookends. Wagner came over from Baltimore last season, signing a five-year, $47.5 million contract.

According to a ranking system created by Duke Manyweather, an NFL1000 offensive line scout, Wagner finished as the 15th best right tackle with an overall grade of 74/100. He rated higher in run blocking than pass protection.

After missing three games, he was able to return in Week 17 against the Packers. Wagner’s return helped the Lions complete the season sweep over Green Bay.

Manyweather rated Decker as the ninth best left tackle in 2017. This rating is impressive considering missed time due to previously mentioned injuries.

Guards and centers

Detroit Lions Offensive Line

Graham Glasgow (Photo by Wesley Hill, Getty Images)

Graham Glasgow and T.J. Lang are the leading returners to this group. They both produced well for the Lions, and Glasgow will be sliding to center, replacing Travis Swanson.

This permanent position change should be continuity to the interior offensive line. It also brings about a big question: Who will be the starting left guard?

Competition is healthy for a position group, especially one regarded as the worst in the league. Expect current Lions, Joe Dahl and Emmett Cleary to compete for the starting left guard spot.

Therefore, it is highly likely to see an interior lineman added during free agency and or the draft. NFL1000 ratings placed Lang at 14th and Glasgow at 24th among all guards in the NFL.

what to expect

There is a lot to be excited about for Lions fans with the offensive line. Decker, Lang, Glasgow and Wagner all rank in the top 25 at their respective positions. With Coach Davidson bringing his expertise to a group of highly rated individuals, he ultimately faces two challenges. The first is to find a left guard. The second, and possibly the tallest task, is getting this unit to gel and build on chemistry to get their individual play to translate to a cohesive unit. The Lions could look to add someone in free agency like Andrew Norwell from the Panthers or a Jonathan Cooper from Dallas.

As for the draft, look for the Lions to add some depth or grab a starter (if no significant moves are made in free agency). Guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame is a top 10 pick, so the Lions will most likely not have a shot at him.

However, the Lions could take Billy Price (Ohio State), Isaiah Wynn (Georgia), Braden Smith (Auburn) or a sleeper late-round pick such as Sean Welsh (Iowa). The success of the 2018 Detroit Lions will come down to how quickly Matt Patricia and Davidson can get this group to come together and work as a unit.

As much as Lions fans are hoping for a quick turnaround, Matthew Stafford must share the enthusiasm and optimism.

 

Featured image by Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

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March Madness conference tournaments

Bring on the conference tournaments

It’s almost March and almost conference tournament play. Conference tournament play is where teams stock both rises and falls. Teams can play their way into the NCAA tournament field with either an automatic bid or by improving their resume. They also could fall off the radar completely.

A loss in a conference tournament could end a team’s NCAA tournament hopes once and for all. Here are a few teams that have the most on the line moving into conference tournament play.

Conference play

Conference play is a preview of the NCAA tournament. It’s a time where teams in power conference play can play three to five games in as many days. Conference play is sometimes more competitive than the NCAA tournament due to the familiarity teams have with each other.

In some cases, teams are seeing each other for the third time this season. Seeing a team three times makes it very competitive cause teams know each other so well. Conference play is important for teams trying to find an identity and for gaining momentum.

Teams like UConn led by Kemba Walker come to mind. Not only did they play their way into the tournament by winning the Big East that season, they ended up running the table and winning the NCAA tournament. They won 11 straight games and became the hottest team in college basketball at the perfect time.

Needing some help

St. Bonaventure: Well the Bonnies need a little help. They are 22-6 overall and 12-4 in conference and are second to only Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies need to at least advance to the A-10 championship game, if not win the conference tournament.

The loss that hurt them the most so far was against 19-12 Niagara on opening night. The team is led by Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, who are two of the top scorers in the conference. They are +7.7 this season in point differential and allow less than 70 points per game this season.

UCLA: The Bruins need to do some work in the Pac-12 tournament. Right now the Bruins resume is lacking a ton of wow factor. Two bad loses that they have are against the same team, Colorado.

The one impressive thing for UCLA is they are 3-0 against the top two teams in the conference in Arizona and Oregon. If UCLA can find a way to get to their conference tournament championship, win or lose, they could build a good enough resume through that and find themselves on the right side of the bubble come selection Sunday.

Playing to the top

March Madness conference tournaments

(Photo from CSmonitor.com)

Ohio State: The Buckeyes have been in and out of the top 25 all season. They are the No. 2 team in a very solid Big Ten. The Buckeyes have a very solid resume and only have two average loses to the Penn State. With the Big Ten getting stronger top to bottom, there is a chance that the Buckeyes could run the table and possibly contend for a one seed in a region.

All they need to do is win games against Purdue and Michigan State and even Michigan (they have beaten all of these teams already), and the committee has to take the Buckeyes seriously.

Auburn: Maybe the biggest surprise this season has been Auburn. They have six wins against the RPI top 50 and are the one seed heading into the SEC tournament. The Tigers are 3-0 against the RPI top 25 and have a 17-5 record against the RPI top 150 overall. They have a record of 24-5 overall and only have one bad loss to South Carolina.

They continue to lead the way in a very balanced conference that could get as many as eight teams into the NCAA tournament. If the Tigers can run through the gauntlet that is the SEC and win the entire conference tournament as well as the regular season, it would be hard to put them anywhere but in a one seed position.

March is almost here

Well it’s almost tournament time. Whether it’s conference tournaments or the NCAA tournament, the best time of year for college basketball fans is finally here. March is a time for teams to rise and other teams to fall. Pretenders fade and the true contenders emerge.

March is a magical time where cinderellas dance and the tougher teams find a way to win. The most exciting time for college basketball is almost among us, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

Featured image from USA Today.

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Michigan Wolverines March Madness

Michigan finding its rhythm at the right time

After Derrick Walton Jr.’s game-winning 3-point attempt clanked off the front rim against Oregon in the Sweet 16, Michigan coach John Beilein could only express this disappointing loss as a missed opportunity.

No one expected Michigan to catch fire and win the Big Ten Tournament after a near fatal plane crash in Washington D.C. Once they shocked a heavily favored Louisville in the Round of 32, many people expected them to get past Oregon to take on Kansas with a shot at a Final Four.

Losing to Oregon stung, especially since Beilein lost the majority of his starting lineup. Walton, along with guard Zak Irvin, were both seniors and forward D.J. Wilson declared for the NBA draft.

Coming into this season, Beilein still had center Moe Wagner to anchor his offense, but he needed other players to step up and take on bigger roles. Duncan Robinson was a solid role player the previous season, but his main value came in his ability to hit open threes. Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews entered the picture, but people were unsure how he would fit in with Beilein’s system.

After a rocky and inconsistent start to the season and Big Ten play, Beilein has his team riding a four-game winning streak, including victories over then-No. 8 Ohio State on senior night and a road victory over an underrated Penn State squad.

Let’s examine why Michigan has stepped up its play of late and whether they can make some noise in the postseason.

The Jack of All Trades

Michigan Wolverines March Madness

Moe Wagner dominated Michigan State with a 27-point performance. (Photo by Dale G. Young/Detroit News)

Junior Moe Wagner is the unquestioned best player on this team. What makes Wagner’s playing style unique is his versatility as a big man. Wagner has a devastatingly quick first step, allowing him to take his man, usually the opposing center, off the dribble on the perimeter. However, defenders have to press him since he shoots the 3-ball at a 40.9 percent clip. In the post, Wagner utilizes his quick footwork to knock his defender off balance and get the shot he wants.

This season, Wagner has averaged 14.6 points on 53.4 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds and one steal. In Michigan’s biggest win of the season, an 82-72 upset over then-No. 4 Michigan State in East Lansing, Wagner abused Nick Ward all night. He poured in 27 points on 61.5 percent shooting while blocking two shots.

In Michigan’s 72-63 victory at Penn State, Wagner controlled the paint on both ends of the court. He dropped in 18 points while hauling in eight rebounds.

However, Wagner’s aggressive and rambunctious playing style can result in foul trouble. Wagner averages about three personal fouls per game, not a mark that Beilein is thrilled about. Wagner’s undisciplined defense is something that opposing coaches will attempt to capitalize on once the Big Ten Tournament and March Madness begins.

Whatever It Takes

Selfless is probably the word that best describes this Michigan team. Every player is willing to sacrifice his personal stat line to help them win. Aside from Wagner, Michigan lacks a consistent offensive threat. Matthews has averaged 13 points per game this season, but cannot seem to buy a bucket in the past three games, scoring 10, six and zero points respectively.

Matthews, rather than feel sorry for himself, stepped up and worked to find other ways to contribute. In Michigan’s 74-62 senior night win over Ohio State, Matthews only scored six points, but worked the glass and accumulated seven rebounds. He also tried to got his teammates involved and dished out three assists.

Even the freshmen have bought into this selflessness. Jordan Poole has only averaged about 12 minutes and 6.5 points per game this season, but has seen his playing time increase lately. Poole’s newfound offensive aggressiveness has led to him scoring 15 points in 19 minutes against Ohio State and 13 points against Penn State (along with potentially the dunk of the year in college basketball).

Refusal to back dOwn

Most of Beilein’s teams are known for their offensive firepower. However, this team is wired differently. The culture of this Wolverine squad revolves around toughness, audacity and fearlessness.

These traits have translated into a defensive ferocity that Beilein has never seen out of his previous teams. Michigan is ranked 17th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.

The Wolverines hound their opponents and force them into poor shot selection. Beilein challenged sophomore Zavier Simpson to slow down the red-hot Tony Carr of Penn State, who has five inches of height on Simpson, and he answered with an emphatic performance. Simpson trailed Carr all game, took him out of his element for most of the game and that allowed Michigan to keep Penn State off balance most of the game. Simpson ended the game with three steals in 32 minutes.

In their win over Ohio State, Michigan forced the Buckeyes into 14 total turnovers compared to their seven. It may not show up on the box score, but the Wolverines understand that their hustle and attitude will be the qualities that carry them throughout the postseason.

If Michigan can continue to ride the coattails of their defense and Wagner can remain out of foul trouble, this team has the tools and toughness necessary to shock a lot of people in the next couple of weeks.

 

Featured image by (Eric Gay/AP Photo).

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NCAA preliminary bracket winners and losers

Winners and losers from the NCAA preliminary bracket

The NCAA Tournament selection committee, for the second straight year, revealed who the top 16 seeds would be if the season ended this past Saturday. The committee deemed Virginia as the top seed of the Tournament despite its home loss to Virginia Tech. Villanova, Purdue and Xavier rounded out the remaining No. 1 seeds.

South: 1. Virginia, 2. Cincinnati, 3. Michigan State and 4. Tennessee.

East: 1. Villanova, 2. Duke, 3. Texas Tech and 4. Ohio State.

West: 1. Purdue, 2. Kansas, 3. North Carolina and 4. Arizona.

Midwest: 1. Xavier, 2. Auburn, 3. Clemson and 4. Oklahoma.

Let’s take a look at who the winners and losers of the committee’s judgement were this year.

Winner: Cincinnati

NCAA preliminary bracket winners and losers

Junior guard Jacob Evans III looks to lead the Cincinnati Bearcats to a strong finish. (Photo by Laurence Kesterson/AP).

The Bearcats are sitting at 23-2 and in first place in the American Athletic Conference. While this record is impressive, Cincinnati has played a weak schedule thus far.

The Bearcats dropped both of their premier non-conference matchups against Xavier and Florida back in December. They defeated UCLA, Temple and Houston, but none of those teams are considered legitimate contenders come March.

The fact that the committee already has Cincinnati as a No. 2 seed shows that they are high on the Bearcats moving forward. Coach Mick Cronin’s squad has a huge opportunity to further bolster its stock with upcoming matchups against Wichita State and Houston.

If Cincinnati can continue its winning ways and another No. 1 team crumbles down the stretch (possibly either Villanova or Xavier), the Bearcats could steal a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Loser: Texas tech

The Red Raiders are poised to capture their first Big 12 regular season championship ever, yet they are only ranked as a No. 3 seed. Coach Chris Beard probably feels somewhat disrespected by this choice, and he has every right to feel that way. The Big 12 is the deepest conference in college basketball this season, sporting four teams in the AP top 25 rankings and three in the top 16 above.

Texas Tech sports an impressive 9-3 Big 12 record that includes a one-point victory over West Virginia (back when the Mountaineers were No. 2 in the nation) and a 12-point win at Kansas. What hurt the Red Raiders was their weak non-conference schedule (their only impressive victory coming against Nevada) coupled with a stretch of Big 12 conference play where they lost three of four.

Regardless of their spot at the moment, Beard’s upstart team has ample opportunities to move up to a No. 2 seed and possibly even a No. 1 if they win out. However, this is easier said than done as Tech has rematches against Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia lined up in the future.

WINNER: THE BIG EAST

While the Big East only has two teams in the top 16, those two teams each captured a No. 1 seed. Villanova and Xavier have slowly developed a fun rivalry this season and have a highly anticipated rematch in Ohio slated for this Saturday. Even more important is that both squads have a significant chance to maintain their spot in the tournament over the next few weeks, especially if Xavier can knock off Villanova this weekend.

The revamped Big East has failed to live up the hype and intensity of the old school conference that featured schools like Syracuse, Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh and Georgetown. However, the Big East has been fairly competitive this season, both in and out of conference.

Competitive teams will not return the Big East to its former glory, but sending two teams into the tournament this season would be a significant step.

LOSER: THE PAC-12

Last season, the conference of champions (as Bill Walton would put it) had three teams vying for top seeds in the tournament at this point in the season. The season resulted in Arizona, Oregon and UCLA going to the Sweet 16 and Oregon making it to the Final Four.

This season has been much less kind to the Pac-12. Arizona entered the season as a national champion contender with top recruit Deandre Ayton coming to town. Coach Sean Miller also hauled in three other top 100 recruits per ESPN in Ira Lee, Emmanuel Akot and Brandon Randolph. Now the Wildcats might be the most disappointing team in the nation up to this point.

Neither UCLA or Oregon have the depth or firepower compared to their respective teams last season. USC entered the season as a dark horse contender for the Final Four, but have seemingly failed to recover from the offseason’s FBI investigation. Needless to say, Arizona is the Pac-12’s best shot at back-to-back Final Four appearances.

 

Featured image by Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports

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The secret to Ohio State’s stunning turnaround

Jubilation enveloped Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann after his No. 14 ranked team shocked No. 3 Purdue on their home court. Behind a double-double from junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes snapped Purdue’s 19 game winning streak with a 64-63 upset victory. This upset vaulted OSU into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Purdue.

Not many pundits would have predicted that at this point in the season that the Buckeyes would have the top seed in the Big Ten tournament in their sights. Holtmann, in his first season as Head Coach of the Buckeyes, has completely altered the culture of the locker room. Let’s examine how he did it.

Comeback Kids

Ohio State has played with fire throughout Big Ten Conference play, winning four games where they have trailed by double digits. Ohio State faced a 14 point deficit with 10:17 remaining in the second half against Purdue. In the game prior versus Illinois, Holtmann’s squad dug themselves into a 15 point hole at the 10:51 mark in the first half.

Stagnant and careless ball movement tends to be the primary culprit of these slow starts. In Ohio State’s 75-67 win over Illinois, the Buckeyes committed a total of 15 turnovers with junior point guard C.J. Jackson and Bates-Diop accounting for 10 of them. In their upset over Purdue, OSU committed seven turnovers in the first half as they struggled to find their footing early.

Holtmann deserves credit for keeping his team engaged and optimistic, even when they face early or late deficits. Instead, through creative in-game adjustments, such as riding a small line-up late in the second half against Purdue, have allowed OSU to catch opponent off guard and get back into games.

Plethora of Play-makers

Jae’Sean Tate celebrates a big play (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America).

Ohio State’s success has not been a product of luck. Holtmann has been able to create both offensive and defensive schemes that bring out the best in his players. Bates-Diop has transformed into a Wooden Award candidate under Holtmann’s teaching and mentorship. Bates-Diop averages 20.2 points at 50.9 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Standing at 6-foot-7 and 235-pounds, Bates-Diop’s versatility allows Holtmann increased line-up flexibility. Bates-Diop has a steady mid-range jumper, quick handles and the physicality to burn defenders in the post.

Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble and play on the block. Tate, however, is not a volume scorer. He focuses on efficiency and making the smart basketball play. He averages 12.7 points on 54.8 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

The engine of Ohio State’s offense is C.J. Jackson. Jackson, a pass first point guard, is an all-around impressive player who can step up and help his team in a variety of ways. He averages 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, showing his overall versatility as a player.

Heart of a Fighter

Ohio State had no business winning at Purdue. They were without senior Kam Williams who has been suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Kaleb Wesson found himself in foul trouble early and only saw 12 minutes of action. Purdue was riding a 19 game winning streak and appeared unbeatable and destined for the number one seed in the Big Ten tournament. In the end though, none of that mattered.

Holtmann and his team rallied around each other and fought through the adversity. On a night where offense came at a premium, Holtmann rolled out a small line-up and the Buckeyes came roaring back behind an aggressive man-to-man defensive scheme. A team that did not believe in each other and in their coach would have quit and accepted it was not their night.

The 2017-2018 Bueckeyes have a different mentality though. They do not back down, regardless of the score or situation. This team personifies the personality and beliefs of Holtmann. After resurrecting a lifeless Butler program, Holtmann left a secure job to take on the daunting task of rebuilding Ohio State’s basketball program. He never shied away from the challenge, instead tackling it head on. And that is exactly what his team has done all season.

 

Featured image by Joe Maiorana/USA Today Sports

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J.T. Barrett Heisman

A look into J.T. Barrett’s comeback season

Last year on New Year’s Eve, Ohio State got embarrassed in the postseason by the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers. Embarrassed might be an understatement, as the Buckeyes were shutout 31-0.

The offense could get absolutely nothing going offensively. They had 215 total yards, three turnovers, just nine first downs and had the ball for about 12 less minutes than Clemson.

A big part of the struggle was quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett had been inconsistent all season long and laid an egg in one of the most important games of the season. Barrett finished the night with 127 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Barrett finished the season with 2,555 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 135.3 rating and a 61.5 completion rate. Barrett also had five games where he completed less than 60 percent of his passes, including three where he didn’t even complete half of them. It was definitely nothing like his freshman year when he helped lead the Buckeyes to the playoffs.

This season

It appeared that some of that inconsistency came into this season as well when Barrett and the Buckeyes struggled early in their season opener against Indiana and then in their loss to Oklahoma in the following week. Fans and analysts were writing off Ohio State already, mostly due to Barrett’s play.

Whatever the reason was for Barrett’s forgettable junior season or his slow start to this season, all of those bad memories have been erased from his brain apparently. Barrett has been performing like his old self this season.

In his next five games after the Oklahoma loss, Barrett began to take off. Yes, those games were against Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska, who all have a combined record of 20-20. But Ohio State took advantage of the opportunity, winning all five games by a combined score of 266-56.

J.T. Barrett heisman

J.T. Barrett played one of his best games ever against Penn State last week. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Then came a test for the Buckeyes with their matchup against Penn State. It was also a test for the Nittany Lions, as the only rated team they had played all season up to that point was Michigan, who is not even ranked in the AP Poll anymore. Penn State got off to a great lead and appeared to have another win over the Buckeyes like they did last season.

Ohio State wasn’t finished though. They scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to beat Penn State 39-38. Barrett played arguably his best game ever. He finished with 328 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, completed 84.6 percent of his passes and also ran for another 95 yards. This game put Barrett in talks for the Heisman Trophy by some analysts.

Is this an overreaction to one good game? Think again.

Barrett’s numbers on the season have been spectacular. He has completed 69.5 percent of his passes, which is seventh in the NCAA. He has thrown for 2,166 yards, 25 touchdown passes (third), one interception (lowest for players with at least 70 attempts), and a 176.2 rating (third).

He also leads the Big Ten Conference in all of those categories, which is arguably the best conference in college football. Not too much of an overreaction after all.

Barrett now finds himself in the Heisman race with Penn State running back and Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley, Stanford running back Bryce Love, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Barrett’s case for the Heisman

It seems that it is Barkley’s award to lose. The guy has been doing it all for the Nittany Lions all season long.

Love has also had an amazing year, but has played a bunch of average teams. However, he is averaging over 10 yards per carry and has 1,387 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That is impressive regardless of which power five conference you play in. But let me explain Barrett’s case.

J.T. Barrett Heisman

Could Barrett actually win the Heisman this season? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First off, the numbers don’t lie. Don’t let the yards by Rudolph and Mayfield fool you. Yes, they may have more passing yards than Barrett, but look at their strength of schedule.

Rudolph has played just two teams with records over .500. They beat West Virginia, but lost to TCU. Mayfield has played just two as well, losing to Iowa State, but beating Ohio State. Barrett’s yards would probably be through the roof too if he was playing teams like Baylor and UTEP.

Barrett has played three teams over .500, including Oklahoma, Army and Penn State. The worst team he has played has a 3-5 record. Rudolph has played four teams with losing records, including 0-8 Baylor and 2-7 Tulsa. Mayfield has also 0-8 UTEP and 0-8 Baylor.

Despite Barrett’s schedule, he still has more touchdowns and less interceptions than both Rudolph and Mayfield. Not to mention he has more rushing yards than them and also a higher completion rate and rating than Rudolph.

The rest of the season

Barrett is going to have a few more tests before the season is all said and done. They will play at Iowa this week, who has always been a competitor in the Big Ten. Then they will host No. 24 Michigan State, who have been surprisingly successful so far this season. They will also end the season against their big rival Michigan at The Big House.

Barrett will get the chance to prove himself worthy of the Heisman against some of the best competition in the Big Ten. If you ask me, I think he can handle it and will prove to the doubters that he is legit.

If Ohio State wins out, they will be back in the playoffs, looking for redemption after their loss last season. You can bet these Buckeyes want nothing more than a shot at the National Title to make everybody forget about last season. It is going to be an exciting finish.

 

 

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit:http://www.sportingnews.com)

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.panthers.com)

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

 

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Featured image courtesy of https://bloggingdirty.com/2015/10/18/atlanta-falcons-state-of-nfc-south-week-6/

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the second edition, Super Bowl Series: AFC East.

New England Patriots

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The defending Super Bowl champions are the easiest team in the NFL to dissect during the Super Bowl series. If you had to bet your life on a team winning the division then your safest bet would be the Patriots. Since 2000, the Patriots have won 14 out of the 17 division titles, including eight straight. New England’s dominance within the division shouldn’t change this season.

The old adage says defense wins championships. Defensively, the Patriots are going to be stacked. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in points allowed per game at 15.6. They were also eighth in yards allowed per game (326.4) and ranked seventh in opponents third down conversion percentage (37 percent). The Patriots also added defensive end Kony Ealy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to improve.

To win Super Bowl LII, New England must put up defensive numbers in the same ballpark as last seasons. If the Patriots allow under 20 points per game, the chances of making it back to the Super Bowl increase exponentially.

One area of concern from the Patriots’ offense comes from the offensive line. Pro Football Focus recently released its projected 2017 offensive line rankings in which New England was surprisingly ranked 19th. Tom Brady can make up for a poor offensive line with his quick release which averages between 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.

The Patriots will improve as they get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. New England also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks who will help stretch the field vertically.

The only thing stopping the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII is injuries to key players, and even then, Bill Belichick could still pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the big game.

Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami was a surprise playoff team last year, especially after its 1-4 start. The Dolphins finished the season with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth. They lost that wild card game in Pittsburgh, 30-12.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must improve vastly on defense. Miami ranked 18th in points allowed per game (23.8), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (242.2), 19th in sacks (33) and 30th in rushing yards allowing 140.4 yards per game.

Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips must stuff the run this season to help Miami improve their rush defense.

Rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillian was a tackling machine at Ohio State, racking up 275 total tackles in three years and his immediate impact should help the Dolphins stop the run better in 2017.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must continue to dominate up front. The Dolphins ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 114 yards per game. Miami needs to stay in the top 10 in rushing to help Ryan Tannehill succeed in the passing game.

Running the ball consistently will help Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense improve their 26th-ranked passing attack. If the Dolphins can progress their passing game to a similar level of their running game, then the offense can average more than 22.7 points per game which ranked 17th last season.

Miami must improve its rushing defense, passing offense and upset New England in the regular season to earn some home playoff games. If the Dolphins are able to do this then they will have a shot at hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy.

Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo is starting off fresh with new head coach Sean McDermott. McDermott will emphasize defense with the Bills and that could turn them into contenders very quickly. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and taking the leap from 7-9 to Super Bowl champs is going to be difficult.

Last season, the Bills were the best rushing team in the NFL averaging 164.4 yards per game. Staying first in rushing will be the first step towards making the playoffs. Buffalo did not have trouble scoring points either as they averaged 24.9 points per game which was 10th best in the NFL.

The major area that needs improvement on offense is in the passing game. Buffalo only threw for 189.8 yards per game last season. In this era of football, passing for less than 200 yards is somewhat pitiful. Buffalo needs to jump that number up past 230 yards or more to become a dangerous offensive juggernaut.

Defensively, Buffalo was average last season. The Bills gave up 23.6 points per game which ranked 16th. Buffalo should try to become a top-10 scoring defense to improve its chances of making the playoffs. The secondary was the best unit on defense as they only gave up 223.9 yards passing per game.

The rush defense was a different story. Buffalo ranked 29th, giving up 133.1 yards per game. If Buffalo’s rush defense can move into the middle of the pack, then its defense can really become great.

For the Buffalo Bills to end their long playoff drought and win the Super Bowl, they must improve their passing attack on offense and stop the run on defense. Also, just like Miami, the Bills must split with the Patriots. Splitting with New England gives the Bills a shot at winning the division and home games in the playoffs make all the difference.

New York Jets

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Jets are going to need a miracle to win Super Bowl LII. Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets seemed to have gotten worse with the moves they have made. New York let go of Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk and Nick Mangold. The roster is going to look completely different from last year.

Making the playoffs is going to be hard and winning the Super Bowl is going to be close to impossible. If the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, then Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are going to have to have an unbelievable year. The Jets ranked 27th in passing yards per game with 216.6. Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback will need to take a big leap to improve this number.

New York ranked 30th in points scored last season, averaging only 17.2 points per game. That must also improve drastically. The Jets did have a solid running game averaging 112.6 yards per game last year. Matt Forte is getting old for a running back but Bilal Powell will spell Forte enough that the Jets can continue to be a solid running team.

Head coach Todd Bowles is known for his defense but last season the Jets had no defense. They ranked 28th in points (25.6), 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Bowles must turn the Jets into a top five defense if the Jets want to win games this season.

The most important thing the Jets must do is find their starting quarterback. Improving the passing game and putting more points on the board is key in the Jets pursuit of a Super Bowl. If they manage to do this along with becoming a top five defense under Bowles, then the Jets can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: AFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC North

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”
Ohio State

What’s Going on With Ohio State Basketball?

What has happened to Ohio State basketball? After a national championship runner-up finish in 2007 and seven straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2009-2015, the Buckeyes haven’t made the tournament for two straight years.

Ohio State went 21-14 last year and failed to make the tournament. This year they went 17-15, which is their worst record under Thad Matta since he started in 2004. Now with the news that JaQuan Lyle has quit the team, the Buckeyes are in a tough spot.

It was reported earlier this week that Lyle actually quit the team back in April. It was also reported that Lyle was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors in his hometown of Evansville, Indiana. He was later released on a $150 bond.

With Lyle’s departure, Ohio State now has no players from their 2015 recruiting class, which consisted of five guys including Lyle. Austin Grandstaff transferred to DePaul, Daniel Giddens transferred to Alabama, A.J Harris transferred to New Mexico State and Mickey Mitchell went to Arizona State.

Ohio State

Ohio State coach Thad Matta (Photo/ Kirk Irwin).

Matta also only signed one player in the ESPN top 100 class of 2016 and so far only has one this year for the class of 2017.

That leaves only three guards on scholarship for the Buckeyes, leaving a large hole in the backcourt. C.J Jackson, Kam Williams, and incoming freshman Braxton Beverly are the only three guards Ohio State has on scholarship. That could change if Williams decides to stay in the NBA draft. He has until May 24 to withdraw his name and retain eligibility for next year.

Buckeye fans shouldn’t have worried about these past two seasons on the court because bad seasons happen. It’s what is happening off the court that fans should be worried about. When a team has had a bad season like the Buckeyes have had these past two years, they try and make up for it with recruiting. Ohio State has not done that.

For many, that is a reason to dislike Matta and want him gone. But Matta has earned the right to coach at least next season. He is a well-liked coach; many people think he is still the man for the job. At only 49 years old, he still has many coaching years left if the stars align.

Att the moment, there aren’t enough players coming in. Transfers, decommitments and players leaving for the NBA are a normal thing. However, people don’t seem like they want to play basketball at Ohio State right now.

Matta has earned the right to try and turn it around, and he probably will be given that chance. If things don’t turn around soon, then there could be a few changes.

 

Featured photo by Charlie Neibergall

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Tom Ryan: Making Ohio State more than just a football school

The Ohio State University is generally known as a football program. However, as college wrestling’s popularity continues to grow, the program’s wrestling team is gaining more and more respect. Head coach Tom Ryan led Ohio State to its first ever national championship in 2015, and the Buckeyes were the national runner-up a season ago.

Ohio State won the Big Ten Tournament last season, knocking off eventual national champion Penn State in the process. The Buckeyes had the most combined points over the season. Even though Penn State took home the national title, Ryan said the 2017 Ohio State wrestling team may’ve been better than the 2015 national champion team.

“By all measure, the season was arguably the greatest in Ohio State wrestling history,” Ryan said.

Tom Ryan Transforms Ohio State

Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan has turned Ohio State into one of the best wrestling programs in the nation. (Photo: Ohio State University)

When Gene Smith was hired as Ohio State’s director of athletics in 2005, Ryan was one of the first coaches Smith hired. The coveted coach credited Smith’s leadership as the pinnacle to Ohio State’s winning ways.

Ryan said the transformation of the program from being a middle-tier team to one of the most prestigious in the nation started with recruitment and the development of the guys they bring in.

The state of Ohio is littered with the best wrestlers in the country. Ryan said as his program has grown, his pitches to recruits have gotten stronger.

“At Ohio State you’re really able to lay out what life will look like not only during your time here, but after,” Ryan said.

Ohio State’s networks and prestige help Ryan sell the university to recruits, giving him a leg up on other schools who can’t offer more than just on-the-mat promises.

“We focus on the academic strength of the university,” Ryan said. “We focus on the opportunities of alumni involvement after you’re done. There’s excellence everywhere.”

Favorite Memories as a Coach

Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan has coached multiple national champions, including Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder. (Photo: FMMF Charlotte)

In all the years Ryan has coached in Columbus, his Buckeyes are the only team not named Penn State to win the national championship in the past seven years. Ryan said bringing home the team title in 2015 made it his most special season.

Logan Stieber’s first national title came in 2012 against defending national champion Jordan Oliver. Ryan said Stieber’s first title of four was the most exciting he’s coached.

“His first was probably one of his most emotional matches,” Ryan said. “We knew he was good enough to get four [national championships], but he had to get through a really solid opponent, the reigning national champion.”

In 2016, Olympic champion Kyle Snyder burst onto the college wrestling scene as a freshman. The heavyweight ended his opponent Nick Gwiazdowski’s 88-match winning streak in the national title match.

“It was just epic because it was in Madison Square Garden and we were down late,” Ryan said. “He just kept coming in the Kyle Snyder way. That was a great title match.”

Snyder may be the strongest wrestler in the world, but Ryan said his integrity off the mat is even more noteworthy.

“The wins are clearly impressive, but who he is, how he trains, the way he thinks and the way he treats people is at a level that is extremely high,” Ryan said.

The 2018 Season

For the 2018 season, Ohio State will keep all ten starters and will have six All-Americans on the roster. On top of that, the Buckeyes bring in a historic recruiting class, with multiple top ten wrestlers in their weight class set to join the team.

Although nationally-acclaimed wrestlers like Braken Mead, Ethan Smith, Kaleb Romero and Chase Singletary will be rostered, Ryan said they all could train under wrestlers who have been to the top for their first year before finding their own time on the mat.

Ohio State is stacked for the 2018 on paper. As frontrunners for the national title, Ryan is able to continue what could become a dynasty through the excellent persona Ohio State enjoys.

“You sell the dream, you sell the big picture, you sell that you can win four national titles here. Now you can sell world titles and Olympic titles.”

 

You can listen to Tim Miller interview Tom Ryan in its entirety below.

 

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