Matt Forte has been a rock-solid running back for the Chicago Bears for years, and the team has just not gotten around to showing its appreciation of the Pro Bowl running back.The sound and reliable Forte agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth roughly $32 million,The Bears had placed their franchise tag on Forte in March and the sides had until 4 p.m. today to reach an agreement. Without a long-term deal, Forte would have had to play the 2012 season under the $7.749 million tender or sit out the season.The deal is a sign of respect for Forte. He has been under-appreciated most of his career and when he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a Dec. 4 loss to Kansas City — shelving him for the season — it would not have been a surprise if the Bears held back on a new deal.Forte went into last season looking for an extension, but was disappointed when the sides could not did not reach an agreement with the Bears. There was a point where he believed he would be playing his last year in a Bears’ uniform because they could not come to terms.But look at him now. Forte got rewarded with a multi-year deal even though the team had not seen how he fared after the injury.Without Forte and quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears struggled down the stretch and finished third in the NFC North, missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record.Still, Forte was so strong before his injury that he still got his first Pro Bowl selection. He finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing in his fourth season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Forte was the first Chicago running back to make it to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson following the 1991 season.
We often hear about the NFL’s dominance in the mindshare of sports fans, and it’s hard to argue with the facts and figures floating around to support this notion. Pro football has been No. 1 in the annual Harris Poll survey of Americans’ favorite sports for three consecutive decades, and the NFL’s television ratings routinely trounce those of other sports. But, curiously, I was fooling around with Google Trends, and there is at least one area in which the NFL is not crushing the opposition: Google searches.The NFL is trailing the NBA by about 5 percent since Google’s Trends search data became available in 2004.There are a lot of factors that can cloud these results, including the possibility that not all search terms are being correctly attributed to each league. This is a particular issue for “football,” which is, as you probably know, what everyone outside the U.S. calls soccer. Recent improvements to Trends make this issue less problematic, but it’s still worth mentioning.The numbers also include worldwide searches; the NBA has a large global presence (particularly in Asia), and Google is, by definition, biased toward countries with a greater number of Internet users. For what it’s worth, the NFL is still tops by quite a bit within the U.S.Even so, it’s an interesting data point about the relative global reach of America’s biggest sports leagues. If we look at things from an international perspective, the NFL is not the behemoth it usually appears to be stateside.
If you’ve ever watched a tennis player dominate with the first serve but saw the second serve obliterated by the returner, you might have wondered: Why don’t more players go for it on their second serve? Wouldn’t they be better off treating their second opportunity to serve like their first one?The answer almost always is no.Most servers win a much higher percentage of points on their first serve than their second serve. For example, in his five-set marathon loss to Kei Nishikori as Monday night turned to Tuesday morning at the U.S. Open, Milos Raonic won 87 percent of his first-serve points but just 47 percent of his second-serve points.During that match, Min Han, a biologist at the University of Colorado, emailed me. “I wonder whether some of the big servers in men’s tennis should serve the fast ‘first’ serve all the time,” Han wrote. “For some of these guys, the difference between the winning percentage on their first serve and that on the second serve seems huge.”It’s a good suggestion. But the season-long numbers suggest nearly every player would be hurt, not helped, by treating the second serve like a first serve. Except in a couple of cases, the higher probability that the second serve lands in the court more than compensates for the higher effectiveness of first serves.Let’s start with the average Top 50 men’s player. This year heading into the U.S. Open, he wins 73.6 percent of service points when the first serve lands in, compared to 57.5 percent when the second serve lands in. But his first serve lands in just 61.9 percent of the time, compared to 91.1 percent of second serves. So if he went for his first serve on both points, he’d win 73.6 percent of second-serve points when the ball lands in, but double fault on 38.1 percent of them. His second-serve winning percentage would be just 45.6 percent, compared to 52.4 percent now. Bad move.This is just an average. It varies widely by player. Mikhail Youzhny has a relatively weak first serve without landing in the court all that often, so he’d be especially unwise to go for his first serve again given a second opportunity. His second-serve winning percentage would drop by 12.7 percentage points.By contrast, Ivo Karlovic, who is 6 feet 10, has a relatively weak second serve and usually lands his excellent first serve in, so he’d gain 2 percentage points on his second-serve winning percentage if he went for his first serve twice. That’s a modest gain, and Karlovic is the only player in the Top 50 who’d get a high enough reward to justify the high-risk tactic. (Raonic would be nearly even, but slightly worse off — as he would have been if he’d gone for second-serve bombs against Nishikori, since he missed so often on first serves in that match.)Even Karlovic couldn’t have anticipated before this season that he would have benefited from the risky strategy. In each of the past two seasons, it would have hurt him slightly. No current Top 50 player who played at least five matches in 2013 would have gained from hitting exclusively first serves, and only Gael Monfils would have in 2012. (Players’ serve percentages are fairly persistent from year to year, and therefore so is the effect of the tactic on a player’s serve success — a correlation coefficient of 0.66 between this year and 2013, and of 0.7 between this year and 2012, for current Top 50 players with at least 25 matches in each season.)The story is similar in the women’s game. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) sent me data this season heading into the U.S. Open. Among 94 players with at least 15 matches, just six would have benefited from going for their first serves on second serve: Victoria Azarenka, Annika Beck, Yvonne Meusburger, Monica Niculescu, Sara Errani and Yaroslava Shvedova.Errani, the 2012 French Open finalist, doesn’t have a great first serve. It was even singled out in a New York Times article this week as one of the oddest strokes on tour. But she lands it in at an unusually high rate, leading the WTA in each of the past four seasons and ahead among regulars this year. And her second serve is bad enough to be worth replacing with the first serve, though not by much: She’d have gained 0.6 percentage points on her second-serve winning percentage with the riskier tactic.The biggest beneficiary of hitting two first serves is Azarenka, the former No. 1 player in the world who was knocked out of the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals by Ekaterina Makarova. Heading into the U.S. Open, she’d have had a second-serve winning percentage of 44.7 percent by hitting two first serves, instead of her atrocious 38.5 percent.Last year, Azarenka and Errani also would have benefited from the riskier serving approach. Beck and Niculescu would have, too. Meusburger and Shvedova wouldn’t have, though.Returns on the tactic also could be very volatile from match to match. Though Azarenka’s pre-U.S. Open stats argue for a riskier serving tactic, it would have hurt her in four of her five U.S. Open matches, including her loss to Makarova.These calculations simplify serving by reducing it to just first and second serves. Most players employ a wide variety of first serves, with different levels of risk and effectiveness. Perhaps a bomb down the T of the court is too risky for a second serve, but a slider out wide lands in the court often enough to be worth it. Then again, go too often to a reliable serve and the returner will adjust and make it less effective.The calculations also don’t account for the psychological elements of the sport. Returners might get rattled if they know they’ll never face easy serves. But the toll on a server who double-faults much more often could be even greater.CORRECTION (Sept. 4, 2:40 p.m.): If the average Top 50 ATP player went for his first serve on both points, he’d double fault on 38.1 percent of his second-serve points. A previous version of this article said he’d double fault on 38.9 percent of them.
With an 8-4 victory in Los Angeles Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs took a 3-2 NLCS lead over the LA Dodgers and now head back to Chicago just one win away from the World Series. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo prediction model, the Cubs have an 81 percent chance of capturing the franchise’s first pennant since 1945. And with a 51 percent probability of winning the World Series, Chicago is now more likely than not to end its 108-year drought and celebrate a title for the first time since 1908.Of course, Cubs fans have heard some version of this before. The team entered Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS under the same conditions — up three games to two, needing only to win one of the next two games (both at Wrigley Field) to clinch the pennant — but then disaster struck. They also led the 1984 NLCS two games to none, needing to win only one of the next three games in San Diego to advance (back when the league championship series used a best-of-five format). That advantage conferred an even greater pennant probability184 percent, according to a basic calculation that just looks at home-field advantage and the number of games remaining at each location. than Chicago has now or had in 2003,279 percent in both cases, according to the same measure we looked at for 1984. and they still managed to blow it. So Chicagoans can be forgiven if they’re not booking travel to Cleveland quite yet.And if the Cubs’ championship dreams end up being deferred to a 109th year, it’ll probably be because of the Dodgers’ pitching trio of Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill. According to Elo’s starting-pitcher rating component, Kershaw is the best starter in baseball by a mile — he boosts LA’s Elo rating by a whopping 71 points when he takes the mound — and he’ll try to help the Dodgers stave off elimination Saturday night. Hill, LA’s starter for a potential Game 7, is no slouch either: He ranks 14th among starting pitchers in our ratings. And for his part, Jansen, the Dodgers’ closer, has completely shut down the Cubs when called upon in the NLCS so far, notching 16.2 strikeouts per 9 innings over a couple of multi-inning appearances.The Cubs will counter with their own aces — Game 6 starter Kyle Hendricks ranks seventh in Elo, and they’ll likely send 18th-ranked Jake Arrieta to the hill in Game 7 — but Chicago’s fate might come down to how well its lineup hits LA’s star pitchers. Although the Cubs’ offense has been incredibly uneven in this series, scoring eight or more runs in each of the team’s three wins and zero in each of its two losses, the common threads in those scoreless games have been that either Kershaw or Hill took the mound as the starter, and Jansen (who appeared in both games) came in to close it out. Before Chicago can pop champagne in Wrigley’s spacious, newly renovated locker room, they’ll probably have to score some runs off the Dodgers’ aces.But for now, the Cubs find themselves in a good spot. They’ve been the talk of baseball all season long; now they’re closer than ever to fulfilling their potential and ending the franchise’s absurdly long dry spell. VIDEO: Cleveland fooled us twice
Harrison posted a 9.750 on her first time on floor after being out all season for the event due to a preseason hip injury. Junior Alexis Mattern takes her turn on the uneven bars at St. John Arena on Feb. 4. Credit: Megan Russell | Lantern reporter The meet result in victory for the OSU women, but coach Carey Fagan said that she didn’t take the win for granted. The Ohio State women’s gymnastics team brought home a big win in their co-ed meet against Rutgers after a two-meet losing streak. For their third win of the season, the Buckeyes posted a final score of 195.775-194.300 over the Scarlet Knights. “At first I felt bad because Janelle got hurt, so I never want to see my teammates hurt,” said Harrison. “But my coach asked me ‘So how do you feel about it?’ and I said ‘Oh, I’m so excited. I’m ready.’” The Buckeyes claimed a shutout for the meet, placing first in every event. Junior Alexis Matter earned a career-best for yet another meet in a row of 39.400 to take first for the all-around. At the half point of the meet, the Buckeyes still held the lead over the Scarlet Knights with an overall score of 97.800. In the fourth and final event, Mattern tied her career-high of 9.925 to earn first for floor. A last minute lineup change was made right before the start of the rotation where Harrison stepped in place of sophomore Janelle McClelland. The OSU women started strong on vault, tallying a 49.025. Mattern posted a 9.825 to place first overall for the event. “I was happy with how the team responded,” Fagan said. “We had a couple of bad landings on vault and that can sometimes shake a team and their confidence, and we needed to make a couple of lineup changes towards the end, but they seemed to really handle it. Sometimes you have a mistake and everybody kind of folds, but this team was pretty mentally tough, so I’m happy overall.” The OSU women’s gymnastics team will travel to University Park next next Saturday, Feb 11 for a dual meet against Penn State. In the second rotation on uneven bars, freshman Olivia Aepli and Mattern led the tea, both scoring 9.825 to tie for first overall. Sophomore Kaitlyn Hoflland missed the stick, falling on the dismount to tally the team low-score of 8.875 for the night. “Today I had my teammates in front of me, I had my teammates behind me when I was going,” Mattern said. “So that really just gave me the strength and the positive energy to just go out and do the best that I could do.” The team gained momentum in the third rotation on balance beam earning a 48.900 for the event. Junior Taylor Harrison posted a 9.878 to take first for the event.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Ohio State has had one elite runner since the beginning of the season. Now, it looks like the Buckeyes might have two. Braxton Miller carried the majority of the load for the Buckeye offense through OSU’s first five games, tallying 577 yards on the ground while adding 933 yards in the air. The sophomore quarterback was by far the biggest threat in OSU’s running game. Miller carried the ball 90 times through five games, with no other Buckeye totaling more than 40 carries in that same span. The carries didn’t come easily for Miller, though, as the now-Heisman candidate took a number of hits, some of which caused him to miss action. The bumps and bruises Miller attained had many people – including players and coaches within the Buckeye program – calling for someone on the OSU offense, specifically a running back, to give Miller some relief. Carlos Hyde answered that call over the last two games. The OSU junior running back has run for 296 yards on 50 attempts in the Buckeyes’ most recent two games. Hyde followed up a 28 carry, 140-yard performance against Nebraska on Oct. 6 with a 22 carry, 156-yard outing at Indiana Saturday. He has six total touchdowns – five rushing and one receiving – over the past two games. Hyde, who seemingly broke at least one tackle on every run he had Saturday, gave the credit for his burst onto the running game scene to the Buckeyes’ offensive line after OSU’s 52-49 victory against the Hoosiers. “You’ve got to thank those guys up front. They did their job. When they go, we go. So it was going pretty good today,” Hyde said. Hyde has taken some of the running-game load off Miller’s shoulders with his recent performances, but the Buckeyes’ quarterback is still running the ball. He’s running quite a bit, actually, and he should be, according to first-year coach Urban Meyer and Buckeye players. Miller totaled 23 rushing attempts for 149 yards and a score Saturday after running for 186 yards on 16 carries against Nebraska. He remains OSU’s most talented runner, according to his teammates. The difference between now and the first five games of the season, though, is that OSU’s rushing attack has gone from a single-handed, almost-heroic one-man effort to a two-headed monster. And that’s a major positive for Meyer, who had little to take away from the Buckeyes’ narrow victory at Indiana Saturday. “We are 7-0 and we ran the ball for 350 yards and had two guys really haul it running the ball (Saturday),” Meyer said. OSU didn’t get off to a great start against Indiana, as the Buckeyes trailed, 14-10, midway through the second quarter. The Buckeyes took control of the game by halftime and brought a 24-14 lead into the break. The OSU defense collapsed in the second half, allowing 35 points. It was runs from Miller and Hyde that allowed OSU to hang on to win. Miller had a 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Hyde added two scores of his own – the first, a 14-yard shovel pass, pushed OSU’s lead to 14 points and the second stretched the lead to 18. “They started off slow. But they came back, and came back in a flurry,” Meyer said. “The good thing is that I saw possession of time around 36 minutes. There are some real strong positives in (the running game) right now.” There are not only positives, but also historic numbers. Saturday night marked just the fifth time in OSU history – and the first time in 37 years – in which two players had 100-plus yard performances in back-to-back games. The last Buckeye players to match Miller’s and Hyde’s totals over the past two games were former running backs Archie Griffin and Pete Johnson in 1975. It’s probably safe to say that OSU has its running game rolling right now, and it is something that Buckeye players say will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop. “It’s weird. With coach Meyer, everyone thought we’d be throwing the ball everywhere but I would say we probably have one of the best rushing attacks in the country,” said OSU senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner. “With Carlos and (redshirt sophomore running back Rod Smith) coming along pretty well, and then with Braxton probably being the best runner in the country, I’d say people have a lot to worry about with our rushing attack.” OSU is scheduled to return to action Saturday at noon against Purdue at Ohio Stadium.
While Ohio State’s football team will be playing under the lights for a second week in a row, the mood surrounding Saturday’s game against Indiana might differ from the one that resonated during last weekend’s 63-38 win against Nebraska. After back-to-back wins against ranked Big Ten competition vaulted the Buckeyes to No. 8 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, coach Urban Meyer said he’s concerned that his team might overlook an unranked Hoosiers squad. It’s an issue that Meyer addressed as a “huge concern” Wednesday night. “(Indiana) has played better,” Meyer said. “This team took – should’ve – beat Michigan State.” OSU, which matched its six wins from 2011 last Saturday, will travel to Bloomington, Ind., in just its second road game of the year for an 8 p.m. tilt with the 2-3 Hoosiers. Making it to 7-0, though, might not come as easily as some have suggested. Junior running back Carlos Hyde said it’s easy to forget that Indiana nearly beat Michigan State a week after the Buckeyes defeated the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich. “I don’t try to take any team lightly,” Hyde said. “I mean, you just can’t overlook them. Indiana is a good team. They played Michigan State great, they came out strong against Michigan State, and, you know, we beat Michigan State by a point, you know, they was beating Michigan State all the way into the fourth quarter.” Likewise, redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said the Buckeyes aren’t going to overlook the Hoosiers. “(Indiana) is a better team than last year and last year we were losing to them for a little while,” Roby said. “We’re not going to take them for granted, we’re gonna go in and gonna make sure we try to make as many plays as early as possible to shut down any momentum they might be able to get.” OSU beat Indiana 34-20 at Ohio Stadium last season. Sometimes, Meyer said, wins can be taken for granted and the first-year coach said he’s been guilty of such a charge before. “It happened with me,” he said, “and it won’t happen again.” Hall likely out, Barnett back Meyer said senior running back and captain Jordan Hall likely won’t play in the Buckeyes’ game against Indiana. “He’s just not full speed,” Meyer said. “(He’s) doubtful for this week.” Junior safety C.J. Barnett, however, will play, Meyer said. “(He’s) about full speed,” Meyer said. “He’s playing.” Replacing Sabino After redshirt senior linebacker and captain Etienne Sabino left last Saturday’s game against Nebraska with a broken right fibula, Meyer said OSU hasn’t finalized anything yet as to who will be stepping into the vacancy left by the the Miami, Fla., native. Meyer, though, said freshman linebacker Joshua Perry, who saw substantial action Saturday, is getting better, as is fellow freshman linebacker David Perkins and senior linebacker Storm Klein. The coach said he went back and “did homework” on the recruitment of linebackers and noticed “out of the last 10 guys (recruited), only two are really playing.” The depth of OSU’s linebackers, Meyer said, is a concern. “We got to get some guys going, they got to get going,” he said. “That position is not Ohio State standard right now, not depth-wise.” Hyde ready for more touches After toting the ball 28 times for 140 rushing yards and four touchdowns against the Cornhuskers, Hyde said he’s fine carrying a load for the Buckeyes’ offense. “That’s part of being a running back carrying the ball that many times,” Hyde said. “I’m ready and excited for that.”
Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop attempts a 3-point shot in the second half against Northeastern on Nov. 19 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for ContentOhio State (5-1) rode a strong ending to the first half and took the lead early in the second half to beat Stanford (3-4) 79-71 in the second round of the Motion Bracket in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon.The Buckeyes opened up the second half with a 3-pointer from junior guard C.J. Jackson to give Ohio State the 35-32 lead. Ohio State held the lead for the remainder of the game. Jackson finished the game going 7-for-14 from the field for 23 points, three assists and six rebounds.The two teams traded punches the remainder of the game, finishing on a near-even, Ohio State 44-37 run.A 3-pointer by redshirt junior guard Robert Cartwright with 10:45 left in the first half gave the Cardinal a 10-8 lead. The Cardinal then went on a 21-13 run over the next 6:54 to extend its lead to 31-21.Ohio State finished the second half on an 11-1 run to tie the game at 32, fueled by three 3-pointers from redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. He hit a deep 3 to tie the game with seven seconds left in the first half.The Buckeyes were led by Bates-Diop, who finished the game with his fifth double-double of the season. He went 6-for-13 from the field — including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc — for 18 points and 11 rebounds. As a team, the Buckeyes went 25-for-61 (41 percent) from the field, compared to just 22-for-61 (36 percent) from the Cardinal. Ohio State outrebounded Stanford 43 to 38.The Buckeyes will next take on Butler at 3 p.m. ET Sunday in its last match in the PK80 Invitational.
Ohio State senior forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) takes a shot in the second half against Indiana on Jan. 30 in the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorIt would be an understatement to say No. 16 Ohio State had a bad week.The Buckeyes lost 79-56 to Penn State on Thursday, then fell 74-62 to Michigan on Sunday in back-to-back road games. The two losses dropped Ohio State from first place in the Big Ten to a tie with Purdue for second behind Michigan State with just two games remaining.With its Big Ten regular-season title hopes all but dashed, Ohio State (22-6, 11-3 Big Ten) will focus on bouncing back from the losses and gaining momentum heading into Big Ten tournament play in its its final home game of the season against Rutgers at 7 p.m. Tuesday.Projected StartersRutgers:G — Corey Sanders — Junior, 6-foot-2, 176 lbs., 14.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apgG — Geo Baker — Freshman, 6-foot-4, 180 lbs., 10.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.9 apgG — Issa Thiam — Sophomore, 6-foot-10, 190 lbs., 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.6 apgF — Deshawn Freeman — Senior, 6-foot-7, 227 lbs., 11.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.9 apgC — Shaquille Doorson — Junior, 7-foot, 275 lbs., 2.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.2 apgOhio State: G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 12.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apgF — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.9 apgF — Andre Wesson — Sophomore, 6-foot-6, 220 lbs., 2.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.1 apgF — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 19.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 apgC — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 10.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apgAddressing recent strugglesThough Rutgers will bring one of the nation’s worst offenses to Columbus, this game will be pivotal for Ohio State to begin addressing issues highlighted in last week’s losses. The Buckeyes lost physical battles against both Penn State and Michigan. Penn State out-rebounded Ohio State 38-30. Michigan finished with a slight 26-25 defensive rebounding advantage, but also scored 32 points in the paint.Part of the Buckeyes’ issues stemmed from defending guards larger than their own. Penn State’s 6-foot-5, 204-pound guard Tony Carr dropped 30 points — including 4-for-8 from 3-point range — against Ohio State. The next game, Michigan’s 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman delivered 17 points, and 6-foot-4, 190-pound freshman Jordan Poole scored 15.Rutgers is fourth in the conference in offensive rebounding, the 30th-tallest team in the country and has relied on strong post play to generate the bulk of its scoring. Overall, 60.5 percent of its points have come from 2-pointers this season, the second-highest percentage in the country.The Scarlet Knights also have received the most out of their guards. Geo Baker and Corey Sanders are two of the highest point-scorers on the team. The two were the only players to score double-digits against Ohio State in the last meeting between the two teams on Jan. 14.It would seem like a concerning matchup for the Buckeyes if not for the team’s inept offense. The Scarlet Knights average the 20th-fewest points per game in the nation with the ninth-lowest field-goal percentage in the country.Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said going up against a good rebounding team and one that relies on interior scoring to win means his team will need to focus on what plagued it in the past two games.“When their guards are rolling and their bigs play off their guards really well, they make it for a difficult matchup,” Holtmann said. “It’s as physical a team as we probably play in the Big Ten I think. So I’m anxious to see how our guys respond to their physicality and length and rebounding ability.”Senior DayTuesday night will mark the final time seniors Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich take the court at the Schottenstein Center as Buckeyes. There is also a chance it will be redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop’s final home game in Scarlet and Gray, if he forgoes his remaining year of eligibility to leave for the NBA draft.There will be a pregame ceremony for the seniors and Bates-Diop, and a chance for the players to address the fans after the game.Tate said his collegiate career has not flown by, but that his senior year has felt quicker than any other season despite the fact it could last longer than most other years due to the chance for extended postseason play.“Maybe that’s because we’re winning, having more fun than we have in a couple past years,” Tate said. “We’ve still got a good team coming in tomorrow, and we’ve still got to prepare for Indiana and make noise in the Big Ten tournament.”
Location: East Lansing, Michigan2018 record: 7-6Head coach: Mark Dantonio (13th year, 110-52)2019 record so far: 3-1Record against Ohio State since 2010: 3-5What’s happened so far in 2019: Then-No. 18 Michigan State took a loss against unranked Arizona State in its third game of the season by a score of 10-7. The Spartans had previously beaten Tulsa and Western Michigan before falling to Arizona State for the second consecutive year. The Spartans came back and won in Week 4 against Northwestern 31-10, placing them at No. 25 and earning head coach Mark Dantonio a win that gave him the most in program history. Key offensive player:Redshirt senior quarterback Brian Lewerke returns for his third season as a starter, averaging 256.3 passing yards per game. However, his 7.4 yards per attempt ranks No. 7 among Big Ten quarterbacks with at least 14 attempts per game. Lewerke has passed for more than 200 yards 15 times in his career. His primary target is senior receiver Darrell Stewart, who has 30 receptions for 439 yards this season.Key defensive player:Redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Willekes was No. 5 in the Big Ten with eight sacks in 2018, and he’s already outpacing himself with a team-leading 3.5 through four games this season. Willekes opened the season with two tackles for loss in three straight games, and recovered two fumbles in the season opener against Tulsa. As one of the best pass rushers in the conference, Willekes is instrumental for a defense that allows just 176 pass yards per game, and a Big Ten third-best 228.3 yards overall.Weaknesses:Michigan State has struggled with penalties, resulting in the loss of yards that could allow teams to close the gap. The Spartans’ 31 penalties thus far are the most in the Big Ten, including 14 in the season opener and 10 in the loss to Arizona State. A 12-men-on-the-field penalty negated a would-be game-tying field goal against Arizona State, and after missing the retry as time expired, Michigan State lost the game.