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Welcome to another edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings. Teams are ranked according to a projection of their strength over the coming week using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For a more detailed explanation of the process behind these numbers, see our first rankings post.Some stray thoughts on the rankings:The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a bit of a precarious position. After losing two of their three games over the past week, they occupy the 10th slot in the Western Conference standings. And despite the talent on hand, our simulations give them just a 53.5 percent probability of making the playoffs, down 19.1 percentage points from a week ago. It’s no coincidence that over the same span, the Phoenix Suns won two of three to move four games clear of Oklahoma City. The Suns’ playoff chances rose by 10.5 points to 50.1 percent.Sandwiched between Phoenix and Oklahoma City in the West standings is New Orleans, but the Pelicans check in with just an 18.1 percent probability of making the playoffs. Why? They have neither the Suns’ advantage in the standings nor the talent edge of the Thunder. That said, New Orleans is improving on both counts, winning two of three over the past week. The Pelicans’ projected rating is 1.1 points per 100 possessions higher in this week’s power ratings, thanks to progress on offense.Why did the San Antonio Spurs drop a two slots and lose a league-high 1.9 points per 100 possessions from their rating? Blame Tony Parker (mostly). Parker is struggling to find his form after a hamstring injury earlier in the season, and he has one of the league’s worst RPM ratings this season (which only got worse after a rough performance in the Spurs’ 20-point home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday). The playing-time projections for our ratings see Parker logging more minutes this week, so the numbers view him as personally responsible for nearly half of the Spurs’ projected decline.The biggest raw gainers are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who upped their expected rating for the week to -7.0 from -10.6 a week ago, an improvement of 3.6 points per 100 possessions. A little of that is the remarkably rapid development of our buddy Andrew Wiggins, but it’s much more due to the return of Ricky Rubio. Plus-minus style statistics have always thought more highly of Rubio than the public at large, and here he carries the 26th-highest individual per-possession rating of any player in our data set. It’s doubly beneficial for Minnesota because Rubio’s return cuts into the minutes of Zach LaVine, who has been arguably the worst player in the NBA this season. (I’m at least allowed to say that, right?)As bad as my hometown Philadelphia 76ers have been this season, something jumps out about their coterie of ratings at the bottom of the table: Their defense is above average! The decidedly poor offensive RPM numbers of Nerlens Noel (-5.0), Luc Mbah a Moute (-3.6), Henry Sims (-3.5), K.J. McDaniels (-3.4) and even Michael Carter-Williams (-2.5) hides a collection of pretty decent defenders. For instance, Noel’s defensive RPM (+2.2) is roughly equivalent to that of DeAndre Jordan, who finished third in last year’s voting for defensive player of the year. Of course, the Sixers are still awful, and that means their offense must be especially bad to offset an above-average defense. Sure enough, they’re tracking for the worst offense (in terms of offensive rating relative to league average) in the history of major professional basketball. read more
The Stanley Cup Final, which begins Wednesday night in Tampa, should be a terrific series for hockey die-hards. The Tampa Bay Lightning play relentless hockey, skating well and shooting well, and led the NHL in goals per game during the regular season. Their opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks, are a fast team and led the league in shots on goal with their precision passing and star talent. What’s more, both teams are relatively healthy despite the grueling playoff chase they’ve endured. The Blackhawks are betting favorites in the series, but only barely.The thing about the NHL in the United States, though — Canada is totally different — is that it’s very much a local sport. There aren’t a lot of NHL die-hards: There are Blackhawks die-hards and Boston Bruins die-hards and Detroit Red Wings die-hards and, though fewer, Tampa Bay Lightning die-hards.This is evident in past TV ratings for the Stanley Cup Final. Since NBC and its affiliates took over U.S. coverage in 2006, the series-average rating has been as high as 3.4, when the Blackhawks played another popular American team, the Philadelphia Flyers, and as low as 1.2, when the Ottawa Senators played the Anaheim Ducks. That’s a pretty wide spread: nearly a threefold ratings difference.There’s not that much mystery to this. You can estimate NBC’s Stanley Cup ratings quite accurately1In the regression analysis, the coefficient of determination is 0.84. based on three factors. First, what game of the series it is — ratings increase the further you go, especially in Game 7.2In the regression, the ratings increase as the series advances is modeled with the exponential function. Second, whether NBC broadcast the game on its flagship network or on a cable channel like NBCSN. And third and most important, the combined number of NHL fans the two Stanley Cup Final participants have in their local markets, as based on my previous estimates.Since we’re looking at only U.S. ratings, Canadian teams are treated as having no local market. Keep in mind that Canada has at least as many NHL fans as the U.S. despite its much smaller population, however. Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, between a popular American team (the Bruins) and a Canadian team (the Vancouver Canucks), featured about 8.5 million American viewers and 8.8 million Canadian viewers.Here’s how the formula, which is based on regression analysis, estimates that NBC will do in the U.S. with the Blackhawks-Lightning matchup (the margin of error on the game-by-game estimates is about plus or minus 1.0 ratings points).The Blackhawks are a pretty good draw for NBC. Among U.S.-based NHL teams, they have the fourth-largest fan base. The Lightning, however, are sixth from the bottom. It’s roughly an average matchup for NBC, and the series is liable to get about average ratings: probably in the neighborhood of 2.5 for the first two games, 1.5 for Games 3 and 4 on NBCSN, and then 3.0 or higher if the series makes it to Game 5 and beyond.But what if the New York Rangers had beaten the Lightning instead of not showing up for Game 7, like the Carl Hagelin jersey that was mailed to my apartment two days too late? (I’m not bitter.3Yes I am.) That would be the best possible matchup for NBC. Among U.S.-based teams, the Blackhawks have the best local hockey market in the Western Conference, while the Rangers have the best one in the Eastern Conference (despite sharing it with two other teams). Ratings would likely have been well into the 3s for the series, with a potentially massive number — the model estimates it at 5.8 — in the event of a Game 7.By contrast, a final between the Lightning and Anaheim Ducks wouldn’t have gotten a great rating. And one between two Canadian teams might have gotten only about half as many U.S. viewers as Blackhawks-Lightning.This poses some interesting questions for the NHL. The league isn’t all that dependent on its American TV rights — instead, it’s real cash cows are from ticket sales and its Canadian TV contract. But recent Stanley Cup Finals have featured appearances by plenty of popular American teams, like the Blackhawks, Bruins, Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. One downside of expansion into smaller American markets is that it would reduce the chance for one of the popular teams to make a deep playoff run, possibly reducing the long-term value of the NHL’s American TV rights as a result.CORRECTION (June 3, 10:42 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly identified one of the teams in the Stanley Cup Final matchup with a 3.4 series-average TV rating in the United States. The Philadelphia Flyers faced the Chicago Blackhawks in that series, not the Boston Bruins. read more
The Kansas City Chiefs are doing everything right on the field, and it shows with their perfect record of 7-0. Now it appears that one player is doing the same off the field.Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali went out to celebrate with 15 friends and family members for their latest win over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Fogo de Chao. Hali and his party found the restaurant empty and proceeded to eat like kings. Needless to say, the party racked up a bill to the tune of $1,800 with an additional $296.69 for the automatic gratuity. Hali took it one step further to show his appreciation to the wait staff for their efforts, adding $1,000 to the bill for good measure—bringing the total bill to $2827.09. Hali generously left an approximately 71 percent tip.Hali must be banking on the saying, ‘What goes around comes around,’ in hopes to continue the amazing run in the season so far. The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL that has not been beaten this season. read more
Warren MoonIn 17 NFL seasons, Moon took the quarterback position into the stratosphere. He threw for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns. Four times he passed for more than 4,200 yards in a season. No telling what his numbers would have been if he hadn’t been forced (by incompetent general managers) to play the first six years of his career in the Canadian Football League, where he, by the way, shattered all passing records. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
College basketball’s biggest weekend will be missing college basketball’s biggest star. After Michigan State knocked off Duke 68-67 on Sunday to advance to the Final Four, the Blue Devils are out of the NCAA Tournament — and that means we won’t see forward Zion Williamson again until the NBA draft. (Presumably.) CBS had invested a lot in following Williamson’s every move during the tournament, and with good cause. By at least one metric, Williamson had the best season in recent college history. But that’s all in the past now. So how weird is it that Zion won’t be present for the tournament’s finale in Minneapolis? And what can we make of his brief, brilliant stay in the college game, possibly as one of the final megastars of the one-and-done era?Williamson has spent most of the season as the heavy betting favorite to win the men’s Naismith college player of the year award. His money-line odds were as high as -700 (that’s roughly 88 percent without removing the vig) before his midseason injury, and they currently sit around -300 (75 percent). Other players could potentially take the honor when it is announced April 7, but it would be a surprise if Williamson were not the winner.If Zion does pick up the award, he will become only the third freshman (joining Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis) and 12th underclassman to do so in the history of the honor. It’s an elite award to earn, having been won by the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Michael Jordan, in addition to KD and AD. But it hasn’t exactly been out of the ordinary for the Final Four to move on without the nation’s best player. Through 2018, the Naismith award winner has seen his team make the Final Four just 48 percent of the time — meaning roughly half of college basketball’s very best stars since 19691The first year the award was given out. have watched the Final Four from home. Williamson wouldn’t be the first to fit that description, and he likely wouldn’t be the last.But even among players of the year, Williamson would be unusually good — particularly by the standards of some recent winners:2We went back to 1996 in the table below because that’s the earliest season for which Sports-Reference.com calculates its win shares player-value metric. 2010Evan TurnerOhio StateGJr.6.8.247 2012Anthony DavisKentuckyCFr.✓9.9.310 2015Frank KaminskyWisconsinFSr.✓9.8.299 The 2019 Naismith winner will be announced April 7Sources: Wikipedia, Sports-Reference.com 2013Trey BurkeMichiganGSo.✓8.6.249 2014Doug McDermottCreightonFSr.7.7.261 1996Marcus CambyMassachusettsCJr.✓8.1.320 2019Zion WilliamsonDukeFFr.8.3.335 2002Jason WilliamsDukeGJr.6.3.213 1999Elton BrandDukeFSo.✓10.0.350 Zion’s place among Naismith Award winnersFor Zion Williamson and Naismith College Player of the Year winners since 1996, team Final Four status and win share statistics 1998Antawn JamisonNorth CarolinaFJr.✓8.3.271 2007Kevin DurantTexasFFr.8.8.280 2011Jimmer FredetteBrigham YoungGSr.8.5.256 On a per-40-minute basis, Williamson would have the most win shares of any Naismith winner since Andrew Bogut in 2005 (Bogut went No. 1 overall in the NBA draft that summer) and the fifth-most since 1996, period. And unlike some of the other names on the list above, Williamson wasn’t a one-man show dragging a bunch of weak teammates along. Duke ranked fourth in our pre-tournament Elo ratings — higher than the team of anyone ranked ahead of Zion in win shares per 40 minutes except Elton Brand (whose own Blue Devils ranked first going into the 1999 tourney).In that regard, maybe the best comparison for Williamson’s freshman season was that of Davis on the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats — a stellar, standout individual year on a highly ranked squad full of other elite NBA prospects. But while Davis got to the Final Four and ultimately won the NCAA championship, Williamson and Duke fell short, relegating him to a separate list of freshman phenoms — one including Durant and Michael Beasley, whose individual efficiency in 2008 was (amazingly) even greater than Zion’s this year — on teams that couldn’t get to the tournament’s third weekend.The end of Duke’s season won’t diminish the personal success Williamson had during his one NCAA season, nor will it affect his presumptive status as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. And few fans outside Durham will be crying for Duke, which had its chances to close out Michigan State late on Sunday but was unable to do so (in large part because Williamson took only one shot in the game’s final six-and-a-half minutes). Even so, the Final Four won’t be quite the same without Williamson’s dizzying array of highlight-reel drives, dunks and swats. Instead, the Season of Zion Williamson will come to an end with Zion Williamson nowhere in sight. 1997Tim DuncanWake ForestCSr.10.4.367 2018Jalen BrunsonVillanovaGJr.✓7.7.241 2006J. J. RedickDukeGSr.7.8.233 2008Tyler HansbroughNorth CarolinaFJr.✓8.7.272 2001Shane BattierDukeFSr.✓10.1.298 From ABC News: 2016Buddy HieldOklahomaGSr.✓7.6.232 YearPlayerCollegePos.ClassFinal four?TotalPer 40 Win Shares 2017Frank Mason IIIKansasGSr.7.5.230 2000Kenyon MartinCincinnatiFSr.9.0.398 2003T. J. FordTexasGSo.✓4.3.155 2004Jameer NelsonSaint Joseph’sGSr.6.6.243 2005Andrew BogutUtahCSo.10.9.358 2009Blake GriffinOklahomaFSo.9.7.332 Check out our latest March Madness predictions. read more
Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team celebrate during a game against Iowa on Oct. 2 at St. John Arena. OSU won 3-2. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi / Lantern PhotographerThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team (16-2, 5-1) is showing the Big Ten that it is a force to be reckoned with, grabbing wins its first two road games of its conference schedule this weekend — including another win over a ranked foe — to stretch its winning streak to five.No. 9 OSU took a pair of victories in Illinois, topping Northwestern (11-6, 3-3) on Friday night in Evanston, before taking down No. 13 Illinois (11-6, 2-4) on Saturday in Champaign.In Saturday’s win over the Fighting Illini, OSU got big contributions from across the board as it came away with a four-set victory (25-20, 24-26, 25-18, 27-25).Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell helped guide the Buckeyes with her ninth double-double of the year (18 kills and 13 digs) and added four block assists, giving her a team-leading 20 points. Reigning co-Big Ten Player of the Week Audra Appold was close behind with 19.5 points on 17 kills and two blocks (one solo). The freshman outside hitter also had a career-high 19 digs for her second double-double on the season.Junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe (10 kills, six blocks) and senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell (11 kills) also broke the double-digit point mark, while freshman setter Taylor Hughes notched a career-best 52 assists to go along with five kills and five blocks. Junior libero Valeria León had 19 digs, and sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer picked up 10. Mitchell had seven of her 11 kills in the first set, as OSU never trailed after taking an early 5-4 lead.The second set saw Illinois lead the majority of the way. A late charge from the Buckeyes tied things at 24, but the Fighting Illini captured the final two points to tie the match at one.OSU had seven of its 13 blocks for the game in the third set — including three each from Hughes and Sandbothe — as it came out firing to take a quick 5-0 lead that it would not surrender.In what would prove to be the deciding fourth set, OSU found itself in a 9-3 hole, but clawed its way back at 14 and again at 24. The Buckeyes didn’t take their first lead until late but it came at the right time, as they came away with a 27-25 win to take the match.The win over Illinois marked OSU’s sixth win over a top-25 opponent on the year and its third in Big Ten play.Behind a proficient .356 attack percentage, OSU swept its first match of the weekend on Friday, topping Northwestern in three sets (25-19, 25-20, 25-18). Appold kept her hot streak rolling, leading the Buckeyes with 19.5 points on 18 kills and two blocks (one solo), while fellow freshman Hughes did a little bit of everything, picking up 33 assists, three block assists, two aces and one kill. Sandbothe added 11.5 points on nine kills and three block assists.The first set was hotly contested, with 14 ties and seven lead changes, but OSU was able to pull away late with a 9-1 run to take the early lead.After going down early in the second set, the Buckeyes used a 5-0 run to take the lead, 10-8, and didn’t look back, powered by seven kills from Appold.The freshman had seven more kills in the final set, in which OSU led the whole way after breaking a 2-2 stalemate early on.The Buckeyes are next scheduled to return to the court next weekend when they host No. 12 Purdue on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by Indiana on Sunday at 1 p.m. in St. John Arena. read more
The Ohio State University Athletic Band moved into formation with a breast cancer awareness ribbon inside of the state of Ohio to honor Stefanie Spielman. Then her family made their way onto the field to receive applause from those in attendance at Ohio Stadium during the “Scarlet, Gray and Pink” Spring Football game.
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s professional career officially began Monday after his third-round selection in the NFL supplemental draft by the Oakland Raiders. Pryor, who was ruled eligible for the draft on Thursday by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, joins former OSU cornerback Chimdi Chekwa in Oakland. Goodell also suspended Pryor from games and practices through Week 5 of the NFL season for making decisions that undermined the integrity of the NFL draft, according to a Thursday NFL press release. Pryor will not appeal the five-game suspension, according to multiple reports. Drew Rosenhaus, Pryor’s agent, did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment following the quarterback’s draft selection. After negotiating and signing a contract, Pryor will be able to participate in the remainder of Oakland’s preseason camp. He will then join his teammates as they prepare for a Week 6 home game against the Cleveland Browns. The Oakland Raiders did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s request for comment. A little more than two months ago, Buckeye fans expected Pryor to be gracing the Ohio Stadium field for his senior season — not the O.co Coliseum, home of the Raiders and Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, for his rookie NFL season. In Dec. 2010, Pryor agreed to a suspension for the first five games of OSU’s upcoming season after he sold OSU football memorabilia for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Pryor, who allegedly committed other violations, then departed the university on June 7 to pursue a professional football career. His departure came just days after former head coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign from his position. Pryor was later declared ineligible for intercollegiate athletics in a July 26 letter from OSU athletic director Gene Smith. Despite the quarterback’s unceremonious exit from campus and the self-imposed vacation of the 2010 season as part of the university’s self-imposed penalties for NCAA violations, Pryor’s name remains sprinkled throughout Buckeyes’ football record books. Vacation of the 2010 season notwithstanding, Pryor served as the OSU signal caller from 2008–2010 and compiled an overall record of 31-4, including a 2-0 record as a starter in BCS bowl games. The Jeannette, Pa., native also led the Buckeyes to three victories over Michigan. In addition to tying Bobby Hoying’s school record of 57 touchdown passes, Pryor also finished his collegiate career as the all-time leading rusher amongst OSU quarterbacks with 2,164 yards. Pryor stands alone in second place among all Buckeye players with 8,341 yards of total offense. The Raiders begin their 2011 season with a Sept. 12 away game at Sports Authority Field against the Denver Broncos. read more
Senior attack Brendan Fannell takes a shot on the goal against Loyola Maryland during the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14, 2017 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterThe Ohio State men’s lacrosse team (15-4) is advancing to the first NCAA semifinals in program history after beating Duke (13-5) 16-11 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.Coming off a seven-goal performance against Loyola (Maryland), the Buckeyes spoke all week about finding their offense against a Duke team that had piled up 37 goals over their past two games. Safe to say, they found that offense.Senior attackman Eric Fannell led the OSU charge with five goals and two assists, and the rest of the offense made the most of their chances, scoring on 16 of their 31 shot attempts. OSU also received a strong defensive effort from redshirt senior goalie Tom Carey who stopped 14 of 25 shots.The scoring started for the Buckeyes when Fannell buried the game’s first goal just one minute and five seconds into the first quarter.The game remained scoreless for nine minutes before Duke junior attack Justin Guterding scored his 50th goal of the season to tie the game up at one. But just eight seconds before the end of the quarter, redshirt freshman attackman Lukas Buckley found the back of the net for his 14th goal of the season, giving OSU a 2-1 lead.Thirty-seven seconds into the second quarter, it was Fannell again who caught a pass from sophomore attackman Jack Jasinski and buried the one-timer to extend the OSU lead to 3-1. About two minutes later, Fannell beat the defender to get in front of the net and buried his third goal of the game, completing the hat trick and putting OSU up 4-1 with 12:37 remaining in the second quarter.Now trailing by three goals, Duke found some life on a goal from sophomore midfielder John Prendergast just 50 seconds after Fannell’s goal. Then with 10:25 remaining in the second quarter, sophomore attackman Sean Lowrie brought the Blue Devils within one with his 12th goal of the season.Then the Blue Devils started to get sloppy. A slashing penalty gave OSU a chance with the man-up, and senior attackman Austin Shanks made Duke pay with a goal just 14 seconds into the powerplay to give OSU its two-goal lead again. Another Duke penalty gave OSU a chance with the extra-man out there and senior midfielder Johnny Pearson buried a goal off a pass from Fannell to extend his team’s lead to 6-3 — Fannell’s second assist on the man-up.Duke started to come back with seven minutes left in the second quarter with sophomore midfielder Brad Smith’s 20th goal of the season, but 11 seconds later, OSU junior defenseman Freddy Freibott grabbed that goal right back with his fourth of the season. With 5:52 remaining in the second quarter, freshman attackman Tre Leclaire went top-shelf over the left shoulder of the goalie for his 45th goal of the season to push his team ahead by four. Senior midfielder JT Blubaugh added to his team’s lead, bringing the score to 9-4 in favor of the Buckeyes with 4:25 remaining before the end of the first half.Duke opened up the third quarter on a high note, receiving a goal from senior midfielder Jack Bruckner who extended his NCAA-leading point streak to 56 games. Just 5:48 into the second half (1:24 after Bruckner’s goal), Jasinski scored his first goal of the game — 13th of the season — to give OSU back its three-goal lead.Fifty-two seconds later, Fannell buried his fourth goal of the game, but received a hard hit to the back after the score and appeared to be shaken up. He would later re-enter the game.And the Buckeyes were almost certainly pleased Fannell did return, as he added to his goal total with his fifth tally of the night with 5:03 remaining in the third quarter. For the second time in the game, Buckley closed out the quarter for the Buckeyes with a goal, his second of the game and 15th of the season.Lukas Buckley one-timer for an @OhioState_MLAX 13-5 lead at the end of the 3rd. #NCAALaxpic.twitter.com/eosFQiL58o— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAA_Lax) May 20, 2017The fourth quarter started off with a wild play. A sloppy behind-the-back pass attempt from the Buckeyes led to a turnover, and Carey was caught a little bit out of sorts in front of the net by junior midfielder Sean Cerrone who buried a goal just 21 seconds into the fourth quarter.Building off that momentum, Duke freshman attackman Joey Manown capitalized on a successful clear attempt by his defense and scored a goal of his own 33 seconds after his teammate scored.Needing anything to stop the bleeding, OSU took its time in its offensive zone before Jasinski found Blubaugh in front of the net who one-timed the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the game.After the two teams traded goals, Duke saw its two regular season-leading scorers step up as Bruckner added his third and fourth goals of the game, while Guterding tallied his second of the match to cut his team’s deficit down to just five goals.The teams again exchanged goals within the final minute of the game, but OSU held on for the 16-11 victory. read more
OSU coach Urban Meyer addresses the media during the 2016 Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Myers| Assistant Sports EditorOhio State football coach Urban Meyer is going to address and take questions from the media for the first time all summer Monday. With the start of the football season about a month away, there are several topics of interest Meyer will likely discuss in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days. 1. Cornerback Depth ChartThe 2017 NFL Draft did not siphon as much Ohio State talent as the prior year’s draft, but it took its tole on the school’s cornerback depth. During the first round alone, both starting cornerbacks — Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore — were taken. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, however, cornerback might remain one of the deepest positions on the team. Junior Denzel Ward and redshirt sophomores Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette stand out as the early three favorites to see the most playing time, as well as a talented quartet of freshmen in Shaun Wade, Jeffrey Okudah, Marcus Williamson and Amir Riep. 2. Sam Hubbard at linebacker?No position is as deep for the Buckeyes as defensive end. With sophomore Nick Bosa, senior Jalyn Holmes, redshirt senior Tyquan Lewis — reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year — and redshirt junior Sam Hubbard the biggest challenge for Meyer at the position could just be finding playing time for all four linemen.And while the notion of running four defensive ends with just a lone defensive tackle has been mentioned, so too was the possibility of shifting Hubbard to the linebacker position. Hubbard — who originally came to the Buckeyes as a safety — has played exclusively at defensive end throughout his college career and has the size and athleticism for the position. However, the coaches have long praised his speed and versatility, making the prospect of Hubbard moving over to the linebacker position seems possible. 3. Competition at H-backWhen Curtis Samuel declared early for the NFL Draft, a void in the Ohio State offense immediately appeared. Samuel, the team’s leading receiver from a season ago, has been the team’s starting H-back the past two seasons, assisting the Buckeye offense in both the passing game as well as the rushing game. So, who will fill that void for the Buckeyes?The early favorite at the position has been redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell. Campbell finished last season with 121 receiving yards on 13 receptions. He also tallied 54 yards on the ground on four carries, with a touchdown. In addition to Campbell, sophomore running back Demario McCall could be viewed as the man to fill the vacant slot, as he demonstrated both his potential to run the ball effectively in the spring game (83 yards on six carries) as well as impact the passing game, as he caught a 40-yard touchdown pass and totaled 48 receiving yards in the game. 4. Progress of passing game under WilsonA focal point for fan criticism over the past few seasons, Ohio State’s passing game has not been the near-juggernaut it was back in 2014. But bringing in a new offensive coordinator — Kevin Wilson — who has led arguably the best passing game in the Big Ten over the past six seasons, Meyer could be on the cusp of turning the team’s fortunes in that area around.At the spring game, fans got a chance to see wideouts like redshirt junior Johnnie Dixon, redshirt junior Terry McLaurin and redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill catch deep ball after deep ball, and rack up gaudy passing yard totals. Sure, it was just a spring game, but it was a sight that fans of the team haven’t seen since the national-championship winning season in 2014. The Buckeyes have had a potent rushing attack the past several seasons, but if Wilson can get the air game back to where it had been a few seasons ago, the Ohio State offense could silence all of its critics. 5. KickerLast season, redshirt-junior Sean Nuernberger was expected to win the kicker duties after finishing the 2015 position as the starter in a battle with transfer Jack Willoughby. But a groin injury to Nuernberger left Tyler Durbin as the starter, who finished the year 63-for-65 in extra-point attempts and 17-for-22 in field goal attempts. Now Durbin is gone, and Nuernberger is in the same position he was in after the 2015 season: wondering if he will enter the year as the starter or be again reduced to the backup spot.The Buckeyes currently have three kickers on the roster who have been battling it out for the starting spot this summer. Along with Nuernberger, Ohio State also has freshman Blake Haubeil on its team. Meyer may shed light on the ongoing battle at the kicker spot in Chicago. read more