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Sports Then and Now



The World was a Different Place the Last Time Northwestern beat Ohio State on the Road in Basketball 1

Posted on February 08, 2017 by Bernie Stein

Northwestern-basketballNorthwestern men’s basketball proved itself to be a real contender for both the Big 10 and the NCAA Tournament with its win at Columbus over the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 22.

It was the first time the Wildcats have beaten Ohio State on the road since 1977, a 39-year losing streak.

Two free throws each by Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law salted the game away in the final seconds of a 74-72 win. The Wildcats improved to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 10, where they have four road wins.

So what were the conditions in 1977 when the Wildcats knocked off the Buckeyes at their own house? A quick trip in the Wayback Machine reveals some fantastic details. Here’s a look at a few:

The 1976-1977 Northwestern Wildcats were coached by Tex Winter: Yes, THAT Tex Winter. Texas went an abysmal 42-89 for the Wildcats as part of his 30-year college coaching career. This was 14 years after he wrote a book called “The Triple-Post Offense” also known as the triangle. In 1985, old friend Jerry Krause hired him to be an assistant for the Chicago Bulls and teach the offense to a young kid named Michael Jordan. Tex went on to win nine NBA championships as an assistant coach – six with the Bulls and three with the Lakers. Read the rest of this entry →

Breaking Down the Odds: SEC and Big Ten Bowl Games 2

Posted on December 10, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

The Big Ten and the SEC are about as close to rivals as two leagues can be. The bowl season always offers several high-profile matchups, mostly on New Year’s Day, where the conferences match up. They’re easily the leagues with the most television exposure, with the Big Ten Network being owned by Fox and the SEC Network owned by ESPN. But until last season, their rivalry was about as hard-fought as the battle between a hammer and the nail.

Over a four-year period, the SEC’s bowl record validated its reputation as the best conference in the country. The SEC has a 26-14 record while the Big Ten is at 14-21 in that same timeframe, due in large part to the consistent New Year’s Day beatdowns the SEC delivered.

But last season marked a change. The overall performances were close to even, with the SEC going 7-5 and the Big Ten clocking in at 6-5. In the head-to-head matchups, Wisconsin beat Auburn and most important was the high-profile victory of Ohio State over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff semi-final.

It wasn’t the whole story—Missouri also beat Minnesota and Tennessee coasted past Iowa. But the two biggest stories of last year’s college football postseason were Ohio State’s national title and the collapse of the SEC West. In addition to Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all laid an egg in their bowl matchups. The defeats were a big blow to SEC prestige and an offseason where Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh was the most significant development added to the positive buzz moving around the Big Ten.

The SEC reclaimed some mojo in non-conference play this season when Alabama handled Wisconsin, but the real test begins now. Each conference has put ten teams in bowl games and they’ll play head-to-head in five of those, including another Playoff matchup when Alabama meets Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

I want to walk through some of the factors my staff and I at WinningEdge.com are looking at with each game, both the head-to-head conference matchups as well as ones they’ll play against other leagues. But before beginning, I want to remind everyone of an adage that many in football handicapping subscribe by—it’s that the pointspread matters less in the bowl season than any other time of year.

The reason is that underdogs often end up winning outright—disinterested favorites are common and Las Vegas can misfire in pricing teams from disparate parts of the country with few common opponents. I mostly agree with this line of thinking and believe the focus of football betting should be picking the outright winner. For those of you who are in bowl pools where you’re required to pick every game against the number, that’s a good thing to keep in mind.

But for those of you who wager these games individually, be careful not to oversimplify. The spread still matters, even if not as decisively as in the regular season and knowing how to pick your spots—how to narrow the card down to which games to bet and how many units to invest still have to be settled by the number. I’ll be constantly evaluating how these conferences and others match up throughout the bowl season before making final gameday decisions. Read the rest of this entry →

What Did We Learn About the Big Ten in College Football Week One? 2

Posted on September 10, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Was the performance by Braxton Miller and Ohio State a preview of what to expect throughout 2015?

Was the performance by Braxton Miller and Ohio State a preview of what to expect throughout 2015?

It was towards the tail-end of Ohio State’s 42-24 Labor Day Night win at Virginia Tech that ESPN put up a graphic showing the rest of the Buckeyes’ schedule and the % chance they had of losing each individual game the rest of the season. The worst rating that got was a 77% chance of winning against Michigan State.

There’s been plenty of talk about what that means for the College Football Playoff (e.g., that Ohio State is a lock). What I want to do is look at what this might tell us for handicapping the rest of the Big Ten, particularly with Michigan State being in the spotlight this Saturday night at home against Oregon (8 PM ET, ABC).

Put simply, is the Big Ten still prime “go-against” territory for handicappers in non-conference play? Let’s look at the record. In Week 1, the 13 Big Ten teams not located in Columbus went 7-6 ATS (against the spread). That sounds good enough—in handicapping any number over 52.4% is enough to beat the house advantage and that record clocks in at 53.8%. But digging deeper showed some problems.

Here’s a breakdown of the games in three categories—notable wins, notable losses, and games that we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from…

NOTABLE WINS

  • Northwestern (+10) Stanford 16-6
  • Illinois (-13) Kent 52-3
  • Minnesota (+16) TCU 17-23

 

NOTABLE LOSSES

  • Penn State (-6) Temple 10-27
  • Nebraska (-5) BYU 28-33—note that even had BYU’s desperation pass to win the game failed, the Cornhuskers would only have won 28-27 and thus failed to cover.
  • Indiana (-20.5) Southern Illinois 48-47
  • Purdue (+7) Marshall 31-41
  • Michigan (+5) Utah 17-24
  • Michigan State (-16.5) Western Michigan 37-24

 

WAIT AND SEE

  • Wisconsin (+12) Alabama 17-35
  • Iowa (-10) Illinois State 31-14
  • Maryland (-21.5) Richmond 50-21
  • Rutgers (-35) Norfolk State 63-13

In these “wait and see” games, the Big Ten went 3-1 against the spread. But the competition faced by Iowa, Maryland and Rutgers is not comparable to what any of these teams would face against even a midlevel opponent from a Power 5 conference. It’s not that there’s anything wrong what the three Big Ten teams did, just that we can’t take anything from it. On the flip side, it’s tough to be too hard on Wisconsin for ending up in Alabama’s way last Saturday night in Dallas. Read the rest of this entry →

Will Ohio State’s Self Imposed Penalties Be Enough for the NCAA? 2

Posted on July 08, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Both Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor are gone from Ohio State football.

After previously throwing their head coach and star quarterback under the bus, the Ohio State administration is now throwing away the entire 2010 season in the hopes that this self-imposed action will appease the NCAA and keep the Buckeyes from losing their football future.

Depending on what side of the fence you sit on, the decision by Ohio State to vacate all of their victories from the 2010 season, including their Big Ten co-championship and their victory in the Sugar Bowl, can be seen either as a major sacrifice or simply as a desperate attempt to keep from getting hit with significantly more severe penalties by the NCAA.

It is obvious that Ohio State president Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith are trying to spin these self imposed penalties as a major punishment for one of the most storied programs in college football.

According to Smith, forfeiting all their wins from 2010 is a major sacrifice not just because of the Sugar Bowl, but also because it signifies an end to their seven-year winning streak against rival Michigan.

“That’s a significant impact to those who participated, and some of them are still here today,” Smith said.

In addition to vacating their 2010 wins, the school placed the football program on two years of probation. However, it is what they didn’t do that speaks loudest about how they continue to view the NCAA and the scandal that has rocked the school since coming to light in late December.

From the very beginning, Ohio State has been in a mode of self preservation and trying to make the situation as painless as possible.

First they lobbied for the five players involved in selling memorabilia for money and tattoos to be suspended for the first five games of 2011, but to be allowed to play in the upcoming Sugar Bowl.

At the time, the argument was that no one had previously known and keeping them out of the bowl game would hurt the integrity of the product, so suspending them for the first five games of the next season was a fair punishment. Read the rest of this entry →

Zultan’s Fearless Big Ten (+) Plus College Football Predictions: Week One 3

Posted on August 28, 2010 by JA Allen

The Mighty Zultan Tells Football Fortunes...

Zultan, the mighty soothsayer, hibernated soundly after a glorious conclusion to Big Ten Football Bowl Season last January.

The all-seeing one remained zoned out for months after admittedly over-indulging in some exotic-looking orange punch with the kick of a kangaroo.

The Big Ten pounded its way to an impressive 4-3 record during post-season play which included wins over some very highly ranked BCS teams at the conclusion of the 2009 football season.

The action culminated with the Iowa Hawkeye’s victory over the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech. After the Hawkeyes rolled over them, GT may still be putting their “wrecked” offense back together.

When the mighty one’s eyes snapped open this week, ready to dig in for another season of football prognostication –– low and behold, the news was delivered.  The Big Red Machine was going to be joining the Big Ten. What a blow!  After years of living in the shadow of the God Almighty Nebraska Cornhuskers, the all-seeing seer now must feel the singe of the hot poker once again––as Nebraska closes in on the neighboring Hawkeyes starting in 2011.

Putting aside his feelings of betrayal, the all-seeing one now marshals the massive skills that allow him to predict the outcome of football contests.  The Big Ten Conference will be a force to be reckoned with in 2010 along with other highly touted football contests each week.

What he wishes to know is––can you outguess him?  Do you feel lucky, well, do you?  If so click here and you can pit your puny predicting powers against the great Zultan.  If you outguess him, then he will announce that you beat him in next week’s column, plus entering your name for a prize to be awarded at the end of the season.

Read the rest of this entry →

Sizing Up the Big 10 Conference: Preseason Football Power Ranking 3

Posted on August 02, 2010 by JA Allen

It's the best time of the year - football season in the Big 10 Conference.

Throughout the month of August, Sports Then and Now will be looking at major college football conference through a series of previews. We start off with the Big Ten:

It is August and we have waited long enough for college football to get underway.  It is time to begin announcing the winners and losers––then explaining why and how we went wrong the following week.

The life of a forecaster is not an easy one.  At least until the first of September we will be safe with these Big Ten Football Power Rankings.

The Big Ten Conference gets some grudging respect after winning a few Bowl Games in post-season play after the 2009 season––four wins to be exact after sending seven teams to bowl games.

Two BCS wins by Ohio State whacking Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Iowa knocking back the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl enhanced the Big 10 aura heading into 2010.

This year the Big Ten enters the foray with four teams in the top 25.  The exact placement depends on the particular poll you chose to believe.  But it is safe to say that most expect Ohio State to be in the top five, Iowa in the top fifteen, Wisconsin in the top twenty with Penn State in the top twenty-five.

This is how the teams fall within the Conference…

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Sudden Sam McDowell
      July 4, 2017 | 8:48 pm
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      Sudden Sam McDowell

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

      Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.

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