The Indiana Pacers’ victory Sunday in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals seemed a fitting reward for their long regular-season campaign to secure home-court advantage, always with an eye on a hypothetical playoff matchup with the Miami Heat. The Pacers’ raucous home crowd egged them on to an out-of-character offensive performance. They scored at a rate of 120.6 points per 100 possessions, their most efficient offensive performance of the playoffs and their fifth-best of the season.The Pacers’ point total was surprising, but how the team scored those points was entirely unexpected. The Pacers haven’t relied heavily on the pick-and-roll — mostly because they haven’t been very good at it. According to mySynergySports, in pick-and-rolls so far this season (including Sunday’s game), the Pacers rank 14th in efficiency in possessions finished by the ball handler, and 20th in possessions finished by the screener (these statistics only include pick-and-rolls that resulted in a field-goal attempt, free throw or turnover by the screener or the ball handler).But even matching that mediocre standard would have been an optimistic goal for the Pacers; the Heat are among the league’s best pick-and-roll defenders. They rank first in efficiency on defending pick-and-roll possessions finished by the ball handler and fifth on those finished by the screener. So far this season, the Heat’s opponents ran pick-and-rolls on 16 percent of their offensive possessions, scoring an average of 0.74 points per play.The table below shows how the Pacers’ pick-and-roll attack fared in Game 1 against the Heat, compared with their performances in the regular season and their previous playoff series.The Indiana Pacers’ Pick-And-RollAgainst the Heat on Sunday, the Pacers were more efficient on pick-and-roll possessions, and they ran pick-and-rolls more often. The Pacers’ spacing was unusually precise, stretching the Heat’s defensive rotations and keeping driving lanes open for ball handlers. Paul George, Lance Stephenson and the rest of the Pacers’ backcourt players were also extremely careful with the ball, both in delivering passes to their rolling bigs and avoiding getting stripped on drives to the basket. Just 11 percent of their pick-and-roll possessions ended in a turnover in Game 1, better than their season-long average of 14 percent and far below the 23 percent the Heat defense forced this season.It’s hard to imagine the Pacers keeping up this kind of performance on the pick-and-roll throughout the rest of the series, but they have laid out a good template for offensive success.
As if to put an exclamation point on their recent winning ways, the Toronto Blue Jays went into the Bronx over the weekend and swept the AL East-leading New York Yankees by a combined score of 10-1, narrowing New York’s division lead to a mere game and a half.The Blue Jays’ hot streak has been linked to their aggressive deal-making before MLB’s July 31 trade deadline. But as Victor Mather of The New York Times rightly pointed out in a column Monday, Toronto had the characteristics of a dominant team before they added any players. As of July 28, they possessed the American League’s top per-game run differential and its best underlying statistical fundamentals, despite a sub-.500 record.Baseball statheads have long known that a team’s run differential is generally a better predictor of future wins and losses than its record. So, it stood to reason that the Blue Jays would eventually turn things around. But we should also be careful not to swing too far in the opposite direction and ignore team records entirely.Run differential — which is usually expressed on the same scale as a winning percentage using the pythagorean formula — is indeed a better predictor than a team’s actual record. When predicting future wins at this stage of the baseball season, run differential is about 1.8 times as important as actual winning percentage. But that still means the optimal mix of pythagorean and actual winning percentages is roughly a 65-35 split, a ratio that gets closer to 50-50 as the season draws toward its end.This means that even if you know a team’s run differential, it also pays quite a bit to know its W-L record. While teams do tend to regress toward their underlying metrics, especially early in the season, we can capture additional signal by measuring a team’s ability to actually win ballgames (shock!).As for the Blue Jays, they’re clearly one of the AL’s best teams, especially with the extra weapons they picked up at the deadline. But their recent run of success wasn’t completely fated by their great underlying metrics earlier in the season — odds are, that disappointing record also said something real about them. read more
The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal will not go away anytime soon. Now comes word that Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith have filed an appeal to have NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recused himself from the case.The players site in their quest that Goodell, as judge and jury, is biased and partial.Vilma, suspended for the entire season, no doubt hopes U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan makes a favorableruling in his defamation suit in federal court that would supersede NFL rulings.All four players are now eligible to play or at least get paid until the NFL rules on their latest appeals. The expectation is that the new appeals hearing likely will take place a week from Tuesday, according to a source.The deadline for appealing was the end of business Friday.Earlier this week, Goodell upheld the suspensions of Vilma and Smith (four games). However, Fujita’s three-game suspension was reduced to one while Hargrove’s eight-game penalty was trimmed to seven games.The players had been suspended as a result of a bounty pool that league investigators have said the Saints ran from 2009-11, but the bans had been vacated on technical, jurisdictional grounds by an appeals panel operating within the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. That decision led to the re-instatement of the four players and forced Goodell to begin the disciplinary process for the players over again.This week, Fujita fired off on Goodell after the commissioner reduced his suspension from three games to one. “I am now purportedly being suspended for failing to confront my former defensive coordinator for his inappropriate use of language. This seems like an extremely desperate attempt to punish me. I also think it sets a dangerous precedent when players can be disciplined for not challenging the behavior of their superiors. This is an absolute abuse of the power that’s been afforded to the Commissioner.” read more
The Mets, who already leaned heavily on their pitchers — only the Yankees and Athletics got a higher share of their total WAR from pitchers in 2016 — are in line to become even more pitcher-reliant this offseason, as several of their fielders enter the free-agent market. Sure, ageless wonder Bartolo Colón has departed for the Atlanta Braves, but New York’s biggest free-agent questions were always going to involve position players.One of those questions was answered Monday, when Neil Walker accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer, saving New York the headache of trying to fill a hole at the keystone. But they still have to account for the possible loss of outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, who’s projected for 3.0 WAR in 2017. Given the gap in the lineup that losing his bat would leave, there’s a case to be made that the Mets should just pony up whatever it takes to re-sign Céspedes. But “whatever it takes” will probably amount to quite a bit of money in this year’s weak free-agent class, and there are other, cheaper options available: Dexter Fowler (2.3), Carlos Gómez (2.1) and Ian Desmond (1.5) stand out. Look for the Mets to go that way.Speaking of Gómez and Desmond, they’re part of what could be a mass exodus from Texas, as they join first baseman Mitch Moreland (0.8), designated hitter Carlos Beltrán (0.4), and starting pitchers Derek Holland (1.8) and Colby Lewis (1.1) in free agency. Sorting it all out is going to be a tough winter assignment for Rangers GM Jon Daniels.Signing Mike Napoli (0.9) for another Texas tour of duty or going slightly up-market for Edwin Encarnación (2.3) would go a long way toward replacing Moreland and Beltran (both of whom could, of course, come back), and it’s not unreasonable to expect either Desmond or Gómez, both of whom can play center field, to return. The bigger problem is in the rotation, where Holland and Lewis had contributed nearly 30 percent of Texas’s rotational WAR since 2010. The Rangers don’t have any obvious internal options to step into those spots, and the free-agent market looks thin aside from Rich Hill (2.9), who’ll probably get better options elsewhere. A trade may be in the offing.North of the border, the Blue Jays have just over nine wins coming off their roster, headlined by the aforementioned Encarnación, plus longtime star José Bautista (2.9), and the recently departed — also to Atlanta! — R.A. Dickey (2.0), among others. Some of Dickey’s production can be replaced with relative ease, but signing Kendrys Morales (0.9) and Cuban superstar Lourdes Gurriel Jr.4Who wasn’t projected by Fangraphs. significantly lowered the odds that either Encarnación or Bautista will return to the Blue Jays next year. Of the two, Bautista is the most likely to come back — at 36, he doesn’t have much upside left, he had a down season last year, and he is clearly comfortable in Toronto. No matter what happens, this offseason has already done much to reshape the Jays’ talented roster.Finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a league-high 12.5 projected wins rolling off their roster, mainly in Justin Turner (3.7), Rich Hill (2.9), Josh Reddick (2.1), and Kenley Jansen (1.5). Jansen, a lights-out reliever, will probably get the most press this offseason, but L.A.’s shake-ups in the field — which have already included trading away Howie Kendrick and Carlos Ruiz — will be the most interesting to watch.The Dodgers seem likely to retain at least one of their four big free agents, but they probably won’t keep all four. That’ll mean some tough choices: L.A. can probably survive Reddick leaving, but there aren’t many enticing options available if Turner ends up packing his bags. A trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Evan Longoria has been bandied about by the Twitter cognoscenti, but that’ll cost L.A. a haul in terms of both prospects and dollars, if the Rays’ past dealmaking habits — and complicated relationship with the current Dodgers’ front office — is any indication. The Dodgers have enough smarts, money and talent to contend for years to come; they’ll need all three to get this offseason right.There are limits to thinking about the offseason purely in terms of projected free-agent WAR, to be sure. For one thing, projection systems — even the very best — have flaws. For another, teams often have a better sense of their own departing free agents’ skill sets — and likelihood of performance decline — than anyone else, inside or outside the industry, so they may be basing their free-agency decisions on information that projection systems don’t have. And, more broadly, trying to evaluate whole offseasons through the lens of free agency alone misses the extreme impact that trades — and normal player development and growth — will have on the state of the league in 2017. But knowing how the projections treat every club’s outgoing free agents can give us a better sense of how the offseason will play out for each team, whether they spent 2016 at the top of the heap or staring up from the basement. In Major League Baseball, just about the only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there. In that respect, this year is no different than any other. Each of the four teams projected to lose the most production in free agency this winter — the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Texas Rangers and the New York Mets — were playoff teams in 2016, and each of them must now move with speed and smarts to shore up their position among baseball’s elite.To some extent, it makes sense for top free-agent talent to be clustered in top teams: While the average turnover rate for MLB rosters is somewhere around 30 percent, playoff teams tend to have — big shocker here — better players than non-playoff teams, so 30 percent of a playoff team’s roster1Even if turnover is distributed unevenly among players with different amounts of service time, as this Ben Lindbergh piece suggests it generally is. is likely to be a more capable bunch than 30 percent of, say, the Atlanta Braves’ roster.2Bartolo Colon’s recent arrival notwithstanding.Still, by combining a list of major-league free agents compiled by Spotrac with Fangraphs’ Steamer projections for each player’s wins above replacement next year,3We downloaded Fangraphs’ list of players and their projected WAR on November 12, 2016. Numbers are accurate as of that date. Some players may not appear in Fangraphs’ data set, and we excluded the 24 free agents who have not played in the big leagues in the last two years and therefore were not projected by Fangraphs’ system. it’s possible to get a rough sense of which teams will have their work cut out for them on the free-agency front. These numbers were calculated going into free agency, so they don’t reflect the first few signings of the offseason. They do, however, accurately reflect the wide range of challenges teams faced at the outset of the main period of the offseason. read more
Darrell Evans198740150340.23 Moises Alou20063998220.22 Barry Bonds200641130260.20 Jim Thome201039108250.23 Carlton Fisk19884076190.25 Barry Bonds200439147450.31 Raul Ibanez201341124290.23 Cy Williams192739131300.23 Andre Dawson19943975160.21 Willie McCovey197739141280.20 Willie Stargell197939126320.25 Steve Finley200439162360.22 PLAYERYEARAGEGAMESHOME RUNSHOME RUNS PER GAME Hank Aaron197339120400.33 Barry Bonds200742126280.22 Hank Sauer195740127260.20 Ted Williams195839129260.20 Once–disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez turned 40 years old Monday, and he’s still hitting home run hat tricks. His remarkable return to form (at the moment he’s a top-10 hitter despite missing all of last year) has even New York fans who loathed him not long ago mulling his redemption.So just how good, just how unexpected, just how amazing is this season of his?From at least some angles, very. His 23 home runs through 97 Yankees team games (as of Sunday) put him “on pace” for around 38 for the year, which would leave him trailing only Barry Bonds in 2004 (45 HR) and Hank Aaron in 1973 (40 HR) among players who started the season age 39 or older. Even assuming Rodriguez can’t keep up that pace and regresses toward the mean a bit, he seems very likely to end up in the top five all time for his age — he needs only 10 more home runs to clear that threshold.If his season ended today, his home runs per game played would already be cream of the crop. Here are the top 20 HR/game averages for players 39 and older with at least 75 games played: Ted Williams196041113290.26 Alex Rodriguez20153990230.26 Andres Galarraga200039141280.20 Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams … Alex Rodriguez. That’s amazing company.Looking beyond home runs, Rodriguez’s numbers are still excellent, but not quite as historic. Among other players starting their season age 39 or older who had at least 100 plate appearances, his 0.73 wins above replacement (offensive WAR)1Baseball-Reference’s version. per 100 plate appearances is 32nd all-time.Let’s compare Rodriguez to players who played similarly well (or better) into their late 30s2The chart shows all players since 1900 who had at least four seasons with 100-plus plate appearances after age 35 and who accumulated a total of at least 8 offensive WAR over that season. (Rodriguez has 8.7.) Oh, and they also had to average at least 0.5 per 100 plate appearances, by season. (Rodriguez has averaged around 0.6.) I’ve also excluded later seasons from this average for those who played more than five seasons past 35, to avoid filtering out players who had great careers into their late 30s but stuck around too long.:As we can see, the three main “peaks” are Babe Ruth, Williams and Bonds (unsurprising). But Rodriguez’s twilight career, even counting this season, is still fairly mainstream (so far).Rodriguez’s dramatic-seeming improvement this year really isn’t that unusual either — probably worth noting given suspicions stemming from his history of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use. Rodriguez has jumped 0.3 wins per 100 plate appearances from the last season he played to this one. That’s good, but it’s only the 53rd-largest such jump among those 39 and older (compared with 134 declines greater than 0.3).3The ratio of declines to gains of this magnitude is actually much smaller than I would have guessed. That is, he’s no Gavvy Cravath, who went from a .696 OPS (on-base plus slugging) at age 37 to a 1.078 OPS at age 38.Indeed, playing deep into one’s 30s (and even beyond) has gotten much more common (though the increase is a bit less pronounced in Rodriguez’s 39-plus age group):It’s interesting that Rodriguez is somewhat bucking the recent downward trend, one that seems to have started around when MLB began cracking down on PED use (a speculative causal connection, but one that’s highly likely, in my opinion).4As for what might have happened in 1987, I asked FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur, and he didn’t have any great ideas off the top of his head, either. If you do, please let us know. With the departure of players like Bonds — who couldn’t find a job in 2008 despite having 1.045 OPS in 2007 (higher than Mike Trout in 2015), baseball has lost roughly half its number of batters 35 and older since 2007.In other words, one of the more remarkable aspects of Rodriguez’s season is that it’s defying a trend that likely results from league efforts to end PED use, the very thing that helped make him so good before — as well as such a pariah later.CORRECTION (July 29, 6:06 p.m.): An earlier version of this post misstated the seasons in which Rodriguez played. He did not play last season, so his increase of 0.3 WAR per 100 plate appearances was from 2013 to this season, not from last year to this one. Willie Mays197039139280.20 read more
Percent change-41.4%14.5%-2.6%-1.4%-37.6% Five or more DBs18.912.722.214.171.124 *YAC = Yards After CatchSource: ESPN Stats & Information Group Although Gronkowski’s ability to rumble downfield after the catch isn’t overly affected by facing more defensive backs — which isn’t a surprise when a man of Gronk’s size is facing tiny cornerbacks — and his average depth of target actually increases a lot (meaning he’s running deeper routes), Gronk’s ability to get open and make plays dips significantly when there are fewer mismatches to exploit in the opposing coverage. As a result, Gronk’s Adjusted Catch Yards (a measure of receiving productivity that gives bonuses for touchdowns and moving the chains) per route run are down nearly 40 percent against five or more DBs over the past three seasons. By comparison, the average NFL tight end only sees his Adjusted Catch Yards per route fall by about 18 percent under those circumstances.So in that sense, Ramsey is right. And given how dependent the Patriots are on Gronk’s stat-stuffing, Jacksonville could gain a disproportionate edge if Ramsey and his fellow DBs neutralize the Pats’ big, lovable human wrecking ball. Against the Jags in the first half of last year’s AFC title game, Gronkowski was limited to one catch on three targets, with zero touchdowns (before a concussion took him out of the game for the second half). Not coincidentally, between Gronk’s limited impact and subsequent absence, the Pats barely mustered enough points to pull past Jacksonville and make the Super Bowl.That said, it should be noted that even a Gronk limited by opposing defensive backs is better than just about every other tight end on the planet. Since 2016, Gronkowski’s Adjusted Catch Yards per route against five or more DBs (3.25) was still 30 percent better than the overall average for NFL tight ends (regardless of opposing coverage). To paraphrase Dan Patrick, you can’t truly stop Gronk; you can only hope to contain him. And that goes even for Jalen Ramsey. Avg. NFL TE-7.2%5.6%2.3%-30.8%-17.6% Gronk fares worse against more defensive backsChange in key receiving metrics for Rob Gronkowski by number of opposing defensive backs on the field, 2016-18 Four or fewer DBs32.3126.96.36.199.2 Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is the NFL’s undisputed best at his position, and he might even be the best of all time. Well, OK, that’s according to most football-watchers. Not everyone is buying Gronk’s greatness — and by “not everyone,” I mean Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was considered to be the best in the game last season. In an … ahem, wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes last month, Ramsey had this to say about Gronkowski:“I don’t think Gronk’s good. Let me say — I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is.”With the Jags and Patriots lined up to play Sunday, that quote has seen plenty of recirculation. “It motivates you to hear that,” Gronkowski told reporters when asked about Ramsey’s remarks. But there is something to Ramsey’s criticism, even if it means that Gronk can be reduced to merely regular-dominant, rather than ridiculously so.Ramsey’s central critique of Gronk surrounds the way he feasts on linebackers and safeties but isn’t as dominant against cornerbacks. “Any time Gronk has been matched up with a corner, he’s had a very bad game,” Ramsey told Kimes, “and that corner has had a very good game.” This echoed Ramsey’s comments in an earlier GQ story — the guy really made the media rounds last month! — where he said, “I think I match up well against him. Gronk’s never played a corner like me.”As Kimes notes in her story, Gronkowski’s numbers do drop when he is lined up on the outside rather than in the slot. “His catch rate drops from 71 percent to 56 percent,” she writes, “which is lower than that of the average NFL tight end.” Ramsey himself referenced similar numbers from Jacksonville’s analytics department. With more defensive attention from coverage specialists, Gronkowski doesn’t get as many favorable matchups — and unequal matchups are what he thrives against.Using the same key receiving metrics we employed when assessing Falcons wideout Julio Jones’ greatness, here’s how Gronk’s production changes depending on how many defensive backs he has to face (which, presumably, increases the odds he’ll face a cornerback like Ramsey): Opposing DefenseTargets Per RouteAir Yds. per TargetCatches per TargetYAC* per CatchAdj. Catch Yds. per Route read more
At the core of the College Football Playoff is the assumption that four reasonably well-differentiated teams will be left standing at the end of the regular season and conference championship games, ready to be neatly penciled into a bracket.Unfortunately, such a tidy setup seldom actually happens in real life.This season is a good example. If you break things down into tiers of teams, at the top are three Tier 1 teams — undefeated major-conference squads plus independent Notre Dame1Because they are Notre Dame. — in Alabama, Clemson and the aforementioned Irish (two of which could potentially be conference champions as well). But there are also four Tier 2 teams — one-loss major-conference teams and undefeated minor-conference ones — in Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia and Central Florida. Even if you grant that poor UCF is likely to get little consideration (particularly with starting QB McKenzie Milton out with a leg injury), and that UGA would drop below Tier 2 with an SEC title-game loss to Bama, the math doesn’t quite work out to shield the selection committee from criticism. It still leaves too many deserving teams for too few slots.So with the help of our playoff odds algorithm, let’s run down the various permutations of what could happen on Championship Saturday to see who the model thinks would make the playoff in each.2Including every set of results that has at least a 2 percent probability of actually happening — with one special exception. Based on how the selection committee (and, before that, the BCS) has behaved in the past, we’ll break down how our system expects it to react this year. And we’ll go in order, from the least controversial to the most…(Note: These chances reflect the results from Week 13 but not the latest playoff committee rankings, which are released Tuesday night. Instead, they use our model’s expectation of how those rankings will change.)Alabama and Clemson win; Oklahoma OR Ohio State loses.Chances of happening: 23 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (greater than 99 percent), Clemson (>99), OU or OSU winner (98), Notre Dame (94)Others: UCF (3 percent), Texas (2)This is one of the dream scenarios for the committee, as it would give them three top-tier teams and only two Tier 2 teams to choose from, one of which is non-Power 5 UCF with an injured QB. From there, picking the four playoff teams would be relatively straightforward.Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma win; Clemson loses.Chances of happening: 2 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Ohio State (94), Notre Dame (93), Oklahoma (92)Others: Clemson (11 percent)According to our model, this result would also benefit the selection committee. If Clemson were to lose the ACC title game to Pitt when favored by more than three touchdowns, the Tigers would suddenly be a Tier 2 team battling with a couple of fellow candidates (the Buckeyes and Sooners) who would each boast conference championships in this scenario.Clemson wins; Alabama and either Oklahoma OR Ohio State loses.Chances of happening: 14 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (99), Notre Dame (88), OU or OSU winner (83)Others: Alabama (24 percent)This is a variation of the first scenario listed above, where everything goes more or less to form except Georgia beats Alabama for the SEC title. I suspect our algorithm might be undercounting the chances that the committee stamps a playoff ticket for the Crimson Tide — who’ve had one of the most dominant seasons in college history — even with the loss. But taken on face value, a pair of conference champs (Oklahoma/Ohio State and UGA) might have a better case than a one-loss non-champ (Bama) within Tier 2.Clemson wins; Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 3 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (>99), Notre Dame (98), Alabama (65)Others: Texas (16 percent), UCF (12), Washington (7)Despite the scary-sounding prospect of dealing with a one-loss, non-conference-champ Crimson Tide team, this sequence of events gets the committee off the hook to some extent. Clemson, Notre Dame and UGA would be easy calls, and it’s not hard to see Alabama rising over any of the other candidates for the No. 4 slot in the playoff field.Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma AND Ohio State win.Chances of happening: 31 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Clemson (>99), Ohio State (69), Oklahoma (69)Others: Notre Dame (62 percent)Under this very plausible situation — the most likely on this list, in fact — the committee would have to make a tough choice among Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame for the third and fourth playoff seeds. Lacking any kind of special Notre Dame adjustment, the model thinks OSU and OU would come out ahead. Realistically speaking, however, it’s difficult to imagine that the committee would exclude an undefeated Irish squad, right or wrong. So that means it would come down to splitting hairs between the Buckeyes and Sooners. Good luck with that.Alabama and Clemson win; Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 4 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Clemson (>99), Notre Dame (98) and … ???Others: Texas (31 percent), Georgia (29), UCF (23), Washington (12), Ohio State (5)Most of the scenarios on this list involve too many good teams for too few slots. But in this particular case, there wouldn’t be enough. The committee would be staring at three clear-cut deserving squads, plus a whole bunch of flawed lower-tier teams in the mix for the fourth and final bid. Our model actually thinks three-loss (!) Texas would be the most likely candidate, though this is also one of UCF’s best, most viable paths to that elusive playoff berth.Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State win; Alabama loses.Chances of happening: 19 percentLikely playoff field: Clemson (>99 percent), Georgia (98), Ohio State (66), Oklahoma (62)Others: Notre Dame (60 percent), Alabama (13)This is the combination the selection committee has to be fearing the most, in part because it could happen so easily. It would simply require the Tigers, Sooners and Buckeyes winning a trio of games as favorites, and Georgia pulling off a not-unthinkable upset against the Tide for the SEC crown. Remember, the Bulldogs were in great shape for about a half in last year’s national championship game — before Bama stormed back to force overtime and eventually win. If UGA avenges that loss on Saturday, the committee would have a very tricky choice on its hands.Alabama wins; Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State lose.Chances of happening: 0.2 percentLikely playoff field: Alabama (>99 percent), Notre Dame (>99), Clemson (64) and … ???Others: Texas (44 percent), Georgia (36), UCF (31), Washington (16), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4)This chaotic option isn’t as immediately apparent as the obvious “Georgia beats Bama” doomsday scenario above, but it might end up wreaking just as much havoc. Our model thinks Clemson would still have a reasonable 2-in-3 chance of making the playoff even after losing to Pitt, provided the Sooners and Buckeyes also lose. But the model is doing an algorithmic shruggie at the idea of having to pick the fourth team, which could be any of six schools with at least a 4 percent chance according to the model. The odds of this happening are very low (about 1 in 444), but if it does, it could be the most challenging decision the committee has faced in its five seasons of existence.Check out our latest college football predictions. read more
The Penn State defense tackles OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett late in the fourth quarter to solidify a 24-21 victory over the Buckeyes on Oct. 22. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorSTATE COLLEGE, Pa. — When the Ohio State football team got back to Columbus around 5 in the morning following the Wisconsin game, the No. 2 Buckeyes changed up their routine. They took an off day on Sunday and watched film on Monday. Throughout the week the team tried to correct the woes in the passing game that carried over to Wisconsin from the Indiana game the week before.Once again, a sluggish offensive performance reared its ugly head on Saturday night against the Penn State Nittany Lions. However, this time it ended in the team’s first loss of 2016, 24-21 in regulation. It was coach Urban Meyer’s first loss in 21 true road games with the Scarlet and Gray.“Offensively we didn’t control the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said. “(J.T. Barrett) was under pressure all night when he threw it. We didn’t move them off the ball in the run game.”After three quarters, the Buckeyes looked to be in control. Samuel silenced the white-out crowd with an electrifying 74-yard touchdown run that put OSU up 19-7. Then, a Penn State snap went over the head of punter Blake Gillikin who recovered it in his own end zone for a safety. The Buckeyes led 21-7, then things went south.Penn State scored on a 90-yard drive in just five plays. Then, after an OSU three-and-out and a blocked punt, the Nittany Lions put three more on the board to trim the deficit to 21-17. After OSU accumulated 59 yards, Penn State junior cornerback Grant Haley blocked a field goal attempt from OSU senior kicker Tyler Durbin and returned it 60 yards for the game-winning score.Albeit, the outcome wasn’t entirely the offense’s fault, but the team’s inability to gain first downs early in the game came back to haunt them late.With 4:21 on the clock for a game-tying or go-ahead score, a typical Urban Meyer offense can manage that time and score without much of a problem. For whatever reason, this year that has not been the case and it showed on Saturday. The kickoff was muffed, giving redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett and the offense difficult field position. The entire drive, the Penn State defense — ranked 102nd in the country in rushing defense prior to the game— continued to disrupt the OSU offense. Barrett was flushed out of the backfield, had little time to throw and redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber had nowhere to run.Barrett was sacked twice on the drive in the team’s final two plays. In total, Penn State had six sacks on the night, the most allowed this season by OSU’s offensive line.“We didn’t get our job done,” redshirt senior center Pat Elflein said. “They were playing hard and we just didn’t do it. We didn’t get it done tonight.”For the third straight week, the passing game has not been met expectations. Barrett completed 28-of-43 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown, but over half of those completions were to Samuel and Weber — many on checkdowns.Barrett was forced out of the pocket on numerous occasions, but that wasn’t the problem in the past two games. Even when there was protection, Barrett often had to create more time to find an open receiver. He said after the game that the timing between the receivers wasn’t an issue.“I think it was just mental errors,” Barrett said. “It’s not looking for a hot (receiver) … not clearing out on some routes so somebody else can get open. I think that was part of it. I think we put our O-line in bad spots early on in drives, so we’re in 2nd-and-long and then we had to pass.”Moving forward, OSU has plenty of questions to answer on both sides of the ball, but the the presence of a passing game might avoid another loss that would effectively end OSU’s playoff hopes.“We’re not a great team right now,” Meyer said. “We got to regroup and get guys healthy and come back and keep swinging.” read more
It has been a puzzling season for Jeremie Simmons.After averaging more than 22 minutes a game last season, the senior guard expected to play a big role for the Buckeyes in his final season in Columbus. However, for one reason or another, that has not been the case. Simmons’ role on the team has dwindled more and more as the season has progressed and during the last two weeks he has played a little more than eight minutes a night. For a Buckeye team that already lacks depth, playing seven or eight players a game, Simmons’ disappearing act is difficult to explain.At first glance, it may seem that the lack of playing time is directly linked to Simmons’ recent shooting woes. Since the start of Big Ten play in late December, he has been ice cold from the field, shooting just six of 27, including two of 17 from beyond the 3-point line. The 22 percent effort does not exactly fit the role coach Thad Matta had in mind. “We need him to make shots for us,” Matta said. “That’s what he does and he’s very good at it.”Unfortunately for Matta and the Buckeyes, Simmons has not been “very good at it” lately and for nearly a month he has simply struggled to put the ball in the basket.After he played just four minutes during OSU’s game at Purdue two weeks ago and just five minutes the following game against Wisconsin, it seemed as though Simmons’ difficulties had earned him a seat on the Buckeye bench. Although Matta acknowledged Simmons’ shooting woes, the coach was not willing to link them with his decreasing minutes. When asked if there was a reason why Simmons played so little in the games against Purdue and Wisconsin, the coach replied that, “no, there really wasn’t,” but did suggest that the extended stints on the bench may have been due to injury. Neither Simmons nor Matta had made any mention of an injury in the past and when asked what specifically Simmons was dealing with, Matta said that he didn’t know exactly what it was. Athletics spokesman Dan Wallenberg, who works closely with the men’s basketball team, did his best to explain. “It’s a nerve thing, so he should be OK,” Wallenberg said. “[It’s] nothing that’s going to last very long.”With the uncertainty surrounding the injury, Simmons’ role on the team was still unclear going into the Buckeyes’ home game against Northwestern last Tuesday. Simmons played 16 minutes against the Wildcats, but missed all four of his shots from the field, including all three of his 3-point attempts. Although there was no visible evidence that Simmons was battling injury, Matta again said that the senior was not 100 percent healthy. “He’s still banged up, I guess it’s the best way to put it,” Matta said. “But I still don’t know exactly what it is.”His playing time increased against Northwestern but his peculiar injury still remained as the Buckeyes prepared to play at West Virginia on Saturday. Simmons spent the majority of Saturday’s game on the bench, playing only eight minutes in the Buckeyes’ loss to the Mountaineers, and again failed to make a field goal. It was a game that OSU led by 12 at the half, but ran out of gas down the stretch before losing 71-65.The Buckeyes only used seven players in the loss, a lack of depth that appeared costly as the game went on and West Virginia mounted a comeback. The lack of support from the reserves in a time when it seemed vital to the team’s success raised even more questions regarding Simmons’ perplexing absence. It would seem as though, with the bulk of the conference schedule on the horizon, the Buckeyes could certainly use some help off the bench. But whether Simmons is really battling some undetermined injury, or if he is simply just not playing well enough, one thing is clear: Matta is not hesitant to limit the senior’s role if he deems it necessary.Although Matta made it clear that he would like for Simmons to have a bigger role in the team, much of the onus falls on Simmons to get himself back at a level capable of significant contribution. With so much uncertainty surrounding what exactly is holding him back, there is no definite timetable for increased minutes.When asked whether a spike in Simmons’ playing time is in the near future, Matta simply replied “I hope so.” read more
Next season, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will have a fresh group of faces, including top-notch recruits, and most recently, a new assistant coach.Dave Dickerson, former head basketball coach at Tulane University, joins the Buckeyes as they try to improve on their 29-8 performance this past season.“I’m very excited to start at The Ohio State University,” said Dickerson. “Just working at an institution where you know you have everything available to win at a high level, it’s an idea that’s very entertaining.”For Dickerson, leaving Tulane and heading to OSU was an easy decision to make.“When this job came up at Ohio State, it’s one of the best jobs in the country,” he said. “It’s a great situation.”Coach Thad Matta has wanted to make Davidson a member of the coaching staff since he began at Ohio State six years ago, and finally, the pieces fell together.“With Dave, six years ago I kind of begged and pleaded with him,” said Matta. “I’ve just always been impressed with him, his style. I was going to wait as long as I needed to for him, but fortunately we got things worked out quickly.”The Tulane program had registered just one season better than .500 before Dickerson took over. Dickerson, who coached there for five years, recorded back-to-back winning seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08.Coaching at the collegiate level is very familiar to him, as he has been involved at the assistant level or higher since 1990. Nine of his 30 years coaching were spent as an assistant at the University of Maryland, his alma mater. “That was probably one of the best stretches of coaching I’ve had in my 20 years,” said Dickerson. “In my tenure at Maryland we had two Final Fours and winning a National Championship, winning an ACC Championship. Those things were good, but I think when you’re at Ohio State you can have the opportunity to do that same thing.”Matta is excited to bring in someone who not only has experience coaching, but also in playing the game. Dickerson played basketball at Maryland from 1985 to 1989.Dickerson has immediately stepped into the role of assistant coach, replacing Alan Major, who was appointed head coach at Charlotte two weeks ago.“When this job became available with Alan’s departure, he was the only guy I talked to,” Matta said. “We moved pretty quick. He’s a tremendous person and knows how to do things the right way. I love the fact that he helped build a National Championship program as an assistant coach.”With OSU boasting the second-best recruiting class in the country heading into next season, Dickerson feels that OSU will remain an elite program.“The great thing for me is that I’m heading into one of the best schools in the country,” Dickerson said. “I think people all over the country know that Ohio State is one of those schools who can not only contend for a National Championship in football, but also in basketball.”Although Dickerson has no coaching experience in the Midwest, he is confident heading into his newest program.“I’m intense as a basketball coach,” Dickerson said. “But I understand that I am an assistant coach now, so I will do whatever I can do to fit in with the staff here at Ohio State.” read more
Jake Nickle, a volunteer on the Ohio State football team’s strength and conditioning staff, died Friday afternoon after losing consciousness during a pickup basketball game at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, OSU athletic spokesman Dan Wallenberg confirmed to The Lantern. Jake, 22, was transported to the OSU Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. “He died doing the thing that he loved doing,” Jake’s father, Lawrence, told The Lantern. “He wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach.” Lawrence said Jake didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, but that he “was told to decondition himself.” “He wasn’t allowed to lift or anything,” Lawrence said, adding that Jake had been experiencing “light-headedness.” Jake, a Marysville, Ohio, native, graduated last year from Capital University, where he played on the football team’s defensive line. During the 2009 season, he recorded 21 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one interception in 10 games. He majored in health and fitness management, according to his Facebook page. Jake’s grandmother, Florence, told The Lantern: “He was sure committed to his sport. To his grandfather and I, he was a good boy. He was a great student-athlete. He will be missed. “It’s just such a loss to all of us.” In an e-mail to The Lantern, Henry Stanford, Nickle’s coach at Capital, said: “Jake was one of the finest young men I had the honor of coaching. The best way for me to describe Jake is competitive, caring, tremendous work ethic, great student-athlete. The Crusader Nation has lost a great member. He was special and an inspiration to all that have played with him, coached and had pleasure of knowing him. He will be remembered.” Jake has one brother, Lucas, who is 21. Troy Sutton, an OSU strength and conditioning assistant, posted on his Twitter account, @StrengthCoachT, about 3 p.m.: “Just lost a fellow Buckeye today our Strength Staff will never be the same. He spent 24 of his last 31 hrs on this earth training the Bucks.” Lawrence said an autopsy will be conducted Saturday and services might be held Tuesday. He said he won’t be sure about the services until Sunday. A number of players posted condolences on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. On his Facebook profile, freshman receiver Bradley Roby wrote: “Life is crazy man. One day you can be perfectly fine. Then the next, gone forever. RIP Jake.” Tight end Spencer Smith wrote: “Please pray for the OSU football family. We lost a brother today. RIP Jake.” Former linebacker Brian Rolle wrote: “RIP JAKE…..May God be with your love ones.” read more
The Ohio State men’s volleyball team swept the weekend at St. John Arena with wins against Carthage College and conference foe Ball State to improve to an 11-4 record on the season. A rowdy Carthage team brought an arsenal of choreographed chants with them Sunday afternoon. Led by sophomore outside hitter Tyler Parks, the Red Men cheered in chorus after every point they scored and danced during timeouts. The antics failed to shake the Buckeyes who took the Red Men in four sets. “(Carthage) was a match where we wanted to build some momentum coming off of Friday’s performance to get better to go into this coming Thursday and Saturday,” said OSU coach Pete Hanson. Despite a victory for his team, Hanson was dissatisfied with the amount of errors in the match. “You just can’t play like that, make those kinds of errors and play uninspired volleyball, no matter who the opponent is,” he said. OSU led the first set, 4-3, until two consecutive errors from senior opposite Shawn Sangrey put Carthage ahead. The Red Men held onto that advantage and took set one, 18-25. Carthage started the second set strong with a four-point lead. The Buckeyes recovered and the score tied 10 times in an effort to pull ahead. At 17 all, a five-point run gave OSU the edge it needed to close the set 25-21. Junior outside hitter Nick Gibson scored on two kills and a block to aid in the crucial drive. “It was a little bit of a longer battle than we wanted,” Gibson said. “You can make statements in different ways, whether it’s in three games or four.” The score in the third set stayed within two points with both teams exchanging the lead. At 15-17, Sangrey’s kill and service ace contributed to four straight points for OSU. Set point came for the Buckeyes on a service error by sophomore right side Pat Barry. Senior middle blocker Matt Yanz’s kill sailed out of bounds to give OSU the set, 25-18. OSU took a quick five-point lead in the final set, 10-5, after a service ace from Gibson and a kill by senior outside hitter Mik Berzins. The Red Men were unable to catch up and the Buckeyes took the set 25-16. Berzins described Carthage as “a team that will sneak up on you.” “They played with a lot of intensity and are a really top-notch team,” Berzins said. OSU swept the Ball State Cardinals in three sets in their Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association match Friday night. Sangrey recorded a match-high 13 kills. Junior middle blocker Grayson Overman and senior outside hitter Anthony Hock added seven apiece. Junior outside attacker Larry Wrather led the Cardinals offensively with 10 kills and 11.5 points. Wrather and Hock both tallied six digs for their teams. The Buckeyes watched as an attack from junior setter Elias Aparcedo arched over the net and landed out of bounds to end the first set, 25-15. In an attempt to keep the second set alive, Wrather leaped over the Cardinals’ bench between two coaches to retrieve a ball hit wide. Junior outside hitter Mike Stefani was credited with the service ace and the set ended, 25-22. The third set, 25-17, included four more Buckeye service aces and only three errors. OSU will be on the road this week with conference matches in Romeoville and Chicago, Ill. The Buckeyes will face the No. 7-ranked Lewis University Flyers Thursday and the No. 14-ranked Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Saturday. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m. read more
As the preseason gives way to the regular season for the No. 20 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team, confidence might continue to build in the Buckeyes’ locker room. Saturday’s doubleheader and preseason finale against No. 12 Syracuse and Robert Morris yielded positive results for the Buckeyes, who had a chance to test out their younger players with the physical toll of playing two games in a day. Dropping the first match, the Buckeyes lost to Syracuse 8-7, conceding a late goal to the Orange that proved to be the difference in the game. After about a three-hour break, the team came out and took down Robert Morris, 17-9, outscoring the Colonials 11-2 in the second half. Coming into the day, some fans circled the team’s game against Syracuse as a potential thriller. The teams did not disappoint. OSU captain, senior midfielder Dominique Alexander, kicked the scoring off early in the first half putting the Buckeyes up, 1-0. The Orange answered, though, and showed why their defense is considered one of the best in America, holding the Buckeyes’ goalless for almost 20 minutes during the game’s first and second quarters. After giving up four straight goals, OSU went into the half trailing, 3-5, and needing a spark on offense. The Buckeyes came out on fire in the second half, tying the game, 7-7, by the midpoint of the fourth quarter, though. In the end, OSU could not capitalize on its momentum, and Syracuse scored the winner with just more than two minutes to play in the match. While Robert Morris came out and played Syracuse, OSU got a chance to head back to the locker room for a little recuperation and game planning for the second match. Starting remarkably similarly to the way they had earlier in the day, the Buckeyes scored the first goal of the match but conceded four straight scores to give Robert Morris a 3-point lead heading into the second quarter. Senior midfielder Dan Wertz and senior attacker Patrick Riffee turned it on after the break between quarters. Scoring a combined 11 goals, seven of which were from Wertz, the two seniors spurred the Buckeyes to a dominant performance in the final three quarters. Once the dust had settled, OSU led, 17-9, which finished the preseason unofficially 2-2. OSU is set to play the Detroit Titans for the regular season opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. read more
Former Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash was named Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jan. 23.Credit: Courtesy of Arkansas Athletic DepartmentUrban Meyer’s rejuvenated coaching staff might be complete.Ohio State officially announced the hiring of Chris Ash as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Thursday, rounding out coach Meyer’s coaching staff for now, according to a press release.“We’ve competed against a Chris Ash defense before and I have respect for him as a coach,” Meyer said in a released statement. “I like the fact he has experience in the Big Ten Conference and that he is a great recruiter. He was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to.”An OSU spokesman said in an email Thursday afternoon Ash is set to earn $520,000 as part of the Buckeyes’ coaching staff, $30,000 less than what he made in his previous position.Ash comes to OSU after spending one year as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Arkansas. He is set to replace former OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers, who was named the next head football coach at James Madison University Dec. 20. Withers earned $580,000 this past season at OSU, according to The Lantern archives.“I was attracted to this position because it is Ohio State,” Ash said in a released statement. “And I had to wonder if I ever would have this opportunity again. This is one of the top five college football programs in the country. It has tremendous history and tradition, and it is a great academic institution.“The opportunity to work for coach Meyer and to learn as a part of his staff will absolutely enhance my knowledge of the game and my coaching experiences.”Prior to coaching at Arkansas this past season, Ash spent two years at Wisconsin with former Badgers and current Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema. In 2011, the Wisconsin defense allowed just 163.6 passing yards per game, good for fourth-best nationally. It also ranked 13th in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 19 points per game, and 15th in total defense, allowing 316.3 yards per game.In 2012, the Badgers defense finished ranked 15th in the country in total defense, allowing 322.6 yards per game, and 16th in scoring (19.1 points per game) and 18th in fewest passing yards allowed with 193.6 yards per game. He was part of the coaching staff that helped lead the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls from 2011-13.Ash will look to bring stability to OSU’s defensive secondary, which finished ranked 112th in the nation last season, giving up an average 268 yards per game.“To be successful, I think you have to be detailed,” Ash said in a released statement. “You have to be able to coach and teach the fundamentals of the game, and that’s how you develop players. You have to have a consistency with how you prepare yourself so you can prepare them and then get them to play hard.”Ash, a 1996 graduate of Drake University who grew up in Iowa, said in a statement he is looking forward to recruiting for OSU.“You can recruit anywhere in the country,” Ash said in reference to the OSU coaches. “You can recruit players that are talented, that have character and that believe education is very important. When you have all three of those attributes in players, then you can build upon this outstanding program.”Ash earned $550,000 this past season at Arkansas, according to the USA TODAY coaches database.The Buckeyes are set to open their 2014 campaign Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. read more
Three cyclists got a bike stuck on an electric fence, leading to a hilarious, and painful, attempt to dislodge it. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
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I must say I am quite surprised that he was able to leave the country with hundreds of millions of pounds and a curfew tag.Judge Angela Nield Luqman built his property empire after buying his first house when he was student studying finance at Manchester University.By the time he graduated in 1991 he owned 24 houses which he rented out to other students and after working in a bank formed his firm Lexi Holdings in 2000 which provided bridging finance to MPs, footballers and entrepreneurs looking to build property portfolios.In 2004 he was named ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ by Ernst and Young lived in a £5m secluded mansion in Hale, Cheshire drove a Bentley Continental GT and travelled in his own Gulfstream IV transatlantic business jet.His property and finance empire financed by bank loans was worth £300m pounds and his £250m personal wealth put him 238th on The Sunday Times Rich List and he was named as one of Britain’s richest Asians. But 2006 his property leasing company went into administration with debts of £100m amid allegations of dishonesty.He was also banned from running a company for 15 years, branded “completely dishonest” by a High Court judge over a furniture firms he ran and he had his business assets seized by administrators.He was then jailed for two years in July 2007 for contempt of court and found liable for more than £100m in funds allegedly misappropriated from his collapsed business empire. In 2009 he was jailed for another 12 months for contempt after he disposed of two Range Rovers and two valuable paintings and sold land in Pakistan.In 2011 Luqman was arrested for a third time after he tried to apply for a new passport despite court orders banning him from applying for any travel documents. He falsely claimed his old passport had been mislaid in a house move and he needed the travel document to see his ailing parents who had been taken ill in Pakistan. In 2005, Luqman boasted in an interview: “Overall, we are a billion-pound company. In 10 or 20 years, I want us to be as big as a high street bank.” Shaid Luqman was once one of Britain’s richest men but his company collapsed amid allegations of dishonestyCredit:Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd Mr Luqman absconded to Pakistan despite having a curfew tag in and having taken what was described as hundreds of millions of pounds cash gained from Halifax, Barclays and Lloyds bank from fraud.Prosecutor Ian Metcalfe A judge has hit out at UK border controls after a tycoon suspected of masterminding Britain’s biggest ever banking fraud was able to flee to Pakistan despite having no passport and whilst wearing an electronic tag.Multi-millionaire Shaid Luqman, 48, flew out of Manchester Airport in 2011 – along with millions of pounds in allegedly stolen cash – after he left a trail of debt over the collapse of his £300m business empire.Although his British and Pakistani passports had been confiscated and he was subsequently hauled into court for fraudulently attempting to get another one, Luqman – known as “Lucky” – sneaked passed airport security officials just two weeks after he was tagged and given a suspended jail term.Despite a warrant being issued for his arrest, he remains on the run six years later and is apparently living the high life – having brazenly opened a shopping mall in Lahore, started his own fashion boutique and appeared in series of glossy magazine photo shoots. At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester Judge Nield adjourned the review until December but said: “He was never going to get back for his 9am curfew from Pakistan.”I must say I am quite surprised that he was able to leave the country with hundreds of millions of pounds and a curfew tag. With the security at airports, my other half doesn’t seem to be able to go anywhere without being searched. We will review the warrant in six months time and see if there has been any progress made then. ” This week Judge Angela Nield expressed surprise at how Luqman was able to escape during a review hearing over the arrest warrant in which no mention was made as to whether the authorities had made any progress in bringing Luqman back to the UK to face justice. Britain does not have an extradition treaty with Pakistan. But on April 27 2011 he escaped jail for passport fraud after claiming he suffered from “flashbacks and panic attacks” and insisted he was “not a well man.” He was given 10 months suspended for 18 months and was ordered to wear an electronic tag for three months. He fled the UK on June 10 of that year. Prosecutor Ian Metcalfe said: “There has been a warrant outstanding for his arrest since 30 June 2011. On the 10 June Mr Luqman absconded to Pakistan despite having a curfew tag in and having taken what was described as hundreds of millions of pounds cash gained from Halifax, Barclays and Lloyds bank from fraud.”There was a review last in the 8 December 2016 and we say the warrant should continue as these are serious matters. We presume that he did fly and that it was from Manchester airport.”Luqman’s younger brother, Waheed, is also said to be in Paksitan and is also wanted by police in the UK having been jailed for seven-and-a-half years in his absence for fraud in January 2013.At Waheed’s trial the Serious Fraud Office prosecutors said the Luqman family had defrauded creditors of the company, including Barclays, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland between 2000 to 2006. Investigators fear £104million was siphoned out of the company to family in Pakistan. Shaid was described as the “prime mover” in the scam, aided by Waheed in what was a “family fraud”. Shaid Luqman’s passports had been confiscated and he had been fitted with an electronic tag before he fled the country Credit:Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd read more
“I love stopping alongside a sports car at the lights at Marble Arch, then racing off while he gets… Mr Humphrys added that he did not wear a helmet on the assumption that motorists will give elderly cyclists a “wide berth”. The BBC Radio 4 presenter, who describes himself as a keen cyclist, said he enjoyed proving he could travel faster on a bike than a sports car in central London traffic. John Humphrys has entered the debate on cycling safety, revealing he believes his white hair offers more protection than a helmet on the roads. In an interview with the London Magazine, Mr Humphrys said: “I don’t wear a helmet on the assumption that people will see a white-haired man and give me a wide berth.
She explained: “There isn’t enough education and it should start really quite young, explaining that there is a range and that – just as we all look different in our faces – we all look different down there, and that’s OK.”The doctor thinks labiaplasty should only be performed on girls who have a medical abnormality.In 2015-16, more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty on the NHS, and over 150 of the girls were under 15.”I find it very hard to believe there are 150 girls with a medical abnormality which means they needed an operation on their labia,” she said.The majority are performed by private surgeons on women over the age of 18.Despite the industry being criticised for fueling insecurities, plastic surgeon Miles Berry defended the surgery.He told the BBC: “It can change people fundamentally, the feelings they have about themselves, their confidence and self-esteem.”I have seen patients aged between 16 and 21 who have never had a boyfriend because they are so concerned about this.” Ms de Zulueta said it is the fault of pornography and social media. She said she is yet to see a young girl who needs the operation.Paquita de Zulueta, a GP for more than 30 years, told the BBC that it is only in the past few years young women have been coming to her with concerns about the shape of their privates.She said: “I’m seeing young girls around 11, 12, 13 thinking there’s something wrong with their vulva – that they’re the wrong shape, the wrong size, and really expressing almost disgust.” Unbelievable that any doctor would perform this surgery on a young girl! What a shame that young girls feel this way about their bodies.— Stephanie (@StephanieIvey13) July 3, 2017 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The teenage girls seeking genital surgery – including one who was just 9 years old https://t.co/eVcTEzvDw2 #VictoriaLIVE— Victoria Derbyshire (@vicderbyshire) July 3, 2017 Girls as young as nine are reportedly seeking surgery on their private parts because of insecurities stemming from adult content such as pornography, according to leading doctors.Naomi Crouch is a gynaecology specialist and she told the BBC about the worrying trend.She said: “Girls will sometimes come out with comments like, ‘I just hate it, I just want it removed,’ and for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body – especially a part that’s intimate – is very upsetting.”The doctor also said she was worried that GPs are referring young girls for unneeded labiaplasty – an operation where the lips of the vagina are shortened or reshaped. read more
“We want to help grow ‘mental antibodies’ that can provide some immunity against the rapid spread of misinformation.”The game can be downloaded from the website fakenewsgame.org.Players set up fake news websites and are encouraged to manipulate public reaction to thorny topics such as climate change and genetic engineering. The game works at different levels, involving both bizarre made-up conspiracy theories – one being the claim that dinosaurs built the pyramids – and misinformation with a genuine history.The study findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Risk Research. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A fake news video game is being launched today which is said to “vaccinate” players against misinformation.Developed by Cambridge University scientists, players take on the role of fake news producers and score points by winning followers for their conspiracy theories and angry tweets.Research has shown that exposing people to propaganda tactics can psychologically “inoculate” them against the influence of real fake news.The free game is intended to combat a growing epidemic of misinformation said to be sweeping across social media and online news outlets.Dr Sander van der Linden, director of Cambridge University’s Social Decision-Making Laboratory, said: “A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the disease to build immunity. Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that exposure to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more persuasive claims.”If you know what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who is actively trying to deceive you, it should increase your ability to spot and resist the techniques of deceit. read more
A shepherd who beat 2,500 applicants in a National Trust competition to run a picturesque farm has told how his dream turned to a “nightmare” as he struggled to cope with tending the land, a court heard.Daniel Jones, 40, was granted the tenancy of Parc Farm, a 145-acre site on the Great Orme headland in north Wales, at a cost of just £1 a year in 2016 but found running the area “a massive step up”, it was claimed.Jones, a farmer with 15 years experience, is on trial at Llandudno Magistrates Court charged with 11 offences relating to livestock, tracing back to his early days on the farm. He has denied the offences.The 40-year-old is accused of failing to dispose of three sheep carcasses, failing to keep a register of animal movements and nine counts of failing to notify the authorities of animals he had between 2016 and 2018.The court heard Jones told trading standards officers from Conwy Council, who had quizzed him about the sheep carcasses, of the pressure he had come under since winning the international contest for a “conservation farming hero” During an interview he said: “It’s been affecting my personal life as well, working all the time. “I do about 25 miles a day in this little buggy going around the Orme,” he said. Jones is yet to give evidence in the trial. His solicitor has claimed he was targeted by council officials eager to restore their reputation after losing a series of court cases.David Kirwan said that Mr Jones was told by one trading standards officer: “Farmers around here think we are a joke and we need to show them we are not a joke.” According to Mr Kirwan, it showed the motive behind the decision to prosecute Mr Jones.He said: “This whole case amounts to a barrel-scraping exercise. Conwy decided to make an example of Daniel to try to restore its reputation.” Jones originally faced 20 charges but nine of them were dropped.As a result of the charges being brought, Jones said he had been “put through 17 months of a nightmare.”Barrister John Wyn Williams, prosecuting for the council, has told the judge the authority acted reasonably in bringing the case. He said Mr Jones had failed to comply with movement regulations for his sheep and lambs. The trial continues. The Orme is just a massive step up and a big area. “I was just running around everywhere. I thought I was doing everything OK but obviously I’m not. Getting this farm was like a dream come true for me.” Daniel Jones, 38Credit:David Powell Trading standards officer Charlotte Walker-Williams said Mr Jones described how he had developed a stress-related condition. She said there was no concern about the welfare of animals. Jones had more than 500 sheep and lambs on the £1 million valued farm.Ms Walker-Williams recalled how officers visited the farm in January last year after a complaint from a member of the public about dead sheep.She said there were three carcasses. The defendant told how he had been kept busy going around catching sheep which wandered on to the lower slopes of the Great Orme and into the town – something the headland’s famous herd of goats also often do. “Every phone call I get I have to go straightaway. The last thing I want to do is upset the people of Llandudno,” Jones had explained in interview.Jones insisted he had “changed a lot of things” since he assumed the tenancy, it was said. The court heard there had been an emergency meeting with the National Trust about fencing and he’d bought an all-terrain vehicle. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. read more