Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) at Michigan State Spartans (2-3)
College Football: Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm (Spartan Stadium)
The Line: Michigan State Spartans +23.5 — Over/Under: 59.5
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The Michigan State Spartans face off with the Ohio State Buckeyes when they meet Saturday in Big Ten college football action from East Lansing at Spartan Stadium.
Ohio State enters this one at 4-0 on the year. The Buckeyes have dispatched Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers and Indiana in succession so far. As for Michigan State, they’re 2-3 this season. The Spartans had consecutive losses going but pulled off a great win over Northwestern this past weekend. Check back all season long for free college football picks at Sports Chat Place.
Ohio State has been rolling right along this season, but they’ve had a relative close call or two over their first four games. The Buckeyes took out Nebraska 52-17, Penn State 38-25, Rutgers 49-27 and Indiana 42-35. Ohio State was outscored 28-14 in the second half against the Hoosiers but still pulled out the win.
In the victory over Indiana, Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields posted 300 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Master Teague led the rushing attack on 26 carries for 169 yards and two scores, and Garrett Wilson had seven receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Over on the Michigan State side, they stumbled out of the gate with a 1-3 record, beating Michigan and otherwise falling to Rutgers, Iowa and Indiana (the latter two being blowouts). The Spartans pulled off a great upset of Northwestern in their most recent game however, taking the win 29-20.
In the win over Northwestern, Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi managed 167 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Connor Heyward added 96 rush yards on 24 carries, and Jalen Nailor had 99 yards and a score from three catches to lead the receivers.
The Buckeyes are 4-1 ATS versus a team with a losing record and 5-2 ATS in the last seven road games. Ohio State is 36-16 ATS in their last 52 on grass and 11-5 ATS in their last 16 conference games.
Meanwhile, the Spartans are 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine games in December and 6-16 ATS in the last 22 overall. Michigan State is 3-8 ATS versus a team with a winning record and 3-10 ATS in their last 13 conference games.
PICK: I’m going to go with Ohio State in this one. The Spartans were able to notch 27 points in each of their first two, but then scored just seven combined over the next two weeks. Granted, Michigan State has faced some tough competition over the last three games, but they’re in for another tough matchup here. The Buckeyes haven’t scored less than 38 points in any game all year, and they’ll be chucking up the scores in this one as well. It may not be an outright runaway at first, but I like Ohio State to power out a cover here.
Ohio State Buckeyes -23.5
Chiefs’ Mahomes overwhelms Bills to set up Super Bowl vs. Brady, Buccaneers – Sportsnet.ca
It’s hard not to get excited about the quarterback matchup waiting for us in Super Bowl LV.
On one side, Tom Brady – the best to ever play the position – will suit up for his first NFL title game without Bill Belichick, and he’ll do it for a Buccaneers team that will become the first team to ever compete for the Lombardi Trophy on home turf.
On the other, Patrick Mahomes – the heir apparent – who after a week of major question marks guided the defending-champion Chiefs to one their most impressive wins of the season and now gets a chance to become the first quarterback to lead his team to back-to-back titles since … Tom Brady.
It’s a matchup we’ll have plenty of time to break down over the next two weeks, so let’s dive into the takeaways from another eventful Conference Championship Sunday in the NFL.
CHIEFS’ DYNAMIC WEAPONS SIMPLY TOO MUCH TO HANDLE
This is far from a new take, but it’s one that’s hard to ignore after an offensive game like the one the Chiefs put together on Sunday in their 38-24 win over the Bills.
How are opponents supposed to stop this Kansas City team? Outside of Jon Gruden’s Raiders in Week 5 of this season, no team has had an answer to that question against these full-strength Chiefs.
That Oct. 11 loss to Vegas is the only one the Chiefs have suffered with Patrick Mahomes starting under centre over the last 14 months.
And on Sunday evening, the reasons why were fully on display.
Kansas City had 94% DVOA for the game tonight. By far their best game of the year. Their best offensive performance and second-best defensive performance behind Week 3 against Baltimore.
— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) January 25, 2021
Not only are the Chiefs coached by one of the greatest offensive minds in league history in Andy Reid, and quarterbacked by the best player in the game in Patrick Mahomes (who put on a show against Buffalo), but the supporting cast is just ridiculous.
Travis Kelce set yet another record with his 13 catches, the most in a conference championship in the Super Bowl era. The All-Pro tight end had 118 yards and two touchdowns to go along with those 13 catches.
Tyreek Hill didn’t find the end zone against the Bills, but Cheetah did rack up 172 receiving yards on nine catches, including a blazing 71-yard run that set up K.C.’s fourth touchdown of the day to make it 31-15.
— NFL (@NFL) January 25, 2021
Throw in some big-time plays from Mecole Hardman, who more than made up for his first-quarter muffed punt with a touchdown and a 21.5-MPH run for 50 yards, plus rushing scores from Darrel Williams and rookie Clyde-Edwards Helaire, and this Chiefs offence somehow feels more menacing than last season’s edition.
It makes for a fascinating matchup in 13 days against a Buccaneers defence that did real damage against Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game.
Also, shoutout to Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs defence, which smothered a Bills offence that, despite its struggles over the last two weeks, was one of the most dangerous in the league this season.
Speaking of the Bills offence …
SETTLING FOR FIELD GOALS JUST WON’T CUT IT
It was a tough night for the Buffalo Bills.
Not only was it nearly impossible to slow down Patrick Mahomes – the Bills defence forced just one punt, and it came on K.C.’s first drive – but Josh Allen and the Buffalo offence just wasn’t good enough.
Allen missed throws, the rhythm of the offence felt off (similar to last week against Baltimore) and, as a result, a unit that shredded opposing defences consistently over the final weeks of the regular season struggled to put any significant drives together when it mattered.
A gifted first-and-goal opportunity from Mecole Hardman gave the Bills an early 9-0 lead, but the score was deceiving of the actual success Buffalo was having offensively: in their first five possessions, the Bills accumulated just 88 yards on 25 plays – 42 of which came on the 10-play opening drive that ended in a field goal, a precursor of what was to come.
The Bills were finally able to manufacture a prolonged drive late in the second quarter, putting together 12 plays for 73 yards to get to the Chiefs’ two-yard line. But, trailing 21-12 with time expiring in the half and K.C. set to start the third quarter with the ball, the Bills choose to kick a field goal on fourth down rather than go for the touchdown.
Then, after holding the Chiefs to just three points on the opening drive of the second half, Buffalo put together another promising drive – 10 plays for 67 yards – which again led the Bills inside K.C.’s 10-yard line. Again down to a fourth-and-short inside the Chiefs’ 10, trailing by 12 with the most potent of offences on the opposite sideline, the Bills decided against going for six and once again settled for a chip-shot Tyler Bass field goal.
On the next drive, the Chiefs drove 75 yards in just over two minutes to stretch their lead to 16. Josh Allen threw an interception on the Bills’ ensuing possession, and the game was essentially in the bag.
Against a team as deadly as the Chiefs, field goals deep in enemy territory won’t cut it – especially when the team settling for those three-point kicks is led by a quarterback in Josh Allen who had been a killer inside the opposing 20 and was facing the league’s worst red-zone defence.
The future is bright in Buffalo because of what the team has built on offence, but on Sunday it was the decision against trusting those players that likely decided the Bills’ fate.
BRADY BAILED OUT BY BUCS DEFENCE AFTER RARE PLAYOFF MISTAKES
The first 37 minutes the NFC title game in Green Bay couldn’t have gone any better for Tom Brady.
By the time the Buccaneers scored their fourth touchdown of the game early in third quarter to extend the lead over the Packers to 28-10, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer had three touchdown passes – giving him 80 total in his post-season career, 35 more than the next closest QBs – and had cemented himself as the Buccaneers’ leader in playoff touchdown passes in less than three games.
The Buccaneers were rolling and Brady was only further solidifying his legacy as the best playoff performer the sport has ever seen. And then he threw interceptions on three consecutive drives, an incredibly rare string of gaffes for the GOAT.
The mistakes allowed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to claw back into a game they had trailed by 18 at one point — but fortunately for Brady, Tampa Bay’s stout defence stepped up.
Rodgers was able to take advantage of Brady’s first pick, turning it into six and cutting the Bucs’ lead to just five after a failed two-point conversion. But the other two interceptions were followed immediately by Green Bay three-and-outs, two drives in which the Packers recorded a combined minus-five yards.
Todd Bowles’s defence was also stellar inside its own 20 against one of the league’s top red-zone offences, twice holding the Packers to field goals from inside the 10-yard line – including the controversial three-point kick Matt LaFleur opted for late in the fourth quarter (more on that later …).
It’s another incredible performance from a Bucs defence that had done it to the Packers once before in 2020, and were really the only team to cause Rodgers serious problems at all during his MVP-calibre campaign.
Including Sunday, Rodgers threw six interceptions all season – three of them came in two games against the Bucs. Rodgers was sacked 25 times – nine of which came against the Bucs.
By no means should we take away from what Tom Brady has accomplished; 10 career Super Bowl appearances is a mind-blowing accomplishment.
But Brady and the Bucs wouldn’t have got that 31-26 win on Sunday without the play of that defence.
HEAD-SCRATCHING COACHING DECISION COSTS PACKERS
There are a lot of reasons the Packers lost Sunday’s NFC title game at Lambeau – a failure to capitalize on Tampa turnovers, committing their own costly turnovers and a very bad defensive call in a very big situation.
Despite all of that, Green Bay was in the game in the final minutes until an inexcusable call on fourth down deep in Buccaneers territory essentially sealed the Packers’ fate.
After an incomplete third-down pass to Davante Adams in the end zone, on which Aaron Rodgers appeared to pass up a chance to run in for a score, the Packers faced fourth-and-eight with 2:05 left in the game trailing by eight points.
Rather than trust the presumptive league MVP under centre and go for the touchdown in an attempt to tie the game, head coach Matt LaFleur elected to kick a field goal to move within five points and hope the Packers defence would get a stop to provide one last possession.
Given the personnel the Packers boast and the situation the team found itself in, going for the touchdown was a no-brainer: trust Rodgers, Adams and one of the league’s best offensive lines to get the job done. And if they don’t? The Buccaneers take over deep in their own territory and Green Bay’s defence gets its chance to make a stand.
Three points made no difference.
It’s a decision LaFleur expressed some regret for post-game – “Any time it doesn’t work out, you always regret it” – but ultimately one he defended.
But it’s more than just a head-scratching call from LaFleur that robbed his team and its Hall of Fame quarterback a chance at the Super Bowl – it’s one that could define his career as Green Bay’s head coach.
Conor McGregor ‘harassing’ UFC for Dustin Poirier rematch, might ‘drift off into boxing’ instead – MMA Mania
Conor McGregor, much like he did after losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, is harassing the promotion for an immediate rematch, hoping to avenge his loss to Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 main event last weekend on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
After all, the score is tied one apiece.
McGregor stopped Poirier when they first went to war at UFC 178 more than six years back, but “The Diamond” fought a smarter, more technical fight the second time around, leading to a convincing technical knockout finish in the second stanza.
“He’s already harassing everybody to get the rematch,” coach John Kavanagh told ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani (transcribed by TheScore). “We would love the rematch. I don’t think Dustin is against that. If we could get the rematch before the summer, that’d be amazing. If it’s not to be, I guess I don’t really know. Maybe he drifts off into boxing.”
McGregor is 0-1 as a professional boxer, losing to Floyd Mayweather after nearly 10 rounds of action back in summer 2017. There was talk of a Manny Pacquiao showdown at some point later this year; however, the loss to Poirier has likely spoiled those plans.
Poirier is the frontrunner to challenge top contender Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title assuming Khabib Nurmagomedov vacates the 155-pound strap. Michael Chandler is also in the conversation after laying waste to Dan Hooker in the UFC 257 co-main event.
The next few weeks are going to be very, very interesting.
Dana White: If Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t want to defend title, ‘I won’t push it anymore’ – MMA Fighting
Dana White’s great chase may finally be over.
From the moment that Khabib Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring—following a successful title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October—White has insisted in interviews that he expected Nurmagomedov to reconsider ending his competitive career. As recently as last Saturday, White said that at a meeting with Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi, the lightweight champion told him he might return to action if “something special” happened at UFC 257.
That event went down last night and two lightweights delivered in a major way, with Dustin Poirier winning his rematch with Conor McGregor by second-round TKO to avenge a past loss, and three-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler making an emphatic debut with a first-round finish of Dan Hooker.
Even with those statement wins, White admitted that he’s not convinced they were enough to draw Nurmagomedov back into the fold after speaking with him after Saturday night’s event.
“I did talk to Khabib,” White said at the evening’s post-fight presser. “He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys.’ I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s—it doesn’t sound very positive, so we’ll see.
“And what he said was, I told you guys before, he won’t hold the division up. I mean, he already retired. He’s basically retired, I’m the one that’s been trying to get him to do one more.”
That’s the first time White has at least somewhat waved the white flag when it comes to Nurmagomedov’s comeback negotiations, which isn’t surprising given that Nurmagomedov had already said earlier this week that he was not planning to go back on a promise he made to his mother. Nurmagomedov didn’t even stick around to watch UFC 257 in-person, instead leaving Abu Dhabi after corning his cousin Umar Nurmagomedov to a win on Wednesday.
Chandler made sure to mention Khabib in his post-fight speech after defeating Hooker, declaring himself “the new lightweight king” while lobbying for fights with Poirier, McGregor, and Nurmagomedov.
White only heard some of Chandler’s callout, but regardless of what was said any matchmaking with Nurmagomedov is entirely dependent on what “The Eagle” wants.
“He was saying all kinds of things,” White said. “I can’t hear well, so I kept asking what he was saying, I didn’t get most of what he said but I knew he was fired up and I’m sure he was asking me for something, but I don’t know exactly what he said… But yeah, I’m obviously gonna talk to Khabib and see if he wants to defend that title. And if he doesn’t, I won’t push it anymore.”
White has made it no secret that he desired a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor. The two stars fought a little over two years ago at UFC 229, an event that broke records for the UFC and ended in a chaotic melee between Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s teams that laid the groundwork for a second fight.
As insistent as Nurmagomedov has been that he has no interest in fighting McGregor again, White thinks the magnitude of the matchup is hard to resist.
“He wanted to see something spectacular, so I know he wanted Conor to lose, but there has to be a little piece of him inside that, you know—The fight with him and Conor would have been the biggest fight ever…” White said. “So the last few days, the way that this thing’s been trending—and you guys had to feel it with your numbers too, I mean our numbers were off the charts this week—I was saying that I felt Khabib-Conor could be the No. 3 fight all-time period in all combat sports. Today, I felt like it could be No. 1. I felt like it could beat McGregor-Mayweather.
“A piece of him had to want to be a part of a fight that big.”
As of now, White has no hard deadline for Nurmagomedov to make a decision—assuming he hasn’t already—so he’s in no rush to figure out what’s next for the lightweight title that has yet to be vacated. White did acknowledge that Poirier and Chandler are likely candidates to fight for a vacant lightweight belt should it come to it.
“It doesn’t matter because these two just fought, they’re not fighting again anytime soon,” White said. “We’ll get it figured out.”
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