Ohio State-Penn State still matters amid sanctions


Ohio State-Penn State still matters amid sanctions

Only three teams in the Big Ten are unbeaten in league play - and two of them are ineligible for the postseason.

That takes a bit of the luster from this weekend's impressive slate of games - but not all of it.

No. 9 Ohio State and Penn State are both undefeated in conference, and they're playing each other this weekend. Thanks to sanctions, neither can compete for the Big Ten championship or go to a bowl - and because of that, it's looking exceedingly likely that Wisconsin will cruise to the league championship game.

Still, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions can play for pride, and the winner of this weekend's game will have a decent chance to finish atop the standings in the Leaders Division.

A cosmetic distinction? Sort of. But that's the best these two programs can hope for after being beset by off-the-field problems.

``We've got great kids here. We've got a hell of a coaching staff,'' Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. ``It's never been doom and gloom in here.''

The sanctions have taken a bit of the luster off the Big Ten's postseason prospects. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) is the conference's highest-ranked team in the AP poll. The only other team in the Top 25 is No. 20 Michigan, which is also without a conference loss.

But Penn State's resurgence after an 0-2 start has added some buzz to the division races. Not only do the Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-0) host Ohio State on Saturday, but the Michigan-Nebraska game could decide the Legends Division. The Wolverines (5-2, 3-0) finally snapped their four-game losing streak against Michigan State (4-4, 1-3) last weekend. Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) will try to avenge a 45-17 loss to Michigan last year.

Even the matchup between Iowa (4-3, 2-1) and Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) could be crucial in the Legends race, especially if Michigan stumbles.

About the only team that doesn't have much to worry about is Wisconsin. The Badgers (6-2, 3-1) are in the driver's seat for a spot in the championship game - Ohio State and Penn State aren't eligible, and nobody else in the Leaders Division has a conference win.

Still, there's no telling what will happen this weekend because Wisconsin takes on Michigan State. The Spartans beat the Badgers last year on a `Hail Mary' at the end of the game - and Wisconsin won a thrilling rematch in the Big Ten championship game.

The race for the Leaders Division title would be a terrific one if Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State were all in contention for a Rose Bowl berth.

Instead, the Nittany Lions were given harsh NCAA sanctions for the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. They included significant scholarship cuts and a four-year postseason ban.

Penn State lost its first two games of the season to Ohio and Virginia but has won five straight since.

``It does start with players. ... From Day One, we just tried to get in here and explain our program to these guys and be truthful and honest with them,'' O'Brien said. ``We knew we could have played better, so it was a lot of frustration but there was a lot of resiliency.''

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are on probation because of transgressions during Jim Tressel's coaching tenure. That hasn't stopped Ohio State from racing to an 8-0 start.

And the Buckeyes aren't satisfied. They may not be in contention for a bowl, but they can still finish undefeated and atop their division and become shadow champions of a sort.

``We're 8-0, but it's an 8-0 where we're working for every yard and every win,'' coach Urban Meyer said.

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”