Big Ten title game organizers expect empty seats


Big Ten title game organizers expect empty seats

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Wisconsin and No. 14 Nebraska likely will play Saturday night's Big Ten title game in front of at least a few empty seats.

A little more than 24 hours before kickoff, thousands of tickets remained unsold and local organizers and Big Ten officials were already saying they didn't anticipate selling all of them.

``I think from the vantage point in the press box, you're going to see empty seats,'' said John Dedman, a spokesman for Indiana Sports Corp., which helps the Big Ten put on the game. ``But at the same time, there's going to be a lot of people in those seats. There are 67,000 seats in there.''

This has not been a good year for the Big Ten, which has four teams ranked in the Top 25.

No. 4 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) isn't playing for the title because it's ineligible for postseason play. Had the Buckeyes made it, ticket sales likely would have been more brisk.

Penn State (8-4, 6-2) finished second in the Leaders Division but also is out of the mix because it cannot play in a bowl game.

So the third-place Badgers (7-5, 4-4) have a chance to become the first conference team to reach the Rose Bowl in three straight years since Michigan in the late 1970s.

Both Nebraska (10-2, 7-1) and Wisconsin are known for taking large contingents of fans on the road. But this time, neither school sold its entire 15,000-ticket allotment, and general public ticket sales fell behind last year's pace, too, making plenty of seats available for walk-up sales Saturday.

``It's noticeably behind last year,'' Dedman said of the pace. ``Obviously, it's been a unique year for the Big Ten. But it also means that those who are coming downtown tomorrow can walk right into Lucas Oil Stadium and see what we think is going to be a great game.''

It's an unusual situation in Indianapolis, a city that has embraced all forms of major sporting events ranging from the Final Four and Super Bowl to national championships in track and field, swimming and diving and gymnastics.

This is the second straight year the title game will be played in Indy. Last year, the game was nearly sold out, and the title game is scheduled to return to Indy in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Coach Bo Pelini said at a news conference Friday that he expects the retractable-roof dome stadium to be closer to capacity than most expect.

``I know I can speak for the Nebraska fans, saying I can guarantee you there are going to be a tremendous amount of walk-ups,'' Pelini said. ``Anybody that was at the Northwestern game and saw how many Nebraska fans showed up and how they represented our program and the passion that comes along with it. I would expect nothing less tomorrow night.''

And even if fans fulfill the expectations and the stadium isn't as close to capacity as it was last season, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema still expects the stadium to have a festive atmosphere.

``Everybody is asking about the crowd size. I know everybody, a lot of people are going to be in red and white Adidas, I know that much,'' Bielema said, drawing laughter because the teams have the same colors.

How many people will actually show up for Saturday's game?

Organizers are hopeful it will be a lot more than the current projections.

``We've got a lot of people coming to town and a lot of people who are excited to be here for the game and are looking forward to tomorrow night,'' Dedman said.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

On Saturday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals faced off against one of the hottest young teams in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was viewed as a marquee matchup and it certainly lived up to its billing with both teams battling in a tight, well-played game.

In the end, Toronto walked away as the 4-2 victors in one of their better wins of the young season, but not everyone left that game impressed.

A team that already boasted super-star talent Auston Matthews added John Tavares in the offseason as a free agent giving the Maple Leafs a formidable one, two punch at center. For most of the game, the Caps were able to shut down that center tandem.

Lars Eller was asked after the game how the Caps were able to keep the Leafs’ big stars in check and he indicated that perhaps Tavares and Matthews were not as formidable a pair as they had been made out to be.

“We’re used to playing against [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin],” Eller said. “Everything kind of drops from there so it’s not that special. It’s a good team like a lot of others. They’ll probably be a playoff team, I think.”

Not surprisingly, that quote caught Toronto’s attention, especially forward Nazem Kadri.

Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Kadri called Eller’s comments “bulletin board material.”

With 12 points in seven games, the Maple Leafs currently boast the top record in the league. Toronto is far from perfect, however, and their defense remains a major question mark in whether this team is a true Stanley Cup contender.

But as to whether or not they are a playoff team? That seems like a pretty safe bet.

The Caps and Maple Leafs will meet twice more this season on Jan. 23 and Feb. 21. Both games are in Toronto.  



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Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 16, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking Points

A better 3-2

For the third straight year, the Redskins are 3-2 after five games. As you know, they did not make the playoffs after either of the last two seasons. But they are in better shape in the standings now than they were in 2016 or 2017. Last year they were in second place in the division, a game and a half behind the 5-1 Eagles. They were worse off two years ago as they were in third place behind the 3-1 Eagles and the Cowboys, who were 4-1. 

It’s still very early, but it’s better to be in first place nearly a third of the way into the season than it is to be in second or third place and being in a position where you have to chase one or two teams. 

Take it away

The Redskins had three takeaways against the Panthers—the fumble recovery on the punt, Josh Norman’s interception, and the fumble forced by Norman and recovered by Mason Foster. They did not give the ball away. The last time they got at least three takeaways without giving the ball up was on Christmas Eve, 2016 in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is the last game in which Norman had an interception until Sunday. 

After being either even or in the positive in takeaway ratio in four of their five games this year, the Redskins are now tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-four turnover margin. If they can stay on the even or plus side from week to week they will have a very good chance at being successful. 

Rushing D much improved

After finishing 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2017, the Redskins are currently sixth, giving up an average of 90.2 yards per game. The improvement has come even though they have faced premiere running backs David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Christian McCaffrey. They have allowed no more than 104 yards on the ground in any of their five games. Last year's opponents ran for 127 yards or more 10 times. Their defense will be tested on Sunday against the Cowboys, who average 147 rushing yards per game on the ground, second in the NFL. 

Looking in the mirror

When the Redskins take a look at the Cowboys they might feel like they are watching themselves. Both teams run the ball well, although Ezekiel Elliott is more consistent than Adrian Peterson. Alex Smith has better passing stats than Dak Prescott but both teams are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards. The defenses on both teams are strong. Washington is sixth in yardage allowed per game and the Cowboys are fifth. 

And both teams have started off the season alternating wins and losses. Dallas started with a loss to the Panthers then beat the Giants, lost to the Seahawks, won over the Lions, suffered an OT loss to the Texans and then thumped the Jaguars. It will be an interesting match up on Sunday.

The agenda

Today: Off day, no media availability

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants 12; Redskins @ Eagles 48