Take 5: Browns, Buckeyes, Basketball


Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS

Ohio State running back Mike Weber Jr. (5) scores a rushing touchdown during the third quarter against Michigan on Saturday. Ohio State won, 62-39.

By The Pitt News Staff

The sports world saw its fair share of drama this past week, with much of it revolving around the state of Ohio. The Browns and Bengals faced off in a revenge game, while the previously struggling Buckeyes suddenly looked like one of the nation’s best teams once again versus Michigan. Our staff tackles these topics and more in this week’s Take 5.

Guess Hue’s back

Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns dismantled the Cincinnati Bengals 35-20 Sunday — but somehow, the major upset wasn’t the most exciting story line of the day.

Instead, headlines revolved around the behavior of certain Browns players toward former head coach Hue Jackson, who was fired several games into the season and then accepted a position on Cincinnati’s coaching staff. After picking off a pass, safety Damarious Randall handed the ball to Jackson as if to mock his former coach.

Mayfield also had words for Jackson after cameras captured the icy postgame interaction between the two.

“It’s just somebody that was in our locker room asking for us to play for him and then goes to a different team we play twice a year,” the rookie said.

Many sports commentators, such as Stephen A. Smith, criticized Mayfield for his actions and words, stating Jackson made a “business decision” and the QB needs to “grow up.”

While I agree that Jackson made a business decision, Mayfield and the rest of the Browns can still dislike the decision. Le’Veon Bell made a “business decision” to sit out this year, but that didn’t stop the entire City of Pittsburgh from turning on him. Just because someone makes a decision that’s good for them doesn’t mean others can’t disagree with it.

— Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

Buckeye on the prize

The College Football Playoff committee released its penultimate season rankings Tuesday after a surprising rivalry weekend brought some much-needed parity to the rankings.

Three games in particular were most influential to the change in rankings — No. 10 Ohio State over No. 4 Michigan, 62-39, No. 6 Oklahoma over No. 13 West Virginia, 59-56, and No. 16 Washington over No. 8 Washington State, 28-15.

The current CFP rankings are currently in the order of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Notre Dame is a lock for the playoffs after completing its first undefeated season since 2012.

Clemson is also essentially a lock for the playoff as well, barring an unfathomable upset of 7-5 to Pitt. Assuming Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, ’Bama would be in and Georgia would be out — leaving Oklahoma and Ohio State left to battle for the fourth playoff spot, causing mass debate throughout the college football nation.

Oklahoma currently sits on an 11-1 record, with the lone loss coming to its bitter rival Texas. Ohio State also possesses an 11-1 record with a 29-point loss to Purdue. These teams also share a similar modus operandi — impeccable offense and lackluster defense.

The main argument against Oklahoma is that they have an atrocious defense and the main argument against Ohio State is that they have an inexcusable loss to Purdue. The difference between these teams is that we know that Ohio State’s defense can show up for big games, as it did versus Penn State and Michigan.

History would be on the Buckeyes’ side in a matchup against Alabama — don’t forget when they took down the Crimson Tide in the 2014 playoffs.

— Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

Trust the Process with Fultz

The saga involving second-year guard Markelle Fultz and the Philadelphia 76ers organization is well-documented and unlike anything seen in NBA history. Fultz, whom Philadelphia acquired in the 2017 draft, saw almost no action in his rookie year due to a mysterious shoulder injury that destroyed his jump shot. Things seemed to be looking up this year, with Fultz beginning this season as a starter in Philly and, while still looking hesitant, taking some shots from the perimeter.

Things began to break down a few weeks ago when Fultz was at the free-throw line, where his shooting motion showed a comically hideous hitch that sent shock waves through the NBA world. At a time when it looked like Fultz was improving, the whole situation turned on its head. Fultz soon separated with shooting coach Drew Hanlen after the two butted heads over Hanlen’s comments on Twitter.

Fultz’ shooting motion continued to decline as he descended into a system of trial and error in an effort to find a motion he could be successful with. As this occurred, rumors surfaced that Philly would like to part ways with the second-year guard and that Fultz would prefer a fresh start somewhere else as well.

But his thinking just doesn’t seem logical for the Sixers. Sure, things are downright bad for Fultz right now. He is refusing to play until he sees a specialist and fans certainly prefer veteran guard TJ McConnell as the backup. Nonetheless, it makes no sense for Philly to dump Fultz when his value is next to zero. Even if he does not pan out, which seems likely at this point, they can avoid the “what-if” of losing out on Fultz if he does somehow turn his situation around in the near future.

— Andrew Kelly, Staff Writer

Cool-hand Luka

The Rookie of the Year race in the NBA has largely been a three-man contest between Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.

Of the three, Doncic has been pulling away from the competition lately. The 19-year-old out of Slovenia was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. Standing at 6-foot-7 and 218 pounds, Doncic provides a unique challenge for defenders, as his craftiness and shooting ability have been almost too much to handle. He’s doing it all for the Mavericks, averaging a team-high 19.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

What sets Doncic apart is his surprisingly good defense and efficiency. He’s been very solid defensively, displaying the effort and desire necessary to succeed on that side of the ball. He’s also shooting the lights out, making 45 percent of his shots and 40 percent of his 3-pointers. Both these aspects are something players traditionally struggle with in the early stages of their career as they make the transition to the NBA, but Doncic has proven that he’s up to the challenge.

So while Ayton is getting crossed out of his shoes by Darren Collison and Young is shooting 25 percent from three, Doncic will ride into the sunset holding the ROTY trophy high above his head.

— Jack Clay, Staff Writer

Pitt is a football factory

With one more game left in the 2018 Pitt football season, it will be a sad day to see many seniors leave. Fortunately for some, they will get the chance to enter the NFL draft and find themselves in the league, leaving a storied program that has a knack for sending elite players to the NFL.

Pitt has seen eight of its former players enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, tied for fourth with football giants Alabama and Michigan. These players include Joe Schmidt, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Chris Doleman and Curtis Martin.

From the 2000s, Pitt alumni Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis and LeSean McCoy have also shown they are of the same elite mold as their predecessors. Fitzgerald is now second all-time in receiving yards and is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league. Revis was so talented as a shutdown cornerback that he earned the nickname “Revis Island.” After starting his career in Philadelphia and working his way to Buffalo, McCoy ran his way into history as one of only 31 running backs to eclipse 10,000 yards — and he still has some years left to play.

In recent years, Aaron Donald has cemented himself as one of the top defenders in the league. Leading the NFL in sacks with 14.5, Donald has a strong case for himself for the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row.

Pitt is one of the best colleges in the country at sending elite talent to the NFL — so next time you watch a Panthers game, you could be watching a player that goes on to etch his name in NFL history.

— Sami Abu-Obaid, Staff Writer