Wood does it all, propels Cubs to sweep of Astros

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Wood does it all, propels Cubs to sweep of Astros

Travis Wood flirted with perfection just three starts into his major-league career, throwing nine spectacular innings of one-hit shutout ball against the Phillies on July 10, 2010.

It was that potential the Cubs hope they could harness when they acquired the 25-year-old lefty from Cincinnati in the offseason as part of the return for Sean Marshall.

Over the last month, Wood has shown flashes of that potential, although his start Sunday was perhaps his best yet in a Cubs uniform. Wood didn't issue a walk and only allowed three hits with four strikeouts in 7 23 innings of shutout ball, lowering his ERA to 3.15 on the season. Since the start of June, Wood has allowed eight runs with 28 strikeouts, 12 walks in 39 13 innings pitched, and he's only allowed one home run in that span, too.

Wood's success wasn't limited to the mound Sunday, though. He led off the sixth with a sharp double down the third base line and advanced to third on a heads-up baserunning play.

On Saturday, Houston intentionally walked Starlin Castro to set up a first-and-third situation, trying to induce a double play and take the bat out of Castro's hands. The strategy was successful, as Anthony Rizzo struck out, and the Cubs failed to score in the inning.

Houston did the same thing Sunday, walking Castro with Wood on third to get to Rizzo. But on the first pitch, Rizzo ripped a single through the right side, scoring Wood and netting him his third game-winning RBI in five games with the Cubs

Jeff Baker added a two-run double to put the Cubs up 3-0, which was plenty of support for Wood, who threw a season-high 104 pitches.

Carlos Marmol recorded a save for the third straight day and now has eight in 2012. The win gave the Cubs their second sweep of the season, with the last coming May 28-30 against San Diego.

Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

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Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

Ohio State lost an unbelievable amount of talent this offseason, sending 12 players — big-time, impact players — to the NFL Draft.

So there’s no way the Buckeyes can still be in contention for the Big Ten title, right?

Wrong.

“I would say going into this (season) this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had,” Urban Meyer said during Big Ten Media Days.

Uh, what?

Here’s the list of the Buckeyes drafted to NFL teams earlier this year: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apply, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Wahsington, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Joshua Perry and Cardale Jones. That’s a college football All-Star team right there.

But what you’ve got to understand is that Meyer and the Buckeyes don’t rebuild, they reload. Meyer’s five recruiting classes since he took the reins of the Ohio State program have been ranked No. 4 (2012), No. 2 (2013), No. 3 (2014), No. 9 (2015) and No. 3 (2016) — and the Class of 2017 is already ranked No. 2, perhaps his best yet.

So, yes, there are tons of holes to fill, and this Buckeyes team is very young, especially compared to recent seasons with championship wins and championship expectations. But the way Meyer has recruited, it’s not a question of how good the next wave is, it’s a question of when it will be ready to compete for a conference title.

“This year I’m trying to help the younger guys get up to our standard of how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand that we don’t have rebuilding years,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “The expectations are not going to change because you all don’t have experience. We’re going to try to do our best to make sure you get that in camp and practice, and it’s your job to make sure you come to play.”

And Meyer agrees. He thinks this team has the ability to win, but he knows that he needs to get it ready to do that.

“I see that potential,” he said. “I see I think 2014 was the template that everybody wants. J.T. Barrett was buried in the depth chart, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Zeke Elliott, Mike Thomas — those guys were no-names, and they became very good throughout the course of 2014. And another guy, Cardale Jones, was buried on the depth chart. A lot of pressure on our coaches, assistant coaches and myself, to get them game-ready. I would say going into this this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had. Now how do we get them game-ready?”

Getting the team ready to do that is a different challenge than recruiting, however.

Ahead of training camp, back at the end of July, Meyer said he was looking at August as “the most critical coaching month” he’s ever had. That’s saying something for a guy who’s won a trio of national championships.

But as he pointed out, there are parallels to the 2014 team. Barrett was thrust into duty that season after an injury to Miller, Bosa was just a sophomore and nobody knew if Elliott could follow in the footsteps of Carlos Hyde. Similar questions — save the quarterback one — exist heading into 2016. So don’t be alarmed if the Buckeyes are again playing for a conference championship or more come the winter.

It is Meyer, after all.

“Where we are as a team in 2016, have to find a way to replace arguably one of the best group of players ever to come through college football,” Meyer said. “I've been answering a lot of questions about a young team. The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team. And that's not the case at all. So it's a very young team, but talented. Probably the most critical coaching month that I've ever been through. We have to get these guys ready. Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game. So we have to get them ready.”

Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

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Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

It appears that one of the top-rated players in Michigan's 2016 recruiting class will never suit up in maize and blue.

Ahmir Mitchell, rated as a four-star prospect and one of the top 30 wideouts in the country in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, announced via Twitter that he has reopened his recuitment, meaning he'll be transferring from Michigan.

There were high hopes for Mitchell, though he was revealed to be suspended after reporters asked head coach Jim Harbaugh about Mitchell's absence from the team picture, a line of questioning to which Harbaugh did not react well.

Mitchell was part of a hugely successful 2016 recruiting class for the Wolverines, one that ranked No. 4 in the country behind only Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, per Rivals' rankings.

Mitchell, a New Jersey native ranked as the No. 139 recruit in the country, selected Michigan over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among others.

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Mitchell could still play at an FCS school this season by deciding to transfer at this point in the year.

Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

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Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

We're getting three more seasons of the Champions Classic.

The annual early season college hoops event will run through at least 2019, it was announced Wednesday, with Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky signing on for three more epic showcases in Chicago, Indianapolis and New York.

The event has been held each November since 2011, twice at the United Center and one time each at Madison Square Garden in New York, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Madison Square Garden will host the pair of games for the second time this fall.

The new deal puts matchups at the United Center next year (Kansas vs. Kentucky, Michigan State vs. Duke), in Indy in 2018 (Michigan State vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Kentucky) and in New York in 2019 (Kansas vs. Duke, Michigan State vs. Kentucky).

The Spartans have fared well in the event, winning three of the five games its played, with the only two losses coming against Duke.

With all four teams so often receiving high preseason rankings, the event is a treat for college hoops fans, and it also does well to bolster those teams' strength of schedule for when tournament seeding comes in March.