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The College Football Layoff

We begin, in fine Hot Takedown tradition, by talking about something that happened shortly after we recorded this week’s episode. The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have canceled college football for the fall, with the hopes of trying to play in the spring. We knew it was coming. But what’s interesting about where college football finds itself is how student-athletes have responded and organized in this moment of crisis. We don’t think they’ll get a players union out of it — at least not right away — but especially in conferences like the SEC that want to play as much as the players do, the players have some amount of leverage to influence practices that may become standard going forward. The Big Ten and Pac-12 cancellations may not spell the end of the season for every conference, but they certainly mean that any football played this fall will look and feel vastly different.

Next we turn to MLB, which is only three weeks into the season but already in the thick of the pennant race — just like normal for August. That means it’s time for us to all go on record and draft the teams we feel have the best chance at winning the World Series. We ended up drafting way more teams than will even make the playoffs, so we hope at least one of us is right. But whether it’s Geoff with the Dodgers, Sara with the Twins or Neil with the Yankees (he loves his chalk), we now know where all three Hot Takedown hosts stand. We also talked a little bit about where our model stands, given that some teams have played 17 games so far and some teams are the Cardinals, still dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Just because every game in this abbreviated season is worth about 2.7 games in a normal season, that doesn’t mean the model will adjust the pace at which we adjust our ratings for each team. So, we’re in the position of still rating the Detroit Tigers as one of the worst teams in baseball, but we give them a 35 percent chance to make the playoffs. Like we said: This season is strange.

Finally, FiveThirtyEight NFL analyst Josh Hermsmeyer joins us for the Rabbit Hole to talk about building a very cool new metric to measure the amount of separation that receivers create from defenders when going for all different kinds of passes. While it’s not a skeleton key for what makes a good receiver — Julio Jones isn’t great at creating separation on intermediate passes and yet no one would call him a slouch — Josh’s SOE (separation over expectation) metric is an exciting tool for finding receivers who could better complement a team’s quarterback, whether that means creating an easier target to hit or getting higher value out of short passes.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.