no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
On Monday I posted my blogpoll draft ballot and, I guess, in it is contained my opinion on who should play for the national championship: the SEC champion and either Oklahoma or Texas. This is not controversial. My exact ordering of the teams, however, may be:
MGoBrian's got his draft ballot up and he decided on Oklahoma ahead of Texas, for the reasons we've discussed multiple times here already. Though he mistakenly replaces on Texas' schedule Kansas with Kansas State, I'm certain getting that right wouldn't make a lick of difference based on his ballot and published reasoning.
No, what makes Brian's ballot a frontrunner for the wack ballot watch this week is not OU at #1, but Texas at... #4?
You read that right. Brian offers the standard TCU-Cincinnati bit, decides to toss out head-to-heads and common opponents, and rolls with OU at #1. Fine. I dislike the analysis (and find it comically thin considering its publication immediately following a highly nuanced ND 2007 vs Michigan 2008 analysis), but have acknowledged repeatedly that the adopted line of argument clears the lowest bar: Not Irrational. Where Brian really falls off a cliff is in sandwiching Florida and Alabama between the Sooners and Longhorns.
That's Burnt Orange Nation, and they're a little cheesed off. Obviously.
My first thought: "who cares? It will all work itself out this weekend." I was a little taken aback by the stridency of the response to a ballot that's just a draft (and, yes, admittedly a little thin on the justifications), especially when it would be moot a week from now.
Then I remembered the reason Oklahoma was going to the Big 12 Championship game. No wonder Texas fans are a little punchy about polls.
My ballot was apparently the last straw for Peter's faith in the rationality of humanity. The title of the post: "The Day That Common Sense Died." At he throws his hands up in the air, defeated. Um… sorry about that?
Thus a meme is born, the kind that will live on forever in Longhorn and Red River lore; if Texas fails to slide into one of the top two spots next Tuesday, opinion is unanimous and vociferous enough around UT that 2008 will always be "The Year Texas Got Screwed," joining the illustrious company of Ohio State (1998), Miami (2000), Oregon (2001), USC (2003), Auburn (2004), Michigan (2006) and, if you ask them, Georgia (2007) on the wrong end of the BCS' annual stick. It could have just as easily -- and just as maddeningly -- been Oklahoma's turn this time around, given the Sooners' exceptional resumé and dominant stretch run, but their time will come. Everybody gets their turn at outrage.
Every one of those teams outside Georgia has a valid bitch, making it 6 times in 11 years the BCS has either totally failed (picking Nebraska over Oregon, leaving #1 USC out) or run across an intractable problem (three undefeated teams, six indistinguishable one-loss ones).
Every year there is some complaint and the BCS goes about fixing the problem that came before, then announcing a new Pax Idiotica in which there will be no problems forever. Wrong. As long as college football is settled on the world's dumbest playoff system, this will continue to happen.
So, I say this to Peter and Texas fans everywhere: I don't know. I don't know if you are a better team or had a better season than Oklahoma. I don't know if Florida or Alabama did. I don't know if USC or Penn State did. Since the devolution of college football scheduling has deprived us of more than a half dozen meaningful comparison points between one conference and another, I am guessing. Totally. And in this case attempting to pick between Texas and Oklahoma is impossible. I read Texas supporters' justifications and think they're totally reasonable.
This is only okay because the BlogPoll does not count. I wouldn't participate in a poll that contributed to the current BCS rankings, because the BCS is an abomination. It is the worst of all possible worlds.
You cannot oppose a playoff and be in favor of the BCS in any form: the BCS is a playoff. It is a two-team playoff in a field of 119 teams. Those teams play 12 or 13 games and have schedules so segregated it's impossible to distinguish between one-loss teams in difference conferences. It is the worst playoff that has ever been conceived. It sanctions the idea that there is a real national championship to pursue, then awards it in the worst way possible. I would prefer anything to it.
- A return to the old bowl system and entirely mythical championships
- A four team playoff
- A six team playoff
- An eight team playoff
- Anything at all, anything, God, anything
My personal playoff plan has been expounded upon on this site already, but a recap:
Six teams. Six is a great number, big enough to include all reasonable contenders, small enough to fit, and lopsided enough to make finishing #1 or #2 really worth it, as they get byes.
Home games in the first two rounds. Reward better teams for their seasons. Value the regular season. Reward loyal fans. Avoid corporate whoredom.
The first round is the week after the conference championship games; the second round is January 1st. The final is the next Saturday at least a week out. First-round losers (and everyone else) are welcome to participate in whatever bowl games they feel like participating in.
No Autobids. Autobids are stupid. Ask the Orange Bowl.
Max two teams per conference.
Final at the Rose Bowl. Obviously. Kickoff at 4:30.
Assuming Florida and Oklahoma wins in the conference games, this year's bracket:
#1 Florida vs #4 Texas/#5 Penn State
#2 Oklahoma vs #3 USC/#6 Alabama
I've futzed the seeds to prevent second round intraconference matchups.
Is this perfect? No. It's hard to leave Utah out.* Does it crown a better champion? Yes. Does it maintain the drama of the regular season? Hell yes. The SEC championship game is the difference between a first round bye and a second round home game and a first round road game if you even make it. Is it 10000% better than what we've got now? Yes.
I'm not a big fan of the eight-team playoff proposal with autobids for all the BCS conferences. Frankly, no one in the Big East or ACC has any business playing for a national title this year, and in previous years that goes for the Pac-10 or Big 12 or Big Ten or SEC, too. But it would be so much better than what we've got now. I no longer care about the tradition of the bowl games. They've sold out for more money and more games and this whole fifth game was a transparent money grab that gives us a slew of awful matchups every January. It's impossible to love something with "Fedex" as part of its name. The bowls can die for all I care, with the exception of the Rose.
*(I've done these the past three years and this is an unusual situation. Most years Utah would get in.)
Removed FL S Jonathan Scott (dropped us), FL CB Josh Robinson (UCF). Added NC S Josh Hunter.
2010 stuff: Local TomVH article on MI QB Devin Gardner.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
So, yeah, FL CB Josh Robinson did pick Central Florida over Michigan. Which, like… okay. There must be something compelling in the local area. A kid maybe?
And MI DT Will Campbell's tour of schools we really hope he's not serious about continues. He's gone to LSU and Alabama and has Michigan on the docket this weekend; a planned trip to USC never materialized. A week after the Michigan trip Campbell will take a final visit; the article linked above says it's Miami but he recently changed that and will go to Florida. I'd rather he goes to Miami, but a sudden change to a school he's never mentioned before probably bodes well.
Normally the firing of Mississippi State's head coach would have zero impact on the Michigan football program whatsoever, but the hiring of Jay Hopson has put a number of recruits who either committed to the Bulldogs or were considering them on the radar.
Croom's firing is most likely to be helpful with MS S Dennis Thames, who visited in the summer and then fell off the face of the earth. Anonymous has the vague feeling Thames is staying in the south, but that appears to be a default belief in lieu of hard evidence. Mississippi State seemed like the most likely destination unless an LSU offer came through; now Michigan's probably got a good shot. (Are they still recruiting safeties? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.)
The other guy who comes to mind is MS DE/DT Josh Boyd, who also took a visit to Ann Arbor in the summer. There is the requisite "Josh Boyd?!?!?" article from GBW; it sounds like the answer to that is "very probably not!"
Also, FL DE and Pahokee alum Pernell McPhee is a soft Mississippi State commit who's likely going elsewhere now; Michigan is recruiting him. I'm skeptical we'll see him commit and get admitted. Michigan is notoriously difficult to transfer JUCO credits into.
Meanwhile, Michigan is bringing in UNC commit Josh Hunter for a visit soon according to a guy connected to NC recruiting. Hunter is a defensive back of some description, probably a safety, and a low-four or high-three star recruit.
Michigan needs another couple of offensive linemen in the class, and one of the guys they're after is NC OL Travis Bond. An informed source on his situation:
Travis Bond took his official visit to NC State this weekend for the Miami game. He said he had a great time and was honestly very confused about where he would commit.
Michigan is still in it. I think he likes the fact that he could go to Michigan and see early playing time. I think he likes the tradition and I think he likes the coaches. I do not think that he likes the cold and the distance to Ann Arbor.
UM, UNC and NCSU are the only schools he is considering.
His coach is a big UNC proponent, FWIW. I'm slightly pessimistic here; usually when the cold keeps coming up that is not a kid Michigan gets.
There's also a fluffy, but good, article on Michael Schofield, Michigan's lone OL commit to date:
"I loved everything about Michigan," Schofield said. "Coach Rodriguez told me when I visited there in the summer that things would get turned around real quickly, and they'd be right up there among the nation's best in the next couple years. Plus, the spread offense they run is perfect for me, because I've always been pretty athletic for a guy my size."
Longshots getting longer.
I'm not sure how much to trust Mike Farrell anymore after months of stuff of debatable veracity, including two separate incidents where Farrell asserted Shavodrick Beaver was looking around, prompting calls to go out to Beaver. Both times Beaver said he was 6000% committed. So, yeah, take it with a grain of salt, but:
Five-star linebacker Jelani Jenkins of Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel has set his first official visit, to Florida on the weekend of Dec. 12. You read here a few weeks back that the Gators were the biggest threat to Penn State, and this visit speaks to Urban Meyer's chances. Penn State also will surely get an official visit, while other visits remain up in the air.
If this is accurate, and then this youtube profile actually is Jelani Jenkins—and I kind of think it might be because who creates fake youtube profiles—and this bio note is correct…
Just please dont be askin the recruiting questions man, i made up my mind, yall find out soon..
…then I think we're not in good shape. That is obviously speculative like whoah, as that's not Jenkins' public stance:
"I will probably not have my decision by then [January 4th], but if I do, I will probably do it during the Under Armour game," Jenkins said. "I would have to get all my five officials by that time. Right now it will probably be Feb. 4."
We should find out if Michigan gets one of those visits pretty soon.
From the same article:
Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard defensive end Jason Ankrah will not end up at Penn State. He wanted to commit to the Nittany Lions a couple of times, but it seems as if Penn State has backed off for good. While Ankrah loved his trip to Nebraska, distance could be factor there and it appears Michigan, Virginia Tech and Maryland could be the teams to beat. Michigan State is making a strong push, too, and could get an official visit. Ankrah has been to Maryland twice in recent weeks.
Even with Ankrah's supposed favorite backing off, I think he's going to stay closer to home; Maryland has a commit from teammate Travis Hawkins.
…is a big recruiting weekend, though it got slightly smaller when a couple kids had to move their visits back a week because their teams are still playing, Taylor Lewan among them. One of the guys coming in is a big recruit at a position of need:
Philadelphia Northeast wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes long has been considered the most solid of the Tennessee commitments, but he is making backup plans in case he doesn't think the new coaching staff is a good fit for him. Stokes will take an official visit to Michigan the weekend of Dec. 5 and plans an official to Florida on Dec. 12; Illinois and Oklahoma are other possibilities.
We'll see if Tennessee's quick decision on Lane Kiffin solidifies Stokes' commitment.
There's an interview with Devin Gardner frontpaged that you probably saw already. Sounds like we've got an in with the guys he knows already:
TOM: Have you developed any relationships with other recruits yet?
DEVIN: Yea, Austin White, Nick Hill, we met at the Notre Dame game, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Robert Bolden, and Joe Boyster.
Jackson and Miller are commits; White and Hill are in-state running backs that have mutual interest with Michigan. Hill's likely to commit when offered; White has a couple brothers at MSU, one of them a walk-on, but there are mutterings on the MSU interwebs that for whatever reason Michigan State has backed off its recruitment.
Devin Gardner is the quarterback for Inkster, and is looking to win a State Championship this weekend, as a junior. [Note: Inkster lost to EGR 43-24 in the state finals; this interview took place before that. –ed]
His team is obviously having a great year, but Gardner's individual stats stick out as well. He has 47 total TD's, 25 passing and 22 running, with only 6 INT's. He looks to take that success to a State Championship against East Grand Rapids. He hasn't been able to put 100% into his recruitment yet, but says he'll be able to narrow things down after his basketball season. Here's what he had to say.
TOM: What do you think has lead to your improvement from last year to this year?
DEVIN: Coach Carter helped me, he didn’t accept anything but perfection. We focused on throwing, decision making, and running. We run a mixture of a spread, the read option and pass, so it’s important to make good decisions.
TOM: What have you focused on when trying to improve?
DEVIN: I can always improve my decision making. I’m over 60% with my completion percentage, so that’s good. I just practice every play hard, so when game time comes, I know where my teams going to be. So in time it’s going to get better, and easier.
TOM: What goals do you want to accomplish for your senior year?
DEVIN: I want to win a state championship this year. Next year, I want to do the same thing. I don’t really want the individual award. If we win state then that means I did a good job.
TOM: When do you think you’ll really start to get into the recruiting process, and start to analyze schools?
DEVIN: I took a few visits, but haven’t really gotten into it yet, I’m still focused on state championships. I’m going to focus more during basketball season.
TOM: Are there already some schools that have you thinking about them?
DEVIN: Not really, all the schools are equal right now. I guess if I had to name the top right now it’s Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, those are a few that have been in contact with me.
TOM: I heard that you said Ohio State is a school you really like, what about them sticks out to you?
DEVIN: When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to the actual football game, but my favorite color was red, and they always won. I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good. They just continue to win, that’s what sticks out.
TOM: So does playing early factor into your decision?
DEVIN: Possibly. Anywhere I go there’s going to be competition, but it may come into play.
TOM: What about the style of offensive scheme, will that matter?
DEVIN: It doesn’t matter, because I’m getting better at throwing so it doesn’t matter. Plays are always going to break down, so if I’m in pro I can show my athleticism. Whether it’s designed to run or not, I’ll still be able to run.
TOM: Have you started building any relationships with coaches?
DEVIN: I talk to a lot of coaches, everyone that’s offered me. Most of the coaches talk about my family, and how I’m doing in school, they all are trying to build personal relationship.
TOM: Lately, there’s been some comparison with yourself and Robert Bolden, what do you bring to the field that he doesn’t? What sets you apart from the quarterbacks in your class?
DEVIN: I’m more athletic, and I’ve got great speed. My determination, I just want to win. I can’t speak for them, but I know I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. There are also a lot of athletes, not just quarterbacks, and I’m a quarterback that’s athletic.
TOM: Have you gotten to take any unofficial visits to any schools yet?
DEVIN: Yea, I went to Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Toledo, Michigan, MSU, and Ohio State for the Nike camp.
TOM: As a quarterback, how do you decide what school is really best for you?
DEVIN: That’s the toughest part, because that’s the most important decision of my life. My mom, brother, and coach Carter talk about what school is best. Ultimately it’s my decision, but they’ll help.
TOM: Do you want to try to go where any of your teammates go?
DEVIN: It would be nice if they could, but I want them to go where is best for them. That would be selfish of me. I tell coaches about them, because they work hard. From my class we have a really good wide receiver, Jonathon Taylor.
TOM: A question that a lot of people having been asking is about Michigan’s losing season. Can you weigh in on it? From a recruits point of view, how does this season, and the losing record factor in?
DEVIN: It really doesn’t bother me that much, because I saw Michigan last year, and it was totally different. They haven’t gotten their players yet. I can see the system will work, it’s just not working because the players aren’t doing the right things, or plays are breaking down. Once they get the right players, and the others used to it, they’ll be good.
TOM: Have you developed any relationships with other recruits yet?
DEVIN: Yea, Austin White, Nick Hill, we met at the Notre Dame game, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Robert Bolden, and Joe Boyster.
When I was a kid I hated Dr. Z because in the NFL preview issue he would invariably predict grim demise for the Wayne Fontes-era Detroit Lions, and half the time he would be wrong and the Lions would squeeze into the playoffs with a spectacular late-season, Fontes-saving charge and I would think to myself "what does that old coot know anyway?"
As I got older, though, I slowly came to realize that Dr. Z, more than anyone else I read, actually talked sense. In the early days of my experience with broadband—dorm rooms were about the only places in the world with it in 1997—I found myself a voracious football content sink and absorbed every word Zimmerman wrote and SI.com deigned to put on the internet.
The ones that evidently stuck the references to copious charts and minute observations of the game and how the popular conception of a player was just flat wrong and if you really want to know who's having a knockout year, well, here's this safety playing for the Arizona Cardinals of all teams that no one's talking about. In this, I think, was the genesis of Upon Further Review.
Dr. Z said that to understand the game you must watch it in preposterous detail and put the media's black and white storylines from your mind. His influence is unmistakable here.
I bring it up because Paul Zimmerman is in the hospital after two strokes, his health uncertain, his speech disjointed. I hope he makes it back.
Sparty, no! I am constitutionally obligated to mention this:
Plaxico Burress' controversial year has just taken a turn for the worse.
The New York Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself in the right thigh Friday night, FOXSports.com has learned, not long after being ruled out of Sunday's game against the Redskins with a hamstring injury in the same leg.
Ha. Hahahahaha. Ha. Ha.
That is all.
Coins in the couch. So I wrote the following up a couple weeks ago, then stuck it in the "drafts" section of Windows Live Writer and forgot about it. Better late than never:
Hockey recruitin'. Signing day came and went for the basketball team and Michigan pulled in a pretty decent class that you probably know enough about because of the tireless efforts of UMHoops. Also signing were a number of gentlemen on skates, some of whom are significantly more hyped than I thought. The official site has the details; upshot:
- AJ Treais is one of those dynamite midget guys who can stickhandle through a swarm of locusts. His draft ranking makes me think he's more Shouneya than Cammo/Comrie. Red says screw that conservative noise: "I think each player will add something to our team. I think A.J. Treais looks a little bit like T.J. Hensick. He can be a prolific small centerman."
Dang, man, Hensick is a hell of a comparison.
- Chris Brown is a power winger with first-round potential. This is less exciting than it sounds because the NHL is always grabbing lumbering power wingers in the first round and often they're doing it based on projection, not current ability, or just because they're big or something. See: Eric Nystrom, who was the only Michigan player in history I thought was taken at least a round too high. (Not that Nystrom wasn't good, but you knew his max upside was a third liner. You don't spend the #10 pick in the draft on a guy who will be a grinder if he works out.)
- Kevin Lynch is the middle kid, not as big as Brown or as tiny and skilled as Treais; he's supposed to be a mid-round pick.
USHL defenseman Lee Moffie is also in the class, but he didn't sign for whatever reason. Last year Michigan couldn't sign Brandon Burlon to a letter of intent because they didn't have the money available; this might be a similar situation.
Michigan doesn't lose much from the current team: the only seniors are Sauer, Miller, Turnbull, Naurato, and Fardig. (Mitera is also a senior, obviously, but he's seen a period of icetime so far this year.)
There is also this article on 2010 goalie commit Jack Campbell featuring a quote from Yost Built's Tim Williams. Obligatory note: the 2010 class is sick. Right now Michigan has three guys being touted as potential top-ten NHL draft picks. That's like bringing in Al Montoya, Jack Johnson, and… uh… Eric Nystrom in the same class. Except this version of Eric Nystrom is supposed to be ridiculous. God, I hope they all get to campus. Also, the huge freshman class from '08 will be seniors then; if Michigan can hold on to Caporusso and Hagelin and Rust that long the 2010 team should be dynamite.
Which is nice… because man, this year's team is really disappointing. It's not even the defense, which you'd think would be a sore spot in the absence of Mark Mitera and Steve Kampfer. The team just does not score goals. I only caught the third period of the Minnesota game and can't offer any explanations; I thought they had played well the last time I saw them. They utterly dominated Western Michigan but got beat 2-1 because they just couldn't finish. Now they're sitting at 9-7 and really need to sweep a badly struggling Michigan State team to hit the break in any sort of shape to make the tournament.
So how much is it? Buzz has reached my inbox to the effect that Charlie Weis is done and Brian Kelly is in at Notre Dame, which 1) I don't think is anywhere near true yet and 2) I seriously hope is nowhere near true.
Brian Kelly built Grand Valley into a DII power, immediately turned around CMU after he arrived, and immediately turned around Cincinnati after he arrived. Putting him at the head of the admittedly ferocious talent that Charlie Weis has inexplicably gathered is the worst-case scenario for the near future of the Notre Dame coaching job. (Aside from the highly likely possibility that Urban Meyer will leave Florida, where he is God and paid like it, for South Bend. Yeah, sure)
This is contingent on Weis getting axed, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests the buyout really is incredibly steep. Here's a summary of what we've been told in the media:
At least $12 million is the fourth buyout figure reported by media outlets in the past week. The Chicago Tribune reported Weis' buyout at around $4.5 million. IrishIllustrated.com is reporting the buyout at at least $10 million and ESPN is reporting the number at $16 million.
Some private scuttlebutt I came across had that number even higher than 16 million, and that's what WNDU just reported:
As we first told you on NewsCenter 16 at 6 on Sunday, a source very close to the situation tells WNDU that the price to buy Weis out of the remaining seven years of his contract is around $20 million.
The source also says that Notre Dame does not appear to have the money right now and could be using the next week to try and raise more funds from alums.
That is equivalent to "there is no buyout." If true—and I still struggle to believe anyone could be this unbelievably stupid, even the people who hired Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, and Charlie Weis in succession—Notre Dame offered Charlie Weis a ten year guaranteed contract for losing to USC in his first year as head coach. Which would preclude his firing this year.
And I'm not sure if I want that, either. I prefer chaos in my rivals, and it would be especially helpful this year given that Michigan could pick off a few recruits that would aid Rich Rodriguez's rebuilding program.
Eh. We'll see, I guess.
Oklahoma-Texas. I mentioned this last week, when Texas held a slight edge overall but I cautioned that an Oklahoma win over Oklahoma State would put them over the edge: I think you have to set aside the Tech-Texas-Oklahoma round-robin and go to the rest of the schedule. Setting aside common opponents and tomato cans, you get this:
- Texas: Kansas State (5-7), Missouri (9-3), Arkansas (5-7)
- Oklahoma: Colorado(5-7), Nebraska(8-4), TCU(10-2), Cincinnati(10-2).
Even if Missouri is the most impressive scalp on that list (which it may or may not be) that's a clear advantage to Oklahoma, and that's what I'm basing my decision on.
ALSO: obviously I have moved Oklahoma to #1, and Florida to #2. I am convinced by Dr. Saturday's arguments that Alabama's schedule is so far off the other two teams I've put above them that even with losses they've had better seasons.
Elsewhere… eh, I feel pretty weird about putting Georgia Tech #10, but not that weird; really struggling with the Oregon-Boise pairing, because Boise did beat Oregon but beat Oregon's fifth-string QB or whatever and since then Oregon has been playing actual opponents instead of the WAC.
(via College Game Balls)
So. It has come to this: deciding whether Notre Dame 2007 or Michigan 2008 was a worse football team. Ink and blood has been spilled already; let's get down to business.
"Worse" is subjective, so a definition. In general we're trying to determine which team would win more games if you had a hypothetical matchup between them and every other team in the country. We make a key assumption: the average competence of college football teams did not change between 2007 and 2008.
Also note that football games are 6% shorter this year, which provides more time for crappy teams to get blown out. When we look at overall margins keep that in mind: Michigan's should be a little bit better just because there was less time to suck in.
Both teams went 3-9, obviously. Despite Notre Dame claims to the World's Most Dangerous Schedule last year, their SOS rank according to Sagarin actually trails Michigan's: ND was #24 in 2007; Michigan is #21. If the Big Ten experiences wholesale destruction in bowl games that will drop a little, but at the very least Michigan's 2008 schedule grades out as Notre Dame's equivalent.
Other metrics in table form:
|SOS||#21||#24||Push pending bowl results|
|TO Margin||-0.83 (#107)||0 (#55)||Michigan*|
|Total D||367 (#66)||357 (#39)||Notre Dame|
|Total O||290 (#111)||242 (#119)||Michigan|
|Scoring D||28.9 (#90)||28.8 (#72)||Notre Dame|
|Scoring O||20.3 (#97)||16.4 (#116)||Michigan|
On that asterisk: It's a long-held tenet of this blog that turnover margin is mostly random, so a team serious afflicted by turnovers is probably a better team than another team that has similar scoring marks but a larger negative yardage gap.
It's impossible to save the suspense given the above: ND had a marginally tougher defense than Michigan but the gap between offenses was immense; Michigan's yardage gap was 34% smaller, scoring gap 31% smaller, and all that with a horrific, likely fluky turnover margin.
The answer here is Notre Dame. But let's dig a little deeper just to make sure.
GAME BY GAME
It's hard to line these up separately. You can pair off Michigan's uninspiring win over a completely awful Fake Miami team (2-9 pending 2-10) with Notre Dame's uninspiring win over a completely awful Duke team. But then Michigan had one win over a completely mediocre and poorly coached BCS team that ended up around .500 and snuck into a bowl; this is about on par with ND's UCLA win last year… if Wisconsin's top eight quarterbacks had been killed in a cheese tragedy. And Stanford (4-8 and mostly roadkill except for three fortunate victories) doesn't match up with Minnesota (a fraud-licious 7-5 but still bowl eligible) at all.
Michigan gets the nod here, because there's a sizable gap between QB-less UCLA/Stanford and Wisconsin/Minnesota.
The Usual Losses
Epic destruction by highly talented chief rival. There isn't much to choose from here:
Minor points to Michigan for keeping it closer for longer: they were down 14-7 at the half instead of 17-0 and made it look like a game until a disastrous pair of runs turned first and ten from the OSU nine into a touchdown and the floodgates opened. Notre Dame never looked like making USC sweat.
But, yeah: PUSH.
Epic destruction by secondary rival with a fair bit of talent themselves.
Also please recall that Ryan Mallett made his college debut in the M-ND game with Henne sidelined.
This is clearly a Michigan advantage. Notre Dame was playing a 9-4 team's backup quarterback. Michigan was playing the healthy Big Ten champions. Michigan actually led at halftime and the game was close until midway through the third, when Nick Sheridan entered and hope died. Notre Dame yakety saxed its way through the 2007 Michigan game and never seemed like a threat.
Somewhat Close Game Against Either A Complete Non-Rival Or A Team You Swear To God Isn't Your Rival And Condescendingly Call "Fredo" Despite The Fact Fredo Has Beat Your Ass Six Straight Times, Oh And By The Way These Teams Are Pretty Good, Say Top 10-15-ish.
It's stretching "somewhat close" to call a 13-point game in which you're outgained 2-1 "somewhat close," but ND was within six as late as 7 minutes left in the third quarter, so that's close-ish. ND got a Sharpley touchdown and a Matt Ryan pick six to stay in it after falling behind 20-0, immediately gave up a response touchdown, and never threatened again.
Meanwhile, Michigan actually led 10-6 early before Louie Sakoda ripped off a field goal festival (with a touchdown pass from Brian Johnson in there); midway through the third quarter it was 25-10. Michigan blocked a Sakoda punt and got a one-play TD bomb to Junior Hemingway, then benefited from a Utah fumble to punch in another touchdown to get within two; the two-point conversion failed. Michigan would have two cracks at a game-winning field goal drive, getting neither.
Neither of these games suggested the team in question was competitive without flukes, but Michigan kept the yardage a lot closer and had a legitimate shot to win; ND did not.
Utterly Humiliating Close Loss Involving Field Goals And The Throwing Of Remotes And Such
Navy was 8-5, beat Pitt, and had a close game against Utah in the bowl game. They ere also lost to Ball State, beat Duke by 3, and gave up 62 points to North Texas. But they weren't a 3-8 MAC team.
Verdict: Notre Dame.
Getting Your Head Kicked In By A Meh Opponent
|VERSUS||Notre Dame||Michigan State|
|VERSUS||Michigan State||Penn State|
This actually comes in three flavors, as you can see above. The above opponents match up pretty well: ND 2008 is a totally mediocre .500 team like Michigan State 2007; Illinois 2008 is a totally mediocre .500 team like Georgia Tech 2007; Michigan State 2008 is a 9-3 team probably a bit worse than its record that hovers at the edge of the top 25; so did Penn State last year.
Despite Michigan's ability to keep the score closer in all these games, the overall here is a push, I think. Michigan's loss to ND may have been a turnover-filled fluke but the only reason they were even close to State was the Spartans grim determination to miss field goals, turn the ball over, and generally Sparty it up. I guess you can hand out points to Michigan for making it look like a game against MSU and Illinois, but… no. Push.
Loss to Severely Undertalented Team With Surplus Of White Dudes
Northwestern and Air Force are very similar teams here: 9-3, bowl pending, versus 9-4; wins largely garnered against the weakest schedule the teams could line up. Michigan led 14-7 at the half and gave up two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, which finished the scoring on a miserable day at Michigan Stadium. Notre Dame was down 17-10 at the half; Air Force blew it open in the third and ND never recovered.
A much closer game against a similar quality opponent gives Michigan the nod here.
The problem with getting all these games to line up is that eventually you're stuck with the leftovers and sometimes the last one makes no sense. In this case we're comparing an 8-5 Purdue team to a 4-8 one.
It's not that ridiculous a comparison, though. Purdue's conference record was just one game worse this year; adding Oregon and a Notre Dame team that wasn't the 2007 edition turned 7-5 into 5-7 and robbed the Boilers of a chance to pad their winning percentage with a 3-point victory over a MAC team. The underlying team quality isn't too different.
Yeah, "yardage gap" does not come close to describing what happened in these two games. Michigan got a punt return touchdown that doesn't count there; Purdue ran a 60-yard fake punt that does. Michigan and Purdue were tied until a last-minute hook and ladder put Purdue up for good; Notre Dame was down 23-0 at halftime, though they did pull within seven halfway through the fourth quarter. Purdue immediately drove down the field for a clinching touchdown
So, a nailbiter against a slightly worse Purdue team or a not-that-close game against a slightly better one? Eh: push.
In the losses category we have one for Notre Dame—not losing to a three-win MAC team—and maybe the Purdue game if you're being generous. For Michigan, we have a vaguely competitive game against Penn State, a narrower loss to the whitest team on the schedule, and a much closer game against the top 10-15 opponent. Also, Michigan's wins (all three!) are superior to Notre Dame's.
Again: Michigan was less resolutely awful.
THE TRUMP CARD
Now, this is subjective and all that, but Yakety Sax II is far more yakety-sax-y to this correspondent.
Congratulations, Michigan, you are the champion. Of not being the worst power team of the decade. Barely.