Can you name all the Michigan players in this photo from the last Purdue-Michigan game in Ann Arbor? [photo: a much younger Eric Upchurch]
Since going to 14 teams the Big Ten schedule has been a mess. Some teams rarely face each other, other teams face each other twice a season. The divisions are historically and presently uneven. The last two years in a row this resulted in a Big Ten “champion” that had a demonstrably worse season than at least two other Big Ten teams. Congrats Penn State and Michigan State, but I think we can do better. In fact I have an idea how.
I’ll get into the details below but the idea isn’t for everyone to have to memorize the details. The simplest description is every year you play three locked-in rivalry games, three games of your choosing, and three games against schools near you in the standings. Your biggest rivalry is played at the end of the season, and its result (half) carries over to next season.
On FiveThirtyEight’s Solution: Nate Silver’s proposal and mine share a few concepts: locked in rivalries early in the year, a mini-playoff at the end of the year, and eradicating divisions (which is essential to any good schedule reform). But it has two big flaws I tried to avoid:
1) It puts The Game in September, which: no, or in Week 7, which again: no, and then you’re seeding with less information.
2) Teams at the top will rarely face those at the bottom. I don’t like that because it cuts down on variety and could easily lead to things like long droughts between Michigan-Purdue tilts which are one of the things we’re trying to fix. Also it’s not good for the long term health of the conference since it would redistribute more losses from the bottom of the conference to the middle and middle-high. In effect it would result in fewer and lower ranked teams at the top, and fewer bowl-eligible teams from the conference. A few more competitive games is good, but 538’s proposal takes that to an extreme to the detriment of other important considerations.
- Maintain the annual rivalries and maximize their importance, keeping the big rival games at the end of the season.
- Play 9 conference games.
- Split up rivalry games so every team has a compelling schedule every year to sell to season ticket holders.
- Produce a fair and least disputable conference champion by playing all or most of the relevant games during the season.
- Play as many competitive games between similarly ranked teams as possible.
- No rematches!
- See a variety of opponents over a 10-year period.
- Encourage Power 5 opponents in non-conference scheduling.
- Be relatively simple.
The system I came up with hit all of these benchmarks to varying degrees (#9 being measured in Kelvin). #5 conflicts with #7 so I left it up to the schools themselves to prioritize between them. As for #9 it’s actually complicated, but can have the appearance of simplicity.
The schedule has four components:
- Three locked-in games versus your annual rivals.
- Three games where the top teams draft their opponents.
- Three games where you play like competition, and the top four teams all play each other.
- A “Big Ten Showcase” invitational during conf championship week to play the best three games that weren’t played.
This is the easy part. The teams are all separated into four pods of three or four with rivals they ought to be playing every year.
|East Coast Cable Subscribers||Intercollegiate
|Corn Corn Corn Corn Cheese Corn
|C||Michigan State||Penn State||Indiana||Iowa|
The division names are not important but the order is—if you want a clue as to why, look at the A-B and C-D matchups. Teams in your pod are the two or three teams you play every year. There are two ways to handle the three-team pods and I haven’t decided which I like better—either works about the same:
- Option 1: Lock in rivals. Each team gets an annual rival from the opposite division, e.g. Michigan-Maryland is played the week of OSU-MSU, PSU-OSU always comes when Michigan plays State, and Rutgers-Michigan State is played annually on the last week of the season for bragging rights and the Situation Trophy.
- Option 2: Rotate every 2 years. So after two seasons of the above, Michigan plays Rutgers on week 1, Ohio State plays Maryland, and the Land Grant Trophy becomes the end-of-year rivalry for MSU. Then after two years it becomes M-PSU, OSU-Rutgers, MSU-Maryland.
I sorta prefer Option 1 but Option 2 seems more feasible.
[HIT THE JUMP to see how I worked it all out]
The Daily has a book. It is a collection of their coverage from the 2016 season, and it's cheap at just $7.50. Marvel at things Peppers does, grapes that have been removed from existence, and the appallingly excellent skin of the youths who insouciantly bring it to you!
If you're in town you can stop by the Maynard building and avoid shipping costs. There's also something in the draft copy about bringing them a pizza from NYPD so you can see all the things they stole from road games but that's CLEARLY a joke so please don't do that and also don't tell me what it is afterwards. (Operative theory: Michigan State's dignity.)
Not a starter, technically. PFF lists the best returning players in the Big Ten. Michigan has a member of the DL land at #3 despite graduating all four starters, and you already know who it is:
Michigan’s defensive line was so loaded in 2016, Hurst was technically not considered a starter. This year, however, he is the clear leader of the unit, as three likely top 100 picks will be moving on to the NFL. In terms of production amongst his returning peers, Hurst has no equal. His 34 total pressures in 173 pass-rush reps last season ranks him first in pass-rush productivity among 2017 defensive tackles, and his 18 run stops on 155 run downs ranks him eighth in run-stop percentage within the same group.
Expect a lot of "where did this guy come from!?" next year as Hurst's increased snap total results in some silly numbers.
Everyone quote tweet tonight. About a dozen people on my timeline quoted this Bruce Feldman tweet to let their followers know it was a good idea:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 6, 2017
They are not wrong. Hoke plucked Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, and Frank Clark out of obscurity; even the touted recruits he grabbed frequently outperformed their rankings. Chris Wormley(composite #129), Taco Charlton (#132), and Mo Hurst (#258) are all potential first-round NFL draft picks. There were some busts in there, but Hoke recruited seven of the eight guys on Michigan's best-ever defensive line.
I'd take him back in Ann Arbor as a DL coach if that wouldn't be super weird. In this instance, Butch Jones's weird tendency to get the Lloyd Carr band back together is not clinically insane.
Early enrollment is a thing. College football already has an early signing day of sorts:
The 2017 recruiting class seemed to have less late drama than years past, and that could have something to do with the growing number of early enrollees. Among the top 50 prospects in this class, 26 were midyear enrollees, which included 11 of the 15 five-stars. And of the top 150 prospects, 54 enrolled early.
Michigan had a whopping 11 guys enroll early, a program record. The large numbers of Michigan seniors ready to graduate and start prepping for the NFL draft full time created a bunch of openings that freshmen gladly filled.
Haves vs Have Nots: Fight! It's going to be a short fight. Michigan has some analyst spots to fill, as they usually do, and they're going after this gentleman:
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that Hawaii DC Kevin Lempa met with Michigan over the weekend about a "non-coaching" position in Ann Arbor.
Lempa already resigned as the Warriors' DC to take a 'worse' job once before, when he departed the islands to be a DBs coach at Boston College in 2002. He's in his mid-60s so this won't be a play to move up at Michigan if it does indeed happen; it would be about dollars and the opportunity to participate in Championship Football(tm).
FWIW, Don Brown is the connect here. Lempa was on his staffs at Maryland and UConn.
OL exit... MSU OL Thiyo Lukusa has left MSU's program, reportedly to retire. Lukusa played last year as MSU tried to find any combination that would work and was widely expected to compete for and probably win a tackle spot. Not good for the Spartans as they try to pick themselves up after a 3-9 season.
And it might get worse, with rumors flying that a number of other MSU players are off the team. Nothing definitive yet but there is a lot of smoke out there.
...OL entrance? Cal starting left tackle Aaron Cochran plans a grad transfer, and he was definitely a part of a thing that did things:
Cochran was an integral part of an offensive line that paved the way for a nationally ranked offense and numerous school records the past two seasons.
Everyone's nationally ranked, sir.
Anyway, Cochran is enormous at 6'8", 350, and has 16 starts under his belt at a Power 5 team. Cal was third in adjusted sack rate last year so he can't be horrendous. He only pops up once on PFF, but it's an encouraging note: he graded out well in Cal's loss to Washington, the #5 sack rate team last year. He is vaguely draftable per NFL Draft Scout.
Isaiah Hole reports that Michigan is "actively seeking" guys who could help them out but hasn't decided to pursue any particular player yet, including Cochran. If Michigan has the spot it would seem like a no-brainer to add a Pac-12 starter, even an iffy one, at a position of yawning need. Do they have it, though? Right now they're two over their scholarship limit. (Publicly, anyway. It's likely that Michigan knows of a couple departures already.)
Keeping the hype contained. Charles Matthews is profiled by Brendan Quinn, and John Beilein would like to keep expectations reasonable.
Beilein is careful not to preordain Matthews. One of the grand traditions in college basketball is for the redshirt player -- the one no one gets to see -- to be billed as a team's best player. Beilein avoids the pitfall.
...by turning into Fred Jackson:
"He's probably a combination of Hardaway and Glenn Robinson III. That's a good combination to have."
Frustration, defined. John Gasaway's Tuesday Truths column from before the MSU game:
|Big Ten||W-L||Pace||PPP||Opp. PPP||EM|
Michigan's offense is as good as anyone in the country in conference play. They have the same points per possession as Villanova, WVU, Kansas, and anyone in the ACC not named North Carolina (1.16). Only the Pac-12 has teams doing better on offense. Even a meh defense gets Michigan into the tournament with ease.
Or you could boot them for Houston, just sayin'. The Big Twelve has voted to dock Baylor a quarter of its annual payout until such time as "proper institutional controls" are in place and vetted by a third party. That's about six million dollars a year and is probably sufficient to get what the Big 12 wants out of them. But you could, I dunno, boot Baylor from your conference for cause and add a school in a much bigger media market? That's both ethical and a financial win.
FWIW, this is a measure of revenge for Art Briles in a mutually-assured-destruction sense. He tried to bilk some money out of Baylor with a lawsuit, causing the Baylor regents to assemble a pile of texts (and submit them to court!) that definitively expose Briles and former AD Ian McCaw as the worst kind of one-dimensional B-movie villain:
When a female student-athlete reported that a football player had brandished a gun at her, the court paperwork said, Briles texted an assistant coach: "what a fool -- she reporting to authorities."
In another case, a masseuse asked the team to discipline a player who reportedly exposed himself and asked for favors during a massage, the document said Briles' first response was, "What kind of discipline... She a stripper?" ...
In one text exchange, after a player was arrested for assault and threatening to kill someone, the paperwork said Briles texted athletic director McCaw that he had just talked to the player, who said Waco police had agreed to "keep it quiet." Briles promised to ask Shillinglaw to check in with a local attorney.
"That would be great if they kept it quiet!" McCaw allegedly replied. He is now the athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia.
Briles had to drop his lawsuit but the revelation of what actually went on was probably a spur for the Big 12's financial penality. In his accidental way Briles actually did some good here. So he's got that going for him.
Etc.: Various croot profiles include Joel Honigford, Cesar Ruiz, PWO and Air Force decommit Sean Fitzgerald, and fellow PWO Jared Davis. Lorenz picks some underrated Michigan recruits. Hugh Freeze is mad that other schools mentioned the obvious thing they should mention about Ole Miss. Vincent Smith profiled by MGoBlue. More mock drafts.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Michigan 5, #11 Ohio State 4
UM 1 0SU 0 EV 08:21 Assists: Shuart & Winborg
Winborg wins the faceoff and knocks the puck to Shuart on his right. Shuart sort of accidentally shovels it forward to Winborg, but Winborg again scoops it up and back to Shuart.
With the puck now solidly on his stick, Shuart’s determined to do something purposeful with the puck. He shoots, and the shot is blocked by the OSU defender in front of him. The puck bounces off the defender and ends up to his left.
This next bit happens so quickly that I’m not sure whether Shuart passes to Allen or whether Allen picks up the loose puck himself. Either way, Allen has the puck. He splits two defenders and finds himself with a wide-open net, as Frey is still sliding across after squaring to Shuart’s shot.
[After THE JUMP: 2015-16 redux (for 40 minutes at a time)]
Derrick Walton joined Jalen Rose and Gary Grant in the 1000-400-400 club tonight and had fun doing it. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
"I think he's playing the best basketball of his career," said Tom Izzo. "And I think this game was the most important thing in his life."
Derrick Walton wasn't going to let his team lose this one. His teammates, in a pleasant surprise, matched the near-manic effort Walton has played with for the last month.
"Before the game the guys just really banded together and told me they really wanted to get this one for me," said Walton. "They played like it, and I'm really appreciative of it all. Everybody played their heart out."
An increasingly impossible to predict Michigan squad blew the game open midway through the first half, ripping off a 32-10 run with highlights aplenty, including a DJ Wilson posterization of Kenny Goins and Duncan Robinson capping the half with a walk-off triple from Caris Corner. Moe Wagner dominated his matchup with Nick Ward, hitting all five of his first-half attempts and goading Ward into a Grayson Allen-style technical foul. Michigan forced 12 first-half turnovers, three of them shot-clock violations. Walton continued his spectacular run of play with 12 points, three boards, and seven assists by halftime. The second half was academic.
"Can't say enough about Derrick Walton right now, of just the tranformation in the last month," said John Beilein.
Wilson, Simpson, and MAAR all came through with big plays. [Campredon]
Walton's young charge also looked transformed. Xavier Simpson entered tonight with two made field goals in Big Ten play. Tonight, working within what Beilein said was a simplified package of plays, he played with newfound confidence, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting and dishing out two assists in the best 12 minutes of his young career. Like his teammates, Simpson played with something extra for his senior captain from Detroit.
"This is [Walton's] last time playing Michigan State, so for him to get that win means a lot," said Simpson.
Michigan's dominance extended to almost every facet of the game. They went 22-for-32 from inside the arc, buoyed by Wagner's skilled play around the hoop and strong finishes from the guards. They shot 10-for-21 on three-pointers, led by a perfect 3-for-3 mark from Walton. They played with great defensive intensity, forcing 21 turnovers and holding MSU under 48% from the field. They kept the Spartans off the boards. And, yes, they played with more emotion; Wilson's technical stood out as a positive, while Ward's was very much the opposite.
A happy squad. [Campredon]
"Today was, like, perfect," Beilein said of the team's mental edge. "They were right there. They were angry. They were junkyard dogs—that was the whole idea, the picture of a doberman that I wanted them to go out and play like, I think it was a doberman but he had big teeth."
Beilein, like the rest of us, admitted he's never sure when the team is going to play with that bite. Tonight, in a rivalry game they had to win to keep any realistic shot at a tourney bid, they had it going full force. Whether it will carry over to Sunday's game at Indiana is anyone's guess. It's a start, at least, and if the whole team can continue to rise up to the standard Walton is setting, they may just make the late run they need.
"We don't think we've played as well as our talent shows," said Walton. "We've got seven games left and we can still do something special."
#40 Michigan (14-9, 4-6 B1G) vs
#49 Michigan State (14-9, 6-4)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
Michigan -4 (KenPom)
Michigan -4.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Dan Shulman
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Searching for help, probably. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
As covered in detail yesterday, Michigan is in must-win mode now. They have three home games left among their eight remaining regular-season games. Tonight's is the only one in which they're favored. They need to win five of their last eight, in all likelihood, to feel comfortable about their at-large chances. They haven't won a true road game all year.
Michigan's most likely path to the tournament is sweeping the rest of the home slate (MSU, Wisconsin, Purdue) and taking games at Rutgers and Nebraska. Those who are understandably pessimistic about M's ability to hold up against the Badgers and Boilermakers can pin their hopes on beating a fading Minnesota squad in The Barn and hoping Northwestern pulls a Northwestern down the stretch. While the task is by no means impossible, almost no matter how you slice it, M needs to come out on top tonight.
THE LAST TIME
In the matchup at the Breslin Center nine days ago, Derrick Walton willed his way to 24 points and Michigan won the rebounding battle (hard to believe after Saturday, I know), but that was about all that went right in a 70-62 loss that didn't feel as close as the final score. Zak Irvin didn't score, Moe Wagner couldn't stay out of foul trouble, and the team shot only 40% on twos and 27% on threes.
For the Spartans, big man Nick Ward played only 16 minutes—it turns out he was battling the flu—and made all six of his shots from the field. Miles Bridges had a rather inefficient 15 points but came up big down the stretch, while Cassius Winston repeatedly worked his way into the paint for 16 points, ten of which came at the line.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||Tum Tum Nairn||Jr.||5'10, 175||59||13||109||Kinda|
|Decent distributor, but wonky shot has only improved slightly. Tiny usage for PG.|
|G||14||Eron Harris||Sr.||6'3, 190||59||24||105||Not At All|
|Excellent three-point shooter both on spot-ups and off the bounce.|
|G||1||Josh Langford||Fr.||6'5, 210||50||15||110||Not At All|
|Good spot-up shooter who sticks to perimeter; 3 FT attempts in B1G play.|
|F||22||Miles Bridges||Fr.||6'7, 230||55||26||102||Not At All|
|ORtg doesn't do his all-around game justice. As he goes, so goes MSU.|
|C||44||Nick Ward||Fr.||6'8, 250||48||33||106||Very|
|Massive-usage post scorer. Great rebounder and shot-blocker. Just over the flu.|
|G||5||Cassius Winston||Fr.||6'0, 185||51||25||106||Kinda|
|Boasts #1 assist rate in the country, but inconsistent shot and too many TOs.|
|F||25||Kenny Goins||So.||6'6, 230||47||12||99||Very|
|Former walk-on forced to spot Ward at C. Decent finisher but very TO-prone.|
|G||3||Alvin Ellis||Sr.||6'4, 210||40||20||104||No|
|Decent outside shooter, disruptive defender getting more time lately.|
|G||20||Matt McQuaid||So.||6'4, 200||49||15||99||No|
|Just A Shooter™ making 35% of threes, 29% of twos. 3/3 3P in first matchup.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]